Circa 1973… my parents belonged to a “gourmet group”, a rotating dinner party that strived to bring the flavors of the world to the suburbs of Chicago. I’m still not quite sure why they joined this group. At the time, Dad ate nothing but simply prepared meats, potatoes, and (canned) vegetables. The poor guy was seriously challenged by anything remotely “gourmet”. Swedish meatballs, fondue, and sukiyaki were all the rage at the time, but certainly not his cup of tea and definitely not his idea of dinner. (I think he’d eat before they left for the party and stick to martinis once he got there.) I remember watching them leave for their evenings; Mom in her flared pantsuits and Dad with his sideburns neatly trimmed, wafts of Youth Dew and Old Spice lingering as they swept out the door.
I had all but forgotten about the gourmet group when my girlfriend Cat called an important breakfast meeting. She had an idea and wanted to float it by my friend Jules and me. Over coffee and pastries, Cat asked us if we’d consider starting up a club......a dinner club.
A dinner club? Seriously? … Wow! No need to ask me twice, sign me up!
So there, in that little coffee shop on Queen Anne Hill, our dinner club was born. Just three couples, one dinner party a month, anything goes.
This month, it was my turn to host. I decided to have a French meal. My whole theme revolved around a recipe that I’d been saving for a special event, Salmon a la Nage - salmon and mussels in a broth of white wine, butter and herbs. I couldn’t wait to try it! The recipe has been on my desk for a year.... ever since I carefully (and quietly..) tore it out of a magazine at the orthodontist’s office.
Theme decided on, I built my menu.
Pate, Roasted Pepper Mousse, Marinated Crudité, and Nicoise Olives
Salmon a la Nage
Baby Greens with Fennel and Tarragon Vinaigrette
French Goat, Blue, Gruyere and Cougar Gold Cheeses - Red Grapes and Candied Pecans
Pear and Almond Tart
When I see the menu written down, it looks difficult. Really, though, it was easy! I marinated the crudite (veggies) the night before and made the tart the morning of the dinner. The salmon dish took just minutes to prepare and I worked on it as the gang munched on hors d’oeuvres. The rest of the meal came pre-made from the store.
It was really a great evening, full of good food, good wine, and lots of laughter. We ate, course by course, and were at the table for hours. I went to bed that night with happy thoughts of our dinner club and the great friends that we share these evenings with. I also let my mind drift back to the nights that my parents would gather with their "gourmet group". As I was falling off to sleep, I swear I caught the faintest whiff of Youth Dew and Old Spice......