"Excuse me, but is this vegan?"
I drank too much wine last night. I ate too much cake, and too much food in general. I stayed up too late and had too much caffeine. So how come the amount of fun I had was just right?
The boyfriend and I threw a small dinner party last night. Because I love to cook, I enjoy the preparation of dinner parties sometimes more than the event itself (which wasn’t the case last night, but I’ll admit I’ve sweated over a meal for days only to provide it to its intended guests, then wished I could hide upstairs with some hummus and carrot sticks and original Star Trek.)
Catering provided by Play-doh
Last night’s meal consisted of curried vegetable pasties, asparagus with nutmeg hollandaise, and a raspberry-chocolate flourless cake with homemade whipped cream. Naked ladies dancing with abandon beneath a decaying Sun*. I was most proud of the cake. You know how sometimes you’ll taste a dessert and you immediately feel that you’re doing something so wrong but it feels so right? I guess the word is sinful. You’re stomach screams “This is blasphemy!” but your taste-buds whimper, “Do it again…!” (If you’re interested, I’ve included the recipe below.)
As my regular readers would assume, I have a ready-made playlist for just such an occasion. The right music for a dinner party is a tricky thing – you don’t want anything that stands out too much and distracts the conversation, however, if talk does cease and there’s silence, whatever music playing should be delightful enough to remark upon. In a world where tastes differ so wildly, it’s important to stick to genres that some may not be enthusiastic over, but few are offended by. So no polka. I know, I effwording love polka. Who couldn’t love this…
It also means no Joni Mitchell, one of my “desert island picks”, but is an artist who’ll divide a room every time. In fact, even fans of Joni Mitchell will fight with other fans of hers, just over what period of her work is being considered. Joni Mitchell fans are like fervent Protestants, splintering into devoted but warring factions.
(PS - The correct answer is all of the above.)
Below are some artists I find fit nicely into the background of any dinner party. Bon appetite.
*This sentence was included for the benefit of readers who find blogs about cooking boring. You’re welcome.
RECIPE FOR CHOCOLATE FLOURLESS CAKE WITH RASPBERRY GLAZE
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 sticks (plus 3 tablespoons) butter
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 small jar of your favorite raspberry jam
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Spray the paper with cooking spray, too, then set the pan aside.
Whisk together 6 eggs and set aside.
Place two-thirds (8 ounces) of the chocolate and 1 cup (2 sticks) of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Stirring often, melt chocolate with butter until completely blended. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl.
Add sugar to chocolate and mix well. Slowly add eggs, quickly whisking into chocolate as you go. Sift cocoa into bowl and stir.
Pour batter into pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes - until cake has risen and top has formed a thin crust. The cake should be just firm in the center when done.
Cool for 10 minutes, then invert onto a plate, removing sides of springform pan. Remove and discard parchment paper and set cake aside to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the glaze: Melt remaining 4 ounces chocolate and 3 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in raspberry jam. Set aside to cool slightly.
When cake has cooled, pour glaze onto the center, then smooth glaze along the top and sides of the cake. Add fresh raspberries to the top, pointed side of berry up. Chill cake, uncovered, for 30 to 60 minutes before serving to set the glaze and make the cake easier to slice.
After it's half-eaten, it will look like this: