Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Four Flights of Foodie Fun

At last year's Scruffy City Soiree, the annual Knox Heritage fundraiser, Dennis Perkins, Sam George, Vicki Baumgartner, and I auctioned off a wine dinner we called Four Flights Up--with the plan being to serve a course on every level of the four story townhouse downtown where I live with husband Bill and kitty Caesar. Jim Samples, the winning bidder, his wife Margaret, and six other guests recently came for an  evening Cynthia Moxley described from the guests' perspective on her blog, The Blue Streak.

Think of this as our version of "Upstairs, Downstairs" or "Downton Abbey"---Here's what was happening downstairs and behind the scenes. Believe me, the staff had as good a time as the guests.

A few hours before guests were due to arrive, I ran out to Hilltop Vineyard to pick up some bread. Here are co-owners, James J. Molchan and Mory Gomez, with my huge half loaf. Yes, half loaf.

Back at the house, Dennis created the garnishes for the cucumber martini and the gin mojito, which were served during the 1st course--outside in the mews.

I organized the plates, utensils, and glassware needed to serve five courses on four levels.

Sam worked his magic on all the tables--This one in the living room was used for the 3rd course

And through the French doors, another one in the den, also for the 3rd course.

Sam brought orchids for the bedroom, where we served the 4th course.

While the guests enjoyed the 1st course (cheese platter and refreshing summer drinks) we prepped the 2nd course: summer shrimp cocktail and prosciutto-wrapped melon.

As with every course, we saved some leftovers for the staff.

Here is the staff enjoying the leftovers. L to R--Dennis Perkins, Sam George, Vicki Baumgartner, and Cliff Wright, Sam's friend who was visiting from Atlanta and was a great addition to the team. Note the comfy footwear on everyone. Very important when you're running up and down stairs!

We also had some staff wine.

Here's Vicki working on the green bean tepees,

Dennis checking on the summer squash risotto,

and Sam and Cliff garnishing the plates for the 3rd course.

Getting those green bean tepees to stand up just right was a challenge. Great job, Vicki & Sam!

Garnishing the meringue gateau (the 5th course, served on the roof) was much easier.

With five of us working, clean up wasn't bad.

Caesar showed up to help us celebrate another successful wine dinner.

We raised money for Knox Heritage, and both guests and staff enjoyed themselves.

Four flights of foodie fun--that's what we're having.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Some Yummy Dim Sum

I'm not sure whose idea it was, but it was a good one--a field trip to Little Szechuan on Kingston Pike just west of Gallagher View for dim sum, served there on Saturdays and Sundays. Meeting me there were Dennis Perkins, Randall DeFord and Wes Goddard, and Kim Trent accompanied by Spencer and Kate.

Exuberant Kate showed off her new dress and shoes. Note the groovy pink "feet" shoes on her feet. More about feet later!

We quickly got down to the fun business of deciding what to have from the carts continually stopping by the table. Here are some things we liked.

Shrimp Dumplings

Tofu Skin Stuffed with Pork

Shrimp Roll

The green beans and broccoli rabe, shown here with a beef dumpling, were a big hit--especially the green beans. We liked them so much we ordered another round.

We all liked the egg custard. I got high marks from my table mates for my ability to use a chopstick to slice through anything, the better to share bites.

Along with the green beans, the BBQ pork buns were one of our favorites.

The sesame buns with red bean paste got mixed reviews.

So did the eggplant and shrimp.

Here are Kim and Randall.

Here's Spencer--who said his favorite was the BBQ pork buns. That's Kate in the background drinking tea and eating a big bowl of rice.

Dennis, who is known for his adventurous palate, ordered beef and tripe soup.

Kate made a face when Dennis explained what tripe is. This led to a conversation about different cultural tastes that got weirder and weirder (a sheep's head bento box?) until Kim pleaded with us to move on to another topic.

I'm not a fan of tripe, but the broth was tasty. I enjoyed some broccoli rabe along with a peppery turnip fished from the broth.

Mostly on a dare, Dennis ordered steamed chicken feet. Here he is getting ready to try one.

"It's weird, " he said after a couple of bites. "What's weird about it?" asked Kim. His response: "It's weird that you have a chicken foot in your mouth." Still, he ate the whole thing.

Wes was the next to try a chicken foot.

Kate was almost persuaded to eat a foot, but in the end she passed. Kim and I decided that if the feet were Southern fried like frog legs, we would be more likely to try them. Fried fixes everything, right?

At the end, all that was left was a chicken foot, a piece of eggplant, and a couple of green beans.

And all our plates looked like this.

Dim sum with a table full of friends is fun and economical. Our split bill was around $11 per person (not counting Kate). Don't worry if you don't like tripe or chicken feet. You'll find plenty of dumplings and buns and such--and you should definitely try the green beans.

Some yummy dim sum. That's what we're having.