A Dinner to Die For
Suppose it is the end of the world and you can eat one final food – what would it be? Why not throw a dinner party with that theme? Ask your guests to name their choice of a final food. But, in order to cover all courses with different kinds of foods, limit each guest to a particular category such as fish, fowl, vegetable, etc. You may then design a menu around their choices or ask each guest to come with their dish prepared appropriately. You don’t need an end-of-the-world prediction. Make it the last meal of astronauts on terra firma before a two-year stint on the space station or what you would take to a desert island. However you do it, the evening is guaranteed to be lively, entertaining and possibly, downright hilarious.
I first did the dinner on 12/21/12, the date the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world. I asked different guests to name a food in different categories: seafood, fowl, meat, starch or grain, vegetable, fruit, dessert. For some categories, I asked more than one guest for their choice. Don’t be afraid of bizarre choices. For a choice of meat, one guest said “hot dogs”and the other said “Beef Wellington.” I gasped!! But what a hit!!! Served together, hot dogs and all their fixings along with an extremely elegant Beef Wellington provoked riotous laughter and wonderful conversation.
Add additional touches as appropriate. Since this “end of the world” was based on the Mayan calendar and Mexicans celebrate with piñatas in mid-December, I hung a large black piñata in the shape of a parrot and filled it with candy. The evening ended with guests taking turns swinging at it with the stick that accompanies the piñata, trying hard to miss the other guests as the stick bounced off Mr. Parrot. Finally it broke open with a shower of colorful candy for guests to take home. Use your imagination for a fitting finish to the evening’s end.
The dinner was a huge success. With some heavy-duty pondering, guest’s requests were fitted to a written menu meant to amuse. It was printed on gold paper placed inside 8½ by 11 black card stock folded in the middle, the outside flecked with gold paint. Please note the pun in the title of the menu, “Fare Well.”
THE END OF THE WORLD
FARE WELL MENU
A Feast of Foods To Die For
Let’s toast to a happy hereafter with
And celebrate the earth’s bounty from land & sea & air
Pheasant Sausage with Parmesaned Crème fraîche
Smoked Duck with Caramelized Pear
To end our start, let’s finish with life’s vital force
Heart Beat Soup with Bloody Beets
You will need burial garments and casket
Nathan’s Dog in Blanket of Bun
Wellington’s Tenderloin in Pall of Puff Pastry
Coffin to Inter Pomme de Terre
Plus a final resting place
Cemetery Salad & Deadly Drizzle
After your death by pie
Apple and Pecan Pie with Pralines ‘n Cream Ice Cream
These are the food categories given to guests and their choices.
Shrimp cocktail. Purchase or prepare shrimp. Purchase a cocktail sauce (we like Heinz original); add a little light cream and some finely chopped thyme. Put a funny face on each shrimp with eyes and mouth of cloves or black peppercorns.
Fruit and Fowl
Kabob of smoked duck and caramelized pear. Make or purchase smoked or roasted duck and cut into small chunks. Cut Bosc pears into same-size chunks; sauté in butter with small amounts of light brown sugar, cinnamon and ground coriander until edges are brown. Skewer the duck and pear together on an attractive pick.
Sausage. Pheasant sausage with parmesaned* crème fraîche. Purchase pheasant or other sausage. Cut into coins and top with a dollop of crème fraîche blended with grated parmesan cheese.
*I believe this neologism is justified because we add parmesan cheese to many things because it beefs up taste with its umami character.
Beets. Make a soup with roasted beets, a few aromatics (celery, onion) sautéed in a generous amount of butter, and a good, home-made chicken stock). Garnish with fried sage leaves or sour cream.
Hot Dog with Fixin’s. Nathan’s hot dogs on bun with mustard and relish.
Beef Wellington. The perfect contrast to hot dogs is this elegant preparation of beef tenderloin covered with a thin layer of mushroom paté, all encased in puff pastry. Make or purchase.
Starch or Grain
Baked potato (Fr. – pomme de terre). Make it look like a part-open coffin with person inside. Cut the baked potato lengthwise about 2/3 up from the bottom, reserving both shells. Scoop the flesh from the shells and mix with butter, sour cream and goat cheese. Stuff the bottom shell with this mixture, mounding one end higher to suggest a head. For the lid of the “coffin,” cut off 1/3 of the upper shell with scissors for the open part where the raised “head” is. Cover the stuffed bottom shell with the remaining 2/3 of the upper shell. Add green pepper “eyes” and red pepper “mouth” to the “head.”
Baby arugula. Make a “cemetery” salad: Spread chopped baby arugula in a thin layer on a large rectangular platter. Peel apples, then cut thick longitudinal slices (one for each guest) and trim them to resemble gravestones. With a sharp knife trace on different slices a cross, star of David, or RIP. Stand the apple slices up in the arugula. They will stand nicely if the bottom of each slice is fairly thick. For the deadly drizzle (aka dressing): sherry vinegar and walnut oil.
Apple pie. Make or buy your favorite. I mixed apple slices with cinnamon, coriander and a touch of cardamom, added pecans and dotted the pie generously with butter before baking.
Pralines ’n Cream Ice Cream. That’s an easy one. Just buy it.