“So...what are you making this time?” The cashier at the art store asked as I scooped up the numerous bottles of tempera paint, brushes and gigantic roll of banner paper off the counter.
“Well, you see the theme this time is...” I answered, and prepared to explain the slightly eccentric plans for David’s latest welcome back dinner. For new readers, my husband's prior job would take him out of town to Michigan periodically. To welcome him back, I began preparing dinners. While they have all been different, there are two constants: they always have a theme, and that theme is always a surprise.
After over a year of making welcome back dinners with various themes and requirements, my usual go-to places for supplies are starting to catch on that I’m usually up to something a little
nutty unusual. Over the past year, dinners have gotten more complex, and I’ve started exploring different art mediums for the menus.
So if I walk into Plaza artist materials, there’s no telling what I’ll walk out with. Maybe some India ink? Calligraphy pens? Water colors? Oil pastels? Acrylic? A 12' by 5' banner? More paint brushes, since the cat likes to steal them and hide them in the corners of the apartment?
Same goes with Avril Bleh. Some of the dishes I have made have required very specific cuts (St. Louis style ribs, cut in half, please), so I received a similar question -- what are you making this time? -- when I headed there next. This time my meat-quest consisted of dry aged strip and ribeye steak, sliced extremely thin. Because how else are you going to make the fanciest philly cheesesteaks ON EARTH?
Regular steak simply won't do
I’m sure you are also wondering what the theme for dinner was. After much consideration, consultation and back and forth with Jeff, I hammered out a cohesive theme and complementing menu. The theme: Trashy to Classy. The menu:
The Golden Lawn Chair: Keepin' it Classy since 2012
Little Kings with matching bucket
Truffle Sea Salt +
=Truffle Tots!I had the entire day free, but I wanted to take care of the prep early so I could focus on the banner I was planning to paint for the name of the restaurant. Philly cheese steak veggies (onion, pepper, mushroom and a little black truffle) were easy enough to prep, but things went South (sort of) when I tried get all fancy and caramelize the onions.
Pro tip: Use a plastic shower curtain when working with messy paints on beige carpet
Black truffles for the cheesesteaks
The onion disintegrated into the bacon fat I was using, and I ended up with a small amount of onion-bacon jam instead. While onion-bacon jam is never a “fail,” I did have to start over slicing onions. Once the veggies were prepped, I started on what I figured would be the most daunting task, deviled quail eggs.
These carefully sliced onions did not react as expected
I bought 24 quail eggs, because I was fully expecting to mess up the first 12. To my surprise, other than the anticipated tedium of trying to peel tiny eggs, they came out perfectly.
Served with doily on silver platter
The dessert, which I dubbed “The Front Yard” was something that required a little forethought. Boozy gummy bears with different combinations of liquors and colors were prepped early in the week, and I hunted all over town for flamingos on pink picks. Cappel's downtown came through in the end. And of course, there was edible gold “scrap metal”.
The fanciest "dirt pudding" cup ever made
David has a new job now (yay!) that doesn't require him to travel every month, so future welcome back dinners are going to be even trickier to plan and execute. Don't worry, though, I've loved trying my hand at different, challenging dishes, and I don't plan on giving up any time soon. Besides, I haven't even written about when I made him beef wellington yet. Fear not. It won't be long before I'm back at Plaza art supplies, buying who knows what!