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Birthday meals

KYSHA HARRIS Special to the AmNews | 10/12/2012, 4:24 p.m.
'Tis the season for celebration, joy and happiness! I want to wish a happy birthday...
Birthday meals

'Tis the season for celebration, joy and happiness! I want to wish a happy birthday today to my college bestie Marjorie. Additionally, I want to congratulate her and Sam on the arrival of my newest twin nephews, Emmanuel and Elias, who were born on Tuesday. Ya done good! I can't wait to see those moon pie faces up close!

Now, I know what Elias and Emmanuel are eating on their birthday, and I am sure Sam is giving Marj whatever she wants to eat today, so I decided to reflect on my birthday meals this year.

It started a couple of days before my actual birthday when my friend Jason took me out before he left for vacation. He wanted to try this new pan-Latin restaurant he heard about online. Of course I was down.

We met at Coppelia (207 W. 14th St., (212) 858-5001, www.coppelianyc.com) to get down, Latin-style. First on my list was a cocktail or at least a beer, but "wah-wah-wahhhh," no alcohol. Instead they offered us some fresh fruit juices. Not the route I wanted to go, but they were very good. I got the watermelon and Jason got the tamarind.

We started our meal with three appetizers: guacamole with thin, crispy plantain chips and hearty corn chips, an avocado Caesar salad with cotija cheese and a very tangy Peruvian flounder ceviche with maiz cancha (big Peruvian corn) and yam. I enjoyed the guacamole most of all. Jason and I both agreed the ceviche was too tangy, not enough counterbalance with the other ingredients, but we ate it all so...Lastly, the salad was as expected.

For our entrees, we ordered dark rum-glazed shrimp served with tostones and white rice, and pernil (roasted pork) served with yucca and chicharron. The shrimp were good and saucy and the tostones were fried perfectly.

The pernil...I love pernil. I love the garlicky, slow-roasted meat sliced and served with a piece of crunchy and fatty skin. However, the pernil at Coppelia wasn't that. It was served more like ropa vieja, shredded with the grain of the meat, saucy, over the yucca with pork rinds around it. Roasted pork it was. Pernil? Not so much.

Dessert was creamy tres leches cake with pineapple and coconut (served with a birthday candle!) and avocado ice cream. I have never had the latter before and it didn't disappoint. Naturally creamy, the avocado creates a mild ice cream heightened by lime and salt.

Thank you, Jason. On to our next culinary adventure...Queens!

On my actual birthday, my mother took me to lunch at Blue Fin (1567 Broadway at 47th Street, (212) 918-1400, www.bluefinnyc.com) before we went to a surprise "Lion King" matinee. We didn't have much time, but we didn't need it because we ordered within five minutes of arriving.

It was the "4-S Lobster Lunch": sushi, soup, salad and sandwich. Mom started with Maine lobster bisque with shrimp croutons and a lobster roll with applewood-smoked bacon. I had a special lobster sushi roll and lobster salad with hearts of palm, avocado and citrus vinaigrette. We sipped on sparkling rose and departed with chocolate passion fruit truffles to savor while Simba grew into his pride.

Thank you, Mom, for always wanting to be a part of my special day. I love you!

Finally, my friends-and couple-Nnenna and Jonathan invited me over for a home-cooked birthday meal of chili-rubbed grilled sirloin tacos with fresh corn and tomato salsa. Aside from all of the coughing that occurred when the chili rub hit the pan, the tacos were delicious.

If that weren't enough, Jonathan also made strawberry rhubarb compote (without a recipe) that he served over vanilla ice cream. Heaven! He got that tart-sweet balance perfectly. I went back for seconds.

Thank you to everyone for making my day an unexpected joy. Here is to one more year down and, hopefully, many more to go.

Happy Father's Day to Sam and all of the fathers, dads, daddies, pops and poppas out there!

Enjoy, get eating and thanks for reading!

Follow me on Twitter @SCHOPgirl.

Questions at dinnertime? Chat with me at AskSCHOP, Monday through Friday, 6-8 p.m.

Kysha Harris is owner of SCHOP! which is available for weekly service or for home entertaining. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Email kysha@iSCHOP.com.