Each summer since 2010 I’ve been helping my good friend, Dean, prepare and cook a multi-course meal for an interactive dinner party at his house for 30+ guests from the law firm he works at. The theme of the menu is often something pretty broad: in the past we’ve done French, Spanish, Mexican, and rustic Italian.
After last year’s Italian party, I had urged Dean to consider doing “Asian” without even being sure what I meant by it. It’s kind of like saying, “Hey, let’s put together a European menu in seven courses”. Where would you even begin? So after some (naturally) difficult discussions in the spring, Dean one day sent me a message saying maybe we should consider putting together a menu from the 1970’s. He had discovered this trove of menus put online by the New York Public Library that was proving to be pretty inspiring. Asian was out and the 70’s were in.
Some time later in the same day Dean came across a menu for a dinner sponsored by the Wine & Food Society of New York in October 1975 honoring and roasting Julia Child and James Beard, and suggested we consider using this specific menu as our inspiration. After checking it out it seemed like a great idea. The menu is so vague that it served more as a guide than having to strictly follow anything, and it was kind of cool to connect with an event from the past that so little is known about.
Each course represented a unique challenge: hors d’oeuvre and consommé are pretty wide open categories; striped bass à la Julia proves even now to be an elusive dish; neither of us knew what malfatti was (here’s a video and recipe for the curious); brie en brioche as typically made might prove tricky to serve nearly 40 people in a house. The only dish we had any concrete knowledge of was the frozen soufflé because it’s in the Lutèce cookbook.
So here’s the menu that we conceived and made this past Saturday in honor of Julia and Jim:
- Canapés: smoked salmon bruschetta, Stilton mousse, and proscuitto with sweet and sour melon
- Corn consommé with sweet corn, chanterelles, chive
- Black sea bass with scallion and ginger nage, tomato, lemon balm
- Roast veal tenderloin with meat reduction, salad of zucchini and arugula, malfatti parmesan
- Whipped brie, toasted brioche, fig compote
- Raspberry sherbet with almond tuile, raspberry and chocolate sauces
- Chocolate coffee truffle, cannelés
I enjoyed the whole exercise from beginning to end, and I’m pretty keen to take some proper time and peruse through all those old menus, especially when I need some inspiration, or just to be reminded that upscale restaurants in the 70’s served Sanka.