Bringing Childhood Memories Back: At-home Dinner Party by FIRE.

At-home dinner parties are part of my childhood memories. There would be two or three tables at home. Sometimes it would be my mother’s signature dishes that made her busy all around. Sometimes it would be catering. My father would be shuttling between relatives and friends with drinks in their hands. Even though my father has left the world many years ago, that image is still deeply rooted in my heart. Interacting on the dinner table somehow became my guide to start my adult life. However, the time and strength consuming at-home dinner parties gradually receded when seeking the world’s top cuisine became a profession. This time I was invited to an at-home dinner party in Taipei. It not only amazed me by the depth of the food, but also deeply touched me with the friendship conveyed by the food.

Home is a person’s most private place. To invite a person to dine at one’s home, equals letting him into one’s heart. It is real hospitality that’s built on the foundation of trust. The invited person must be a true friend of the homeowner. My parents’ are businessmen, so I have been used to entertaining guests at home since I was a child. I still have the impression that the guests are all mellow and tipsy by the end. As a child, it was a love-and-hate thing. I love the atmosphere, but when it’s too late for me, it seems too loud. No matter what, the at-home dinner parties carried. When my father was still with us, that was our life.

James and Maggie, Owners of Fika Fika Cafe

After I moved to Shanghai, I lived in a compound with a nice environment. Meeting friends through food became a way for me to make new friends. There were many foreign neighbors in Shanghai, so some Chinese dishes that don’t require complicated skills are good enough. That’s how I gradually established my life circle in Shanghai.

However, in recent years, at-home dinner parties have become less popular in Asia, which may be due to the fact that urban households are getting smaller and smaller, and people tend to dine out more and more often. I have always liked to entertain guests at home, but since I took “being a gourmet” as a my career, my life and work are inseparable from food. In addition, I have a higher standard for home banquets and an obsessive-compulsive personality and all that makes me not feel like entertaining guests at will.

My emotions were all brought back by the at-home dinner party held by the owner of Fika Fika Cafe in Taipei, James in mid-October. I received the invitation a month before the banquet, and I was told about the location only few days before. I called the host after arriving at an inconspicuous factory in Nangang, then the iron rolling door slowly opened, and the host’s figure slowly emerged. There is some mysterious fun in the whole thing.

There is an open kitchen in the roasting factory and a seat for six people in front of the board. In addition to the couple, James and Maggie, there is also a helper. The highlight of the kitchen is Josper, an oven imported from Spain. It uses charcoal fire and the temperature can be as high as three or four hundred degrees. There is absolutely no smoke in the restaurant. The price of this oven is USD 19,400, and it usually only appears in restaurants. It shows the owner’s attention to food and the familiarity with fire. Almost all the dishes in the dinner are delicious. I secretly put Josper on my wish list.

@fikafikajames_instagram

Every guest has a menu of James’s family dinner, but in advance they can’t understand what kind of dishes will be served by the text alone. After tasting, each and every dish is wonderful. The appetizers alone are amazing. The first one, grapefruit nine-hole abalone, has absorbed the flavor fully and is still soft and tender. The fresh and sweet taste comes with a refreshing grapefruit fragrance. The second one, Taiwanese Ceviche is made with Hokkaido scallops, mixed with hornet orange and fermented bird hot peppers. The sincerity of the owner can be seen by how delicate and precious the ingredients are. The Middle East roasted red pepper sauce is also very authentic. The red pepper skin is charred and then torn away before pureed. I always look forward to it when I have a chance to transfer in Dubai. James made it even better with his fine skill. Muhammara on the charcoal-grilled baguette makes the whole experience even more charming.

Taiwanese Ceviche/Muhammara

The main course is even more amazing: neritic squid grilled with the caviar yogurt sauce. The squid is extremely fresh. The tentacles and the body are grilled separately. The doneness is perfectly presented by how fast the grilling is. It comes with caviar and yogurt sauce with salmon roe, while the tentacles are grilled crispy! The grilled fish is a fresh rosy seabass that is delivered directly from port by a familiar fishing boat. The whole flavor of the ocean is sealed with a special grilled fish mold from Basque Countries, Spain.

Neritic Squid Grilled with the Caviar Yogurt Sauce/
Grilled Rosy Seabass

Upcoming is the astonishing roast of seasonal vegetables. Zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes and pearl onions are as crystal clear as jewels. The colorful fresh vegetables with charcoal fragrance makes it impossible to stop. The loofah grilled aside is so sweet that it seems unreal. This will be branded in memory. The steak is also one of a kind. The charcoal-grilled Wagyu sirloin has perfect doneness. The owner grills the sirloin, which holds less fat, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The steak is full of juice and aroma. Every time a dish is served, all guests exclaim again and again, as it never stops getting better and better.

Roast of Seasonal Vegetables/Grilled Loofah/Charcoal-grilled Wagyu Sirloin

James’s cooking skills will certainly make many restaurant chefs ashamed. In fact, his “non-business” staff meals have long been well-known in the industry. This is a family banquet that can’t be asked for. It’s like a table of power. You can’t just make a reservation and take a seat. Only those who are invited get to enjoy it. It’s so worth an article to show it off.

“Non-business”Makanai(Staff Meal)@fikafikajames_instagram

When it gets back to the essence of at-home dinner parties, it’s still about the host’s willingness to open his heart. The guests can get to know the host better, so the host and the guests can all have a good time over food. Maggie and James’ family banquet is not only delicious, but also delicate. For example, the day when I went to the banquet was just after my birthday, when the host brought a birthday cake to celebrate my belated birthday after the meal, I was deeply moved. Their kindness of treating me as a close friend, made me become a tipsy adult just like one of those in my childhood memory.

-END-

Author:Jocelyn 华姐

Photo:Jocelyn 华姐/instagram

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