Last night, G, Blee and I hosted the 5th Annual “Oscar Dinner”.
The premise of this unforgettable dinner is that we take the 5 pictures nominated for “Best Picture of the Year” and then create a tasting menu using each film as the inspiration for a course. We played on the Curious Case of Benjamin Button theme and opted to create the dinner menus using buttons as a theme, and then – in an homage to the movie – ran the courses backwards, starting with dessert and moving through to an amuse bouche. As ever, it was tremendous fun and one crap load of work, but worth the effort. One of the defining hallmarks of the Oscar dinner is that we make everything from scratch, everything. See Oscar Dinner 2008 here. Oscar Dinner 2007 here. Oscar Dinner 2006 here.
This year’s invited guests were Tennis Star Suzie; Lady Sarah and her dashing fiance, Philip; and Cousin Richard.
So, let’s onto the food and fun ….
The Oscar Cocktail: “Newman’s Own Ceaser”
keeping with our tradition to pay homage to a recently departed silver
screen star, we prepared a made-in-Canada cocktail, the Ceaser. For the benefit of our American friends, that’s sort of like a Bloody Mary, but made with clam juice instead of tomato juice.
Course One: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – “A Delicious Taste of Benjamin’s Buttons”
Bananas Foster with coconut cream cheese ice cream
We started with dessert and served Bananas Foster – a wonderfully warm and alcohol filled (dark rum and banana liquor) dessert first created in New Orleans, where this movie is set. To add to the wow-factor, we flambeed the dessert at the table. We complimented the sugary, spicy, rummy bananas with a coconut cream cheese ice cream that I made from scratch. Sounds intimating, but honestly, it was easy-peesey. To add to the fun and sense of being born and young, we opted to pair this dessert with a mini bottle of Moet & Chandon for each guest, and, instead of using glasses, gave everyone a Veuve Clicquot bottle attachment that essentially turns your champagne bottle into a giant baby bottle. Utterly brilliant idea and soooo much bloody fun.
Wine pairing: Moet & Chandon Champagne, France
Intermission: Walnuts, pear and parmesan cheese
While guests finished their champagne and we prepped the main course, we served a simple platter of pear, toasted walnuts and parmesan. Lady Sarah swooned as she is a cheese whore in every bit the best way.
Course Two: The Reader – “Two frankfurters, two potato salads, two beers”
Lamb and bratwurst sausage on spinach spaetzle with German salad
The idea for this course was a direct steal from the movie itself. You’ll remember when the couple head out into the countryside on their bikes and stop in a small German town for lunch, Michael orders “two frankfurters, two potato salads, two beers”. We took this literally and ran with the idea of serving two different kinds of sausage, two different potato salads and two beers. Hence this dish. We handmade the sausages last weekend, which is a chore I shan’t be doing again soon and gives me the utter respect for sausage-makers.
Spaetzle is a German version of the Italian gonocchi, sort of. We made three attempts at making spaetzle this past week, two of which failed miserably. However, in the end, we figured out the art of this particular type of potato/flour dough that is quickly boiled then pan fried in butter. We added in some sauteed spinach as I was keen to get the green onto the plate.
Blee found and made the simply excellent classic German salad, complete with dill pickle, bacon, onion and apple cider vinegar. We dolled this dish up by dicing everything very small and adding a wee bit of cilantro into it.
Paired with two wonderful German beers – one lager, one a summer wheat-inspired brew that was a BIG hit, this course was a total winner; utterly delicious.
Wine pairing: Bitburger Lager & Hacker-Pischorr Hefe Weisse, Germany
Course Three: Frost/Nixon – “Pattini Italiani”
Roasted eggplant on iceberg lettuce with tomato chili and parsley, mint raisin sauce
Another standout course was our salad. The idea for this one came from Nixon’s references to Italian shoes in the movie, and then at the movie’s end, Frost’s gift of a pair of Italian shoes to Nixon. ‘Pattini’ is italian for shoes and we cut the eggplant lengthwise and roasted it to resemble a shoe. The addition of Iceberg lettuce hinted at the ‘Frost’ aspect in the movie. We roasted cherry tomatoes with a little olive oil, s&p and oregano for a garnish and prepared an exceptionally hot tomato chili sauce that matched perfectly with a mint, parsley and raisin sauce that I just adore. The interviews took place in California so we served a Rosenblum red Zinfandel that was bold enough to stand up to the roasting and the heat. Served antipasto-style at room temperature, this one was another stand out course.
Wine pairing: Rosenblaum Cellars, Red Zinfandel, 2007, California
Course Four: Slumdog Millionaire – “Po-boy Sandwich”
Vada pav with caviar mint yogurt
For this course, we knew we wanted something very Indian. Vada pav is a (read: the) classic northern India street food, and can be found at every street corner and every Mumbai slum, including the one where Slumdog Millionaire was filmed. We opted to take this idea as the starting point and then fancy it up for a millionaire, by baking classic french brioches to serve it in and serve it alongside the caviar mint yogurt. The vada is essentially a spiced potato pancake (cumin, mustard seeds, curry leaves, ginger-garlic paste, chilies) that is then coated in a besan flour (aka gram flour which is what you get when lentils are ground down) and deep-fried. The result is a crispy outside with a molten potato inside. Vada is traditionally served with two chutneys. We made a red one (roasted coconut, chili powder, garlic and tamarind strands) and a green one (coriander, mint, green chilies and some ginger). Both these were excellent and I cannot say enough about the green chutney myself and remain amazed at the depth of favour (and heat) it contains. When paired together, the green and red chutneys taking the place of what we would know of as mustard and relish, oh my god, heavenly. To add to the fun, we opted to wrap the vada pav in a Toronto Hindi newspaper. Pairing with this a cooler climate Syrah from France worked, but I would have let the bottle open up a little longer and decant it prior to serving. Still, probably my favourite dish of the evening.
Wine pairing: Cave de Tain Saint-Joseph Espirit de Granit, France, 2005
Palette cleanser: Watermelon granita with just a splash of white (yes white) Merlot.
Served in wee espresso cups, this was a refreshing way to prepare for our amuse bouche.
Course Five: Milk – “A Pink Pudding”
Cardamon-scented milk pudding with rosewater syrup
To end the evening, we served a pink pudding to honour the film and the gay movement. Subtlety scented with cardamon seeds that we bruised and warmed into the milk before setting it into gorgeous pyramid molds, we paired this light, luscious pudding with a drizzle of rosewater syrup and edible flowers.
Wine pairing: Hakutsuru Sayuri Nigori Sake, Japan
Here’s some other shots from the evening and the preparation.
24) Brent flambes the Bananas Foster
Note: photos 2, 4, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22 and the video courtesy Cousin Richard