The apartment belongs to the family of the host and cocktail enthusiast, Drew. Located directly beside Bunker Hill in Charlestown, the building's rooftop patio offers one of the most spectacular views of Boston: full view of the obelisk, the city skyline, Zakim Bridge beside the TD Center draped in the Bruins flag, the Boston Navy Yard with the USS Constitution as majestic as ever. Panoramic, and uber historical.
The dinner is set in the open concept dining room that flows effortlessly into the kitchen and living room in the vast space of the common area.
Before dinner is cocktail hour. I learned that Drew, the host and fellow diner, will be making the cocktails even though we have a professional bartender and British import, Alan Long, present to pour and mix our beverage needs. Drew arrives with a two foot tall lemon squeezer and a bag full of ingredients. This guy means business.
Elixir. That’s the only way to describe Drew's concoction. He begins earning a demigod-like status in my gustatory hierarchy. If they don’t have one already, he should be the mixologist for the gods or presidents. The name of the cocktail: Northern Lights. The two ingredients that make this drink completely unique to my palette is the Eau de Vie of Douglas Fir ((Made by Clear Creek Distillery from Portland Oregon, this liqueur is hard to find! Drew had to go all the way to some outskirt town in Massachusetts to find it, and from perusing the company website, the only East Coast stores they list as carrying their products are ONE in New York City and another ONE in Brooklyn. I love rare stuff.)) and St. Germain liqueur from France. What in the world is Eau de Vie? I don’t care. It’s my kind of "water of life". Shaken with ice in Rosle cocktail shaker, it’s served in the iittala Aarne cocktail glasses that lets the fragrance of the Douglas fir brandy and the elderflower of St. Germain to linger in my nose as I sip.
Along with the cocktail is served a selection of cheeses chosen by Patrick Stevens, the cheese manager at Savenor’s. If you don’t know Savenor’s in Cambridge, it’s the butcher and market beloved by Julia Child. Domestic artisanal Gouda, two year old cheddar (both from Vermont), Fromage de Meaux (like camembert) and Tomme Fleur Verte (like chevre or goat cheese) are served on the stunningly simple Jars Ceramics Maguelone rectangular platter. The black matte glaze sets off the pale cheeses to delicious effect.
You can’t serve cheese without wine. ((Well, you probably can, but that’s not how we roll at Didriks.)) Maureen Rubino, one of the four owners of Central Bottle in Cambridge, made some bold, contemporary choices for our dinner: Montes Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile), Liveli Primero Salento (Italy), and Arbanta Rioja (Spain). I discuss these wines in more detail in the accompanying Dinner Series blog, “A Brief Education on Contemporary Wines with the English Butler”, with my guest wine connoisseur, Alan Long, the self-describe English Butler, wine aficionado, and gastronomic gourmet. The man knows wine (and a lot of other things) and you can find out what I learned here.
But the real star of the dinner had to be Melissa, chef de jour, starting with her stuffed cucumber cups filled with Melissa’s favorite coleslaw recipe (her Aunt Tina’s) that makes an ingenious and delicious use of ramen noodles. Using the Rosle vertical canelle knife, she peeled away thin cucumber rinds, cut the cucumber into one to one and a half inch cylindrical blocs using Berti knives, then used the Rosle melon/potato baller to carve out perfectly round cups to hold the coleslaw.
I just want to add here that while helping Melissa cut the cucumber and tomatoes and later using the steak knives during dinner, I experienced firsthand how incredible are the Berti knives: incredibly sharp, offering the most agreeable hand feel and visual appeal.
Melissa also made warm pepperoni bread. I had been looking forward to this bread since seeing it on the menu in preparation for the dinner and she didn’t disappoint: the bread is crisp on the outside and filled with moist bread and slices of savory pepperoni on the inside, the perfect complement to the cool and refreshing stuffed cucumber cups.
Dinner begins with Cobb salad served wedge style with a disk of iceberg lettuce topped with all the salad toppings and pre-made ranch dressing from Pemberton Farms in Cambridge. This is followed by steak from the famous Savenor’s Market, "Old Bay" grilled steak fries, and corn on the cob with dill butter. For those of you who are new to Old Bay seasoning, it’s a spice mix made of 13(!) different spices and herbs in the Bobby Flay’s adaptation of the original 18 spices and herbs recipe. It’s unique to New England and often used as a crab and shrimp seasoning. Clearly great on vegetables like potatoes, too.
In spite of Melissa having to improvise the preparation with the outdoor grill out of commission due to meteorological evils, the steak is the faultless confluence of a great cut of rib-eye from a fabulous butcher, seasoned perfectly, and broiled to perfection. The Berti steak knife seems to glide through the meat and it melts in my mouth. I’m not a big red meat eater and can usually count the number of times I have a steak during the year on one hand. If this is the only steak I have till the end of 2011, I’ll still be happy.
The meal is rounded off with a table setting change (go here for our second table setting for this dinner) and a dessert simple dessert of brownies and vanilla ice cream by Toscanini’s, a simple but delicious combination, served in iittala Ultima dessert bowls. These bowls are beautifully crafted with tactile interest created by the dripping glass look on the exterior that makes me think of a cold drink sweating in the summer heat.
After dinner, the conversation still flowing with the wine, we wend our way up the stairs to have another peak at the glorious view from the rooftop patio. Rain continues, but the nighttime view is stunning. And yet I don’t think any of us felt as if the dinner was made any less enjoyable because of the change in venue. If anything, the view was the cherry on top of a great meal and lovely company.