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The Great "Brian Theis Landmark Birthday Zoom Cook-Off!"

Updated: Apr 27, 2021

On December 28, 2020, I had a landmark birthday. Drop me a line with your guesses as to how old I am and you could win a prize! Lower numbers have a better chance of winning.

A friend of mine proposed I throw a different kind of birthday party for the Zoom era. Everybody would cook a recipe from my new cookbook and dial in to a big ol' Zoom call to share the results. We'd have a virtual "Infinite Feast"! I said "sounds fun" and got about to organizin'.

We had two dozen "pods," or households, participate in The Great Cook-Off and it was a blast! I only burst into tears once because I was so touched by the big turnout and all the love—pretty restrained as things go, for me. I even got a surprise cake! With THREE candles, thank you very much.

Now, without further ado, here's the riveting report from the scene!

Here are all the people starting to join the call, as people tend to do during these things.

First up: Mark and Christopher from Los Angeles made my "Chinese Restaurant Almond Cookies", page 43. They seem unable to control their enthusiasm!

Next, Jason and Colin made the "Hot-and-Sour Soup", page 45. Things almost took a tumble when Jason went to show everyone the results. However . . .

. . . it was only a close call! No soup hit the floor and they perhaps have a new favorite go-to recipe!

Jeff in Los Angeles made the "Sweet and Pungent Pork with Snow Peas" from page 52! Doesn't that look gorgeous? Amazing job on that one, Jeff!

Lizzy MacDonald (aka "Mommie") made the "Chicken Salad Lettuce Cups" from page 148. She was very humble and self-effacing before her big reveal, only to be met with gasps of awe and wonder at what a masterful chickie-cups masterpiece she'd put together. Outstanding job Mommie!

Matt and David dialed in from Aruba! They cooked up my "Shrimp Scampi" from page 208 of the cookbook!

Russ dialed in from the nation's capital having triumphed with the bubbly "Coq au Champagne" from page 60 in the "Valentine in Paris" chapter!

Antoinette and her mom joined in from New Orleans where they were well into their first bowls of my "Pasta e fagioli (Pasta Fazool)" soup from the "Holiday Italiano" chapter. Antoinette even displayed the soup recipe on a vintage cookbook holder she made when she was six!

Neither snow nor rain nor catastrophic power outages can stay my devoted readers from the swift completion of their appointed recipes! Cathleen and Sharon (Shar Bear) were suddenly hit with a couple of unexpected hours of no electricity in Syracuse just as the Zoom call was starting but still awesomely completed my "Petit Filet and Fish Yvonne à la Galatoire's" (page 84) when they got the power back! Now that's some kind of dedication to Creole cuisine! Well done, Cathleen and Shar.

OMG now here's trouble! Jallen and Josh broke in to a posh apartment in Tribeca (kidding) and baked up a big ol' batch of "Stella's Creole Meatloaf" from page 88!

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Page and John made "Ignatius's Hot Dog Jambalaya" from page 89 in the book. John observed: any recipe that starts out with frying hot dogs in butter has got to be good.

New Jersey power chefs Hope and Kori made the vegetarian "Pizza Primavera" from page 96! They were especially in awe of how the yogurt pizza dough did not stick at all during the cooking process.

Los Angeles' own Vancie G. cooked up the "Garden of Eden Vegetable Soup" from page 98. Discerning vegan José had a bowl of it later and he liked it! Hey, José! 'Cause any recipe just won't do.

Malachy of Greenwich Village chose "Salmon Patsy" from page 101 and confided it was a tasty treat!

Ginny & Bob Walther, advanced home cooks hailing from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, took on one of the more challenging recipes in the book, "Princess Diana's B. J. P.'s (Baked Jacket Potatoes)" from page 114, and nailed it! When the fork first pierced the poached egg nestled in the potato atop the shrimp and sauce Gruyère it was a delight to behold! Bob toasted their achievement with a generous quaff of wine.

Gray, and Birthday Boy Brian, grilled up the "Happy Birthday Hamburger Sliders" from page 117!

Dialing in from an exotic locale in the South Pacific (aka their swank flat in Greenwich Village), Steven and David presented "Tuna Bora Bora with South Seas Coconut Sauce!" on page 136 in the Polynesian chapter. Extra credit for spectacular set design!

Yossi and Staci presented their take on the classic "Delmonico Ribeye with Herb Butter," page 153. They rehearsed the recipe the day before and did a creative and diligent job making the recipe kosher!

Dean of Pennsylvania was inspired to salute everyone on the entire Zoom call by name, with printed greetings decking his halls, er walls! Dean cooked up the "Tacos de Pescado (Fish Tacos)" on page 161 of the "Fiesta Mexicana" chapter!

My sister Kate and nephew Joseph from the great town of El Paso, TX, collaborated on my "Pedernales Pecan Pie," on page 173 in the "Texas Hayride" chapter. Fantastic job, doesn't that look tasty!

Guyra took on the "Mock Turtle Soup," page 187 in the "Hallowe'en Goblin Fest" chapter. He masterfully cooked up a beautiful dark roux as one of the early steps in this yummy recipe.

Dialing in from their beautiful home in the wooded hills of Los Angeles, Michele and Tristan cooked up a tasty "Crab Fra Diavolo" from "The Feast of the Seven Fishes," page 208.

Todd and Tim baked up a big ol' batch of Tim's favorite dish, "Potatoes Au Gratin Suprême," page 211 in the Christmas chapter!

It was "Casserole Santa Fe" time for Denise and Dan in Mobile, Alabama! From "The Winter Feast" chapter, page 28.

Irrepressible Victor of Hudson, NY presented his lavish take on a crudités spread to accompany the "Pimento Cheese Saint Peter," page 72!

If you look closely in the upper left, you'll see . . . a birthday cake !!!

OMG the birthday boy is kvelling!

Candles out! Applause all around!

This was a real nice clambake, and we all had a real good time.

I love you all dearly, let's do it again soon! Signed, the Birthday Boy ❤️

❤️ 🎂 ❤️

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