Back in October 2015, I had just moved back to Colorado (Woohoo!) and was trying to heal my heart. I knew I needed to get out of the house, and helping my sisters’ friend, Stacy, move was the perfect opportunity. Myself, and 7 others met up at her old place, loaded up the moving truck and set off for the new place on the other side of town. We stopped for lunch at Proto’s Pizzeria and got to talking. Stacy’s boyfriend, Tyler, used to be a chef (there’s a lot of us leaving the industry lately). Stacy’s best friend, Adria’s fiance, Andy, loves to cook. Somehow over the course of pizza and beers Andy had the idea of the three of us-he, myself and Tyler cooking dinner. See, every year around the holidays, my sister and her friends get together for this big pot luck, caroling, hoopla. The idea this year was to have the 3 foodies prepare the meal; a 9 course tasting menu for all to enjoy.
I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but within a few weeks I was invited to join the Facebook event page in which was written this,
“Hi Jenn, Hi Tyler. I’ve tossed this idea around a couple of times over the course of the past two weeks and I think that during our Annual Holiday Sing Along, it would be great to do a Chef’s Tasting Menu. So if you guys are interested, let’s hash out what we’d like to do, and then send out invites to others. I was thinking at a high level we could each do a Starter, a Main, a Dessert, and a Cocktail. (So three of each between the three of us). What do you guys think?”
I have to admit, I was a little intimidated by these two. I hadn’t been up on my cooking skills lately. In fact, I hadn’t menu planned or prepared anything close to this in almost 2 years. See, I let the ex cook most of the meals. Mainly just to avoid arguments and disappointment. When I’m in the kitchen, sometimes it’s nice to just BE in the moment. To get in the zone, and think things through, and then just cook. It got to the point though, in our tiny Florida kitchen, than I couldn’t find my zone. Bombardments of questions and offers to help interrupted what was going to be a quiet, zen moment for me. So I just stopped, and let him cook. It was heart breaking at times, and I lost my mojo. When Andy sprung this idea on me I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to live up to my Sister’s hype. I love that girl, but sometimes I don’t feel like my food is worthy of her bragging about it.
But as Elizabeth Gilbert says, you have to “put fear aside and just create.” So I thought, and thought, and let inspiration strike. First came the savory mini cheesecakes; dill and chives, with lemon marmalade. It’s something I’ve done before, and I made a few tweaks-better to go with something you know for a starter. For the second course I chose to do the Vegetarian option.
French Lentils, roasted tri-color beets, Marcona Almonds, micro greens, and as I was shopping, a last-minute inspiration of watermelon radish. In the end, the dish I created was not only Veg, but dairy and gluten-free without even trying (though, note to self, some creamy, tangy Chevre would have damn tasty). Third course, dessert. I wanted to go with a Wintry theme, so I tried a recipe I had made before, but had notes for adjustments after the fact. I’m constantly editing recipes in order to perfect them. Which, if you think about it, is an oxymoron. Food is never perfect. It comes from living, breathing, organic matter, and just like us humans, it is NEVER perfect. It is change and experimentation incarnate. There is always something you could have added or taken away. So my Gingerbread Soufle was an attempt at a redo. That, and a chance to finally try this recipe I had found for something called Naughty Whiskey Sauce. I mean, who wouldn’t want to eat that!?
The 3 of us decided that we’d pair our cocktails with a course. Andy chose his to go with his Main, Roasted Cornish hens with fruit and nut stuffing paired with a cranberry orange Prossecco Spritzer. Tyler went with the App’s course and paired a traditional Kir Royale with his pan-fried risotto cakes with wild mushroom ragout he made. That left me with the Dessert course. I made a Whisky Pomegranate Punch to go with the souffle.
What an interesting evening. Once we got to Andy and Adria’s place we really got going. The boys on one side of the island, me on the other.
All of us moving and vying for space, “I need a cutting board.”
“Whose got a peeler I can borrow? Salt? Pepper? Fresh Parsley?”
As each timed course went out, the empty plates were cleared and washed for the next round. 21 people (including the 3 chefs) eating plate after plate of food. We barely had a chance to sit down and eat each course ourselves. I suppose we should have all remind each other that it was a tasting menu because what we ended up having was actual portion sizes. Nine courses plus alcohol feels like you’re eating a second Thanksgiving when you don’t remember to use a tasting portion size. By the time the last dessert was served we were exhausted. But oh, so happy. Everyone at the table were in serious, delicious food comas.
It was such a fun experience. It’s amazing how something so simple can be so restorative. I’ve made some new friends that share a similar passion to me, and we respect each other. Each of us bringing something different to the kitchen, but we each bring something similar too. An open mind and a thirst for the knowledge of something creative and new.
Rumor is we’re now going to have to cook for everyone every year. I’ll cook with these wonderful gentlemen, for this great family of friends, any time.
This entry was written in Jan/Feb of 2016, and is just now being posted. ~Jenn