After a week of rainy days and much grumbling about the end of summer, this weekend was an ecstatic blast of sunshine and heat that made Seattleites hopeful again about the chance for a fabulous fall.
Buoyed by the weather, my next door neighbor (a vegetarian) and I (not a vegetarian) got plotting asap. I texted her on Saturday night: “Do you guys want to maybe cook out tomorrow mid to late afternoon. It’s supposed to be a beautiful day…” A few minutes later, she texted back: “I was just thinking that. Trying to get some friends up the street down. That would be fun. I was thinking some Thai salad rolls and a Thai chickpea dish. What were you thinking?”
And so we did, plus a whole lot more. I brought a batch of The Plunkett cocktail I fell in love with on Labor Day weekend in Cannon Beach, plus some Comte and whipped goat’s cheese I’d picked up on Saturday at a “Cheese of France” pop-up event at the Piranha shop. Another family, half-Chilean, brought a batch of Pisco Sours – a traditional South American cocktail that’s most popular in Peru and that typically includes lime or lemon juice, Pisco (a type of brandy) Angostura Bitters, simple syrup and egg white on top. The Chilean version, we learned, nixes the Bitters and the egg white and instead uses a little powdered sugar to sweeten and, in this case, some Cointreau. It’s similar to a Margarita in taste, though the Pisco does have its own distinct flavor.
My neighbor’s Thai salad rolls were an interesting take as they didn’t include any cold noodles or shrimp. To put inside the lettuce wedges, she had an array of fillings including coconut, diced chili pepper, chopped onions, pepitos, chopped raw ginger, coriander leaves and a tamarind sauce. I thought I’d miss a main protein or carb, but everything was so flavorful and crunchy.
The most interesting part of the meal though was dessert. My next door neighbor tried her hand at making a Thai street food that I fondly remember from my travels there many, many years ago: Thai Tuiles (pictured here). Essentially, small thin crepes made from rice flour and all-purpose flour, coconut milk, some vegetable oil and sugar, you top them with a filling of coconut-flavored meringue, some minced scallions and some shredded coriander leaves. Then you fold the sides of the crepe over the topping and eat it like a tiny taco. They’re an interesting blend of sweet and savory: a very non-American kind of dessert flavor profile. These were a big hit even with the kids to whom the meringues just seemed like coconut-flavored marshmallows; they skipped the scallions and coriander as you might expect.
We ate and talked for hours as the kids rode their scooters up and down the driveway and ran from house to house. It was a mix of techies, artists, and stay-at-home moms and dads (classic Seattle), plus an exhange student from Taiwan with whom I practiced my rusty Mandarin. It was the kind of impromptu dinner that I remember my parents having with our neighbors when I was a kid--and the kind that after living for many years in New York City I thought didn’t exist anymore. Granted, our food was more sophisticated, our crowd more diverse. But it was still on the fly, in the backyard, and heavy on sunshine and laughter.