GNO with Pat, Gail, Julie & Julia

Last night was a GNO – Girls’ Night Out – with my friends Pat and Gail. We had plenty to celebrate: Gail’s birthday was just past, Pat’s divorce just came through, and we realized that we all met on a day just about 30 years ago when we lived in the same university residence.

We started the evening with the early show of the film Julie & Julia, which is really wonderful. Not just a chick flick, it’s a foodie flick that had me salivating at every turn, and a peek into the love story that was Julia and Paul Child’s marriage. Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci were inspired as the Childs, and the twin story lines of the Childs in post-war Paris and the modern-day Julie Powell cooking her way through Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking were nicely balanced. It’s a fun and engaging film, definitely worth seeing.

As the credits rolled, I realized that I was starving after two hours of watching all that cooking: even the popcorn was starting to smell edible. However, a table at Veritas awaited. The place was surprisingly empty for a Friday evening; not sure if they get most of their business at lunch from all of the offices around there, or if we were just too late for the dinner crowd. We started with a round of dry gin martinis with olives and settled in to peruse the menu. Veritas sources many of their ingredients locally, organic where possible, and the menu presented some very difficult choices. Pat and I both started with the Peking duck on scallion pancakes, and Gail had the smoked trout with sweet and sour onions. Both plates were beautifully presented, and the duck was delicious although a bit salty.

By this time, I think that there was only one other table occupied in the restaurant, although there may have been more on the back patio, and the chef came out to chat with us about what we liked, and to hear about Julie & Julia. We moved on to a bottle of the 2007 Thirty Bench Red, a blend with which I’m familiar because I belong to the Number 30 Club and Thirty Bench ships me a case of wine per quarter, complete with the winemaker’s tasting notes.

For mains, I had the grilled Berkshire pork loin with a forest mushroom gratin: absolutely delicious. Berkshire pork is so much more flavourful than the usual insipid stuff that we get in the grocery stores; I didn’t really appreciate how good pork could taste until a trip to eastern Croatia a few years ago, where pork is a staple and the pigs range free in the forests, and Berkshire pork is certainly a step in the right direction. The mushroom gratin was great, but the pork was the true star of the meal. I don’t even recall what else was on the plate, although I’m sure that there was a veg or two. Pat had the roast chicken with chorizo bread pudding and browned beurre beets; she pointed out that she never orders chicken in a restaurant, but was glad that she made an exception. Gail had the rhubarb glazed rack of lamb with braised shallots and wild rice (which had been my second choice), and it looked amazing.

We finished with a glass of port (I think) for Pat, a baked apple dessert for Gail, and crème brulée for me. I’m quite sure that I didn’t need to eat dessert, but it was good.

Quite a foodie evening, between the film and the dinner. Today, I headed over to the library website and reserved a copy of Julia Child’s My Life in France and Julie Powell’s Julie and Julia , since these were the two books on which the movie was based. I also looked up the original Julie/Julia Project blog that Julie Powell wrote, as seen in the movie and on which her book is based. Although the fairytale transition from a blog to a book and movie deal isn’t something that many of us would expect to ever experience, it does show that sometimes if you just get started, things happen.

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