Utilizing our Italian Culinary Skills

dave.russ.ipad
Dave and Russ, smartly dressed in their chef’s aprons, select music on the iPad.

This past April Russ enjoyed a weeknight dinner on the Main Line with Diane and Dave. Russ has known Diane for many years from their jobs working at Jefferson Health System, but this was his first acquaintance with Dave. (I had some conflict or another and couldn’t attend.) Once he got home after their fabulous dinner, Russ declared “You’re not going to believe this, but Diane and Dave stayed at Il Poggio in Tuscany Italy just a few months after we did!”

diane.dave.ouside
Diane and Dave posing in front of one of their back gardens.

Because of this coincidence and our mutual affinity for cooking and entertaining, we received an invitation to their house to make homemade pasta (Dave took the cooking class with Massimo at Il Poggio, same as us—“Cooking Lesson with Italian Chef Massimo” blog posted on April 23, 2014.) After some back-and-forth, we synchronized our calendars for a mutually available Saturday in July at their house in Bryn Mawr—Now mind you, I’d never met either one of them before, but Russ was convinced I’d like them right away.

sauce.on.stove
Dave’s homemade bolognese sauce simmered all day.
caesar.salad
Dave’s infamous Caesar salad.

The plan was, Russ and Dave would make a homemade pasta from scratch, Dave would make his famous Bolognese Sauce and trademark Caesar Salad; while we took on the task of providing dessert. Just so happens, about a week before the gathering, we received the Aug/Sept issue of Fine Cooking which featured Amazing Desserts A La Mode. Perfect! Russ zeroed in on the Blueberry Crostada with Lemon Ice Cream.

plated.crostada
pie.and.icecream

Fast forward to the day of… Dave greeted us at the door and from the moment we stepped inside, we felt at home. They are the most gracious and easy-going hosts—and what a lovely home! I’d have to describe their style as old-world-eclectic-meets-modern. They bought it about 5 1/2 years ago and pretty much gutted the entire structure and rebuilt to incorporate a more open floor plan. Everywhere you looked there were interesting vignettes or artwork from their travels, often accompanied by a compelling story. One example, the beautiful birdhouse painting which was an exact replica of the structure in their garden, framed by an old window taken from the house of the artist (an aunt I believe.)

Another story centered on a glass skull container filled with Crystal Head Vodka and signed by Dan Aykroyd. The vodka is quadruple-distilled and seven times filtered, with the final 3 filtrations through Herkimer diamond crystals—WOWSER!

appetizer.table1
Side table laden with antipasto offerings.

After greetings were exchanged, and with cocktails in hand, we were treated to an amazing antipasto table–not just a platter—that Diane crafted. I honestly thought there must be more company coming given the amount of food! Subsequent to some animated chit chat indoors, we relocated to their nicely appointed patio out back to enjoy their gardens and some more of the tasty antipasto. While outside, Diane pointed out an old ladder attached to two trees and strung with battery operated mini-lights with a hanging flower basket centered over a bistro table and chairs—an idea I’m stealing for our backyard.

hanging.ladder
Old ladder strung with lights and hanging basket.

It didn’t escape my notice that many of their numerous pots—and a log—were filled with a variety of healthy succulents. Come to find out, they leave them out all winter—and we’ve had a couple of doozies lately—without any harm to the plants. I was floored! That’s my new plan for our strawberry pot of succulents this Fall—just leave ’em alone, that’ll work for me!

3.wine.glasses
The descriptive wine “bracelets.”

Time to gear up for the main course. Russ and Dave made the dough from scratch, then wrapped it in plastic to rest for about 20 minutes, while Diane uncorked a bottle of red. For quick identification we were allowed to choose a wine glass “bracelet” from a selection of various colors and descriptive words. Of course I was immediately drawn to the purple (shocker I know) with the word “RICH” imprinted on it—now that’s inspiration! Russ chose the “COMPLEX”, Diane had the “RIPE” and Dave was “EARTHY.” Whilst sipping wine, we marveled at the myriad of similarities between each couple, with one commonality the fact that we all met via social media dating sites—them on E.Harmony and us on Match.com.

cracking.eggs
Starting to make the pasta dough.

third.hand
Notice Dave’s “third” hand??

mashing.anchovies
Dave muddling the anchovies for the Caesar salad.

lynn.diane
Lynn and Diane.

tablescape
The tablescape before dinner…

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A closeup of the pasta bolognese.

One topic of conversation over the course of the evening centered on their upcoming move to an adult community on a 70,000-acre lake in South Carolina in August. Dave retires as a Forensic Psychiatrist on July 31; while Diane, a COO in hospital administration, leaves August 31. I asked if they’ll miss their house, and while they answered yes there are aspects of it that they’ll miss, their new digs offer property abutting a golf course (both are avid golfers), upkeep costs and taxes are far less, and the winters are much milder. Then there’s the Italian Farmer’s Market in Philly… seems Dave has a penchant for frequenting this establishment. I guess that’ll give him a reason to come back periodically and visit…

Having arrived just after 4 in the afternoon, and with the clock nearing 11 p.m., it was time to make our departure before we overstayed our welcome. We left them with the additional lemon ice cream, and I got to take home my leftover pasta bolognese—which of course made a perfect brunch item on Sunday 😉

Stay tuned… Recipes for the Blueberry Crostada and Lemon Ice Cream will be posted in an upcoming blog.

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