Sunday, April 03, 2005

The landmark dinner party

An important Catalyst
When i first arrived in Singapore, i joined a gym soon after i had unpacked my worldly possessions of lycra. I was soon 'adopted' into the 'boxercise' gang, a group of friends my boyfriend had made from his frequent classes there. Punching my way into a regular 3 times a week boxercise routine, i soon met Rick, an American who was another regular of this class. As i shook his hand by the water fountain, both us sweating, him sporting a headband and a big grin, little did i know that our growing friendship thereafter would have much to do with our common love for food.

The Dinner
Our friendship started with a dinner for 4 at a fusion restaurant in Club Street. It was then that Rick mentioned that he enjoyed hosting dinner parties that would often last into the wee hours of the night. Having had limited introduction to the world of dinner parties, my experience of them had largely been comprised of a main course and cut fruit for dessert, all served on friendly ikea dinner plates and napkins. So when Rick invited my boyfriend and I over for a dinner party, i was not prepared for the lavish epicurean splendour that was to be our privilege to enjoy.

I cannot do justice to what was served that night by description alone. It was almost two years ago, but it will remain in my memory as a landmark day for the lengths people can take in understanding and enjoying the intricacies and wonders of food.
But what i can do is highlight some of the events of the night that might serve to explain a dinner party of this nature.

Firstly, Rick has a storeroom specifically for plates. We're talking ceiling to floor cupboards with matching sets of ceramic ware. It was only on one of my subsequent visits to his place that i had the priviledge of bearing witness to this cutlery storage room, throwing light on our wonder that night on how he was able to whip out the perfect cutlery for each dish served.

The Menu
I cannot remember the details of the 7 course dinner today, except that we started with a delicious vegetable soup, followed by a caesar salad. Rick made the caesar salad in front of us, explaining the importance of tearing the romaine leaves along the vein of the leaves to maintain the juiciness of the leaf (instead of cutting across the water pockets contained in the leaves), the inclusion of anchovies and the integral tool - the unbroken wooden salad bowl.
This was followed by a home made pate, and a lychee palate cleanser? (rick, if you are reading this, help me out here). Main course comprised of a pork dish (i think!) and salmon risotto.

I cannot remember how it all tasted apart from the wonderful explosion of the senses we were all submerged in. What i also remember was our unified amazement (there were 6 of us) heaped with a large dose of gob smacked wonder that we knew someone who was capable of making a home cooked dinner of this quality.

It was nothing short of a lavish celebration of food and the sheer love of it. And it made me understand that there was so much more to learn - that enjoying good food was not about merely savouring each bite, but about understanding the care that goes into the making of it, the importance of good ingredients, the subtle (and sometimes stark) differences in results from minor adjustments...

i do think this dinner was an important catalyst in my inspiration for cooking, understanding it, and my love for dinner parties (both attending and hosting them!)

Minor detail: Rick used to be a self taught chef in a restaurant in the US once upon a time.