Isabella (my new granddaughter), Pete, Lauren and I arrived at the Henderson’s about 4PM on Saturday. I thought we were going to be late, but most of the other folks hadn’t arrived yet. Carl met us in the driveway, looking very dignified. When we came in their beautiful home, everyone made a big fuss over 3-week old Isabella, and she remained one of the centers of attention throughout the evening (I don’t think she even cried the whole time we were there).
Carl watching the paella getting started.
Lots of food preparation was going on in the kitchen and Jo Ann had everything organized and under control. Michael-Anthony, whom Jo Ann jokingly refers to as her second husband, was preparing salads and she put me in charge of chilling and selecting which wines to open (she’s good at delegating) as she was making the paella. Wine glasses were conveniently set up next to the appetizer table containing a nice selection of nuts, dried fruits, cheeses, olives, hummus and other tasty munchoids. This table was set up below a stunning Matthew Jacobs painting of voters in the 1920s (they have a beautiful home). The weather was perfect as I migrated to the back yard with Jo Ann’s neighbor (who brought a very nice Barbera from Piedmont) and a glass of Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut – NV to join Jo Ann as she was setting up the terra cotta grill to cook the paella. “Back yard” is not an apt phrase, as it is a beautiful garden, with shrubs, flowers, herbs, terraced stone walkways and a fountain made from a monolithic stone. As things were coming together, more folks arrived, including Diana and Clint Hall, whom I had met with Jo Ann and Carl at Bucko’s two years ago on my first trip to WA, my cousin Candice, with who I reunited with for the first time since the late 1960s the night before in Everett and her son, Ben, Georgina, Donald, Megan and several others.
Jo Ann with the Halls by the fountain.
I’m bad at remembering names and equally bad at remembering the names of all the wines we went through in the course of the evening (after I PM a few folks I’ll post about the wines in the Wine Forum). One of the wines we opened was a 2007 Rosé of Isabella from Goose Watch (Finger Lakes) that I brought along to toast my new granddaughter (she’s so special they named a grape after her
At last it was time to do some serious eating! Paella
– I was eyeballing Jo Ann as she prepared this, but missed a few steps as I was talking and helping Carl pour wine. This was cooked in her large, flat paella pan, over charcoal and pear wood. She started with chicken wings, browning them. I missed a few of the steps, but the next time I checked, there was a lot of liquid (chicken stock?), slices of Portuguese sausage, several seasoning ingredients and a short-grained Spanish rice. When I returned again later, she was adding the final touches – fresh peas, diced tomatoes, clams, mussels, whole shrimp, thin lemon wedges and roasted red pepper strips, all arranged in proper geometric fashion. The dish was cooked perfectly, with a slight burn in the center at the bottom and a golden crustiness that spread out across the bottom of the pan. This was indeed a masterpiece, and so delicious. Poached Salmon
– I totally missed the preparation of this. Earlier, I saw two huge king salmon filets marinating on the kitchen counter and when it was time to eat, they were cooked and sliced into serving portions (I took two). Juicy and tender (it’s so easy to over-cook fish and dry it out) – just superb! Watermelon and Cucumber Salad
– I avoid cucumbers, due to the burp factor. However, I noticed Michael-Anthony peeling and slicing one of those long English cucumbers and was told they are burpless (and indeed they are). Following Jo Ann’s directions he added this to a large bowl of cubed watermelon with sliced red onions and finely diced jalapeno (not a lot). I don’t know what dressing was on it but it something simple that allowed the flavors of the other ingredients to come together. Whoda thunk that such diverse foods could come together and make something so tasty and was such an excellent complement to the paella? Jo Ann later disclosed that she adapted this from a salsa recipe.
In addition, there were sliced tomatoes with goat cheese and balsamic vinegar and corn on the cob. After all of the above, I managed to try each of the desserts. There were two different chocolate truffles (yum), a cake with coconut – very tasty, and I’m not a big coconut fan, and the star of the dessert table was a lemon tart (torte?)
made with a shortbread crust and topped with thin slices of cooked and sweetened lemon.
I was going to take a final picture of Jo Ann at the end of the meal, sitting in her chair with her feet propped up on an adjoining chair, a soot smear across her white apron, a contented smile on her face and a large, almost empty paella pan on the table in front of her, but I was too full to get and go to the other room to get my camera.
This was without a doubt, one of the finest meals I’ve ever had, with wonderful food and a great bunch of people. Bravo Jo Ann!