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Solid Soup

(a favorite of socialite Marylou Vanderbilt Whitney)

It sounds like it should be easy to make and awful to eat. In fact, it's the reverse. Very tasty above and beyond the eyebrow-lifting presentation...but pretty tricky to get right. Serve cold, obviously, to 6 just as you're ready to signal the end of the cocktail hour, but before sweeping them into the dining room. The whole point, I think, is a sophisticated conceit: instead of moving into the drawing room after dinner to take demitasse coffee, you begin in the drawing room with what LOOKS like demitasse coffee as a prelude to the dinner.

Garnish: 6 thin slices of stuffed green olives and 6 tiny parsley sprigs

Blend together the cream cheese, HALF the can of consomme, the curry powder, and the lemon juice. To get this right, I ended up whipping them together with electric beaters, then pouring that mess into the blender to really emulsify the cream. Pour into 6 demitasse cups about 2/3rds full. Refrigerate until set. This takes longer than you think it should--and even then the white cream burbles up when you go to pour on the top layer. I stuck the cups in the freezer for 30 minutes even after the soup had set to prevent ruining the whole presentation.

Pour the remaining consomme onto the top of each of the 6 cups--and don't pour it on directly. Get a spoon that nearly covers the entire cup area, turn it over, and gently pour the consomme over the back of the spoon. Put back in the refrigerator and chill until firm.

When ready to serve, decorate each solid soup with a thin slice of stuffed olive and a tiny sprig of parsley. Put the cups on saucers and serve with a linen napkin and demitasse spoon.