What better way to ring in the beginning of a new year than with friends, good food, and plenty of prosecco? There is none. We heralded 2021 with Robin and Bob (our in-bubble dock mates) when they kindly invited us to dinner. Bob, among his many talents, began his career as a chef. Having handed his toque blanche to Robin while they raised their kids, in retirement he is once again captain of the galley. Robin couldn’t be happier.
As a lover of seafood, Gaeta is nirvana for Bob. We are more than grateful for his experienced daily shopping for fresh ingredients. Robin let us know that the menu was lobster diavolo, with an overture of fresh oysters straight off the dock. (Well, straight off the boat in a Styrofoam box, but you know what he means. – ed.) Our job was to bring salad and dessert and lots of wine. Carol took the salad, and I took the dessert. We both took our jobs seriously. Bob is a great cook and Robin a serious pastry chef. Pressure? None, but what we imagined for ourselves.
Opting for a hearts of romaine, butter lettuce and rocket greens mix (each sourced separately), Carol chose a Samin Nosrat dressing. Having made an apple crumble for Christmas, I attempted my first Aleta-borne Victoria Sponge cake, a staple of English cooks. The recipe is deceptively simple. Equal weights of flour, eggs, sugar and butter and a few teaspoons of baking powder. Blend the ingredients and bake in two 9” tins. Once cooled, form a sandwich with a layer of raspberry or strawberry jam and whipped cream in between. Victoria sponges either work or they don’t. Our oven was acting up, probably because of the new propane cylinder regulator, and I didn’t have two 9” in tins, only a single 9”x13” Pyrex dish. The result, while tasty, was completely sub-par. Lessons learned…
Dinner began with gifts. There is an Italian tradition where gifts of red underwear are presented at Christmas with the expectation they are worn at New Year’s. News to us, we gamely posed for red underwear photos – see the G-rated version here. That pretty much set the tone for the evening.
By the time we got to the cake it didn’t matter. The lobster diavolo was an amazing feast of steamed clams, prawns, mussels, and Canadian lobster over rapini and pappardelle. Plowing through the first two bottles of prosecco, we opened reds and whites and kept the conversation flowing. Marlon kept his cool all the way through dessert, but when the dancing started he lost it. Barking like fury while Carol and I jived to high school funk, our morality policemutt folded like a squad of Capitol Policemen when Robin and Bob joined in. Marlon dashed to the aft cabin and buried his head under a pillow in disgust.
Aquavit makes a splendid accompaniment to so-so sponge cake. Rich in calories, the cake helps you maintain balance. Midnight crept up on us and we headed outside for the fireworks. The rain stopped, leaving a clear view of the entire bay. Plumes of rockets and sparklers shot up a hundred feet in the air for miles. More subdued this year than most, the night ended on a very special moment.
We drank no alcohol for a week afterwards. We had had our ration and besides, we’re not that young.