"What on earth is a Champagne party?" I exclaimed to Baby as I read about the Queen of Sheba cake (The Hundredth Show) in Julia Child’s The French Chef Cookbook. She scribes, “The Queen of Sheba is a dessert in itself, or can be the main attraction at a tea, coffee, or Champagne party.” Who has Champagne parties these days and what’s more, what do you serve? The answer began to appear quite readily, when an extraordinarily generous friend gave Baby and me 250 grams (roughly 8 ounces) of caviar as a gift. That’s what you serve at a Champagne party! I tried my best to spoon my way through the tin, but it was evident I was going to need some help!
We made the cake of rum, almonds, and chocolate on Friday. It was definitely labor intensive and a little tricky trying it for the first time (we experienced a snag melting the chocolate, not trusting ourselves) but the results were well worth the trouble. As it baked, we started plotting out the menu and calling people to come for brunch on Sunday. For starters, we knew to dress the central caviar platter with toast points, chopped red onion, capers, lemon wedges, and blini (buckwheat pancakes). This particular blini by the way, another gift that accompanied the caviar, was news to me. Unlike the blini that I’m familiar with, that are about the size of a Sacajawea dollar and topped, these pancakes were rolled out like elegant parchment, to be gently folded and filled.
Amidst the outreach of invitations, I was suddenly struck with the memory of a Martha Stewart gathering that she had mapped out in her book Menus for Entertaining, the chapter entitled, Come for Champagne and Caviar. So, I guess I had heard of that sort of party before, but it’s an old book, and I’m older still. We plucked out the recipe for Beet Horseradish sauce, as piquant as it is pleasantly pink, with sugar snap peas for dipping. I also made the Salmon Rosettes with Dill & Mustard Sauce, on pumpernickel rounds.
Baby loves making his potato pancakes, and offered to make them (and you won’t find any better, believe me). This time he topped them with a marinated, fine dice of tuna tartare and drizzled a blend of Stonewall Kitchen wasabi cream and sour cream, and placed them on a tray over a bed of parsley. The Reader’s Digest Secrets of Better Cooking supplied Stuffed Eggs with Caviar. Spoonfuls of the most buttery, delectable miso-glazed cod were passed around, I also futzed some smoked salmon with the dill and mustard sauce and tossed in a few of the blueberries that our friend had brought. That’s right, salmon and blueberries—try it.
We freely poured both Champagne and Mionetto prosecco, with offerings of juice, such as blood orange, grapefruit and Fuji apple (and the lightest splashes of elderflower-scented St. Germain liqueur) and watched the spread disappear as our guests came and went, having shared with us this most lovely afternoon.
Et voila, mes dames et monsieurs, a perfect Champagne party well suited for a Queen of Sheba cake!
Soundtrack: Great British Bands Play the Music of Noel Coward; Evil Under the Sun soundtrack; Sinatra Sings Cole Porter; The Great American Composers – Cole Porter