Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Astorian idyll.

Last week, my friend Stacey asked me if I wanted to join her for a shrimp boil. Obviously, I said yes. Turns out we were headed for Sunday Night Dinner, a supper club created by the incredible Tamara Reynolds. The story? You pay $45 and promise to bring a bottle of wine; Tamara cooks an amazing meal for you and 19 of your closest/soon-to-be-closest friends. It is, in a word, awesome.

The menu for Friday's gathering was decidedly Southern. Stacey and I - and a good 50% of the rest of the guests, I'd say - started off by cracking one of the two bottles of rosé we'd brought with us from Manhattan. A few minutes later, these open-faced beauties appeared. Smeared with anchovy butter and topped with radish and watercress, they were rich, spicy and perfect with the wine.

Then came the tomato pie. I don't know what was in this (one theory we bounced around involved mascarpone, mayonnaise and a little egg for bonding it all together), but I do know that it was delicious. Tangy (hence the mayonnaise), creamy, dotted with little grape tomatoes that put me in mind of the exploding food trend we saw on our trip to Chicago in 2009 - surprising (close that mouth) and delighted-giggle-inducing.

Next up, the soup course, a perfectly seasonal (and delicious) radish gazpacho. I loved this, especially because it was just a little bit uneven, texture-wise. The varying bits and bobs kept my tongue interested the whole time, and the bite of the radishes added a welcome bit of heat to the proceedings.

A giant, lemony green salad followed, served alongside a platter of perfectly cooked asparagus. I had to stop myself from eating every last spear.

Finally, the main course arrived. Judiciously seasoned with Old Bay and accompanied by mild pork sausage and plump peas, the shrimp were freaking awesome. And there's something to be said for eating at a table full of strangers and still being cool with getting down and dirty with shell-on shrimp. This crowd got really into it. (Had a great conversation about Prometheus, too, and nobody asked about anyone else's career for a good two hours. Amazing, right?)

Dessert, the only course served post-sunset, was Jersey strawberries with whipped cream. They were tiny, sweet and lovely - a last gasp of late spring before the more full-bodied, richly flavored stone fruits start popping up in the markets.

The table. Idyllic, yes?

There was nothing about the night I didn't love, right down to this string of outdoor lights. Everything about it was wonderful - even the mosquito bites felt just right.

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