Saturday, August 3, 2013

Memento On A Diet

After a longish haitus due to lots of scheduling challenges, Memento (our supper club) returned tonight. We gathered at David & Carolyn's place in Northgate for a meal conceptualized by Marcy & James. This time, Memento was On A Diet. Specifically, each of our 6 courses was allowed to have only 367 calories, 4 grams of saturated fat, and 8 grams of unsaturated fat. It proved quite a challenge, particularly for Dan & I, who were providing dessert.

Marcy & James started us off with an elegant plate of grilled oysters on the half-shell. They came with two toppings - a blackberry vinaigrette and a cherry & tomato salsa. I put blackberry on one oyster, salsa on the second, and both on the third. The trio of oysters were served with grilled romaine lettuce (which we learned is one of the most nutritious lettuces), which had a pesto sauce. The oysters were delicious, sitting in a little briny nectar, and the salsa and sauce were bright and sweet compliments. The plate was such a perfect start to a summer meal out on the deck (and eventually, under the stars).

Next up, keeping things very light, was Anna & Jason's salad course. Mixed greens topped with candied red walnuts shared the plate with blueberries, radish slices, orange cherry tomatoes, and tiny 'sweetie' peppers, all delicately plated with what has become their signature style. All the fruits and veggies were so fresh and flavorful, with the fat of the walnuts adding just the right amount of richness.

Not included in the calorie counts were the drinks, thankfully. Jason & Anna shared a nice crisp white that followed the rosé I had been drinking.

For our third course, Linda & Nancy served a vegetarian version of the Thai dish Larb. Dan & I have made it with chicken (in fact, just this week), but this version used tofu, presented in a butter lettuce cup. You'd never have guessed it was vegetarian if you didn't know, though. The texture and flavor were outstanding. Linda shared her tip for perfect tofu every time - a very hot, completely dry pan. No oil at all. Along with the larb, they served a modern take on a Korean kim chee and a Thai cucumber salad, both of which were vinegary and kept the bright, fresh, summery goodness going. In their entire plate of food, the only fat came from a few peanuts on the cucumber salad.

We also got to try (those of us brave and/or stupid enough) the first batch of traditional kim chee they made, which was deemed un-servable. A mixture of primarily cabbage and chili powder, it was incredibly hot. Not habanero hot, but just the couple bites I had were more than enough. It wasn't one-note, though, and had a wonderful smokiness. At the end of the night, Anna ended up going home with it, but I was ready to fight her for it.

Next up, Carolyn & David prepared an amazing Vietnamese Summer Roll filled with shrimp, vermicelli and Thai basil.

The wrapper was so tender - not toothsome like they so often are (including the ones Dan & I had earlier in the week). They were delicate but sturdy enough to hold together when dipped in the delicious coconut & peanut sauce. This was likely the highest fat dish of the night, given the peanut and coconut... and the fact that everyone enjoyed them so much that Carolyn went in and made another for each of us. Thankfully, there was more peanut sauce to go around, too, as many of us had already licked our dish clean.

The Asian cuisine continued with the next course, presented by Lizzie and her date, Mike.

Based on a recipe from Tom Douglas' I Love Crab Cakes! cookbook, Lizzie prepared scallop and crab cakes steamed in banana leaf wrappers. Some of the scallops are chopped and mixed with the crab, while another portion is pureed, which acts as a binder when the cakes cook. When unwrapped, inside each wrapper was a perfect cake with great seafood flavors, and a texture that reminds me of fish cakes (which I absolutely love). They were served with a spicy & sweet dipping sauce, as well as an Asian slaw.

They also served a cocktail to go along with their dish - a Thai iced tea spiked with Sweet Tea vodka that was a great accompaniment and (since it wasn't included in the calorie/fat counts for the course) added some serious creaminess and sweetness - which was a welcome decadence just before dessert.

Dan & I rounded out the meal with a calorie and fat conscious dessert. I love to bake and make pastries and candies, but after a few checks of calories & fat in things like eggs, butter, cream... even coconut milk or avocado... we had to go in another direction. And the answer was staring us in the face: the shave ice machine I bought for Dan several years back, which has had very little use, until tonight.

With a base for our dish of zero calorie ice, we were able to add all the fixins' traditional in Hawai`i. At the base was a sweet red bean paste I made by soaking, blanching, and then cooking dry adzuki beans with sugar (using a recipe found here). On top of that was a custard based ice cream using eggs from our chickens, cream, milk, sugar and vanilla beans churned in our little Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker. A healthy handful of shaved ice topped that. Shaved Ice is much finer and more like snow than the ice you get in a mainland style 'sno-cone', and is the style of ice used both in Hawaiian Shave Ice (aka Ice Shave, aka Shaved Ice), as well as Filipino Halo-halo. Dripped onto the ice were two syrups - one made of Liliko`i (passionfruit) juice and sugar, and one made of water, sugar, ginger, lime juice and lime zest. Finally, a light drizzle of store-bought evaporated milk, since my homemade version that combined water, dry milk powder and sugar scorched, boiled over, and tasted gritty. It also tasted exactly like a toasted marshmallow, but was just too texturally wrong to serve.

We paired our dish with a cocktail, as well - a vodka soda made with a home-infused ginger & green tea vodka, with club soda and lime.

The entire meal was wonderful, and the company couldn't be beat. This was definitely the lightest Memento Meal we've had, and also the most Asian influenced. There was a strong thread of greens running through the meal, and Marcy pointed out the common element of condiments. We didn't feel at all heavy at the end of the night, and James tallied all the calories and fat grams and we came in under. However, we discovered one challenge of eating such a low-calorie, low-fat meal: there was very little to counteract the cocktails and wine consumed along side our courses. Thankfully, that's spread over a 6+ hour period, but I know I was a little extra boisterous, Dan was pretty tipsy, and we both slept in until 11am, waking with hangovers and a hankering for burgers and fries.

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