Sunday, June 14, 2009

Feast Party

There is a dinner party, and then... there is a feast party. Last Sunday we had twenty people over for an eight course meal. That classifies as feast party.

Feast Party: any meal served at a table, where either the number of courses served, or number of people attended is in the double digits.

I love a good old fashioned feast party. Humans have been celebrating by feast for thousands of years, and there is nothing like sharing an enormous meal over a big table with good people. It seems like in the past half century feast parties, where people actually sit down and eat a meal together, have begun to wane due to the buffet and barbecue trends...which have their own perks. Only wedding celebrations seem to have managed to preserved the feast party tradition.

Chef decided he wanted to throw a feast party in appreciation for all of our staff at 29 South. They take such good care of him throughout the year, and he thought they deserved something special. When Chef is invited to cook fancy dinners at $300 a plate, he cooks a much different meal than what our staff sees at 29 South. As a thank you, he created a spectacular Italian feast, fit for a king. Each of the 8 courses was paired with a wine off our wine list at the restaurant...needless to say...lots of plates, lots of glasses, lots of cleaning.

There are two types of feast parties, one where you hire a chef who comes in cooks, cleans and leaves at the end of the night has if he had never been there...and then there is the other type...the feast party where you live with a chef. The latter is a whole different animal.

Prep for a feast party usually begins five days before the event. This is when ingredients start arriving from our various purveyors...and begin to take over our kitchen. The fridge, freezers, and counter tops all become storage places for a wild variety of food that is all to be eaten in five days time. About a week before the event I will try to clean out our fridge of as much food and drink as possible, to make room for the invasion. As the fridge fills up it is a crazy balancing act of food stacked as high as the shelves allow. Giant tubs of duck fat, flats of eggs, whole rabbits, is no laughing matter. Trying to get my coffee creamer out in the morning is like playing a tricky game of Jenga, where if you remove one block the whole thing comes tumbling down. The worst part of it is that every time I take something out, and put it all back, inevitably the fridge door won't close...then I have to try again.

Chef started cooking on a Wednesday for the party on Sunday. He began his prep with making braised veal cheeks at 6 pm, finishing them around midnight. I was glad he began with this dish, because it was by far my least favorite thing to have to clean up and I was happy to get it done first. I don't eat baby animals, much less their sweet little cheeks. I mean, you have to draw the line somewhere, right? As I scrubbed the pan he seared them in, and then the pot in which they stewed for hours it was all I could do not to think of Lil' Bit and her soft snugly jowls.

On Thursday, Chef finished the truffle, picholine olive ice cream. He was one day behind on this course due to a truffle crisis. Chef never likes to buy canned anything, but the truffle was for ice cream, and there was a chance he would have to throw it out if it didn't work. He opened the can clearly labeled that it contained truffles, and poured it over a strainer. Much to his dismay, not a single truffle came out. Just mushroom juice running down the drain. After a heated discussion with the purveyor he purchased it through the consensus was that the can had been mislabeled. Ooops. Chef had to wait until the next morning for a new can to arrive.

It turned out that he didn't have to trash the ice cream. In fact, it was one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth. Lil' Bit gobbled down her share...what a palette that kid must have. He served it over a Meyer lemon tart that was to die for. When it came time for me to clean up after this course...I was glad to lick the bowl.

I would estimate that during the prep work for any feast party I clean our kitchen at least three times a day...and I am not talking about just loading the dishwasher. It is like full blown A bomb went off in my kitchen ,and I must wade through the aftermath just to find my sponge at the bottom of a sink gurgling with toxic sludge. The things we do for love.

Luckily this time around I had a little help. Claire and Emily, two girlfriends from NC, just happened to be spending a lil' beach time with us last weekend. They were amazing...I would have been screwed without them. They cleaned, they cooked, and they hung out with Lil' Bit...they were like superheros.

One of the greatest gifts of them being here that weekend is the pictures. Emily is an amazing freelance photographer, and she shot the whole feast from prep to plate. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I am going to wrap this up with the photo documentary of the event. If you want to see more of Emily's work check it out at She is fabulous.



emily said...

oh nan, how lovely. I just hope I can convey life's delights in photos as well as you do in words.
thank you!!
you're the best.

Theresa said...

Lovely! I wish you could read the menu though... I'm dying to know what was served.

Chef said...

Theresa here tiz
Employee Wine Dinner
June 7, 2009

Culatello con Pesca al Forno e Formaggio Pecorino
Fess Parker Viognier

Pappardelle con Aragosta e Piselli
Arcadian Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay

Ravioloni di Coniglio con Brodo di Cipollini
2006 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir

Sformato di Carciofo con Bolognese e Pesto
Casa de la Ermita

Razza con il Burro alla Nocciola
Fuedo D’ Butera

Guanciale del Vitello con Porcini
2003 Brunello di Montalcino

Formaggio Artigianale con Miele della Castagna
Reillys “Old Bushvine” Grenache

Crostata di Limone con il Gelato ai Tartufi e Olio di Oliva
Prosecco with Elderberry Spirits