Rocco DiSpirito

Rocco DiSpirito examines the different approaches taken by the chefs to celebrate Liza Minnelli's birthday.

on Aug 18, 2011

Her main course was filet mignon with portobello mushrooms. She almost forgot to take the strings off the steaks. The filet was cooked inconsistently and she kept guests waiting so long for it. If you’ve watched this show long enough, you could hear the death knell tolling. The substitute entrée for the vegetarians was the eggplant, but my meatless guests thought it was too bland. 

I don’t know where the sixth course was, or whether she combined them, but we had Strawberries Fosse (Strawberries Foster) for dessert. We had to eat it so fast that I’m not sure anything registered on our taste buds. I checked to make sure everyone was having fun. Sandra piped up and said, “I’d have fun with this crowd in a barn.”

Coincidentally, that was kind of where we went next, with Frank’s rendition of a country setting for our dinner party.

Frank planned an at-home comforting experience dinner experience of just three courses. He started us out with a Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup. Sandra thought the soup was too sweet, but most of us loved it -- including Liza. She said nothing is too sweet for her, and she was so wonderful and gracious over every course.  

Frank’s main course was Beef Stew with French Beans and Wild Rice. Lucia was on his case for serving Liza beef stew, heckling the heck out of him. But Frank was unflappable, shrugging it off. For the vegetarian version, he substituted beets, carrots, and tofu for the meat, and used apple cider for his boiling stock instead of chicken broth. My estimation for Frank went way up when I noticed that he had put grill marks on the tofu. I like tofu. I mean, I’ve always applauded soybean curd -- healthy, natural, wholesome  but my modus operandi at restaurants has always been to say, “Wow, the tofu dish sounds great!” And then order the cow. But when I saw what Frank did with tofu, I was about to be converted. And everyone loved his stew -- both versions.

For dessert, Frank did a traditional dessert called a Floating island -- a poached slice of meringue "floating" on an "island" of creme anglaise. He prepared it in a mold to make it look like a cake and served it with candles. My guests loved it so much that I almost had Frank make a second batch they could take home. Frank’s dinner party was outstanding, from start to finish, and my guests preferred his hunting lodge décor.