Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dinner Is On! No Matter What!

I will have my dinner party if I have to drag people off the street to sit at the table! That’s the level of determination that drove me yesterday as I prepared for an evening meal.

There is a new musician in our community orchestra, an engineer/violinist from Brazil who is working for a local company. He’ll only be here for a year, so we wanted to invite him for dinner, given our own Brazilian connection. We also invited his boss and wife, who we know, Conductor Eric and another couple of friends connected to the orchestra. We set the date a couple of weeks ago and confirmed with everyone invited—Saturday, March 10 at 6:30.

But on Friday at 6:30, the Brazilian guest arrived ready for dinner when there was none. Apparently, my email to him said Friday, March 10, and in the confusion, he decided I must have meant Friday and not the 10th. How embarrassing for everyone as we stood in the doorway stammering and apologizing. We invited him in anyway and had a nice chat, although I had nothing to offer him for a meal—couldn’t even make him a sandwich.

The young man had other plans for the 10th and couldn’t return, and when I informed his boss of the confusion, that couple decided to back out and opt for another event they needed to attend. So, there I sat on Saturday morning with a reduced guest list and pounds of mussels and dozens of clams, a refrigerator full of dessert and fire in my belly. I will have this dinner! I invited another friend to come, one who knows those who were still confirmed, and we scrambled to bring in others to no avail.

Turns out that seven at the table is just fine, and dinner was on minus the original guest of honor and the business owner who we wanted to encourage to support the orchestra. We really weren’t going to ask him for money, just wanted to develop a relationship and connection.

So, dinner was Ina Garten’s Kitchen Clambake with a few variations. First, she only adds salt and pepper, but I sauté the onions and leeks with a good dose of Emeril’s dried herb mix, something he obnoxiously calls “Essence.” (Tip: mix this stuff from scratch. The bottled stuff you can buy tastes like dirt.) Ina also calls for kielbasa, but I use andouille sausage instead, and last night I also added some bourbon sausage from Niman Ranch. I also leave out the lobster, and it all makes for a nice, big pot of yummy dinner.

I also served an assortment of miniature desserts I discovered in a fun cookbook—Petit Sweets. Fortunately, I made a few extras, so I’ll be treating myself to one or two of those today.

My point: don’t mess with my dinner plans, you mischievous Dinner Party Fates. I will have my meal, even if I sit with strangers, even if I have to eat alone.

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