Epicurean Adventures

When time allows, I and friends try to explore our creativity with food. The purpose of these dinners is to revive those long-forgotten (for us) skills for creative and supreme cooking and dining—especially since everyone seems so busy these days. People are welcome to make something they’ve made before or branch out to explore new ideas. For the first dinner, Elaborate Food the requirement was to make something you don’t often have a chance or reason to bother with but is extraordinary in some way. Ultimately, the purpose of this dinner isn’t to impress others, but to impress yourself with your own creativity. My own parents used to belong to a Gourmet Club and I used to cook and serve for my mom on “in” dinners so this feels a bit like that coming full circle.

Jump to the dinners so far: Elaborate Food, Colorful Food, Concorde Dinner, Shabbat Cafe

More themes we want to explore:

  • Dangerous Food
  • Unified Ingredients
  • Food from Literature
  • Food from Art
  • White Trash
  • Picnic
  • Breakfast for Dinner
  • Endangered Food
  • Politically Correct Food
  • Politically Incorrect Food
  • Kid’s Favorites Reimagined
  • Transparent Food


Epicure 1: Elaborate Food Saturday 13 September 2003

Appetizer: 
Laurie & Nathalie:
1) Maine Lobster Custard with Lobster Roe and Lobster Claw, Seared Scallop over Corn Relish and Red Pepper Roulis with Fried Basil Leaf
2) Truffle Mashed Potatoes and Seared Filet Minon in Red Winw Balsamic Reduction with Mushroom Duxelle and Onion Rings
Laurent Perrier Cuvé Rose Brut

Salad:
Cate & Josh: Red Beet Salad in Endive with Fois Gras on Crostini
Red Zinfandel

Soup:
Kevin & Diane: African Curry Soup

Palate Refresher:
Jeanne: Carrot Granita

Entree:
Jeanne: Turbot with Fava Beans and Pea Puree

Dessert:
Nathan: Baravois Claremont Solomon
1999 Hetszolo Tokaji Aszu


Epicure 2: Colorful Food Saturday 22 November 2003

Choose a color and a course. Saturation and value play is encouraged. No full-chroma or triadics but complimentaries and split-complimentaries are welcome.

Appetizer (Gold):
Jeanne: Truffle Custard with sauteed mushroom and onion and chive potato chip
Bonterra Chardonnay

Appetizer (Blue):
Cate & Josh: Blue Cornmeal Crepe with mushroom, egg, and three cheese filling and savory blueberry sauce
2001 Kendall Jackson Pinot Noir

Soup (Red):
Jeanne: Spicy Tomato soup with chive oil, balsamic reduction, and Parmesan

Entree (Green):
Nathan: Green: Green Tea and Spinach steamed sea bass with green beans, orange bell pepper, and red onion, and 3 sauces (pesto, tomotillio, and mint.
2001 Ridge Lytton Estates Grenache

Dessert (Tan):
Laurie & Nathalie: Pear Tartine with pear bergemot sorbet, topped with bittersweet cocoa whipped cream and pear reduction
1994 Arrowood White Reisling


Shabbat Cafe: Friday 2 November 2007

As a benefit for the SF chapter of Reboot, Laurie and I (with a lot of help from Jed, Eric, Scott, etc.) cooked-up this pretty cool meal of reimagined traditional Jewish dishes. We did a lot of research into traditional Jewish dishes and ingredients, including those native to the Middle East, and found some surprises (like grits). We also cooked for an entire day two weeks before the event to test our ideas and recipes (which was critical). In the end, we didn’t use all of our ideas, partly because what works for home doesn’t necessarily work for a 4o person dinner.

The dinner was held in the Mariposa Hunters Point Yacht Club which had a decent kitchen and a lot of logistical issues. Our wait staff, however, was fantastic. The biggest challenge was to set-up 40 plates at a time and get them out to the tables in one flow. Laurie’s done this before as had Eric, who was helping, but this was my first time serving so many people.

The Menu

 

Amuse Bouche:
Matzoh Ball Shooter

I don’t really have a very good photo of this, unfortunatey, but it was a perfect way to start the evening: a simple chicken stock soup with mini matzoh balls. This photo is actually of the version with vegetable broth, an option we had to be prepared for with most of our courses.

Appetizer
Terrine of Chicken Livers with Corn Rye Toasts

This was Laurie’s dish and it was incredible (if you like chicken liver). Instead of the typical chopped chicken liver, she prepared it like foie gras, making terrines layered with schmaltz (which she rendered herself), carmelized onions, seared whole livers, hard boiled eggs (in the Center), and then poured over with a liver mousse. We actually thought it wasn’t going to work when we made them the night before and we didn’t have a back-up but we put them back in the oven the next day and they came out wonderful. Laurie made-up this recipe on the spot and it was one of the most popular dishes of the evening.

Salad
Deconstructed Borscht

Served with Challah and Three Condiments: Honey Butter with Cardamon, Basil Olive Oil, and Pomegranate Molasses

Instead of a traditional borscht, we took most of the same ingredients and served them as a roasted beet salad. The cream (that would have gone into the soup) was the base of the dressing, with pomogranate molasses. Pine nuts and feta cheese finished it off. It was a wonderfully simple, beautiful, and tasty dish.

Entrée
Choice of: Short Ribs with Grits and Brussel Sprouts or Middle Eastern Halibut with Couscous & Haricot Verts

Sadly, we have no photos of the entrées. The short ribs are a similar to cut to flanken (if any of your grandmothers ever cooked it). Instead of a brisket, we went with this cut and we cooked them in Korean spices. OK, not so Jewish, but we wanted an entree with a lot of flavor. The Brussel Sprouts were cooked and served as a schifinade with shallots and the grits were saturated in crème fraiche-and delicious. The halibut was cooked with onions, olives, and tomatoes and is one of those simple dishes to make that looks and tastes much more complicated–perfect for serving 40 people.

Wines
2004 Bogle Petit Syrah
2007 Sauvignon Blanc

Dessert
Scharffen Berger Chocolate Bread Pudding with Homemade Butterscotch Sauce

These were incredible—and popular. It wasn’t easy to cook 8 at once in the kitchen since they required water baths and we could only cook 6 at a time in the oven. We were constantly shuffling dishes around to make everything work. The butterscotch sauce was real (just sugar, butter, vanilla, and scotch) and was a near disaster (crystalizing as it cooled) until Laurie saved it.

Aprés
Coffee and Teas
Chocolate with Crème Fraiche & Honeycomb

This was a special way to end the meal. Our research told us that cream was a special ingredient. It was so hard to keep (no refrigeration thousands of years ago) that it was given as a precious gift. Of course, all Jews grow-up with the pairing of milk and honey so we put them together with a geat dark chocolate with cocoa nibs in it, swiping some crème fraiche into the indentations in the chocolate. The honeycomb was another reference to scriptures and both were just a little taste to end the evening on a sweet, historic note.