We had a pretty special guest for dinner. The meal had to be special too.
I expected the evening was going to be warm, and at least a little humid, but I wanted us to be able to sit by the open windows next to the roof garden; at least some of the meal plan had to address the subject of kitchen heat.
There would have been a first course in any event, and it would be one which did not require cooking, but since the fish I had purchased were slightly smaller than I would have liked, and because there were suddenly more perfectly-ripe tomatoes sitting on the windowsill than I had expected, it ended up a wee bit larger than I would normally have set out.
I had picked up some black sea bass at the market that morning, because I love the fish, and I was pretty sure our guest would too. It also had the attribute, at least as I have always prepared it, of requiring only about 3 or 4 minutes of direct heat, and that entirely on top of the stove.
I chose the vegetable which would accompany the fish, thin green beans, both for their freshness and beauty and the fact that they could be parboiled well ahead of time, avoiding heating up the kitchen around the time we would be sitting down (they were very briefly reheated over a low flame just before serving)
We hung around in the parlor before the meal, nibbling on some very good whole wheat rustic Italian breadsticks from Buon Italia, and sipping some very good sparkling wine, with an awesome color.
- the wine was a California (Lodi) sparkling, Folk Tree Pétillant California Sparkling Wine 2014
- a caprese salad, asembled with various kinds of heirloom tomatoes from from Campo Rosso Farm, very fresh store-made mozzarella from Eataly, basil leaves from Sycamore Farm, Maldon salt, freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, and a Campania olive oil, D.O.P. Penisola Sorrentina ‘Syrenum’
- a superb bread, a baguette monge, from Maison Kayser
- the wine was an Italian (Sardinia) white, La Cala Vermentino di Sardegna 2014
- three 5-ounce sea bass fillets from Pura Vida Fisheries, dredged in seasoned coarse stone-ground flour which had been spread across a plate, then dipped in a mixture of one egg from Millport Dairy Farm which had been whipped with a few tablespoons of chopped parsley from Stokes Farm, sautéed for a couple of minutes in a mixture of butter and olive oil inside a heavy enameled cast iron pan pan, skin side down first, then turned, sautéed for little more than another minute (until the fish was cooked through; the time will vary each time with the size of the fillets and the height of the flame), removed from the pan and placed on 3 plates, the heat below the pan now turned off, and the juices remaining in the pan scattered with some oxalis aka ‘wood sorrel’ from Alewife Farm (the stems first removed) and pushed around with a wooden spatula for a moment, the juices then divided on top of the three fillets, finishing with a squeeze of an organic lemon from Whole Foods, and, finally, the bass dressed with more (fresh) oxalis leaves
- haricots verts from Lucky Dog Organic Farm, left whole, blanched, drained and dried in the pan over heat, shaking, set aside until just before sautéing of the bass was to begin, reheated in oil, finished with salt, pepper, and stemmed fennel flowers from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm
- the wine was a California (Lodi) rosé, Karen Birmingham Rosé Lodi 2015
There was a cheese course; it included a fruit.
- There were 4 great cheeses, all from Consider Bardwell Farm: ‘Manchester’, a goat cheese, ‘Pawlet’, a rich cow milk cheese, and their 2 new-ish blues, ‘Barden Blue’, a cow cheese, and an awesome goat blue which has not yet been named (although I’ve suggested they call it ‘Wellen’)
- ripe green figs from Eataly (the store, remarkably, could not tell me where they had been grown)
- the wine was a California (Central Coast) rosé, Keith Hock Exit 43 California Bollicine in Bianco 2014
- the music throughout a long meal was mostly that of Johann Christian Bach; one of the albums was the 6 early Symphonies, published in 1765, performed by Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields