Archive for February, 2011

It’s Fun to Gather for Culinary Reasons

A few weeks ago, my friend A. (not FDL A., this is a different A. Keep it straight!) celebrated her birthday party in one of the best ways I can imagine: by hiring a chef and having a group of her friends come over and get drunk and help cook the meal. I know! It was fantastic.

Chef Kasey Passen started her company, Culinary Gatherings, last year after returning to her native Chicago after a stint at a few of San Francisco’s top restaurants. She has traveled extensively and incorporates her wordly knowledge into her cozy, accessible, and totally delicious get-togethers. Basically, Kasey showed up at A.’s apartment with all the necessary ingredients, menus and instructions for all of us, and a sous chef. She was incredibly knowledgeable, friendly, NOT condescending (we all know how much I hate those who condescend) and unendingly patient. She had planned a Mediterranean menu which included a stuffed chicken, a spicy eggplant spread and a couscous and chickpea salad (I’m improvising here, as I was so deep into my red wine coma by the time dinner was served that I scarcely remember the actual names of the dishes. But I digress.)

A. had made the mistake of asking everyone to bring a bottle of wine, AND she made sangria, so there we were, about twelve girls with what amounted to a bottle of wine each and copious amounts of sangria. Because of this, we did not make the best audience for Kasey’s wine pairing tutorial and spent most of the time loudly asserting how much we hated white wine. Which is weird because I don’t hate white wine. Kasey had provided us with a slice of apple, a slice of lemon, and a glass each of white and red wine. She encouraged us to take a sip of the wine, a bite of the fruit, and then another sip of wine and told us what tastes and notes to look for each time. I wish I’d taken notes because this chick knows a thing or two about wine.

Then, it was time to cook. Kasey had tasks for each of us, and set up stations to make sure no one strayed from their assigned project. I totally showed off my super sweet knife skills while I was chopping garlic for the eggplant spread, which Kasey complimented me on thankyouverymuch, and watched as the girls at the chicken station drunkenly crammed stuffing up a chicken’s ass. Believe it not, this was even more entertaining than it sounds.

The whole thing took about three hours from start to finish, and the resultant feast was that much more rewarding; knowing we had had our hands up that chicken’s ass and had chopped the garlic and sauteed the eggplant and fluffed the cous cous ourselves. It was truly a collaborative effort and extremely, extraordinarily delicious.

I have to praise chef Kasey for her unending patience and willingness to answer inane questions in addition to her superb menu.

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