Monday, August 16, 2010


Last night was the summer session of GULP, a dinner group I belong to.  We met on John's and RJ's front porch, which was full of a very long line of tables with white table cloths and flowers.
Everyone gathered around 5:00 and grabbed cold beverages.  Each dinner is based on a theme or a book, and last night's dinner was Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.  It was the first dinner that we were all able to invite someone to, since we were going to have more space than we usually do.  There are normally 14-16 of us; last night there were 22, due to some members on vacation combined with the invited guests.
Last minute preparations were going on when I arrived.  RJ is getting his vegetables ready for the entree while Susan finishes the appetizers.  The appetizers were:  Goat cheese rounds with peaches or pears; Crab cakes with pear chutney; Tillamook cheddar cheese puffs.  Champagne and flavored Vodka flowed freely.
Next was a refreshing cold soup of tomato and red pepper that Cindy made following James Beard's recipe, with some personal touches, because it came out bland the first time.  Then, we all repaired to the music room for my first ever piano recital.  I wasn't nervous until I sat down, and then, stage fright took over.  I played the Aria from Bach's Goldberg Variations.

Somehow, I got through it, and finished to the kind of roaring applause only one's true friends can give.  Next, John played a Chopin prelude.

John's proud Mom, Norma, is standing to the left in the flowered pants.  My Mom is in the white blouse and orange and pink skirt.  Norma told us the story of the piano afterwards.  When John was young, taking piano lessons, he played on the family's Kimball upright, but took lessons on his teacher's Steinway grand.  He read about how great Steinways were, so when he was ten years old, he wrote a letter to the Steinway piano company, addressed to Mr. Steinway.  He told Mr. Steinway he had heard how superior Steinways were, and asked if his family could have a Steinway Grand.  The company forwarded the letter to their local Steinway dealer, who sent the family floor layouts for the various models, to make sure they had space for one.  Well, the family couldn't afford one at the time, so it was forgotten, except as a charming story to tell.  Six years later, on a road trip with friends, one of the women said her husband, a doctor whose hobby was restoring pianos, had a Steinway grand finished and asked if anyone was interested.  Norma said yes, and the piano found a new home.  When Norma and her husband down-sized, the piano went to John, and here it is.  It's a lovely piano, in a beautiful room, and it was a joy to play it.
  I wish I would have taken pictures of the rest of the meal, but it was getting dark, and I was enjoying wine and good company.  Next course was Pat's and Aimee's salad of mixed greens, cherries, hazelnuts, champagne grapes and Oregon bleu cheese, served with Dan's Cuban bread.  Following that was Rachel's frosty intermezzo sorbets, raspberry and Marion berry alternating with lemon.  Then came the entree,  John's and RJ's Pacific salmon on a julienned Mirepoix, Ginna's summer vegetables with herbs and Dennis' faithful reproduction of James Beard's potato salad.
  We paused for our business meeting, which must have been very surprising to our guests.  To us, it's how we plan our next meal, but it can get kind of raucous.  RJ is our reluctant president, and while we won't let him resign, we do have little "cabals" of discontent and secret plans from time to time.  After much debate and a lot of joking, we actually came up with something we've never done:  A Plan!  We have the next three meals planned, the three planning committees selected and even the venues.  Now, if we haven't had too much wine, we might actually follow the plans!
  Then came dessert, black- and blueberry jam tarts with coriander-buttermilk creme anglaise.  We sat talking and rubbing our full bellies into the night, then cleaned up and hugged, kissed and said good night.  I'm so lucky to have such wonderfully talented and generous friends!


LA said...

Your Mom looks so proud!!! The menu made my mouth water...what a wonderful evening!

Theresa said...

Oh god, that sounds better than any meal I've ever had in Oregon! Must go wipe the drool off my keyboard.....

Sharon said...

I can't cook, but I'm a Top Chef junkie. My mother played piano all her life and I absolutely love the piano story. Mother would have loved it! Pianos aren't like guitars but she always managed to have one.