One Accordion Guy, three birthday parties

First, the upcoming birthday party: Lowry Parcade and Tavern, Tampa — Saturday, November 18th, 2017!

I’ve had a couple of 50th birthday parties already (see below), but I haven’t yet celebrated this big birthday with friends in Tampa. That’s all changes on Saturday, November 18th, when I celebrate at Lowry Parcade and Tavern, a place with a lot of classic arcade and pinball games and a great selection of craft beers and ciders. If you’re in Tampa in a couple of Saturdays, you’re invited to join me from 7:00 p.m. on!

Interested in attending? RSVP on the Facebook page for the party!

Birthday party 1: The Carbon Bar, Toronto — Saturday, October 14th, 2017

Joey deVilla on the balcony of The Carbon Bar, Toronto.

My first 50th birthday party took place during Anitra’s and my recent visit to Toronto for Canadian Thanksgiving, which takes place on the second Monday in October. My mom, sister, and brother-in-law arranged for a birthday party at The Carbon Bar in downtown Toronto, where they had a private room overlooking the rest of the establishment. We invited a small number of friends for a fully-catered, open-bar, let’s-all-hang-out-and-marvel-at-how-time-flies gathering.

Here’s the requisite photo with Anitra:

Anitra Pavka and Joey deVilla on the balcony of The Carbon Bar, Toronto.

I had to take a shot from the balcony overlooking the rest of Carbon Bar. If I’m not mistaken, that’s Eldon looking up at me as he makes his way to the stairs:

View of The Carbon Bar from the balcony.

Here’s a photo of the partygoers with whom I’m the most newly acquainted: Robin and Anitra, both of whom I met in 2011:

Robin Dwarka and Anitra Pavka.

I’ve known these people longer: June (since about 2003), Maria (also about 2003), Natalie (2001), and James (2007)…

June Matte, Maria Davo, Natalie Brahan, and James Agnew.

And here are some of the old guard: Kevin (whom I’ve known since 1982), Eldon (1989), and my sister Eileen (1969)…

Kevin Matte, Eldon Brown, and Eileen deVilla.

This photo features Anne, whom I met in 1992:

And way in the back is Patrick (whom I’ve also known since 1982), chatting with my Mom (known since 1967):

…and in the foreground, looking right at the camera, is Marichka, whom I met in 1988 when she and her friend Ellen invited me to what may have been the most booze-tastic Toni home perm experiment ever:

After cocktails, first conversations, and a lot of catching up came a wonderful dinner and yet even more booze, which is exactly the way it should be. There were enough of us that we had to be split into two tables, but I made sure to work the room and eat at both.

It may be a cliche to describe an event as something that made your heart swell with joy, but honestly, that phrase applies. The people in this room have been with me through the years, through good times and bad, who’ve seen me at my best and worst, and most of them were able to make it to our wedding. I’m grateful that I was able to have all of them gathered together to break bread and clink glasses, and even moreso to Mom, Eileen, and Richard for making it possible.

Birthday party 2: Restaurant BT, Tampa — Saturday, November 4th, 2017

Anitra Pavka and Joey deVilla at Joey's birthday dinner, Restaurant BT, Tampa, November 4, 2017.

Yesterday, the Saturday closest to my actual birthday — November 5 — Anitra took me out to dinner at Restaurant BT, which specializes in French/Vietnamese cuisine. We like trying out new places, and since neither of us had been there before, it seemed like an obvious choice.

I felt more like cocktails than wine that evening, so we started with saketinis. I had the lychee-and-mint one…

…while Anitra opted for the blood orange:

Appetizer time! We shared two appetizers:

  • Bo tai chanh: grass-fed beef tartare, ginger, garlic, chili, shallots, opal basil, cilantro, peanuts, hearts of palm, microgreens, and passion fruit jus
  • Vegetarian pumpkin soup: made with chunks of pumpkin, coconut milk, galangal, scallions, roasted peanuts, and vegetable broth

The mains called for another round of cocktails. This time, I went with a sake-based bloody mary that came with its own bouquet of herbs…

…and I couldn’t resist getting all Salvador Dali with the onion blossom:

Anitra opted for a passion fruit saketini, which would stand up to her entrée.

My entrée was “Duck Duck Goose”, which was a collection made up of:

  • Pan-seared goose foie gras,
  • placed atop a duck confit,
  • which in turn was on top of applewood-smoked duck risotto,
  • and served with roasted parsnips and squash.

Here’s a closer look:

Anitra’s entrée was chiperones relleno: baby squid stuffed with shrimp, crab, pork, and tree ear mushrooms, served on a bed of glass noodles and a tomato-ginger relish, with eggplant and coconut black rice on the side:

The restaurant knew it was my birthday (I told them, of course), and they threw in this birthday greeting spelled out in lime sauce with a very nice chocolate mousse:

I like a good surprise:

This became my new social media profile photo:

We also opted to try out a couple of desserts: a trio of creme brulees (one of which was peppery — quite nice!) and a tropical panna cotta:

If you’re looking for a new place in Tampa to try some really good food, I recommend checking out Restaurant BT. I’m definitely coming back.

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