The lights are low. No, the lights are off. Candles lit on a beautiful cloth draped table. Crystal glasses. China plates. Real silver. Your best Peggy Lee album is moaning away in the background. The date of your dreams is already sitting at the table.
This is not the moment to bring out the reheated takeout food from the shop down the street. This is your moment to star, to shine, to seduce. You want to be loved not only for you, but your culinary prowess. You want to be introduced to friends not only as cute, smart, and funny, but as someone who can cook, too.
It should look like you worked at it. And you should use every aphrodisiac known to man. Well, at least a few of them. Oysters, caviar, roses, chocolate. Sounds like a winner. I’m going to make this as painless as possible. A four-course seduction dinner that can be made by anyone, whether frying pan challenged or a whisk master.
I should warn you. This is a no expense spared dinner. After all, this is a special night. What’s a couple of weeks’ paychecks in exchange for eternal (or at least a long weekend) happiness? You spent more last month on club entrance fees.
First, the oysters and caviar. Actually, first, the champagne. Pop for a half bottle of Krug Grand Cuvèe. If you want to go domestic, and/or a bit less pricey, and make a subtle (not very) hint, pour out some Iron Horse Vineyards Blanc de Noirs “Wedding Cuvee.” Now just skip dinner and go straight for the bedroom…
Most importantly, have your fishmonger open the oysters for you. There’s nothing worse than struggling to open a dozen fresh oysters in your own kitchen. You probably don’t have an oyster blade and it’s no fun anyway. Just buy them that afternoon.
Now the best thing you could have here would be one of those great cast iron plates on a wood base like you get at the local Sizzler. Otherwise, use a heavy pan. Cover the plate or pan with the salt, about 1/8 inch deep. Set the oysters, each on a half shell, into the salt. Drizzle with champagne. Top with a quick grind of white pepper. Throw it all in a 450 degree oven for five minutes till the oysters just firm up. Top each with a small (demitasse) spoonful of caviar, and serve you and your intended a half dozen apiece.
The next course is the easiest one. It’s taken from an old Italian recipe. I think old Italian women use it to snare husbands for their daughters. It works on non-Italians too.
You have to pluck the rose. That’s all there is to it. It will be a moment to indulge in your Morticia Adams fantasies. Pull those petals right off the flower. Rinse them and dry them.
I prefer serrano ham to prosciutto, but I leave it up to you. Spread the slices out in a fan on your nicest china salad plate. Drizzle with oil and vinegar. Coarsely crack the peppercorns and sprinkle over the plate. Casually strew some marjoram leaves and rose petals over the dish. Serve.
To bring out the rose and spice flavors in this dish, I recommend a Gewurztraminer. This grape is often referred to as the “Don Juan of Alsace,” Alsace being its ancestral home. Women (and occasionally men) are said to swoon just from a sip. My favorite from Alsace comes from Marcel Deiss at his Altenberg vineyards. If your aim is a little closer to home try the Martinelli or Sakonnet Vineyards Gewurztraminer, respectively from California and Rhode Island.
The main course is always the hardest, which is why I left the first two easy. Combining the proverbial partridge, an aphrodisiacal bird if ever there was one, and chocolate, which may just be the queen of seduction, this classic Spanish recipe had better turn the trick, as it were…
If you can’t get partridges, well, let’s face it, you’re not the shopper we thought you were. You can, however, substitute one game hen and split it. Rub the birds with one of the tablespoons of oil. Bake in a roasting pan at 375 degrees for half an hour.
Meanwhile, saute the garlic and onion in the remaining two tablespoons of oil till just golden. Add the wine and cook till it pretty much evaporates. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer over low heat for half an hour. When the birds have baked for thirty minutes, take them out and put them in the pan with the sauce. Continue to simmer, turning the birds, for another 15 minutes. Serve.
This dish calls for something a bit bold to go with the chocolate, garlic and onions in the sauce, but elegant enough for both the partridges and the mood of the evening. Coming from the Bordeaux side of the world, I’d pick Chateau Kirwan from Margaux. From way south of our borders, Bodegas Weinert Cabernet Sauvignon would be high on my list. And for those inclined domestically, I think I’d grab a bottle of William Baccala Estate Merlot.
For dessert, I recommend going light. Remember, you want to have enough energy for after dinner activities. We’ve already filled up with three dishes of food. Poached fruit is the way to go. And what could be more classically seductive than figs and honey?
Melt butter in frying pan over low heat and gently saute the figs for 2 minutes. Mix honey, amaretto and nutmeg together and add to pan. Simmer until amaretto has evaporated and sauce is thickened. Serve warm with a large spoonful of whipped cream. Save the rest of the whipped cream for your after dinner activities.
This is a moment for a small glass of classic sherry. This dish works especially well with E. Lustau Solera Reserva “San Emilio.” In the “also works” category would be a top Vin Santo from Italy, the most prized of which would be Avignonesi Vin Santo Occhio del Pernice. George Bernard Shaw once said, “There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” Starting from there, just imagine your second date…
Seduction Dinner – Appetizer
12 fresh oysters
1 small tin of sevruga or oscetra caviar
a dash of white pepper
Coarse grain salt
1/4 cup of champagne
Seduction Dinner – Antipasto
1/4 pound of thinly sliced serrano ham or prosciutto
1 pink rose
Fresh marjoram leaves
Mixed color whole peppercorns
Good balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Seduction Dinner – Main Course
2 partridges, thoroughly cleaned
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon sherry or balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 small bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
Seduction Dinner – Dessert
4 ripe figs, quartered
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup amaretto
2 tablespoons butter
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups whipped cream
Q San Francisco magazine premiered in late 1995 as a ultra-slick, ultra-hip gay lifestyle magazine targeted primarily for the San Francisco community. It was launched by my friends Don Tuthill and Robert Adams, respectively the publisher and editor-in-chief, who had owned and run Genre magazine for several years prior. They asked me to come along as the food and wine geek, umm, editor, for this venture as well. In order to devote their time to Passport magazine, their newest venture, they ceased publication of QSF in early 2003.