It’s Hard To Be Us

On Saturday we piled in the car- along with Oren, who took the bus up from the city- and headed to the Berkshires for Richard’s 60th birthday party. It was every bit the party we all knew it would be, and we all brought something since it was a surprise; Susan could not have made anything ahead of time without giving it away. This is a real shame, considering that they have the most unbelievable garden I have ever seen; it’s so big, lavish, and prolific that it drives the rest of us “gardeners” into paroxysms of inadequacy.

When we got there, Andrew (the source of our much-loved sourdough starter) was making pizzas, and we busted out the vat of potato salad we brought (German-style, with copious vinegar, alliums, and a zillion herbs from the garden) and stuffed some Chinon rosé into the fridge. I had sliced a cured duck breast and half our new hunk of bresaola before we left, so I arranged them on some plates and my work was done; after that I busied myself taste-testing the four different pizzas, my charcuterie on pesto-slathered bread, and the vast plater of sashimi that Billy brought up from Mitsuwa and which John sliced up into a thing of beauty. Fresh-grated wasabi makes all the difference.

It was a wonderful night; after much food, and some great wine- 1998 Ciacci “Pianrusso” Brunellos and the 1998 Montiano we brought, among others- we all gathered in the living room to hear the guys (and Oren, of course, and Micro too on sintir for the second set) positively raise the roof. Seeing them in such a small room with only 30 or so people was a treat; the intimacy and familiarity of the setting magnified the energy and it was quite simply as badass an evening as was happening anywhere on Planet Earth at that particular time. Period. Asses were shaken.

Upon return home, we were all pretty beat, so we ordered in from the vegan joint. It’s close, about 200 yards, and good clean food. Today, after a busy afternoon beginning my deer-prevention project, I came in, showered (it’s actually finally hot and summery! At the end of fucking July!) and got to work shucking the dozen oysters I bought this morning when I made the run to get what I needed for the fencing. Since Christine does not love raw oysters, Milo and I ate them all for an appetizer and then I got to dealing with the squid.

Had I not been so late and tired, I would have grilled them, but I was, and so I didn’t. We wandered out into the garden to grab some things (herbs, an onion, fennel, green beans, the biggest damn yellow carrot I’ve ever seen) and I chopped them all up and got them going in a pan so they were fully caramelized and ready for the squid before I threw it in. While they were cooking, I had soaked a bundle of bean threads, and after a minute of tossing the squid with the vegetables I scooped it all out into a bowl and added the noodles and an ice cube of trotter gear to the hot pan for a swab and swirl of all the sticky bits that stayed behind.

I opened a 2007 Château La Noë Muscadet to go with the oysters- a classic combination- and it continued to perform well with the squid. I’m really into Muscadets right now; they’re sharply minerally, but with clean slices of citrus wrapped around the rocks to slake the stony austerity. And at around $12 a bottle, it’s hard to argue with that- especially now that the sun is out.

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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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