It hit me at two in the morning, the missing link. Something else from the sea, but what?
I had the menu, and most of the cooking already figured out. Six courses for my dad's 71st birthday dinner, Six guests. Small plates. Check it out:
1) Sauteed warm mixed olives, thin sliced fennel salad, and re-marinated anchovies.
2) Mixed greens piled onto a butter lettuce leaf, topped with marinated baby octopus and roasted, marinated red pepper.
3)Linguini a la "b.l.t" with baby arugula pesto, smoked bacon and roma tomato.
4) Braised lamb shanks in olde vine zinfandel, served on fried bread with roasted baby carrots, brussell sprouts and very tiny baby yellow squash. (Marrow bones to suck on request.)
5) Cheese Plate "four cheeses from four countries" Gorgonzola Dolce from Italy (holy shit it was good), blue veined Stilton from England, Manchego from Spain, and Queso Fresco from Mexico. Served with a strawberry/balsamic and black pepper jam, and bourbon-soaked prunes and kumquat confetti.
6) Carmelized apple clafouti served with melted ice cream (flavor: Salted Caramel from BI-Rite creamery)
-My brother literally bowing his head in silence, then shaking his head slowly and smiling stupidly. "Damn, that cheese with the jam..." The gorgonzola was as soft as cream cheese, sweet and nutty and just ridiclous slathered on the dark brown Cranberry Walnut bread from Acme Bakery.
-My dad saying "you know, this is the first time anyone has thrown me a birthday party that i didn't ask for or plan in some way." And the fact he cleaned out two marrow bones the size of Tapioca Drink straws from Chinatown.
-The Stilton.. Blue veins in a creamy but just sliceable cheese the yellow hue of pages out of old books in a smoky library. Stuffing some inside a prune and digging the sweet and earthy collision of flavors.
-The fact that the salted caramel ice cream was the best fucking ice cream i've ever had and that i took it out an hour before plating the dessert so it was melted and frothy and soupy and salty sweet to pour over the custard.
-the fact that we got up and danced to some song on Pandora after the pasta course, and realizing it was probably the first time I had ever danced with my stepmother in all of the thirty-plus years I've known her.
-My ex-wife who doesn't eat anchovies or lamb and how she ate both and practically licked her plate. (I soaked the anchovies in milk first to leech out thier old oily-saltness, then put new clean olive oil over 'em... and the lamb sat in an airtight bag overnight with garlic, rosemary, olive oil and a little red wine vinegar before cooking)
And the missing link, the surprise not-listed-on-the-menu first course. One perfect prawn, sauteed in hot butter for 1 minute forty-five seconds and served only with a tiny lemon wedge. A sweet Georgia prawn from Monterey Fish market ("Don't cook it for over two minutes or i guaranteee it will be bad"), juicy and pink.
Dare to be Simple.
There's always so many reasons to be depressed. You're single, it's raining, you have no friends and you can't pay your rent. But honestly, who the fuck cares about all that when you have a different wine paired with each course and your bread is soaked in buttery gravy that smells of wine and rosemary, I mean come on.