Amusingly wild and rowdy, totally a surprise, but immensely fun. That’s what my unexpected birthday greeting was the eve of my birthday at Kalesa, a brightly decorated Filipino restaurant in Milpitas, California, where customers are greeted with oversized glittering Christmas wreaths hung outside the restaurant’s glass walls, and inside, an exquisite and well-appointed display of paintings, multi-colored lights and other artistic holiday décor.
Gigi and Lani, upon hearing it was birthday dinner that we celebrated at the restaurant, rushed to the kitchen to concoct a surprise. Just as my group was readying to leave, since we were the last customers remaining that late night, a loud pop blared out of the microphone followed by rousing music. It seemed like the big bang of a starting disco. Voila, Gigi and Lani waltzed out with tambourines for a rowdy birthday song and greeting. Didn’t expect that. A sizeable mound of coconut ube ice cream topped with a slender candle was set before me. My dinner hosts: my sister Susan, brother-in-law Mario, their daughter Shirley and her husband Craig were just as surprised, and in the midst of robust laughter and merrymaking, I heard urges to blow, blow, blow!
Photo by Susan P. Veloro
Well, when you’re recipient of a birthday surprise delightfully gripping and lively as that, you’d probably be like me – just dance with the greeters, sing and clap loudly and vigorously as they did, and try to force your happily shocked mind for a wish before the candle blow.
My mind in a whir couldn’t think of a wish – the candle was threatening to drip over the silky ice cream. So a quick, “God bless us all!” was what I blurted out — nice and generous birthday wish, isn’t it? The candle flame whipped off, and we all partook of the so yummy ube dessert finished in a jiffy.
As in most celebrations, food was the central attraction. The sensation was the barbecued pork pieces coated in a thin brown sauce that perked with a lightly sweet flavor. The kare-kare hit the second best mark on the scale: tender ox tail soaked in generous serving of creamy peanut butter sauce and a variety of vegetable slices. Though the beans and eggplant were “aldente”, somewhat of a challenge to the bite, the entire kare-kare easily made the delicious category. I ended up taking home the leftover dish of bangus fleshed out in a soft mix that resembled a fish blend sans the sizzle – a delight to the palate. The taste of the bihon pancit matched its attractive presentation, though the slim rice noodles seemed to be just the opposite of the beans in the kare-kare (far from aldente).
The evening was topped with coffee and cake at La Baguette in Milpitas. No surprise rowdy greeting this time, but just a relaxed interlude stirred by zesty discussions. Indeed, a most interesting evening that I consider an enjoyable celebration in an oddly quirky but sweet way – and it sequed into a lovely and heartwarming birthday celebration at Berkeley the next day (Dec. 18th) with my son John, daughter-in-law Natasha, grandson Eliott and a church friend Connie. Next week is the continuation of the celebration with my daughter Joy and son-in-law Matt at Hermosa Beach. Indeed, I feel immensely blessed.