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Thursday, September 15, 2011

return to our fave clients for a dinner this Friday in Berkeley

About a year ago, i received a phone call from a friend, Nikolay Georgiev, an amazing landscape architect. He had just started a project for a couple in the Berkeley hills and said the client were vegetarians, wonderful people and wanted food for their garden opening party. A day or 2 later a phone call came in from a very friendly woman with a delightful New Zealand accent asking if she and her husband can come over and meet and talk about food for their party.  Apparently Nikolay had been raving about me and they seemed rather excited about this meeting as was i after such an exuberant call.   Couple of mornings later, 2 very friendly faces showed up for a lunch tasting. Within minutes i felt like i was among friends, not just a potential client. Obviously they were enjoying the samples we were offering them and the 2 of them and Cori and i were having a lot of fun talking about food and many other things. At one point he asked me about my shirt i was wearing (FC St Pauli's 100 year anniversary shirt) and it turned out he was also a huge soccer fan, a former left back and a serious follower of Arsenal FC, an English team i also admire.   The look on Cori's face when he said his team was Arsenal was hilarious as i could tell she was afraid he was going to say Chelsea.

Not only did we get hired for the garden party as they came over to talk about but they also hired us for another party that would take place a couple of weeks from this first meeting. Both of which were truly delightful events! They have a beautiful home in the Berkeley Hills, with a stunning panoramic view of the bay from their main room and balcony. The kitchen is small but designed by someone who knew how to cook and they have a great stove oven and griddle! The serving areas are very spacious as the main room is quite large with no beams or poles, thus a large open space with high ceilings  overlooking the bay. Sunsets are absolutely spectacular!  And like performing music on stage, one truly feels the energy of the audience....

Every time i cater or work as a chef at a party, i know fully well that i am the hired help. And often one is treated like the hired help as soon as they arrive, being put in their place with class distinctions pointed out relentlessly, sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes not. Other times i show up and my staff and i are treated with great respect, showing  appreciation for our skills and artisan approach.  There is a huge difference! Sometimes we are never allowed to see or interact with guests or obviously it has to be kept minimal.  (Sometimes we want it to be minimal as well in some situations). And other times guests are in the kitchen observing, joking and checking us out, enthusiastically, particularly if they are cooks themselves. And on unique situations as with this client (i think of them these days as friends more than as clients!), it is insisted that you interact with their friends and family, to the point where as soon as your work is complete you are in the party, 10 year old glass of wine in hand, enjoying the company of friendly people from around the world. Not often i find mysef on a balcony overlooking a winter sunset with a British Parliament member talking to me about his hometown of Bolton.

So i am always enthusiastic to cook for these 2 wonderful people and their friends!

here is what i am preparing this Friday, somewhat inspired by their recent trip to Catalonia and Spain.

chilled roasted corn soup with saikyo miso, saffron and red shiso pesto (my latest blog post is this recipe)

fresh beans (cranberries, garbanzos and purple string beans) marinated in olive oil, sherry vinegar, oregano, thyme with fennel, carrots and baby romaine
-Apple cornbread cooked in a skillet

small plate
smoked tofu plate
3 kinds of tofu, marinated and smoked 3 ways (Japanese marinade -apple smoked, sichuan marinade - cherry/oolong tea smoked and italian marinade- hickory roasted) with 3 dipping sauces (rasperry mustard, blueberry mustard and regular mustard)

paella a variety of late summer veggies cooked with saffron rice in seaweed stock
mushrooms, ajillo syle
homemade seitan, smoked with apple wood, simmered in romesco sauce

pistachio cake with blueberries and raspberries
blueberry sorbet
blueberry port sauce

to put it simply, the kindness and generosity from Erin and Anthony this past year has been tremendous and truly appreciated!! Much love and thanks to 2 great friends!!

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