Monday, March 06, 2006

Hurray for Hollywood

Yesterday was Oscar Day. Initially I was supposed to work at the Oscars but we ended up having too many people so I bowed out and opted to stay at home and watch them on TV. I was looking forward to sort of loafing around in sweats, having a glass of wine and enjoying the show. I knew our friend Matt "may stop by" but otherwise, it was going to be a casual evening.

While my husband and I were out running errands, Matt called and said "What time does your shindig start?" clearly assuming that we were having an Oscar party. My husband just said "We'll turn the TV on at around 5:00" and hung up. I said "Wait wait! Call him back and tell him it isn't a party!" So he did, but then Matt and he got into some conversation about food and it ended with my husband saying yes, there will be food.

Panic started to set in. Why, you ask? Because our friend Matt is not just a friend, he is a chef. I mean real chef. He was the chef du cuisine for years at Campanile and most recently assisted in opening Mario Batali'sDel Posto, which was recently anointed with 3 stars by the NY Times' Frank Bruni. Matt is not a snob by any means, but I was so bummed that I didn't really have time to plan anything. Had I known he was coming to dinner I would have made Japanese food since I'm guessing he doesn't make much of it on his own. I had to think quickly and figure out what I could whip up in the hour or so before his arrival. To top it all off, he said his friend, who works at BABBO (!) was coming with him. Great. Two chefs coming for dinner. Fabulous.

I had wanted to make a dish out of my new favorite, Alfred Portale Simple Pleasures : Home Cooking from the Gotham Bar and Grill's Acclaimed Chef and I had most of the ingredients on hand....except the main one- farro. We went to several stores and no one had it. I knew of several places that carried it but they were closed on Sunday. I was ready to give up when someone saved the day. We stopped at Firefly Bistro in South Pasadena to pick up a couple of their luscious grapefruit tarts so I asked Kristen, their lovely pastry chef, where I could get farro. She promptly came back with a container full of wheat berries (which I think is almost the same thing...readers?) and told me to simply take it home. I was so thankful and wow- what a nice lady she is. We'd never met but found each other through blogging and my plea with you readers to help me re-create the grapefruit tart that I fell in love with. She somehow heard of my post and emailed me the exact recipe! The world would be a better place if it was made up of Kristens.

Farro? Wheat berries? Same?

Anyway, on to the kitchen. I put one gooey stinky cheese and one goat cheese with ash on my new bamboo cheese board, placed some marinated olives in a bowl and plated some crackers. I made the chicken and farro salad from the cookbook which really came out well. It's a combination of poached chicken (poached in stock, not water, so it's extra tasty), Bibb lettuce, avocado, red bell pepper, red onion and farro (I used the wheat berries) tossed with a cilantro/jalapeno/lime vinaigrette. I also made a version of something my dad used to make me as a kid. He would butter toast and put one oil-packed sardine topped with a tiny lemon slice on it and serve it for breakfast. It was one my absolute favorites. Instead of toast, I sliced and toasted a baguette. I also got some French butter and mixed it with chopped parsley, sea salt and lemon zest and spread it on each slice which I topped with a sardine and another small sprinkle of sea salt.

When Matt arrived (sans friend who ended up having other plans...phew!), I served this pseudo-dinner/appetizer arrangement and he really seemed to like everything! I was so happy to see him eat about 4 servings of the salad and not so happy that I ate about 20 sardine crostini. Maybe the healthy wheat berries will get rid of those sardine calories in my body....?

As usual, I forgot to take photos until we had eaten a lot of the food (I'm such a piggy!) so here are some half-eaten, not-so-great shots of our little impromptu Oscar dinner.

Cheese board

Sardine Crostini


Mostly eaten salad


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