To mark the departure of our section president Greg Fairbank, who is off to protect America, OJ had a simple pot-luck dinner.
Peter O’Reilly tempted us with a rack of farm-fresh lamb basted with extra-virgin olive oil and oregano, hand-cooked over coal. Baby roasted potatoes, green Jamaican beans, and fresh mint jus accompanied.
Mina Jiang created a native warm Greek salad layered with feta cheese drops and ceci chickpeas, served on a carpet of seedless green olives stuffed with shredded carrots bathed overnight in a mild vinegar paste.
Yellow peppers pan-fried with thin-cut green chilies, lemon juice and whipped butter, holding up delicate slices of seared North Sea tuna coated in a batter of course flour suspended in rich honey and a touch of horseradish-it could only be Toto Narayan.
In a novel twist, Mike Wootton soaked cucumbers, aubergines, and cabbage in a broth of ginger ale and pale whitefish juice. Once on the palate, the piquant flavor was perfectly subdued by a sharp rice-wine, which accompanied every mouthful.
Juan-Carlos Periera, always the conservative, opted for a soup of rare pheasant and quail, topped with wild forest mushrooms served whole, and a chicken crŠme dip laced with the nectar of three engorged clementines.
But in our gluttony we had overlooked the reason for this simplest of everyday dinners.
Marc Aquino put it bluntly, “Hey, are we not forgetting something?” Silence descended on the room. And then big laughter.
“Dessert of course!” said Lana Newishy, as she presented the results of placing four pounds of pure Belgium cocoa over a slow heat for eight hours, reducing it to an ounce of quite literally the essence of chocolate, glazed with a delightfully unexpected bitter-sweet nutmeg trimming showered with Greschelwat brand icing sugar.
Haji Munshi roped us in with a dark truffle mousse, flavored with pure mountain rose and a hint of wet brandy, encased in a ribbon of crisp wafer biscuit. Andrew Rodriguez’s coconut and cinnamon ice cream duet encrusted with concordian mocha crumbs and garden-grown red Maltese berries finished it off.
After Raj Kapoor’s condensed-milk-fest spooned straight onto the tongue and left there for at least a quarter-minute, it was a good thing we could wash it down with Dmitri Ponomarev’s liquid desert of near-frozen sherbet drink, made with watermelon juice suspended in a slushy concoction of finely minced pineapple, ground kiwi paste, and roasted walnuts.
But Adam Stern interrupted. “Hey people, are we not forgetting something?”
Silence descended on the room. This time the mood was more somber. There was whispering.
“My god, of course!” said Meggan Friedman as realization dawned. “Adam is right, if we continue at this rate there will be no room for the dry Cornish water biscuits layered with mature Puy-de-D“me cheese made from fine young buttermilk, complete with its hard velvety rind, stark hazel aroma, and an ocre skin, all of which hide a most delicate, warm and graceful soul that dances upon the palate and teases the nose like the devil himself, I am sure you will agree.”
Everyone nodded in agreement. At that point, as a section, we were at one…until Michelle Dong noticed Greg slipping out.
“Stop!” shouted Michelle.
Greg stopped. Finally, OJ had not forgotten. A surprise, a gift, or even a speech or two-Greg settled back into his chair and waited. OJ was silent, patient, cold.
John Hoffman broke the impasse. “Greg, if you leave now you will miss a decanter of fine Tawny port, whose opulence and intensity is balanced only by an overloaded, melancholic, virgin-like smoothness, and a bouquet that lingers longer than the scent of a good lover, such pure harmony, so…so…”
“…So characteristic of the flame-aged oak casks, the Benef¡cio, and the skilled hands and nose of the Grand Masters of the Oporto cellars, perhaps?” volunteered Tim Robertson.
“Bravo!” exclaimed John as OJ applauded, not in admiration but in a shared spirit of community and camaraderie that binds us and this great country together, and we continued with our simple supper.
“Will someone please pass down that caramelized vanilla bean souffl‚ with lashings of peppermint rice and…”