To start, we sampled Lady Mary's Crab Canapés -- unlikely to win the prize for "most authentic" due to the Old Bay Seasoning, cream cheese, Tabasco, and Parmesan involved, but a crowd-pleaser nonetheless.
|Crabby Lady Mary's namesake hors d'oeuvres.|
|Just like the Crawley sisters, these were as |
gooey and cheesy as they looked.
We also amused the bouches with The Crawley Sisters' Stuffed Mushrooms, an spicy little number calling for more cream cheese and Parmesan to fill the gaps left by the destemming of the shrooms. They also worked in some garlic and oh-so-British Worcestershire sauce.
Because we 21st Century humans have fewer stomachs than the upper-class British employing Service à la Russe in the 1920s, we skipped the soup course and jumped straight to fish as our main meal -- omitting the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Courses of Joints, Steaks, and Roasts that were traditionally to follow the fish.
Daisy's Mustard Salmon with Lentils was my favorite dish of the night, thanks to its impressive resplendence of flavor and quick and easy style. It actually could pass for healthy, too, if you don't use the entire half cup of butter that is supposed to go in. The show-stopping mustard "sauce" consists of softened butter, chopped chives, chopped tarragon (this MADE the dish), Dijon mustard, lemon juice, a touch of sugar, salt and fresh ground pepper mixed together, then dolloped into the cooked French lentils and on top of the salmon just when you're ready to serve. Tremendous!
|Daisy's tarragon-scented salmon and lentils stole my heart.|
And most of my stomach capacity.
We paired our wild Coho salmon and lentils with a 2002 Nuits-Saint-Georges "Les Damodes" Burgundy by Philippe and Vincent Lécheneaut, because that's what Carson and His Lordship would have chosen. This lovely silken delight of a wine even survived our side order of Baked and Buttery Balsamic Asparagus with Sea Salt, another butter-happy gift to humanity. This simplissimo concept is essentially just roasted asparagus in a brown butter sauce that's jazzed up by the addition of a bit of soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. Delectable. No weirdness from the soy sauce addition at all, despite my misgivings.
|Balsamic-spiked butter sauce, garnished with fresh vegetables.|
After all that delicious butter, we had decided to forgo the uber-rich Creamy Chocolate Mousses and Mrs. Patmore's Extravagant Parisian Eclairs in favor of a light dessert like, say, two pints of Three Twins Ice Cream and a half dozen bignés from Ca'Momi. This was our inspired Napa variation on the cookbook's Vanilla Wafers With Double Chocolate Ice Cream recipe, which included a helpful prefatory note: "With the advent of Service à la Russe, ice cream and wafers became the standard nonfruit dessert." Reading a bit further, we learn that this standard dessert was actually the standard SECOND dessert, served after a first sweet course of something hot. Maybe next time.
And there will be a next time. How else to sample the other four courses we skipped over?