Surprisingly enough, I had one comment to my quick Dinner Party post yesterday. MLL thinks that "CIA-trained" means the chef was trained by the Central Intelligence Agency. Bwahahaha, but no. ChefB has an Associate's degree from the Culinary Institute of America, the USA's foremost culinary school.
ChefB and her long-time beau, Dr. J, host dinner parties several times a year. They are coveted invitations, extended only to local foodies who also happen to be their friends or colleagues. We've been part of this clique for several years. Each dinner party has a theme, and last night's was South American food. ChefB and Dr. J took a gourmand's tour of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil last year and were eager to share their experiences with us.
WineGuy and I arrived right on time and were treated to homemade caipirinhas. The caipirinha (kye-pee-REEN-ya) is Brazil's national drink. It's made from sugar-cane brandy, cachaça (ka-SHAH-sa), poured over a muddled mixture of fresh lime and sugar. The drink was very potent but delicious.
Eight of us sat down to dinner. For the first course, ChefB roasted and skinned whole piquillo peppers and stuffed them with goat cheese. She served each person one warm cheese-stuffed pepper, drizzled with olive oil and sea salt. It was wonderful: oozy, peppery goodness that slid down the throat. The alcoholic limeyness of the caipirinha was a good complement to the pepper. The next course was a lightly dressed crab salad served in half an avocado. ChefB shredded King crab finely and tossed it with a hint of mayonnaise. She placed two dabs of Thai chili sauce on the plate; the sauce did not enhance the dish at all. Dr. J served an Argentinean Viognier with this course. It was "hiney-wine" ... bad.
The third course was baked empanadas. These were savory pockets of dough filled with highly spiced ground beef, chopped hard-boiled eggs, and olives. ChefB served them with a blend of two commercial chimichurri sauces. Chimichurri is a condiment made with parsley, garlic and olive oil. Two of the guests liked the sauce so much they wanted to sip it. Heathens -- yuck.
We saved our chimichurri sauce to go with the next course: rib-eye steaks grilled to perfection on a charcoal (not gas) grill. Dr. J grilled each piece of "moo" to order, and each steak was done just right. [All meats taste better grilled over charcoal than over gas, IMVHO.] ChefB served a twice-baked potato with the steak. Yummmmm! Cardiac arrest on a plate: a hunk of beef served with a potato mixed with cream, bacon, cheese, and salt. Our hosts served the meat course with an Argentine Malbec wine. I didn't bother to taste it because I didn't like the nose. In fact, I dislike most South American wines for their imbalanced flavors. Guess that makes me a wine-snob.
The night marched on. Our bellies were full. The room was filled with drunken stories and laughter, but dinner was far from over. You see, ChefB's true calling is pastry-making. Dessert was a sonata in two parts: homemade chocolate truffles and Argentinian cake. ChefB presented the truffles with a quiz: what flavor is the filling. The first truffle I ate was coated in a dark chocolate powder. It tasted like black cherries or blackberries or currants. "Nope," said ChefB. "Think outside the box." I strained my alcohol-infused brain and came up with "beets." Wrong again. It was balsamic vinegar! Not that ordinary crap on the supermarket shelf, but 25 year-old aged balsamic straight from Modena, Italy. Sublime. The second truffle was coated with a light chocolate powder and flavored with cinnamon. Again, not your typical McCormick's cinnamon but some extra-fancy Vietnamese Cassia cinnamon that had a strong flavor. Very exotic!
ChefB crowned the evening with the most delicious chocolate cake I've ever had. It was a single-serving moist chocolate cake with alternating layers of meringue and whipped dulce de leche (like soft caramel), and covered with chocolate ganache. Unbelievable! It was orgasmic, over-the-top, divine. But, I was so full, I couldn't finish mine, so WineGuy helped me out.
It was late, and I was exhausted, having driven back from Tampa that morning and run around the rest of the day. We said our thank-yous and good-nights and left the dinner party with three doggy bags: one with truffles "for the boys" (not); one with an extra chocolate cake; and one with WineGuy's left-over steak.
Grab the Rolaids and reflux be damned: bring on the next invitation!