Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Food Gal Dinner

I rarely make it down to the South Bay, but when you get an invitation to a home-cooked dinner from Food Gal, you find any means to get there. So that's where I was last night for a lovely dinner by my friend Carolyn, who pens the delightful Food Gal blog.

If you're a regular reader of Food Gal, you know that she loves to bake. That's why I decided to showcase first this beautiful peach-and-blueberry cake Carolyn made for dessert. Doesn't it look perfect for summer? The evening was an actual perfect summertime dinner. But I'm getting waaay ahead of myself. There were other great food before we got to dessert.

When we arrived, Carolyn had some snacks for us, including a plate of salumi and this spread made of goat cheese and pesto and topped with bay shrimp. I liked how the goat cheese softened the taste of the pesto and also creating a beautiful shade of green to play off the pink shrimp.

Carolyn's married to Meat Boy, so of course he was manning the grill cooking this toploin that he marinaded himself and cooked to the perfect temperature. (Oh, speaking of meat, Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. Hope someone's grilling for you today!)

Joining us at dinner were other food bloggers, including Nate and Annie of The House of Annie and Andrea Nguyen and her husband. Andrea is the noted cookbook author of "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen" and has two blogs. One called Viet World Kitchen and her new blog Asian Dumpling Tips, which she started in conjunction with her latest book about dumplings coming out in August. Rounding out the table was Terrence Khuu, a Bay Area chef who has cooked at places as Le Colonial.

BTW, you're probably wonder what I cooked for this dinner, and I didn't. When Carolyn plans a dinner, she thinks of everything. So I brought a bottle of wine, which was a white Torrontes wine from Argentina. You know I've fallen in love with Argentine wine since my trip last year, and the Torrontes is a bright floral and fruity wine that's ideal for warm weather. You should look for it at stores and try it!

Among the food served at dinner was this tasty chicken dish, which added a real Mediterranean feel to the dinner. And why not? Carolyn used a recipe from the Pinxtos cookbook by Piperade Chef and Owner Gerald Hirigoyen.

The chicken thighs were cooked on the grill by Meat Boy and then sat in a bed of sauce made of peppers and tomatoes. I know people say food bloggers use the word yummy too often, but YUM-MY!

At the end of dinner, Carolyn brought out a bottle of absinthe that she blogged about awhile back. Since she and Meat Boy aren't big drinkers, they've been trying to get rid of this bottle of absinthe by offering it to anyone who comes to their home. Three of us decided to give it a try. Carolyn said the proper way to drink absinthe (this alcohol was popular in France and then banned for many years before it came back a couple of years ago) is to pour it in a glass with ice. Then the olive-colored liquor turns cloudy.

The absinthe has a really strong licorice flavor, or sometimes like fennel (both tastes very related). I didn't think the alcohol was necessarily very strong and wondered what the big whoop-de-do was all these years. I actually liked drinking it without ice as a shot (yeah, I'm a lush like that) because you get a tingle and the licorice flavor isn't as dominant.

Speaking of unusual food and drink, Chef Terrence brought this jackfruit for dessert. Popular in Southeast Asia, this fruit is very hard to explain. To me, it looks like Hawaiian breadfruit, and it can grow to humungous sizes. Above, Andrea prepares to take out the fruit. I know, it's like major surgery, but really she's wearing the glove because the fruit has a web-like stickiness to it so the gloves just makes it easier to handle.

Chef Terrence and Annie jumped in to help get the most out of the jackfruit. Annie, who's originally from Malaysia, is a big fan of jackfruit, and describes it as "heavenly." But for me, I have to disagree. The fruit isn't one of my favorite Southeast Asian fruit. I first tried it in Vietnam and thought it was weird, and the same again last night. It's creamy with slight hints of banana, but doesn't a bowl of it look like eyeballs at a Halloween party?

This is the kind of dessert that's more my style, and we get back to Carolyn's peach-and-blueberry cake, which she served with some whipped cream. The cake was like a cross between a pound cake and a fruit pie because of the soft interior and crispy exterior. The fresh peaches cooked down to create a custard-like filling right in the center. It was both beautiful and refreshing to eat.

It was a fun evening of good food and lots of talk about, well, food. Thanks Carolyn for including me and for a wonderful evening. Cheers to you!

Related dinner posts:
"Sunday Supper at Jessie's"
"The Makings of a Seductive Supper"
"Home Cooking: A Conversation with Dan Perlman of Casa Salt Shaker"


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Nate @ House of Annie said...

Hi Ben,

it was great to meet you at Carolyn's house. She should have made us shuffle seats once so we could get to talk to you guys at the other end of the table.

Your wine was the perfect accompaniment for the chicken. Where did you buy it?

Single Guy Ben said...

Hi Nate,

It was fun meeting you guys too. I got the bottle of Torrontes from BevMo. A lot of places still don't carry alot of Argentine wine, so there were only two Torrontes from different wineries at BevMo. I expect that to change in a couple of years, or at least I'm going to do my best to change that! :)

Hope you guys stay in touch after you move to Malaysia. Would love to read about your cooking from there!

Carolyn Jung said...

Single Guy: We still have some of that jackfruit in the fridge. Shall I bring you a big doggie bag, since I know how much you enjoyed eating it on Saturday night. Hah. Not! A very interesting fruit -- sort of like a cross between mango, cantaloupe, and toffee (as my husband put it). And with a texture sort of like durian apparently, kind of stringy and goopy-slimy (how's that for a description!) The best part was the three folks donning surgical gloves to attack the fruit. It looked like an operating room in my kitchen.

Thanks for coming over. And thank you, too, Nate and Annie, for making it to our house. We didn't get to try your wine that night, but I hope to open it later this week. Looks like a perfect warm weather sipper.

Jenster said...

I would have been nervous to cook for such lofty company! The food looked amazing and now I'm intrigued by that jackfruit. Are you sure you don't want to give it another try, Ben? As a mom, I'm accustomed to encouraging people to try all new foods several times. *LOL*

Single Guy Ben said...

Ha ha Carolyn, no thanks on the jackfruit. Oh, and I forgot to mention in the post that Annie says you can eat leftover jackfruit by deepfrying it. Yeah, can you see me deep frying?

Jenster, I tried jackfruit in Vietnam, and then again this weekend, so that's twice. I think that qualifies as "several times." At least in my book!

foodhoe said...

ooh fried gloopy fruits! Sounds like a fun time and good food.

Cookie said...

What a fun foodie evening! Sounds like you had a great time. I've never had the guts to try Absinthe but saw it featured on Anthony Bourdain once. That stuff looks lethal!