Mussels with Bread Crumbs, Garlic and Parsley

Feast of the Seven Fishes – Sicilian Style

In Philadelphia by Daryl & Mindi Hirsch8 Comments

Our excitement started three weeks ago when we got the official invitation to the best dinner of the year – Alec and Kat’s Christmas Eve seven fishes dinner.

This year’s feast was to have a Sicilian theme and included the members of our no name wine group.  So, leading up to the sixth annual dinner, we shopped at various stores for Sicilian wines and went to our favorite local cheese shop, DiBruno Brothers, to purchase eclectic cheeses for a dessert plate.  Before we knew it, it was 6:00 on December 24th  – Seven Fishes o’clock!

In the fine style our overachieving hosts, Alec and Kat prepared nine fish dishes instead of seven.

Seven Fishes Menu

Seven Fishes Menu

Upon our late arrival, we were immediately offered sparkling wine.  We each started the festivities with a glass of Prosecco and then enjoyed a glass of Lambrusco.

Seven Fishes Starters

The first two fish courses were served as appetizers in the living room.  Anchovies were served on a platter but eaten one at a time with a marinated red pepper atop a cracker.  The mussels, brimming with garlic and bread crumbs, slid easily from the shells to our mouths.  We also put out one of our cheeses – a camembert fermier au lait entier from France.  The creamy, ripe raw cow’s milk cheese was a fine accompaniment to the delicious fish, nuts and olives.

Joe, Flo and Bob Enjoying the Appetizers

Joe, Flo and Bob Enjoying the Appetizers

Fish Number 1 - Anchovy with Olive Oil, Garlic and Roasted Pepper

Fish Number 1 – Anchovy with Olive Oil, Garlic and Roasted Pepper

Fish Number 2 - Mussels with Bread Crumbs, Garlic and Parsley

Fish Number 2 – Mussels with Bread Crumbs, Garlic and Parsley

Seven Fishes Wines

As we all happily nibbled on the appetizers and sipped bubbly wine, Alec was busy in the kitchen.  He soon summoned us to the dining room, as dinner was about to be served.  First things first, it was time to open some wine.  It’s fair to say the wine group was thirsty.

Some of the Evening's Many Wines

Some of the Evening’s Many Wines

Seven Fishes Mains

We started the seated part of the meal with a generous amount of octopus.

Fish Number 3 - Octopus with Radicchio, Endive, Fennel and Mint

Fish Number 3 – Octopus with Radicchio, Endive, Fennel and Mint

Octopus on the Fork

Octopus on the Fork

The conversation flowed between courses as Alec worked in the kitchen.

Karl and Heidi between Courses

Karl and Heidi between Courses

Next up was clams.  They were worth the short wait.

Fish Number 4 - Clams with White Wine, Garlic and Parsley

Fish Number 4 – Clams with White Wine, Garlic and Parsley

Kat entertained us between courses.  And, of course, we drank more wine.

Kat, One of the Gracious Hosts of the Seven Fishes Dinner

Kat, One of the Gracious Hosts of the Seven Fishes Dinner

Next up? Crab Arancini with a surprising burst of mozzarella in the middle.

Fish Number 5 - Crab Arancini with Saffron, Risotto and Fra Diavolo Sauce

Fish Number 5 – Crab Arancini with Saffron, Risotto and Fra Diavolo Sauce

Inside the Crab Arancini

Inside the Crab Arancini

Daryl and a Long Strand of Cheese

Daryl and a Long Strand of Cheese

Although it wasn’t a contest,  the scallop course seemed to be the crowd favorite of the night.

Fish Number 6 - Scallop with Meyer Lemon Emulsion and Pistachio-Basil Pesto

Fish Number 6 – Scallop with Meyer Lemon Emulsion and Pistachio-Basil Pesto

Not everybody likes sardines.  Somehow, though, everybody liked Alec’s Sicilian pasta version featuring the small oily fish.

Fish Number 7 - Sardines with Bucatini, Fennel, Currants, Pine Nuts and Almonds

Fish Number 7 – Sardines with Bucatini, Fennel, Currants, Pine Nuts and Almonds

The seven fishes dinner is a leisurely event with time between courses.

Chef Alec at Work

Chef Alec at Work

Daryl, Joe, Alec & Karl Chilling between Courses

Daryl, Joe, Alec & Karl Chilling between Courses

Enough relaxing, it was time for the next fish.  The salt cod dish kept with the Sicilian theme and tasted as good as it looked.

Fish Number 8 - Salt Cod with Fregula, Tomato, Capers, White Wine and Oil-Cured Olives

Fish Number 8 – Salt Cod with Fregula, Tomato, Capers, White Wine and Oil-Cured Olives

Salt Cod Dish as Served

Salt Cod Dish as Served

We’ve been doing this fishy dinner for six years, and six of us have been at every dinner so far.  We now have inside jokes and annual traditions.  One tradition is Stephanie falling asleep during the dinner.

Stephanie as the Evening Progresses

Stephanie as the Evening Progresses

Another annual tradition is Alec ending the meal after midnight with a beautiful whole fish. This year was no exception.

Alec Serving the Striped Bass

Alec Serving the Striped Bass

Fish Number 9 - Striped Bass with Lemon, Potato, Parsley - Before, During and After

Fish Number 9 – Striped Bass with Lemon, Potato, Parsley – Before, During and After

Seven Fishes Desserts

We all saved just enough room for dessert.

The Final Course - Dessert

The Final Course – Dessert

Keeping with the Sicilian theme, we had baklava, pistachio gelato and our cheese plate.  The baklava was flaky and sweet.  The cheese plate had a mix of flavors.  Although the Montgomery’s Farmhouse Cheddar is always a favorite, the shining cheese star was the rich yet bold Testun di Castagno wrapped in fresh Chestnut leaves.  Formality gone for the evening, we passed the Capogiro ice cream around in the pint container so that everybody could dig in with their own spoons.

Karl's Homemade Baklava

Karl’s Homemade Baklava

Cheese Plate - Testun di Castagna, Chirboga Blue and Montgomery's Farmhouse Cheddar

Cheese Plate – Testun di Castagna, Chirboga Blue and Montgomery’s Farmhouse Cheddar

We toasted our wonderful hosts with dessert wine and port.  Another year, another seven-hour seven fishes dinner.  Life is good.

Alec and Kat’s house is located at an undisclosed location in Philadelphia, PA, United States.


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Comments

  1. So much food! So much fish! I realise from reading this I need to up my game on cooking fish in 2014. It`s a wonderful food but there`s a million ways to cook it.

    Doubt any of you ate a whole pile on Christmas Day after that fish feast!

  2. looks stunning – and very involved, I guess Alec has a big kitchen. I like the idea of a seven fishes dinner, interesting to read up on where it originated. Live and learn everyday. Merry Xmas and happy new year. PS just posted a photo of fishes 🙂 random snap!

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