December 2006 –  Karnes #5 (dt)
          I would start with the meal’s highlight, but, respecting the right of others to decide otherwise, I will detail dessert in its rightful place.
          The generosity of Chay and Deb lives on. DP8 plus Mike and Sheila Romalin gathered on a rather un-Decemberesque, mid-month evening, with no snow on the ground, and none having fallen so far.
          We say it, we mean it, but still, Tom and Deb, thank you for allowing us all to share such Christmas memories.
          Early chatter mentioned the deer on the road and exterior decorations, before savoring the hors d’eouvres – a box-shaped block of cheese-and-nut dip overlaid, gift-like, with bows of scallion; and clams on the shell freshly steamed in a sauce of onions, tomatoes, garlic, hot peppers, and dark beer. The leftovers on the pan’s bottom would have made an excellent bruschetta. Meanwhile, a course of Kir Royale, an assortment of beer, and a variety of red wines gently washed the appetizers.
          In a foreshadowing of things to come, Deb asked, referring to a platter, if Mike could get it up ...on the shelf....
          My end of the kitchen focused on TV reception, HDTV, plasma vs LCD, etc., for a few moments. The week’s events and plans for the upcoming Christmas were elaborated upon as we watched Deb K in her flurry of preparation, with nimble and able assistance from her favorite elf, Chay.
          Opening the party poppers initiated the pre-dinner activities, and we read the jokes, donned the paper hats, and allowed incriminating photographs to be taken. Meanwhile, Deb and Tom had prepared individual gifts, each couple’s in a small cloth basket, with individually appropriate gifts. Your thoughtfulness, Deb, is astounding. We mentioned her handmade Christmas card, made of cutouts of snow people and a dog, and a symbolic portrayal of an almost hidden cat; forty of these cards were crafted.
         Individual salads of lettuce, roasted red  peppers, and slices of fresh ricotta were topped by a balsamic reduction and olive oil – a simple yet refreshing angle for course two.
         Course three was the intermezzo of lime sorbet, homemade, of course. Moans of pleasure attested to Deb’s expertise.
         And, then, the main course. Two hefty prime ribs, encrusted with horseradish and roasted garlic, slabbed in inch-wide slices, filled half our plates. A piping hot bowl of double smashed potatoes, flavored with garlic, cream cheese, and scallions, accompanied. A heaping bowl of roasted vegetables – corn ears, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, carrots, red peppers – filled the rest of the plate. The challenge of consuming one piece of meat was successfully met by a few, a couple helpings of potatoes managed by a few more, and most of the first bowl of vegetables was consumed.
         We sat, then started another round of bawdy innuendoes .... Tea and coffee allowed a pause, with the choice of dessert or gifts scrambling us to the living room.
         The first round of gifts celebrated, only a little early, Deb K’s birthday. She oohed and ahhed, and appreciated, and “you shouldn’t haved” through the list. (only two to go, to WHAT?)
         The anticipated gift exchange loomed, with selection order numbers having been drawn. The thefts were few, but slicing, with Deb K’s bowl going to another owner. For a change, Judy was not involved in any larceny but was intimidating in her determined resistance to having hers stolen! Number One, Ken, graciously allowed the possession of gifts to remain when he bypassed the last chance to steal.
         Dessert then beckoned. As excellent as the salad and appetizers and meat and potatoes and vegetables were, dessert, in my mind, topped them all. Dessert number one was a bread pudding made from Christmas stollen, steeped in eggs and milk and raisins, topped with dried cranberries, and finished with a warm caramel sauce. Even I, a bread pudding turn-up-the-nose, could have been satisfied if it had been the only dessert.
        But, no. One of the top five (ok, three) chocolate desserts in recent memory entered. Nicknamed the “Double Chocolate Bombe”, it was a concoction of a white chocolate mousse center, surrounded by a folding of vanilla-and-pecan cake and chocolate mousse, and finally held together by a ganache-like globe of dark chocolate. The chocolate flavors melded delectably until the dark chocolate obliterated everything else, sating every chocolate taste bud ever had.
        Somewhere, we examined the Christmas tree, a twelve foot, relatively slender, Balsam tree, and had explained to us the history of the decorations, bulbs, and histories of Christmas trees previous.
        It was just before midnight when the guests departed, with an enjoyable and prized night.
        At the review’s beginning, I could have imprinted my judgment of the evening, and of Tom and Deb’s efforts, but the evidence presented here leads to at least one undeniable conclusion. We are indeed fortunate to have shared this holiday evening with such convivial and generous friends.

PS #1: (Adams)
As always, it is hard to add to Don's detailed, warm memories of our dinners.  One can only think that his memory is so good because he drinks far less than most of us!  However, he did miss one of the many subtleties of last nite (even though he was a winner) – one of the last wonderful details of many – our lottery tickets.  One of the things which touched Judy the most was how Debbie got a bit teary after her opening of her Birthday gifts.  I think she was feeling as blessed as we do to have such wonderful, warm, fun and quality friends.  Last nite's conversations, dinner and gift exchange was a really unique and peak experience.  We feel a gratitude and indebtedness to Deb and Chay opening their home year after year, to create a tradition, and a treasury of memories, which we feel we all will cherish for years to come.

PS#2: (Monteverd)
It is also hard to add to Judy’s touching remarks abut our wonderful Christmas Dinner. Let me just say a couple of things. While our other eleven dinners from January to November are tasty and fun, none can compare to the Karnes “Gala”! Every detail, from the food, to the decorations, to the thoughtful little gifts has obviously been carried out with love. We can’t thank Deb and Chay enough for a very special evening and a very special friendship. We truly hope to celebrate many more with a group of pretty amazing friends.

PS#3 (Karnes)
I’m always impressed with Don’s ability to make everything sound so incredibly awesome, but, as usual, he has outdone himself.  Even I got excited about the food reading his review.  I even got a little weepy reading it, especially that portion that related to the “Double Chocolate Bombe” (I guess the way to a man’s heart really is through his stomach!).  Anyway, I know I’ve said this before, but “Christmas Dinner” is the highlight of our holiday season.  It has all the ingredients of a perfect holiday get together if you ask me – good friends, food and drink (and plenty of both), and presents to boot!  I know all the work and effort (that, by the way, isn’t really work at all) that goes into that evening is appreciated by all of you and that alone, in and of itself, would be enough for me.  However, as an extra added bonus, I get to spend the evening with all of you, exchanging heart felt hugs and kisses, interesting conversation, food and drink, presents (of course, you know how I love my presents!!!), enjoying old memories and making new ones, well, you get the idea…
        It never occurred to me 20+ years ago when we moved here that we would be so fortunate to make the acquaintance of such wonderful people and, better yet, be able to call them friends.  Here’s to many, many more happy, healthy, fun years together.