Weeks past the actual event, Cafe Drake invited longtime gal pal Jen Lazzaro for a cozy-caj dinner celebrating her latest birthday. Knowing J-La's tastes thoroughly we constructed a tailor-made menu of Cabbage and White Hominy Soup (drizled tableside with herb and chile-infused olive oil), followed by Soy, Anise and Marsala-Braised Pork Chops with homemade Quick Pickled and Spiced Pears (recipe of sorts below) and Scalloped Potatoes. Espresso came with candy and cookies festooned with candles and a birthday serenade by tone-deaf Cafe Drake. Festively obscene amounts of champagne were consumed over hours (first, in Kir Royales; later, alone) along with plummy Pinot Noir and German honey liqueur digestifs. The Birthday Girl lit up our evening as expected, especially with her sing-along renditions of an eclectic playlist including Mika, Lily Allen, Rufus Wainwright (of course), Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode and Diana Ross.
Quick Pickled and Spiced Peaches
This is an adaptation of a Nigella Lawson holiday favorite. Per Ms. Lawson's dictate only canned peaches in heavy syrup will suffice - no fresh fruit or peaches in fruit juice allowed!
So simple, basically: take a large can of peaches in heavy syrup and heat to a low simmer with star anise, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, several slices of fresh ginger, approximately a teaspoon of kosher salt, several dried red chiles and 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar. Cook on low heat for 2-3 minutes and allow to cool. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Better over the next week. Serve with any light meats, such as poultry or pork.