This morning, Dan & I headed north for our supper club - Memento.
Due to a difficult period, we missed the last event at Marcy & James place, so were extra excited for today's. Not only was it our return to Memento, but it was the last Memento of the 4th season, and very likely the last Memento for Gerald & Robyn - who moved to Tuscon, Arizona shortly after hosting the TEOTWAKI Memento in June. They're back in town right now for their wedding & bachelor/bachelorette parties - so we were lucky to get to finish out the season with them in attendance. And if all that wasn't enough, it was our very first Memento brunch!
Anna & Jason started us off right with an espresso, presented with a lump of sugar and some mini chocolate chips. Officially awake, we then dug into their trio of bagels with cream cheese. The first variation on this ubiquitous breakfast fare was a seasonal offering on pumpernickel bagel: prosciutto, green apple, and sage. Next was the traditional bagel toppings of lox, tomato, capers and red onion. And last, but not least, was an adventurous bagel with garlic cream cheese, red chili pepper, anchovy, and cilantro. Each was completely different than the others, and all were delicious.
Anna's signature, if you will, is fresh fruit and herbs or edible flowers garnishing the plate. Today was no exception, with mango, watermelon and honeydew sliced thin and cut in perfect circles (as was everything on the plate), accented with a sage leaf from their garden.
Our second course was presented by Tricia - now a Memento veteran, this being her third time as a guest chef. She got a helping hand this time from Caleb - a friend of Gerald's in town from Australia for the wedding - who showed off his USMC culinary know-how by helping with the beautiful plating.
Alongside a well garnished Tennessee Bloody Mary (that's with bourbon, not vodka) was their Bacon and Banana Bread French Toast, with a slice of Bacon, a slice of mango, and the most smartly cut grape I've ever seen (sliced top and bottom so it perched perfectly atop the mango, itself atop the french toast). Such a simple alteration to a grape, but it made me question if it was a grape. I love me some architectural food, so loved the look of their plate. And the taste didn't disappoint, either. The toast was rolled in bacon before being fried, giving it a savory/sweet balance that was enhanced by a side of warm maple syrup.
Tricia's heading back to her home state of Georgia early next year, to spend some time with family and follow her dreams of being a make up artist. As a huge fan of make up effects, I'm eager to hear about her experiences and maybe score some tips. And if you're reading this, Tricia - I'd happily shave my beard if you ever need a model to practice making life molds.
I was wondering what a brunch salad course would look like, and Carolyn & David kept me guessing.
First to come out was a small shot of something brownish. I thought it might be caramel (you'll see why in later courses), but then I smelled it. It was a fruit puree of some kind. When the Moscado sparkling wine came out, the genius of their deconstructed cocktail made sense. We added the nectarine puree to our glasses and topped it with Moscado for a bubbly brunch classic - the Bellini.
Also deconstructed was their salad of sliced bananas, mango, pineapple, and kiwi, with shredded coconut, macadamia nuts and fresh whipped cream. David talked about how most fruit salads blend everything together so much that the flavors of each type of fruit get lost. It was definitely nice to experience each fruit on it's own, or paired with one or two other items. A little banana with crunchy, buttery mac nut. A bite of slick mango with earthy coconut on top. Pineapple with whipped cream. Every bite was something bright and new.
It was also nice to have such a light course, before all that was still to come.
The tropical flavors of the salad course bridged perfectly to our Banana Mimosa (orange juice, sparkling wine and banana liqueur), and to our take on Loco Moco - a Hawaiian creation usually made with steamed white rice topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg, and brown gravy. The hamburger patty is sometimes switched out for Spam, and we've seen variations with everything from kobe beef to mahi mahi.
But taking our queues from the next course (in true Memento fashion), we made our Loco Moco with pork belly (my first time cooking it). I braised the
slab of pork in our crockpot overnight on low, swimming in chicken stock
seasoned with LOTS of brown sugar, chunks of ginger root, star anise,
salt, and a little liquid smoke. I cooked down the braising liquid with
some cornstarch for the gravy, with the brown sugar lending a sweetness - though I think it was well balanced with the savoriness. Lots of clean plates seemed to point to agreement.
I infused the rice with subtle flavor by steaming it with fresh banana. On it's own, it was noticeable, but with all the other strong flavors it got lost.
I'm terrible at cooking eggs (impatience gets the best of me), but Dan is a master at the art - proving his skills by pulling off a dozen over-medium eggs (courtesy of our hens, Huli and Teri).
Despite not having a home base kitchen to work out of, and Gerald getting into town just last night, they put together a complex and very satisfying "second entree" course that contained many of the key inspirations for the preceding dishes.
They baked a savory/sweet casserole made with Challah bread, topped with bananas, pecans, bacon and a brown sugar caramel sauce, with a side of bacon. Although I complain about TV cheftestants relying too much on it, I absolutely love bread pudding, and this was one of the best I've had.
As our liquid accompaniment, Robyn found a Lake Chelan hard apple cider I really liked (and will be trying to track down). It wasn't too dry or too sweet - but a perfect middle ground between the two. And it comes in a swing-top style glass bottle (my favorite, as they're great for bottling homemade booze).
And what was the original inspiration for the entire meal? The final dish, planned first? The brunch dessert that rounded out our banana/mango/pork/brown sugar goodness?
A float! Marcy was turned on (no, not like a certain someone and a certain giant mollusc) to a creme brûlée stout. Combined with a scoop of salted caramel gelato, it became a modern, adult-beverage take on an old fashioned soda shop ice cream float. And it was a great end to a meal that started at 10am and lasted til mid-afternoon.
With Gerald and Robyn now living in the land of bad sushi and life-changing Latin food, the future of Memento is not yet clear. I'm tempted to call it 'uncertain', but that word seems too loaded with doom and gloom, and I'm optimistic.
Memento meals have been an amazing opportunity to try new foods and new techniques, flex creative muscles, collaborate with my husband, gain hosting experience, and build a wonderful bond with a great group of people we might never have met without Anna & Jason, or have become so close with were it not for Memento. As I grow older, and after moving to what many of our peers consider the suburbs, I find it takes a lot more to maintain friendships. And my chronic migraine issues don't make committing to events or late nights always possible. Memento has given me something to look forward to every couple months that I can even attend if I'm not feeling my best. I know from experience that this special group of people, and this unique meal, always makes me feel great.
Imperfect Paradise by Dan Dembiczak - I'm so proud of Dan Dembiczak, whose first novel - Imperfect Paradise - is available for sale in both eBookor Paperback on Amazon.com! The story follows ...