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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

A Gourmet Dinner for Summer from the Great Restaurants of France



A Gourmet Dinner for Summer Composed of Dishes from the Great Restaurants of France, and served with Fine Australian Wines.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to assist in the presentation of a formal French dinner party, the likes of which I, nor any of the diners had experienced before. To assist my vocal ensemble in raising money to tour Europe last year a friend of the group offered to provide his services in preparing and hosting a formal dinner, composed of dishes from excellent French restaurants in the winner's own home - wines and washing up provided too! This person is no random schmo from our audience, but a former restauranteur who ran a French restaurant here in Melbourne during the 1980s, before going on to pursue a myriad of other careers, including living in Paris, working for the UN in Saudi-Arabia during the Gulf War and lecturing in linguistics in Canberra (where, coincidentally, he was A's tutor at university!). He has written theses on French & British cuisine during the Medieval and Tudor periods, and sometimes turns up to church with some meal he happened to whip up that afternoon. He's happy to cater for such events to keep himself in practice...I'd be thrilled to have him cater a meal for a group of my friends!
As it happened, the winner of the prize was a member of the choir and she invited the other members of the tour committee to enjoy the event with her. I had made noises about being happy to help with preparations, and last week received a phone call from Robert, who had begun his preparations. Would I be interested in coming along on the afternoon of the party and assist with a few things? Sheesh! Of course I would!
Robert went out shopping for all ingredients himself at various markets and shops, and had managed to get all the wines donated by a selection of wine stores. Some of them didn't quite fit the description of "fine" wines, but the fact there are companies willing to donate for such an event is impressive in itself.
I turned up to Robert's house in the afternoon and found him surrounded by pots and pans, finishing off the last of the preparations. We passed an enjoyable afternoon making canapes and garnishes, occasionally getting distracted by tasting some concoction he had whipped up. We finally turned up, a bit late, to our friend's house where the 6 invited guests were waiting.
After a 12 hour shift on my feet (which was nothing compared to the entire week of preparations Roberts had enjoyed), with tired, aching muscles and the frustration that come from individual peppercorns not sticking in their proper little lines, or tiny balls of tomato needing to be placed "just so", I'm certain that a career in catering is not something I'll be jumping to do. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening, but I can't say I'd like to do it every week! What I did enjoy most was the chef's perks of eating the leftovers and trying all the taste sensations. We allowed outselves to mop out the saucepans with chunks of bread, finish off the duck liver pate on leftover croutons, shovel random chunks of lobster and crab down our throats when nobody was looking and enjoy the last mouthfulls left in each wine bottle, before the next was opened for each course. We were even invited to join our friends at the table for the cheese course, perhaps because they were feeling bad at seeing us working in the kitchen while they were living it up, before they banished us back to the kitchen to prepare dessert. I did get a thank you present at the end of the night, which I really wasn't expecting (especially as Robert had done 99% of the work) and Robert sent me home with lots of leftovers, including 15 quails for stock, trout pate, French unsalted butter, a truckload of fresh herbs, a tin of caviar amongst others. I would have loved some of his incredible chocolate truffles, but the guests were guarding those with their life!
So, I'll be presenting in a series of posts, photos and descriptions of each course presented to the lucky six diners, but until the first post, I thought you might like to read the menu in it's entirety...it's a good one!

A Gourmet Dinner for Summer composed of dishes from the Great Restaurants of France and served with fine Australian wines:

(apologies for the lack of accents in the French titles. Blogger doesn't seems to make that sort of thing easy)

Canapes assortis (Maxim's, Paris)

Classic canapes of: salmon caviar; lumpfish caviar; smoked salmon; smoked trout pate; venison terrine; Westphalian ham
Jimmy Watson's Sparkling Brut NV
Jimmy Watson's Sparkling Shiraz NV

Fantaisie de crustaces en bolero (Jamin, Paris)
Bite-sized pieces of fresh prawns, crab and lobster on a tangy, herbed sour-cream sauce, with apple, avocado and tomato
Jim Barry's Watervale Riesling 2004

Salade tiede a la gourmande (Restaurant Pic, Valence)
A warm salad of baby spinach leaves and roquette tossed with walnut oil, mustard and balsamic vinegar, with bacon slivers, grilled quail meat, pine nuts, garlic croutons, green beans and enoki mushrooms
Taltarni Brut Tache Premium Vintae 2003

Sorbet de melon et d'abricot au Pernod (Moulin de Mougins, Mougins)
A delicate melon and apricot sorbet enlivened with Pernod

Faisan a la creme (Lasserre, Paris / La Tour d'Argent, Paris)
Roasted pheasant served with a rich champagne cream sauce, grapes macerated with orange zest, a savoury rice pilaff, and a croustade of duck pate with red currant jelly
Coldstream Hills Chardonnay Pinot Noir 1999

Fromages (presented in the style of Les Pres d'Eugenie, Eugenie-les-Bains)
A selection of Australian and imported French cheeses
Jones Winery Rutherglen Vintage Port 1984
Zema Estate Shiraz 1997

Charlotte aux poires , coulis de framboises (Lucas-Carton, Paris)
A delicate, chilled dessert of sliced poached pear, sponge fingers soaked in armagnac and pear liquor, a fresh pear puree with vanilla cream; served with a vanilla custard cream and a raspberry sauce.
Brown Brothers Patricia Noble Riesling 2000

Cafe; truffes au chocolat (basic truffle recipe from La Pyramide, Vienna)
Coffee, served with pastries and hand-made chocolate truffles.





5 Comments:

  • wow - that just sounds fantastic! it always great to look over a professional's shoulders, even if just to assure oneself that it was a good move NOT to move into the restaurateur business... it all sounds so glamourous, but must be one of the toughest careers around, especially if you want to play it at the very top!
    Congrats, too, for the DMBLGIT... I certainly voted for your picture, and got carried away dreaming about a cocktail on the beach somewhere in that beautiful country of yours!!!
    xox johanna xox

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/02/2005 10:02:00 am  

  • Thank you, thank you! Although I'm sure you wouldn't want to be sitting anywhere around here with a cocktail, unless it's indoors by a heater. We're having the most bizarre, freakish weather. Perhaps, like people can have sympathy pains for their friends, we're having sympathy weather for the northern hemisphere??
    Yes, it was a tough night working at the dinner, and I'm certain it's not something I want to do, but I really did enjoy the evening. Such a learning experience!

    By Blogger Niki, at 2/03/2005 03:27:00 am  

  • Thank you, thank you! Although I'm sure you wouldn't want to be sitting anywhere around here with a cocktail, unless it's indoors by a heater. We're having the most bizarre, freakish weather. Perhaps, like people can have sympathy pains for their friends, we're having sympathy weather for the northern hemisphere??
    Yes, it was a tough night working at the dinner, and I'm certain it's not something I want to do, but I really did enjoy the evening. Such a learning experience!

    By Blogger Niki, at 2/03/2005 03:27:00 am  

  • By Blogger maswey, at 5/09/2008 01:20:00 am  

  • By Blogger maswey, at 5/09/2008 01:21:00 am  

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