It was inevitable. How could I not flambé something? What’s more dramatic than strolling mock-casually into the dining room with a platter of something on fire? Flames catch guests’ attention better than anything, with the exception of Brad Pitt showing up at your party with no clothes on.
I caution you: flaming cocktails are dangerous, because you can broil your nose if too eager, and a trip to the emergency room is no fun. Flaming drinks turn out to be dull as well, since most if not all of the alcohol burns away. You create a beautiful display but a drink with no kick. What’s the point?
This is as good a time as any to announce an expansion of Cocktail Chatter’s mission statement. I still vow to help the mixologically needy, those wretched souls who panic when tending bar, but I’ll be writing a bit more about entertainment in general for Season 3. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but I’ll be more like Martha Stewart, only gay and male and without the money and the rap sheet.
We opened the beach house a few weeks ago, and last Saturday, Dan and I and our housemates decided we should get better acquainted with our new neighbors. Sure, they don’t even nod when they walk past us on the boardwalk. But they’re all right out of central casting’s flat-stomach-round-rump department. So I succumbed to my housemates’ entreaties (some of which were downright embarrassing – picture Craig on the floor licking my toes), and we invited them.
I prepared something I’d thought up out of the blue: a combination of ceviche, sashimi and seared salmon. It would be sashimi like in that it wouldn’t be cooked. It would resemble ceviche in that it would be preserved in a liquid for a day or two before being served, and the liquid would perform the "cooking"; mine would soak for a day in vodka. And it would be lightly seared by its own dramatic presentation: I would set my masterpiece ablaze.
I don’t mean to be sexist here, but to employ a well-used folk myth to describe my decision to create this specially for the boys next door: It took balls to try this dish for company without doing a dry run first. Had the dish been anything less than a complete success, we could kiss our hot neighbors’ asses on their way out the door and be the subjects of ridicule for the rest of the summer. But it worked. Try it the next time you’re having some folks over for drinks and dinner. Either serve Drunken Flaming Salmon with the drinks (with toothpicks) or as a first course (with knives and forks).
Whose Dumb Idea Was This Beach House?
It was well into June before Dan and I came to the distressing realization that we’d be short on housemates this season and would consequently take a big financial hit. Jack Fogg had broken up with Sammy; Sammy was rooming with the volleyball boys and Jack Fogg was doing the Hamptons. (Figures.) Phil Levine found us too boring and declared his intention to find someplace else to spend the summer; it turned out to be Malaysia. There was nothing to do about it at this point. Some of the old gang would return, but all as quarter shares, not half shares.
Dan was taking it more in stride than I was, but then he’s a corporate guy and I’m a writer, so he can afford to be relaxed about money and I can’t. For reasons known only to God, I talked him into taking in a one-time-only boarder named – I am not kidding – Thor. Thor (it’s hard even to type it with a straight face) wanted to stay for a weekend only, so I said sure and Dan said (to me) "Are you out of your mind?" and I said "Yes" and Thor arrived and said, "Hallo. Jeg er en utmerket kokk. Jeg vil lage middag," which apparently is Norwegian for "Hello, I am going to take over your kitchen immediately," because that is what he did.
Friday night’s dinner demanded the use of nearly every pot and skillet in the house. Dan got so upset at the mess we were expected to clean up – the house rule is the cook gets to cook and the rest get to clean up afterward – that he stomped upstairs to our room in a huff and wouldn’t come down until Thor cried "Kom, barn! Spis middag!" which is Norwegian for "Admire my pecs while you eat." Yes, I failed to mention that Thor had been next to naked the entire time he was in our house, having stripped down to a pair of hot pants and nothing else within minutes of arriving. He had a spectacular body, I have to admit, but it was too perfect, and his armpit hair was so blonde it looked like he’d used peroxide.
Dan glumly made his way to the table just as Thor presented the single dish he’d made; why he’d had to use all the pots and pans is anyone’s guess. "Penne alla Vodka" he proudly announced as Dan and I took our seats. That’s when I stole a glance at my bottle of Absolut and gasped – it was empty! The louse had either poured it all into the sauce or used half and drank the rest. What a total waste of fine vodka. Thor will not be invited back.