Saturday, February 23, 2019

dîner, vendredi soir

Friday evening's dinner in pictures.

Charles and his lovely wife Hyunjin live in the Seoul National University neighborhood; being a professor at SNU, my friend benefits from on-campus housing. As a matter of tradition, Charles, our mutual friends Tom and Patrick, and I have been having these get-togethers over the past few years, either at Charles's comparatively roomy place or at whatever cramped hovel I happen to be stuffed into. I've documented most or all of these get-togethers on this blog if you're inclined to go searching for those records.

Friday night, we continued our tradition with another such gathering. Charles and Hyunjin prepped several things for the meal, and I brought my own addition to dinner as well. For Charles and Hyunjin, the prep was Schweinshaxe (ham hock), pan-fried Brussels sprouts with onions and (I think) Korean-style bacon, a kind of insalata mista, homemade sauerkraut and, for dessert, a beautiful from-scratch chocolate cake with cream-cheese frosting (Charles tells me there's a technical difference between frosting and icing, but I'm not buying it). Patrick (I think it was Patrick) brought over many types of beer for the drinkers to sample. I brought my huge load of Spaetzle, some of which I served plain, and most of which I served with sausage, Alfredo cream sauce, and fresh parsley. I of course brought far too much food, and because I was having some gastric issues that evening, I didn't stuff myself quite as much as I might have had my internal pipes been emptier. Tom, for his part, brought himself.

Here's the besausaged, cream-sauced Spaetzle:

Very nicely cooked Brussels sprouts (left side of the plate, about 10 o'clock) and a most excellent insalata mista (foreground) that I regret not eating more of:

Next—a blurred picture of the Schweinshaxe being carved by Charles:

Another shot of my creamy Spaetzle:

A shot of the plain Spaetzle, which served as a bed for the ham:

Below is Round Two of dinner for me—essentially, my own food plus Charles's succulent ham and Hyunjin's sauerkraut, which took her 2.5 weeks to prep and turned out fantastic:

I don't have the patience to prep kraut the right way, so I normally follow Brian Boitano's quickfire recipe for kraut in 15-20 minutes (see results here).

Below—essentially the same shot as the previous one:

I did love the Alfredo Spaetzle. I wasn't as jazzed about the plain Spaetzle, but that may have had more to do with the condition of my stomach than with my taste preference.

Tom, nearing 50 like me, shows off his old-man glasses:

Patrick, much younger, shows off his bifocals (and get a load of that tee shirt):

Husband and wife, founders of our feast:

The final two photos in this brief essay are of Charles's homemade chocolate cake, which he decided to top with a cream-cheese frosting instead of chocolate icing. I'm a chocoholic, and I probably would have preferred a chocolate icing, but the cream-cheese frosting was damn good, so I'll somehow find it in my heart to forgive my friend for his racist choice of white over dark brown. I ended up taking a huge chunk of that cake home with me; it's going to be gone by Sunday night.

Below—another shot of the cake. The cake itself was absolutely perfect in its consistency. Charles had half-jokingly proposed that he'd be making a cake that would be better than what you find in a typical Korean bakery, i.e., a cake with too little butter, egg, and sugar. I'd say he succeeded. Pleasantly fragrant and infused with a perfect amount of chocolate, Charles's cake was moist through and through, impeccably textured. As I type this, a huge chunk of that cake is sitting on my kitchen table, whispering sexily in my ear. I'm doing a long walk on Saturday, though, so I won't be eating any cake until I'm back from my day hike.

It was a pleasant evening. Tom noted that I seemed quiet, and that's probably a combination of my being tired and, once again, my lack of anything to contribute when dinner-table conversation turns to varieties of beer. I know little to nothing about alcohol, and by this point, it's becoming a bit of a running joke that four out of five people at the table will want to talk at length about the beers they're drinking, so there's little I can do but listen. It was fun watching Hyunjin and Patrick, in particular, get tipsier as the night went on; Patrick entertained us toward the end of the evening by suddenly springing a nosebleed. He grabbed a couple tissues and plugged his nostrils until the bleeding subsided. It could well be that one of Tom's many jokes had made Patrick laugh hard enough to have a minor blood-gusher, but we have no video to confirm how, exactly, the bleed happened.

I took my leave of the group, between dinner and dessert, to run across the street to a large assembly hall so I could, uh, make room for dessert. I knew I'd be too noisy and smelly using Charles's facilities, which is why I opted to perform my ritual à distance. Things were a bit awkward at the assembly hall: the front desk, staffed by a lone male receptionist, was diagonally across from the men's room, and not that far away from it. All the surfaces in the lobby—walls, floors, etc.—were hard and shiny, so any noise I made in the toilet cubicle was going to reverberate lustily throughout the first floor. Knowing this, I went into the men's room all the same. When I finished my business and was heading out, I brazenly changed direction and marched straight up to the receptionist to ask how long the building would be open. He said the lobby/atrium area was open twenty-four hours, but other parts of the building would close early. The restaurant just off the lobby, for example, would close at 9 p.m. I had asked the question in case I needed to visit the loo a second time; that turned out not to be necessary, thank Cthulhu.

Tom, Patrick, and I all decided to cab home; this meant a separate cab for each of us. I had planned to use the Kakao Taxi app to hail a cab, but one came sailing down the street, and Tom insisted that I be the one to hop in it because I was carrying my bulky Costco bag. There was one last round of handshakes as I squeezed inside the cab. While I was riding back to my place, Charles sent out a chat message thanking us for coming. We're all looking forward to gathering again at some point, possibly this spring. No idea where we'll meet or what the menu will be, but it ought to be a good time.


Charles said...

I forgot to mention that you might want to keep the cake in a cool place, for the sake of the frosting--being dairy based, it's probably not best to leave it out at room temperature. It should be OK for a short while, though.

The Spaetzle was awesome, in both its sauced and sober form--I bet the leftovers will be lip-smacking as well. With all the heavy food we had, though, I have to say that I am glad we had the sauerkraut to balance everything out.

Kevin Kim said...

The leftovers proved not so lip-smacking when I reheated some Spaetzle for lunch today: I think the pasta had absorbed all the cream and butter and cheese. Your wife was wise to ask for only a tiny container of it. It's probably best eaten with something like sauerkraut or kimchi to cut through all the fat.

As for the cake-storage issue... that point is now moot. Heh. I did, however, think about the issue last night, and I opted to keep the cake on the kitchen table instead of fridging it so as to preserve the cake's amazing moistness. Had I fridged it, the cake would have hardened, and I'd have had to wait for it to warm up to room temperature before eating it. The frosting survived the night just fine, and I was able to peel the plastic wrap off with minimal clingage. Thanks again for that beautiful chunk of chocolate-y goodness.

Charles said...

We shall see--we're planning on having the Spaetzle tonight, although HJ is planning on turning it into some sort of casserole.

Glad to hear the cake held up well. We've been keeping our portion out in the enclosed back veranda, which is cool, but not quite refrigerator cool--so, cool enough to preserve the frosting but not so cold as to harden up the cake. Although, from experience, I've found that this cake holds up pretty well to the cold anyway.