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When I married Danny, I was fortunate enough to be included in another wonderful family. They have always made me feel comfortable and welcome. Danny has 2 brothers, so their family is not quite accustomed to girls…which has been a good thing for the 3 daughters-in-law. We are novel on his side of the family (compared to my side where girls out number boys 7 to 1) and you can’t help but feel a little special.

Nancy and Chuck (Danny’s parents)

My father-in-law, Chuck, definitely shares my love of food. From the very first meal I had at his house, I was hooked. He is a true chef at home and I’m convinced that this trait runs in the family; I’m so lucky it resonates in Danny as well.

When you marry into Danny’s family, you become one of them. You know you’ve “made it” in to the family officially when Chuck and Nancy make plans to celebrate your birthday. For the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to have this honor. Not only do they celebrate my birthday, but they make it extra exciting by keeping where we are going a surprise. I absolutely love surprises. Opportunities to be truly surprised are few and far between, so I welcome it any chance I get. Danny has MAJOR difficulty keeping a surprise a secret….so anytime he can do this successfully…it’s a small miracle. He just gets so excited and wants to let you in on it so you can be excited too. It’s an endearing quality and is another reason that makes being with him fun (and it’s the same reason that I got proposed to within hours of him buying a ring 🙂 .

This year Chuck kept the restaurant destination a secret from Nancy as well, which was a fun way to have her share in the anticipation. He gave us a hint on the way to the restaurant, but it was in no way enough to identify it. Chuck seemed to quite enjoy hearing all the guesses we made, though. We pulled up to Sangria Mediterranean Tapas & Bar in the Knox-Henderson area of Dallas and we could tell we were in for an enjoyable evening. The patio area was packed and there were pitchers of sangria on the tables. This is the kind of place to go and enjoy a leisurely meal full of small plates that allow you to sample your way through the menu…and we quite enjoyed doing just this.

Red Specialty Sangria – Traditional Sangria with brandy, citrus, red wine, fresh apples, and pears

We all agreed that although the red sangria was good, the sparkling sangria was the evening favorite.

Sparkling Specialty Sangria – hints of raspberry and vanilla, sparkling wine, Licor 43, and fresh raspberries

A lovely cheese plate kicked off the evening with sweet and savory items that you don’t always find on any old cheese plate. There were four cheeses (I impressed Danny with my fine palate and ability to identify that two almost identical slices of cheese were in fact, different–Cabrales and Mahon), Membrillo (like a jam/jelly), Marcona Almonds, Figs, Flat Bread, and Honey Comb. I was a fan of everything except the flat bread, which seemed not as exciting and reminded me of thin cornbread minus the salt. However, when you topped it with the Membrillo or Local Honey Comb, it did seem to work.

Cheese Plate

The cheese plate was quickly followed by Stuffed Tomatos, Fried Calamari with Harissa Aioli (thick dipping sauce) and Duck Confit.

Stuffed Tomatos – one of the (very fresh) specials of the day

Fried Calamari

Danny is typically not a big fan of calamari, but this version won his approval. I think it had to do with the light breading. The star of the evening most definitely had to be the Duck Confit, which of course was Chuck’s choice, as he was the only one able to research beforehand since he wanted to surprise us. I did feel a little proud because after a quick scan of the menu trying to figure out what he might order….the Duck Confit stuck out immediately in my mind. Perhaps foodie minds do think alike.

Duck Confit – with french lentils

This was my first time to have duck and it was absolutely perfect. It was similar to dark meat chicken and the lentils were a nice addition. Lentils are a great anti-inflammatory food and are a welcome member of my plate anytime.

What I really enjoyed about Sangria is that ordering food consistently during your time at the restaurant is not only expected, but encouraged. We ordered our first round of 3 tapas, and when we finish the question was not, “Are you ready for dessert?”, but rather, “What else can I get you?”. I LOVE that the servers are expecting you to order more and more courses. Don’t mind if I do.

Three more tapas followed and then, and only then, were we ready for dessert.

Piquillo Peppers – stuffed with eggplant and goat cheese

Now the Piquillo Peppers were the second hit of the evening. The peppers were sweet and the strong flavor of the goat cheese balanced it wonderfully. Splitting these two little guys four ways was the only sad part of the evening. But no worries, there was more food to come.

Clams and Mussels – very pretty dish. We wished we had a loaf of sourdough for dipping.

Ham and Chicken Croquettes with Riojana Sauce

The Croquettes were more like mozzarella sticks, if the mozzarella was soft and creamy and more mushy in consistency. They had a subtle flavor and I would be curious to see how these compare to the Goat Cheese Croquettes. That will be an experiment for next time.

On birthdays, it’s not even a question as to if you’ve having dessert or not. Birthdays are a dessert sure-thing (thankfully…so I don’t have to do the end-of-the-meal pretend dessert dance, “Oh no, I couldn’t…well, maybe if we share something.” Who am I kidding anyway?). The most difficult part was figuring out which ones to order. It was nice to just sit back and let Chuck pick. He was looking forward to the Baklava and I was curious to try it for the first time. We also decided on the first dessert on the menu, which was Torrija Tostada y Carmelizada. Both desserts were served with ice cream, which always gets the thumbs up from me. The lighting changed as the meal went on so these last pictures just aren’t up to par, but at least you get a reference point.

Baklava – Crispy layers of film, candied walnuts, and honey, served with pistachio ice cream

Torrija Tostada y Carmelizada – Carmelized Spanish toast with red wine poached pears, served with vanilla bean gelato (a.k.a. milky sponge cake with delicious ice cream)

Another wonderful year and a great dinner to mark it off. I’m so fortunate to have family that want to help make my birthday special….I can’t wait to see what Chuck picks for me next year!

More about this year’s milestone birthday to come…

What to Order (and order…and order…yay tapas!):

1. Sparkling Sangria

2. Duck Confit

3. Piquillo Peppers

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