As we've hit the grand old ages of 62 and (on Wednesday) 61, Michael and I come more and more to resemble one of my favorite New Yorker cartoons--which I can't find via google. A little old man and little old lady are protesting vehemently that they have excitement in their lives. They once had two library books overdue....AT THE SAME TIME!!!
This is unfair to Michael, actually, since he's still keen to embark on geological adventures. But our excursion to leafy Acton last night was a big change from toddling off to an early bed after our usual dinner at the coffee table while watching a DVD. It was a tribute to great food, wine, and conversation that we didn't get home until after 2 a.m.
We knew we'd have a fabulous time, as guests always do at Geoff and Nora's dinner parties. Otherwise, my husband would have been even grumpier as our tube journey from Southwark to Ealing Common racked up one after another unforeseen delay. We figured 45 minutes would do it, allowed ourselves an hour, and arrived at Twyford Avenue over 90 minutes after locking our front door. Once again mobile phones justified their existence: we could let our hosts know that we--and more importantly the bread and cheese from Borough Market--were making our way there in fits and starts.
Champagne and foie gras awaited us in the kitchen. And if ever a to-die-for cooking area justified the indulgence, it's this one. Our first course was foie gras, truffle, and cream soup, which Geoff topped at the last minute with a spoonful of foam; manzanilla sherry filled the first of about five glasses at each place. Red and white wines started appearing nonstop (an adjective that also applies to the seven-way conversation), culminating in a Pomerol before the 1980 Mas Amiel vin doux with dessert. Fish course was pasta with crab, onions, and peppers in a miso sauce; the main course was partridge with delectably crunchy potato rosti and carrots & green beans. Then came Eccles cakes with various cheeses, followed by the best bread and butter pudding I've ever eaten: a raisin-studded cloud. Geoff's secret is to stir brioche--and not much of it--instead of bread into the egg, cream, butter, crème pâtissière, and Drambuie mixture.
I won't need to tell friends and family who know what a reluctant cook I am these days that (a) this was an extraordinary treat and (b) we'll be taking Geoff and Nora out for a meal rather than subjecting them to cuisine chez nous.
We should, of course, have walked off the wine and rich food, but since we wouldn't have arrived home until dawn had broken, all five guests piled into a taxi to head first to Chelsea (and, yes, Bob, I haven't forgotten you paid far too much of the fare) and then to Southwark.
But the evening still wasn't over. As I left, Nora had tucked a birthday card and gift into my bag. Our kitchen is now redolent of clementine from the aromatic tapers. Even the box the tapers and perfumed oil came in was typically Nora (just like the vanilla white orchid liquid handsoap in the slate bathroom)--white with a burgundy flocked floral design that belongs on the walls of a very elegant drawing room.
And the card was typically Nora too . . . .