Saturday was primarily spent on snooty cooking, specifically working on my variant Bourbon Tarts. The first pass at these recipes was for mermaidlady's birthday; this was the second try, focused on the dough, doing it from scratch this time instead of store-bought. For the Dark Chocolate Pecan Tarts, I used the now-standard Cook's Illustrated Vodka Crust; for the Bourbon Almond Tarts, I substituted bourbon for the vodka.
Overall impression: qualified success, but needs work. The Vodka Crust turns out to be *so* light and flaky that it's actually a bit too thick, used naively. Worse, it turned out to shrink quite a bit during the pre-bake, so a number of the tart shells turned into half-shells, without much height to hold the filling. Between the extra puff and the lowered sides, the tarts couldn't be filled enough, so the Stuff/Crust ratio was lower than I want. As for substituting the bourbon, there had been a couple of concerns there -- a number of sources give dire warnings that anything other than vodka will taste so overpowering as to ruin the dish, and several folks were concerned that the extra sugar might burn in the oven. Neither proved founded: the bourbon flavor was, if anything, a good deal weaker than I was hoping for, and there was no detectable extra browning.
So I'll need to keep practicing here. I suspect the crust can be made to work, but I have to improve my technique and really understand how to get the tart shells to work right. (Pie weights are likely necessary; a more consistent thickness to the dough will help greatly; and I need to figure out exactly how much overhang I need.) But the fillings are good enough that it's worth continuing to plug away here, and maybe consult with the Dessert Sprite for advice on how to improve.
(Core recipe concepts, for those who are curious. The Dark Chocolate Pecan is exactly that. Each tartlet gets a nugget of Lindt 70% melted into the bottom, and one pecan half placed on that, and then the standard Bourbon Pie filling gets poured in to fill. The Bourbon Almond is standard Bourbon Pie, but with a thin square of rolled-out almond paste at the bottom. Both recipes still need a little tuning, but are proving solidly good and popular.)
Saturday evening was Snooty Food Night, which was the point of the exercise. I'm always happy to have an excuse to pull out the tux and one of the good tie/cummerbund sets that Jane bought me last year. I was honestly surprised that I wasn't the only guy there wearing a hand-tied bow tie -- clearly, the art isn't entirely lost. The tartlets seemed reasonably popular, and it was good hanging out with folks a bit, but I was a little tired from the afternoon and a tad peopled out from last week, so I didn't stay to the bitter end -- since I was still sober, I left before midnight and slept in my own bed.
But I did have a good hour of playing Blackjack for charity. I did middling, losing all of my money quite gradually over that period, whilst Quick on one side and Ethan on the other went through *wild* gyrations of money. There was a period of about 20 minutes when Ethan was trying his best to lose all his money and be done with it, and he couldn't manage it -- he managed to redouble his stake all the way up to a notional 1.25 million dollars, and was starting to look like he'd break the house before he finally managed to wind up with a 22.
Sunday afternoon was Lochleven Spring Practice; for me, this mostly meant Archery Practice. Karen and Karen got the Camelot range up and running, and I shot for a couple of hours. This was fun and decently satisfying -- while far from *good*, I'm not doing as badly as I expected -- but my arrows suffered terribly. Far as I can tell, the new arrows that I bought at Pennsic last year are just plain badly glued, and most of them lost their tips. (The targets were fairly sticky, but I put most of the blame on the arrows: several of them had lost their tips at Pennsic.) So I need to go get myself some more tips (to replace the ones that wound up permanently embedded in the targets), and glue them on.
Finally, Sunday evening was The Time Traveler's Ball. Not precisely an SCA event, but co-sponsored by Felding and the Wellesley Science Fiction Society. Antonia had originally been tapped to run the dancing, but she wound up with another commitment, so they called me instead to run some period dances.
This was, frankly, a complete hoot. I always like hanging out with the boroughs to begin with, and Felding's always been one of the two I am fondest of. (Being both a Felding Favor holder and a member of the Taxi Corps.) The evening was essentially a cocktail party with a bunch of short 4-dance sets; the attendees were all in costume, although nobody really in full-on garb. (The most popular theme was Doctor Who: we had an 11, River, Jack and the Tardis; needless to say, there were lots of group photos.)
Anyway, it was a lovely little event: about 3 hours total, with around 15 dances scattered through it. Gundormr and I had worried about the sound system, but this turned out to be a non-issue: they got a professional-grade setup from the school, so the only problem was the 10 minutes it took me and Julie to figure out how to hook it all together. Dancing was entirely SCA period except for one request for the Time Warp in the middle. There were probably as many Wellesley attendees as at the Winter Ball, but I was the only outsider this time, so it was probably about 30 people total. Nearly everybody danced, and the usual crowd-pleasers were big hits. (Petit Vriens, Pinwheel, Sellenger's, Black Alman, etc.)
Overall, while we don't have as much contact with Felding as I might wish, they're actually doing pretty well. Having multiple geeky clubs that are very incestuous is helping both of them thrive...