Today is my girlfriend Melanie’s 30th birthday (or the second anniversary of her 29th birthday) and for such a momentous occasion we have been celebrating it as a triduum of feasting with Mexican, Italian, and Ethiopian cuisine. Saturday was moving day, so dinner was a matter of “we’re hungry, what’s close?” Thus we went to Chili’s, just down the street. I knew my mom and sisters and my sister’s Evy’s family would be there as they had called earlier to see we could join them, but we couldn’t get there in time. So we saw them leaving as we came in. But they surprised both me and Melanie by arranging to have the waitress bring a birthday surprise dessert at the end of dinner. Very funny look on Melanie’s face as she tried to figure out how I managed to arrange it without leaving the table. But I just waved my hands in the air and said, “Don’t look at me.”
On Sunday night, we went to my favorite Italian restaurant in Salem, a place that really reminds me of restaurants in Italy: Bella Verona. I’ve never had a bad meal there. It’s a small place of just a few tables, but the service is attentive and the food is always well prepared. I usually get some variation on seafood including calamari, because it is one of the few places that can cook calamari just right without overcooking it. Too long on the heat and it becomes rubbery. When they cook it, it’s perfectly al dente. If you go, try the Risotto ai Frutti di Mare (Risotto with “fruit of the sea”). This time I had the Linguine alle Delicie del Mare (linguini with a variety of seafood), and Melanie had linguine with clams and red sauce. With dinner we drank one of my favorite new grapes, Barbera. This one was Barbera d’Asti, Ascheri (Piedmont). It paired well with our dinners., For dessert we shared a handmade cannoli and a lemon sorbet served in a frozen lemon. Another great dinner at Bella Verona.