Our neighbor, Shai Kessler, happens to be a highly accomplished chef, having worked for such NYC institutions like Bloomingdales as well as hotshot new restaurants like Dovetail on the Upper West Side. Regardless, we are all busy New Yorkers and hardly ever get to sit around and appreciate the man's talent for cookery. Its not like we want to give tours to our friends on our days off, and he sure as hell isn't interested in cooking for neighbors and hangers on.
But when his roommates, Thomas & Samantha, a wonderful married couple from Tennessee had their fancy digital SLR camera stolen from them, off Sam's neck, while they were asleep on the L train on Christmas Eve! . . . Shai decided to do something about it. He did the thing he's best at - get friends and neighbors together for a homecooked meal / benefit to help the kids buy a replacement camera. That's how we found a quirky invitation with a plump bird slapped up top slipped under our door.
We put on our fancy dinner jacket and slippers, walked the 20 feet down the hall with a bottle of organic red and the requested $20 donation in hand, and joined a raucous party in progress. We also did our part in party production by donating our banquet table and most of our chairs. We nibbled on olives and introductions before the first course, a sumptuous Roasted Quail in a sherry reduction augmented by a tart lentil salad.
The benefit seemed on the successful side, as had any more than 20 arrived, there'd be no place to put their butts or wine glasses. Two couches, a flight of stairs, three tables, seven chairs and various flat surfaces were all quite accommodating, and plates of food were being balanced on bookshelves, countertops, hands, laps and the aforementioned banquet table. Sam and Thomas (pictured above left and right) made a speech that brought a few to wipe their moist eyes. More wine!
Second course was a delightful Coq Au Vin, surrounded in a pomme puree and augmented by wilted winter greens. As the various party people (and Josh, above,) can attest, the dishes were basically licked clean by slightly tipsy revelers.
With dessert - a scrumptious Cardamom Flan encircled by a Rose Petal sauce - came the post-prandial Ports and Sherrys, as well as a rousing game or three of Apples to Apples, the best party card game in the world. After hysterical comparisons and more wine, port and sherry (but no more food - we all had our fill) it was time to head home. We, in the most delicious food and wine induced coma, thanked our fortunes to know such good people who have such good taste.
Shai is already planning future dinner parties and benefits - if so inclined, shoot us a line and we'll gladly put you in touch with this DIY chef superstar.