In 2010, Woody and I spent weeks perfecting a golden lemon chiffon cake made without a center tube. The result was so spectacularly delicious, ethereal, and airy, it inspired me to dedicate it to Renée Fleming, my favorite soprano of the divinely golden and soaring voice. To complete the picture, we added a cloud of whipped cream and a garnish of dried lemon zest powder which I called "star dust." We asked permission and Renée graciously gave us her blessing. But she had to wait four years until the book came out in the fall of 2014. After receiving the book, to our delight and surprise, Renée Fleming sent us each a CD of her Christmas in New York recording and a lovely note inviting us to come back stage to meet her the next we came to the Metropolitan opera with her in performance. We lost no time in purchasing tickets to the upcoming operetta, "The Merry Widow," and unanimously decided to make "The Renée Fleming Golden Chiffon" to present after her performance. The cake travelled with us, first by car, then by subway, and then beside us for our pretheater dinner at Boulud Sud across from Lincoln Center. Finally, we left it at the entrance of the backstage portal for us to pick up after the performance. Dinner chez Boulud Sud was totally delightful. I was happy to see that pastry chef Tyler Atwell had not yet gone home, as I wanted to give him a copy of our "Baking Bible." Our first courses were Gambas al Ajillo (ruby red shrimp, Spanish chili, focaccia) and Cappelletti di Quattro Formaggi (black trumpet mushrooms, hazelnuts, and broccolini) accompanied by a basket of home made potato chips an assortment of Mid-eastern dips.
Our main course selections were Braised Niman Ranch Short Rib with Wild Mushrooms, Swiss Chard, and daube jus and Harissa Spiced Lamb Loin M'Hamsa with Algerian eggplant and tzatziki Chef Tyler came back to tell us about the desserts we had chosen: The Grapefruit Givré with sesame halva (reminiscent of fairy floss), rose loukoum, and grapefruit sorbet, presented in a frozen hollowed out citrus fruit has been a classic on the menu for a long time but the chocolate dessert was a chef Tyler creation --a fabulously delicious work of art described on the menu as: Mocha Cube with chocolate-espresso mousse, coffee coulis, and caramel-cardamom gelato. The amazing thing was that despite all the enticing components of the dinner, we did not feel overstuffed or that we risked falling asleep at the operetta (which has happened to me in the past when dining elsewhere!). Then it was off across the boulevard to Lincoln Center. This was Woody's first opera and his first time at Lincoln Center! We arrived early enough for me to give Woody a tour of the Met. The lower level has a wall covered with photo portraits of opera singers. Two side halls have a collection of paintings of various opera singers. At the end of one of the halls was a painting of Renée Fleming's from her performance in Rusalka. We also discovered this stunning portrait of Placido Domingo to whom I had dedicated a cake--The Chocolate Domingo, in "The Cake Bible." We found our center row seats on the Grand Tier for a bird's eye view of the stage. Although this opera was in English, Woody liked being able to read the lyrics and dialogues on the screens mounted to the backs of each seat. The opera was delightful. Renée played her role brilliantly and her voice was glorious. It was also a trip down memory lane as I hadn't realized that the overture and main theme was the very first melody I remember as a young child as my mother waltzed to it with me in her arms and it was the one I chose for the first dance at my wedding 38 years ago. After the spectacular performance we headed to the backstage area. Renée already had a long line of visitors to see her. She was happy to see us and delighted that we had brought her cake. She said that she would save it for the following day when her father was arriving for a visit. And when she lifted it up in her hands for the photograph she exclaimed over how light it seemed. We did not prolong our stay as Renée had forty students waiting in the hallway to see her. It was a dream come true for me to meet Renée Fleming. Woody now is inspired to attend more operas in the future and couldn't imagine a more dramatic entry into the world of operas.