Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sunday Supper Club Trial Run

So I am cooking at home tonight while my sis goes and hoops it up at Toro Bravo, that hedonistic hussy. But I have to practice for the dinner I'm making Sunday, which is to be chronicled for our "Sunday Supper Club" feature of TableTalkPortland.com (to be launched Sunday, Mar. 9! Eeek! How exciting!!)
First thing I must do: Formulate menu. I will go with something simple and classic, something that shouts (simply and classically of course) of Sunday Supper. Roast chicken, I think, with roasted root vegetables as a nod to the official, if not obvious, passing of winter come a few weeks from now. I know root vegetables are the "nice guys" of the food world, being pleasant but not flamboyant, rather dull but always reliable, and with a nice personality if not Abercrombie looks. But I have a fantastic recipe from Suzanne Goin's "Sunday Suppers at Lucques" that is perfect and will elevate the lowly root vegetable to celebrity status at my Sunday Supper table. 

I decide I will preface the main course with a  salad of greens, minced herbs, and a dressing of dijon, red wine vinegar, and canola oil (pinched from the pages of Thomas Keller's "Bouchon" cookbook, which is also directing the roasting of our chicken.) Dessert shall be a recipe I have been dying to try, from the March issue of Gourmet, a Meyer Lemon Cake with Lavender Cream (www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/241740). Oh my. I skipped my usual visit to St. Cupcake today in anticipation of making this. Such sacrifice! 

Now that the menu is set, I set out to shop for ingredients. I am resolved to Shop Local, and get all my ingredients within a few blocks of my Northwest apartment. First stop: City Market for the centerpiece of my masterpiece of a Sunday dinner, The Little Chicken. Thomas Keller has instructed me to get a 2 - 2.25 pound chicken. An in-depth discussion with the butcher at the Viande counter reveals that this size chicken does not exist. What? I can have a 3.5 pound chicken, he says, nicely. I don't want a 3.5 pound chicken I point out, nicely. Thomas said I should get a 2 pound chicken and I want to be like Thomas. They can't buy such little chickens, the butcher says. I can buy a poisson though, which is a fancy way of saying "super tiny chicken," only weighing a pound or so. But super tiny chickens are nearly three times the price of big fat ones, so I decline and go on my way. Having already argued with the butcher at Whole Foods last week on this issue I know better than to head down to the Pearl for my chicken--not only would he be a diva and require me to serve him on a Baccarat crystal platter,  which I don't own, but he would be too big--Whole Foods' chickens are the brutes of the dead poultry world--last time the butcher could hardly find one under five pounds. Thomas would cringe. 

So it's off to TJ's. Trader Joe's, how I love thee! Let me count the ways. Your inexpensive blue cheese, your Dark Chocolate Pistachio Toffee, your cute check-out boys, and...your small Aaron's kosher chickens. I am able to buy a 2.7 pound chicken, undoubtedly as close as I will come to Thomas' 2-2.25 pound dream chicken. I buy a few more necessary items, give the check-out boy a wink, and head back to City Market for root vegetables, since I forgot them the first time, I was so flustered about the whole chicken thing. 

I am in line with my carrots, parsnips and turnips when I see Ben Dyer (co-owner of Viande and Simpatica Dining Hall) walk behind the Viande counter and start talking with the butcher on duty. I am very tempted to ask him why it is so hard to get a 2-2.5 pound chicken around these parts, but I don't want to lose my place in line, and besides, I'm bashful. Maybe I will call him about this later. He seems like a nice guy. After I buy all my groceries, I head up to Square Deal Wine Company on NW Thurman, between NW 23rd and NW 24rd. Becky helps me choose a bottle of wine to go with my dinner. Becky is amazing-I tell her what I'm cooking and how much I want to spend ($10--I'm cheap!) and she immediately points me towards a French grenache, La Friande, Cotes du Rhone, 2006. It sounds lovely, and it's exactly $10! Becky is amazing, you should go visit her. (www.wineaccess.com/store/squaredeal)

It's nearly lunch time, and I can't resist popping into the always crowded St. Honore Boulangerie (2335 NW Thurman, www.sainthonorebakery.com) for a Paris Ham Sandwich. Salty ham on a fresh baguette, it is perfect. If I weren't so responsible, I'd go back next door to Square Deal and ask Becky to pair a bottle of wine with this divine sandwich. But I have to get back home and start cooking, of course. 

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