HERMANO SEGUNDO BACK IN LA: GOOSE, CAVIAR & THE HASKELLS
Dining with friends can be hard work.
But, there is no one I know with whom it is such hard work as my good friends, John and Liz Haskell in L.A.
It is not that they are not good company. On the contrary, they are the very best, charming, witty and generous and sitting in their stunning home while they bicker amiably about just about everything is one of the great pleasures of my visits to the West coast.
No, the hard work comes when you sit down to eat. I have mentioned it before, but The Haskell’s are truly amongst the most serious eaters I have encountered. Their journeys around the world’s greatest restaurants are the stuff of legend and the sight of their name in the reservation book can bring brand name chefs out of retirement and back in to the kitchen for the first time in years, in such respect are they held.
Add to that, John’s superlative wine collection and the fact that Liz takes the notion of a casual meal to new levels and supper with the Haskell’s is very hard work indeed. Mind you, seldom has hard work ever been so much fun.
Our arrival for this visit saw Liz emerge from the kitchen in full whites and a timing sheet pinned to the wall that would have put the Normandy landings to shame. John was already plopping the cork from the first bottle before either of our backsides had touched the sofa.
First course was homemade buttermilk blini topped with salmon roe and caviar, a suitable companion to the dry as a bone champagne that John made sure we were topped up with. As good an opening gambit as you are likely to find anywhere.
Moving on to the next of Liz’s starters, she appeared from the kitchen with a plate of gravlax, home cured for five days, naturally, served with her own buttery brioche and strips of wonderfully oily salmon skin. On their own, those two dishes would have sent us out in to the surprisingly chilly L.A night air happy, but to Liz and John, such things are merely a distraction for the main event, which in this case happened to be a whole goose.
Goose is one of the great treats of my life. But, I seldom get chance to try it. Few restaurants offer it anymore because of the time involved in cooking it and, more importantly because of the poor meat to cost ratio. Fewer people still think of it for a meal at home mainly because they are scared and don’t know what to do with the buggers. So, to see a twelve pound bird emerge glistening and bronzed from their oven with the juices bubbling under the skin made my heart give a delighted little skip.
Liz is not one to waste God’s good goose fat either and had used it to make a rich accompaniment of red cabbage with melting chestnuts and a superb stuffing, which despite Liz’s foolish protestations that it was “not livery enough” was spot on.
I had by now reached “bye-bye belt” territory, but the Haskell assault continued with a Banana and Jamaican rum cheesecake which proved to be light and delicious enough for me to finish a large slice.
Along the way, John opened some excellent bottles from his cellar including a rather fine 1999 Cote Rotie and despite their proffering of a last treat of well kept cheeses, we stuck to our guns, flopped on the sofa and accepted a final glass of port to round off another memorable meal with two of my favourite people.
The idea of eating today seems a little, well, silly. Until of course, that is, Sybil suggested we head to Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles tonight for some of their deep-fried giblets. I may well be full enough to explode all over Culver City, but I am not stupid enough to pass that up.