The Year of Eating Dangerously

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New Year's Day, breakfast. Un doppio cappuccino freddo. I make these every morning (even when it's cold outside; I live in Tucson) when I'm at home. This is my breakfast. When making a cappuccino freddo, it is important to have good separation between the coffee and the milk so that it looks pretty.

Lunch, Jan 1. Miscellaneous sausage, cheese, olives, and two Medjool dates.

Dinner, Jan 1 (1 of 8 courses) First course: Kampachi Tartare. Rose had tasted a raw fish dish in Paris many years before with a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, ginger, and no garlic. She divided up the kampachi into clean pieces to be turned into sashimi, and the scraps and edges were chopped then dressed with this tasty baste just before we ate them. We drank a Greco di Tufo (from Feudi San Gregorio) with this and it was an outstanding match.

Second course: Fishyssoise. I wanted to divide up the fish around some other courses, but Rose wanted to stack them together. We compromised by agreeing to make a soup, to be served in a shot glass, to spread things out a bit. Rose had brought over a fresh leek and I immediately thought of vichyssoise. Unfortunately, I had cleaned out the freezer of my own stock a few months before, and none of the canned ones on hand were OK for Rose's food allergies, except for some fish stock from More than Gourmet. So, we made vichyssoise with fish stock, renaming it "fishy-ssoise."

Third course: Sashimi with four Sauces. Rose called her father, who has a great deal of experience cooking, serving, and eating food, and asked his opinion on what to do with sashimi. He came up with some ideas, one of which turned into two of the sauces. Both are based on soy, ginger, garlic, lime juice, sugar, and other flavors. She made a single base and cooked it down, then we added some bits of serrano pepper to one of them. The second sauce was based on a memory that Tom had about kampachi, and was a citrus vinaigrette with orange, lemon, lime, and other spices in it. This was the most aggressive sauce, by far, and was extremely tasty.

(continued Third course): The fourth and final sauce was a simple combination of very very very strong ingredients. Rose makes her own preserved lemons, and the salt/oil/juice that accumulates in the bottom of the jar is an insanely strong flavor. She wanted to put that on sashimi with an eye-dropper. I added to her lemon salt some chiltepin oil that Aaron Leonard had given us the year before and we came up with a very wicked taste to drizzle on raw fish. Rose did all the slicing, and we laid the fish on julienned sunchokes (not because we wanted to but because we accidentally bought them instead of ginger). With the fish we served two wines. One was a German Riesling by Gunderloch, a tiny bit sweet and very nice. The other was a personal favorite of mine, Cain's 1991 "Musque," a wine they made for about a decade. This is a bone-dry Sauvignon Blanc and is really a wonderful (and unfortunately rare) wine. If you find an old bottle somewhere, buy it and drink it.

Fourth course: A little sorbet between courses is always nice, and I would have been content to buy some lemon sorbet, but Rose insisted that she could make it faster than I could run to the store... which turned out to be true. We put it in six more shot glasses and froze it to serve as a way to end the fish. Those spoons are little lapis lazuli-inlaid ones I got in Santiago years ago that are too tiny for coffee but perfect for this.

Fifth course: Foie Gras Creme Brulee. This was absolutely incredible. I was responsible for most of this until the end assembly. The preparation is simple. Warm cream, foie gras. Blend, adding egg, and season lightly. Bake in small molds until set. When cooled, remove from the mold, brulee a teaspoon of sugar on the top, and plate over a puree made from dates, amarone wine, and vanilla. Sprinkle some pickled apple on top (cooked briefly in salted vinegar with lemon, cloves, cinammon, and rosemary). Drizzle your best 50-year balsamic vinegar on top. Everyone who heard about this thought it was going to be weird, but, in fact, it's fantastic. I can't afford Sauternes, so we served with a botrytis wine from d'Arenberg (Australia), their 1998 "Noble," which is as close to a Sauternes as you can get (and a lot less expensive). Tom showed up with his own torch, which means he got elected to brulee and it was perfect.

Sixth course: Duck leg confit with pommes de terre sardalaise and greens. Most of the hard work on this was done by someone else; I just had to click and order the parts. The confit was already complete. I took some duck fat and browned potatoes, then added thinly sliced garlic to the skillet. Before serving, I crisped up both sides of the duck legs, then re-warmed the potatoes and garlic, added some fresh-from-the-garden parsley, and served with some greens and tomatoes dressed with nothing but olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. To accompany this, we had a 1997 Turley Zinfandel, Grist Vineyard. An excellent match.

Seventh course: Lemon curd tart. Tom had spent New Year's Eve day making fresh lemon curd, meringues, and crusts. We were the lucky beneficiaries, as he brought them all, assembled the most lovely little desserts you could imagine, and put a touch of torch on the top. Since I didn't know that we'd have these, I hadn't thought of a good wine for them and made a serious mistake. (Never pick a wine while inebriated!) I brought out a Late Harvest from Aida Vineyards, a Zinfandel. It simply could not stand up to the lemon. We should have had a sparkling wine, but I simply was not thinking clearly. So while the wine was great, the pairing was not good. In any case, the tarts were so wonderful that no one noticed. Plus, by now, we'd gone through a serious amount of wine. (my lousy camera work does not do the beautiful dessert justice. I am ashamed.)

Eighth course: cheese. Rose and I had grand ideas on how to make a tasty cheese course with fruits and chocolate and all that jazz. But by now (we had been eating for about 5 hours), no one was going to all that trouble. I raided the refrigerator and threw ones that I thought might go together onto a cutting board and brought them out. A wonderful triple-creme Brillat-Savarin, some Roquefort, some Shropshire with onions, a wonderful aged manchego (with candied apricots, of course), a Normandy Petit Livarot, and some goat's milk cheese all got nibbled on. By this time, we had had so much to drink that I didn't even think to bring out any more wine. I think that we all mostly finished off the other wines that weren't quite done... And then, at least for Rose and I, caffe.

Breakfast, Jan 2. Doppio cappuccino freddo.

Lunch, Jan 2. We had so much food the night before that this little bit was all I could take.

Snack, Jan 2. Some cashews that someone sent us as part of a Christmas gift. Nuts are good.

Dinner, Jan 2. Leftover foie gras creme brulee, re-made (but with raspberry jam instead of fig/wine/vanilla puree) and a bowl of lentil soup with some cheese grated on top.

Breakfast, January 3. Doppio cappuccino freddo. "The usual"

Lunch, Jan 3. One Nico's Carnitas Taco and a half of a side order of rice. And a coke. And a smile.

Jan 3, Snack. One chocolate. Ran Nahmias and Jan Trasen sent us these. We have been rationing them because they are so good. Ran has great taste in chocolate.

Jan 3, Dinner. A salad.

Jan 3, Dessert. One chocolate. Jan got the dark one.

Jan 4, Breakfast. "The usual."

Jan 4, Lunch. El Saage, corner Ft. Lowell and Campbell. This is the (cold) grape leaves plate and the combo. I shared this with Jan; I didn't eat all that food. It was really good, though. The meat was dry (has been in the past), but the chicken was tasty and the garlic sauce was great!

Jan 4, snack. Two Medjool dates. These are pretty big and quite moist. These came from Dateland, Arizona. They are usualy sold out of the "eating grade" Medjools, and you have to get cooking grade, which are smaller and drier.

Jan 4, Dinner. At Zeman's, Tucson's Ethiopian restaurant. We eat with Mark and Rose there in Fridays some of the time. It's hard to pick a wine to go with Ethiopian food, so we use Veuve Clicquot Champagne. Mark and Rose drink mead, which is awful (although similar to a traditional drink consumed in Eritrea)

Jan 4, Dinner. Here's the plate of food. We shared this among four people. Wicked good.

Jan 5, Breakfast. When the oranges are ready on our trees, we have orange juice in the mornings. They are definitely ready.

Jan 5, Breakfast. Indian Pudding. Christine made this. I don't usually eat anything for breakfast but tried this and it was too sweet. Although it has no pumpkin in it, Christine puts pumpkin pie spice in it, so it tastes like pumpkin pie with cornmeal in it. I was not ready for that in the morning.

Jan 5, Lunch. A salad. Greens, olives, fresh tomato from Jan's garden (last one!), sun dried tomatos, sausage, cheese. Oil and balsamic vinegar, plus nifty Danish crunchy onions.

Jan 5. Not my lunch, but this is what Jan and Rose had. This was leftover foie gras creme brulee from Jan 1, with a fresh salad.

Jan 5, Snack. Two Medjool dates.