Birthday dinner with Ligament this past March 8 was a humble symphony—well, more of a smallish chamber group—of grilled cheese, tomato soup, salad, and homemade chocolate-covered cashew clusters.
The salad you see in the first picture is deliberately done up in a somewhat pretentious, avant-garde way: the tuna has been shaped by two spoons into a quenelle (this is often done with ice cream); the half-deconstructed caprese (slice your own tomato) features all the elements: tomato, mozzarella (barely visible at the very bottom of the bowl, where it sits in fanned-out slices), and fresh basil. Quail's eggs are dirt-cheap in Korea, so they make an appearance as part of the cucumber-y tuna salad that occupies the left-hand side of the bowl. The dressing (not shown) was olive oil, balsamic vinegar, rendered berry syrup, salt, pepper, oregano, basil, fresh-ground garlic, and a blot of mustard to emulsify.
Lig ended up concentrating on the soup and sandwich; a bit like my buddy Tom, she's not much into vegetables, and she seemed turned off by the smell of the balsamic vinegar, which was a disappointing reaction for me. But I guess this is how you learn a lady's tastes.
Next up: an overhead shot of a very nice pack of pie/cake slices that Lig had bought and brought with her for no particular reason, unless it was because she was following the Korean custom of not showing up to a place empty-handed (a custom I routinely ignore, by the way). From left to right: strawberry-cream pie, chocolate cake, crêpe pie (literally made from a stack of crêpes, like one of Guy Fieri's tortilla-cake monstrosities), regular cream pie (the least tasty of the bunch), and fresh-cream cake (saeng-cream cake, as it's called in Korean).
I didn't get around to eating any of these delectable slices until after Lig had left (she refused to eat any herself, either because she was angelically unselfish, or because she was just full); I could tell they were expensive because they actually had flavor. Most Korean attempts at Western desserts lack enough egg, sugar, and butter. Not so with these confections.
Click the following picture to enlarge it. This is my only pic of dinner; Lig has a thing about being photographed, so it's hard for me to get any proper eating-related shots. She also wasn't that happy about this photograph because she felt that the blob of tomato soup on her grilled cheese would make her look like a slob to the world. Sometimes, with women, you just can't win. I'm uploading this pic to the blog, anyway, and she knows it.
Finally, a pic of the pièce de résistance: my chocolate-covered cashew-nut clusters. About 1.5 cups of chocolate chips and maybe 2/3 of a cup of Nutella got melted together in a double-boiler; the cashews were boringly unsalted, so I added a pinch of salt to the chocolate, then tossed in the cashews. I poured the whole hot mess into a butter-lined cake tin, stuck that bad boy uncovered in the freezer for 30 minutes to let it harden, then let it all chill the rest of the time inside my fridge, nicely tucked inside a large Ziploc bag. (By freezing the chocolate first, I got rid of the evaporation/moisture problem that would occur were I to put warm chocolate directly into the fridge.)
The chocolate, after a good fridging, holds up fine at room temperature; the Nutella affects this not at all. Lig, bolder and more aggressive than usual, demanded that I give her half to take home. Somewhat unnerved, I did as she asked. A few days later, I shared the rest of the chocolate-cashew clusters with my boss and my coworker at the Golden Goose.
Always nice when your food is in demand.