Monday, May 21, 2012

Tea time

I don’t know if all tea parties end in five empty bottles of bubbly, but mine did. It started innocently enough with the one—for rhubarb bellinis, you understand. The next four went down smooth, and after seven hours of girl talk and dranking, so did I. But the real “wow” of the party? Not that I used half of a pair of curtains I never hung as a tablecloth, but that I spent an hour whisking egg yolk and oil into mayonnaise for the sandwiches served with tea. And it worked.
I used the miracle I whipped as a base for two spreads: a dill mayonnaise for cucumber sandwiches, and on an asparagus sandwich as shallot, basil, lemon aioli. The third sandwich, hardboiled egg and mustard with pickled radishes, got a break from the mayo, out of concern for my guests’ arteries.
To round out the meal, even-less-artery-concerned options included mom’s famous shortbread and earthy sweet date muffins. With the exception of the one arm-exhausting ingredient, all were easily executed menu items mostly because I bought good bread from the bakery and fresh produce from the farmers’ market (and because I ordered the shortbread direct from my mother, who also lent her tea set when I realized I was unequipped for the basis of the party).
Best-ingredient local cooking has been the food philosophy I’ve been coming back to for a while—in fact, it would seem to be the closest thing to a premise on this blog—but I recently read Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal, which reignited my passion for simple, clean, from-scratch food. It’s a game changer for sure. I’ve seen it pop up on a couple of other blogs and those cooks had the same reaction I did: they dropped everything and started simmering a big pot of beans. Then I took her advice and made mayonnaise with my hands and the tiniest whisk in the world.
So with the beans quietly bathing in their leeky broth on the stove, the local ladies introducing themselves to our Skype-in guest, I stopped cradling my broken limb long enough to pop the first bottle of champs, and tea was on.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Ladies’ night, Perennial edition

Man! Last week the TBB ladies took ladies’ night to a whole new level. We finally got ourselves over to dinner at Perennial Virant, and it was worth the wait. The early dinner crowd on Tuesdays is pretty light, giving us ample opportunity to chat up the waiter and enjoy a few rounds of... delicious, well-prepared seasonal veg (including ramps, asparagus, and rhubarb).
I started the evening with a glass of Cava Rose, a delightful aperitif that whet my appetite for the more complex and intriguing cocktails on the menu. The Rhubarbieri followed with dinner, because who doesn’t want a little gin punch with fried cheese curds? Perennial’s menu is satisfyingly seasonal and catered perfectly to our ladies-who-share system, as we leaned heavily on the appetizer and snack sections, then split one entree and one dessert.
The meal: bar snacks (fried cheese curds, pickles, corn nuts), vinegary asparagus salad with hard boiled egg, Midwest cheese plate, creamy polenta cakes over and under grilled ramps, pickled and grilled asparagus, and mushroom puree, and chocolate cake with white coffee ice cream. The kind of meal that reminds you can eat local, seasonal, farmer at peak levels of pleasure.
Sisters are doing it for themselves.

High on inspiring locavation, we took the party to the Four Seasons for a little gin and juice. We might not be blogging, but we certainly are ballin’.

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