Last week my workmates and I received an impromptu Christmas invitation to an evening of champagne and strawberries at the home of an ex-workmate, and wonderful friend (GS and her husband S). The text was “Champs and strawberries…can anyone come?” You betcha, we were all there! And it turned out to be a delightful gathering together of the old team from work, and just what we needed after a horrid year of workplace restructuring. GS is one of those rare people whom it is a real honour to know and we all miss her dearly at work. Our workplace is certainly much less fun without her.
The brevity of text messaging belied the true nature of the evening – we went expecting bubbly wine and strawberries, and instead we were treated to a banquet! Much of it was home-made. GS and her husband really went all out with their hospitality.
We gathered outside on the deck to enjoy the balmy, still evening. We were treated to champagne (always a topped up glass), and nibbles – camembert cheese and crackers, and cashew nuts with a spicy coating. To cater especially for the vegetarians, we had dolmades which is a Turkish dish. The name means ‘stuffed’, and they are traditionally vine leaves, that encase a mixture of rice and herbs. Instead of the dark green grape leaves, we had ours wrapped in cabbage leaves. They were bite sized and plated up beautifully with individual spoons*. Also for vegetarians we had celery with cream cheese and relish (most likely home-made). We had scrumptious walnuts that had been baked with a coating of tabasco sauce, five spice, and a list of other spices. But I am not going to publish the recipe because it is a recipe from GS’s friend and I would not like to impinge on permissions and reveal the secrets. (But I did get the recipe!)
EJ with her excellent memory for random curious facts, helped out by diligent watching of the television programme QI, came out with the term “condensation nuclei”. We all needed this concept explained to us. It is the small impurities on the inside of the wine glass, such as tiny specks of dirt, that the bubbles form around. Apparently this is backed up by photographic techniques that have proved that it is these impurities that create the bubbles.
Then came dinner of a ‘slider’. We needed this term explained to us as well. I thought this sounded very much like the name of an alcoholic shot of liqueur, but it turns out that a ‘slider’ is a mini-burger. We were each presented with a ciabatta bread bun, filled with braised asparagus (which was beautifully cooked and fresh), with mayonnaise and avocado for the vegetarians, and the non-vegetarians had freshly cooked fish added into theirs.
Then more treats as dessert was brought outside. Our eyes lit up when we saw a rich chocolate cake with chocolate icing and topped with beautiful gold flakes (this is really classy stuff!) The cake was accompanied by a huge bowl of whole strawberries covered in homemade elderflower water, and a divine homemade icecream with toasted flaked almonds. I wish I had a photo of it all.
We sat outside until darkness began to encroach. We all had such a lovely impromptu evening with a great host and hostess and great company. It must have taken the hosts most of the day to prepare all the food and we are all very grateful for the effort and thoughtfulness. Also it was very healing to laugh and joke and feel the camaraderie again with the whole team like we had in the the ‘old days’ at work.
Not only did we have a great time, but we also received a free food education at the same time! That’s exactly what we have come to expect from GS, she’s always up with the food trends, and knows how to throw a good party. Thanks heaps, and lots of love xxx.
*Having read up on this, ‘dolmades’ is generally accepted as the name for this dish, but ‘sarma’ is the correct term because it pertains to specifically wrapping the leaf around the food.
The evening was totally “Tweetworthy”.
If my workmates ever read this, they will get the joke.