Everyone has a favorite dinner party moment. Me? I have to confess that my favorite moment comes at the end: when the food’s been served, the wine bottles are empty and I collapse on the couch with an extraordinary sense of accomplishment, satisfaction and relief.
For Craig, it’s the opposite: he loves the moment at the beginning, when people arrive, the wine gets poured and we sit around chatting until the first course begins. I can’t wait to serve the first course but Craig often tut-tuts me for rushing the pre-dinner portion. Which is why, last week, I put out a big bowl of radishes.
Delusional isn’t a word I’d use to describe myself. Sure, I have my flights of fancy and my exaggerated sense of what’s happening at any given moment, but am I so-out-of-touch that I deserve the “D” word? Doubtful!
But I was delusional on Saturday when I took a bunch of rhubarb–rhubarb that I’d purchased with Deb of Smitten Kitchen, issuing a challenge in the process (“Let’s have a contest to see who does the better thing with this rhubarb”)–and convinced myself that I could casually piece together a rhubarb pie. “I’m not gonna stress about it,” I said to myself. “I’ll be like a country grandmother and just make this pie happen.” There’s only one word for such a line of thought, especially when it comes to me and pie: it’s the D word.
Sometimes a recipe is so intriguing, so mysteriously alluring, so strange that there’s nothing you can do but make it to see what it tastes like. That’s precisely what happened when I saw this St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake on what’s becoming my #1 favorite internet recipe resource, Smitten Kitchen. I’m friends with Deb–we ate noodles together a few weeks ago–so I hope she doesn’t mind the fact that I’m cooking her entire ouvere here on my blog. I feel ok about it, though, because she adapted this recipe from another food world great, Melissa Clark. It’s like the recipe version of telephone (not in the Lady Gaga sense) and this recipe is one you’ll probably want to try too for the same reason I did; when you see how it’s made you’re going to ask: “What the heck’s that gonna taste like?” (In this scenario, you’re Marge Gunderson from Fargo.)
[The Amateur Gourmet is on vacation and, while he’s gone, he’s asked his friends to cover for him. His old friend Mark Blankenship, who writes for The New York Times and Variety and has his own blog called The Critical Condition, talks to us today about a butter rose.]
Before I begin, let me thank Adam for the invitation to transform from a pop culture critic into a foodie. The world looks different over here. And more delicious!
When Adam threw open the doors of The Amateur Gourmet, I started paying a lot more attention to what’s happening on my plate. Or more specifically, I went to a wedding last week and got really interested in the food.
As usual, I was impressed by the fancy touches, like this rose made out of butter. Butter! I know, right?
But this time, I did more than just admire the butter. I started to think about why it impressed me in the first place.
“Walk me home,” said Pim after dinner. “I have something for you in the freezer.”
We were at Franny’s, my beloved Park Slope pizzeria, sharing pasta and pizza and a decadent panna cotta for dessert. What could Pim have for me in her freezer? Not even her freezer, but the freezer of the person with whom she was staying? We walked along Flatbush over to Fort Green and up the stairs of this mysterious apartment. And once inside, Pim finally opened the freezer door and removed a pyramid-shaped packet wrapped in parchment.
“Open it,” she said.
Inside was a shimmering, glittering mass of butter.
“What is this?” I asked eagerly.
“This,” declared Pim, “is, I think, the best butter in America.”