I guess I should start this post by sharing the bittersweet changes that are afoot. I’m packing up my things. I’m leaving Apartment Z, my beautiful vintage on the hill. See that gold valance up on the third floor? That’s the leaded glass window that spills rainbow-colored light into my living room each sunny afternoon.
The view from my couch is of those beautiful curves cascading upward at the top of the column. And hanging out on the patio, you can see the stately Cathedral and the St Paul skyline.
Inside, with the dark wood trim, tall ceilings, bright colors I painted the walls, and the open kitchen, it’s one of the most beautiful apartments I’ve seen. At one of the parties I had here, a friend called it my Gatsby flat. When I told Michael I was moving, he said, “You can’t move. You’re synonymous with your apartment.” For the past three and a half years, I’ve been so thankful for this place every time I come home to it. And it’s not only the pretty stuff, either. A lot has happened here. I learned more about myself while living in this apartment than I have in any other period of my life.
In many ways, it’s been all about the food, which somehow crept its way to the forefront of my world. Never before have I cooked so much, thrown so many parties, written about so many restaurants–or thought so much about what eating means, on a personal and social level. I’ll leave this place hoping that my next three and a half years are full of just as many discoveries (and a bigger kitchen and better water pressure!)
Along those lines, this weekend I threw a going-away party to my place for about 20 people. I was stuck on the menu for awhile, but when the thought of making Vietnamese Bhan Mi sandwiches came to mind, everything else came together too. It’s strange because I had never had one before. When I suggested it to Angela, my food-loving friend, not only did she give me the thumbs-up. She also decided to make sure that we do it right. She sent me to the website Viet World Kitchen, whose recipes I trusted. She also called Jasmine Deli and asked them to hold 25 baguettes for me on Friday morning. At a buck each, it was definitely worth the trip (which Michael so nicely made!). These baguettes are lighter than the average because they’re made with rice flour.
- lemongrass tofu
- lemongrass pork
- sweet lime mayo
- pickled carrots and daikon radish
- cucumber spears
- rooster sauce
- soy sauce
The sandwiches were amazing. My friends made apologies for how many they ate. I had three. The traditional bread and mayo make a solid foundation for peppery pickled daikon, tangy meat and tofu, lemony cilantro, sweet carrots, salty soy sauce, and spicy chili sauce. Throughout the night, I found myself declaring every one of the ingredients “the” essential ingredient as I went back for more.
I’m also happy to have learned a new time-saving tofu trick. I bought pre-fried tofu puffs rather than doing it myself, but I wasn’t sure how they would take to hours of marination. They came out perfectly, with no sogginess and lots of lemongrass flavor. A lot of us preferred the texture and taste of the tofu to the pork. Now that’s a compliment to the bean curd.
Mmm, beets. Compliments of Martha, as always. Someone close to me tells me I have a beet fetish. I say what defines a fetish? This side is gorgeous because the beet juice coats the tomatoes and makes everything deliriously red.
Martha tipped me on to this one, too. The watermelon I bought was really pale inside, so it wasn’t that sweet. I sprinkled on some sugar and added pineapple for color because I couldn’t find a yellow watermelon. The hard ricotta, green mint, and sea salt are the only things needed to make this delicious side.
Who knew? I baked them with dried chili flakes to pair well with the sandwiches, beer, and white wine. These are healthy, delicious, and really versatile. I’m eager to make them again.
Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of my lovely green tea sangria, which is a wonderful trick to have up your sleeve if you want to serve alcohol inexpensively to a lot of people. I brewed two pots of green tea (read: lots of mileage) and mixed in smashed ginger, honey, Looza pear juice, orange juice, and Johnnie Walker. I put it in a big Spanish glass jar next to a box of white wine for guests to mix in equal parts over ice. Since I already had the green tea and Johnnie Walker on hand, this was endless drinking for about 15 bucks.
I also geeked out with these perfectly stackable plates I got at Target. Smirk. I also love that I could count on Stefanie, my dessert-making friend, to bring a fabulous berry trifle.
All in all, it was a fantastic send-off. The food was a hit and the company was awesome. I even got a toast, which will become a nice memory as I trade my classy little corner of St Paul for a house in the refreshingly less squeaky clean Powderhorn Park.