Monday, May 24, 2010

My 40th Birthday Party at Boulette's - San Francisco

Dinner at Boulette's
The first time I tried to visit Boulette's Larder at the Ferry Building, I was too late. They were closed, but the door to the Ferry Plaza was open, and I could see them inside setting up for a private party. It was a scene to behold with the long table down the middle of the room set with beautiful linens, flowers and crystal, the beautiful copper kitchen, the fireplace, the high ceilings and the open setting on the waterfront plaza.
Alice's 40th Birthday at Boulette's Larder
Over the intervening years I've been to Boulette's many times for breakfast and lunch, and I stop by for salts, spices and little cookies on just about every trip to the Ferry Building. But I never forgot that beautiful table, and never stopped thinking (read: scheming) about how I'd manage to throw a party there someday.
Alice's 40th Birthday at Boulette's Larder
On May 1, 2010 - my 40th birthday - I got my wish.  My husband friends threw me the party I'd always wanted with about 15 of our closest friends.   Lisa and Luis flew up with us, and we had an absolute blast staying at the Hyatt directly across the street from the Ferry Building. The whole weekend was a non-stop whirlwind of eating, drinking, and eating some more. Zuni, Pizzeria Delfina, Hog Island Oysters... I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!
Alice's 40th Birthday at Boulette's Larder
As far as the party itself, I hardly know where to start. I have, quite simply, never had a better time. The food was incomparable and it was so nice to be surrounded by my best friends and people I don't get to see often enough.
Sam taking photos at Boulette's
One of those people, my good friend Sam Breach, joined us and took the beautiful photos you see here.

Alice's 40th Birthday at Boulette's Larder
These were the party favors - little baskets of their tiny cookies I love so much...

In lieu of a cake we had a croquembouche - a traditional French celebratory dessert made from a tower of cream puffs filled with pastry cream and held together with burnt sugar caramel. It was beautiful and I was delighted by the lilacs.
Alice's 40th Birthday at Boulette's Larder
This shot really showcases Sam's eye for color and composition, and my elegant friends Susan and Moira. My friend Jora said it looked like a shot from Gourmet magazine.
Alice's 40th Birthday at Boulette's Larder
Alice's 40th Birthday at Boulette's Larder
Speaking of gourmet, on to the food!  I knew Boulette's would do a good job, but they truly exceeded my expectations. We started with passed hors d'oeuvres, served with Perrier Jouet Champagne. To prepare these, they asked for a list of things I like and they really nailed it. Pictured below is a bit of hamachi sashimi with Japanese pickled vegetables. We also had shrimp salad served on little rye toasts, braised lamb on gaufrette, and a braised pork belly that was just beyond.
Alice's 40th Birthday at Boulette's Larder
The first seated course was a salad of roasted asparagus, wild watercress, arugula, artichokes, pickled ramps, and burrata cheese with a green ramp vinaigrette. It was delicious and so beautiful, with its vibrant green color. With this we had warm rolls with butter and a light and buttery 2008 Domaine de Bernier Chardonnay.

The main course was a Wild Alaskan Halibut, with Oregon foraged mushrooms, beurre rouge and fava beans. The beurre rouge - a traditional French concoction of red wine, butter and shallots - had everyone at the table moaning. Literally. Several people said it was the best fish dish they had ever tasted. With the main course, we had two pinot wines - a 2007 Sean Thackrey Andromeda from Devils Gulch Ranch Vineyard in Marin, and Freeman Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley and the Sonoma Coast. Both were marvelous, but the Andromeda was especially nice. Special thanks go to our friend Tom for supplying all of the wines for the dinner!
Alice's 40th Birthday at Boulette's Larder

The croquembouche was served with whipped cream and a citrus ice cream and paired with a really nice Tokaji.  I had to eat the top puff off the tower, but the rest went home with Sam - they had plated cream puffs separately with the sauces. It was certainly a more civilized approach than tearing into the heap of puffs, if maybe not quite as much fun.  After the dessert, came mignardise (chocolates and jelly candies) and coffee service.

The dining room was ours for as long as we desired, and we stayed for about an hour after the meal, sipping coffee and Tokaji and chatting. It wasn't until the end of the night, when Chef Amaryll Schwertner was getting ready to leave, that we realized her and Lori's Hungarian Sheepdog Boulette (for whom the restaurant is named) had been under the table the entire time!

After the dinner a few of us went on to Bourbon & Branch, a speakeasy style cocktail bar in the Tenderloin/Union Square area. I loved it, and plan to return sometime when I'm a little less saturated with cheer and good will to sample more of their multi-volume cocktail menu.

For me the 40th birthday felt like a milestone to be marked - a halfway point of sorts and a beginning of my true "grown up" life. This was a fantastic way to celebrate it, and I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to do it. Cheers and thanks to everyone who joined me, and to those who couldn't make it, you were missed!


13 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday Alice! And best wishes for many more!

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  2. That looks like the perfect way to celebrate a 40th birthday. I loved the photos and was wondering who took them. You look positively glowing and happy!

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  3. Thanks Kirk and Kim! I don't know how many more birthdays like that I will have - this one might have to last a while! It sure was fun though.I thought the photos looked a bit like yours Kim - you guys have a similar aesthetic I think - lucky for me ;)

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  4. Looks like a great party Alice. Great photos by Sam.

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  5. You're in good company, I was told Boulette's Larder is where Chuck Williams (of WIlliams-Sonoma fame) had held a recent birthday party.

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  6. What an amazing party and the perfect way to celebrate a milestone! Lucky girl!

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  7. Wow, what an incredible birthday party, you are quite the lucky gal! I am insanely jealous of all the incredible foods you to got enjoy, but I think my envy centers most around the croquembouche. Holy tower of goodness! This is perfection. :)

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  8. such beautiful photos of you! happy belated birthday!

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  9. Happy belated birthday--such a beautiful celebration! By the way, you don't look at day over 30!

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  10. happy, happy 40th birthday friend!!! it looks like a totally splendid and perfect celebration...and your dress is KILLER ;-)
    xox

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  11. What!? I hadn't seen this. I was going to do a my 30th here and was googling. This looks gorgeous.

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  12. Alice, I ran across this blog entry when planning my 50th birthday celebration and I was sold. I had my party at Boulette's on Friday and it was beyond fabulous. Truly a magical experience.

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    1. Diana that is fabulous - I hope you had a blast!!

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