So our visit with Peggy and Chris was great. They lived here before, but moved to Texas in 2000. Peggy and I tried to go to Untidy Museum on Sunday, but they were closed! I felt awful about it, because I had been telling her what a fabulous store it was, and then we couldn't get in. There were people in there and I knocked on the window, hoping they'd let us at least look around since that was Peggy's only chance to see the place, but they wouldn't come to the door. I really should have checked their hours, but I know I went there on a Sunday a couple of months ago. Maybe they were open longer hours before the holiday?
After Untidy Museum we dropped in on our friend David, but he was taking a nap and his roommate wouldn't wake him up. I don't think she (the roommate) remembered Peggy, which was kind of a bummer. It sounded like she thought I had just brought some random person to meet him unannounced. I actually met David through Peggy. I bet he would have wanted to be woken so he could at least say hello to her.
By that point we were 0 for 2, so we went for a walk in the Duke Gardens. They have a gift shop now in the parking lot. Or possibly a gifte shoppe, I don't know because we didn't go in. There's also a little shop inside the gardens (near the gazebo) that sells sandwiches and drinks. I guess we spent a couple of hours walking around, it was really nice. Although the temperature dropped precipitously while we were there.
After that I dropped Peggy off at her hotel and went home to get dinner ready. It was Peggy, Chris, Chris' daughter Jennifer and her boyfriend Jim. Of the six of us, Peggy and I were the only ones who don't work for Whole Foods. But the rest did a good job of not talking shop too much so we didn't feel left out.
We talked a bit about plans for the big art car parade in May. Looks like we're going to leave a few days early and spend some time in Austin with Peggy and Chris. Then we'll head to Houston on Thursday and get there in time for the Art Car Ball that night. Peggy and Chris will join us on Friday, along with a couple of their neighbors who want to see the parade too. Peggy's been working on her costume (she walks alongside the car and gives little mermaids to kids along the parade route), which reminds me that I seriously need to get to work on the car. The decorations are badly in need of repair and embellishment.
I must say, this was possibly the lowest-stress dinner party I've ever had. The house was already in pretty decent shape, so while we did spend time the day before tidying up, it wasn't a frantic "clean everything in sight & hide all the junk" experience. (Which would never happen to me, I'm just speaking hypothetically of course!) Best of all we had planned a menu that could be almost entirely prepared in advance, so there wasn't much cooking to be done on Sunday evening.
Georg made his amazing beef short ribs. The process actually takes three days, but it's not as labor-intensive as some multi-day cooking projects (like Chinese pork buns for example, those are so much work I didn't even want them by the time I was done). The first day he browned the meat and prepared the marinade: cooked vegetables and a whole bottle of wine. Any recipe with a whole bottle of wine is OK by me! Anyway the marinade is poured over the browned meat and put in the fridge overnight. Day 2, strain out the marinade vegetables and add new vegetables. (same vegetables though: onion, carrot and celery.) The whole thing is baked for 3 hours, then degreased and put back in the fridge. Day 3, remove the bones -- some of them fell right out by this point -- and bake another 45 minutes. The recipe calls for straining the sauce but we like it better a little rustic, with the chunks of carrot and onion still in it.
The short ribs were the star of the meal, but we also made mashed cauliflower, roasted spring onions and sugar snap peas. The spring onions were so sweet! I'd never had them like that before, but oh man. My only regret of the meal was that we started the sugar snaps too soon & then had to keep them warm, so they weren't bright green and crisp like they should have been. Still tasted good. And the cauliflower is an old reliable dish. I put in a little horseradish so it wouldn't taste wimpy next to the short ribs. You couldn't really taste the horseradish but I think it gave it an extra oomph.
For dessert we had strawberry/rhubarb parfaits. Didn't really match the dinner, which was mostly food for cold weather, but I thought we'd want something light after all that hearty fare. I always use sherry instead of vanilla in the whipped cream, and also mix sour cream into the whipped cream, sort of a poor man's creme fraiche. This time I also put a little ginger and lemon juice in the fruit, which made it nice and tart. We had just gotten a microplane, and wow! It turned the ginger into a paste just like that. I'd heard before that a microplane is an essential kitchen tool, and I have to agree. I don't know how we got along without one before.