In the past few weeks I’ve been a guest at three remarkable dinner parties. And they came just in time. My own hosting schedule has been pitifully light lately, but thankfully the craft is alive and well. While the fodder at these dinners was unique, they shared a cohesion of concept and a just-so of execution that have the three meals lingering on my mind’s palate.
The first was an impromptu grilling event–a perfect summer kick-off. A couple of flank steaks got a dousing of barbecue sauce and headed for the grill. Asparagus met a similar fate (sans sauce) and both were served with this Eggy Potato Salad with Pickles from Bon Appetit‘s May issue. This will now be considered the house recipe. A classic dinner took a turn for the celebratory with a special bottle of wine. Now despite claims of super tasting abilities, I have concluded that all wine pretty much tastes the same to me. What I mean is that every wine startles my palate and after a glass goes down easy. This Spottswoode 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon knocked my socks off and it got better and better as the evening passed.
Later that week, we enjoyed an Austrian feast. The meal got my attention from the start with the best split pea soup I’ve ever had–and I’m a bit of an enthusiast. The peas had bite as did the smokey bacon on top. Crispy pork schnitzel followed along with potato salad and a refreshing cucumber salad. A lovely Gruner Veltliner washed it all down. The meal didn’t taper off either–an intricate apple strudel with ice cream wowed me to the end.
A few days after that yet another home cook outdid herself. It began with homemade crackers when we arrived. Simple unrisen dough rolled thin, sprinkled with chimichurri and smoked sea salt, and baked 8 minutes at 450 degrees. Having experienced firsthand the admiration that these crisps can elicit, I now want to pass that wonder on. The main course came as a beautifully composed plate of golden oyster mushrooms sauteed in butter and oil atop arugula, a bowl of seasonal greens cooked with tomatoes and onions, and one perfect, golden soft shell crab. She dredged them in flour, then egg and hot sauce, and finally panko before frying them in a skillet. They were served over a terribly simple, yet exciting sauce of heavy cream mixed with hot sauce (from St. John). This is a dynamite idea.
So today I bow down to these home chefs that I am lucky enough to know. You’ve inspired me to write and hopefully to cook again soon. I’ve got an idea stewing for a pork schnitzel served on a pretzel roll with sweet mustard and pickles, or maybe some of that cream and hot sauce, and of course potato salad!