My most memorable meal took place many years ago when we lived just outside of New York City. Several of us were being treated to dinner out by my husband's boss. The restaurant was called THE BOX TREE and was located inside of an old townhouse near the United Nations Building. Every detail of that evening for me is unforgettable.
When we arrived at the address for the restaurant we were unsure whether or not we had the right location. There were no signs showing the establishment's name. The door was locked. When we knocked, a little curtain over the window was pulled aside and we were asked our name. Once they confirmed our reservation, the door swung open and we were shown to our table in one of the two very small dining rooms.
The beautiful, old silver flatware was French. The menus had no prices on them. Only our host knew what this meal was going to cost. The fois gras I ordered as an appetizer was delivered to the table by two waiters - one to hold the giant French porcelain tureen, the second to remove the lid and scoop a portion onto my plate. I was informed afterwards that the veal with truffles, my entrée, had been the most expensive on the menu. (Sorry.... I didn't have a menu with prices listed. I tend to low-ball if I know what things are costing.) I have never had an experience equal to that in a restaurant again. I don't even know if the Box Tree still exists.
And, when I thought that fairy tale night had ended, I walked toward the exit and on a little table near the door was a dish of Meringue Mushrooms. I had never seen a Meringue Mushroom, let alone eaten one. I now make my own. Since this is the first year we will ever be in our own home for Christmas, I plan to make a Buche de Noel (another first) for Christmas Eve dinner; and of course, it will need to be surrounded by mushrooms!
• MeringueMushrooms •
• 3 egg whites
• 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
• 1/2 cup superfine sugar
• 2/3 cup (4 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
• 2 teaspoons cocoa
1. Beat the first 5 ingredients at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form and sugar dissolves (2 to 4 minutes).
2. Spoon mixture into a decorating bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe 1 1/4-inch-wide mounds for mushroom caps and 1-inch-tall columns for stems (approximately 32 of each) onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
3. Bake at 200˚F for 1 hour and 30 minutes; turn oven off. Let meringues stand in closed oven 2 hours.
4. Spread a thin layer of melted chocolate on the flat side of the caps. Trim rounded end of stems to make flat (I found a micro-planer works great.); press against chocolate to attach to caps. Sprinkle with cocoa.