A Dinner Party to Honor the Bay Area (by Nathan)
When we lived in Berkeley we cooked a lot of food. We had friends that also cooked quite a bit. It was natural for us to want to cook for each other, and thus the beginnings of frequent feasts. One Saturday afternoon Nalat, Brenda, Carmen and I embarked on a long and strenuous hike in the Berkeley hills. We did not expect to be so hungry, but after hours of no food we wanted to cook something. That night we made a feast of fresh sushi, sashimi salad and onigiri. Rubbing our bellies and sipping on sake we decided to begin the regular dinner party.
The potluck would be alternated between three apartments on a rotating theme chosen by one of the chefs. For almost two years we would have a party every two to three weeks. The themes ranged all types of cuisines, cooking methods and styles. We cooked Chinese, Thai, Japanese (not sushi), French, Indian and we insisted on something stuffed, fermented, barbecued, lucky, vegan or using squash. Some meals required drink pairings, another, a jug from Preston winery as the highlight, a few dinners featured homebrewed beer made by Brenda and Drew. We even had a dinner inspired by the four elements: earth, wind, fire and water. Each dinner was a highlight to our week, a highlight to our month and an experience bringing us closer as friends.
So, when we returned to Berkeley for a few days, there was one thing on all of our minds: when is the dinner party? And more essentially, what would be the theme? Carmen and I chose the theme “Missing the Bay Area.” The idea was to cook something that we could not live without from the Bay Area. The general theme among all of us was the freshness of the ingredients. The produce available here is unparalleled, farm to table is actually possible; I walked from talking to North Bay farmers at the market to the Brenda’s kitchen knowing exactly where my vegetables came from.
Highlighting the freshness of the ingredients, I made stuffed squash blossoms over early girl tomatoes and avocado. I also picked up a slice of Humbolt Fog cheese that we smothered in sliced almonds and honey. Carmen contributeda lemon, almond tea cake based on one from Tartine Bakery.
Rancho Gordo beans are delicious, Brenda stewed a handful of ingredients together into a salty savory concoction deserving of seconds and thirds. She also made a David Lebovits inspired fig and raspberry tart with Tcho chocolate drizzled over the top.
The abundance of seafood in San Francisco is amazing. Nalat recreated a chapino that she loves from the North Beach neighborhood with mussels and crab legs. We cracked open a few oysters and topped them with a mignonette.
Drew put together a fig, prosciutto and arugula pizza and shared some of his hoarded Siduri wine.
We ate, we drank, and then we had a little more. As always, the meal was a feast of delightful cuisines and treats. We slept overly full, but dreamt hungrily of our next dinner party.