Will and Carmen are the newest members of our Top Chef Dinner Club. No, we are not Top Chefs. In fact, we are not chefs at all, but rather enthusiastic home cooks. Yes, we do watch the TV show Top Chef together, religiously, and always accompanied by a Dinner meal. And we do it on a regular basis with exclusive membership, hence the Club. Thus, Top Chef Dinner Club.
For a long time we were a group of six dedicated members, but now we are a group of eight thanks to Will and Carmen. They just moved back to San Antonio after a three year stint in L.A. - a time in which our local Dinner Club grew and flourished into the fine-dining, many-bottle-of-wine, every-other-week, flanked-by-viewing-Top-Chef extravaganza that it is today.
These friends are fine people, well traveled and versed in the ways of fine dining. They have even eaten at The French Laundry, which is something the rest of us Dinner Club members have never done. But fancy dining pedigree or none, not just any foodie joins our coveted club. Not without a challenge at least. A "quick fire" challenge if you will. So a few weeks ago at John and Lauren's house, we set up a "pantry" full of odd ingredients, including a cucumber, an unknown white squash, nuts, white radishes, lemon curd, prosciutto, chocolate, crackers, lobster pate, and bamboo shoots. Also, i think there we some other crazy Asian ingredients in there. And then we instructed Will and Carmen to create for us an appetizer in 30 minutes. The fate of their Dinner Club membership depended on it.
The final result? A prosciutto roll stuffed with lemon curd, served on a cracker with a balsamic vinegar on top. Carmen even admitted that she would have liked to reduce the vinegar into a thicker sauce, but was nervous about the time. We gave then credit as though they had made a reduction. The simple fact that they talked about it seemed fancy enough to grant then some foodie street cred.
The appetizer was interesting, and watching them squirm nervously at the hazing was even more interesting. Membership status solidified. Now we wait anxiously for their first real hosting gig, to find out what kind of recipes and cooking skill they bring to Dinner Club.