Lum: The KAJX lottery banquet
Last week I wrote about the arrangements for the dinner I won on KAJX, to be prepared by Matt Maier of Carbondale via Italy and other lands.
If the gourmet cooking shows on TV are any evidence, it must take a lot to constitute a crisis for a chef. When we discovered that he had arrived a day early, it was no big deal, except that I thought it was a stupendous start to the event. I imagine that he was relieved that he wouldn’t be cooking a fancy meal for an old idiot who had clearly done nothing whatsoever to prepare for the dinner.
The next day dawned ill. The weather was dark gray and portended to get worse. My daughter, Hillery M., called to say that her husband, Bruce, was sick, but a few minutes later Bruce called back to say he had taken a brisk walk, felt better and was coming to the party.
When my daughter Skye arrived at 3:30, a blizzard was raging, the wind nearly taking her off her feet as she wrestled a large folding table into the living room. She also brought candles (batteries, with all the oxygen in the house), birthday streamers for Hillery M. and Bruce, wineglasses, napkins and a splendid tablecloth.
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Matt arrived just as Skye was putting the finishing touches on the table, which could easily seat eight. “Would you like to have dinner tonight?” Matt joked.
Bruce and Hillery M. had gotten through the blizzard from Leadville to Aspen, but 15 minutes out of town Bruce got sick again, and he was green around the gills when he got here. Bruce, who has the heartiest appetite of any of the guests, was put to bed and couldn’t eat a thing.
That was sad all around, but Hilary B. arrived, as did our neighbor Danielle, age 10, wearing a snappy white dress, and we all fell on the platter of appetizers that Matt brought out. He explained the origins of all the cheeses and paper-thin meats that I’m lousy at remembering the names of but which were delicious. The almonds on the side tasted as if they had just been flown in from Greece.
In our greed, we had made a sizable dent in the platter when Nancy and Roger (who is 85) arrived with their 15-year-old dachshund Sam — almost blind and deaf but with nothing wrong with his nose. For Sam, Nicky, Freddie (my two) and Huckleberry (Hilary B.’s), it was treats all around.
Matt was totally charming — cheerful, friendly, efficient and professional. “I think he’s a lot more than a caterer,” Nancy said to me, impressed.
With the table in the living room, the house was transmogrified: home but different.
Out came the salad of green things, cheese and heirloom cherry tomatoes from New Castle. Not having had a decent tomato since September, this was a huge treat for me and what I remember most from the blur of the evening.
Plates magically appeared piled with rare prime rib, potatoes au gratin and roasted asparagus, so good we gobbled it up even though we were close to bursting. The room buzzed with convivial conversation. Skye and Danielle hit it off, and everyone pigged out except for Bruce — alas for Bruce and alas for them both when they had to leave early to face the raging storm going on outside although the weather had been close to summer since February. Happy birthdays, guys.
Matt, who had been encouraged to drink and dine with us in Bruce’s seat, agreed to sit and share the dessert — the fantastic lemon cake with lemon curd and icing and candied lemon zest, the piece de resistance. Matt regaled us with culinary tales of horrendous foreign apprenticeships mixed with love and admiration for his teachers. I forgot to ask him about cooking for Martha Stewart.
Our eyes popped when he said he was a member of the CIA, but that turned out to mean the Culinary Institute of America. We all enjoyed his company and highly recommend him.
The cake was even better than the cherry tomatoes, and though we sent food home with the guests, there was plenty left over, and my friend Hilary B. and I have gorged for a week. It was a five-rib roast, and I broiled every one of those bones for breakfast, giving the last bit to the dogs. Then it was various forms of the roast and potatoes at night.
The kitchen was left spotless, and I have decided that life would really be a lot nicer with a personal chef. Once a week would be just fine, and then I could live off the scraps.
Su Lum is a longtime local who thanks KAJX and Matt for a terrific evening. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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