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.

Quick Eats: Taverna Tony

Restaurant: Taverna Tony

Location: 23410 Civic Center Way, Malibu, CA 90265, Tel: (310) 317-9667

Date: Dec 10, 2010

Cuisine: Greek

 

I have a weakness for Greek food. I spent big chunks of the summers of 1990 and 1991 in Greece, and a month in 2005. I know it isn’t always the fanciest (although in 2005 I had a brilliant modern Greek meal on the Island of Rhodos), but I love the flavor palette, particularly lamb and yoghurt. And Tzatziki, which I absolutely can’t get enough of. Here in LA our favorite Greek haunt is Taverna Tony. We haven’t exactly tried a zillion of them either, but Tony’s is fun.

The menu.

The serve one of the typical creamy greek spreads with their bread. This is one of the yogurt, garlic, eggplant, olive oil type ones. A guilty pleasure.

As big a wine snob as I am, I’m also a huge believer in drinking the local beverage. I actually like Greek wine. This one is a mainland wine made by monks, Tsantali Agioritikos. In my opinion the best Greek whites (I don’t really drink Greek reds) are from Santorini. If you want the really authentic flavor, go for Retsina — Tony has it — makes me remember my college summers in Greece, but not to everyone’s taste.

One thing about Tony’s, they have mega sized portions (to use the Greek). My wife always gets the “Vegetarian’s paradise” which is basically every dip and vegetarian appetizer known in Greece. It comes on two plates, the hot and cold. Don’t even think about trying to order an appetizer, or even a salad unless you have a lot of people. A partial list of what’s included is: Hummus, Tzatziki, Melitzanosalata, Tabouli, Spanakopita, Tiropita, Feta Cheese, Horta.

The hot plate of above. Spanakopita etc. You can see the ubiquitous rice and overcooked vegetables (I like them this way at Greek and Turkish places).


This is the “ROAST BABY LAMB KLEFTIKO, Baby Lamb, slow-roasted with Herbs, Garlic, Onions, Oregano – A House Specialty that melts in your mouth.” That pretty much says it all.

In case you couldn’t see the lamb itself well enough, here it is again!  Baah!

I always get a side of “TZATZIKI DIP  Fresh Yoghurt, Cucumber, Fresh Mint, Garlic.” Roast lamb is just not roast lamb unless slathered in Tzatziki.

It’s worth noting that the atmosphere is fun here, and they have very loud live Greek music. There seem to be an endless supply of families throwing some kind of big dinner’s with like 20-30 people at huge long tables laden with food — this also is very Greek. There might be better Greek food in town (if anyone knows please tell me), but I’m perfectly happy with my monthly dose of lamb, yogurt, and Greek wine.


You can see the band in the corner.


A giant table arrayed on the patio.