October 13th, 2004

Oct 1, Salon, Privacy

Usual suspects convened at Sue Blom’s to discuss privacy issues, which focused on the developing technology of RFID (radio frequency identification) chips. These ultra small transponders are being used for inventory control and loss prevention at the present time. Similar devices are being used as identification and location devices for both pets and people. We kicked around thoughts on what information could or should be contained in such chips, and what measures could be taken to insure privacy of encoded data.

Oct 2, Farmers Market

Bright and early Saturday morning it was up and off to the Madison farmer’s market along with our cooking friend, Tim Kozinski. Among other things, we bought Quentin carpenter out of the week’s stock of ground lamb, which will be used to make a savory strudel for our party next Saturday. We had an early arrival, and the coolness of the air held attendance down a bit so we managed to accomplish our agenda fairly quickly, and then home. The market and L’Etoile were reviewed in the New York Times! I’ll post the link when I can find it—the Times’ server is down right now--.

Oct 2, Bardic Dinner, Voodoo

That evening was another Bardic Dinner (scheduled early this month due to many other things that will be happening in October. The food theme was Caribbean, and the reading theme was “Voodoo.” I was the scheduled reader this time, and mixed fact with fiction, reading from works by Barbara Hambly (her “Benjamin January” books) and other authors, as well as “The Magic Island,” and “The Serpent and the Rainbow.” Main dinner course were savory skewers of pork Cuban style, and squash and mushrooms purchased at the market that morning were also on the menu.

Oct 4, Ashram, Praise

The theme of this month’s Ashram was “praise and thanksgiving.” We discussed our various traditions of giving thanks to the powers that be, and the difficulty of maintaining a thankful mindset when things go bad, and if God even requires that of us. The question of whether or not God wants or needs our praise at all was also raised. We tended to agree that God’s creation might be praiseworthy intrinsically, and it was just good manners to be thankful for it, even if God is above our acknowledgements. We also felt it like that a just God would be forgiving if we weren’t “appropriately thankful” for wars and hurricanes--.

Oct 6, Anniversary Dinner

October sixth is our wedding anniversary, and this one was number 20. Although we are hosting a party on the 9th, we decided as a private celebration to get the most splendid meal in town. (Foodies, hold on to your hats!) We frequently go to Sanford Restaurant for occasions, and have taken note of what is now called the ‘Surprise Menu.’ Seven courses, all people at the table have to have it, seventy-five dollars each. Matching wine pairs are an additional $30. We ordered the Surprise Menu for both of us and one set of wine pairings—we figured we could trade sips, and did.

What we got was spectacular beyond our dreams. Several of the courses paired small servings of different items, so in fact we sampled ten different dishes, all delicious, and seven different wines.

All Sanford meals start with an “amuse” or pre-appetizer. Lately it has been a poached mussel in saffron broth, served in a square shot glass with a straw to suck up the broth. This was good as always AND doesn’t count toward the seven courses.

First course: Roasted beet and garlic soup with rock shrimp. 2003 Rose de Pinot Noir, Saintsbury, California. Many of the items were form the menu, and this was no exception. What was exceptional was the bright beet flavor without the “root cellar” undertone that makes beets problematic. The garlic only served to mellow the beets, and the grilled rock shrimp garnish with a bit of seared endive was just right.

Second course: Lobster on a buckwheat blini, topped with caviar and herbed vermouth Vinaigrette, plus house smoked salmon, ditto. 2002 Riesling Qualitatswein Dry, Selbach, Germany. Delicious appetisers. Georgie preferred the salmon over the lobster, but I thought both were good. The Vinaigrette was just the right touch with the caviar.

Third course: Seared sea scallop on a Basil corn cake with caramel corn sauce, plus Quahog clam chowder. 2002 Sauvignon Blanc, Mason, Nappa. The clam chowder was excellent of its type, but neither of us is a big fan of it. Sanfor has a marvellous touch with scallops, and the "caramel corn" was fun both as a taste experience and to show that sanfor hasn't lost his sense of humor.

Fourth course: Squab with fig and foie gras on dried fig couscous, fig reduction. 2001 Pinot Noir, Sanford, California. Lovely squab, and the fig couscous was a very good and unique addition.

Fifth (Main) course: Grilled Elk loin on butter poached root vegetable medley, red cabbage and red currant sauce. 1999 Shiraz, Voss Vineyards, California. The grilled elk is one of Sanford's regular entrees which both Georgie and I have enjoyed in the past. It was as good as ever and did not disappoint.

Sixth Course: Chilled Pineapple soup, with grilled pineapple compote and coconut ice cream. We were charmed by this unusual palate cleanser. The small scoop of ice cream was floated in the soup like sour cream in borscht.

Seventh (dessert) course: Bittersweet Chocolate tart, coffee ice cream, and caramelized rice pudding. 2000 Monbazillac, Grande Maison, Cuvee Chateau and 1997 LBV Porto, Taylor Fladgate. Yes, there were two dessert wines with this course, since none accompanied the pineapple soup. The porto was matched with the dark chocolate tart, and the sauternes with the rice pudding. There was a berry sauce and whipped cram with the tart as well, and another one of Sanford's miniature scoops of a different ice cream along with the rice pudding.

And, of course, when you get the check, they leave with you three little homemade candies—which we carried away with us! We didn't want to explode!

This was unquestionably one of the most magnificent dining experiences we have ever had--although still not the most expensive, although close to it--. Well worth it, in our opinion.

Anniversary party, Oct.9

We decided to celebrate our 20th anniversary by having a party for our friends. A wedding is what happens on one day. A marriage is everything that happens after that, and so all of the wonderful people we know and have known are a part of these twenty years.

We started by hunting down a hall. The Milwaukee Irish Cultural and Heritage Center has a nice, if genteely old, space, very cheap, and they were available. The Center staff recommended some bands (Irish music wasn't required, but both of us like it.) and we were able to retain Frogwater, a multi-talented duet. (www.frogwater.us)(Actually, band size varies, but a duet suited us.)Susan Jesky-Dermody, the group's leader is reputed to be one of the finest fiddlers in Wisconsin, and having heard them, I wouldn't disagree.

We hired one of our friends, Tim Kozinski, as private chef to assist us with food for the party. Georgie and I did some of the work, slicing cheese, pouring cider, and chopping veggies, and of course Georgie made the main cake, which was a reproduction of our orginal wedding cake,chocolate frosting and all. I contributed my deviled eggs. Tim made us roast beef, lamb en croute, stuffed mushrooms, spinakitopita, apple spice cake (for those who couldn't eat chocolate)and other goodies. Beer, ale, stout and Sprecher sodas were on us, and there was cash bar for anything else--which wasn't called for much.

Of the hundred plus people we invited, we ended up with a bit more than eighty guests--it was a busy time, many conflicts, some last minute, and some illnesses. However, there were certainly enough people to hit critical mass for a party and to make a serious dent in the refreshments. Everyone said they had a good time--including the band and the bartender! That's what I call a party.