Ten years ago this past Monday, I kissed AJ (or AJ kissed me, I guess it depends on who you ask!) on a street corner on a gray rainy day in San Francisco, only to have him leave the following day for a four-day cycling trip that he had previously scheduled.
It’s the sort of memory that is both crystal clear and nostalgically hazy at the same time. If it were being filmed for a romantic comedy (the sort of film that AJ and I specifically avoid watching) there would be this sort of grainy feel, with the background blurred while the camera zooms in on us, under an umbrella kissing, traffic lights and car lights multicolored specks in the background, an atmosphere of uncertainty, of what was going on, where things were going, what it all meant. There would be melodramatic symphonic music swelling (probably scored by John Williams because AJ love Star Wars) at the kiss moment. Then we would part, walking to our separate apartments alone.
We had actually dated a year ago and ended it five months later. It wasn’t very good timing and (I had thought) we weren’t that compatible. Truth was, I just wasn’t ready to go into a relationship, having gone on a series of terrible dating excursions right up to meeting him (one overlapping in fact).
Each dating experience had their own “title” – complete with a veritable stable of sitcom plots. The Busy Guy, where we had to reschedule four times until we finally connected, only to have the guy literally run away during a making out session (making me wonder if there was something I had done to him to scare him like that…was I really that bad a kisser?). The Short Guy who was described to me over and over again by the baby dyke coworker who kept on trying to set us up that “he’s really REALLY short” (which wouldnt’ have been an issue). However, this friend of mine was barely 5 ft tall, I was a bit concerned that she was trying to set me up with a midget, but he ended up being a respectable 5’7” and completely disinterested in dating me (the feeling was rather mutual). Right On Jimmy who constantly used the catchphrase “Right on!” and who took me to some new-age Sunday “church” experience called “Radiant Light” where the entire congregation stood up in a circle next to each other and passed kisses around the circle (and it was up to the newbies there to figure out what was going on…I broke the circle three times until I finally figured it out, and the entire circle could be complete and we could sit down and meditate about finding our mother within).
AJ was different of course. I won’t tell you his “title” because it’s irrelevant now, and he is no longer a random footnote in my life or a funny anecdote to tell at parties. We ended our five month relationship in a rough manner, but managed to stay friends. Seven months later we found ourselves at a party hosted by my friend’s Rita and Damon where there was us, two couples, and a single guy. The single guy had told Rita that he TOTALLY didn’t want to go to the party as the sole single guy with a bunch of couples. She told him that we weren’t a couple and he was incredulous but she assured him that we were one of those magical couples that were miraculously able to stay friends. WE were her prime example of how couples can stay friends after a break up. Afterwards the single guy totally yelled at Rita and said “They were TOTALLY a couple! What crack were you smoking?!?!” (I’m paraphrasing of course, he didn’t actually say that – but the sentiment was there).
The last ten years have been an incredible journey and I know that throughout it, AJ has taught me much about myself and about what it means to be in a relationship. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I would be a totally different person had I never met AJ or had not gone to that party that led to the kiss that led to the last ten years of my life.
We celebrated our ten-year anniversary in a very mellow way. Normally for anniversaries, birthdays, holidays and pretty much any sort of excuse I can come up with, I buy him stacks and stacks of presents. It’s fairly easy as our major gift giving holidays are all evenly spread out on the calendar. I can buy presents one at time, stockpile them for a month or two and then give them to him for whatever celebration we are having. AJ doesn’t have the luxury of working downtown like I do, which is conveniently located near the third busiest shopping district of the United States, Union Square. Gift giving for him is a stressful event, trying to keep with me and trying to figure out what to get me. As I browse and leisurely cherry pick presents for him, he usually frantically runs around the weekend before to try to get me something that he feels might be worthy.
The thing is, he usually does an amazing job of finding presents. But this year we decided to not get gifts for each other. I’ve tried to curb my shopping habit, and work has been so hectic that I haven’t had a chance to run out to Union Square during lunch to find him anything. And I don’t want him to be stressed out about anything. Life is good between us, and I just want to enjoy that goodness.
Because everytime I get in bed, and lie down next to a sleeping AJ (who has to wake up earlier than me, and hence goes to bed earlier than me), he rolls over and throws his arm around me to snuggle close instinctively. It makes me happy and I can’t stop smiling. It’s a wonderful way to fall asleep, in the arms of someone you love and know that person loves you back with all their heart, awake or asleep.
So instead of a big celebration (we had talked about throwing a party for our anniversary) and loads of presents, we decided on a nice dinner (Quince) with just the two of us. And because I can’t just let our anniversary pass us by with giving him something (which I know we agreed we wouldn’t get anything for each other, but still…) I decided to bake him a cheesecake, with all the flavors that he love – Chocolate, Caramel and Cheesecake. So this dessert, well, it’s top of his list. It’s not super fancy. It’s not crazy flavors or unexpected twisted surprises. It’s just a straight simple delicious dessert. Well, as straight as two gay men who’ve been in love for ten years can be….
Happy 10 years AJ! I love you. I can’t wait to see what the next ten years brings us…
Whilst baking, I decided to listen to Madonna’s Celebration, her most recent best of album. AJ adores Madonna. I figure it was appropriate.
AJ’s 10 Year Anniversary Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake with Chocolate Wafer Base
By Irvin Lin
A rich, dare I say decadent, cheesecake that is perfect for the love of your life. Or for anytime that you really want to say “I love you” to your favorite person. If you are pressed for time, feel free to use store bought chocolate wafer cookies or oreos. Your loved one won’t notice. One thing to note, the chocolate wafer cookie recipe make twice as many cookies as you need. I suggest using the other half to make homemade oreos, ice cream sandwiches, icebox cupcakes, or just serve them milk or ice cream. They are tasty and not too sweet.
Chocolate wafer cookies adapted from a Smitten Kitchen recipe.
Chocolate Wafer Cookies
1/2 cup + 5 tablespoons (185 g) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (210 g) all purpose unbleached flour
3/4 cups (100 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup (200 g) white granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (30 g) dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
20-24 finely ground chocolate wafer cookies
1/3 cup (65 g) white granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
5 tablespoon (70 g) melted unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3/4 heavy cream
8 oz fine quality semi-sweet chocolate (I used Callebaut) chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
3 8oz packs of cream cheese
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Make the wafer cookies first by taking the butter out of the fridge and cut it up into 1/4” cubes. Set aside to warm up slightly. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugars, salt and baking soda in a food processor until well blended (a few pulses should do). Add the butter to the flour mixture and pulses a few more times to incorporate it. Mix the cream and the vanilla together in a glass measuring cup with a spout and then, in a slow steady stream, drizzle it into the food processor while on, until the dough clumps together on the side. Scoop the stuff out and knead a few times with your hand and then roll it into a log about 14” long and 1 3/4” thick with wax paper or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for an hour or overnight.
2. Once the dough has chilled, preheat an oven to 350˚F and slice the chocolate dough into thin (1/8” to 1/4”) rounds. Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes. If you want them crispy, bake them more on the 15 minute side. If you like them a little soft like I do, 12 minutes should be fine. They will crisp up as they cool as well, so if you are unsure, just pull them out, let them cool, and if they aren’t as crisp as you like, just throw them back in the oven for a few more minutes. They are very forgiving.
3. Once the wafers have completely cooled, take about half the cookies (20 -24 of them) and place them in a clean food processor, reserving the rest for your another use. Process until they are finely ground crumbs. Add the sugar and salt to the processor and turn on. Drizzle the butter into the processor until incorporated. Spray a 9” spring form pan with cooking spray and dump the crust into it. Press the crust into the bottom and an inch up the side of the pan. Stick the pan in the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 350˚F.
4. Make the filling by pouring the sugar into a large heavy stockpot (preferably with a silver bottom) and turn the heat to medium to make a burnt sugar caramel. Most recipes will tell you to use a low heat (which I suggest doing if haven’t made a caramel before – but if you have, crank it up to medium or medium high, or if you’re a daredevil, high). As the sugar melts, swirl the pan around until it goes a deep golden amber. I like to pull my caramel to a darker mahogany to get a smoky flavor, but that’s super dangerous as it can go from delicious to burnt in a matter of seconds, so do that at your own peril. Once it reaches the desired color pour the heavy cream in carefully. The caramel will bubble and boil and steam up so be careful that you don’t burn yourself.
5. Using a whisk stir the caramel until all the hardened pieces dissolve. If you need to, put it over a low heat and stir constantly until any harden pieces dissolve. Remove from heat and pour the chopped chocolate into it, and mix until it’s smooth. Then mix in the sour cream. Take the cream cheese and beat it in a mixer until it’s light and fluffy. Pour the caramel chocolate into it and mix at low speed, scraping down the side with a spatula. Beat in the eggs one at time, scraping the sides with a spatula. Beat in the vanilla.
6. Pull out the pan from the fridge and pour the filling into the pan. It should reach the top of the pan. Put the pan on a baking pan to catch drips and bake in the middle of the oven for 55-60 minutes or until the cake sets 2-3 inches in, but the middle wobbles a bit. The cake will totally rise and look soufflé like. It’ll settle down as it cools. Cool to room temperature and chill over night before serving.
Makes one 9 inch cheesecake.
Beautiful post, your personal story fits a seductive romantic comedy film beautifully.
It is amazing how love grows deep and little things like gifts and big spending celebrations make little sense after all. There comes a time when all you want to offer to your loved one is peace and quiet and a house filled with joy and love, the greatest gift you can offer to yourself too! Excellent choice of desserts. They were perfect to celebrate the joy to meet someone special in a short passage on Earth.
S. B. Hadley says
Fabulous! Fabulous! Fabulous! The love, the cheesecake, the reso at Quiche (go Michelin!), the enjoyment of Madonna (how timely with this week's episode of "Glee.")! Maybe your next cake will be a wedding cake?! 🙂 Congrats to you both! XOXO, H.
S. B. Hadley says
PS — I mean Quince. I think I had quiche on my mind. Ha!
Seriously? You make me tear up before breakfast? Really love you guys, both as a couple and as two incredible individuals. But love you just the same!
I just wanted to let you know that reading this post brought a smile to my day. Thank-you for sharing the love you two have 🙂
Congratulations! I CANNOT wait to meet you both! Even though I already feel like I know you both! Love, love, love in the air, in the flour, in the pan and the cheesecake. Oh, yum! (btw, we share an anniversary–been married to the Big Man for 3 years on 4/21, together for 10). Salud! Salud! Amor!
Ahh. So pleasing to read this history that I love–and to see these photos that I love, too! Only 10 years? Feels like forever, because your relationship and friendship (with me!) has come to define who I am, too.
Happy Anniversary, Irvin and AJ!!
Congratulations on your anniversary, Irvin and AJ! Is the dinner at Quince("fancy with a curlicue F") a new anniversary tradition???
yay congrats again, it really was a beautiful post! and obviously i would have accepted no other brother-in-law besides aj!!! soooo, good choice. both of you! 🙂 also i'm pretty sure hadley was referring to MY wedding cake, right hadley? =D alright alright, the invites/programs will be enough…but i digress…super happy for you guys!
Mr. Jackhonky says
@Claudia. Thank you so much! It was really a great way to celebrate 10 years of being together. Just the two of us.
@Hadley. You know how I feel about the Michelin Guide, but Quince is wonderful. We had the best time, and the food/ambience was magnificent.
@Susie. We love you too! Can't wait to hang out with you and your parents this weekend!
@Kirstenlife. Yay! I'm just happy people are reading!
@SpicyBrownGirl. One of these days you're gonna get your ass over to my dessert parties…Happy Anniversary! We share it with another friend of ours as well, Kim and Melissa. Must have been something about that day….
@Rita. You are SO a part of who I am, who we are, and our lives! Yay! It's so funny that you know this story so well…you lived it with us!
@Karen. Yay! We only went to Quince once before for AJ's birthday, so not a tradition. And now they are in a different space. Same amazing food, totally different atmosphere. It felt like a completely different restaurant. Still fancy though. With an even fancier curlicue F.
@feiwenfoodie. Much like AJ said about photographing weddings, I will do someone else wedding cake. I won't do yours. Ha! If you were having it in the bay area, maybe I'd reconsider… Thanks for the congrats!
What a beautiful post! As one who has never been in a long term relationship and who is about to turn 27 in 8 days, this makes me hope for a relationship like the one you have with AJ. On a food related note, I really need to take a stab at making a cheesecake…preferably a red velvet one.
Major congratulations on ten years, being featured on tastespotting, and that delicious looking cheesecake!!
Beautiful love story! I love reading how other happy couples came to be – makes me remember the night I fell in love with my husband. Congrats to both of you!
And where are these gluten-free Newman's Own cookies you speak of? I haven't come across any – only wheat-free (but not GF) ones . . .
Mr. Jackhonky says
@Helen. 27 years makes you a baby! I didn't meet AJ until I was about that age, and I've had plenty of friends meet their significant others when they were much older….
Also, now I want to make a red velvet cheesecake. That sounds yum! But you should make a cheesecake, they always impress and really aren't that difficult. The hardest part for me is that I usually have all the ingredients for my baked goods in the pantry or floating around the apartment. But I have to consciously go and buy three or four or five bricks of cream cheese to make a cheesecake. I often forget at the grocery store.
@Justine. Thanks! I was super pleased to have gotten on Tastespotting! I've never submitted before….
@Tara. Thank so much! And yeah, I realized that I was completely mistaken, Newman's own make a wheat/dairy free one, but not a gluten free. My friend is wheat allergic, not gluten allergic so I usually buy either and it's okay – but clearly not ok if you are gluten allergic or celiac. I've gone ahead and changed my note.
That said, maybe one of these days I'll make a gluten free chocolate wafer recipe. It probably isn't that hard to do, I've just never done it! But since the cookies are used to make a crust, you probably don't even need to use any xanthan gum as the crumbliness wouldn't be an issue.
Mr. Jackhonky says
@Tara. Sorry about the Newman's Own mistake. But Aunt Gussie's makes a "chocolate spritz" cookie and Pamela's Products makes a "dark chocolate chocolate chunk cookie" both of which are gluten free and would make good cookie crumb crusts for this cheesecake.
So I guess I'm in full on stalker mode, reading your blog, 'cause basically I think you are amazing. Well not so basically.
It's refreshing, uplifting and heart wrenching to know that two people in such a large city can find each other, find themselves, and find happiness. I'm reading about your life while chuckling (my co-worker thinks I've lost it…she'd be right), smirking and smiling. All the perfect emotions deployed through a talented writer and a truly captivating story.
I was going to say "thanks for sharing"…but then I remembered that people don't generally "share" with their stalkers. So, thanks for letting me unknowingly cyber stalk you like a crazy person. Hrm.. I think I'll shut up now 😀
-Jamie Lynn Palmer
Mr. Jackhonky says
@Snuggles11. Yay! I have my very first stalker! You know you have arrived when you have a stalker!
Actually, my partner had a stalker, and though it makes for an amusing cocktail party story, I don't recommend anyone ACTUALLY have a stalker.
That aside, thanks for reading my blog! I get very happy knowing that there are people out there reading me. I'm sure we'll see each more in the future…but it was great hanging out over the weekend!
I'm so happy I crashed into this site! it just makes me happy to know that love is soooo alive!!!! this is a clear beautiful example!!!
Brooke (The Flour Sack) says
Your cheesecake sounds amazing. I have used this chocolate wafer cookie recipe many times and I love it. I use it for cheesecakes and pies all the time! SO good. I’ll be trying this cheesecake very soon! 🙂
Magpie's Recipes says
Ohmygosh this is so sweet! Was awesome to run into you at Omnivore and now being over at your blog I feel like I know you a little bit better. Wish you and AJ all the very best ! It is indeed a very great blessing to find love.
Hope I run into you (and that cheesecake) soon 🙂
Looks good! Can’t wait to try it!! happy 10 years!!!
:* :* :* :*
this cheesecake is fantastic and such a hit! i made it for a party last week and again today. thanks for sharing it. 🙂
I love your blogg and the recipes , speciell the cheesecake and most of all how you show love …love is love … whitout color, sex, age or human limits.