January 4th, 2009


Twelfth Night (Observed)

Christmas is not yet over, for it has twelve nights, and the twelfth is not yet here. There's a day or so left for the Christmas tree, a day or so left for the Befana to come on Epiphany, a final respite for holiday cards (or at least New Year ones) before the season really is over. Overly optimistic tips of bulbs are peeping out in the sunniest corner of the garden, but I know better: it is still midwinter, still time for warming, hearty foods and midwinter spices.

rosamicula knows this too, which is why she hosted us for a Twelfth Night (observed) dinner party. We began with festive Christmas crackers, funny hats, and jokes of dubious quality before moving on to the first course, jellied mulled wine. The temperature was cool, but the flavors were warming, cinnamon and nutmeg, balanced with the edge of a moderately dry wine.

I don't know when I last ate goose before this dinner, but goose we had, its heartiness cut by the bitterness of a Seville orange marinade. Still-crisp cooked purple cabbage, leeks in a light-handed Stilton sauce, a lovely Butternut squash mash, and giblet gravy completed the main. The sides reminded me of how much I love blue cheese with squash, sweet, acid, and creamy together. (See also recent soup lunch with cheese.)

Dessert was a creature of beauty, the pale heavy cream flecked with the gem-like colors of diced and small dried fruits. The cream covered a flourless chocolate-chesnut truffle torte, dense and filling and rich, but not overwhelming. The table fell silent as we ate our slices slowly, pausing, uncertain, before taking seconds, unsure if we could handle more of its denseness, but up to the challenge once the next slice was plated. Chestnut liquor was both in the cake and in our glasses, lighter in flavor, if heavier in alcohol, than the cake. (Recipe here!)

One of the best parts of this sumptuous meal was that it was served in moderation, unlike my Thanksgiving Christmas gluttony. There was plenty of food, mind, but despite its heartiness, I left with thoughts of good food and good company, not a heavy stomach and exhaustion. Gluttony has its moments - but gluttony in moderation is best.

May you too have good things to eat this week, regardless of the reason.