dinnerparty1.jpgEvery once in a while, the stars align: a magical setting.  The flickering call and response of candlelight touches the senses.

The right group of friends.  Cool night breezes filled with laughter and conversations that run deep and late into the night.

And, of course, the food...the fancy, incredible food. The meal incarnate.  Blood Orange Martinis prepare our palates for miniature blintzes dolloped in salmon cream followed by sips of ice cold, luxury Dutch vodka.  Sautéed radicchio leaves wrap and lovingly showcase asparagus, prosciutto and cheese, while pairing well with fifteen year old French Champagne.

Endive from Belgium drizzled generously with a bright, white-balsamic vinaigrette, easily cradle pungent Danish blue cheese and crunchy, candied-pecans. Warm, crusty rolls begin to make their way around the table....still more French Champagne to enjoy.

Then, lobster done two ways....first bisqued, then tails stuffed with crab, lobster and buttery cream. The tails sit atop clouds of creamy Yukon Golds and saddle nicely with tender green beans doused in a warm bacon-shallot vinaigrette.

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buzz.jpgLeftovers! Even our dog, Buzz, won’t eat anything stored overnight in the fridge. Usually, when we give him some yummy leftover steak, he goes to his dog dish, looks at it, makes a pass at sniffing its aroma, drops his head, and with a heavy audible sigh and plodding gait shuffles away yet once again betrayed by the owners he so dearly trusts. Once, in exasperation, I whined, “but Buzzy, these are Mario Batali leftovers!” He looked at me with a why-didn’t-you-say-that-in-the-first-place shrug, and returned to his dog dish to enjoy his prize. (True story)

There are leftovers and there are leftovers! A thought that made me reconsider of an old cookbook – MICHAEL FIELD’S CULINARY CLASSICS and IMPROVISATIONS: Creative Leftovers Made From Main Course Masterpieces.

When I have the time, I love trekking through the dust of old cookbooks. I have some books that go back to Depression cooking – with such titles as GAS Cookery Book and The Progressive Farmer’s Southern Cookbook. (One never knows when a tasty recipe for Raccoon will come in handy when guests arrive unexpectedly: "First you shoot a raccoon…")

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saf chefsDreaming of a cooking school offering hand made craft based courses? Yearning for more flavor and personality in your meal? Believe that artisan food skills are important?

Then The School of Artisan Food, a tipping point for the newest trend in food preparation in the heart of rural England, is the pace and place for you!

AND you’re in luck. Summer 2013 offers a new six-day intensive (Aug 12-17). Students will join a team of British food stars for six days of bread making, cheese making and charcuterie. And enjoy tasting local beers and farmhouse cheeses; the very model of major English food traditions made new again.

buildingLocated on the gorgeous Welbeck Estate in romantic Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, the school is housed in the Estate’s former Victorian fire station around a cobbled courtyard, converted into state-of-the-art training rooms in 2009.

Co-Founder/Director Alison Swan Parente, talented educator, foodie, force of nature (and dear friend) is a great believer in the ‘special relationship’ between the US and UK.

She’s made trips to California and New York to “learn from all these influences as well, but we specialize in British breads, farmhouse cheeses and smoked and cured meats…from the gooseberries in the vegetable plot to the cheese made on the Estate, SAF is a very British experience.”

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trevi.jpgThe wives were off to the local terme- a natural hot springs spa in the town of Spello – for soaking, facials, massages, etc. This was an excursion for the group known as “Umbrian Girls Go Wild” – a disparate, dissolute organization made up of various wives and non-wives, who get together at odd times during the year to do odd things.

Because the women needed to take a few cars, the eminent Don Michele di Sicilia and myself were left with only one car between us for the day. We offered to shop and cook dinner for our spouses after their soak, and this led to one of the longest afternoons of my life.

Everyone in the town of Trevi knows Don Michele. Everyone. So what would have been a brief stop in the coffee store in Borgo Trevi, became an hour of rumination, gesticulation, exaggeration and flirtation from the eminent Don Michele. I almost forgot to buy coffee.

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olympicflagHave you ever called someone you knew to ask a simple question and before you know it you are having a full-fledged discussion about everything that's wrong with the world.

This happened to me when I phoned someone to ask a simple question about "paint" and in polite conversation asked if they had been enjoying the Olympic Games, as I have.

Oh holy hell.

The person I was speaking with said they absolutely DO NOT watch the Games because the Games are shaped by politics.

Oops, I knew our light-hearted discussion was over at this point.

I guess it's obvious politics and not sport dominate the Olympic events. But if you've ever spoken to someone who feels VERY strongly about this, ummm, look out.

So we had a huge discussion about everything wrong with the Olympics for the past, I don't know 100 years.

I was just calling to ask about some paint colors but instead we went for the gold...

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