Monday, July 21, 2003

Tom's Summer Party

A moment's pause to update my blog. I still have tons of stuff backlogged to tell you all, from eating at Guy Savoy in Paris (better than the French Laundry; not something I say lightly) to a variety of cooking classes. But work has been busy, which is both good and bad. Good because we're actually selling stuff and doing well, bad because it means I spend all my time there. A recent release will hopefully give me more time away from work, but now I'm working on an article for a food magazine, so we'll see.

While I haven't been updating this site, I did manage to sneak in a day of cooking last weekend, when I worked in the kitchen at our friends Tom & Carol's summer party. I've written about these parties before: Tom and his girlfriend Carol throw these bashes that are so fantastic that every regular guest I know keeps a two- or three- week window open around the time the parties occur just to make sure they're free.

The winter party is the real blow-out, with stunning gourmet dishes coming in a seemingly endless stream from the kitchen. But the summer party, while more casual, is no less thrilling. And it was very thrilling for me when Tom asked if I wanted to help in the kitchen.

Spending all of a midsummer day in a warm kitchen (even though Tom tries to get all the cooking dishes out of the way beforehand) is not most people's idea of fun. Indeed, most people at my work looked perplexed when I told them what I'd be doing that weekend (other than working--the implicit assumption one could make about everyone's weekend plans). But I had a blast doing it, and it was nice to not only see the party from a different angle, but just to spend a whole day working with food. Solace indeed for the scant time I've spent cooking of late.

I got there at about 8:30 and helped assemble profiteroles. As Tom says on his site, we made 160 profiteroles, with Tom, Carol and me each taking our share (and, once we served them, eating our share). After that, my work was mostly prep and salad assembly. While the winter party is much more of a planned affair, Tom's idea for each salad was sort of "put some of this in, some of that, make a vinaigrette out of these things, and we'll use this for garnish". My favorite of all of them was probably the Chinese-style slaw, with a dressing of thinned peanut butter, hoisin and soy sauce. All the salads were well received, though, which I was happy to hear.

The oddest aspect of our work was that it was pretty calm; we were done with all the prep an hour before the first guests arrived. Of course, Tom and William at least spent some time cooking the day before, and most of the main dishes were smoked meat which sat in the smoker for a while. But still, it's a huge amount of food, and you somehow expect it to be crazier. Supposedly, the winter party is more manic. I'm looking forward to finding out.

And incidentally my favorite part of the day had nothing to do with the party itself. Tom and Carol generously gave us an electric smoker filled with goodies as a wedding present. I was floored, and as I chowed down on the smoked food he had produced, inspired. We can't use it in our little apartment, so until we move into a house (or at least a condo with a balcony), we'll be using it at some friends' house. I find myself trying to come up with excuses for parties, just so that I can use it. Look for more smoked things (and hopefully more posts) to appear soon!