It was like getting an invitation to a party at someone's home, someone you don't hang with regularly and where you don't know most of the other folks coming. Should I dress up? Heels? Makeup? (As if…) I suppose I could have checked with my pal Peter, but he's always a pretty dapper guy, even if he's in jeans.
Baby turnips wrapped with anchovy.
At least those were the thoughts that bounced around in my head as I prepared to go to my first Tweet-Up. It was at Nostrana and involved dinner based on some classic recipes from James Beard, a man known for his appetite and humor, not so much for his fashion sense.
Added to that, since I don't have an iPhone (yet), was a little embarrassment about taking my laptop, which felt as out-of-date as a boombox. Fortunately a couple of other people were bringing theirs, so the worry about being labeled hopelessly out of date was lessened.
Chef Cathy Whims, a 2010 Beard nominee for Best Chef: Northwest, thought it would be fun to put on a series of dinners with the other Northwest nominees, and this first dinner was to be a collaboration with Naomi Pomeroy of Beast. It apparently took them about ten minutes to decide on the menu, and they chose to extend an invitation to local writers who post on Twitter, with the idea that we would tweet about the dinner and people could follow along remotely.
Asparagus with sauce verte.
In any case, I arrived and was immediately given a choice of a Rob Roy (Dewars, sweet vermouth, bitters, up) or another Beard favorite, a gin fizz, this one made with Plymouth (the current house gin here at GSNW central), egg whites, lemon thyme bitters and sugar, served up. Moments later the freshly shaken drink was handed over, a promising start to the evening.
Shortly thereafter waiters carrying trays of tiny canapés…yes, canapés, not "small plates," not "snacks," not "bites," not "apps"…circulated, handing out the big guy's idea of pre-dinner teasers that would easily have qualified as a meal for most people, including Irma Rhode's onion sandwiches (little crustless squares of white bread spread with onion butter), Peggy's baby turnips wrapped with anchovy, shavings of roast lamb curled around mint butter, sardine canapés and, my personal favorite, fois gras-stuffed artichoke buds. Yum.
Hash with poached eggs.
Then came the "appetizer," really two vegetable courses, of peeled matchsticks of spring asparagus. One had a "sauce verte," a pesto of parsley, garlic, walnuts and tarragon, and the other was swathed in a blanket of green mayonnaise.
The wine served with them, an '08 Moscato Secco del Venet Vignalta "Sirio," wasn't the light and frizzante teaser I expected, but more like a sauv blanc, a little heavy for my taste. Much better was the '09 "Giovanni" Cameroni from local guy John Paul, with a spritely yet subtle zing that backed up the freshness of the asparagus and cut through the garlic and oil in the sauces.
The main course was an interesting but totally Beard-appropriate choice of a halibut cheek and clam hash on potatoes with two poached eggs. Smashingly delicious says it all.
Apple rhubarb charlotte with creme anglaise.
And dessert, another over-the-top success, was described as an "apple rhubarb charlotte with creme anglaise." Nothing like the heavy versions I've had before, but a light and airy cake with plenty of crunch, a foil for the tang of the rhubarb and richness of the creme anglaise.
Needless to say, after all that, I was ready to slurp down a decaf espresso and head home, more than satisfied and feeling a little like Cinderella heading back to her ashes. Oh, and the attire? Decided on nice casual, as usual, with a tiny bit of bling. Mr. Beard, I'm sure, would have approved.