Benjie's Party

I have a dear friend who is just a gem to me
and through getting to know her,
I get to see more facets of ordinary beauty in everything.
Here is a blog honouring her.

A little hem...a couple of years ago,
I accepted an invitation to be a personal chef
for my dear friend's big big birthday party
in San Francisco.

Rather than heading to Europe,
she thought about celebrating with friends at home
but who would cook for it?

We were on a walk
(celebrating my birthday)
when she shared with me her dilemma.

I exclaimed, "I would!"
I had been captivated by SF's culinary scene
during my five years of living there

and I had slowly begun to do larger ventures
for my own parties and for friends.

This would be my biggest yet
with the most complexities.

Walking along community gardens
near Fort Mason,
basking in the glorious sun,
she remarked, "Really?  You would?"

"Of course."

And so onward went the planning

and learning
and bonding over Julia Child, French wine, and fish
and process.

Below is a tribute to that night, 
to our friendship,
to growth, to change,
and to my wonderful friend,

As you know, your friendship is a beautiful bouquet of flowers to me.
Always has been, always will be.
Happy birthday (and happy birthday again).



I usually never plan.
She never does either.

Well, that's not entirely true.
We both do.
And we both allow for process.

And after a couple of lunches at my place
or teas at hers,
we were good to go:
the menu was more or less set
and she knew what she was going to do.

She was going to face death while being in the face of life
and I was going to face-off her kitchen.
Could her adorable French kitchen handle:
fresh pea soup (turned fresh fava bean soup),
roasted whole Bronzini,
a spring salad,
wine pairings,

a cheese course,
and more dessert courses
for 12 guests??

And in a timely fashion??

We set out to see
(or rather discovered along the way)
and shared the night with her dear friends
and my love.


As we sorted out our 'oh dear' moments,
I got to work learning how to gut a fish
(without filleting it)
(finding a pan that could handle the length of the bronzini).

I became quite acquainted with Julia Child and her research
 on 'The Whole Fish'
and fell in love with her.

The Big Day approached.
and to ensure the bounty was fresh,
I took her tip and headed to San Rafael's Thursday morning farmer's market.
(Apparently, that's where San Franciscan chefs go
to get their harvest before the weekend dining.)

I was beside myself when I learned I could snag one of these for parking...

Flowers for the occasion

The official menu to honor her tastes:

First course
House biscuit made in mini Madeleine trays

In honor of her late, dear friend

Benjie's show

Second course
Frozen strawberry slush with Lillet Rosé

Third course
Fresh fava bean soup
in bronzini fumet
with black truffle and crème fraîche

toasted Della Fattoria's walnut and seeded wheat breads

Special French white wine

Fourth course
Oven-roasted, stuffed bronzini
with boiled beets

Special French white wine

Fifth course
Fresh spring greens
Lemon and olive oil

Sixth course
Her dear friend's strawberry rhubarb pie

Seventh course
A selection of cheeses
American Cowgirl Cremery Mt. Tam (cow)
French Crémeux des Cîteaux (triple cream cow)
American Point Reyes Farmstead Blue (cow)
Swiss Bio Urchruter (raw cow)
American Kunik (goat and cow)
American Baetje Miette (goat and sheep)

Special French whites and reds

Eighth course
A variety of Recchiuti chocolate

Fun little adventures popped up along the way
and then the Big Day was here

we got to work.

I was preparing in the kitchen,
she'd pop up from her studio below.

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And then her guests began to arrive...
and it was so cool.


I was grateful I had a little help...
so I could watch her performance
(which was, of course, spectacular,
and which opened to an adagio by her late father).

(B-I listen to it at least once a week and
get the gift of recalling your performance
and the experience.)

And then the guests found their places
and the night coursed on through the meal.

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And afterward,
washing dishes began
creating music happened
and the night's magic carried us on.

Happy birthday to a very special woman!!