I recently was contacted to do a dinner for a couple based on a recommendation from another client. It was the gentleman’s birthday and his wife wanted to do something with a group of friends at their home. Since they were planning to go to Spain in May I suggested a tapas-style dinner with a Spanish wine tasting class. Since he was a big fan of small batch bourbons, she asked if we could do a bourbon tasting instead. I immediately agreed, even though I had no idea how I would work it out. I built some menu choices for them to choose from, suggesting they pick five dishes. They ended up picking all nine that I suggested. I told them that would be too much food, but they said they just couldn’t decide what to eliminate. They ended up going with the menu listed below.
I got a friend of mine from work to handle the bourbon tasting. He is a bourbon fan, too, and has procured some nice bourbons for my personal use before. He got lots of information from the distributor about the different liquors he wanted to talk about, and created a nice cocktail recipe featuring one of the bourbons. He also got the distributor to give him bottles of bourbon at well cost, which was a great bargain.
Normally I would do a dinner like this myself, but I had to be at my full time job for an event. First Montessori was having a fund raising auction and I had created an artisan fresh pasta station for the event, and I really needed to be on hand to make sure it went according to plan. I have very, very few people I would trust to send on one of my personal events in my place, but I asked my chef friend Alan to go, and sent my prep princess Dulce. Alan is a good chef but he can be a little verbose at times, but I had complete confidence he could execute the event with good technique and flair, and full confidence in Dulce to support him.
The food prep was pretty easy, except for the octopus. I spent four days and 10 lbs of octopus trying to come up with a method for cooking it that would make it flavorful and tender. I tried several methods but the one I ended up using was to wash the pus and rub it with sea salt, letting it set for 30 minutes. Then I blanched it for 1 minute in boiling water to fix the color, then cooking it with wine, garlic, lemon and herbs in my pressure cooker for 15 minutes, letting it cool in the pot until all the steam had escaped (about another 15 minutes), then letting it sit overnight in the rendered juices. This produced a pulpo that was firm, yet tender and well flavored, with just the lightest taste of the sea. We sliced the arms and Alan gave them a quick sautee on site with olive oil, garlic and shallots to warm them up.
Both the birthday dinner and my Montessori pasta station were great successes. Dulce did her onsite magic and Alan threatened to steal her away to work for him and I threatened to kill him and toss him in a dumpster if he did (I’m not really worried, Dulce made it clear that she thinks Alan if funny, but she’d much rather work for me than him). The bourbon tasting was a great hit, and Daniel had to actually stay an extra 20 minutes and make several rounds of the cocktail for everyone. My follow up with the client was glowing, and she went on about how great the food was, how much they enjoyed the tasting, and how effective and professional the staff was. She even tipped them $150 (which I split evenly between Alan and Dulce).
The big deal for me was not the complexity of the menu, or even juggling the production of two events on the same night for two different clients. It was the ability to release control over a personal event and trust someone else to take it as seriously and professionally as I would. Alan did not do things exactly as I would have (based upon the photos I ordered him to take of everything), but I know he took care to present it the best he could. Partly because he is a serious professional, and partly because he appreciated the confidence I placed in him to handle this important client for me. And the client was over the moon happy with the results, which was the ultimate goal, anyway.
Tapas Dinner and Bourbon Tasting Menu
To Start Things Off:
A Unique Tasting of Small Batch Bourbons, with Tasting Notes, Histories and Details, Hosted by Mixologist Extraordinaire Daniel Scarr.
Evan Williams Bonded
Elijah Craig 12 year
Eagle Rare 10 year
Jailer’s Premium Tennessee Whiskey
Mellow Corn Kentucky Straight Corn Whiskey
APPETIZERS:Chorizo Pan Rustico
Medallions of grilled chorizo sausage, smoked paprika aioli and minced olive on Spanish style rustic crostini
Sauteed Shrimp Spoons
Sauteed shrimp butterflied on a seared polenta cake with saffron cream broth and diced tomatoes, served in a ceramic Asian spoon
Sweet Medjool dates stuffed with Manchego cheese and wrapped in jamon iberico and lightly seared, served with cayenne-honey mustard
MAIN ENTRÉE TAPAS DINNER:
Fried Calamari on fennel-onion slaw with diavolo jam and whiskey cream drizzle
Succulent chunks of claw and body with tomato-jicama slaw, fresh guacamole, Spanish aioli and drizzled with blood orange vinaigrette, in a crispy corn taco shell. Served with confetti rice pilaf and fresh pea shoots
Barcelona’s Hanger Steak
Strips of marinated and grilled hanger steak with black truffle sauce and cilantro coulis
Candied Pork Belly
Orange-glazed braised pork belly medallion served atop pan-seared shredded leek and potato cake with cucumber-mint salad, drizzled with cracked black pepper vinaigrette
BBQ Beef Empanadas
Home smoked beef brisket, shredded and seasoned with spicy bbq sauce, packed in a flakey pastry shell and served with grilled tomato and zucchini salsa
Roasted Octopus Steak
Tender marinated and roasted octopus arms, sliced into small steaks with Ancho pepper sauce, mango salsa, sweet roasted plantains and chive oil
Balsamic Beef Short Ribs
Balsamic braised boneless beef short ribs atop mustard-cheese flavored stone ground grits with blanched asparagus tips and red wine reduction sauce
Chocolate Caramel Bread Pudding
Morsels of rich chocolate and vanilla brioche bread baked in mini ramekins and drizzled with salted caramel sauce
Flan Tres Leche
Individual tres leche flans with white chocolate and raspberry sauce 1 month ago