For more years than we can remember, 8 of us have gathered once each month for what we call gourmet night. Most of the time it’s here in Houston, but we’ve also made it happen in Hackberry, Louisiana, Charleston and Rockport, Maine. No matter where we are, it’s a fun evening of lively conversation, laughter and good eats. Best of all, it is a continuation of long time friendships.
How it works is the host couple plans the menu, generally 4 courses, and sends it to each of the other couples with their particular food assignment. This works very well as no one has to do an inordinate amount of preparation.
When it’s my turn, as it was in January, I have as much fun setting a table as planning the menu. In fact, I usually set the table several days in advance and let it help determine what should be served.
More often than not my table is inspired by whatever textile I pull from my abundant collection. This one is a beauty from Thailand handwoven of silk.
From there, I look around the house to see what would work as a centerpiece, and it is always a surprise to see what captures my eye. Very often you can be sure it has a touch of whimsy.
With this being the first gourmet of the season, it seemed right to add a little glamor to the table, and I chose to use china that once belonged to my mother. That means the table is as fancy as it’s ever going to get in this house.
Napkin folding is one of those tricks that makes a table special, and none could be easier than this one that forms a pocket for the flatware.
As I was finishing the table, it struck me as somewhat sophisticated which made me think the meal should be the same. From somewhere in the recesses of my mind came an image of Beef Wellington. Along with brie topped with a sundried tomato mixture, watercress soup, roasted fingerling potatoes and a chocolate raspberry tart it was perfect for a dinner celebrating friendship and a new year.
Don’t let the idea of Beef Wellington scare you off. It’s not as hard as it appears. There are many recipes, and all have some mushroom/onion/garlic mix spread on puff pastry that is wrapped around a tenderloin. I used baby bells which are more flavorful than button mushrooms, and I also encased the beef with thin slices of pancetta which added a little mystery to the taste. I wish I had added some chopped spinach to the mushroom mix now that I think about it. As with any recipe, it’s always fun to experiment with your own touches.
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