It was amazing! Well I suppose when you have a 10-course-expertly-prepared meal with wine pairings at a beautiful apartment in Paris with 16 interesting strangers, it can’t exactly be anything but amazing. I really didn’t know what to expect going in but overall, it was way more professional and elegant than I imagined. Upon entering the apartment I was greeted by a black-apron-clad-Laura (one half of the Laura and Braden duo that IS Hidden Kitchen) with the most delicious lychee champagne cocktail. No really…it was the MOST delicious champagne cocktail I have ever had…and I have managed to fit an awful lot of champagne cocktails into my 26 years. I really wish I could remember what was in it, obviously champagne and a lychee and I know she said some type of vodka, but there was another sweet flavor too that I can’t quite put my finger on. I think I may have to email her for the recipe. Okay, I’m stopping the champagne cocktail tangent.
Champagne glass in hand, I mingled with the other diners in the foyer as we waited for everyone to arrive. There was a couple from DC visiting Paris for a long weekend, their first trip away from their two young children; two very stylish older women from Chicago, who were getting ready to depart for Namibia for an air safari; a middle-aged brother and sister, he a caterer in Napa and she from Southern California; a young student up from Milan where he is studying, who was supposed to be joined by his parents but they were detained by the pesky volcano; and last but certainly not least, there were the lively and lovely ladies that I was blessed to sit amongst, a group of women from Texas on an antique/flea market shopping trip organized by the Red Shed gals.
Now to the most important part of the evening…THE FOOD. Unfortunately, I realized half way through the meal that my flash was off, so I apologize for the dark pictures. As you all know, I love talking about food, but I think it would take a novella to write about each of the dishes, so I will primarily let the menu and pictures do the talking from here on out and only interject when I think absolutely necessary.
(chilled watercress soup, black pepper cracker and I’m sorry, I can’t remember what was on top, but I do remember that it was tasty)
Spring Vegetables, Poached Quail Egg and Green Goddess Dressing
2008 Domaine de Villargeau, Coteaux de Giennois
House-Made Tagliatelle with Radish Leaf Pesto, Asparagus and Ricotta Salata
2007 Château Pierre-Bise, Anjou “Le Haut de la Garde”
(the pasta was perfectly al dente and the ricotta salata added a wonderful salty balance to the freshness of the spring flavors)
Sautéed Salmon with Hibiscus Bay Leaf Sauce and Fingerling Potatoes
2008 Domain de Tremblay, Quincy
Mint Julep Palate Cleanser
(the picture isn’t clear, but it’s bourbon jell-o topped with a canelle of lime sorbet…a dressed-up/grown-up jell-o shot, the recipe is on their website, it makes me want to throw a Kentucky Derby party simply so I could serve these )
Chicken Liver Ravioli with Braised Artichoke and Preserved Lemon Couli
2008 Domaine de la Cotelleraie, La Croisée, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil
Flank Steak with Grilled Polenta, Avocado and Roasted Cherry Tomato
2008 Clos de l’Anhel, Corbieres, Les Terrasettes
(I didn’t think anyone could beat my mom’s polenta but this was pretty close, oh and the teeny-tiny dollop of blue cheese really rounded it all out, further proof that the smallest additions can make a huge difference)
White Bean, Dill and Beet Salad
(My favorite dish of the night…I know it sounds crazy considering all the amazing other dishes, but this was spectacular. It’s one of those dishes that makes me think of Willy Wonka, because I imagine if Willy Wonka was going to cook white beans they would taste just like this. They look like normal white beans, but taste so much more intense, like the flavor of 10 white beans injected into the shell of just 1)
Strawberry Tarragon Sorbet with Puff Pastry, Shiso Cream and Rhubarb Sauce
2008 Château Pierre-Bise, Cabernet D’Anjou
(I love strawberries and I love tarragon, so I could have eaten a tub of this sorbet, it really makes me wish my ice cream maker was in Paris instead of in a box in my parents attic. And after all the puff pastry I’ve been making in school, I was impressed by Laura’s homemade puff pastry, an admiral task considering you can get good quality stuff in the stores, but I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything less given all the other wonderful components of the meal)
Coffee and Doughnuts
(I think the bottom one was chocolate and almond, and the top one was rosewater with pistachio sugar)
At the end of the meal, after all their slaving away in the kitchen, Laura and Braden came out and joined us. We learned that they have been doing this for the last three years. It started off as a once a month dinner party for them to meet new people in Paris after they moved here post-college and has taken off to something bigger than they both ever imagined. They now host dinners 6 times a month and are already booked through September. The success really couldn’t have happen to two kinder, more deserving people. They are definitely inspirations for me that you can do something you love and actually make a living at it. Oh and to top it all off…they invited me to their annual black-tie birthday soirée for their Boston Terrier, Tati! Yeah, it’s a tough life.