August 15, 2004

a poorly planed dinner

Thursday, August 12

Okay, it was cancelled at the last minute, and today was the day to invite the guest over for dinner.

Before deciding what to make for today, I had asked him to ask them what they cannot (or don't want to) eat; this is something I always consider whenever feeding someone for the first time. I might not be able to always make them something they love, but at least I want to avoid making something they cannot eat or even see.
Unfortunately, he didn't seem to have asked them about it, but I guessed, considering there were meat, fish, and vegetable when we barbecued the other day and everyone seemed to eat a lot, that anything not so eccentric should be okay.

Originally, we were going to make salad, herb-roasted vegetable, porc au cidre, and barbecue chicken. But we had already made two of them just a couple days before, and thought that the same pork dish would be too much (for us), while the salad seemed fine. Then we rethought about the menu and decided that we would make orange-flavored chicken instead of apple pork, and barbecue beef instead of chicken, and the vegetable dishes as planed. We were all set.

We went out to buy some of ingredients that were missing, and came home to start cooking right away. While he prepared orange marinade for the chicken and cut up the vegetable, I prepared beef (half with barbecue and the rest with salt & pepper) and dessert.

A little past 5:30 the guest came. He was a great host who served a little snack and drinks, kept a conversation with his friend and his wife, while at the same time entertained kids with balloon animals. I, on the other hand, did the last-minute rush in the kitchen, occasionally chatting with the guests.

It was at this point when the truth came out. Our guests for this evening, it turned out, would not eat meat except for the father. It was only for us (and well, the father) that they had beef and pork the other night; mother and kids did not eat them. What a disaster, I thought - we had a whole lot of meat but not fish! I felt so bad and so embarrassed. So did him, naturally, who hadn't bothered to ask them about their food preference. It was too late, however, and we had to serve what we had - they were being so nice telling us not to worry, and "we can survive with all the vegetable and rice".

And they did, to my great relief. We roasted a lot of vegetable and it disappeared in seconds (I didn't eat the vegetable at all), and they gave us a lot of raves. The chicken and beef, both of which turned out pretty good, were quickly gone, too (I think he and his friend tried to live on the meat, saving the vegetable for the rest of us). We were all stuffed, and ready for the dessert.

I put the pan in the oven right after I had some food at table with the guests. I made nectarine tart, an application of the peach tart mentioned in Amanda Hesser's book Cooking for Mr. Latte: a food lover's courtship, with recipes (2003, W.W. Norton & Co.) again. It was an easy recipe that tells you to mix up the ingredients of the tart dough directly in a pan, arrange the fruit wedges, and cover them with a layer of crumble-like batter.
This time I used nectarine instead of peach, as I couldn't find readily good peach. I mixed two kinds of nectarine; white and "honeysweet" nectarine. I had already tried white ones, but honeysweet nectarine was a first-timer. They looked pretty much like regular nectarine inside and out; the flesh might have been a beet more orangy. They were very ripe and sweet - I was almost tempted to use the honeysweet kind for the entire tart, as the white ones weren't rightly ripe (some part was still not ripe while other part was rotten, stuff like that).
It sure was easy to make, but took a little long time to bake, especially when we had tired and bored children. The father almost suggested they should go home, but the wife shrugged off; "we are having dessert!"

And here comes the tart. It might have been a bit underbaked (I felt I shouldn't keep them wait any longer - I took it out of oven at 30 minutes, rather than 35-40 minutes as instructed in the recipe), but looked totally fine, and tasted entirely good with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. An 8-inch pan went almost empty with a small piece left, and everyone was happy - including kids and myself.

It was nevertheless bad that we actually served something they couldn't eat in such a major portion, and we promised we would make up for that.


Estelle said...

Chika: I am sur you did your best to please your guest, so you shouldn't feel bad! How were you supposed to know they would not eat meat? I am sur they appreciated the efforts you put in this preparation!

chika said...

Hi Estelle,
thanks a lot for your thoughtful words. I guess they liked the food, and we all enjoyed the evening, and that was the main thing :-)