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the night I cooked at the Corner Table Restaurant

20 Mar

This past week I attended an event specifically for Minnesota Food Bloggers. Getting together with people who like to geek out about food as much as I do is one sweet way to spend an evening.

What makes it even better? I actually got to cook with a fellow food blogger in the kitchen of the Corner Table!

But let me back up.

This evening was the second gathering of local food bloggers and I see it becoming a regular occurrence. This edition was hosted by  Scott Pampuch from the Corner Table. Why? Because Scott is a very smart man. You’ll see why by reading the following.

Upon arriving, we got to mingle with fellow food lovers which is always super fun. Plus, I got to speak with Scott himself and tell him how much I enjoyed my experience at his restaurant (you can read my review here).

Photo by Amy Peterson

I may or may not have touched his arm about 12 times. Apparently I was a little star struck. I’m confident he dug that, but was sick of me touching him. We all have our social awkwardness. Touching other’s arms is mine.

During all the chatting, bloggers feasted on an amazing spread that consisted of a very large charcuterie platter and various breads and relishes. It was nothing short of amazing and it got rave reviews from fellow bloggers. Us bloggers, we like to rave about good food.

Then came for the main event and the reason he invited us into his establishment for the evening. He spoke to us about all he’s doing to elevate the local food movement – he is the best in the city about working with local farmers. Seriously. Most importantly, he wanted to tell us about his latest project: Community Supported Kitchen (or CSK). Similar to the concept of a CSA, a CSK box includes locally sourced meats, dairy and prepared products like chicken stock, pickled carrots, braised cabbage or similar items that are in season. It’s a pretty cool idea and would be a great compliment to those who have a CSA. The project will be starting soon and has options for families of 2, 4, and 6 and it’s very flexible as far as the commitment is concerned. Keep your eye on their web site for more details and while you’re there, check out the menu.

After hearing from those who had piloted the program (all feedback was positive), Scott allowed us to tear into the CSK boxes and head to the kitchen.

Ummm…excuse me? I can cook in the Corner Table kitchen and you will provide me with everything I need? Um…okay. You’ll even let us use chef Dan to cater to our every whim? Check.

I followed fellow blogger, Kate, when she jumped up and grabbed a box before Scott could stop talking.  With very little prodding, we ran headed into the kitchen and got cooking. The crowd of camera-crazed bloggers followed.

Kate tackled the marinated chicken and also cooked up the sausages in a lovely red wine reduction. As a bed for the sausages, I put together somewhat of a hash out of bacon, onion, apple and the braised cabbage. And yes, I had Chef Dan cut up my apple. I had to have him do it twice – and can’t believe I told him what to do. He was so nice about it too!

Here’s what it looked like after it was finished…and a few bites were taken. (Yes, I tasted it. I was not going to serve food bloggers something I didn’t try! I’m hoping my fellow vegan lent participants forgive me. )

Thanks to fellow bloggers, Joy and Amy, here is a photo journey of the evening.

Here’s me telling Scott what’s up. Clearly, he is impressed.

Photo by Joy

Maybe not.

Photo by Joy

Inside the CSK Box…

Photo by Amy

Surely if we point to the contents in the box long enough, we’ll figure out what to do with them…..

Photo by Amy

Kate praying that I don’t slice my finger open.

Photo by Amy

 

Feeling the pressure….

Photo by Amy

I can’t believe I’m cooking in this kitchen!

Photo by Amy

 

Please don’t let me mess this up.

Photo by Amy

 

Stacks of All-Clad pans – a dream come true.

Photo by Joy

 

And scene.

After we finished our stint, other bloggers and Scott and Dan all got cooking in the kitchen. Burger, eggs and lots of bacon were enjoyed by all. Well not all, I abstained…except for that one bite!

Photo by Amy

 

Having cooked with the contents of the CSK box, here are my thoughts.

The food is high quality and is better than anything you’re going to find at the store.

This would work well for a family who likes to cook and has confidence in the kitchen. Recipes are not provided. Scott is against providing recipes and while I can understand him wanting people to learn technique and then get creative, I do think some general suggestions would be nice. Something like, “this chicken would go really well with the following in-season produce”. Somewhat of a roadmap without getting as specific as a recipe would be nice.

Families who are busy (and who isn’t) that want to eat quality food from quality sources and like meat (the box was very meat-heavy), this is for you. You’ll still need to go to the farmer’s market or grocery store to round things out, but this saves you many steps and will provide some yummy eats.

Vegetarians, this might not be for you. However, maybe if it goes over well, Scott will consider a vegetarian box? Just a thought.

 

So, have you figured out why Scott is such a smart man? Clearly, if you invite food bloggers to your restaurant and let them cook (and eat. and drink), we will take photos and write about it.

 

What do you think of the CSK idea? Would it be something you would get involved with?

 

Note: The food and experience provided at this event was free. However, my opinions are my own and I was not asked to write about it.

 

 

 

 

 

The Ride of a Lifetime…

17 Mar

What up folks? It’s me, Meghan.

Did the Ride of a Lifetime on March 6 and it was… well… DOPE! Perfect way to spend a chilly Sunday morning. The ROAL, because I am already sick of typing the whole thing out, is an event put on by Life Time Fitness billed as the world’s largest cycling class. Last year was the first year and apparently they broke a Guinness Book of World Record. Who knew there was such a record?

Pre-ride

It was a two-hour indoor spin class held at the St. Paul River Center with more than 1,000 sexy people in spandex. Okay, okay, the sexy part is debatable but you get the point. It was decked out. Banners everywhere, fruit and coffee aplenty, coat check, and the best part… 1,000 stationary bikes fully equipped with clean towels and a brandy new free water bottle. Suh-weet!

Life Time Fitness CEO, Bahram Akradi led the majority of the “class” along with four of his best spin instructors in the country. Not the annoying instructors who pick the worst music possible… The ones who basically make you angry just listening to them talk… The ones you are stuck with because it is the only class that fits in your schedule. These were four of his top spin instructors in the entire country! Again I say, dope.

On to the ride…

Once you get past your typical “How we feeling? I can’t here you! I said how we feeling?” crap and of course the obligatory “when I say hey, you say ho” hoopla the ROAL was yep, you guessed it, dope. What? A live DJ? Okay I guess that is kinda cool. Oh and now you wanna spin Michael Jackson, Prince and a lil Janet all while the live drummer next to you goes to town on his sick bongo set. Oh okay, I guess that is average. Oh, and what is that? All I have to do is sit here and listen to you tell me what to do for two hours, watch you have a blast on stage and in turn I burn 1,200 calories? And then as if that isn’t enough, you have dozens of volunteers running around with clean towels, fruit, energy gels and they want to refill my water bottle for me? BRING IT ON!

The event cost me $50. That $50 earned me a Life Time Fitness cycling club jersey and all of the aforementioned goodies plus the extra water bottle I snagged on the way out for good measure. Next year it will only cost me $20 because now I own the jersey. Totally worth it.

Look at all those bikers!

If you live in Minnesota you are painfully aware that we still have a bit of winter to endure and these next few weeks are among the toughest to get through because it should just be spring already – for the love of god! Are there any fun random things like this in your neck of the woods? What are you doing to keep your sanity during these indoor training months? Can I come?

there were cookies…but no cookie day

11 Dec

Earlier this week I was babbling incessantly to Brette about how much I love living in Minnesota. I love my community, I love the people, I love the local food scene and many times, I love the weather.

On Friday, I cursed Minnesota. We had major words. I may have been crying in the REI parking lot. I may have scared small children.

All of this was because of an impending snow storm. This storm caused something that has never happened.

It canceled Cookie Day.

To say I was bummed, is a massive understatement. I was in desperate need for a family fix and a day at the folks’ along with my sistas was highly anticipated. But, things were out of my control. This storm was being billed as the biggest one since the 1991 Halloween Blizzard and being snowed in at my parents (90 minutes south of here) indefinitely was not a real option. Plus, my dad really did not want us traveling at all. He’s a dad. He doesn’t like his girls in any danger no matter how well we think we can get out it. I love him for that.

So this all came to a head as I was sitting in the REI parking lot about to go pick up my sister Jackie.  Calls were going back and forth between us four sisters and my parents and the writing was on the wall. Cookie Day was not going to happen. Apparently I had not cried in awhile, as I was a major puddle. I also yelled some not so nice words a few times in between the round robin phone tag.

Home I went, where I unloaded the car, corked a bottle of wine and started to devise a plan on how to get back at the meteorologists in the event that the “snownami” they claimed didn’t amount to much.

Thankfully (for them), the snow did hit and it hit hard. We have a foot so far and it’s blowing like the dickens and the temps are falling fast. most of the city is shut down and travel is NOT recommended.

The sisters agreed that we would all make our cookies and have somewhat of a virtual cookie day.

I wore my cute new santa t-shirt, threw on my santa hat, cranked the Christmas tunes and started the oven. The only tradition I did not keep was the champagne toast to start the day. I didn’t think the champagne would keep well and I knew better than to drink the whole bottle before baking. Although, it could have made quite the story.

I made three different cookies and I know you’re dying to know which ones since I was in quite a dilemma. I ended up making the classic Peanut Blossoms, the Lemon-Glazed Candied Ginger Cookies, and Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies. The later was a last minute swap when I realized I didn’t have all of the right ingredients for the Dark Chocolate-Espresso Cookies. Here’s how it all went down.

The Peanut Blossoms:

I make these every year. Everyone loves them and they are Brette’s favorite. You just cannot go wrong with the peanut butter and chocolate combination. I think this batch turned out great. We only had one casualty. They are slippery little buggers.

I used a combination of milk chocolate and dark chocolate stars. Using the dark chocolate makes them healthy. Seriously. I will do anything to justify cookie eating. :)

The Lemon-Glazed Ginger Cookies:

This was a new recipe from Martha Stewart. They were a snap to make though I have learned I’m not a great ‘glaze drizzler’. I’m nick-naming these my Jackson Pollock cookies.

(These were the nicest looking ones. It took awhile to find four that weren’t frightening.)

They are a tasty crispy cookie. I wish the ginger flavor was  little more pronounced. It called for 1/2 cup of crystallized ginger, but maybe a little ground ginger would have helped. We’ll see how they go over the public first before I make any changes or make them again for that matter.

 

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies:

I think these were my favorite today and they also came from Martha Stewart. I love me some chocolate and this has the addition of cinnamon and chipotle powder so the flavor is a lot more complex. They were super delicious with my peppermint tea this afternoon.

The only thing I might do differently when I make these again is add a little more chipotle powder. I may change my mind on that as I solicit feedback from various tasters, but I think a little more heat would make them pretty nifty.

 

So, I still made cookies today, but I missed my family a lot. Like crazy a lot.

I missed scenes like this….

and this….

 

and this…

and this beautiful woman….

and of course the cookie smorgasboard….

The only thing I’m grateful for is that my cookies didn’t require decorating. Poor Jackie and Ann were stuck with double batches of gingerbread and sugar cookies. The decorating is the most laborius part. Good thing they are troopers…and have children.

Oh- and as for my sister Joan, who was making my favorite cookie (the date-filled)… her oven broke this morning! Talk about pouring salt in a wound. Sorry Joan! I hope the oven gets fixed soon…for the cookie’s sake.

Cookie Day 2010 has come to an end, but never really felt like it started.

Next year will be the 20th anniversary of Cookie Day. It is going to be epic. I might start the countdown…..right now.

 

In the meantime, would you rather have the recipe for the Lemon Glazed Ginger Cookies or the Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies or both? Let me know in the comments! Maybe you’ll even get lucky and some will be delivered to you. However, they might have to be delivered by mule.

cookie dilemma

6 Dec

The holiday season is certainly here. I’m now listening to Christmas music non-stop. It’s on at home, in my office, and in the car. I absolutely LOVE Christmas music. I think maybe it’s because it’s so full of joy. It  doesn’t have to be edited for the radio and it doesn’t deal with heartache, addiction or any other sad turn of events. It is strictly to celebrate the season and fill people with good cheer. I love that.
With Christmas in the air, cookies are now on my mind. Cookie Day is fast approaching. I am not ready! I’m not completely decided on which cookies I should make.  All of our classics will be represented: sugar cut-outs, gingerbread, peanut blossoms, date-filled, dipped pretzels, and my dad’s favorite, the date dipped.

I am leaning towards making a couple of new recipes this year. This can be a scary endeavor with this crew. If your cookie is a stinker, you’ll never hear the end of it! The new ones I’m considering are ‘Lemon-Glazed Candied Ginger Cookies’ and ‘Dark Chocolate-Espresso Cookies’. They are both out of the Martha Stewart Holiday Cookie Magazine. I’d actually like to make everything in here, so the fact that I narrowed it down is impressive.

Then there is side of me that thinks I should stick with the tried and trues. I’ve had mad success with Raspberry Ribbons and Double Chocolate-Cherry Espresso Drops. They both work well on a cookie plate and I know people like them. I like when people like my cookies. I hate having stinkers.

So, what’s a girl to do? Go for the new? Stick with the old? Go with something completely different? AHH!

Cookie Day is one of my favorite days of the entire year and I am so excited I can hardly stand it. The good news is that no matter if my cookies turn out or not, I will always have my champagne sistas!

What is your favorite cookie? Any out there I must make? Any advice on my dilemma?

gourmet dinner club: brunch

19 Nov

I had the privilege of hosting the most recent gathering of the Gourmet Dinner Club. I have been wanting to do a brunch theme for quite some time so as soon as I realized it was my turn, brunch was announced! It turned out to be a perfect day for brunch. This is what it was like outside….

Weather like this screams to me to curl up with comforting food and good coffee. So we did.

Whomever is hosting can decide how they want to distribute the work and if there are any rules. I decided that this time around I would assign courses by picking names out of a hat. In addition to the main course that I would provide, my clubmates would bring the following courses: beverage (with nutrients and without), fruit, vegetable, meat and pastry. This was not a ‘light’ brunch.

Again this group amazes me. I love how we all take the theme and go all out with our dishes. This was one fantastic brunch!

My main course was inspired by a dish our friends, BK and Carin, made for a dinner party that had a corn theme (can you tell I love themed dinner parties?).

I made a savory corn waffle topped with a poached egg and chiptole hollandaise.

Going into it, I was not worried about the waffle or the egg. I got the waffle recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and since Deborah Madison is pretty full proof, I knew it would be spot on. The poached eggs were another no-brainer for me. They are my egg of choice and I’ve been poaching eggs since I could boil water.

The hollandaise on the other hand….well, that’s a different story. See, I’ve been convinced my whole life that I don’t like hollandaise but when it comes down to it, I’ve really never tried it. So, not only was I not sure what it was supposed to taste like, after reading various recips, the process of making it was daunting. I found some blender recipes, but it felt like cheating. With the GDC, the point is not short-cuts. It’s really quite the opposite. I decided if I was going to make a true hollandaise, I would let a French Master chef lead the way.

That’s right. I turned to Julia. The instructions were complete and it didn’t seem all that difficult. I just felt there was so much that could go wrong! The basic premise of a hollandaise is to whisk some egg yolks until light and creamy and then you slowly add in melted butter  (a lot of it) while whisking like a mad woman and all the time monitoring the heat. You also add lemon juice, salt and in my case, chipotle puree, but the key is the egg and the butter…and the heat. There was a lot of whisking that took place. In fact, to keep it in a nice thick form, you pretty much couldn’t stop whisking until you were ready to serve. Thank god for Liza who took over babying my sauce while I tended to my other components. She was a great whisker!

The result?

The waffle was tasty. It had chunks of corn kernels which I loved. The poached egg was perfect and runny. In my opinion, you could put a runny egg on anything and it would taste great. And the hollandaise? Well, those that like hollandaise and know what it should taste like, said it was great and I’ll take their word for it. I thought it was good, but I did decide that hollandaise just isn’t my thing. I’ll just stick with the egg.

Onto the other courses.

Beverage

Lee was in charge of the beverages and unfortunately she couldn’t be there. However, she made sure her drinks were!

The one (or two) that I had was amazing. It was a ginger syrup/sparkling apple cider/proseco mix with a piece of crystallized ginger fizzing at the bottom. Holy hannah was it tasty. There was also a traditional mimosa and a non-alcoholic pomegranate/orange/cider number that also looked good, but to be fair, I was pretty focused on my ginger drink.

Pastry

Liza debated a long time over which pastry to make and I’m so happy that she decided on cheese danish. It was so good! The recipe was from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook and it was quite a time commitment….a 4-day time commitment to be exact. It also involved a lot of butter. Between her danish and my hollandaise, butter became it’s own food group.

Back to the danish. They were beautiful and so tasty. You could see the layers of pastry and I personally thought they were prettier than the photo in book. Way to go Liza!

Vegetable

Amanda was in charge of this course and not only was it appropriate for brunch, it was also seasonal! She made made stuffed acorn squash. What was it stuffed with? A mix of root vegetables spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg (?). It had sweetness from the squash and great warmth from the spices. I may have gnawed on the skin to get all the bits and pieces.

Meat

When I assigned the meat course, I of course was thinking of something in the pork family. I mean, who doesn’t like a good piece of bacon or sausage? Kari put her own interruptation on it and went down the “meat is protein and so is seafood” path. She opted for marinated seared scallops and shrimp. Those were tasty enough on their own, but the presentation made them even more amazing. Look at this platter she made for the background.

The red leaves are banana flowers and the green stalks are lemongrass. Isn’t it gorgeous?  And then there were these beauties…

The shrimp and scallops were delicious and the presentation made them even better.

Fruit

So this was Michael’s second GDC. He made a huge splash at his first one with his tomato tarte tatin. The bar had been set high. Wouldn’t you know, he leaped over the bar?

This is a Prosecco and fruit terrine that he adapted from this recipe. To me, it was an updated and very swanky jello mold.  I have never been successful with gelatin of any kind (remember this?), so I was so impressed with this. It might give me the courage to try again. The prosecco gelatin was amazing and the layers of beautiful fruit tasted like they had been freshly picked. Check out these layers!

It was a great ending for the meal and I figure all that fruit will balance out all the butter. :)

I loved our brunch theme and was so impressed with what everyone came up with. It all managed to work well together and as usual, no one left hungry.

This group is pretty amazing and I’m so grateful that I have friends who can also spend hours talking about food. Thanks guys!

Do you have any favorite brunch dishes?

One year ago: cookbook discussion on reference books

Other Gourmet Dinner Club Recaps:

Amuse-Bouche

Tapas

Chinese New Year

Pizza on the Farm

honey chipotle pecans and other host gift ideas

16 Nov

It never fails that once Halloween comes, the rest of the holidays come barreling at us like freight trains. I cannot believe we are already into the throws of wish lists, holiday menu planning and family gathering calendar management.

It is the time of year where many of us have lots of social outings with friends, celebrations with family and festive holiday parties. I may be a bit old school, but I like to bring a gift to whomever may be hosting said gatherings.  I think it is such a nice gesture that is always appreciated. Hosting is hard work. It may be work that some people enjoy (myself included) but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Getting a gift doesn’t make hosting easier, but it certain doesn’t hurt.

Below are some of my favorite ideas for hostess gifts to use through the season.

Store-Bought Gifts:

  • The classic bottle of wine is almost always a good choice….if you know they appreciated wine. Be sure to let them know that the bottle does not need to be served that evening.
  • Fancy or cool hand soap for the kitchen or bathroom (Caldrea has some great ones)
  • Candles – I like the soy based ones and typically would pick one that comes with it’s own holder, like a jar candle for the kitchen.
  • Good tea or coffee – again, if they like tea or coffee.

Homemade Gifts:

I’m sure it will come as no surprise that homemade gifts are my favorite. Taking the time to make something yourself with the host in mind is one of the most thoughtful things you can do and will ensure future invitations to their parties. :) Here are some of my current favorites:

  • Granola (both my summer and winter versions make great gifts. I would recommend using colorful dried fruit to make them more festive)

  • Nut Butters – I attempted my first homemade nut butter this past week and I must admit, it was amazing! I made Ashley’s Pumpkin Spiced Almond Butter. It’s the kind of thing I will need to give as gifts, because I could sit down and eat it with a spoon until it’s gone. She has all sorts of recipes for different nut butters. I highly recommend them. By the way, if you invite me to something over the holidays, you’ll likely be getting nut butter. Just saying.

The last idea I want to leave you with is Honey Chipotle Pecans. In our house, we call them crack nuts. Not that I know from experience, but these are addicting like crack.  They are great to have out with drinks, as part of a buffet table and the best as a gift to a host or to anyone you’d like to make smile.

228

They are spicy and sweet at the same time and I promise people will ask you for the recipe.

Lucky for you, you have it.

221

Honey Chipotle Pecans

This recipe doubles easily.

2 tbsp honey

1 1/2 tsp chipotle powder (I found mine at Penzey’s and it is key for these nuts)

3/4 tsp cinnamon

2 cups pecans

2 tbsp sugar

3/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium skillet, combine honey, chipotle powder and cinnamon over medium heat until melted and combined. Add pecans and stir until coated.

Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until fragrant. Cool slightly (1-2 minutes).

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Combine sugar and salt in a bowl, add pecans and toss until coated. Spread out on a piece of parchment paper and cool completely.

Be warned that if you have one…you will have another.

Store in an airtight container.

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Do you have any go-to hostess gifts? Do you have a favorite gift that was given to you?

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One year ago: Restaurant Review: Bagu

an Indian baby shower

14 Nov

Today Pat and I attended an Indian baby shower for one of his co-workers. It was quite the elaborate affair- much different than your average Minnesotan sit-around-the-living room-in-folding-chairs-eating-egg-bake-and-playing-weird-games baby showers that I am used to.

First of all, everyone today was really dressed up. The men were in suits or fancy traditional Indian garb, and the women were wearing beautiful dresses (saris? I apologize- I don’t know any of the correct terminology). Everyone looked very nice, and then in walk us shlumpadinkas in our jeans! Ha!

The shower began with what appeared to be a traditional blessing ceremony. I wasn’t sure exactly what the ceremony meant, but the smell of incense was in the air, and there was a cloth containing grains of rice and rose petals and a coconut and some other things, and this stuff was passed back and forth a number of times between the mom-to-be and the woman performing the ceremony. It seemed like a very spiritual, special part of the celebration for the expecting couple.

After the ceremony (and lots of photos), the baby shower cake was cut ceremoniously, and the expecting couple fed each other a piece of cake. I thought the cutting of the cake at this point was simply ceremonial in nature, and that perhaps the cake would be served later after the meal had been eaten. But I was pleasantly surprised to be served a piece of cake right away, BEFORE eating lunch. Now THAT’S a tradition I could get used to- dessert BEFORE the meal! The cake was really good. I’d love to know which bakery it was from- it was a vegan cake.

Before lunch was served, the guests were invited to play baby shower games. In amidst all the ceremonial beauty of this shower, it would be a travesty to omit silly baby shower games, would it not? The first game was ‘guess the flavor of the baby food by looking at it through unmarked jars’. I was confident I could win this one because I’m right in the throes of feeding Sam pureed baby food each and every day. Sure enough, I guessed all six flavors correctly and was a co-winner of this game (although I think the other winner was copying over my shoulder. DAVE.) I passed on playing the other shower games and instead joined some of the guys in the other room where they were watching the Vikings game.

Finally, it was time for the highly anticipated Indian buffet. Pat was really looking forward to this part. The food was catered by Bombay Bistro (their website appears to be down, but here’s the Urban Spoon page.) The food was plentiful, and the hosts of the party were right there to tell us which food was which and what was in each dish. Remember, it’s only been recently that I’ve started liking curry, and I’ve only eaten in an Indian restaurant once (in Chicago, during the same trip as the one where I talked to Oprah), so I was pretty excited for this Indian buffet myself. Everything looked and smelled delicious, and I’m proud to say I tried it all. I have no idea what any of the dishes I ate were called, but it was all really REALLY good. I appreciated that everything was vegetarian, because while I am definitely a meat-eater, I was much more eager to try all of these Indian dishes without having to worry about encountering chewy mystery meat. After this, I’m looking forward to dining out at Indian restaurants in the future. Yum!

All in all, it was an enjoyable afternoon. Not to be a downer on the ‘traditional’ baby shower that I’m used to, but the Indian one I experienced today was much more interesting and meaningful that any other baby shower I’ve been a part of.

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Last year on this date: airport food