Not often in this life do we get to experience perfection—and to know at the time that we are. Recently, I had an absolutely, unabashedly, undeniably perfect evening, complete with family, friends, fabulous food, good wine and an impeccable setting. The menu, I’m pleased to report, featured herbs in every dish (if we include the dessert’s blueberries and lemon on our list of herbs—and I’m certainly going to).
The occasion was that I vacationed in Santa Fe, New Mexico, met my cousin and her husband there, and joined friends who live in Santa Fe for a delightful dinner al fresco in the clear mountain air. My friend Paige and I huddled briefly early in the day to “plan” a menu, and off we went to the market to score some groceries. This careful planning process took about five minutes and went something like:
“Do you think chicken or salmon?”
“Do you think salad or soup?”
“I think I’ll make soup, too.”
Then we galloped back to the house and started slinging food around the kitchen in a whirlwind of cooking that became:
• Chilled Cucumber Soup
• Orange-Fennel Salad with Walnuts
• Grilled Salmon in a marinade of vodka, lime and dill
• Mango Salsa
• Crusty bread (bakery-bought) with olive oil
Paige’s brother and sister-in-law joined the party and contributed one of the best desserts I’ve had: Lemon Curd Mousse with Blueberries and Toasted Coconut. Lordy.
You’ll find the mousse recipe here and if you were to ask me I’d make up something that sounded like a recipe for the other dishes. But really, it was just one of those highly experimental, hmm-this-ought-to-taste-good-with-this kitchen adventures, easily recognizable to anyone who’s spent a few years playing around in a kitchen.
What it also turned out to be was heavenly.
We ate on the rooftop patio of Paige and Neil’s beautiful home, surrounded by the majesty of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in full, cloud-rimmed, midsummer glory. Rain had fallen all day, but cleared off an hour or so before dinner, settling any dust and giving the landscape, awash now in the colors of a mountain sunset, that crisp palette that would look fake on an artist’s canvas.
The wine flowed, the food worked, conversation bubbled, strangers felt welcomed, old friends remembered why they loved each other so much and by the time that splendid dessert appeared, everyone there would agree that it was One of Those Nights.
An evening over which I will never get—nor will I want to.
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