29 December 2005

Home for the holidays

First off, major apologies from Chefette to all her Loyal Readers for not having posted these past couple of weeks. All she can offer are the traditional excuses for this time of year, namely: (a) the Christmas preparations took over my life for the week of the 19th (get tree, get food, buy pressies, have friends over for dinner, etcetera, etcetera), and (b) the husband was home from work for several days before and after the 25th, so had to spend time with him on Vitally Important seasonal tasks like playing Scrabble and eating Terry's chocolate oranges in front of the telly!

Fortunately, it hasn't all been candy and junk food. The husband took me out to a wonderful Christmas day lunch at Pont de la Tour. Sorry to make you all jealous, but here goes ...

We got a beautiful table by the picture window overlooking the Thames, with views of Canary Wharf, St Katherine's Dock and the Tower of London. Then came a complimentary glass each of Pol Roget champagne, Santa hats for the pair of us, and crackers to pull. The wine list -- as we had been forewarned -- did not have much selection in the budget range, but the wine waiter gave an excellent recommendation at our (slightly higher than usual) suggested price point-- a 2003 white Burgundy, which went splendidly with the food. Mind you, the husband commented later that as a sommelier he should have been able to confirm the ingredients of the sauce of our main course in response to a question. But that was only a minor niggle in an otherwise fabulous afternoon.

I was the more fortunate on starters. My game terrine with toasted Poilane and cornichons had just the right balance between chunky morsels of pheasant and velvety smooth liver paste, whereas the husband's crayfish cocktail was ever so slightly unexciting. For the main course, however, we both lucked out with the Lobster Thermidor. It was sublime. A well-judged portion size served with just the right amount of buttery sauce, garnished with earthy, truffled boiled potatoes, and a dark green, mellow flavoured kale. Puddings were also quite tasty: a chocolate 'buche de noel' (which was a bit too large to finish), a chocolate fondant pudding with mint chocolate ice cream. All rounded off with coffees and mini mince pies (on which the pastry was so fine and buttery that I made the husband stuff the uneaten ones into his jacket pocket to smuggle out!)

As for my own cooking, I've kept my hand in a fair bit during the school break. Made a deliciously light Christmas breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs garnished with chives, which went down very nicely with a glass of champers. I also did a fair bit of gift cooking to give to friends. Most successful were the orange and cranberry muffins, which I improvised from a basic muffin recipe garnered from my work placement (using yoghurt rather than milk). Least successful were the cheese straws made with store-bought puff pastry. They tasted fine coming out of the oven, but went stale far too quickly.

Anyway, I've got a big cooking challenge coming up in the next few days, namely a drinks party for the evening of the 1st Jan. We are having friends round for 3 hours of canapes before heading off to a nightclub in celebration of turning the big 4-0. (Canapes for 30 people? What was I thinking? Am I mad???) Seriously, though, I'm looking forward to it, and feel like I'm up to the task, of getting well organised beforehand. Have even got disposable piping bags-- I feel ready for anything!

Will let you all know how it goes at some point after the 2nd of January. Happy New Year!

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