My friend Ken Gilberg, soap maker, mushroom expert, and owner of Herbaria on the Hill, invited Robin and me to attend the thrice yearly gathering of the Incurable Epicureans.
At first I thought it might be a secret organization with a special password and handshake. But Ken assured me they were merely foodies, who’ve shared their passion for good eating for more than 25 years.
The make up of the group ranges from artists to accountants; from world travelers, to stay at home moms. Among their ranks are physicians, chemists, designers, teachers, and bankers. Originally, they were all members of Missouri Mycologists Society (MOMS)—wild mushroom stalkers.
But in time, they would do more than just get together occasionally and talk about fungi. They’d do research, take field trips and provide scholarships. They would also eat. And they would eat well. Today participation in the gourmet group is limited to the first 35 MOMS members to sign up each year.
The Gulf Coast Menu
When I heard from Menu Planner Linda Rolby, I was intrigued and impressed. In the past they had held imaginative theme parties, highlighting various time periods, regions, countries, or chefs. This time it would be a Gulf Coast dinner for forty people at Herbaria.
The proposed menu was stunning, starting with appetizers: Crab and Hearts of Palm, Shrimp-stuffed Tomatoes, Avocado Salsa, Mango Jicama Salsa, and Spicy Cheese Pecan Crisps.
I read on. The entrees would be: Crawfish Étouffée (made from Rolby’s homemade fish stock), Vegetable Gumbo, Citrus Rice, Maque Choux, Eggplant Pirougues, Zucchini Pudding, Spinach Salad, Southern Living’s Slaw, and Sourdough Bread.
The finale called for Key Lime Pie, Citrus Crisps (tasty and decorative;see photo collage), Pecan Shortbread, Pralines, and Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce.
So what should we bring? The only item unspoken for was a fish mousse appetizer.
The Making of a Mousse
I told my daughter that I had taken a vow in the 60s never to make another mousse. It was up to her. I had a couple of fine—barely used—mousse molds to offer, but that was it. As I recall, my last molded salad was a tomato aspic inspired by June Cleaver. Robin agreed to make a salmon mousse and came by my condo to pick up the mold. On the day of the event, I checked in.
“I don’t want to get involved—seeing as how I’ve vowed not to—but you might want to plate the mousse at the event,” I said. “Mousses (or is it meese?) don’t travel well. Come to think of it, they don’t always unmold well either. If you put the mold in hot water to ‘loose the mousse,’ it finally comes out, but it sometimes puddles around the edges. Or worse yet, leaves chunks behind. It’s a risky maneuver.” I could tell she was beginning to understand why I had forsworn mousse making.
An Evening of Fine Dining
Here’s a sample of the bountiful evening, including a photo of the plated salmon mousse.
Food blogging has brought me invitations to unique events and the chance to meet wonderful people, who enjoy what Julia Child called “one of life’s most primal and innocent delights”—sharing food. Thanks you, Incurable Epicureans, for keeping the tradition alive!
It may be the real reason we’re here: To love each other and eat each others’ cooking and say it was good. ~Brian Andreas, artist and storyteller.