Thursday, June 22, 2006

Christmas in June

Day one of my diet, and I broke it. Shattered it, really. I had coffee, I had bread, I had an indecent amount of alcohol - most certainly more than I’ve had all year - and I had a slice of flourless chocolate torte topped with whipped cream and raspberry coulis. And, I didn’t share it, either. Sharing dessert is for sissies.

Being quite disciplined, I don’t normally break diets, but I had a good
reason: Christmas in June.

You see, our friends Scott and Erin gave us a cooking class at Café
Gibraltar for Christmas. We looked at our calendars and discussed
alternatives and settled on June, 2006.

The cooking class was “Preparing a vegetarian meal”. The idea is you sit down at the table and talk, then get up and go to the counter to watch how a dish is made, then return to the table to eat what you’ve just learned to make. And, each dish is paired with the right wine, the perfect combination that “brings out the nuances of flavor”. Then you get up, learn how to make the second dish, sit down to eat it – and drink another glass of another wine. And so on.

We learned how to make:

Middle Eastern Flatbread – we sip champagne while we watch the loaves being slipped into a stone oven.
Hummus – we all dip the fresh baked flatbread into the just made hummus while standing around the counter drinking red wine.
Harissa – observed how the chef made it, then watched Luca take assiduous notes. Drank white wine.
Artichoke hearts stuffed with goat cheese and nuts in a thick tomato broth – Erin and I start talking and then, at intervals, pretend to pay attention. Exhibiting startling ingenuity, we’ve caught on that the fun part is when we get to go back to the table.
Vegan mushroom soup – by now Erin and I are completely absorbed in
conversation, so I’m not sure how the soup was made or even what went in it. Mushrooms, I think. And Luca mentions something about attributing its consistency to celery root. It went so well with the wine.
Crispy polenta with mushrooms and tomatoes – despite the fact I’m not much
of a drinker and haven’t really gotten what all the fuss about wine is
about, I am really digging this pairing wine with food thing. Plus, I’m
Orange, avocado, and arugula salad – Suddenly, I’m ravenous. And this wine does have a fruity, smoky, crisp whatever that goes well with the acidity in the salad.
Flourless chocolate torte – goooood. And the wine has a smoothieness (wrong
word. Scott and Erin make fun of me.)

We end up talking about our five favorite movies of all time. Choosing our five favorite movies of all time overwhelms us, so we demote the
conversation and instead throw titles around and don’t bother to narrow them down. The Shawshank Redemption. Love, Actually. School of Rock (don’t knock it until you’ve seen it. Besides, this is the movie that got the
conversation started in the first place. We decide our next reunion is going to involve food and watching this movie.) The English Patient. Butch Cassidy and the Sun Dance Kid. Cider House Rules. Blade Runner. Star
Wars. The Matrix. (these last three are not among my favorites but I¹m
trying to reflect the general conversation, not just my opinion.)

I’d love to know what your favorite movies are (we didn’t commit, so neither should you – just throw a few titles in) and what food you think goes well with what wine. Pairing is an art – it’s not just “white=fish” or
“red=meat”. So this is what Scott has been going on and on about! Who knew?

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