Ben’s good friend James was staying with us all week last week. And I’m beginning to think that our houseguests are somehow magnetic, because as it always seems to happen, one out-of-town friend attracted some more, and we ended up with more guests in the midst of his stay. Julie, my close friend from culinary school, and her boyfriend Joe, came in on Saturday from Madison, and stayed for the night too. And so, for this fiftieth Scrumptious Company dinner party, we had a fun mix and match of friends. And man, was it fun! A total blast! We laughed all night, ate some tasty food, drank some tremendous wines (thanks to Julie and Joe), told many a scandalous story I can’t even repeat here, and then, right before dessert, out on our snowy back deck, we taught James to saber a bottle of (cheapo) Champagne!
The menu was filled with Mexican flavors and ingredients. But it was a cozy, wintery sort of Mexican fare, which made for a nice, spicy change of pace, this time of year. I’ve been wanting to make this pork stew for ages, and built the rest of the menu around it its warm flavors.
For a starting snack, a silky puree of black beans, fortified with huge flavors of garlic, lime, cilantro and cumin. This dip was all about the flavor and texture. It’s certainly not a looker, I’ll be the first to admit. A drab and dreary plop of purpley-brown goop, it would be down-right homely without its pretty garnish of cilantro, and some colorful chips and crudités on the side. But it’s this unassuming guise that makes the first taste so surprisingly good. The texture for one is totally luxurious – velvety smooth and wholly creamy. And the flavor is truly out of this world – bright lime juice, smoky cumin, a hint of spicy cayenne, that singular prickly taste of cilantro, and a rounding out of smooth, heady garlic. So utterly good, you’ll be surprised again and again with every single bite.