No, this isn't a reflection centered on the historic and crown-centric holiday decor at Zona Rosa, but the latest Christmas meal shared with our dinner party group. While it hadn't been an established theme, crowns became a bit of a central thread throughout the evening.
We, of course, gathered at Jane's warm and cozy home for this annual holiday get-together, and quickly poured wine and exchanged gifts. The gifts were suitably foodie: Jeff's scrumptious strawberry butter, Trader Joe's muffin mix, Jo's peanut butter kiss cookies, Linda's handmade coasters. Jane gifted us each with an amaryllis. Ronnie gave us gorgeous pop-up greeting cards. K and I made Jim's feta dip for the appetizer, which turned out to be a bit on the spicy side...we used serrano peppers and while I'm a heatseeker, I feared that the dip may be a bit incendiary for this crowd. Fear not... they climbed all over it and gave it their seal of approval. K and I still plan to perfect the recipe and will post the results when we do.
We, of course, have had Jane's welfare foremost in our minds due to her recent health issues. We were concerned about the dinner being a bit too much on her this year but she proved us wrong, to no one's surprise. She indeed had prepared a wonderful meal but as we gathered to sit, we realized that Ronnie had set the table with something unique: English crackers. Yes, we would soon learn that these interesting little place setting centerpieces were English party crackers; considered a traditional
part of British Christmas festivities since Victorian times. They consist of a beautifully wrapped and decorated paper cylinder containing a paper crown made of tissue paper, a British riddle, a "snapping device" and a novelty item. We each pulled on the wrapping of our individual cracker, which then snapped and revealed the contents...mine flew across the room. We each donned our tissue crowns; read our jokes and admired our hidden gifts; mine being a small metal puzzle. Keith, of course, looked almost jaunty in his tissue crown, and Jane let us all know that we looked ridiculous and that I, in fact, looked particularly disturbed. Hmpf...no matter....we wore them throughout dinner anyway.
Newly adorned in our paper chapeaux, we dug into our amazing meal which would introduce our next crown...Jane's roast crown of pork. Jane prepared a to-die-for shallot-mustard sauce to top off our tender pork slices and provided parsley potatoes, her signature citrus salad and a wonderful applesauce as accompaniments. Linda brought a homemade apple pie from Corner Cafe for dessert. We thoroughly enjoyed the food and witty conversation as always. Much of that witty talk centered around where Jane displayed her pop-up art card...directly in front of her dancing woman sculpture; making it seem as if the woman's nether regions had exploded in pure pop-art fashion. As usual, our laughs may be lowbrow, but oh, do we laugh.
As we said our goodbyes that night, we admired Jane's ability to provide an enchanting evening once again. This annual tradition has become a holiday treasure, for sure. This year's dinner might even be called a crowning achievement.