By Hairee Lee
The day is so hot it feels like air itself is sweating…and sweating all over you. This summer has ushered in some of the hottest and most humid days in my memory of summers past, the kind of hot that makes the mere idea of eating, chewing even, feel exhausting and the prospect of standing before a hot stove obscene.
But one of the best things about summer for me (well every season really, with small variations in beverage, menu, and thermostat) is drinking chilled white wine over the course of the long twilight hours of late summer and enjoying a meal with friends. What could be better than to accept an invitation from my friend and cook, Laura, for a summer dinner party that combines her culinary skills with the demands of the weather?
Dinner starts with white wine served in iitala Aarne all purpose wine glasses. They're conically shaped glasses with a heavy cylindrical base that feels substantial in your hand, but not thick around the lip. I’m not sure why but I like to sip my drinks from thin-rimmed glasses. It seems add to the enjoyment of the beverage by being as unobtrusive as possible between me and the drink--sitting lightly, almost invisibly on the lip as if the glass is mimicking liquid, while the heavy base weighs solidly and reassuringly in your hand.
In the iittala Aarne wine glasses we sip Pinot Grigio, Northern Italian, according to my friend, Anna, and Laura also shakes up some margarita martinis and serves them in iitala Taplo cocktail glasses--shallow, round glasses--garnished with sprigs of mint. I wonder why I this is my first margarita martini in all the years that I’ve been alive. I’m reminded of the lead vocalist for The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger, who once said, "Life’s just a cocktail party." I can now (taking a salutary sip) start my life. I’m sure that’s not the cocktail talking.
The table is set with a Libeco Home arabica Napoli Vintage tablecloth. The heavy, charcoal colored linen feels cool as it skims my lap. The pale blue glaze of the ocean blue Jars Vuelta dinner plates make me think of the Caribbean and this combined with the white, delicately speckle-glaze of the Jars white pearl Vuelta bowls, I immediately envision the beach in the Gulf of Mexico (before the BP oil spill at least.) The table is decorated with iitala Festivo candle holders. They're dimpled all over and remind me of pumice rock formed during volcanic eruptions in Hawaii.
The first course of seafood ceviche made with shrimp, scallops and haddock is served in iitala Aarne cocktail glasses, like the Aarne wine glass, but shallower. The use of cocktail glasses to serve the first course creates a visually seamless transition from the pre-dinner drinks to the start of dinner. It also lets me see colors of the dish—the white and pink of the shrimp, the translucent ivory of the fish, the red of the bell pepper, and the green cilantro—that entices my appetite even before the first forkful, which tastes even better than it looks.
Next is gazpacho garnished with chopped cucumbers and green peppers ladled from a Jars Plume serving bowl with scalloped edges. It’s the same ocean blue color as the plates and gorgeously glazed. The soup is served in the Jars Vuelta bowls already set on the table. Using the soup spoon is when I first notice the David Mellor cutlery. The handle is wide but thin so it feels light in my hand and the round bowl is playful. The soup is tangy and savory and has a slight bitterness that I find very pleasant.
While we enjoy the soup, Jonathan serves baguette disks on a slate-colored Revol porcelain tray from the Basalt Collection that offers all the utilitarian advantages of ceramic: oven-, microwave-, freezer-, dishwasher-, scratch- and probably nuclear bomb-safe. The pièce de résistance is the salmon Niçoise salad--boiled eggs, tomato slices, cold cooked salmon seasoned to perfection, boiled potatoes, and green beans served over rocket greens--presented on a white pearl Jars Plume rectangular serving platter. I have two servings.
I entertain the thought of having a third but there is desert to think about. And desert, ah, desert. What could be more whimsical yet sophisticated than homemade ice cream sandwiches made with Italian pizzelle cookies, Nutella, and real ice cream? Sure, fruit salad would have probably been nice, but ice cream sandwiches are nice. These are served on my favorite dinnerware of the evening—Simon Pearce Thetford plates. They have a thick spiral chord of glass decorating their underside seen through their clear, colorless surface. The weight is startling and a pleasure. It looks like it’s been carved out of ice.
Overall, this is another hit for Laura and the Dinner Series going (unsurprisingly) beyond my expectations. A great dinner party is like a great cocktail--you have to gather all the best ingredients, expertly put them together, and then serve it in the right glass. And, of course, toast with the people you love. If only life was a cocktail party (or a dinner party with cocktails.) It sometimes is--when you have great friends with culinary talents and faultless taste. Sir Mick, cheers.
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