Monday, January 7, 2019

Day 7: we dinner party

6:15 p.m.

OMGYOUGUYS I have exactly half an hour to get this written before it's time to head out to our friends' house. For tonight: we dine.

This evening will actually incorporate a few firsts: first time seeing our friends' new place, first time eating a new dish by Nat and Nigel, first time bringing a mocktail to a dinner (with the possible exception of the Great Watermelon Agua Fresca debacle of 2017 - the recipe I chose from Breddos cookbook to take to my cookbook club - though that hardly counts because we were adding spirits within the first round so that was more like bringing a MIXER).

For tonight's beverage, I made mint lemonade (what better way to use up the bag of lemons slowly shrivelling in the fridge?), added a dash of coconut cream, and then blitzed the whole thing in the blender with a punnet of strawberries - an addition I couldn't resist when I found heavenly-smelling ripe ones at the green grocer when picking up the mint. The blitzing was an unholy mess - I was too impatient/short of time to let the lemonade cool before tossing it in and it was just GEYSER town, hot pink juice shooting everywhere. (AGAIN, JUST LIKE THE GREAT WATERMELON AGUA FRESCA DEBACLE OF 2017. It's like I'm cursed. THIS is why I only bring wine to parties.) Despite my hasty attempts at cleaning, every surface is vaguely sticky now. AND THAT'S HOW YOU GET ANTS.

I'm also bringing a starter, but that's more needs-based: I impulse-bought a massive tub of labne at our local Turkish supermarket yesterday and have since realised that it would be impossible to finish a quantity of this nature within the week (it says to eat it all within two days after opening, but I've always been one to push the yogurt-expiration envelope - also, TWO DAYS? Ludicrous; you'd have to be a family of ten to finish a bucket this size in that much time). So: looks like I'm bringing it to dinner! I nabbed some flatbread and then roasted cherry tomatoes to put on top along with olive oil and sumac - basically, an exact replica of a meal we had in Tel Aviv last May that I've been thinking about ever since.

I won't be posting this until after we're back from dinner, so that I can - as I explained to Nat and Nigel - shred them here if their food sucks. Fun times to be had by all!

See you soon!

 . . . . . .

10:25 p.m.

Well, well, well. Looks like our 'friends' know how to 'cook'. Not only that, but they've moved to a gorgeous building on the edge of Victoria Park:

Those huge windows, ugh. Who even NEEDS all that natural light? We live in a cold, dark basement, where decent goblins belong. 

And THEN, they had the nerve to make it gorgeous inside, too: 

These jerks.

And then we get to the dinner portion of the evening. I'll show you my labne starter first just to get it out of the way: 

Nigel's blood-orange infused olive oil paired beautifully with the sumac. Not pictured, because the guys devoured the bulk before I arrived (sprinting, panting, late, I did manage to sweep up the last handful): tasty plantain chips. 

Then we get to the main course: jerk sweet potato and black bean curry

Lawwwwwd. In the spirit of Tryanuary, they chose to make a dish that was new to them, too. Which as any dinner party host knows, is a terrifying chance to take, because if it doesn't work . . . WELL HAVEN'T YOU JUST EMBARRASSED YOURSELF, NOBODY'S GOING TO TRUST YOU IN THE KITCHEN EVER AGAIN. Back to the basement with you!

But because it's Natalya, and it was beautifully and thoughtfully prepared, the food was great; explosions of flavour in every bite.

It was ridiculously good. Like, ridiculous. Al had at least three servings. We immediately nabbed the recipe, which you can find here. (Chef's tip: Nat says to roast the sweet potatoes first.)

And then - as though that wasn't enough - she made Jacques Pepin's country apple galette

This, by the way, all on a WEEKNIGHT. As you do. She insists she took a shortcut with store-bought pastry, but I think she knew I was *thisclose* to walking out.

Needless to say, we won't be speaking to these people again - at least not until it's our turn to host, when we'll order a takeaway and decant it into bowls and pretend we made it. 

And then we walked home through Victoria Park: 

So lovely and spooky at night; I'm glad we're neighbours now just for moments like these. 

Stay tuned for tomorrow, when I'm actually going to see Natalya again for a class she swears by: aerial hooping. What is this woman DOING to me?

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