The dining room is darkened. Silence.
The sudden low electrical hum as a spotlight suddenly appears in the centre of the floor, dust pirouettes lazily in the glow.
An appreciative gasp from the audience as I stride into the limelight, contemptuous of the stir I've just caused. I strike a pose, and hold it. Clad head to toe in a body hugging black Lycra catsuit, my athletic dancer outline broken only by my leg warmers and the stick I use to beat on the floor for emphasis as I spit out "Fame costs, and right here is where you start paying"...I strike a 'jazz hands' position. The audience gasps, then hushed silence as strange rhythmic music, played on a bongo begins to drift out of the darkness.
I begin my routine with a daring crotch splitting high kick and spin...
*Sound of a needle skidding across the track*
No silly people.
Not the 1980's TV Show 'Fame'!
The fame that comes from having a recipe from Montpelier Basement featured in Xanthe Clay's column in The Telegraph. And, if that wasn't enough, Fiona Beckett the new Guardian wine columnist (and food writer) coming to our second supper and giving us a stonking write up on her blog, kind of fame!
To say 'E' and I are chuffed silly would be a complete understatement. Cheesy grins, high-fives and backslaps all round.
Although, not quite as good as me dancing gracefully in a body hugging leotard I think you'll all agree, but it's up there.... it’s certainly up there.
So, the second supper was superb (has a nice ring to it don’t you think?)
As you can see, the final menu featured pumpkin in every course (as it was Halloween...err...almost), but it was all quite subtle.
The Montpelier Basement - Saturday 30th October.
Sherry served with Gorwydd Caerphilly, thyme, chilli and pumpkin dust gougère
Bertinet rustic rye bread with West Country butter
Pumpkin and sage soup with deep fried sage, brown butter and chilli
Baked Cornish haddock with pumpkin crust, leeks and white wine sauce.
Onglet with pumpkin jam and polenta chips
Mushroom and Old Demdike tatin with thyme, chestnuts and squash
Spiced pumpkin and pecan cake with mascarpone, honey and toasted pecans
Gorwydd Caerphilly and Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout Rarebit
Quite an adventurous menu I'd say, given that we only have a domestic kitchen to crank it all out from. We had all eleven guests seated at one table stretching the length of the room, rather than split up onto separate tables. The problem with this arrangement is how to get eleven plates of food out all at once, and all hot with only limited hob and oven space. But with careful planning, flow charts, pie charts, spreadsheets and a white board, 'E' managed to drill into my dense skull exactly how this could be achieved. But more about that later.
Before our guests arrived, we'd laid the table, lit the wood fire which was roaring away, throwing a nice warm flicker around the room, lit the candles and finally - as it was Halloween (well almost) we'd borrowed a projector and had old black and white horror films playing on one of the dining room walls. It worked really well and added a really superb atmosphere to the dining room.
First up - the Gorwydd Caerphilly, thyme, chilli and pumpkin dust gougère, which we served as nibbles with sherry. The basic gougère recipe I've blogged before here, but we substituted Caerphilly for Cheddar, added some Thyme and dusted with chilli flakes and blitzed toasted pumpkin seeds.
After some beautiful Bertinet rye bread, we served a small portion of pumpkin and sage soup ('E' now has her own blog, and has helpfully put the recipe up here). We decorated this with chilli flakes and deep fried sage leaves .
Next, we were both especially pleased with the baked Cornish haddock with pumpkin crust, leeks and white wine sauce. It looked really elegant and tasted incredible (we made an extra portion for ourselves). It was actually a bastardised Gary Rhodes recipe from my old favourite 'New British Classics'. He uses Halibut and serves it in much bigger portions.
We had one vegetarian diner, and 'E' had made them a superb Mushroom and Old Demdike tatin with thyme, chestnuts and squash. We'd used a mixture of chestnut mushrooms, Portobello and for added luxury (it was an alternative to steak after all) sliced fresh ceps. This was layered through with Old Demdike cheese and thyme. We served it with the same pumpkin jam (Made the previous night) and polenta chips that we served with the Onglet.
The steak presented us with something of a problem. How to cook eleven massive slabs of Onglet, and then rest them.... to serve all at the same time, hot with only four hobs. Helpfully, the head chef at Source Food Hall & Cafe presented the solution to us. Pre-sear the Onglet first, and then whack all of it on a baking tray, covered with foil into the oven and cook until medium rare. A technique that worked beautifully. (Source incidentally supplied us with both the freshest Cornish Haddock, as well as the superb Onglet and Ceps).
Unfortunately, not everything was as easily worked around. The Polenta chips that we served with the onglet were a hell of a lot of work to flour, egg, and coat in panko then fry in small batches. But with head's down and working methodically we ploughed through it.
With the polenta chips fried, me frantically slicing the now rested steak and 'E' artistically smearing the plates with pumpkin jam and plating up, we managed to get the hardest course out. High Five!
Breathing a sigh of relief, and knocking back a celebratory glass of red we plated up the beautifully moist Spiced pumpkin and pecan cake with mascarpone, honey and toasted pecans which 'E' has made the previous evening (recipe here).
I drizzled with honey and artistically scattered toasted pecans whilst 'E' expertly shaped the mascarpone quenelles.
Pudding served we left the confines of the kitchen to sit with our guests, drink as much booze as we could lay our hands on and generally relax a bit and enjoy the atmosphere, with just a brief visit back to the grill to make the final course of Rarebit.
Everything, (surprisingly) had gone extremely smoothly, no tourette like streams of swearing, no panicked shouting and no screams, all of which have so often been the hallmarks of my dinner parties. Just fairly calm hustle in the kitchen.
With the majority of our guests waving unsteady goodbyes at around 1:30am, 'E' and I declared the second supper a bloody good evening, left the mess to clear up in the morning and crawled drunkenly upstairs to bed.
If you fancy attending a future supper at The Montpelier Basement, or would like to be added to our mailing list then send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
We have at least two more dates planned for 2010, the 13th November and 27th November. (And possibly one more date in early December).
We’d love to see you.