Strawberries, Cupcakes, Hops, and Caffeine: A Fabulous Spring Birthday Weekend for My Husband

The first birthday surprise I ever gave my husband. Of course, he wasn't my husband then!
The first birthday surprise I ever gave my husband. Of course, he wasn’t my husband then!

My husband’s birthday is today.  Birthdays on Mondays are awful things, though, so we celebrated this past weekend.  I always try to give my husband a birthday that makes him feel special.  We share a childhood history of disappointing birthdays.  We were neither of us very popular children – bookworms both, and birthdays can be a sore spot.  After my years of living in New Orleans though, where every adult I know celebrates their birthday somehow, often with week long series of events that range from fancy dinners to rolling skating to casual drinks and intimate gatherings.  This seems to me to be RIGHT.  We don’t celebrate enough in life, and why should kids get to have all the fun?  Plus – any excuse for CAKE right?

This year, though, I’m pregnant.  Which means my energy isn’t up to par, I can’t share a bottle of anything with him, and I am, basically, a lame going-out-on-the-town partner.  And yet – we had a fabulous weekend.  We kicked it off Friday evening with a beer for him and a ginger beer for me at a new brewery and restaurant in town, Balter BeerWorks.  This place recently opened, and we hadn’t yet checked it out.  They seem to have a great happy hour, and we were eager to sample their menu, but since we were meeting friends for dinner shortly thereafter, we restrained ourselves.  We pledged to come back soon – though soon ended up being later that night!

Inside Knoxville's Balter Beerworks.
Inside Knoxville’s Balter Beerworks.

After Balter we headed to Woodlands Indian restaurant.  My husband and I share a love of Indian food, and Knoxville actually has several great options for Indian.  We shared a dosa with our friends, and then several dishes.  I have been craving Mattar Paneer since pretty much the moment I got pregnant.  Eating it only makes the craving go away for a short time, though, so we’ll definitely be back.  It’s scrumptious!  We finished the evening with an after dinner drink at Balter – our friends hadn’t been there either and wanted to check it out.  I think we’ll all be back again soon, as we would like to sample the food.

Oloibea's grilled cheese with a duck egg and smashed potatoes on the side.
Oloibea’s grilled cheese with a duck egg and smashed potatoes on the side.

Saturday, though, was my favorite day.  We kicked it off with breakfast at Olibea, which is, in my opinion, far and away the best breakfast in Knoxville.  My husband had the grilled cheese with a fried duck egg you see pictured there, which should be enough for any human for a single meal, but it was his birthday, so he got smashed potatoes too.  I love Olibea so much it is soon going to get its own post.  Stay tuned!

I could eat my weight in strawberries!
I could eat my weight in strawberries!

After breakfast, we went strawberry picking!  The season is just beginning here in Tennessee and Saturday was a perfect day for it – cool, sunny, and text book spring.  It was a lovely drive out to Mountain Meadows Farm, where they have pick your own strawberries for $3.75 lb.  While a bit early, we still managed to pick 5 lbs, and plan to go back next weekend for more.  Not only have I craved berries like mad with this baby, but I also want to make some strawberry lime jam.  Because yum.  It was a seriously lovely morning though, and the drive alone was pretty, though the farm is only 30 minutes from our house!

Cupcake toast! Daniel is having their seasonal key lime cupcake, and I am having the Chocolate Raspberry cupcake.
Cupcake toast! Daniel is having their seasonal key lime cupcake, and I am having the Chocolate Raspberry cupcake.

After strawberry picking we came back and left our strawberries, and then got ready for phase three – coffee and cupcakes in the Knoxville Botanical Gardens.  While you may have noticed I like to bake ;), I also like to support local bakeries.  When I was a kid I always wanted a store bought cake for my birthday, with pretty decorations, and I didn’t get one until my sweet sixteen.  So for birthdays, I like to go to local bakery extraordinaire Magpies, and get our goods.  We picked up 18 mini cupcakes (the better to sample more flavors!) and then headed to grab coffee at our favorite local coffee house, Wild Love Bakehouse.  Then we met up with friends at the park, where we lounged for hours enjoying the gentle breeze and bright sunshine.  This I could do EVERY DAY.  But as it happened to also be National Picnic Day, it worked out perfectly.  We may even make a picnic party a Daniel-Birthday-Tradition!

Salted Caramel Porter and Watermelon Limeade at Last Days of Autumn Brewing.
Salted Caramel Porter and Watermelon Limeade at Last Days of Autumn Brewing.

We ended the evening by checking out a new local brewery that is actually conveniently near the Botanical Gardens.  Last Days of Autumn Brewing is a great space.  They had live music, and my husband loved their salted caramel porter.  I loved the fact that they had a nonalcoholic watermelon limeade.  Forks on the Road food truck was there, which was also part of our reason for going last night.  They specialize in sliders, wings, and fries, and do offer a veggie slider.  I was disappointed that though the truck tweeted they’d be there from 6, they didn’t show up until almost 7, and weren’t ready to serve food until more like 7:30.  My pregnant self had not eaten anything but a cupcake and a couple of strawberries since breakfast, and it was 8pm by the time we had food in hand.  This equals bad.  Even when not pregnant I have a tendency to get hangry, and I definitely hit the danger zone last night.  My husband brought me a delicious veggie slider and sweet potato fries, and I DEVOURED them.  There are no pictures of this meal, because HUNGRY.  After, though, we were both tired, and so we called it a night.  We headed home and curled up with blankets and watched a bit of mindless tv and I fell asleep shortly thereafter.

Strawberry Almond Frangipane Croissant. AH-MAZING.
Strawberry Almond Frangipane Croissant. AH-MAZING.

Sunday  morning we headed our for coffee and pastry at the aforementioned Wild Love Bakehouse.  I actually can’t express how much we love this place.  For me, it has changed significantly how I feel about living in Knoxville.  It’s beautiful, elegant, and DELICIOUS.  They make the best croissants I’ve had outside of France.  In fact, I’ve had croissants in France that were not as good.  This is another placer that more than deserves its own post, but it has become our Sunday morning ritual.  After breakfast and coffee shop time, we did a bit of grocery shopping, and then headed home where I did use some of our strawberries to make my husband a special strawberry galette.  Recipe coming!  And for dinner a simple meal of a spicy carrot ginger soup and crusty bread.  Because moderation!

So basically, it was a low key weekend full of sunshine, sugar, hops, and friendship.  What do you like to do for you birthday?

My husband, chilling at the botanical gardens for his birthday.
My husband, chilling at the botanical gardens for his birthday.
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