First, a very Happy New Year to all our clients and friends and a genuine thank you for your support over the last year.
Your slightly weary Chef writes at almost midday on the 1st January after a wonderful evening. We had 30 last night for the celebration dinner and with a larger restaurant we could have seated the other 90 people who wanted to eat and we sadly had to turn away. Sorry if you were one of them. I have not donned my rose-tinted glasses but I still think it was a bit of a triumph.
The meal consisted of :
Canapés of lobster tails served in a little terrine. I made one too many in error and scoffed it this morning at 4 am when clearing. How decadent to be eating lobster for breakfast! These were followed with salmon vol-au-vents and a foccacia duo of salmon nibbbles, finishing off with lovingly prepared twin foie gras canapés, one with red caramalised fruit and one with spicy bread. All served with our ever popular Lucian Lalardier Champagne. Yummy!
I love canapés and had been up since 3.15 am with only a sandwich all day. Canapés are a favourite of mine and I love Champers even more (actually, much, much more). It was bloody hot in the kitchen last night and it was with a dry mouth and rumbling tummy that I served the crowd of friends.
The temptation to roughly push one of the guests out of their chair and sit and eat all the nibbles and most certainly drink all the Champers was strong but you will be relieved to hear that the good Angel overcame the little Devil on my other shoulder. His whispered warnings of, “Go on. Nobody will know if you sneak a couple of glasses, you deserve it,” were outweighed by my little Angel whispering, it will be a disaster if you get blotto and it turns into a Fawlty Towers type gourmet night. Professionalism won the day you will be glad to hear.
The first starter was a cassoulet of lobster with a puff pasty topping and then the second entrée was foie gras with caramalised apples, all served with a fine Dom Brial Chardonnay.
Mains were goose breast in a rich sauce accompanied with a tarte tatin style julienne of carrots on a bed of pan fried leaks and a biscuit base with violette potatoes mashed with a crispy nut crown. These pretty bright purple potatoes are about ten times the price of normal spuds and in hindsight were a ridiculous expense that I would not make again but people enjoyed them. The 2014 Gérard Bertand Tautavel red which accompanied the goose was, as always, excellent.
I wonder if there is some Government fund for wounded chefs? I cut the cheese in the late afternoon and plated it up in the fridge. It took amost an hour and a half so it was a wise labour-saving trick. I have a huge blister on my finger from cheese cutting! 7 types of cheese x 30 = 210 individual slices! All served with excellent 10 year old Tawny Port.
Dessert was a specially created chocolate sphere containing chocolate mousse and fondant filling on a bed of crushed nutty biscuit served with local Muscat dessert wine.
The above was all washed down with:
9 bottles of Lucian Lalardier Champagne
8 bottles of Dom Brial ‘Minuit’ Chardonnay
1 bottle of Muscat dry wine, a special request from a French group (I hate the stuff!)
8 bottles of Gérard Bertrand ‘Tautavel’ 2014
4 bottles of 10 year old Tawny port
4 bottles of Muscat dessert wine
At Midnight, 8 bottles of Guinot Crément de Limoux
and to finish :
1 bottle of Cognac
1 bottle of 10 year old Armaganc
1 bottle of Baileys
0.25 bottle of Cointreau
Strangely, the 12 year old Glenfiddich single malt found only a single request for a dram.
All the above was included in the meal price of 79 € per head (or 49 € for drivers with no alcohol). It is not about making huge piles of cash but rather having a dammned good celebration with friends. Our favourite guests of the evening were Tina and Phil ‘two bottles’. So named as they not only won a bottle of Fizz in our NYE raffle but also walked out with a bottle of 2012 Barolo (it just proves that blackmail pictures do work).
All left in excellent cheer but then came what in our household will be henceforth known as ‘the reckoning’. I carried the extra tables that we had installed outside at 2.30am. It was only with the main lights turned back on that the full horror became apparent. 140 Party Poppers plus several branded as ‘bazookers’ and with twice the fill and explosive power and brought as emergency back-up by table 1 in case there were not enough complimentary munitions. It was like the aftermath of the Somme. Paper strings from the projectiles hung still from the chandaliers and it took an hour last night to get most of the rest. As I write Val is cleaning and I predict that this missive will take just a moment longer to type than it will for her to finish the work, (no fool am I!)
As I decended this morning (at a very late hour for me) I was dressed in all my finery and ready for a quiet day accompanied only by my beloved Val, a very slowly cooked shoulder of lamb with a dangerous amount of garlic, a bottle (or two) of Champagne and a lovingly hoarded bottle of 1970 Chateau Latour, purchased in secret as a New Year surprise for Val. There goes New Year’s Eve resolution number one to drink more economical wine this year.
I have still not returned the small bookcase filled with all my cookery books to its normal place and as I walked into the restaurant there was a riiiiipppppp. My brand new Ralph Lauren chinos lucky enough to be cladding my rather shapely bottom for less than 5 minutes had snagged a nail on the bookcase. Not only gaining a 5 cm rip on the thigh but also managing to cut by leg in the process to actually stain the cloth and make any repair hopeless. With a very loud shouted oath of fury (there goes New Year’s Eve resolution number two to swear less), I spun round and managed to rip a huge gash in my brand new cashmere sweater on the same nail. I also managed to cut my arm at the same time.
Did I shout and swear? I shall merely quote the late, much missed Alistair Cooke who said, “People are swearing so often and so strongly that soon there will be no words left for special occasions.”…………………….and, yes. I swore a great deal.
I stormed into the restaurant in an absolute strop akin to a spoilt teenager who has had his stern parents block him from Facebollocks or some other pointless exercise and came to a sudden halt. Sitting looking at me with trusting eyes and ever-wagging tails were our two little Wuffle Snufters.
Max, the Shetland sheepdog and his little girlfriend, Margaux, the rescued Greek mongrel who came here after a life of hell in her former country. With total adoration in their eyes for the possibility of spending another day with their beloved family, my heart melted and my temper subsided. Wet tounges in my ears and eyes a moment later turned my fury into laughter.
Cashmere sweaters and Ralph Lauren trousers may come and go, but loving family, whether human or animal, are priceless and the memories last much longer.
My New Year advice is stop what you are doing, give your partner or friend a kiss and grab any furry babies for a special cuddle.
Happy New Year to you all and we look forward to welcoming you again soon.
Paul the Happy Chef and his special wife Val.