Saturday 28 March
We had been wanting to have Ann and Harry over to dinner for some time, so we booked them early, for a time when they weren't going to be trout fishing in Argentina or opera-going in London.
Harry is a wine maven, so we chose our first bottles carefully: a citrus and flint Mas de Lavail Carignan blanc vielles vignes terre d'Ardoise. With it, we served crispbread and spreads: our own muhammara mixed with drained yogurt, and goat cheese flavored with the first sorrel, oregano, and garlic chives. There were also rosemary walnuts to snack on, according to Laurie Colwyn's classic recipe:
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crumbled (I'd love to try it with fresh)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3 cups walnuts
Melt the butter, mix with everything but the walnuts, and pour it over the walnuts, tossing to coat them. Spread out the nuts on a cookie sheet and bake at 350º for 10 minutes.
As Harry is an adept potter and Ann an experienced digger, we thought it would be fun to enlist their help in a hands-on pasta course. So we made one of the recipes from the latest Saveur: beet gnocchi served in its own greens. Holt found the dough almost too soft, but he spread it out on the flour according to directions, and by adding more flour he brought it to a rollable state. Ann snipped them into lengths, giving us one batch to boil up and eat, and one to freeze. Once boiled and tossed with the sautéed stems and greens, they were bright and piquant with the touch of good balsamic; we especially appreciate a nose-to-tail beet recipe.
For the main course, we moved to the picture-perfect Côte de Nuits Burgundy that Harry had kindly brought, Joseph Drouhin Chambolle-Musigny premier cru 2011.
It went perfectly with slices of 2" thick grilled strip steak, a platter of roasted green and purple asparagus, and Holt's last-minute Hollandaise with fresh chervil.
Finally, to dessert: Holt's crustless Alsatian apple tart, prettily alternating locally grown red Jonathans and green Granny Smiths.
A little pour of Laird's applejack echoed the flavors of the tart, and made a suitable finish for an evening of do-it-yourself fun, conversation, and marvelous food and drink.