I just got home about an hour ago from what was quite simply the best meal I have ever had in my life. Two friends (C & C) with a large house host a dinner every year to which they invite a selection of their friends. It's something of a co-operative affair: everyone is asked to help out, and we share the cost of the ingredients — but C & C plan the menu and do the majority of the work. This year there were sixteen at the table, which is to me about the most people who can sit at one table and talk. I am in a better headspace for socializing these days than I've been in years, and that, in combination with the company of some incredibly bright people with talents in a variety of fields, made for an evening (and some hours into the morning) of delightful conversation. I showed up around 4:30 in the afternoon, helped out in the kitchen until we sat down around 8:30, and left, after helping with the cleaning up, around 2:30 in the morning, feeling more buoyant and alert than when I arrived. And even though I'm currently stuck wearing the aircast on my left leg again, I was (and am) in no pain, and am not, even now, fatigued.
It is of course impossible to separate the delight from an evening in such wonderful company from my delight in the amazing food. Merely listing the menu cannot begin to convey any sense of what a wonderful meal it was, but I want to record it here so I can remember it in the future:
- The Three Musketeers: a trio of
skewers served in a martini glass
- sautèed duck liver with ginger and orange
- fresh water chestnut with scallion and shiitake
- Szechuan-flavour duck sausage with grilled tropical fruits
- Edamame Soup, served with caramelized mushrooms, smoked salt, a duck crisp and sasabi sabayon
- Tea-Smoked Duck served Beijing Style, with scallion brushes, hoisin sauce, and handmade wrappers, accompanied by blackened green beans.
Wine pairing: Gewurztraminer Domaine Jumbrecht 2004
- Intermezzo: sparkling sake served with green tea ice
- Shaved Beef in Lapsang Souchong Duck Broth, with four-treasure sticky rice in banana leaf
- Confining the Cranes to Their Nest: duck confit served in a nest of noodles
accompanied by baby bok choy with black mushroom
Wine pairing: Condado de haze Ribera del Duero 2003
- Towers of Hanoi: goat's milk custard layered with gallette, assorted fruits, créme chantilly, topped with a caramel rum sauce
- Dessert Crepes filled with Nutella and garnished with lemongrass-ginger-vanilla-orange créme anglaise, served with macerated oranges and sprinkled with ground hazelnuts
Special highlights of the meal were C's homemade duck sausage in the first course; the smoked duck, which nearly melted in my mouth and tasted heavenly; the baby bok choi — and, most especially, the desserts. The crepe was the best dessert I have ever had, hands down, and the custard as subtle and delicious as any other dessert I can remember having ever had.
Lest anyone wonder: no, I am not drunk. I drank, as I always do, in moderation, and it is now a good three hours since my last sip of wine. I am, quite simply, delighted.