Into the woods on a crisp autumn night, cocktail in hand to temper our fright. Oh, enough of that! But we did throw a small pre-Halloween bash and raised a toast to the departed in a nearby cemetery.
The drink…Upon arrival, guests were handed a tequila based cocktail – we were given a bottle of Piedra Azul for the occasion, and knew its herbal notes would pair perfectly with the concoction we had in mind, a blackberry and poblano margarita. The color was gorgeous – a deep ruby red but whoa! As-is the recipe could wake the dead, so we tamed it a bit with ginger ale. We also rimmed the glass with black salt, chili powder and raw sugar. Beware chili powder mustaches! From there, we quickly made way to the graveyard to admire the sunset and try to capture a photograph of the group before things got “scary.” The light (and new camera) conspired against us. Fortunately, one of our revelers was able to click off a couple of quick snaps. So there. Proof! Not of ghosts, but that some kind of carousing took place.
Safely back indoors, we put some rather “exotic” records on the player, let Legosi loose in Brooklyn and nibbled on treats Jacque procured on a recent trip to California – hickory smoked pistachios and various toasted this and candied that from Hadleys – plus various cheeses and chutney.
The table was set with Morgen’s heirloom silver (we like shiny things) and lined with matte black bottles (chalkboard spraypaint). All our wine drinking paid off handsomely! As mentioned in Wednesday’s Halloween decor round up, with a beautiful linen tablecloth and adorable “tombstone” place settings made of zinc with handmade edible sugar skulls putting a face to names. The flowers were snipped that day, generously gratis, just outside our favorite country market, Freunds. Margie had noticed the intense orange and purple blooms on a Connecticut trip just two weeks prior, and fortunately the first frost of the season didn’t manage to injure all of the stems.
Before being seated for dinner (we have to admit it took a bit longer to assemble everything – some tips: buy chicken without skin, pitted olives and pre-sliced pumpkins), we sampled a really nice, Wachusett pumpkin Ale that our friend Woody, Beer Hunter, brought to the party. A guest who carries his own treats to share – automatic invite to the next soiree! And took down polenta with pumpkin bites and another of stuffed figs.
On the figs, we added honey and chopped rosemary then displayed on a pretty antique oyster plate. We actually don’t eat a lot of oysters at home so figured this might make good use of it. And how! The plump appetizers snuggled perfectly in the indentions. The polenta recipe was actually adapted from what was originally a salad. While it tasted amazing and had a nice creamy texture which would have been great on the greens, it didn’t quite set enough, despite baking for an hour, to make it easy to eat as a finger food. Still, the pumpkin and pepitas – whole food cooking! – made a delicious mix of flavors. We’re big fans of those seeds, and this recipe for candied pepitas is foolproof. The egg white helps the spices stick well to the seeds, and roasting in the oven is easier than getting precise caramelized sugar/butter texture on the stovetop.
Bet you’re hungry by now. Well, dinner is served! Sides were surprisingly good but unusual radishes with brown butter and stir fried blistered green beans. In roasting, all radish bitterness was lost, coming out crisp and refreshing, a nice contrast to the rich terrines. Terrines are fun, simple (one-pot!) and the we love the mingling of various spices and essences. The chicken came out soft and sweet, while the addition of pan fried haloumi cheese complimented the earthy mushrooms in the vegetarian version. A couple of preserved lemons that we had on hand would provide just enough mellow flavor to both dishes, while black garlic made for a tangy surprise.
Finally, a sweet finish, but not too sweet. We read about a lovely Victorian era Halloween game, where a hostess would bake various tokens into a cake, slices would be passed around, and the meanings of the found pieces read. A coin meant money would be coming your way, while a ring meant impending marriage. We inserted some of our own interpretations, such as an anchor foretelling a trip. Some of the inclusions are decidedly old fashioned, vaguely insulting (thimble = spinster) but truth be told, that’s part of the fun. Everyone dived into their cake, seeking possible treasure, before happily devouring the crumbled chocolate aftermath. Another Woody contribution, a bottle of Southern Tier‘s creme brûlée Stout, couldn’t have been more appreciated to put the evening to rest.
Thanks for some of the snaps, Amy & Julio and Andrea at Superfine bakery for the baking advice for novices!