Wednesday/Weekend Assignment #312: Reviewing my Birthday Dinner

We’re on a food kick in Weekend Assignment-land. Last week Karen asked us about cheese; this week, co-host Carly broadens the approach a little bit.

Weekend Assignment #312: Write A Culinary Review.
Your reviews can be about a favorite restaurant, or a specific item on a menu. Packaged foods, or something you created yourself. It’s all up to you. Your take on it can be positive or negative, hey, it’s your opinion! πŸ™‚

Extra Credit: Write one paragraph about the WORST thing you have ever eaten.

I can’t get a full paragraph out of the extra credit, but I’d have to say Brussels sprouts are very near the top of the “worst food I’ve ever eaten” list – at least, they were memorably bad. I tried cooking them once, years ago, at the request of my first husband. Perhaps it was the fault of my cooking, but I think it was actually the vegetables – UGH. I’ve never gone near them since, but at least I can say I have an informed distaste for them.

There’s a good reason why Brussels sprouts don’t show up on many restaurant menus. They’re not an choice offered at my favorite special-occasion place to eat, Spark (formerly Red Fish) at the Simi Valley Town Center – but even if they were, I wouldn’t be ordering them. There are too many other, much tastier options.

Tall Paul took me to Spark for my birthday dinner this past Monday. Being a Monday, the restaurant was quiet, but they never rush you through your meal there anyway. One of my favorite features of Spark is apparent almost right away – you’re served water right after you’re seated (which has become less common in drought-stricken Southern California), and a full carafe of more water is left on your table. Sometimes we don’t order anything else to drink, and it’s nice not to have to flag someone down when our glasses are nearing empty.

We started our meal with our favorite appetizer – shrimp cocktail. Someone once said that “jumbo shrimp” is an oxymoron – and I guess it is, but these shrimp were huge, perfectly chilled, and served with a kicky-but-not-too-spicy sauce on the side.

The chopped green salad is one of two options offered with dinner (Caesar is the other), and it’s not ordinary. I am not generally a fan of bleu cheese, but it actually works in this salad. The vinaigrette dressing served on the side is unusually thick – it’s more of an emulsion than a liquid, and it has a good flavor. But for me, it’s the fine shreds of fried sweet potato on top that really make this salad special. (The menu says they’re “crispy onions,” but no, they’re definitely sweet potatoes.)

The entree selections at Spark are primarily seafood and beef, with burgers, barbecue options, and jambalaya also offered. I’ve tried a few different things – and would love to try the jambalaya, but it contains clams and clams and I don’t get along – but since this was my birthday dinner, I went for my favorite: the filet medallions. I don’t eat red meat very often, and when I do, it’s usually at a restaurant, so I tend to splurge. I splurged on my side item, too – the baked potato with bacon and Cheddar cheese. Again, it was my birthday dinner – and it was delicious! The filet was a little pinker than I usually like it, but still very tender and flavorful, and the bacon on the potato was crisp and plentiful.

We didn’t order dessert, since we had some birthday cake at home (we’d had another birthday dinner with my stepkids the night before), but apparently our server had heard my husband’s several mentions of my birthday. (We didn’t have a reservation, but it was a slow night.) She brought us a lovely stemmed bowl holding two scoops of gelato – one vanilla, one chocolate hazelnut – topped with a sprig of mint and a lighted birthday candle. It was a lovely surprise; the gelato’s flavors were intense and the texture was indulgent.

We save Spark for special occasions, because it’s not good for us to eat like that too often – and we might not enjoy it as much if we did. But Tall Paul has a birthday coming up in October…

Do you have a favorite special-occasion place to eat?

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