Experience good friends

Posted by johngl

Last Sunday was a big deal. Our dear friend Dustin (aka BigDMcC) treated five of us to an audience participation dinner. It didn’t really start out as such (unless BigD is far more devious than I thought), but it sure did turn out to be a fantastic event.

Opening with this colorful array of slow roasted golden and red beets, Humboldt Fog ashed goat cheese, beet & arugula micro greens, beet juice and red wine vinegar glaze, and beet powder, the dinner progressed thoughtfully into a most memorable experience.


You just can’t duplicate this kind of thing in a restaurant unless they allow your group to take over the kitchen. (Hmmm…that thought has some merit)

Besides most glorious spousal unit and me, the short guest list included some of the area’s most evolved oenorati (yes, I made that up). Some of these folks really know wine. They even have secret meetings and a ritualistic handshake (that involves removing the glass of wine from the right hand, placing it in the left, shaking your hand, then putting the wine glass back in the right). They could easily take over the world. I become all atingle just being around them. For the purposes of this posting, we shall refer to them AstiGirl, Eee, & Brian. You can’t miss Eee…he wears this hand-made hat with a lower case “e” on it. AstiGirl is Eee’s manager. She ensures he stays on task. Then there is Brian.

Okay, so back to the dinner.

Upon arrival, AstiGirl jumps into action. She pulls out napkins, candles, and other decorative elements out of a bag she brought. This babe is Organized. Within minutes, a big empty table became worthy of the gastronomic delights that would soon be presented. I only wish I had taken a picture of it.

I will take this time to announce that I am a Moron (at times). I became so excited at the mere thought of having dinner with these Oenorati, I spaced my cameras. Luckily, AstiGirl had hers handy. I did say she was organized. All photos herein are courtesy of this beloved woman.

dish two
Lamb Agnolotti with Yogurt sauce and Ancho Chile buerre nousette. The yogurt contained garlic and salt (Greek style). The dish was accented with toasted pine nuts and mint. The pasta (agnolotti) were filled with ground lamb, onions, and mint.

See that rectangular shaped ravioli in there with all the rest of the pretty agnolotti? That was my doing. Eee made sure that wound up on my plate. Real chefs can be a pain in the ass.

When we all arrived, BigD announced that he was having a pasta emergency. That is, this dish was in jeopardy because he didn’t have any. His attempt at making some dough had sadly failed. Further, the local Whole (Paycheck) Foods was out of fresh pasta. Oh, the humanity of it all! The recipe he was using was apparently not complex enough. He is relatively new at this whole cooking thing and while he can pull off some really great complex stuff, the most simple things befuddle the poor man. I find it all greatly amusing.

Eee says “I’ll make it…Do you have any eggs?”
BigD: “One.”
Eee: (incredulously) “One?”
BigD: (helpfully) “I have two dozen quail eggs!”
johngl: (laughing) “Of course you do.”
Eee: (somewhat disturbed) “How many quail eggs to an egg?”
BigD and johngl: (nearly in unison) Three!
Eee: “Get those over here!”
johngl: (silently to himself) “Yes Chef!
Eee: (fumbling with a now smashed quail egg) “How do you open these things?”
johngl: “Like so!”

johngl cracking a quail egg

I learned this technique watching Chef Tyson Cole (of Uchi fame). Hold the egg as shown and sharply thunk it repeatedly about its equator. Then just pry apart the hemispheres (I used to build geodesic domes, can’t you tell?). It is amazing what you can learn sitting at a world famous sushi bar watching a master at work (whilst severely lightening your wallet).

Next up:

Wild Boar!
Braised Ribs of Wild Boar (Tuscan style: tomatoes, 1 bottle Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and chicken stock), low temp (275°) baked Fortune apples with olive oil, orange zest, rosemary, and a touch of sugar. The sauce was made with some de-fatted braising liquid, pureed baked apples, and finished with butter. The (very) fresh arugula came from Boggy Creek Farm.

Again, Eee, BigD, and myself all participated in the plating and sauce making.

Then, a revelation…

“We need another course!”
“We have that ’81 Lafitte and it needs its own course!”
“What do we have?”
“I have some ground lamb”
“Lamburgers, some of that Greek style yogurt, and…”
“Pan fried quail eggs!”
“Have you ever fried quail eggs?”
“Me neither…”

Lamburgers topped with Greek style yogurt, pine nuts, and fried quail eggs finished with a crunchy sea salt. Oh, and the heirloom plates that BigD got from his beloved grandmother.

And now, for something completely different:

oregano ice cream
Oregano ice cream dusted with tomato powder and capped with a phyllo cone hat

Oregano ice cream? Yes, trust me, this was the most intensely flavored thing…at first, overpowering, but then a slow melt on the tongue leaves the mouth totally refreshed. This worked beautifully.


BigD got really creative with the phyllo hats. Not having those stainless steel cone thingys that chefs use to do this very thing, he grabbed some ice cream cones and used those as forms for the jack-in-the-box style hats. No dunce here.

Then, the pre dessert:

pre dessert
Black truffle Macaroons made with foie gras, black truffles, Madeira, and quince paste

Along with the ’88 d’Yquem, this was a most memorable taste sensation. Chewy, sweet, earthy richness. It lingered on the tongue. Then awash with great Sauternes. Marvelous.

And finally, dessert!

Paris-Brest: pâte à choux with egg wash and sliced almonds filled with chocolate hazelnut butter cream

Amazingly rich, this was wonderfully complemented by the ’71 Don Pedro Ximinez raisin juice. I hesitate to say wine because you would never guess that anything that tasted like this came from a grape. Looking like liquid tar (or used motor oil), it is thick and chewy on the palate. It also has the flavor of dates, so naturally it paired extremely well with the almonds. I have no idea how BigD made this dish, but even after all that food, I was tempted to eat more.

rogues gallery
Rogues gallery of wine

As I said earlier, this dinner was a big deal. It was really an in-depth foray into food pairing. Dustin is uniquely gifted with the talent to pull this off and for a first crack at it, he unquestionably succeeded. He has stated he is going to put on these pairing events once per month. I can only hope that I am included on the next guest list.

Beyond that, it was mostly an experience of friendship. This kind of meal doesn’t come from recipes. It doesn’t come from the equipment, nor the produce itself. This kind of meal comes from the love of the craft. This kind of dinner comes with the love of friends.

Thank you, my friends, for this outstanding gift.

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About johngl

A bit of a wildman, John hails from the Midwest: A land of corn, cows, pigs, and a host of other healthfully meaty pursuits.

Born on a dark and stormy night in late Fall, John grew up as the son of a meat cutter. There was always plenty of meat at hand. While not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, his family certainly ate well. According to his father, that was the whole point.