My niece, Lauren Upton, prepared this table. It’s her birthday party. Turning 29 on the 29th of the last days of 2019. She chose the theme for her birthday party, Middle Eastern. Why? because we are a proud remnant family of Safita Syria and everything we do and cook, when it comes to celebrating, is laced with traditions my mom passed on to us and her grandchildren.
My son, Omar Daumit, will prepare the entire meal, right down to a decedent display of traditional desserts. When Omar was fourteen yeas of age, my mom asked if Omar could come help her prepare food for a family reunion we were having, all Arabic food, of course. That evening she said to me, “This one will be your Chef”. And so, he is.
Lauren and Omar, together, now work hand in hand to run Ken’s Creative Kitchen, a catering company Lauren’s father, Ken Upton, started more than forty-five years ago, with which my mom bought the first catering truck and the logo, a white asparagus, was hand painted on, by Ken. Many, many catering trucks have worn that white asparagus over the years.
As the years have passed, Ken’s Creative Kitchen has earned the reputation as the most sought after, Fine Dining experience in the Maryland, Virginia and Nations Capital area, a private experience. Lauren creates the ambiance and details for each client, right down to the smallest fork and layers of linens to be used, while Omar creates every last morsel of divine deliciousness. Cousins. Tradition. Family.
On this, Lauren’s twenty-ninth birthday celebration, an evening that will linger into the wee hours of the morning, there will be numerous courses of food, paired with appropriate drink. Traditional desserts, many of which Omar learned to cook from his grandma many years ago, and of course… Belly Dancers!
While I would love to share with you video clips I have snatched of the evening, dancing, singing and the elaborate costumes worn by both the men and women, it is a private and very meaningful event for Lauren to be shared with family and friends only, so let’s keep it that way. (wink) I will, however, share several of the courses that were served and the traditional desserts that lavished the table!
The First Course – Individual Meze Platter of Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), Hummus, Baba Ghanoush (smoked eggplant pate), and a variety of other traditional flavors to tease the tastebuds. A few of our family’s traditional recipes from the meze platter can be found here:
Second Course – Lamb Shanks. While Omar has yet to share with his mama his secrets to this ‘fall off the bone’ beautifully cooked lamb shank, the aromas and flavors made you swear you were walking through the streets of a Middle Eastern Bazaar with all it’s exotic spices wafting right up to your nostrils!
Third Course – On a lighter note, Omar prepared a medley of seafood in a delicate, in appearance, broth, but don’t let it fool you. This fish broth simmered for hours with layers of spices, harissa, cumin, turmeric, cayenne and coriander, along with a fresh herb bundle, accompanied by saffron Couscous.
Desserts – a variety of sweets, of the Middle East, such as Baklawa packed with nuts and drizzled with orange blossom syrup, Date Filled Pastry drizzled in date syrup and a favorite of ours, crushed nuts and dates with a hint of heat rolled into a truffle. Several recipes for these scrumptious desserts can be found here:
Date Filled Pastry with Date Syrup
And, of course, a Birthday Cake befitting a Princess!
Lauren Upton, may your year, your life, be richly blessed, Love Auntie Robin xoxo