Ever since my cancer diagnosis at the age of 33 back in 2011, it had just been stuck in my mind that I would never actually make it to 40. There's no such thing as an easy cancer, and even with my good risk disease I still felt cursed and like I wasn't going to be long for this world. Why do we travel like we do, why do we try to enjoy life like we do? Because we've both learned in very personal ways how quickly lives can change, and that nothing is guaranteed. So yeah, finally actually turning 40 on October 27th, 2017 after years of mental struggle, and having the impossible redefined in my mind was definitely a cause for celebration. Celebrate we most certainly did, early and often.
Part of me wanted to throw a big party with all of my closest friends and people that had really been there for my family and I over the years, but I've become extremely superstitious and wary of such things, as if any over the top celebrations would attract unwanted attention and reverse fortunes. No thanks to that - we've been through quite enough already. Honestly, the Testicular Cancer Summit that I co-founded and chaired, which was held from October 13-15th, 2017 and just two weeks from my birthday, was the only "big" birthday celebration I really needed. I put my heart and soul and so much personal time into making that event all that it was, and it was a huge gift both to the community that I'd been serving for years after my testicular cancer fight, and an amazing 40th birthday gift to myself.
For the actual birthday celebrations though, we're foodies, so we did what foodies do. :-)
Click on the collage images to get to the photo album for each restaurant!
In case I didn't actually make it to my 40th birthday on October 27th, we were sure to start the festivities early, and got things rolling with a trip to Fish by Jose Andres at the MGM National Harbor Casino with our friends Kim & Cliff. Kim is a long-time friend and colleague of Debbie's, and Cliff is a fellow engineer and Scorpio, and we always have a fun time out with them.
An interesting thing about living in the DC area is that there are a lot of interracial couples here. It seems like every other couple we know are interracial. Not that I give this too much thought, but I think there's a special kinship amongst interracial couples, as there's always unique challenges, different cultures coming together, and usually a lot of fascinating travel, all of which just makes things more interesting. It takes a special kind of couple and a special kind of love to overcome the significant challenges that interracial couples can face. Kim and Cliff are certainly no exception to that, and these two have some pretty good stories! You can just feel their love and that chemistry, and how that was able to power through what they faced, and I just love being around these guys.
As for the food, Fish was pretty good, but in the grand scheme of things it wasn't all that special. Keep in mind our perspectives here in that we're foodies that have been to multi Michelin Star rated restaurants. If you're at the casino and want a decent meal, Fish will certainly deliver and most of the dishes were pretty good, but it's not a place we'd go back to. The fun night out with friends is what really mattered though, and it was a great time!
I don't just love these guys, I adore them. Natalie and Mark Way are two truly special people in my life. Natalie is just beautiful, inside and out, and has been the sister to me that I've always needed but have never really had. And Mark is a riot, and can get a rise out of anybody, perhaps at his own expense more often then he'd like to admit, but either way you're laughing and having a good time!
When I was suffering from PTSD after cancer I couldn't be left alone, but Debbie couldn't be by my side at every moment and was on-call and gone on weekends a lot. We just didn't have the close-in family support that we needed, and that's the precise moment in time that the Universe finally conspired to allow us to meet, and Natalie and Mark very much became a second family to me and to us. Needless to say, every outing with these two is a special occasion for me, and I'm blessed that there's been so many over the years now! It's like sitting down for dinner with people that really helped to rescue you from something terrible and that have become close friends, and feeling such immense gratitude every time. I count these friends of mine as one of my life's great blessings, and Natalie's birthday is September 25th, so close enough to celebrate together! :-)
Oh, Bourbon Steak! Yeah, it was amazing. I had the full Wagyu Beef Miyazaki Trio (and not just the sampler), which was hundreds of dollars just by itself. Because why not?!?! You only turn 40 once, and as far as I was concerned there was still a few weeks left for me to not actually make it to 40! If something was really going to go down in the next few weeks, then this was an amazing "last meal" out with two of my favorite people in the entire world. So yeah I had the full wagyu beef platter, god dammit!!! It was EPIC (the bill too), and and worth every penny!
For my actual birthday birthday on October 27th, we went to the new Addies. We had been to the old Addies a few times and loved going there for date nights. The previous location along the Pike just across from the old White Flint Mall (which was torn down and has become exactly nothing!) was pretty good. We'd heard mixed reviews about the new place, but absolutely loved it even if it was a bit pricey.
Métier was actually a work function for Debbie's office, but hey it's Michelin Star rated and my birthday month, so why not? Métier was fantastic! It was actually ranked Washington DC's #1 restaurant by Washingtonian Magazine, so it's a shame that I honestly don't remember too much about this dinner! I ended up drinking both my and Debbie's very generous wine pairings, and she had to drive home!! I didn't even get a photo of us, but all of the dishes from the fish and the steak and other were melt in your mouth good, and definitely worthy of their Michelin Star rating.
Next up was Normandie Farm with my folks, and my aunt and uncle who were celebrating a wedding anniversary, and for my cousin who was celebrating graduating from college. Quite a lot to celebrate. We'd never actually never been to Normandie Farm before, but it's an old favorite in the area and was pretty good as well.
The Inn at Little Washington is a very special place for Debbie and I, and we try to go at least once per year. The first time we went for Debbie's birthday on January 1st, 2013 (we went a few days before, between Christmas and New Years), I was actually in the midst of having major posttraumatic stress issues after cancer. I was so afraid and broken inside, and didn't know how to stop feeling so broken. A friend I had made died, and I had a terrible recurrence scare and thought for sure that I was next, all of which just unleashed a lot of pain that I had unknowingly been holding inside since my cancer fight.
Our trip to The Inn that year was a change of pace, a change of scenery, a breathe of fresh air, and a truly amazing meal. We stayed at their hotel, and it was a nice little escape from the very painful world that I suddenly found myself in. I didn't know what I needed to do, or how I needed to live my life after cancer. Even though I was nearly two years out from my diagnosis, I was only at the very beginning of learning how to grow past it. Dealing with PTSD after cancer, I felt very threatened and like my life was in danger at all times. The first time we went to The Inn, it was an amazing "last meal" if something was truly going to happen to me in the next few months. Nothing ever did, and I'm still here, and The Inn has been a very special place to me ever since.
Our first trip to The Inn at Little Washington helped to reset me, reset my mind, and taught me some very important things. It taught me to get away every now and then and to take time out just for yourself. It taught me to truly enjoy the company of the people that I had in my life, and The Inn also turned me into a foodie! You have to eat, so why not eat something amazing? The Inn at Little Washington isn't just a two Michelin Star meal, it's a journey and an escape from our busy and hectic lives in the DC suburbs. It's always worth the trip, not just for an amazing world class meal, but for the time away to be spent just with people you love. It's worth the journey every time.
Due to our crazy schedules, my folks never actually got to celebrate my birthday around my birthday. I finally got to celebrate with them near Christmas, and Debbie's birthday too, with a trip to Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab in DC. This is another great place that we've been coming to for years, and it never disappoints. It's always excellent, the service is great, and the food is top notch. Don't forget the desserts, which are amazing too!
Next up on the list for Debbie's birthday was a trip to one of our favorites, RPM Italian, with our favorite people once again, Natalie and Mark. Natalie has not just been an amazing friend and sister to me, but to Debbie as well. Sadly, both Debbie and I have faced estrangement issues from our own sisters, which has really been hurtful to both of us in various ways. To have found that sort of connection in another, and in someone right down the street, is just another of the ways in which we consider these guys such blessings in our lives.
RPM Italian is a great place, and having been there a few times for various occasions or fun nights out, we're RPM Italian professionals now, and know exactly what to get. Mark and I just sat back and let our foodie twin wives do all of the menu jockeying and ordering! Another great meal and birthday celebration out, with some friends that we truly love.
From Michelin Star level dining and top notch places in downtown DC, to just plain trashy! I wouldn't call Urban Hot Pot trashy. It's just the best and newest Asian hot pot place in the Rockville, MD area in which we live. Hey, the birthday girl wanted hot pot, so the birthday girl got hot pot! As you could see from the sign, it was literally just opening, and it was great! It's all you can eat for two hours, and there's tons of items that you can order, along with picking things up right off of the conveyor belt if you get one of those seats. It was great, although we think the kitchen can get a little backed up at times, as it can be quite a while between placing an order for a dish from the kitchen and actually getting it. But beggars can't be choosers. This place has been swamped since it's opened, and you'll probably end up having to wait most nights unless you get there right at 5pm when they open for dinner. It's definitely a great Asian hot pot dining experience. Just get there early.
If you want to know what the difference is between Michelin Star rated dining and not, go to RPM Italian above, and then take a trip to Fiola, which got a single Michelin star. At RPM Italian, you'll get a lot of great food and have an awesome dining experience, even if RPM Italian didn't even make it into Michelin's guide at all. A place like Fiola with a Michelin star takes things to the next level where the food starts to become exotic both in taste and in artistry. We've actually been to Fiola a few times now, and their chef likes to mix things up as the menu had changed quite a bit from the last time we had been there. It was almost an entirely new dining experience with a lot of new dishes, and reinterpretations of older ones. We went with our friends Kim and Cliff once again, as it was close enough to Kim's birthday for her to celebrate too.
Because Asian... Debbie was born in Taiwan, and seafood was one of Taiwan's primary industries, so there's always a healthy appetite for seafood in the family. A trip to Hot N Juicy Crawfish in Falls Church, VA always makes for a great meal. We've been to the one near the DC Zoo, but it's virtually impossible to park at on a weekend, so our choice in the area is to just go to the Falls Church location, where there's easy parking right behind the restaurant.
An Argentinian steak restaurant had long been on our list to try. There's a couple of them in the DC area, but have never managed to make it to any. A weekend trip to New York City at the end of July finally managed to cross that foodie box for us. K Rico on 9th Ave was amazing. Everything was delish, and the portions were unexpectedly huge! We ended up ordering way too much food. With apologies to hardcore steak fans, half the family gets sick on steak if it's anything less than well done, so yes, we need ours cooked all the way through. It's actually a great test for a steak place to ask for a well done steak, and seeing if they can deliver that while having it still be very moist and flavorful. K Rico did not disappoint, and we'd definitely go there again.
Last call for Debbie's birthday month was at Nobu 57 in NYC, at you guessed it, 57th street! We had been to NYC once before quite a long time ago, and needed to go again, and by this time we were both so full and so stuffed from a few months of celebrating and so many other goodies in NYC, that it was tough to even think about food anymore! We had our kid with us in NYC, so nothing exotic like Daniel was on tap. Maybe next time!
So there you have it! 40 - I mean 28 - and 40! There's so many more people that we'd have loved to celebrate with, but way too many people spread all over the place, and I was way too superstitious to want to even attempt to throw a big event like that. And besides, I kinda already did. We're definitely a few grand poorer and a few pounds heavier from all of our foodie partying and celebrating ways, but eating our way through DC was totally worth it all. If God forbid something happens to me now, at least I don't need to eat or have a "last meal" anymore! Boxes already checked!