Starting off the New Year

2014.Jan.07 Tuesday

in Casa SaltShaker

Just a quick post on last week’s dinners – a couple of new dishes made their debut. Two different menus once again – one for the two holiday nights of the 31st and 1st and another for the 2nd through the 4th. Lots of requests on the latter for pescetarian, so we went that way – coming up this week too. Pescetarian and gluten-free seem to be the two most common requests these days – I rarely am willing to play around with the latter, though I will go “gluten light” if it works – but I enjoy my pastas and tarts and crepes and such, so it’s just a dietary restriction that I generally won’t accommodate.

At the same time, I get requests like this: “Just to inform you, we are strict vegetarians. We DO NOT EAT meat, seafood, egg, mushrooms of any kind, and also seaweed. My wife has more strict diet – she cannot eat onions, garlic, carrots, and potatoes also. We can eat milk, yogurt, and cheese. We can eat all green vegetables and all beans and fruits. As we are coming for our honeymoon, we REALLY want to experience your private dinner.” Now, on what planet does that qualify as wanting to experience our dinners? Okay, they want to come to our house and sit at our table. But they’re not remotely interested in trying our cuisine. I appreciate the enthusiasm for joining the social experience, but important as that is to the evenings, it’s not the whole package – the food and wine comes along with it.

This one was easy, a simple “no room at the inn” (December 29th looking for a New Year’s eve reservation), but it’s often not that extreme and I have to weigh the extra work involved to acquiesce to someone’s allergies, diet or tastes (okay, I virtually always ignore the last of those – I’m not sure in what interpretation of the English language the question “Do you have any food allergies or dietary restrictions that I need to be aware of?” is the same thing as “Send me a list of everything you don’t like to eat and tell me what you’d like to see on the menu and how you want it prepared.”). “They” say that the way you spend New Year’s Eve foretells how the year will go. Maybe this is my year to start saying “no” more often.

Roast Pork with Sweet and Spicy Sauce
Grape Tartlet, Black Pepper Gelato, Basil Syrup

New Year’s Eve menu: Eggplant Tonnato, a fave for holidays; almost the same soup as during Christmas week; followed by our roasted garlic blintzes with a braised shortrib and Morbier cheese sauce; then the above main course, pork loin in a sweet and spicy sauce that uses bitter chocolate, vinegar, spices, herbs, chilies, onions and garlic, served up with some braised red cabbage and, of course, for New Year’s, some black-eyed peas; and, a grape tartlet with port pastry cream accompanied by black pepper gelato and basil syrup, a play on a dessert that we used to serve at Mondrian when I worked there.

Sandperch, Toasted Quinua, Salsa Verde
Honey Nut Tart

The rest of the week: Started off with our “ensalada tahitienne“, though fava beans are out of season so I used fresh peas instead; then the same soup as above, but there were a couple of non-shellfish eaters, so I made it with just fish – a picante de pescado in place of mariscos; our roasted eggplant and cauliflower filled crepes with tangy lemon sauce, though I rolled them up more like a manicoto instead of a blintz; a new main course, olive oil poached sandperch (salmón blanco here) served over toasted white and red quinua, braised red cabbage, and topped with a parsley and oregano salsa verde; and, rethinking the grape tart from earlier in the week, inspiration struck – I filled a tart crust with a mix of walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, sesame and poppyseeds, and then topped those with our honey tart mixture (beaten eggs, honey, butter and nutmeg), baked it, and then served that up with the black pepper gelato and basil syrup. Perfect. The tart is sort of like bakhlava turned into a pie – not a bad concept at all.


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