April 13, 2009

My very first dinner party with Rote Grütze

I woke up this morning feeling hungry, which normally isn't unusual, but considering that I ate an Easter feast big enough to feed an entire village of carnivores just 10 hours earlier, I was a bit weirded out by my stomach pains.

I threw my first dinner party last night, and when I say dinner party, I mean dinner party - long table with white table cloth, decorative candles for ambient lighting, homemade napkin rings (and you better believe I mean cloth napkins), and a perfect mix of music that kept the conversation going for three hours. Nine friends attended and at the end of the night, everyone was stuffed off of honey-glazed ham, mixed vegetables, polenta, crescent rolls, and of course, dessert.

My friend Heidi made a delicious German dessert called Rote Grütze, which is a type of berry pudding. I had never tasted Rote Grütze before, but the best way to describe it would be this: If you could siphon the Summer season into a goblet and serve with whipped cream, it would be Rote Grütze.

I did a bit of research this morning into this German delicacy, and found some interesting information from a 1991 New York Times article. Rote Grütze ("red grits") originates from northern Germany where an array of berries make their delectable appearance in Summer. Basically, red currants, raspberries, cherries, as well as the occasional blackberry or black currant, are cooked with sugar and cornstarch (and in some recipes, German wine) and served with a simple topping.

According to the New York Times:

In the old days Rote Grütze was not a dessert at all but a light summer supper, served with cold milk or cream. Today it is most often served with vanilla sauce, and since the 1970's, when it was suddenly pronounced chic, Rote Grütze can be found at the toniest restaurants and cafes, as well as at Great Aunt Emma's place out in the country.

Depending on whose great-aunt's recipe is being followed, Rote Grutze may contain such optional additions as strawberries, blueberries, rhubarb, a glass of red wine or even a jigger of brandy. What is required in one recipe is disregarded in another. Some profess that the only proper Rote Grutze contains two-thirds red currants; others insist that any amount of any red berries will do. Some swear that the addition of water is anathema, others that a small glass of water is absolutely essential. Purists generally agree, however, that the dessert is never overly sweet, and they draw the line at the addition of gelatin, warning the uninitiated that its addition will produce a stiff aspic.

I know Heidi is into ghosts and scary movies, but I'm beginning to think she might be a mind reader as well, because I can't think of a better accompaniment to my offering of the evening - a lemon tart. Served either on the side or on top, Rote Grütze was a fantastic addition to my basic lemon dessert.

Aside from the food, the event was a huge success in that everyone had a lovely time. It was great seeing some familiar faces (Heidi, John, Jessica, Erikka, Emily, Will), a face I don't get to see often enough because of geography (Mickey), and a new face (Scott). I don't think I could have asked for a better Easter dinner - great friends, great food and great conversation.

The pictures I've posted are of the table pre-food, and then of the ham (obviously). No one took photos of the desserts, which I apologize about - we were too busy stuffing our faces and about half-way into our collective food coma.

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