Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter al fresco

easter dinner.jpg
Eastside Road, April 20, 2014—
WHEN WE'RE IN TOWN on Easter Sunday — if we're not traveling, I mean — we're always grateful to accept the annual invitation to an al fresco supper at the Healdsburg home of a couple of friends, she a fine baker and seamstress, he a remarkable sculptor. They have a marvelous, spacious back garden, a small park really, a huge lawn set about with small fruit trees and vegetable beds, and sculpture standing everywhere, and a majestic ancient black Labrador.

We began with wonderful spanakopita and dolmas — Easter always seems to bring out a Greek note here — cheeses and home-cured olives, breads and crackers, helping ourselves variously to beer or cider or soft drinks, white or red wine — including an unlabelled bottle of white brought by a neighbor who'd made it, a delicious, soft, fragrant wine I'd buy if I knew where to find it.

Soon it was time for the obligatory egg hunt, each of us finding a beautifully decorated egg with our name on it — I made the entire circuit of the front lawn before finding mine, finally, in plain sight, under a shrub near the starting point. (I'm afraid I cracked and flattened mine a bit, having forgotten it in my pocket — good thing it was hard-boiled!

eggs.jpgThe dining table stretched out in the shade of a walnut tree, set for twenty-eight guests, most of whom had brought some delicious thing to eat or drink. There were four generations present, babies sleeping on the grass, toddlers climbing ladders, young couples, their parents, us ancients.

Pork and lamb was grilled over wood fires, and asparagus; there were delicious red potatoes with strong aïoli; there was a fine mess of pot greens; there were good white beans and sauces and salads. And then the desserts: fruit compote, lemon tart, rice pudding, and a superb egg custard in phyllo.

Nothing is better, I think, than a gathering with friends and family, on a beautiful warm afternoon, in a garden with plenty of shade, with delicious and lovingly prepared food, and banter and conversation. And then cookies afterward. Thank you Paul and Becky!

Chardonnay, Château St. Jean, 2010; Pinot Noir, Trecini, 2012; Prosecco, Zonin, nv

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