By Murray Schulman
Hard to believe that we are into the heart of summer. Most of us are going full tilt on the grill. Fireworks can be seen for miles around and our days are steamy, our nights are sultry and many of our weekends will be spent in, on or around the ocean, lakes, rivers or the pool. I hope that some of you tried grilling veggies as I described last month. Maybe I should stay with the grilling theme and talk all about preparing and grilling our meat and poultry selections. Fine, I’ll get to the grilling thing in the next issue.
But, here, I want to tell a story for you. This is a story of good friends on warm summer nights in a different place at another time. Sit back, pour a glass of wine and let me take you back with me to some sweet memories that I plan to reproduce this month. I was working the kitchens as chef. My friends were F&B Director and the VP of Operations at this multiple food outlet operation. I can tell you that we worked long hours in hot kitchens pumping out great meals for hundreds of hungry and demanding guests every day.
In this business, we kept some pretty strange hours. Relaxation and a meal away from the job would have to take place either late at night or on a rare day off. On this particular night, I was finished in the kitchen by around 10. I let my VP friend know that I was heading home. He was also packing it in for the night. So, we decided to get together at his house to unwind. His wife was always gracious and never balked at the idea of after-work visits from the chef. I stopped at my place, grabbed some supplies and made the short drive to my friend’s home. Having been in the kitchen all day, it was understood that the last thing that I wanted to do was start preparing any hot food. Yet, a spectacular food experience was absolutely called for on that warm summer night.
We set up on my friend’s spacious deck under a star-filled sky. We served Europeanstyle. The menu was a selection of amazing cheeses paired with several bottles of wine. There was an assortment of items from the olive bar and a big crusty loaf of Tuscan-style bread. I have to tell you about the cheeses because these were not the packaged variety from the dairy section of the supermarket.
We cracked open a bottle of Barolo to get things started. After fi lling our glasses, we broke open that big hearty Tuscan loaf and smeared a hearty serving of ripe Taleggio onto the bread. Yes, Taleggio is a bit rough on the nose. But that tart, nutty flavor is well worth it. That Barolo stands right up to that strong cheese like a champ. Since we were still working on the Barolo, we opted to shave long super-thin slices of ParmigianoReggiano right off of the wedge and onto our plate. It didn’t last on the plate very long as that big cheese flavor woke up our taste buds and truly enhanced our wine. In between enjoying the various cheeses, we popped plump tart green olives and luscious oil cured ripe olives.
There were marinated mushrooms and quartered artichoke hearts along with lemony dolmas. At this point, we had gone through most of the Barolo and we finished it off with a nice aged provolone that we had on the table. Aged provolone always rounds out the full-flavored cheese group. We needed another bottle of wine and we were changing the cheese selection, I pulled the cork on a bottle of Soave. This wine is a perfect compliment to a three-month aged Fontina d’Aosta. This firm, creamy flavorful cheese was so delicious that we cut slightly thicker slices, which we ate along with chunks of that great crusty bread and long sips of the Soave.
Along with the fontina and since we had the Soave open, we sliced a small Buffalo Mozzarella and added a drizzle of our EVOO and a thick aged Balsamic. Now things were getting exciting and we were getting happy and full. We decided that it was time for the “Big Finish.”
I opened a bottle of Moscato as my friend and his wife cut into an amazing Gorgonzola. Keep in mind that we were in the heart of July on a warm summer night. What better to accompany Moscato and Gorgonzola that fresh figs right off the tree and ripe peaches that were so perfect that the juice ran down your arm with each bite?
Friends, I can tell you that I am ready to take my wife by the hand, put the call out to our adult children and their spouses and do a cheese night right now. Nights like this are part of my fondest memories. Wouldn’t you say that it is time to start making some new memories right now? Take time to enjoy the finer things in life and it doesn’t always require a stove or a flame.