Tuesday, September 18, 2012

First course

I've started researching the menu for my proposed Steampunk Party, based on the fare offered at the Savoy Hotel in London on the occasion of H.G. Wells's 70th birthday. The first items on the menu were, according to my source, Huitres Natives and Saumon Fume. It's pretty easy to translate those as oysters natural and smoked salmon, which sound like delightful openers to a sumptuous meal.
I'm a seafood lover, so I'm happy to serve both of those dishes just as they come. Click on the picture at right for an amusing account of eating oysters à la Belle Époque, courtesy of Oysters.US. Pacific oysters, shells opened, piled on a platter with perhaps some lemon wedges and delicate triangles of buttered white bread on the side. Champagne, of course, is the perfect accompaniment.
Smoked salmon is served thinly sliced, either on its own or mounted on thin slices of toasted French bread, with a swirl of horseradish cream and a sprig of dill. These make great canapés to be eaten with the fingers while your guests circulate before sitting down at the table.
The third item on the menu, Coup Yvette au Sherry, is more difficult to decipher. My first attempt at researching this made me think that it is a cocktail featuring a popular 1930s violet-flavoured liqueur, Creme Yvette. Made of berries, violet petals, honey and orange peel, this liqueur is often combined with gin in cocktails such as the Blue Moon, or with champagne in the Stratosphere. Using sherry instead of the gin or champagne seems reasonable, although I have not yet obtained a bottle of Creme Yvette so that I can try it for myself. I would suggest a dry sherry, a squeeze of lemon juice, stirred over ice and strained into a cocktail coupe (hence the "coup" in the title).
This sounds like the kind of drink that Wells would have enjoyed, but it bothers me as an explanation because it is the only cocktail or drink item mentioned on the menu, apart from coffee. In this context, Coup Yvette au Sherry seems more likely to be a hot seafood dish with an Yvette sauce. Yvette sauce begins with a roux, to which are added sherry, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, Swiss cheese and cream. The sauce is poured over chopped prawns, lobster meat, spinach and mushrooms. That also sounds like something Wells would have enjoyed. Which would you include on your steampunk menu?
I still like the idea of trying the unusual Creme Yvette cocktail, but perhaps I'll serve Stratospheres as an aperitif with the oysters and smoked salmon canapés, before adjourning to the steampunk-decorated table to eat the hot seafood sauce dish.

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