My Favorite Eaters

By Daniel Duane, "My Favorite Eaters," January/February 2014

Author Daniel Duane's essay on feeding appreciative guests.

"I now know why I am single; I am waiting for Jon! (or Daniel, but he's taken :-) "

Every cook has favorite eaters, people who love food in ways that make us happy to feed them, again and again. I discovered this 10 years ago, after the birth of my first child. I started throwing over-the-top-dinner parties to feel alive, like I still had the freedom to get in trouble. Our friends were mostly appreciative, as in, “Stuffed pigeon? Interesting...” But then one of them invited Jon, a communications executive for California wineries. I slaved for days on that dinner, home-curing a whole foie gras and then wrapping it in cheesecloth and poaching it in duck stock; simmering veal bones for hours and then reducing the stock to an unctuous demi for my rare beef tenderloin with red-wine reduction and marrow butter.

This Jon guy arrived with half a dozen red wines, introduced himself, and then opened every bottle at once simply because he felt like tasting them all.

When my foie hit the table, I saw Jon do a double take, eyes flickering from me to his plate and back again. He said nothing until I delivered the steaks. I’d taken my own first bite when Jon set down his fork, found my eyes and said, loudly, “Are you ­f---ing kidding me?!”

“What?” I replied, startled.

Scanning every face in the room, as if dumbfounded, Jon declared, with resounding authority, “OK, I get the foie. Somebody showed you to how to make a torchon. But did you make an actual Bordelaise?”

“I did.”

“With your own veal demi, from scratch?”

I nodded.

He took another bite, chewed slowly while everyone at the table watched. Then Jon said, “That is maybe the most delicious single mouthful I have ever eaten anywhere.” He glanced at my wineglass. “Are you drinking the Opus One? You’re not, are you?” He leapt from his chair, filled my glass, watched me drink and cackled happily as my face slackened with pleasure. For the rest of that night—and for years thereafter—Jon and I sat side by side inhaling my food with his wine as if luxurious face-stuffing were some kind of grand culture quest, a glorious combination of art appreciation and primal-scream therapy for the raging male heart.

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