Recently, my father had a birthday. I’ve been told that as you get older, it somehow becomes less socially acceptable to make a big hoopla around that time of the year. My youngest students often come in each weekend with another party on their social calendar that they absolutely have to tell me about. These always involve bounce houses, ice skating, princesses, cake… and whatever else you can think of. As a kid, I imagined adult birthdays to be a sad occasion where balloons were frowned upon and presents were things like calculators or toilet paper. (Ok, in all honesty, I did get facewash one year for my birthday, but so what? It was Clinique!)
This year, I decided to take my parents somewhere they had never been before for the big birthday celebration; partially to expose them to wonderful new things, and partially for my own entertainment. I had had one of the most amazing meals at Foreign Cinema in the Mission last year, and it has quickly become my go-to restaurant for special occasions. It’s airy and non-pretentious, a gem in the most unlikely of neighborhoods. To add a bit of whimsy to an already unique restaurant, the venue doubles as a theater of sorts, showing movies on the white-washed wall of the building overlooking the courtyard.(For more details…you can find them here!) The food there has changed my perception of dining experiences, to say the least. Following our first course of brandade, (a dish I was completely unfamiliar with until I tasted it here), I told my mother that on my first visit, the dishes here made my cooking seem like something I had pulled out of the garbage disposal and slapped on a plate. Being a self-proclaimed foodie, the presentation and combinations of flavors fascinated me. Luckily, my parents and I had different enough tastes that we were able to all order a variety of dishes and sample them all. My father had the sesame fried chicken, my mother the duck, and I chose the seared tuna. Admittedly, Foreign Cinema is one of the few restaurants that I go to where half of the ingredients on the menu are entirely foreign to me. Just pick something and go with it! Notably, this is also the kind of restaurant that will tell you the origin of the lettuce in your salad. So very California. Luckily, the dishes here are so perfectly portioned, I can always squeeze in dessert. The chevre cheesecake here is amazing, as is the chocolate pot de crème served alongside caramel popcorn. Possibly one of my favorite moments of the evening had to be when the server presented my father with his requested crème brûlée and a candle, which he insisted on letting melt on to the plate for as long as possible. The ladies at the table next to us all wished him a happy birthday, and I managed to capture a photo of him beaming.
Sure, turning another year older isn’t that difficult to do, but we sure are lucky when it happens. It’s a good time to be thankful for your health, as well as the pleasure of the company that surrounds you on that day, whoever they may be. Also, it’s a great excuse to eat some really good food.