magnificent milestones

perfecting the "done before they arrive" party- a work in progress

Categories: Meat, Veggies and Sides, Desserts, Dinner Party, Fête Fact, Posted on July 10, 2022 by Sandy Bergsten

A first-rate finale to our litany of houseguests. An exceptional weekend in every way, my dad came to Chicago to celebrate some very big birthdays. He and his best friend had just turned 90, and on our first night together my mom’s dearest friend had a very special birthday of her own.

To kick off the festivities we dined at Mon Ami Gabi, the iconic Lincoln Park French bistro that inspired a chain. Mussels and pomme frites, the perfect backdrop to revisit my dad’s almost seven-decade friendship with these treasured friends. 

What a gift that their daughter and I could sit in on such a memorable night.

The next morning, we took my father on the Chicago Architecture Center’s river cruise. Chicago’s river cruises are renowned.

The ones offered through the Architecture Foundation with their distinguished docents take it to the next level. I’ve been on several and each time it is a distinctive because of the different guides’ perspective. Most are former architects, city planners, and urban engineers. These volunteers are skilled ambassadors who do a phenomenal job of interpreting the city’s architecture and history.

Saturday evening, we hosted dinner at our apartment. It was such fun to channel my mother’s memory and set the table with all my best china and silver. I also knew I didn’t want to miss a moment with these special guests. So, I devised a menu that was notable for many reasons, most importantly that the entire dinner could be prepared ahead of time. All that was needed that night was to rewarm and plate.

Of course, I served my mother’s beef tenderloin. I picked up this gorgeous cut from Bill the butcher at Big Apple Finer Foods on Clark Street. Be sure to follow this recipe to the letter, have your full attention and a meat thermometer handy. Once the very center reaches 125 degrees, remove it from the oven, let it cool to room temperature, wrap, and refrigerate.

Once chilled it is even easier to slice. It is delicious served room temperature or rewarmed slightly at 350 degrees.

This crème fraiche horseradish sauce always tastes best made a day ahead of time.

Mashed potatoes with boursin can be made a day ahead of time, and soufflés when reheated in the oven.

Steam and shock the asparagus earlier in the day, then quickly sauté it in a little butter and give it a big squeeze of fresh lemon juice right before serving.

It is heavenly with this sous vide hollandaise. This recipe is my new favorite. It is ethereally light and freezes beautifully. I made a batch and froze it two weeks ahead of time and then let it thaw in the refrigerator the night before. A quick zap in the microwave for thirty seconds and it was if it was just made.

And the perfect ending, chocolate pot au cremes served in demitasse cups. Top each with a dollop of Grand Marnier whipped cream and scatter fresh raspberries on the plate.  

How appropriate that on Sunday we got to celebrate Father’s Day all day with greatest of all dads! 

I also want to thank you so much hon for all you did to make this weekend so very special. I can’t say how much I appreciated you driving my dad to Chicago and back. Like this weekend, your effort meant the world.

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