Darkness overtakes light, the sun giving way to the moon. Harvest time has ended, and a bounty of wonders awaits our delectation. As the year draws to a close, we turn our attention to our Final Supper, a feast for a few fortunate souls. We will gather around the table, minds and bodies eager to bid adieu to the old; we’ll converse and ponder, and we’ll usher in the new with food and drink worthy of Vatel, chosen for our groaning board from purveyors far and wide.
We’ll partake of canapés and fruit, cheeses and bread, pork and fowl, vegetables and wines, and creatures of the sea. It will be a buffet for our age, and we’ll dine with ease, going from platter to bowl to tray as we wish. This is not a fussy affair, but one marked by spontaneity and warmth. Join us, if you dare.
We begin, of course, with Champagne and oysters. A 1998 Krug is our pleasure, and three types of bivalves: Island Creeks, Wellfleets and Peter’s Points. The Krug has aged splendidly and, with the beautiful brininess of the oysters, will take us from workaday reality to a beautiful beginning.
Also on the table are bowls of cheese straws and caviar sets holding Osetra and ikura. (One of us will decide to spoon a bit of the ikura on his oyster, a seemingly minor act that results in flavors beyond compare.) There are pears and grapes and cheeses and bread (Poilâne, of course) — items necessary for such a meal to be complete.
No winter feast should be without a suckling pig and a goose, and these will take pride of place on our stage, supported by a full leg of Jamón Ibérico de Bellota — from a pata negra pig raised in the open air and fed on herbs and grasses, then fattened on acorns — aged for four years, and one of the finest smoked country hams to be had; if you’ve never tasted Allan Benton’s handiwork, you’re in for a treat, because what he does with American pork is nothing short of revelatory.
And truffles. Sensual Alba truffles, from Italy, whose richness elevates our affair. (We source them from a Frenchwoman who now makes her home in Houston.)
For those of our group who eschew meat, red snapper from the Gulf of Mexico will be roasted whole, and a platter of giant shrimp, grilled tenderly, will provide. And we would never think of hosting a winter feast without baccala, our nod to the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
We’ll open wines throughout the evening, bottles from Spain and Germany and France, and one from Texas, chosen with care, and we’ll spend time late in the night with a bottle or two of Calvados, a liquid that, with espresso, will close our supper. There is a fireplace in our dining room, and we’ll gather around its warmth.
Desserts, you ask? There are canelés, that legendary pastry of Bourdeaux, and a wholly American confection, a Smith Island Cake, this one iced with caramel and cream. These sweets will be surrounded by our cheese boards — a cornucopia including chèvre, Stilton, Manchego and an aged Gouda. We prefer our cheeses at the end of our meal, enjoyed with a good port, the perfect digestif.
The night draws closer to day, our spirits are sated. The conversation, however, continues apace, and we speak of a new year — and new beginnings.
As we bid one another farewell and prepare to part ways, a disembodied voice is heard throughout the room: “Strange to see how a good dinner and feasting reconciles every soul.” Pepys has the final word.
OUR WINE LIST
2003 Hexamer Sobernheimer Marbach Riesling Spätlese
2011 Chateau Hosanna Pomerol
2006 La Rioja Alta Rioja Reserva “Viña Arana”
2004 Chateau d’Epiré Savennières
2013 Jean-MarcM Boillot Puligny-Montrachet
2011 Duchman Family Montepulciano
2009 Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port
(Thanks to Houston Wine Merchant for input)