Food without memory is just digestion

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Old, but not faded ... Toyama OB's

You will have read here, Gentle Reader, about that merry band of miscreants that goes by the title of the Tokyo Darkside. A gathering of like-minded souls, it serves to celebrate the notion of friendship in a bustling and frenetic Tokyo, where networking can sometimes take the place of genuine companionship and sensible conversation.

But I don't think I have ever paused to pass on the details of another, more exclusive gathering known only to that most pernicious of fringe-dweller: yes, Gentle Reader, I refer to the amateur cook. Were this a documentary, one might insert here a warning about "scenes that are likely to offend" or "do not try this at home". The sad reality is that the Old Bastards is a group founded on the premise that things should be tried at home, and should be done in the company of others.

I confess immediately to being a member of this fraternity. The group aims to meet 3 to 4 times a year at a suitable venue where all can share in the Joy of Cooking, properly hidden from the eyes of strangers. As a general rule, the men cook (except where there is a better suggestion or the slightest hint of talent on the part of the ladies). It is a solemn principle that the wine be both tempting and available in a sort of slatternly alcoholic way, and all must remain dressed for dinner. Spouses are an adornment to the table, and not to be trifled with in any fashion.

The most recent installment of this decadence was 14 June at the home of bon vivant Richard Cohen and his lovely wife Yoshiko in sunny Takaoka, Toyama. I drove down, fully intending to take the Child Bride, but unfortunately leaving her at Narita en route to a date with grandbabies in Brisbane. Regrettable, and quite forgetful of me really!

The meal was a hand-made and self-realized triumph, even if I do say so myself, and testament to the powers of the amateur cook. Could I tempt you, Gentle Reader, into a selection of Italian salami and hams, mightily matched by a freshly made terrine set in pork aspic? Might I follow it with baigai shellfish, treated in a French butter and garlic sauce reminiscent of escargot? What about a cream soup of freshly harvested asparagus, with the tips cooked for just 3 minutes and then set - iced - in the steaming broth? Or wagyu beef, slowly roasted at 150 degrees for just 80 minutes and served with roasted roots and potatoes Hasselbach. And dessert - take fresh figs, poach them in a sugar syrup made from equal parts of water and Sauternes, then treat boysenberries and raspberries similarly in the syrup, and finally allow the luscious liquid to form a natural jelly. Serve in a shortcake basket, and top with cinnamon cream.

The star of the evening was the 1986 Grange, although the Premier Cru Chablis served with the shellfish was a worthy partner and the Rose Champagne up front was a wonderful conversation starter as well.

It's more a perversion than a habit, this little gathering, but one your Humble Correspondent feels bound to uphold and defend so long as life allows. It appears, Gentle Reader, that - after all - I am an Old Bastard and shall very likely die one. Pity really (the dying part) ...

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