Into The Pages of Gourmet Magazine, A Summer Dinner Party Spectacular

I recall a movie from my childhood–“The Peanut Butter Solution”–at the end of which a young boy whose hair has fallen out (I don’t exactly remember why) enters a room filled with magical, sparkly, landscape paintings. The paintings, you soon learn, are enterable: whichever one he picks, he can walk into. And I felt like that kid just a few days ago when, by way of Kristin (Craig’s sister), I was invited to a dinner party given by a group of Craig’s and Kristin’s friends. I felt like I’d walked into the pages of Gourmet Magazine.

The party was thrown at the home of Craig’s and Kristin’s childhood friend Jill and her husband Jeff. Here she is with Craig in her kitchen:


Now let’s take a closer look at those desserts on the table. One is a strawberry rhubarb tart, the other is the lemon sabayon pine-nut tart from The French Laundry cookbook. Don’t they look magazine-worthy?


Not only that, though, but the raspberries on top of the tart come from Amy’s garden. This is Amy:


She and Jill were the masterminds behind this dinner. Now Amy is a super-reader of food blogs: she was very nervous about what I’d think of her food. I had to convince her over and over again that I’m actually very easy to please and that anytime anyone cooks me dinner I’m grateful. But, with that said, look at this mess of an heirloom tomato salad:


Just kidding! It’s not a mess. It’s just that Craig (who operates on Johnson time) got me there 30 minutes late so the party-goers had already dug into it. But you can tell just from what’s left that it was a beautiful salad. See, Amy, you had nothing to worry about!

And, not only that, you and Jill should be really proud: this dinner was the best one of my ENTIRE TRIP. (Print that and put it on your refrigerator!) Seriously. It was done with such love and care that you could taste the passion in each bite.

Look at the passion with which Jeff (Jill’s husband) is heating these coals:


(That’s Dave, Amy’s beau, and Kristin, Craig’s sister there with him.) Are those coals hot yet?


Ok, ready to pour!


Now get a load of this: Jill took pork loins and marinated them for six hours in a mixture of soy sauce and garlic. That’s it. And now look at them on the grill:


And look at the men taking care of them. Why is it that men always man the grill? And why is it called “manning the grill”? That’s an essay for next week.


Ok, so look at the color the pork got:


Forget Gourmet Magazine, this should be in a museum.

So we sat down to dinner at a beautifully arrayed table:


And just take a look at this spread:


Wasn’t I a lucky dinner-goer? That’s another tomato salad, potatoes, the pork and asparagus all laid out like models posing for a Cezanne still life. And here’s the plate of food I took:


What’s wonderful about this dinner is that everything is simple–pork, asparagus, potatoes–but each element is rendered to maximum deliciousness. Plus all this food was perfectly fitting for a gorgeous summer day: nothing too heavy, the main course cooked outdoors. I loved it.

And then we cut into those desserts and the evening got even BETTER:


Who thinks Jill and Amy should start a food blog? I would read it, wouldn’t you? Ok, you’re not convinced. Look what Amy and Dave brought for after dinner:


That’s limoncello they made THEMSELVES with blood oranges instead of lemons (so I guess it’s not limoncello, but blood-orange-cello). Wouldn’t you want to learn how to make that on a food blog? I know I would. C’mon, Jill & Amy, do it for the people. I’ll register it now.

But, seriously, thank you for a wonderful dinner. Next to camping in the rain, riding a horse, and getting sunburnt on Bainbridge Island, it was a highlight of my trip.

11 thoughts on “Into The Pages of Gourmet Magazine, A Summer Dinner Party Spectacular”

  1. Okay, now you’ve got that whole Washington State thing out of your system, get your tush back to NYC where you belong.

  2. You remember “The Peanut Butter Solution” too? Wow! The boy lost his hair because he and a friend went into a house that was supposedly haunted, and he was scared so badly by something he saw that all of his hair fell out.

  3. Hey, I thought the buy underwent chemotherapy! They turn his (spoiler!) overgrown hair into magic paintbrushes.

    As I recall, our house marinade is that, plus sprite and chili peppers. Good stuff.

  4. No, I think The Peanut Butter Solution boy’s hair fell out because of the scary house thing.

    Is it just me, or was there something disturbing about that movie? I remember it being a little dark. If you all didn’t remember it, too, I would think it was a bad dream I had as a kid.

  5. Limoncello/Blood Orange – Cello

    I think just about any citrus fruit works with this recipe – blood oranges, limes, tangerines. We are about to start a batch of grapefruit-cello. We usually half, or even quarter, this recipe, because we like to make several smaller batches with different fruits. Also, some states don’t carry Everclear (i.e. Washington). We have to have ours imported from Illinois whenever Dave’s Mom and Dad come to visit. Hopefully you can get it in NY. Dave says that the higher the alcohol’s proof, the more essential oils are released from the citrus, so you don’t want to use just vodka, unless you have to!

    From Saveur Magazine (May 2006):

    Wash 25 lemons, preferably organic, in hot water and dry. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from each lemon in wide strips, leaving behind as much of the white pith as you can. (Reserve whole lemons or freeze their juice in ice cube trays for another use.) Put zest in 1 liter of pure grain alcohol (such as Everclear) into a large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, pressing down on the zest to submerge if necessary. Cover tightly and set aside in a cool, dark place to let infuse for 48 hours. After 48 hours, cook 3 ½ cups of sugar in 4 cups of water in a large pot over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until it comes to a boil. Remove syrup from heat and let cool completely. Strain zest from alcohol through a sieve set over the pot of syrup; discard zest. Stir to combine and return to the jar. Limoncello is ready to serve at this point. Store, tightly sealed, at room temperature for up to 3 months. Makes about 2 quarts.

    (Dave and I store in the fridge, because we like our cello to be cool on hot summer evenings.)

    Come back to visit soon, Adam! We’ll have some more cellos ready for you.

  6. Everything and I mean everything looks absolutely fantabulous. I was wondering if I could substitute hundred proof, very good, Vodka and still get the same or a very similar taste? Thanks

  7. Hundred proof vodka is 50% alcohol, so my guess is that is will be half as good. : ) I’m sure it will still make something tasty, but you will essentially have lemon flavored vodka, rather than actual limoncello.

  8. The Peanut Butter Solution disturbing? Why would you say that? Just because a crazy guy kidnaps a kid with rapidly growing hair which the crazy guy harvests and makes into magic paint brushes… I have to call me shrink.

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