Did it seem a little quiet in a few neighbourhoods in town this last Sunday? it could have been the result of a few very tired kids and their very tired/hungover parents.
To close out the summer we had decided to have a few people over for a 'foodie' potluck. Your basic bring an 'A' game dish or a family favourite. Combine lots of good food with copious amounts of alcohol and there is always fun to be had.
There had been a fair amount of discussion about a certain drink over the course of the summer and how not to make it - the mojito. A certain downtown bar, and big seller of this beverage, seems to be leading the list of misguided attempts at mojito mixing (sorry, Jack). Pre-muddling the mint is bad but their addition of sweet and sour mix just turns it into a mint flavoured rum collins. It's funny that as our restaurant food gets more creative and less prefrabicated that bars are moving in the other direction. In the August edition of Bon Appetit (sorry, not online) is a great article about cocktail construction in Japan. Seems their mixologists pride themselves on making individual cocktails from scratch using fresh ingredients and lots of imagination. Here we seem to be drifting to a McDonalds approach to bartending with premade syrups and mixes. Bit of a shame.
With that in mind I decided to make mojitos (for the first time) from scratch. That afternoon I made a batch of simple syrup, and then set up limes and mint. For each person requesting a mojito I muddled the mint and then addded the syrup, light rum, lime and club soda. Except for the first one (which I managed to make half of in one glass and then finish off in my Rangpur & Tonic - not a good combo...) they seemed to be a hit. Next time I'll need more syrup... and rum.
My first course out was Grav Lax. Made with salmon from Yellow Umbrella and then salt/sugar cured for 48 hours. Served on sliced bread with an espresso dill honey mustard. The lack of leftovers led me to believe it was a hit.
I had orignally planned on cooking something on the grill. A trip last weekend to Carytown with my visiting parents and my first glimpse on Penzy's got me thinking. They had a certain spice that caught my eye - English Prime Rib Rub. The heady aroma of celery, pepper, onions, and garlic got me craving a major piece of beef.
Belmont Butchery provided me with a choice cut of prime rib that I could work with. Rubbed down first with grapeseed oil and then the Penzy spice I opted for the controlled heat of my oven rather than the grill. Fifteen minutes at 500 and then 2 hours at 230 (both on covection roast). During the 30 minute covered rest I made a jus by adding stock and sherry to the pan to deglaze and then reduced over high heat.
There were no leftovers.
Since I didn't use the grill the queue for others was shorter.
Sketchy brought his mythical DragonFish. Using a cute little trick of molecular gastronomy he used a protein glue to reform several pieces of halibut into a piece resemebling a tenderloin. Then, again using the glue, he attached thin spicy slices of chorizo. Roasted over the grill it came out crispy on the outside and moist inside. I could swear that Sketchy managed to achieve umami with this dish, a real accomplishment with fish.
Another fun dish for the evening was made by Koolz. He stuck to his roots and made a meatball dish from a family recipe. Pork meatballs grilled over my infrared then topped with basil and slices of mozzarella. Well spiced and Koolz did well for his first work with the searing temps that my infrared grill puts out. M seems to be aggitating for him to make some ziti and show off his tomato sauce skills. Sounds like a call for a repeat performance.
A late arrival for the evening was RVA Foodie. That was probably a good thing as nearly all of the dishes woudln't comply with his 'meat is murder but fish is justifiable homicide' type of vegetarianism. His arrival did usher in a bout of heavy beverage consumption. As the wives put the kids down we engaged in mojitos and a number of rounds of shots.
In true foodie fashion we had both sweet and savory shots. I pulled out a bottle of akvavit, a Danish tradition flavoured with caraway and anise. Sketchy brought a bottle that he had altered.... Italian Lemoncello that he had unbottled and then carbonated. The thick heavy liquid held the carbonation until it hits your toungue and then bubbles up in small explosions. Both were great but weren't exactly great together and we had some casualties....
Oh, and if anyone was out and about around 2 in the morning in the Fan we are looking for any witness to a 'missing' bicycle trip that someone took... :)