Circle of Friends
After waiting 2 1/2 years for their new house to be completed, Tom and Ruth Brouster were ready to don black tie and gown and have their friends over for a divine dinner.
More often than not at a party, the guests sit, sip, sample food, and converse. Period.
But not at the Brouster house.
“He always has activities,” says Shari Carstens, a family friend of 40 years and Tom Brouster’s executive assistant. “You don’t go to a Brouster party and just sit around.”
At a Fourth of July bash, Mr. Brouster and his young daughter oiled up a watermelon to use for a relay race. At pretty much every fête, guests gather around the Steinway for a singalong. A few splinter off and shoot a game of pool in
Mr. Brouster’s man cave. There are always darts, and when the weather allows, tennis matches. “There has to be some kind of competition, it seems,” Mr. Brouster says.
In mid-November, Tom and Ruth Brouster held a black-tie affair for 14, their first sit-down dinner party at their new house—completed just last spring, after 2½ years of construction and eight years of planning. Modeled architecturally on a historic Charles II–style mansion in Old Westbury, N.Y., the Brousters’ home may be new, but the elaborately crafted crown molding and hardwood floors evoke a grander time,
when debutantes went to Jacob Mahler’s academy to learn the fox-trot, and society parties were held in the mansions of Portland and Westmoreland places. But to be sure, the Brousters live here like the true speed-of-light, hypernetworked, and happily informal 21st-century family that they are.
“We don’t have a lot of sit-down dinners, because we invite too many people,” Mrs. Brouster says. So true. The most recent three affairs averaged nearly 100 guests each.
“One of the things we wanted to do with this house was to enjoy family living, family holidays, and entertaining our friends,” says Mr. Brouster, chairman of Missouri banking for National City Bank.
The Brousters purchased the party, donated by AT HOME, at the Center of Creative Arts’ annual spring fundraiser, COCAcabana, in 2007. That year (and again the following year) they were honorary chairs at the event. Nearly every guest at this dinner party was also at the Brouster table that night. So the Brousters bought it for them as a thank-you gift for their support of the arts organization.
“I guess it is like a regathering of the original group,” says Virginia Howell, COCA’s development officer—and one of the first guests to arrive. COCAcabana, she explained, is a dress-up party held in an outdoor tent, and it always has a theme; in 2007, it was “Fashion Follies.” The Brousters’ group went with a “Palm Beachy” look, with Mr. Brouster in a snappy white suit and pastel-pink tie and several of the women in Lilly Pulitzer. But tonight’s dinner, the table set with fine china and tall silver candlesticks, called for more serious black-tie attire: tuxes for the men and richly hued evening gowns for the women.
Cocktail hour took place in the foyer, with its dramatic staircase and sparkling white marble floors (literally sparkling, with tiny gold mica flecks). On the table was a dramatic arrangement of lilies and hydrangeas by Jeana Reisinger. Guests sipped wine and sampled dainty “butler-style hors d’oeuvres” in the foyer, each bite of pork belly or cubed vegetables neatly ensconced in the bowl of a pretty white spoon—easier to eat, or balance with a drink. Pianist Diane Ceccarini played the grand piano in the sitting room, including mellow selections from the Beatles, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and the Great American Songbook. Later in the evening, Laura Peters Reilly and the Muny Troupe gathered guests around that same piano to play “Name That Tune”—or as she called it, “a little musical game, where we play a bar of music… We call it ‘What Is It?’”
Though the party had been auctioned off as a package, Mr. Brouster had not been able to resist making it his own, just a bit. He brought in Aidan Murphy, general manager of Old Warson Country Club, to oversee the kitchen, with Dan Holtgrave, executive chef of the club (where Mr. Brouster is a member) preparing the meal. Mr. Brouster also wanted to decant some wines from his own cellar, though sommelier Stanley Browne of Robust provided wine service throughout dinner—and surprised the host with a toast in honor of his birthday, sabering a bottle of Duval-Leroy Paris Cuvée Brut champagne right before the guests were seated.
“The history of sabrage goes back to the days when Napoleon was in France, when the wars were going on,” Mr. Browne explains. “Madame Clicquot, of the famous champagne house Veuve Clicquot, in order to have her land protected, gave Napoleon’s officers champagne and glasses. Being on their horses, they couldn’t hold the glass while opening the bottle. Consequently, they tossed the glasses away, took their sabers and cut off the top and cork, and drank from the bottle. There’s about 100 pounds of pressure in a champagne bottle, which is about 2½ times what’s in your car tire. When you hit the lip of the bottle, it hits a weak pressure point, so it takes the glass and the cork with it. But even if there is a shard of glass, because of the pressure, it takes the glass and everything else with it. So it’s safe to drink afterwards.” And does not spill a drop of precious champagne. Still, sabering looks dangerous. Is it? “Ah, maybe a touch,” Mr. Browne laughs.
The Brousters’ daughter, who, due to a slumber party mix-up, was upstairs with a friend, curiously peering through the banisters in the last, breathless moments before the partygoers arrived. Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Brouster, dressed for dinner and ready to meet their guests, had already been planning and preparing for the next two parties—coming up within the next 60 days.
Tom and Ruth Brouster
The Brousters’ new house in Ladue
Jack and Carrie Eisenbeis
John and Virginia Howell
Brad and Lynn Koeneman
Toby and Carrie Martin
John Tramelli and Mary Kassen
Aidan Murphy, general manager of Old Warson Country Club
Dan Holtgrave, Old Warson’s executive chef
Stanley Browne, Robust
Butler-Style Hors d’Oeuvres
Nantucket Cape Scallops With Pumpkin Purée and Cider Sauce
Port Wine–Poached Micro Pears With Mesclun Greens in Shallot Vinaigrette, and Blue-Cheese Soufflé
Roast Sirloin of Prime Beef and Braised Short Ribs With Cauliflower Purée, Seasonal Vegetables, and Château Potatoes
Cinnamon Panna Cotta With Apple Chips
Nantucket Cape Scallops with Pumpkin Purée and Cider Sauce
2 pounds Cape scallops
1 small pumpkin, peeled and diced
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and quartered
Vegetable stock as needed
Pinch of each: cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pepper
1 cup apple cider
1/4 cup butter
For the purée: Put a sauce pot on the stove over medium heat. Add pumpkin, apples, stock, and spices. Cook just till tender; purée until smooth. Reserve.
Cider sauce: Over low heat, reduce cider until it’s at a near-syrup consistency. Whisk in butter; adjust seasoning with a squeeze of lemon. Salt and pepper to taste.
Scallops: Heat pan over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, sear scallops for approximately 3½ minutes. Take out of pan and serve immediately.
Makes seven cups
2 quarts veal stock
3 cups assorted mushrooms
Place mushrooms in the veal stock and slowly bring to a simmer. Let cook for 10 minutes and turn off heat to steep for 20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
1 1/2 pounds lean ground veal or beef
2 egg whites
1/2 pound combined julienne carrots, onions, and celery
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms
2 teaspoons peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 cup Madeira
1 ounce red-wine vinegar
Place all ingredients in a sauce pot big enough to hold the stock as well. Add stock and mix. Slowly bring heat up. As the raft begins to harden, poke a hole on one side of the raft to fit a small ladle into it, so the consommé can breathe. With the hole in the raft, take a ladle of the stock and baste the top of the raft. Once the raft has completely formed (the diameter of the raft is firm), cook for 20 minutes and strain through a chinois into a coffee filter. Reserve warm.
1 cup 40 percent cream
1 egg yolk
2 ounces truffle juice
Truffles and chives, for garnish
Add all ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Mix. Pour into 2-ounce greased ramekins. Place in a water bath; cover with foil, leaving two corners open. Bake at 325 for 30 to
40 minutes or until just firm to the touch. Reserve warm.
To finish: Blanch 1½ cups assorted wild mushrooms in consommé. Unmold the flan and pour into a soup cup. Pour the consommé around the flan and garnish with sliced truffles and chives.
Port Wine–Poached Pear Salad With Blue-Cheese Soufflé
5 Seckle pears, peeled, halved, and cored
1 quart water
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 star anise
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Combine all ingredients in sauce pot. Cover with a cartouche and simmer until just tender. Chill in liquid. Slice thin.
1 1/2 ounces butter
1 1/2 ounces flour
7 ounces milk
7 ounces blue cheese
3 1/2 egg yolks
3 1/2 egg whites
Make a roux with butter and flour. Add milk. Cool slightly. Fold in blue cheese and add egg yolks, one at a time. Whip egg whites until they develop stiff peaks, and then fold into blue-cheese mix. Spray 1½-inch ramekins with nonstick spray. Add batter and bake at 325 until toothpick comes out clean.
1 sheet brick dough (available at levillage.com)
1 teaspoon fennel pollen (available at gourmet.chefshop.com)
2 tablespoons butter
Cut dough into 3-inch strips and square off. Brush with butter; dust with pollen. Roll out with a small dowel rod. Bake at 325 until crisp.
1 cup blue cheese
1/4 cup goat cheese
1/4 cup 40 percent cream
Blend with a paddle attachment on a tabletop mixer. Pipe into prepared cigarettes.
1 cup olive oil
1 cup grape-seed oil
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon shallots
1 teaspoon tarragon
Salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients but the oils in a tall beaker. Slowly pour in the oils and blend with a stick blender until correct consistency. Season to taste.
To finish: Toss 4 cups of assorted mesclun greens with vinaigrette. Place on a plate with a soufflé, sliced pears, and blue-cheese cigarette.
Roasted Sirloin, Sous-Vide Short Ribs, Cauliflower Purée, Glazed Carrots, Broccolini, Braised Onions, and Roasted Potatoes
4 pieces short ribs, boned
Salt and pepper
Carmelized mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery)
Insert seasoned and chilled short ribs and mirepoix in a Cryovac bag. Seal the bag at a high setting. Set a water bath at 142 degrees. Place Cryovaced ribs into the water bath; leave for 48 hours. Remove from bag. Set broiler on high and place ribs under broiler. Glaze with sauce (left in bag) until ribs have been nicely coated. Reserve extra sauce.
1/2 cauliflower head, cut into small pieces
2 cups 40 percent cream
2 cups vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
2 shallot bulbs
2 garlic cloves
Place all ingredients into medium saucepan. Slowly cook until tender. Purée and adjust seasoning. Reserve warm.
3 carrots, cut to desired shape
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon butter
1/4 cup water
Pinch of mint, minced
Place all ingredients into a pot. Cover with parchment paper and slowly cook until tender. Reserve warm. Add mint before serving.
14 pieces broccolini, stems peeled
Salt and pepper
In two batches, blanch broccolini in boiling, salted water. Be sure not to lose the boil. Keep warm and finish with butter, salt, and pepper.
14 pearl onions, peeled
1 cup veal stock
Small sachet of thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaf
1/4 cup Madeira
Carmelize onions and deglaze with Madeira. Add sachet and stock. Bring to a slow simmer and cover. Turn oven to 275; cook for 25 minutes or until tender.
3 Yukon gold potatoes, cut to desired shape
Preheat oven to 425. In a hot sauté pan, toss potatoes in clarified butter. Add salt and pepper. Place pan in oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until tender.
Ask your butcher to split a sirloin roast in half, length-wise. Season with cracked black pepper, salt, thyme, and olive oil. Roast at 350 for 30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 125. Let rest for an additional 30 minutes. Slice.
Bring reserved sous-vide short-rib sauce to simmer. Finish with 1 tablespoon minced shallot, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, and a pinch of fresh thyme. Simmer, strain, and serve.
To plate: Place a small spoonful of cauliflower purée on the plate. Top with short rib. Put vegetables on plate. Add a slice of sirloin. Finish with sauce.
2 cups simple syrup (two parts water, one part sugar, one vanilla bean)
Split apple in half and slice thin with a mandolin. Place slices in simple syrup and gently poach. Take out of syrup, place on a paper towel, then move to a nonstick baker’s mat. Bake at 200 until dry and crisp.
Cinnamon Panna Cotta
4 1/2 sheets gelatin (soaked in 1 cup water)
2 cups 40 percent cream
1 vanilla bean (split and scraped)
6 ounces sugar
Pinch of salt
15 ounces buttermilk
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Combine cream, cinnamon, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Warm to dissolve sugar. Dissolve gelatin in a double boiler. Combine gelatin and buttermilk into the cream mixture. Strain and pour into a 3-ounce mold and chill. Unmold and serve with apple chips.