the table awaits its 10 plates
In particular I was struck at how G and I can prepare such good food, keep the guests happy, serve the meal and do dishes with just the two of us … the best restaurants have whole teams in action to do this.
So, on the the food ….
One: Mushroom Cappuccino
Wine: Lanson Black Label Champagne, France
We mixed shitake, brown, cremini, portobello, oyster and button mushrooms for this. Tossed in some broth and let it simmer for 40mins before cusinarting it. This was topped with whip cream mixed with some porcini dust and served with a savoury chive and parsley shortbread cookie I made.
Two: Mussel soufflé
Wine: Domaine des Quatre Routes Muscadet de Sevre et Maine, Sur Lie, France, 2006
By far the most labour intensive course on Saturday (if you don’t count the dessert which we ended up making 3 times… more on that below). Soufflé means ‘breath’ in French and this dish tasted like a breath of sea air and mussels. A ton of work requiring steaming mussels; the preparation of a mussel stock (gawd! how often does one make mussel stock?); the creation of a roux and a soufflé base; and finally the actual marriage of base and egg whites in the soufflés. We served this with a curried mussel sauce that was to-die-for. This was my favourite course.
Three: Wilted greens with roasted tomato, bacon & lime dressing
Wine: more of the Muscadet
This salad was served warm and consisted of green and red kale that I blanched first then pan fried with lime juice and bacon. Finished with salt and pepper and plum tomatoes I had roasted. G found the lime dressing too strong but I did enjoy this (though I’d not make it again). I find kale is better just on its own.
Four: Canadian onion soup
Beer: Blanche de Chambly, Quebec
Ah, what better course on a snowy Saturday night in Toronto than onion soup. The twist on this version is the “canadiana” part. Made with sweet onions and with plenty of maple syrup, this soup provides you an interesting (and delicious) take on your notion of French onion soup since it is sweet. Finished under the broiler with baguette and 6-year-old Canadian white cheddar. More please! The pairing of Blanche de Chambly with this (a beer rather than wine) was perfect.
Five: Crab ravioli & truffle beurre blanc
Wine: Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Gris, “Les Princes Abbes”, Alsac, 2005
More tastes of the sea. Course five was a crab ravioli made a little asian with the inclusion of soy sauce, lemon juice, water chestnuts, celery and brussel sprouts in the filling. Topped with a perfectly executed beurre blanc sauce that G so skillfully produced, this was another outstanding course for the evening.
Six: Tangerine granita with sugared blueberries & mint
Often folks seem so omg about granita but it is the easiest thing to make. In this case, take tangerine juice and put it in a pan and set that pan into the freezer. Every so often take the pan out and with a wooden spoon bash the hell out of the juice so crystals start to form. That’s it. Granita; done. I garnished this with blueberries that I hand sugared (which is time consuming and not a lot of fun but worth the work).
Seven: Individual beef wellingtons
Wine: Reine Didon Pinot Noir, Tunisia, 2005
The main course was individually prepared itty-bitty beef wellingtons served with mini roasted carrots and mini cauliflowers which I steamed. Finished with an au jus just before serving, we tried our first ever Tunisian (yes Tunisian) wine with this course. The wellington was perfect and the wine okay; it had a good start but couldn’t hold its finish with the meat.
Eight: Cheese course – D’Affinois double brie (Lyon, France); Bleu d’Auvergne (France); 12-yea-old cheddar (Quebec)
Wine: Warres ‘Optima’ 10 Year Old Port, Portugal
I should note we opted to move straight to the champagne with this course rather than the port, which worked just fine. Champagne anytime, champagne all the time works for me. The cheese were marvellous. The D’Affinois was unctuous and luscious and simply wonderful. The d’Auvergne is a lovely blue cheese that is more creamy and less crumbly than what you traditionally think of in a blue (benedictine bleu, for example) and the cheddar…. well, 12-year-old cheddar should be classified as a food of the gods!
Nine: Honey Delights: frozen nougatine, honey creme brulee & honey frappe
Wine: Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Demi-Sec Champagne, France
Boy, this was also a lot of work. These are all honey based ‘delights’. With thanks to G for rescuing the creme brulee and frappe. I had made the brulee twice (with no success) and the frappe once with no success. The secret is in tempering the the egg yolks before integration and ignoring the recipe and going with your gut. These worked perfectly.
The honey frappe is made with a milk/egg yolk/honey mixture and turned into an ice cream. Just before serving you then blend the ice cream with a sweat mead or wine (I use Gewurztraminer) to create the frappe.
The nougatine (middle) is a frozen dessert, served straight from the freezer to the plate. It is made by creating a nougatine first that is frozen and then topped with a honey mousse.
The creme brulee (right) is the classic version.
We served these with edible flowers and Veuve Clicquot’s new semidry Champagne.
Ten: Soma Venezuelan truffles
We finished with Soma’s truffles (which I cheated on and bought). Two dark chocolates: one filled with 8-year-old basalmic vinegar; the other with olive oil.