I lay on our living room couch, awkwardly covering my face with a throw pillow. Every ray of sunshine that made it past my shield made me wince. Every sound in the neighborhood jangled and tore through my throbbing skull.
Be wary of Alder bearing wine. He brings good bottles, but he brings a lot of them.
Who could blame him, though? He wanted to share some unique California wines with us, Lenn Thompson, his wife Nena (both visiting from Long Island), and Fatemeh and C. I don't normally let other people provide the wine when we have a dinner party, but when Alder offered to pair wines to my menu, I decided it was in my best interest to agree. I was less sure as I recovered from my hangover this morning, but I'm back to thinking it was a success.
Appetizer Platter: Fried summer squash slices, fried goat-cheese-stuffed squash blossoms, roasted speck-wrapped figs, duck rillettes.
Wine: 2003 Groth Sauvignon Blanc, Napa
Ironically, the duck confit I made for the rillettes was one of my best batches yet. Two beautiful legs of duck confit, shredded into rillettes. Sigh. The fried squash blossoms were a big hit, but the speck-wrapped figs, roasted for 10 minutes, ruled the roost.
Amuse-bouche: Herbed gougeres with crème fraîche filling
I stole this idea from La Toque, though they put the herbs (and goat cheese) on the inside of the gougeres. I put herbs into the dough itself, and stuffed the little puffs with whipped crème fra&icric;che.
Salad: Tomato aspic, artichoke bottoms, chicken liver pâté, basil oil.
Wine: 2002 Tandem Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay, Russian River Valley
Richard Olney's French Menu Cookbook provided the inspiration for this dish. He stuffs artichoke bottoms with chicken liver mousse, and rests that assembly on a tomato mousse. I replaced the tomato mousse with a delicate tomato aspic made from juice squeezed out of fresh Roma tomatoes. I piped the chicken liver paté into the artichoke bottoms, which I poached in vermouth, placed the assembly atop a pile of tomato aspic, and then garnished with tiny drops of basil oil.
Entrée: Torchon of foie gras on brioche, with June Taylor lime-ginger marmalade
Wine: 2005 Harrington Vineyards Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, Sonoma County
Alder brought a special rosé to pair with my homemade torchon of foie gras and brioche. A friend of his produces this wine in minuscule amounts. I feel bad that we always seem to serve foie gras to Fatemeh and C., but somehow they soldier on.
Main: Roast chicken with vegetables and a brown butter sauce
Wine(s):2004 Arista Pinot Noir Longbow Vineyard, 2004 Arista Pinot Noir Harper's Rest Vineyard, and 2004 Arista Pinot Noir Russian River Cuvée; 2004 Rivers-Marie Old Vine Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, 2004 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, 2004 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir, Summa Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
See what I mean about Alder bringing a lot of wine? That's six bottles, and we all had tastes of each. This was the course where I started to feel a little spacey.
I served the roast chicken with roasted asparagus and morels and an onion confit. Everyone loved the brown butter sauce ("This dish tastes like lobster," said Melissa).
Cheese: Achadinha Capricious, Fiscalini Bandanged Cheddar, Jean d'Alos Clisson
Wine: 2002 Rosenblum Monte Rosso Zinfandel
Alongside the cheeses, I served Acme Bakery's walnut bread, salted almonds (which I made earlier that day), and a tomato confit that I improvised from the pulp I had after making the aspic.
Dessert: Strawberry sorbet, nectarine, mint-butter cookies, white chocolate.