Supper Club: June and Travel

June brings the end of school and the beginning of summer in earnest.  In other words, it is actually a bit more hard to schedule a time that works for all three of us.  T was traveling in Europe and M was in Asia. We landed a date late in the month.

The outdoors was on my mind (even though we would be cooking indoors) and when I came across this recipe for paella, I knew that was what would lead the menu.  And indeed, it would practically be the entire menu. 

Menu: I settled on John Willoughby’s recipe called Paella of the Sea from The New York Times that seemed the right one for us.  I could make adjustments to manage T’s allergies and M’s non-meat diet.  Also, the garlic scape relish appealed to me as it would add texture and some brightness. 

I added some roast asparagus on top so it could be a one-pan meal.  

Paella of the Sea with Asparagus and Garlic Scape Relish

Drink: White Wine and Rosé

Dessert: Odile’s Fresh Orange Cake by Dorie Greenspan

Odile’s Fresh Orange Cake

The plate has a smiley face sun and it kind of looked like Pac Man sans one slice! I love this cake as it is so simple–light, moist and packed with orange flavor.

Conversation: Travel

My friends are amazing world travelers.  In fact, I met M over a plate of cookies at a holiday party in Tokyo.  And I was introduced to T by our mutual friend when I was traveling in Vietnam. 

M told us about her adventures staying at a ryokan near Mount Fuji; and inventive dishes like uni inside a tomato (!) and Japanese-style Chinese dishes aka 中華料理.

T shared pictures from her meal at 108 in Copenhagen. She joked that she had never eaten so many flowers. The images inspired me to get back to growing more edible blooms. 

This year, I traveled to Mexico City for the first time with a college friend. And while I went on and on about the rich culture, art, ancient ruins, it was the food . . . the tacos and tostadas at the food stalls, mangoes from the market, and enchanting dinners at Casa Virginia and another at Gabriela Cámara’s Contramar (that at 6pm, we closed the place for lunch).  My Supper Club friends’ eyes were glazing over all the while nodding and smiling. It was time to stop.

But oh, the spicy hot chocolate!

Supper Club: May and Pets

May brought rain and more rain–I think we ended up one non-rainy day for every ten rainy days. The keywords for this month’s Supper Club  with M and T would be cheer and relaxation. I reconfirmed T’s seafood allergy list and settled on a Hawaiian theme, including a festive pineapple! (thank you Village Party Store)

Menu: How can one not feel on holiday surrounded by poke and a metallic fringed pineapple?! I decided to make one big poke salad and small individual tasting bowls vs. going family sharing platters for everything. After reviewing many recipes, I learned there is a basic “dressing” so it would be easy to mix and match.

Spicy Tofu and Pickled Shiitake Mushrooms over Glass Noodles
Yellowtail with Crunchy Pear and Wakame
Ahi Tuna with Avocado and Wakame

Drink: Crisp White Wine

Dessert: I have baked a lot of shortbread in my life and while each batch was tasty and immediately finished off, I attributed it to more the irresistible pull of butter and sugar. Some were too soft, too tender or too much like a sugar cookie. I would add nuts, lemon and poppy. I finally found one that seems just right  Melissa Clark’s Shortbread, 10 Ways recipe. I opted to add some matcha (thank you Ippudo) and white chocolate. Matcha is bitter so it’s tricky not to get carried away and add too much.

Matcha and White Chocolate Shortbread

Conversation: Pets

We adopted a rescue dog almost two years ago from a great organization called Unleashed founded by Dr. Stacy Radin, who married her passions for girl empowerment and animal rescue.  A neighbor had adopted their puppy from Unleashed and was, unbeknownst to me, sending rescue puppy pictures to my husband.  The next thing we knew, I was filling out an application form, scheduling an interview with Stacy and started getting pictures of potential dog matches.

Adoption Pic

Unleashed prides itself on matching dogs with owners so we were required to meet the rescue pup, spend a few hours with her and get reviewed by her foster host.  Our potential puppy was named Princess Rainbow by the girls. She was coming up from South Carolina that weekend and we could meet her in a few days.

We trekked to her foster home on a hot summer day and got to know her.  And as the story goes, we fell in love and picked her up a few days later.  We literally had adopted a dog in about a week!

We had a list of potential names but the one she responded to was Miette (French for “little crumb” or the tender sweet part of a baguette).

Miette at the Beach

In adopting the dog which seemed all-consuming, M and T got more than an earful (and umpteen pictures) about our new family member.  Neither have been or are dog owners so Miette is our Supper Club mascot.

Miette with Aloha Pineapple

When we have the occasional Supper Club at my place, Miette is the lucky recipient of treats and toys . . . and decorations inspector!

Supper Club: April and Life’s Work

Spring is officially here but the weather has been mixed.  For April’s Supper Club with M and T, I looked through my pantry and fridge, and decided on an Indian menu.  My friend had given me a loads of Indian spices and this best-selling cookbook by Camellia Panjabi, 50 Great Curries of India.

Menu: I had a butternut squash that I was anxious to use so decided on a soup, and I have always been a fan of chaats, and of course thought a curry would be mandatory.

Indian-Scented Butternut Squash Soup
Chickpea Chaat
Shahi Paneer with Basmati Rice

Drink: Sauvignon blanc

Dessert: Royce chocolates

Conversation: Changing careers mid-career

“How did you get to where you are?”

When I was working in television entertainment, I often tell the story about how students from my alma maters would ask how I got my job as a digital executive. My response was that I just followed my passions and trusted my instincts. I studied history as an undergraduate; worked in publishing in Tokyo; moved to Palo Alto for grad school; and moved to New York to join a start-up in fine art e-commerce (that went bust), then worked for Esther Dyson, and married my love for music with a gig at AOL; and then landed at Bravo where my other loves for food and fashion and pop culture were able to be fused with my by-then-kinda-long career in digital. But after many years making a living in the digital space, I hungered to get back to basics and knew that food was the direction I wanted to face. I took courses at the International Culinary Institute, and learned about plant-based nutrition and plant-based baking from Matthew Kenney Culinary. And now I am trying my hand at writing about my love of cooking, eating, and dining.

Not exactly a normal career path.

My Supper Club friends have been working all their lives but have also taken seemingly non-sequitur turns in their careers. When I met M in Tokyo, she was a news television anchor, and then went to business school, and started her career in finance. She’s looking to fuse her background with more pro-social causes now.

And T was and still is a fashion designer, producing beautiful natural fiber pieces, but she also went back to school and got her MA in Modern and Contemporary Art History from Christie’s as well as an MBA. She is now a private art advisor and curator, as well an educator.

Also, not exactly normal career paths.

We talked about the challenges of making new moves in our careers. You end up spending a lot of time explaining the shifts and weaving the right narrative to those parties who are not used to non-traditional career journeys. And we look to each other for advice, guidance and recommendations in our respective next steps. Just having open non-judge-y ears is so refreshing.

Life teaches us much and I feel that if we are truly paying attention, we would bend and grow in different directions throughout it.

Supper Club: March and Mean Girls

Two of my oldest and dearest friends (M and T) and I started calendaring regular dinners to make sure that too many months would not go by without us reconnecting.  At first, we would pick restaurants based more on location on the day that worked for us all, so sometimes we would meet for acceptable pasta at Serafina, or try a new plant-based pizzeria because we were all curious, or splurging at Gabriel Kreuther to celebrate our birthdays.

When I left my corporate run in digital entertainment, I had more time on my hand and since I have always enjoyed cooking, I thought maybe we could eat-in versus go out. Somewhere along the way, we started to meet at M’s apartment which was sort of equidistant from myself and T, and M had the place to herself which meant we could talk freely and linger as long as we all wanted.  M is the sommelier amongst us so she would usually provide the wine; T plays sous-chef and brings a course like dessert or makes a side dish though she would usually also bring a bottle of something recommended from her favorite local wine seller. And I would set the menu and prepare the meal.

I absolutely love thinking up menus for dinner parties.   The parameters for these friends includes M being a pescatarian, and while T is an omnivore, she is allergic to scallops, crabs and shrimp, though clams are ok! I usually have to ask her of this list every month though now after several years, I finally remember.

I wanted to share our Supper Club ritual because it’s a wonderful way for friends to connect on a regular basis. We cover the gamut on topics as we cook, eat and drink.

Menu: I have been lamenting no longer having a favorite place to go for chirashizushi and so decided to put in on the menu.  Also, it was timely in that Hinamatsuri (Girls’ or Doll) Festival is on March 3 and it is common to serve this dish. My mom had given me some Japanese boxed containers and so I mixed and matched a few to make one big box of sashimi, and then we each had our own box. I also made a side dish of kimpira gobo.

Assorted Sashimi
Individual Chirashi Box
Kimpira Gobo

Drink: sake, of course.

Dessert: wagashi or Japanese sweets. My husband got me a box of specialty confections (mochi, kumquat, sweet bean paste) from Minamoto Kitchoan and I had no business eating the entire thing. Supper Club is also a great way to share (and save myself) from candy.

Conversation: Mean Girls

This last supper club, we talked about ‘mean girls’ and being at a place where we are okay with icing them out of our lives.  The motives are not sometimes clear and the tormenting or aggressive bully-like behavior happen over a period of time.

We each shared stories about surprising betrayals, intent, and workplace bullying.

Relationships are fragile enough things and we know how emotional pain can be the hardest to overcome. Unless they are family, cutting off bad relationships are a natural part of life.  Like a plant, you need make sure to give relationships enough water and light for growth. And you need to prune the dead leaves and branches. Good riddance to ‘mean girls’ and cheers to making time to spend with quality friends.