Hooray! It’s time for another Rambling Restaurant Singles Night featuring an aphrodisiac dinner, so you know things are bound to get hot. Particularly when you have five people in a veryverycozy kitchen and have fresh bread baking in the oven, a giant vat of soup bubbling on the stove, and ten large pork loins popping and fizzing boiling oil all over the place.
Really. Hot. Temperatures. Luckily, there was also a dining room full of really hot people (yes yes, as in extremely attractive) all mixing and mingling on the other side of the curtain. To get their taste buds primed and hearts racing, we served four courses featuring ingredients thought to have aphrodisiac qualities. Of course, both dessert courses featured what is inarguably the most guaranteed aphrodisiac of them all – a large quantity of alcohol. Which is how we started the night as well, with glasses of passionfruit, raspberry and rosebud fizz.
Each cocktail came with a little tag marked with a suit denoting where to sit for your first table, along with some silly icebreaker questions inside to spark conversation or incite passionate debate. Our eleven brave men and eleven brave women scattered amongst four tables to wait for these shiny happy braids of dough…
…to toast to perfection into these lovely browned plaits with a soft and fluffy white interior.
Ripped into chunks wafting thin trails of steam, these rolls dipped and dived into large bowls of rich and creamy Jerusalem Artichoke soup, garnished with a swirl of hazelnut pesto, a flourish of extra virgin olive oil and a twist of crushed black pepper. My apologies for the blinding glare of reflective soup.
While soup was seductively sipped, Michelle and I played with the searing loins. Seriously, that joke kept us entertained throughout the entire dinner service. She and Sarah had busted their asses stuffing and assembling the pork loins over the last few hours and the marscarpone, sage, asparagus, and pancetta – filled rolls were works of art.
Take the pork loin, pound it furiously, and lay it out on a flat surface. Line up your fresh ingredients in a narrow strip lengthwise about two inches in from the edge.
Roll the flattened loin into a narrow tube, keeping the pile of ingredients towards the center, and secure with an array of torturesome looking toothpicks.
And then…ta-da! A beautiful, colorful, and flavorful cross-section of meat, vegetable, and cheese. It’s like all your essential dietary needs in one satisfying bite.
Sear the loins (don’t be restrained here – make it hot and fiery!) for a minute or so on each side until lightly browned, then wack them into the oven until your desired level of doneness.
We served the pretty little meat spirals (prettier in person, I promise) with gravy, roasted potatoes, and a wilted spinach and toasted pine nut salad with a red wine-honey-english mustard dressing.
Following the main course, it was time for more table switching, more new friends, and of course, more food. For dessert, we served a fantastic find of Sarah’s called a St. Valentine’s Syllabub – an old school English pudding, popular from the 16th-19th century, consisting of heavy cream, lemon, brandy, white wine, sugar, and…some other stuff. Since the cream required a lot of arm action to whip and solidify, I handed the bowl over to the lone male in the kitchen and instructed him to ‘beat it until you get a bulky whiteness.’
Uh. Oops. Sexual innuendo so thick you could scoop it with a spoon. And layer it with toasted almonds, juicy red raspberries, and top it with a tuile biscuit heart (in my defense, ‘bulky whiteness’ is exactly what you’re aiming for in the recipe. I did not make that up).
Such adorable tuile hearts, just the right consistency to break or crush or stomp into pieces, as foodrambler said. However, we should also remember that hearts can jiggle and wiggle, bewitch and bewilder, and they can most certainly intoxicate. Especially when served as a Glow-In-The-Heart Gin & Tonic Jelly, as molded by the fabulously inventive jellymonger duo of Bompas & Parr.
Under normal light, it’s an architecturally impressive jello mold that packs the wallop of a silky smooth G&T in one cool and condensed mouthful. Way classier than a cherry red gelatinous mess of jello shot in a Dixie cup.
But it gets so much cooler. Just add blacklight and it glows! It’s like magic! Especially after ingesting many spoonfuls of gin-soaked jello!
We gave one to each table to share and then split another one behind the scenes. And then another. By then, things were starting to get a bit hazy.
Which meant, time to head off to the pub! A Rambling Restaurant Singles Night would never be complete without a proper visit to the pub. At which point this story must end. Can’t give away any secrets! You’ll just have to come along next time…