My birthday was an appropriately food-heavy day. Began at 7:30 with waffles, the only breakfast appropriate for such an occasion. Big belgian waffles with slabs of butter and lakes of syrup. Then yoga, not food related, but beloved by moi. Then a big car trek out to an excellently funky little Russian grocery, in search of pilmini, porky little dumplings. Met with a heartbreakingly empty pilmini freezer, we purchased a big loaf of dark, fragrant rye bread, chewy kielbasa lovingly renamed “bear meat,” a giant bunch of dill, a mushroom salad, a jar of eggplant caviar, and a tin of “sprats.” Not willing to give up on the pilmini, we forged onward, way out of familiar hip Portlandia, to Roman Russian Market, a bigger shop packed full of exhilaratingly strange Russian goods. Herbal teas meant to remedy any ill, jars upon jars of pickles, packets of colorfully labeled barley, cases of decadent cakes and hearty sausages. Pilimini acquired, we headed home for our giant lunch.Rye bread slathered with butter, dipped in the eggplant caviar. Slices of kielbasa alongside glasses of Kvass. And finally, doughy pilmini topped with salted dill, vinegar, and sour cream. Hearty, hearty heaven.

Then a downtown walkabout, hoping to burn enough calories before our five o’clock dinner at Toro Bravo, brother of Tasty & Sons. The uncharacteristically early dinner was just as delightful as expected, based on reviews, recommends, and the Tasty & Sons experience. A cozy little tapas place, Toro Bravo was packed at 5 PM with pre-gaming Portlanders, out for Spanish food before a game, as you do in Portland, OR. We hungrily ordered the chicken liver mousse, “singing pig” greens, oxtail croquetas, papas bravas, meatballs, cauliflower, scallops, and a big ol’ paella. The mousse, light and just salty enough, spread on soft bread as we waited for the feast to arrive. The pig greens, in a light dressing with almonds and grapefruit and a bit of blue cheese and sparky pickled onions, all good things.

Croquetas, fried dough with meat, always a winner. Strangely, wonderfully cinnamon-tinged, many pieces of bread were sacrificed to swab the croqueta plate for the last lingering bits of spicy strings of oxtail. The papas, crunchier than usual and the potatoes themselves spiced rather than beside a spicy sauce–good, but not as good as home made.¬†Meatballs, served in a quiet tomato sauce with soft white beans, loved by all, but especially by two small hungry boys. Cauliflower, browned perfectly, crunchy, very tasty. Scallops, perfectly caramelized, atop a just spicy enough to be interesting harissa cream. The clear centerpiece of the meal, the paella, perfectly spiced, all the ratios of meat spot on, big hunks of chorizo mingling with steamy mussels.

Left very full and very pleased to go home for cake. Redmonds have a happy tradition of double birthday cakes, one chocolate and one lemon. And once you think about having two cakes–once you experience having two cakes–there’s really no going back. Still full of tapas, still full of pilmini, still full of waffles, I managed to eat a generous slice each of Kate’s two perfect cakes. Both bundt cakes, the lemon is just lemony enough, lighter than poundcake, denser than a regular ol’ cake, glazed with a thin sheer of sugar and lemon zest. The chocolate cake is simultaneously dense and moist, encased in a perfect crust, being a bundt cake and all. Frosted with Cowgirl Chocolate spicy sauce, a slight deviation from tradtition–perfection. A wonderful, 3,500 calorie, birthday.