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02/22/2010

A Night at the King's Table

Having friends that can cook is a good thing. We were fortunate enough to get to know Norm on our Kenya, Africa trip last December (that’s a mult-post trip in itself). He was our leader, getting to do all the things that no one really wants to deal with. Minor things, like transportation, lodging and drinkable water. As we were eating food that we were NOT accustomed too (ugali, anyone?) Norm told us stories of his previous life as a caterer and chef for personal parties. He said he’d have us over for dinner one night, but little did we know it was an honest invitation. And it would be nothing like anything we’d experienced before.

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We show up to his house Saturday and I have to admit I was a little nervous. He had told Cody the week before at church it was going to be a 20 course meal. I am not a big person, okay? I have a hard time eating large portions of food. I had no idea how I was going to handle this.

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His very sweet wife, Tiffany, greets us at the door and I can already smell the deliciousness. Norm tells us that he dropped the number of courses from 20 to 16—not that I had any problems with that.

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I seriously cannot believe what I’m seeing. He has everything organized by course and the food ready to cook. Everything smelled so good . . . Cody and me, our bestest friends Dace and Jacque, Tiffany, their foreign exchange student from Italy, and Norm’s son Alex—his assistant chef. Here we go.

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Course One: Rustic Brioche

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Norm rubbed scored garlic cloves, spead a little bit of butter, drizzled some olive oil and sprinkled some fresh basil on this bread. He did warn us not to eat too much, since bread is such a filler. I held myself to one piece.

We then take a seat at the table. We’d be there for over three and a half hours.

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Course Two: Kimchi and Chicken Won Tons

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I have to admit, I had no idea what kimchi was but I surprised myself that I liked it it as much as the chicken. We were off to a good start.

Course Three: Gazpacho

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Probably one of my favorite courses. Norm’s the man. I know he lived in Spain for most of his childhood, but this was just amazing. So complex but simple.

Course Four: Garlic Cream Soup

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The garlic for this soup is boiled seven times. Not six, according to Norm, since it won’t take away the bitterness of the garlic. Not a strong garlic flavor at all, very smooth. And the red dollop was good—if I could remember what it was.

Course Five: Rabbit Fish Soup

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We didn’t even know what a rabbit fish was. Tiffany thought it meant rabbit and fish together (ew?). Norm just bought it at the Asian market because he thought it sounded cool. Thanks to Dace’s new love for his iPhone, we looked up what the fish looked like as we waited on the course.

As for taste? Very good. The broth wasn’t fishy tasting at all. And the fist itself was a white light fish.

Course Six: Guava Sorbet

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I was thinking—is this ice cream? No, it was like a pudding consistency, but not the plastic-y taste that pudding can sometimes have. Meant to “cleanse the pallet” from the fish.

Course Seven: Steelhead Trout with Jicama & Carrot Salad

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Presentation was an A+. The banana leaf kept the trout so moist and it had just a tinge of lemon in whatever sauce it was in. And the salad was so good. Jicama has a texture of a potato but is watery and crispy like a cucumber.

Course Eight: Green Pea & Mint Sorbet

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This dish shows the creativeness of Norm. Mint and peas? Oh but it melded so well. You could actually taste the different flavors by themselves (look at me, sounding like I know how to critique food!). Very proud of Dace too, who is “anti-pod food,” who ate it AND enjoyed it.

Course Nine: Mushroom Ravioli with Cream Sauce & Balsamic Syrup

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My favorite (it even beat the steak, sorry guys!). I don’t like mushrooms and this was just amazing. A simple cream sauce with onions and the balsamic syrup added so much to it. I could eat this over and over again.

Course Ten: Wrapped Chicken on Simmered Leeks

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This could have been my whole dinner and I would have been satisfied. The sun dried tomatoes were so good. Something I will try to replicate and likely not succeed!

Course Eleven: Chilled Eggplant with Toasted Pita

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I. Love. Turkish Food. And in this very baba ganoush-like course had me at the first bite.

Course Twelve: Vegetable Risotto

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I’ve heard a lot about risotto, but don’t have any recollection of eating it before. Maybe because every time I hear someone talk about it they mention how hard it is to cook! Alex, Norm’s son, was the lead cook for this and it was very good. Glad Norm went a little easy on the amount for me (I was starting to get full).

Course Thirteen: Beef Tenderloin with Potato & Shitake Mushrooms

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The crown jewel of the meal. Tenderloin rubbed in coffee and chocolate powder. Browned on the outside and a perfect pink throughout the middle. This ain’t no steakhouse steak. It was superb.

Course Fourteen: Skewered Salad

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I’m a sucker for mozzarella and tomatoes. Olives? I had to pass on that, but such a light dressing that offered a perfect pairing with the cheese and veggies.

Course Fifteen: Raspberry Fruit Tart

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Raspberry anything is good. What I loved the most about this (besides the fact that it was a super cute mini pie-looking thing) is that it wasn’t overly sweet. So many times fruit desserts are overly sweet. This highlighted the fruit’s natural sweetness.

Course Sixteen: Chocolate Box Cones

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Oh my goodness gracious. Norm melted down and entire box of Valentines chocolates poured it into cones (self-admitted the only pre-packaged item) and topped it with orange whipping cream. I couldn’t finish it (oh I tried!) but just ingenious.

I was so stinkin' full at the end of this, but man, it was amazing. We concluded with a good cup of coffee (any coffee with whole cream is mmm mmm good) and left for home at 11:45 at night.

I doubt that I will ever eat a 16 course meal again. It's just not something you do. But, I am trying to come up with something for Norm and Tiffany when they come over to eat. Kinda like a "thanks for spending three days cooking for us so we'll return the favor" meal. Spaghetti and meatballs anyone?

Comments

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Wow! My favorite part was the picture of what the Rabbit Fish looks like. But seriously, it looks amazing!

Thank you guys so much for coming over and letting me have some fun. I did notice I need to work a bit on presentation though. Again great pictures
I'm working on a traditional 5 course "simple" french meal - any takers out there?

Jackie - thanks so much for posting the play-by-play of Norman's exquisite dinner! I felt like I was almost there...As a friend of Tiffany's from Chicago and a serious food lover myself, I was drooling hearing about the menu and courses. Then, to be able to 'play' along was wonderful. Thanks for sharing - you are a gifted writer.

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