Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Jane's Christmas Dinner

Tuesday night was the latest in what is becoming an annual holiday event: Jane's Christmas Dinner. Each of us in our dinner party group host get-togethers throughout the year but last year's Christmas dinner at Jane's was a highlight and this year even surpassed the last.

As this night is clearly evolving into tradition, Jane decided the main dish would also remain; much to our supreme satisfaction. Despite the all-day preparation involved, Jane was once again making Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon. Just the thought of this mouth-watering dish has had all of us salivating for weeks. We were greatly anticipating this night, to say the least.

I was charged with selecting some of the wine for the evening and decided to turn the choices over to the lovely folks at Wines by Jennifer in Parkville. I had not visited Wines by Jennifer before and I have to say it was a bit of a revelation. The location is a charming and unassuming little cottage on Main Street. The decor inside is cozy and welcoming. One of the knowledgeable employees or Jennifer herself greet you at the door and guide you through the many rooms of wonderful wines. Many of the rooms, particularly the top level, are each dedicated to a certain country and upstairs is where I would head as I was looking for a couple of French Reds to accompany the meal. The good folks at Wines by Jennifer helped me with my selections and indeed the Domaine La Milliere Cotes Du Rhone was a big was truly wonderful. Wines by Jennifer also features a terrific gourmet foods section, an extensive collection of craft beers, tasting room and even an art gallery on the lower level. Check them out at

We arrived at Jane's and after a moment to exchange greetings and take in the delectable aromas emanating from the kitchen, we settled in on this cold winter's night. After sampling a couple of the cornichons Ronnie brought and sipping the first glass of wine, we began to exchange gifts. Keith gifted everyone with a stained-glass ornament that he had made, Jeff presented everyone with a jar of his top-secret strawberry butter and Jolynn gave us a loaf of Challah bread(Holla!) from Bloom Bakery.
Jane gave us a gift bag that included Panera's Broccoli Cheddar Soup, truffles, crackers and most surprisingly, a bar of Beekman 1802 Winter Goats Milk Soap from the Beekman Boys featured on the Planet Green TV show. Did Josh or Brent wrap and make this particular bar? Inquiring minds want to know. Jane and Linda gave us gold charger plates from the Charles Dickens collection in honor of the Dickens dinner. Linda than made me a tad fahklempt when she gave me a copy of the long-awaited recipes for her late husband Jack's Halibut with Vermouth Sauce and Crab Bisque; the latter in Jack's own handwriting. We lost Jack to cancer a few years bcak and the last time several of us had seen him was Jane's Christmas dinner. It was a teary moment of perfect harmony and thats a good example of how treasured these Christmas dinners have become.

We soon moved on to the culinary main event. We began with Linda's Coquille St. Jacques, a rich and savory dish of seafood and mushrooms in a divine wine sauce served traditionally in a scallop shell. Typically, the dish is made with scallops but in this case, shrimp was substituted. The wine sauce was so wonderful that in the end, we drank it right out of the shell or in Jane's case, the sauce was literally lapped up. The next course was a delicious citrussy salad of fresh fruit and greens lightly dressed with Dijon mustard-based dressing. Finally, the main event arrived and Jane's Beef Bourguignon, with all of its flavors and textures, was as amazing as ever. Served with a side of homemade mashed potatoes and crusty bread with killer herb butter; it was truly wonderful. Dessert was Jolynn's spice cake, made from her grandmother's recipe, deliciously topped off with fresh cinnamon-spiked whipped cream. This meal was so excellent that I counted my blessings with each bite.

Throughout the meal, the conversation was as lively as ever and the subject matter ranged from Jane finding herself driving in a funeral procession to Ronnie's musings on public nudity. The wine flowed and the laughter was non-stop. The true joy to be found with this little group is simply being together. Every gathering somehow manages to be better than the last. As that bright moon settled behind the trees on that crisp winter night, we all headed out for our respective homes. The next several days would be the usual seasonal whirlwind of work and family for all of us. In the midst of all of the holiday madness, its truly a blessing to have a cozy, peaceful night with good friends.


Anonymous said...

This was the perfect kick off to my holiday. I love you guys so much, and I've been purring ever since. Kisses.

Lisa Mandina said...

I'm not a wine drinker, but I did a wine tasting at Wines by Jennifer in Parkville, and I really enjoyed it. Of course, the person who did our wine tasting was a friend of the family, but it was a very neat experience. If I ever have enough money, I want to go back and do it again. We sat in a little room down in the basement.

Confounded Cook said...

I can't wait to do a tasting there, Lisa! Kitten, indeed, it was perfect.

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