October 29, 2013

The party crasher

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I've been studying for an exam for the last couple of weeks, and today was the big day.  I was kinda borderline failing the mock exam I took last night, so I got a little nervous and spent most of the workday hiding in a conference room studying.  While failing the exam wouldn't be the end of the world, I didn't exactly wanna look like an idiot in front of my boss.

So it was a little distracting when I received not one, but two invitations to dinner mere hours before my exam.  One of them came from my friend David Lai, who dangled the prospect of white truffles and who knows what else in front of me.  I thanked him but turned him down.  This is the last week of my 3-month weight-loss program, and I was already gonna have a cheat meal tomorrow.  No, I need to be a good boy.

After passing my exam in the afternoon, I finished up in the office and decided to head to On Lot 10 to make a delivery.  After dropping off the package with one of the guests, I made sure to thank David for his kind invitation, but said I was going home.  I needed to be a good boy, and besides, I didn't really know the guest of honor and most of the crowd.

That's when David said the magic words: "rice birds".

Now I knew I was staying for dinner.

So I timidly followed David upstairs, and was introduced to the guests he was throwing the dinner party for.  Theresa the guest of honor was a well-known figure in the local food industry, and goes by her moniker Dashijie (大師姐).  Her posse travels around the world looking for food, and their knowledge and experiences with food in China dwarf what little I have.  I spent the rest of the evening pretending to be a quiet mouse… and just listened.

We started with some of 36-month jamón, which tasted a lot more complex than it looked, with strong, nutty flavors.  There was also some saucisson that was pretty tasty.

Next up was the little delicacy I had come to sample.  The rice birds was marinated in Port, wrapped in pancetta and served on a bed of foie gras toast, then drizzled with some 80-year-old balsamic vinegar and finally the white truffle shavings were added.

I loved hearing - and feeling - the crunch of tiny little bones as I bit down on the birdie.  The flavors of Port wine meshed perfectly with the birdie.  I knew this would make a few of my friends very jealous.

Huîtres Spéciales Gillardeau N°1 - Gillardeau oysters are my favorite, but I don't think I've ever had them this big!  To have three of them on one plate was a real treat.  Lots of briny seawater here, but the creaminess and fattiness still came through.  Lovely with the Champagne.

Tête de veau with sweetbread, Canadian scallop, soft-boiled Japanese egg, lentils and white truffles - sooooooo sinful.  I absolutely loooove tête de veau and love having it here, even though it's absolutely the wrong thing for my diet.  David says he uses these big Canadian scallops instead of the ones from Hokkaido because the latter is more fibrous, and it shows when the scallops are cooked.

I was in heaven.  I loved every single ingredient, and tonight I even loved the lentils.  The perfume of white truffles filled my nostrils, and soon I was looking around for bread to soak up the yummy orange yolk of the Japanese egg.

Grilled baby yellow croaker with porcini - I had been salivating earlier in the day when I saw David post a picture of a wild yellow croaker (黃花魚) caught at sea weighing about 2 catties, and here's a mini version!  Really yummy, and so were the porcini mushrooms.

Then something I thought I'd never see again appeared in front of me, but this time it was even crazier than the last time.  At the first big gathering I had here a few years ago, David blew us away with two large pans of pot-au-feu.  Tonight I would get to see the mother of all pot-au-feu's… with double vision again!

While the pan at the other end of the table looked like it was filled with bone marrow, the pan right in front of me was a different story.  There was bone marrow of course, and foie gras entier just like last time.  Numerous different cuts of beef, including ox tongue, ox tail and I didn't even bother lifting the canopy of shaved white truffle to see what was underneath.  Interestingly, there was a whole Bresse chicken in our pan, and I was real tempted to grab one of them drumsticks and chomp on it.

Of course I decided to pick some of the richest ingredients out of the pan… Bone marrow was of course the first thing I dug into, with all that gooey, solid fat that was being liquefied; a piece of foie from the whole thing; and finally a tender piece of ox tongue.  Let's not forget to add a few slices of white truffle!

There was also a bowl of consommé next to my plate.  It was absolutely wonderful, and among the different spices used I thought I detected a hint of cloves...

It was then that I realized I had hit a wall.  I found myself pretty full at this point, after having 3 little pieces.  I stared at the pan in front of me, and could do nothing but waive the white flag.  After 3 months of my nutritional diet program, I believe my stomach has shrunk.

Well, it looks like I wasn't alone, as our half of the table barely made a dent.  The remainder was promptly taken away and packed into doggie bags, although I declined to take one home.

Finally, a little piece of pear tart for everyone.  If someone had asked me, I would have dispensed with the scoop of ice cream as I really didn't need the calories.  And to me, adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream to a piece of pie really doesn't add that much value, unless of course, it's actually not vanilla ice cream…  I pushed the ice cream to the side with my spoon, licked it, and realized it was salted caramel. This I will eat…

Since I was the party crasher, I was in the unusual position of drinking wines that had been brought by others tonight.

Françoise Bedel Cuvée Origin'elle - pretty interesting to drink this blend made mostly of Pinot Meunier.

Lewis Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, vintage unknown - really alcoholic and ripe, tannic, sweet on the palate, sharp enough to burn the nostrils.  A hint of coffee.

2009 Domaine le Briseau Les Mortiers - very minty, with lots of herbs, pine needle and potpourri.  Not my usual shit but pretty nice.

This was a really fun evening.  I kinda suspected this was one of them evenings where I'd feel 不吃對不起自己… and I was right!  Many thanks for David for the kind invitation and letting me crash your party!

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