A Taste for Romance

Q San Francisco
March 1998
Pages 43-44

A Taste for Romance

romanceIt is tempting, for an issue on pets, to be twistedly evil and write a column on Barbecued Basset or Grilled Guinea Pig. I could perhaps even suggest some wines to pair with Neon Tetra Sushi. On the other hand, I could go the cute route and offer up some recipes for Sautéed Friskie Kibbles or Tuna-Liver Mousse for your Abyssinian.

Last year at this time I helped you plan a seduction dinner. This year, I offer a romantic dinner for those of us who are single and think we like it that way. It’s just like in the movies. You prepare a beautiful candlelit dinner – incredible food, great wine – and you raise your glass to, well, yourself. Perhaps you offer a toast to Fido or Fluffy.

So what’s the perfect seduction dinner for the one you love the most? Caviar and Champagne is a must for the start of the evening. I am particularly fond of osetra caviar–not the most expensive, beluga–but I think the most flavorful. A nice three ounce tin should be just about right, especially if you’d forgotten that you made a date for the evening. A dab of creme fraiche, similar to but more elegant than sour cream, and perhaps a small sprinkling of chopped chives make it just perfect. Eat slowly, savoring each spoonful, alternating with sips of Heidsieck Monopole’s Diamant Bleu, my current choice for imported bubbly. If you want to stick closer to home, the L’Ermitage from Roederer Estate in Anderson Valley is particularly delightful.

Chocolate and foie gras seem an unlikely combination, but who can resist either? Doing a riff on an idea from the chefs at the Four Seasons Hotel, here is a delicious hot soup that combines the two.

Mexican Chocolate Soup with Foie Gras Toasts
(for 2, just in case)

1 pound porcini mushrooms
1 large shallot
1 tablespoon butter
3 cups of water
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 ounces Mexican chocolate
4 ounces foie gras mousse
raisin bread

Coarsely chop the mushrooms and finely chop the shallot. Sauté in butter over low heat with a sprinkling of salt till most of the moisture has evaporated. Add water, bring to a boil, and simmer until reduced to half the volume. Add milk, chocolate and thyme, and heat through till chocolate has melted and is thoroughly mixed in. Season with salt to taste. Be sure to use Mexican chocolate, which has bits of almond and cinnamon that provide additional seasoning already in it. For the raisin bread, I like those little “cocktail” loaves. Trim the crusts, toast the slices and serve warm with foie gras mousse spread on them. Dipped in the soup, well, I told you it would work. Keep sipping champagne.

There is a somewhat odd, but rather seductive drink called a Black Velvet. It’s made by mixing equal parts of Guinness Stout and Champagne. I find it useful in cooking a particularly tasty dish.

Black Velvet Beef Filet
(for 2, just because)

2 4-ounce beef filets
1 pint Guinness Stout
1 pint Champagne
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cold butter, diced

Mix half each of the stout and champagne together in a container big enough to hold the filets. Rub the filets with the salt and peppercorns and marinate in the liquid for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Sear the beef over high heat in the olive oil till browned on all sides. Add the remaining stout and champagne to the pan, cover, reduce heat and braise the meat until very tender — about 1-1/2 hours. Remove the meat and set it aside. Over high heat, reduce the remaining liquid till it is about half a cup. Whisk in butter till sauce is smooth. Serve over the beef, accompanied by your choice of veggies, potatoes, rice, or whatever you (or whomever may have happened by) like(s). Open a nice bottle of a lighter Bordeaux or California Meritage – personal choices would be, respectively, Chateau Kirwan and Mount Veeder Reserve.

You simply must treat yourself to a really good cheese course. At this point, I’d opt for a selection of blue cheeses. This might be the perfect moment to compare Roquefort, Gorgonzola and Stilton, like you’ve always wanted to. Continue to drink your red wine.

Dessert is a must, of course.

Figs, I think.

Honeyed Figs with Amaretto Cream
(Serves…well, you know)

4 ripe, fresh figs
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup armagnac
1/4 cup red wine
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 clove & 1 cinnamon stick
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons amaretto

Quarter the figs and place in a heatproof glass bowl. Bring honey, armagnac (or other brandy), red wine, zests, clove and cinnamon stick to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour over figs and let stand till cool. Refrigerate overnight. Whip cream with sugar and amaretto till stiff. Serve over figs. There should be enough left over in case whomever dropped by wants to stay and play.

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.


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