Last night signaled the end of an era.
When I first moved to the city eight years ago, I was somehow lucky enough to immediately secure a tight group of girlfriends. Apple Crisp and I were besties from college, as were Vert and Frites. All of us graduated under the Dome in ’03 and somehow all came together in Chicago that same summer of ’07. Legume and Fava rounded out our group of six, and by August we were all having weekly drinks at Matisse, which was, back then, a neighborhood haunt for us all.
At that point, only Vert of us was married, and only just. Apple Crisp and Apple Pie were dating, but he hadn’t put a ring on it yet. Legume, Frites, Fava and I were all flying solo, and ever week we’d meet over martinis in a very Sex and the City-ish way to discuss jobs, boys, and navigating our shiny new city.
When we met, we were suffering through unemployment, unfulfilling first jobs, law firm slavery and 24-hour residencies. Making too much with no time to spend it, or not enough and too much time to notice it.
Looking around the table last night, it was very clear how much had changed. Apple Crisp and Apple Pie, now married with two apple treats of their own, were unpacking box after box in their new suburban house. The Verts were there, also rearing two kids, one starting Kindergarten this fall. The Legumes had just hit four years of wedded bliss, and the Frites still exhibited the newlywed glow from their wedding a few months ago.
And we all came together to say goodbye to one of our own. Fava is moving to Denver next week and in an effort to clean out her pantry, had us all over for dinner one last time.
Now, if you’re like a normal person, this would mean possibly some chili, saltines, a lackluster pasta dish or stir-fry veggies and rice. Not Fava. In typical fashion, she served up a five-course Italian feast, complete with wine pairings, which she joked was a bribe to get us to come visit her. Not that any of us needed any convincing, but the promise of a good Fava meal upon arrival would most definitely be gravy.
So, today’s post is a little different. Rather than one tried and true recipe, a menu for recreating your own Italian dinner party, complete with wine pairings. There are a few recipes that Fava gave me, but like so many good cooks, she doesn’t have exact measurements, but rather lists of ingredients. Measure to taste and you might just do as good of a job as Fava did last night. Something to which we can all aspire.
First, every proper dinner starts with a cocktail.
In this case, black current dessert wine topped with sparkling lemonade;
And a toast to all the good times past, and a future full of possibilities.
Second, an appetizer.
Grilled squid and orange slices, dressed with 1:1 ratio of peperoncini brine and orange juice, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
Then, every dinner needs a salad.
This one sports zucchini ribbons, dried cherries, mint and torn mozzarella atop spinach with a red wine/shallot vinaigrette; paired with a dry-ish white wine.
Moving on, first dinner.
Turkey Italian sausage sautéed with onions, red pepper and peas, served over polenta; served with a sparkling shiraz.
Yup, a sparking shiraz. It was delicious.
Next up, second dinner, a homemade pasta served with beef and turkey sausage meatballs, and home- jarred marinara sauce.
Served with a pinot noir.
And for the sweetest finish- TWO types of bread pudding.
The first, filled with dried fruit and topped with amaretto whip.
The second, chocolate peanut butter, a little extra effort on Fava’s part to accomodate my aversion to almond extract.
A true friend.
Last night as I walked home, I realized it was probably the last time I’d be taking the late night train after a moonlit walk from Lakeshore and Waveland. There would be no trudge through the snow this December for Fava’s annual Disco Christmas party, the blowout bash of the season (the year, really). No more late Saturday brunches where Legume, Fava and I order everything on the menu just to make sure we’ve eaten all the best options.
I guess if I think about it, so much has changed in the last years, as we’d all expect life to do. We take note of it, but days go on, and the basic structure of everything remains the same. Looks different, but still the same.
And now with our dear friend out living the Denver life, Chicago will no longer be the same.
So long, Fava. See you soon on Rocky Mountain High.
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