Prepping was well under way when the rains (and lightning and thunder) came, heavy and loud. The house – the creation of the minds of the hosts and their architect – was, save for the kitchen, quiet, orderly. The rooms, tastefully appointed, were full of framed photography (the owners are collectors), journeys for the mind and eye. It was the perfect environment in which to cook.

Working menu

Working menu

Except that as time marched on toward 7 p.m., when guests were asked to arrive, the rains persisted. The sommelier for the evening was phoning me from his car; the previous week’s flooding in Houston had him worried, so he decided to turn around and head home. Hoping the deluge would devolve into a shower, I called the guests, changed the cocktail time to 7:30, and hoped for the best.


Constance and I – now joined by Chris – were all in the kitchen, Chris working on Swiss chard and porcini, Constance putting the final touches on the snapper prep, and I taking care of the pork belly.  Chris and I have an unspoken ease in a kitchen, and the input and assistance from Constance, who attended the dinner with Alison (they of the beautiful Nantucket wedding), made the work perfect.

It was May 30, and this was the third Brockhaus dinner (fourth if  the wedding on Nanctucket is included), and despite the rains and the late start, it was a fine affair. Eight guests gathered around a table, seven courses, wines from the hosts’ cellar*, lively and often raucous conversation, smiles, laughter. Strangers at a table when the first course arrived, friends upon departure around midnight. I feel profound satisfaction when my food makes that happen. The guests included three former Brockhaus attendees, two of whom, Russ and Judy, have been at all three Houston events, (they have also hosted a Brockahus event at their home, and I consider them great patrons) and five first-timers. Here is what one guest wrote me a few days later:

“Brockhaus hit the trifecta … creatively prepared food that excited the senses;  expertly paired wines that complimented each course,  and engaging guests that would be envy of any dinner party.   James set a high bar with this delightful evening.”

The Brockhaus journey continues, and we hope to see you at a table soon.

*Wines served: Ivernel Brut Prestige NV,  Château de Montfort Vouvray 2011, Patz & Hall Hyde Vineyard 2012 Carneros Chardonnay, Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Koplen Vineyard 2012, Bodegas El Nido Jumilla Clio 2006, Tenuta Fontodi Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 1996

(Slideshow created by Constance Brinkley-Badgett.)