Dinner Party – It all starts with Cheese

Last Friday we hosted a little dinner party. I can’t say it was purely an excuse for more cooking and food photos, but well, here they are. Everything in this meal is made from scratch.

The first course in summary.

Cheese is always a good start. This time I tried a new cheese shop, Andrew’s Cheese Shop. This is closer than my usual haunt, the The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. Andrew’s isn’t as big, but they had plenty of choices, and they were extremely friendly.

I put together a little foursome. Epoisses on the left (gooey washed rind fun), a fantastic goat, Monte Enebro, a nice rich nutty dutch cheese on the left (tasted halfway between a Gouda and Parmesan) and on the bottom, Stichelton, a beautiful rich English blue cheese.

Condiments. Marcona almonds, quince paste (the orange jelly stuff), Spanish olives, and accacia honey from Abruzzo.

The carbohydrates. Traditional french baguette, cranberry nut crisps, and olive oil cracker sticks. All from Andrew’s, and all excellent.

We also made these puff pastries from scratch. Stuffed with egg, cheese, and spinach. Basically little puff-Spanakopita.

What would all that cheese and bread be without some wine?

On the left a fantastic Burgundy, Parker gives it 92, but I’d give it more like a 94. “The 2003 Clos Vougeot explodes from the glass with licorice, dark cherries, and a myriad of spices. A wine of considerable depth, it is packed with suave black fruits immersed in chocolate. Well-structured, ripe, and exceptionally long, it will merit a higher score if its alcoholic warmth is absorbed into the wine with time (something that sometimes occurs with Pinot Noirs). Projected maturity: 2008-2017.”

On the right, earning 90 points (and again I’d give it more), “The 2006 Fonsalette Cotes du Rhone exhibits meaty, herbal, tapenade, pepper, animal fur, and damp earth-like notes. It is soft, round, lush, and best consumed over the next 10+ years.”

For the main course, we went with Salmon en Papillote, adapted from a recipe by non other than Julia Child. All done from scratch.

Sealed in with the juices are julianned vegetables, parsley, basil, garlic. We’ve done this before but tis batch turned out absolutely perfect.

And as the starch, couscous adapted from Houstons (see it HERE). I found a recipe on the web approximating what they do at the restaurant (HERE).

And then salad.

And this delicious but rather un-homogenized walnut vinaigrette (from scratch of course).

Then for dessert, our friend Geo’s Chocolate Ganache tart. He very graciously gave us this recipe after some prying, and it’s a terribly excellent and decadent dessert. Mostly it’s butter, sugar, and 70% cacao chocolate. Oh yes!

Then homemade whipped cream. None of those emulsifying agents. And homemade raspberry sauce (rasberries and sugar thrown in the blender).

And fruit to finish.