a perfect birthday celebration

Happy Birthday to me!

On Friday night, I got to have one very special birthday celebration.  Nine of my closest friends and I reserved the private dining room at Restaurant Iris for dinner. I have said a million times that Restaurant Iris is my favorite restaurant in Memphis, and maybe – just maybe – ever.  It had been a couple years since I was last there, and when a couple friends mentioned that they had never been and wanted to go – I took advantage and made a reservation.

Let’s first talk about the service.  When we arrived, we were swiftly escorted back to the dining room and greeted with a pretty decorated table.

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Yes, they put streamers all over the table.  Then when I opened the menu – there was a personal happy birthday letter to me and my friends from Chef English.  Y’all – it’s the little touches like this that make this restaurant the best in town.

Now on to the food. I can’t express how thankful I am that my friends are food sharing kind of people.  I think I tried ever single dish that came out to our table – and out of ten of us we rarely got the same dish.

To start the meal, we were served one of the best bites of food I’ve ever had. Seriously.  The amouse from Chef was a chicken salad on a crostini.  Ok – I am sure you thinking – Amanda, Chicken salad? Yes. But this wasn’t your ordinary chicken salad.  The crostini was thin, buttery and garlicy. The chicken salad was perfectly balanced. Just trust me. It was the perfect way to excite our palettes for the rest of the meal.

To start, I resisted the urge to get my old favorite – the brussel sprouts, and instead I got the crispy pork belly salad with arugula and fried cheese balls. Talk about melt in your mouth.  The pork belly was outstanding and paired with the peppery greens and the acidic vinaigrette – it was light and a great start.

I obviously had to try other plates.  Amina got the bone marrow. Oh my.  If you have never had bone marrow, take a risk and try Chef English’s.  It is creamy, velvety and decadent. Sean got the raviolo with short ribs. Now – let’s talk sauce.  I believe the true mark of a good chef is the sauces.  I think that I could have just had a bowl of that broth and bread and been one happy girl. Somehow he created a deep rich, beefy sauce that seemed like it had been simmering away for days.  Absolute perfection.

For dinner, I chose the seared duck breast on a sweet potato and parsnip au gratin. The combination of the duck breast and the sweet potato was outstanding.  The au gratin was made with manchego cheese so the balance of sweet, salty savory was spot on.  This dish was pretty rich, so I had to take home leftovers.

The other standout dish that I tried was the short ribs that Ben had.  I love love love short ribs.  I believe it is one of the most under utilized cuts of meat and when I find someone that does them right – I have to mention it. Chef Kelly did those short ribs right – tender, savory, meaty. Yum.

For dessert – I had the brown sugar pie.  As you see from above, it was brought out with a little message.  It’s the small touches, people. I love the portion size for all of Iris’s desserts – never too big, but always just enough.

Overall – I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday dinner.  Good friends, good food, good wine is the perfect way to celebrate a new year.  All night long I used #happygirl in my tweets and Instagrams, and that is exactly what I am – one very very very happy girl.

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