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October Birthday Dinner

I love birthdays. I think of them as an excuse to dress up and have a special dinner with family and friends. My mom celebrated her birthday earlier this month and I wanted to make her celebration as special as possible. My grandmother came for a visit so she could partake in the festivities. Friday night we had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, The Chastain. We enjoyed sunflower sprout salad with buttermilk ricotta, short rib cavatelli, Georgia mountain trout, and blackberry sorbet for dessert. They frequently change their menu and I've loved every bite I've tried.

Saturday morning, we stocked up on produce at the Peachtree Road farmers market. I've checked out several farmers markets in the Atlanta area and the Peachtree Road one is my favorite. Saturday night we enjoyed dinner at home. My mom and grandmother both love to cook, so we had a great time chatting and listening to music while preparing this meal.

This dinner is a cinch to prepare, especially considering how elegant it is. Most of the prep involves chopping vegetables. There's a lot to chop (I have the callus to prove this) but if you have someone to help you, it won't take too long. Once your vegetables are prepared, the rest of the dinner will only take about 40 minutes from start to finish.


Day Before...

  1. Chop butternut squash, carrots, and parsnips. Store in water in sealed containers in fridge.

  2. Wash and dry kale. Roughly chop. Store in paper towel-lined bowl in fridge.

Morning Of...

  1. Pick up fish.

  2. Pick up birthday cake from local bakery.

  3. Brew espresso, chill in fridge.

Before Dinner...

  1. Make martinis. (Enjoy while preparing the rest of the meal.)

  2. Roast vegetables.

  3. Assemble fish on baking sheet.

  4. When vegetables have only 15 minutes left, bake fish.

  5. Once fish goes in oven, make rosemary butter.

  6. Finish salad.

  7. Serve dinner.


We spontaneously had some "little snacky bits," as my family calls them, before dinner. We picked up some pain au levain olive bread from the TGM Bread stand at the farmer's market. It is so delicious. We nibbled on this along with some peppadews, feta, and marinated olives while we prepared the rest of the meal.

As the menu states, I was planning on making espresso martinis. We cracked open a bottle of Chardonnay to enjoy with the little snacky bits and, truthfully, I completely forgot about making martinis - oopsie. If you serve espresso martinis, use decaf espresso so your guests aren't too jittery. I've included a link to the recipe I planned to use but haven't yet tried.

TGM Bread: Website

I previously shared my recipe for kale salad with fig preserves (see that post here). For the birthday dinner, I served a variation with red pepper jelly instead of fig preserves. If you are looking for a more savory version, this is for you.


Kale Salad with Red Pepper Jelly

Serves 5-6

1 bunch of kale (about 1 pound), ribs removed

1/4 cup olive oil

Freshly cracked black pepper

Kosher salt

3 tablespoons red pepper jelly

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup salted cashews, roughly chopped

Wash and dry the kale, then roughly chop. Add kale to a large bowl, add olive oil, and massage kale. Add salt and pepper to your taste (about 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt). Warm up the red pepper jelly (about 30 seconds in the microwave), and add to the kale, combing with tongs. Add tomatoes, cilantro, and cashews. Keep in fridge until ready to serve.


For the autumn vegetables, I served a medley of butternut squash, carrots, and parsnips. Ina's recipe calls for potatoes as well, but the birthday girl requested no potatoes. Drizzle the veg with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes, then add minced garlic and roast for another 10. My vegetables needed an extra 10 minutes before I added the garlic.

For the entree, I served prosciutto-wrapped halibut with rosemary butter. This dish sounds intimidating to make but is straightforward, you only need an oven and a sheet pan with a rack. Brush each fillet with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap a piece of prosciutto around each fillet, tucking the ends under. Place on a baking rack on top of a foil-lined sheet pan and bake. Seriously, that's it. 15 minutes later you've got a gourmet dinner. Top with the rosemary butter and serve with lemon slices and the roasted vegetables. (You already know I put rosemary butter on my vegetables, too.) This fish melts like butter and I love its texture juxtaposed to the crispy prosciutto.

Ina's recipe calls for striped bass, but I substituted halibut as it's my mom's favorite fish. Her recipe also calls for skinless fillets. I've tried this recipe with both skinless and skin-on fish, and I think the halibut is better with the skin-on. It's a delicate fish and the skin helps keep it together.

For dessert, I picked up a carrot cake from our most-frequented bakery, Piece of Cake. Their cakes are incredible and taste homemade. (My personal favorite is the strawberry.) My mom told me that layered cakes freeze well, so if you don't eat all of it, you can freeze the leftovers (your future self will thank you).

Carrot Cake: Piece of Cake

Becky's Method for Freezing Cakes:

  1. Place cake on parchment paper-lined tray and freeze. (Don't cover.)

  2. Once the icing is firm to the touch, remove the parchment paper and tightly cover in plastic wrap (such as Glad press'n seal).

  3. Cover the plastic wrap in aluminum foil (not heavy duty) and return to freezer.

  4. Cakes will keep in freezer for at least six months.

Becky's Method for Defrosting Cakes:

  1. Remove foil and plastic wrap layers.

  2. Place cake on pedestal or other serving dish and allow to come up to room temp. (Allow at least two hours.)

  3. Serve and enjoy!


Get the Look:

I wanted to incorporate my mom's favorite color, pink, while still being fall-appropriate. My brother sent her the taller bouquet and I tried to coordinate with some pink and orange roses from Whole Foods. I used a fringe-edged table runner, my favorite amber smoke wine glasses, and some plaid napkins to add an autumnal feel. As this was a celebration, I made menu cards and added one to each place setting along with a sprig of rosemary.

The beautiful flowers my brother sent.

The Birthday Girl


Thanks for reading!

- Sam

1 Comment

Carlo's Bakery
Carlo's Bakery
Apr 14, 2023

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