So, after much finagling, Claudia and Michael came for dinner. I know that this has been something she's been waiting for for ages, mostly because she lives in freaking Kentucky and has WAY too much time on her hands, and I'm all about charity. But we pretended that we were happy too, and there was only a small amount of awkward throat-clearing, foot-shuffling, and sidelong watch-glancing while I scrambled to make like a million courses to keep them amused.
I'm deep into working on an important project in the studio right now, so I was stressed out and impatient prior to their arrival (which, you know, always makes the food taste better) and even more so after they arrived, on account of she's a giant pain in the ass. But, because I literally lie awake at night thinking about dinner parties, I even had something ready in the fridge: tartare of miso-cured Arctic char with ramps and crispy skin. I had rubbed the char with miso a couple of days ago (these were the trimmings from the sushi) and gave it a rinse this afternoon, then cut off the skin. The flesh I chopped super-fine–too much, really; it got a bit gluey–then mixed it with finely chopped ramps, and the skin I put in a hot skillet with sesame seeds until it was well-browned on both sides. Putting it skin-side down first helps keep it stuck to the pan long enough to stay flat, so that it makes a good cracker for tartare-eating. I also added sesame oil, usukuchi, sudachi juice, and white pepper to the mix for a nice complex flavor profile. Garlic chive, red mustard, and the crispy skin cracker all added contrasts flavoral and textural.
Next up, the immaculate sea urchin they brought, overnighted from California, because that is the manner in which they roll. We messed around with possible garnishes, settling on the gorgeous artisanal ume vinegar and a pinch of kinako for maximum sensual pleasure.
We scooped them up with a spoon, dripped on some vinegar, and ate them. Nobu it wasn't. Good it was. Then I took the scallops out of the fridge that I had marinated in kimchi brine overnight, patted them dry, and seared the shit out of them on one side, dressing them in a sort of insta-Spanish™ sauce made from saffron and pimentón simmered in white wine and sherry vinegar supplemented with the pan juices deglazed with sherry. Then we had little oshitashi rolls I made with garlic mustard and beet greens from the garden, swabbed in the same sauce because we're peasants and we don't waste food.
Then, as a place-filler because my wife was upstairs trying to get the kid to sleep, I caramelized some maitake with garlic and deglazed them with usukuchi, adding in parsley at the end. Not bad, but they would have been better if incorporated into another dish. Like the sablefish we gave a quick miso rub to and then seared, serving it with kimchi and wilted arugula.
Or like, for example, the venison we had next. Locally bagged deer, marinated in a bit of wine and pepper, seared hard and then pulled off the heat to rest when still rare, served with homegrown carrot mostarda (mandolined red carrot slices sautéed with mustard oil and deglazed with honey and blood orange juice) pickled strawberries (macerated in salt, ume vinegar, and local grappa) leftover risotto cakes, and a red wine-strawberry sauce of wine cooked down with sliced strawberries, a clove, maple syrup, and cider vinegar.
Then we had a local sheep's milk Roquefort (inoculated with the same bacteria) and the sublimely stanky local Camembert that I love, with thinly sliced local baguette because I couldn't get my shit together to make bread. then we had dessert proper: vanilla ice cream, made from scratch by my wife and child. It was very good, and all the more so because they did it while I worked, involving zero participation on my part. I garnished it with a spoon.
We worked our way through some good wine, too: they brought Scharffenberger bubbly, and we had some Mas de Gourgonnier rosé, a 2002 Kistler Hudson Vineyard Chard, and a 1999 Lisini Brunello. Here's hoping it was the first of many such occasions.