November 15, 2007

Thursday Thirteen in love


John and I celebrate twelve years together today. Twelve years of good and bad, happy and sad. We've made some amazing 'food memories' along the way. In celebration of us, I offer you today's Thursday 13...

Twelve Memorable Menus in the last Twelve Years (and the recipe that started it all)

1. I find the memories I've retained from our first interactions amazing. We're at a restaurant (I don't remember the venue or even the part of the bay we were in). I'm sitting with the people I came with, and he's across the table with the people he came with. I have no idea what I ordered. He had a ceasar salad, onto which he was shaking copious amounts of pepper. My first words: "Dude... I can taste that pepper from here!"

2. I introduced John to eggplant and mangoes. He introduced me to sushi. First Koji and the 'hotdog' roll. Then Komatsu and crunchy-sweet tempura. And Yuki. And scores of others along the way. Sensational saba. Buttery hamachi. Warm and comforting unagi. In exchange for a fruit and a vegetable. I got the better end of the deal. Forget pork fat Emeril...we've decided FISH fat rocks.

3. He thought I'd lost my mind. A hundred-some people from all over both of our lives. Many of whom had never met. What would they have in common? How could this possibly work?!? I couldn't tell him. But history told me it did. Hovering over the buffet table for another ravioli, another slice of ham, another bite of spinach dip, people would find their own connections, beyond their connections to us. Seven years later, our open house has become a bit of a legend.

4. I'm told that the saurbraten recipe is an adaptation of a Betty Crocker recipe with a little bit of Frugal Gourmet thrown in for good measure. No one's quite sure where the cabbage recipe came from (or they're not telling me if they are). The mashed potato pancakes are 100% Grandma F. And while I'm not normally fond of stews and slow-cooked meats, this menu is the exception that proves the rule... it's become a critical part of the ritual of summer sliding through fall into winter.

5. The first Thanksgiving we hosted, we turned to Alton Brown for advice. AB offered this. We procured a turkey-brining bucket and a separate ice chest just for this purpose. Some fourteen hours, one 15 pound turkey, a quarter box of kosher salt and a dozen or so other ingredients later, two families gathered for one tasty tender bird. The rest of the world can do the deep fry thing... we'll stick to brining.

6. Flash back to 2004. N & K have announced they're goin' to the chapel and they're gonna get maaaaried. But first they'd like to break bread together with both halves of the family and some close friends. Would we be willing to 'cater' their engagement party? Well... sure. We did what we do best: finger food. Most of the experience has been washed from memory by a steady flow of imported Belgian beer. But memory indicates that a good time was had by all most.

7. No matter how I write #7, I think it's going to suffer a bit from 'you really had to be there'. We'd decided to check out Berkeley's legendary Fondue Fred's (for the first time as an adult for me). The challenge: to get the most out of the experience you really need to go in a large group. So someone in our party got the bright idea to invite a bunch of socially-stunted math geeks. Whose first language appeared to be Klingon. And discovered that melted cheese and chocolate made interesting body art. We weren't sure if we'd crashed a freshman fraternity party or a kindergarten arts project... we just knew we didn't belong -- and breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

8. If the potato pancakes featured in #4 are John's paternal grandmother's contribution to our culinary arsenal, his mother's Belgian Frites round out his history with solanum tuberosum. Add my grandmother F's gnocchi and my great grandmother C's potato bread, and we'll have Dr. Atkins doing post-mortem cartwheels, but I digress...

9. AB had already taught us turkey...we were eager students of Roast Beast. While we nixed the flower pot in favor of a roasting pan, we followed his instructions for choosing and aging the beef before roasting it low and slow. The result: a carnivorous Christmas Eve dinner our guests are still raving about nearly a decade later.

10. Menu browsing is one of our favorite activities. It's the food version of window shopping. We pick a neighborhood with a high concentration of restaurants. Stroll up and down the streets constructing the perfect dinner the way other people would put together the perfect outfit or design a beautiful bedroom. In this case, I'd recently moved out to the suburbs. It was time to see what our dinner options were going to be in nearby Walnut Creek. And after a half mile of Italian establishments peppered with the occasional burger joint or brew pub, we found Ono Maze. We found great food in the miso-mirin marinated black cod, the tempura "spider" roll and the molten chocolate cakes. We found good friends in Kelly & Kai, Randy, Mandy, Ryan and Lisa. We rediscovered our love for each other as we fell in love with the restaurant and its people.

11. It all started with a flu bug that left us couch-bound and four or five episodes of David Rosengarten's Taste. Followed by Two Hot Tamales kvetching over how to construct the perfect guacamole. And Robin Young Sissy Biggers Ainsley Harriott pairing two audience members with two professional chefs, a bag of groceries and a thirty minute time clock: Ready, Set, Cook. Sure, the furry little troll is still there and we still tune in to watch some of our favorites... but the Food Network's balance between education and entertainment has shifted significantly through the years...

12. Seven courses of seafood. And a chicken breast, because one of our six guests isn't a fish fan. Can you see where this is going? We were hosting Christmas Eve again this year. And decided to pay homage to my Italian heritage with the feast of the seven fishes. Most normal people accomplish this with a big bowl of cioppino... tossing in seven varieties of shellfish. Amateurs! We planned shrimp cocktail (Alton Brown again). Crab cakes. Bacalau salad. Cioppino. Fish sticks for the kids. And three other seafood courses I've forgotten now. Then the guest list erupted. My brother had to work, so his family wasn't joining us. Scrap the fish sticks. "Um... didn't we tell you K doesn't eat seafood?" Well, no you didn't. But we'll work around it. In the end we had a great meal... and John and I rang in 2004 with three courses of seafood.

and 13... the recipe that started it all:

Garlic Pasta

Cook 1 pound pasta as directed on package.

While pasta cooks, pulse 1/4 cup pignoli, 5 large cloves of garlic, and 1/2 cup fresh basil in a small food processor until finely ground. Add garlic mixture to 1 softened cube of butter. Blend well with a fork. Add 1/2 to 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, blending well.

Drain pasta and toss with garlic butter sauce.

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2 comments:

s.j.simon said...
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Deborah said...

Happy anniversary!! What a fun thing to do - remembering all of your food memories!