Lorna's Birthday Dinner 2014

Such a wonderful and peculiar feast was this one!

Orange Hazelnut Buttercream Torte

Lorna had only two requests, but they are two of the trickiest and most time-consuming recipes that I make. The Lobster Cardinal is a decadent luxury from the Escoffier Cookbook that requires a flurry of last-minute preparation. The Orange Hazelnut Buttercream Torte is a brilliant cake from Please to the Table that requires numerous steps performed over several hours, with waiting time in between.

No obvious theme for the menu was suggested by the two requests. The lobster dish is a pre-WWI era fancy dish with black truffles, a creamy sauce, and many steps. The cake is a Russian fancy cake. For a wine, I considered a Viognier but opted instead for the classic Veuve Clicquot as the better accompaniment to the classic recipe.

Lobster Cardinal

Actually, one theme emerged loud and clear. This would be an expensive dinner. The truffle alone cost $40. I used 6 lobsters in all: four selects for serving, plus two more quarters for the meat. In addition to the Champagne, I brought up a 2001 Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale Oro. This was a big birthday, so I didn't mind the expense, but it didn't help to develop a theme.

Ultimately I realized that these superstars needed no theme; they would make a show just coming onstage. In fact, the Lobster Cardinal would require a dedicated oblong plate for each diner anyway. I made some Braised Chestnuts to accompany the lobster, but ended up serving them early.

Cheeses from PA, NY, and CT

We had acquired some cheeses during our recent travels. In fact we were way behind schedule on tasting them! We had some from our Pennsylvania expedition that we were very eager to try, plus a couple from upstate New York and a couple more from Connecticut.

We were in danger of becoming buried under all that cheese, and it had been forever since we'd had a cheese tasting with Richmond and Annette, so I added that as the first course. There was one clear favorite, but then we were all over the map selecting our second- and third-favorites.

I will describe the cheese tasting in a separate post here.

Cape Cod, Macomber, and Gilfeather turnips

That all made for a heavy dinner, so I wanted some other vegetable, something lighter, not in a cream sauce or sauteed in butter.

I had lucked into three varieties of local New England turnips (Cape Cod, Macomber, and Gilfeather), so I steamed those and served them with a little parsley. Everyone agreed that they had different flavors, but we differed on selecting a favorite. I describe that in a separate turnip post.

So here's how it unfolded: