This December, for our annual holiday dinner, we gathered at Jonathan's house at a table inspired by the glittering veil of fresh snowfall--although we haven't had any yet. We set chrome iittala Piano Workshop flatware and light-scattering Kosta Boda Limelight plates on slightly wrinkled white Libeco Home table linen and white Chilewich lattice placemats that sparkle like snow crystals. Like a blanket of fresh snow, the setting was simple and clean, with candlelight from iittala Kivi votives reflecting off the etched patterns in the Kosta Boda plates and the iittala Ultima highballs, with feet like beads of ice. And like the setting, the food provided by JJ Gonson of Cuisine en Locale represented a return to the essentials, with a focus of delicious ingredients and simple, hearty preparation.
We started with a lobster aioli salad salad. JJ has a knack for sourcing the best possible ingredients. For this dish, she got pre-cooked lobster meat from Alive & Kicking Lobsters, apple cider vinegar from Shelburne Farms in Stow MA, and Maine pressed oils (check them out here). The salad was plated on a Kosta Boda Limelight salad plate, with a sauce of butternut squash and locally distilled vanilla, small shaped puff pastries from New York bakery Dufour, a whole lobster claw, and celery leaf. Pink champagne in Schott Zwiesel Diva Champagne flutepicked up the color of the tender lobster, enhanced by JJ's light and flavorful aioli.
Next up was the soup. JJ said "one of the reasons we're having trouble nutritionally is because we don't make bone broths anymore." It's for this reason she doesn't even have a can opener in her kitchen. She stuck to her word with this hearty winter soup of beef, turkey, and chicken stock, as well as squash, cattle beans, carrots, and chipotle peppers (which she gets from a local guy who over-ripens, dries, and smokes his own jalapeños). A garnish of roasted mole peppers gave it some kick, with extras passed at the table for those who wanted even more. We slurped JJ's delicious broth from iittala Teema pasta bowls. Yes, they work for soup too, and were just the right size for this soup was too good for a small portion.
JJ roasted a beautiful and aromatic leg of lamb from Stillman's at the Turkey Farm, serving it on a bed of grains with meaty beans and cider-poached carrots. A dollop of a simple yogurt and feta sauce topped the perfectly cooked medallions of lamb, while a thick wedge of roasted red cabbage flanked its side. A simple, palette cleansing salad of kale, pear slices, and cranberries on an iittala Teema salad plate followed the lamb. A light dressing of mustard oil, ginger, and honey added just enough sweetness to the dense greens.
And then we set our eyes on the cake that Atusa at the Bittersweet Cake Shop in Woburn baked and decorated especially for us. Melissa simply gave her an idea of the snow inspired table setting she was planning and she came up with a gorgeous carrot cake covered in an icy blue fondant. Bittersweet airbrushed it so that the whole thing gave off a light sparkle. We sat it on a Kosta Boda Limelight cake plate to complete the cake's shimmering effect. A large fondant snowflake decorated the cake's top, picking up the white from the Jars Vuelta dessert plates we served it on.
Over dinner we talked about Latif and Natalia's wedding next year in Morocco (where we're sure the food will be amazing and Rich's recent lack of bento box lunches. (See a week's worth here, from when his wife Toyoko wasn't visiting family in Japan.) Being in retail, we're used to nondenominational holidays and we're happy to have it that way if it means hearty winter meals and contemporary, snowfall inspired tables like this. We're hoping for a white holiday.
See all the photos from the dinner on our flickr.