10 July 2009

Ten Vineyard Lunch

The raison d’être of the table, after all, is to have a good time.
Richard Olney

Richard Olney was one of the best food writers in America. He was the chief consultant to the Time-Life Good Cook series, which Andrew Knowlton of shaggy hair fame said was the best 28 volume "cookbook" ever. The French Menu Cookbook is one of the classic cookbooks of all time.

Ten Vineyard Lunches is organized as menus from ten areas of France with burgeoning vineyards. Richard Olney always has great foods, but what makes this book truly special is the way he speaks about entertaining.

Here are some of Olney’s observations.

“If everyone, guest and host alike, is not relaxed and happy, the meal is a failure, no matter how perfect the food and the wine.”

“There is nothing formal about my table – unless an array of wine glasses be considered formal –and, because I am most comfortable dressed in rags, that is the way I receive.”

“I don’t much worry about timing – as long as the Champagne glasses are kept filled no one minds lingering before going to the table.”

As someone who dresses in rags and adores a good Krug, I would have to say we would have been soul mates.
This recipe is from a menu for dining in the Loire Valley and it uses my favorite -- pears.

Baked Pears

4 firm eating pears
unsalted butter
2-3 tbsp sugar, or to taste
about 1/3 cup heavy cream

halve the pears, remove the cores, peel and slice lengthwise. Preheat the oven to 400º. Butter a shallow gratin dish and spread the pear slices, over lapping fanwise, over the surface. Sprinkle with sugar, dab over cream and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the cream is bubbling and the surface lightly colored.

This couldn't be simpler, yet positively elegant -- the Richard Olney way.

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