Thursday, April 21, 2011

Juggling Act

Sometimes I fancy myself the bearded onion chopper or knife-sharpening tinker to Ecuadorian-American Iron Chef Jose Garces. On those days when my delusions of grandeur have hit I-deserve-a-James-Beard-Award levels, I come up with silly ideas such as plucking and disemboweling half-a-dozen quails or, in this case, hosting a multiple-course dinner for a select few of my fancy friends. The Wife, Ph.D., who's sucked in by my condition and embraces its symptoms out of solidarity, even baptized the dinner as Mateo's Mini Bar, a self-serving yet completely ludicrous reference to the acclaimed Jose Andres restaurant in Washington, DC. She then proceeded to pull out a notepad (she's a Virgo and making lists comes second to over-analysis in her long list of favorite pastimes), we designed a menu consisting of thirteen dishes and chose the three fortunate souls (My Zolpidem Supplier, The Disney-Obsessed Man-Child and Minnie Mouse) that would have to suffer through my alcohol-fueled, ingredient-juggling kitchen act.

It all went down a Saturday night. I spent too many hours in my Chef Guevara t-shirt and Las Catrinas apron chopping, slicing, dicing, peeling, blending, sauteing, boiling, stirring and washing. By the end of the night, the kitchen was a war zone. Pots, pans, spatulas, wooden spoons and measuring cups stacked up in the sink like rubble after a loud explosion. Oil, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and red wine splattered the gray tiles and white walls. Cook books (Diana Kennedy, Claudia Roden, Marcella Hazan, Williams-Sonoma, Green & Black's and Michelle O. Fried) and old issues of Bon Appetite and Gourmet magazines sat to a side like idle, tired tanks. Despite the exhaustion and ridiculous amounts of food (we never made it to the cheese platter and only island wine available that night), the four-hour meal was a success. Around one-thirty a.m., The Wife, Ph.D., fearing the worst, politely dismissed our guests after the Disney-Obsessed Man-Child nudged me into sharing a chilled bottle of Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA for "digestive" purposes. As a good friend of mine says, "Mateo, you have the willpower of a slut."

Here's the menu:

Amuse Bouche (Date Wrapped in Bacon & Buffalo Mozzarella with Uvillas)

Endive, Tangerine, Goat Cheese & Slivered Almond Salad 
("Adapted" from Jose Andres' Jaleo in DC)

Gazpacho with Cucumber & Hearts of Palm Relish

Garbanzo Tabbouleh with Pitta Chips

Peruvian Prawn Causita

Mexican Perch Cebiche with Crispy Plantains

Crab-Cake with Tomato, Red Onion & Mango Salsa

Lemon Sorbet 
(Store-bought since I was too lazy to make a granita)

Prosciutto & Pear Salad with Fresh Mint & Sherry Vinaigrette

Portuguese Chicken Stew with Quinua Carrot Cakes

Slow-Roasted Pork Loin in Milk with Balsamic Sweet Potato Mash

Polenta Chocolate Cake

Cheese Platter with Vin Santo from Santorini

2009 Domaine Gerovassiliou Malagousia (Epanomi, Greece) - This wine was awarded a Gold Medal at the 2010 Decanter World Wine Awards. Pears, green apples, citrus, peaches and flowers on the nose. Balanced, very smooth and complete wine. 90/100.

2006 Muga Rioja Reserva (70% Tempranillo, 20% Granacha and 10% Graziano & Mazuelo) - Cherry, plums, raspberry, vanilla, smoke and pepper on the nose. Taste-wise, sour cherries predominate. Decent effort. 87/100.

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