Or maybe I should blame the vermouth in the salad dressing. Or just being the mother of an early-awakening toddler. In any case, I went upstairs to put Liam to bed, and fell asleep for an hour. Oops.

[livejournal.com profile] nubianamy and Tom and Baby Ivy came over and joined us for a very nice dinner - grilled steak with chorizo butter, heirloom tomato, arugula and bread salad, and gelato for dessert. The chorizo butter is a tasty mixture of butter, dry-cured chorizo, roasted red peppers, parsley, garlic and smoked sweet paprika, combined in the food processor then formed into a log and chilled. We cut it into disks and used them to top the steaks we grilled. Tasty, and all pretty and orange-red and speckled. I still have half a log in the fridge to do something else with.

For the salad, I bought five different kinds of heirloom tomatoes at the market today - red ones and yellow ones and "black" ones. They got chopped up with some scallions, and mixed with a dressing of dry vermouth, ground coriander, lemon zest, salt and olive oil. I brushed thick slices of day old Zingerman's rustic Italian bread with olive oil and grilled them, then rubbed them with a cut garlic clove. The bread and tomato mixture got tossed together with some arugula, torn basil leaves and toasted pine nuts, and c'est fini! I love bread salads - the bread soaks up all the yummy juices from the other ingredients, and it's lovely.

Looking on the wine rack for something to serve, I came across a bottle of 2000 Bordeaux that I picked up in a mixed case some time ago. Nothing says Bordeaux like a hunk of dead cow, so that's what I served. Quite the enjoyable wine, and I must admit to a slight overindulgence and some tipsiness. I had been thinking to serve something Italian, concerned that with a salad as the side dish, I'd need a somewhat acid wine to match. But the salad is actually quite nice that way from a pairing perspective - since the dressing is made with vermouth rather than vinager, the acidity in the salad comes only from the tomatoes themselves, making it quite wine friendly.

I had thought to take pictures, given a) the prettiness of the food and b) [livejournal.com profile] neoliminal's request, but well, I didn't. Next time, maybe.
I got behind on writing up my wine club notes, so this is a double up.
Read more... )
After one too many close calls, Andy Quady left his career in pyrotechnics to become a winemaker. And he did this back in the '70s, when being a winemaker wasn't a trendy thing like it is today. We should all be happy about this choice. Quady Winery makes one of the only traditional vermouths, flavored with fresh herbs rather than oils. They also makes wine from little used grapes like orange and black muscat. While these are generally marketed as dessert wines, we found them to be excellent accompaniments to our dinner. This was my favorite dinner since the very first one I attended. Like that one, the menu was simple and focused, with a clear goal of pairing well with the wines. And since that's what I'm looking for, it was a total win for me. All the food was great, with no duds or misfires.

Pre-Dinner Cocktail: Andy's French Twist - half Vya dry vermouth and have Vya sweet vermouth, with orange zest. Cheers!4

Starter: Zingerman's Creamery Little Napoleon goat cheese, Niman Ranch salumi napolitana, and California Figs. Wine: Elysium.pictures )

In addition to the named ingredients, this had some black and green olives, and a sprinkling of some sort of crushed red pepper. Meat, cheese, olives - as Jillian said, this is the kind of food you'd be happy to make a meal out of all on its own. The cheese is my favorite that the Creamery makes, and it turned out to be an absolutely exceptional match with the paired wine, Elysium, a fortified wine made from black muscat. When the Elysium was poured, the scent of roses nearly knocked me out of my chair. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) it didn't last all that long, and the nose in the glass was more lychee with just hints of rose. [livejournal.com profile] sarahf, I'm going to try to hunt this one down for our Village visit!

Soup: Roasted garlic and creme fort. Wine: Essenciapictures )

Unfortunately we forgot to remind Jillian to take the picture before she took her first bite, so you can't see that this was garnished with individual sections of chive flower. The toast in the middle was surprisingly crispy. And the soup was luxurious. Essencia is one of Quady's original wines and is made from orange muscat grapes. One of the great things about the wines at this meal was how glorious the colors were. And the all smelled fabulous. That's the Elysium on the left, and the Essencia on the right.

Salad: Local mustard greens and roasted asparagus with Niman Ranch speck. Wine: Electrapictures )

A really perfect salad. Bitter greens, perfect aspargus, salty sweet speck (similar to prosciutto). In contrast to the previous wines, this one was a mere 4% alcohol - they stop the fermentation just as the grape juice is turning to wine. It's not-too-sweet with some nectarine tang, and a little bit of fizz. It's marketed as a perfect picnic wine, and we think it would be great for that. Although made with the same orange muscat as the Essencia, the color was much lighter, reflecting it's lighter nature and short aging time. This has become one of their best selling wines (and at around $10 a bottle, it's easy to see why.)

Entree: Fillet of California lemon sole with braised fennel and local carrot tops. Wine: Vya Extra-Dry Vermouthpictures )

I'm so happy I chose the sole. The lamb was good, but the sole was just what I was in the mood for. The fish was nicely prepared, but the sauce - oh the sauce - just blew me away. A buerre blanc made with the liquid from braising the fennel, it was amazing in texture and flavor and did the oddest things in my mouth - here one minute, gone the next, only to come back full force a moment later. The carrot tops did nothing to change my opinion of them (ie. tough and not worth eating). But the braised fennel was awesome.


Braised Niman Ranch California lamb shank with guajillo chiles. Wine: Vya Sweet Vermouthpictures )

I just had one little taste of this, but it was meltingly tender and served atop a mound of mashed potatoes. Whereas the fish and the dry vermouth were only an adequate match, the sweet vermouth was excellent with the rich flavors of the reduction sauce.

Dessert: Goat cheesecake from Zingerman's Bakehouse with honey-essencia essence. Wine: Starboard Batch 88, 1992 Vintagepictures )

Starboard is Quady's euphamism for Port, and it is actually made with the same mix of grapes as in Portugal. This was their 1992 vintage (the picture is of the 1996, not that you can probably read it at that size). I wasn't very excited by it. Then the cheesecake arrived. Tasting it, you wouldn't have known it was goat cheese based - Zingerman's fresh and cream goat cheeses are actually too clean and mild for me to like them as goats. But it was an excellent flavor and texture all the same. With the tang of the sauce and the citrus, I couldn't imagine it going well with the Starboard, but I was oh-so-wrong. Definitely the most surprising pairing of the night, the two harmonized beautifully. I was pretty full, but couldn't resist eating the whole thing.

After Dinner Wine: Deviationpictures )
Deviation is their newest wine, and is their attempt at making a "love potion." Love potion or not, I'm in love with this wine. I was fortunate enough to try it when I happened to be at the Roadhouse the night a couple months ago that Ric opened a sample bottle. It's the Essencia wine described above, but infused with damiana and scented geranium. And it's utterly wonderful. Complex, deep, with a finish that lasted (literally) all the way home. I'm gonna have dreams about this one.

Andy almost didn't make it to the dinner, when his flight out of middle of nowhere California was cancelled. 4 connecting flights later he and his wife arrived at the Roadhouse just as we were being served course number three. Between dinner and dessert Andy stood up to tell us the story about how he got his start in winemaking. It was a hilarious tale of the worst wine making practices of huge wine companies in California in the 70's. How they marketed their wines as being better than their competitors because they were darker, sweeter and had more alcohol. And lots more funny stories from a man in Buddy Holly glasses. It's so interesting that he started in something so corporate and ended up being so artisanal.

His wines are relatively widely available and quite affordable, because he's making them in good quantities. I need to go looking for what I can find in town. I'd love to have a few bottles of Electra on hand for just about any occasion. And when next Eric is looking for a martinia vermouth, perhaps I'll grab some Vya for him. And Elysium for [livejournal.com profile] sarahf, of course.

(And as usual, props to Jillian for the excellent photography.)
I wasn't going to go. I'd decided not to go and cancelled my reservation. Then my neighbor Elph called me up. Attendance wasn't as robust as they'd like, so he'd managed to convince them to give anyone he recruited to go a 25% discount. It was like fate or something. Eric had a dinner clean shift, so even if we'd been able to find a sitter, we'd also have had to find a trade. So I was on my own, if I could find someone to watch Liam while he cleaned up. $3 to a local pre-teen later, and I was in a car on my way to the restaurant.

So glad I went. It was the best Roadhouse dinner I've yet been too. But the details will have to wait for tomorrow - I need to go sleep off the pre-dinner cocktail, wine pairings with each of 5 courses, and the post dinner wine. Oh, and did I mention that most of those were fortified?

Goodnight, all.


May. 26th, 2006 11:42 pm
Nice, nice, nice. Certainly helped that it was a baby-free night, but also a good restaurant. Lots of fun. Good mix of small plates and larger meals. Big wine list, as you'd expect from a wine bar - about 40 wines by the glass, and a broad but shallow selection of other bottles. Pretty reasonable variety, reasonable markup. They have a retail angle as well - you can buy any wine they sell for 30% off the listed price in the restaurant.

There were five of us - me and Eric, Kim and Mark, and [livejournal.com profile] shadowriderhope. We split three appetizers to start. There was a plate of three mini burgers with farmhouse cheddar and honey roasted shallots, each with a different house-made catsup - tomato catsup, mango catsup, and yellow bell pepper catsup. I had the mango, and it was great, as was the little lick of yellow bell pepper that I got. Great burger too. Then some grilled chicken wing in a sweet hot chile glaze, served with an asian pear and radicchio salad. Flavorful, not too hot, and the asian pear in the salad was nice and crunchy. My favorite was the ahi carpaccio with foie gras, caramelized teriyaki glaze and petite herb salad. Because of splitting it five ways, I just got a couple little pieces of it, but mmm-mmm-mmm it was good.

When it came to entrees, we had quite a variety. And fortunately, everyone was willing to share. Kim got the brick-pressed honey glazed duck breast with ancho ginger reduction, boniato custard and wilted spinach. Eric got the grilled Wagyu steak with truffled creamed spinach and yukon gold potato tots. The Wagyu was a skirt steak cut, so not as tender as you'd expect Wagyu to be, but exceptionally tender for skirt steak. And nice flavor. Hope got the smoked wild salmon sald with honey mustard glazed, young greens, french lentils and balsalmic syrup. A very nice salad. Great smoky flavor on the salmon. Mark and I were a little more unusual in our dinner selections. He got the "Snack Board" from the small plates menu - an assortment of cured meats, smoked fish, cheese, bread and crackers, nuts and dried fruit. Oh, and a super intense wasabi mustard. I got the "spoon hors d'ouevres" flight of the week, which was an absolute bargain at $4.95. Four little spoons, each filled with something different. In one, olive oil poached baramundi with capers. The hamachi with cucumber salad was my favorite. The mussels in saffron aioli weren't particularly interesting, and the spoonful of creme fraiche with capers was just odd. But definitely very fun. I also had the Bellwether Farms ricotta gnocchi, with extra virgin olive oil, morels and asparagus. Pefect for the season.

I should have gone with my original wine choice, which was a white Bordeaux. But Mark wanted to order it, and I knew he'd share, so I got a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc instead. It was fine, but not particularly interesting. I should have opted for some crisp Italian wine instead. The wine menu uses little symbols to classify the different wines - a lime wedge for crisp, a POW symbol for big, etc. Eric got a Spanish tempranillo. It was the cheapest wine on the menu, but exactly what he wanted.

The desserts looked great - in fact, it was the "warm brioche beignets - rhubarb sorbet, sugared berries" that convinced us to choose the restaurant. And even though we were actually served strawberry-sour cream ice cream and unsugared berries, we were happy with our choice. Kim and I split the beignets. Mark got the intensely chocolate pots de creme. Hope got the awesome ice cream sandwich, which was a bittersweet chocolate-pine nut cookie filled with her choice of ice cream. The cookie was really wonderfully awesome, and the banana creme brulee ice cream was a good filling. Eric got the trio of house-made ice creams, and chose the banana that Hope had, the strawberry that Kim and I had, and a quite nice chocolate (the other choice was a mixed berry sorbet).

Prices were really quite reasonable - small plates range from $5-16, entrees $15-$24, desserts $5-$7. Good portion sizes, without being at all overwhelming. We were able to eat all the food described above without feeling overstuffed or underfed. Friendly, reasonably knowledgeable service, and no pressure even though we took a long time to get around the ordering. Flavors were all excellent - absolutely no clunkers in anything that we ordered. It's a trendy, hip restaurant, which means that it's got too many hard surfaces (including a tin roof) so it's quite loud. Probably quieter downstairs by the cellar room.

As a wine bar, they're doing lots of wine related events - weekly tastings, special dinners, etc. I definitely hope to have a chance to go back and check it out, and signed up for their email list to get the scoop on what's going on.

Highly recommended. Visit their website for more info.
Lots of good food, lots of good wine. Too much of both, in truth. Understandably, Chef Alex wanted to highlight the many excellent and varied meats from the Ranch. But that meant two of the courses in the five course meal were smorgasbords of five different offerings on the same plate (plus sides in the case of the entree) and that adds up to a lot of food fast. Especially when all those little bits of food are meat! It's good from the perspective of getting to try lots of different things, but sometimes I long for a little more focus. The first Zing dinner I went to was much simpler in some ways, and remains my favorite.

The story behind the too much wine is a little different. Ric brought in some really hard to find wines, many imported directly from France, which meant they had to be ordered weeks in advance. When the attendance jumped from its typical 70 to 130, it was too late to order more of the wines, so we had a lot of courses where we were tasting two different wines - overall pours theoretically should have been about the same, but I'll want to drink all of a two 1 1/4 oz pours, where with a 2 1/2 oz pour of a single wine, I'll leave some in the glass. Between that, an extra splash here and there of some favorites, and finishing a couple of my neighbor's glasses, I'm glad I made the responsible choice to leave my car at the restaurant and get a ride home with Elph. Damn, there were some very tasty wines!

My biggest complaint has to be that it's obvious that Ric and Chef Alex aren't really working together on these things. Now, this is mostly just my preference speaking - I know that most people who go to these dinners are there for the food, and just look at the wine pairings as an extra nicety. Me, I really like exploring food and wine together, so I'd prefer meals that highlighted and explored that.

Okay, on to some specifics (descriptions and pictures behind the cut)...Read more... )
Went to a Zing dinner tonight, with special guest Bill Niman from Niman Ranch. As you'd expect with a special guest like that, it was a LOT of meat. Many different kinds of meat, from all different parts of the animals. We were all so relieved to see the grits and asparagus served with the entree... I'll write up all the details later, when I'm less under the influence of the excellent selection of biodynamically grown wines. Yum. I will say that while I tried all of the different kinds of meat, I found the lamb liver acceptable in flavor but not particularly pleasant in texture, and the BBQ pig trotters largely inedible. They really did taste like feet. Eww. The pork belly was exceptional, however. There were two wine highlights - a delightful 1990 red Burgundy, and a lovely Riesling from Zind Humbrecht. Weirdest wine had to be an exceptionally odd 2003 Loire Chenin Blanc that had zero varietal character. That hot 2003 summer expressed itself in a shockingly alcoholic wine with ginger notes and a sherry finish - very odd, but it was nicely tamed by a couple of tasty blue cheeses. It wasn't a bad wine, just unexpected. Ric wrote up a veritable tome of notes about the wines, winemakers, and biodynamic practice, but I haven't done more than skim the notes yet. They're his usual collection of delightful but accurate descriptors. I doubt there are too many other wine tasting notes in the world that refer to "scorched earth" and "lemon scented bed linens."
This website looks like it has a lot of potential. I've created an account for myself to try it out, and I'm going to try putting up all of the Great Oak wine club wines there too, since I think it will be an easy way to track and catalog them and make them available to the group. Check it out if you're interested in keeping track of the wines you own and taste, and getting recommendations from others with like tastes. It's sort of like friendster for the wine geek set.
I posted this to eGullet a few days ago, but forgot to post it here.

We started on the west side of the lake, and looped all the way down and back up the other side, hitting six wineries along the way.

Fox Run Vineyards
Anthony Road Wine Company
Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard
Glenora Wine Cellars
Red Newt Cellars
Standing Stones Vineyard

Nothing at Fox Run really jumped out at me, although that was where I got to taste the 2004 Tierce Dry Riesling. This is a collaborative effort between Fox Run, Anthony Road and Red Newt, and it was fabulous. And $30/bottle. Interestingly, I tried the individual dry riesling from each of the three wineries and wasn't excited about any of them, but the Tierce totally transcended.

Anthony Road was unremarkable to my tastes as well - decent pinot gris and riesling, and a horrible red dessert wine that makes up 40% of all their sales!

All the wines I tasted at Wiemer were solid. The dry riesling was very refined and German, and coming on the heels of the racy Tierce (which has the zing of the 2001 German rieslings) it was a little too refined. But definitely the best of the rieslings I tasted. The cab franc was remarkably bell peppery, both on the nose and the palate. Very strange, but they've had some strange years with Cab Franc recently, from what they were telling us.

Glenora was ho-hum, although my travelling companion was most pleased there, I think. Her tastes run towards oaky CA Chardonnays, so Finger Lakes wines are just not her style. The Brut sparkling wine was nice.

Things really picked up once we hit the bottom of the lake and started back up. Red Newt knocked my socks off. I loved their Salamander White blend, and the 2003 Red Eft blend, and the 2004 Cab Franc. At $10.49 for the Salamander and $12.50 for the Red Eft, this was the first place I had to decide whether it was worth carrying wine home in my suitcase. They print the bistro menu on the back of the tasting sheet, which made me even more sad that they were closed!

I think we had the most fun at Standing Stone, where it was one of the winery owners who was serving at the bar. She had an absolutely contagious enthusiasm. I liked their Cab Franc and was surprised at it's fullness compared to some of the others I'd tasted, and later she mentioned that they had to truck grapes in from Long Island for that vintage. A good lesson in terroir! I spent the extra dollar to do the vertical tasting of their Bordeaux blend - Pinnacle - one from 2000 and another from 2003. She said that growing conditions were almost identical in those two years, so it was a really good indication of where the 2003s would be going. Very nice. With a number of vertical tastings etc. offered, this was definitely the best stop for a wine geek! We ended with their Vidal ice wine, which was quite lovely. Having had both Vidal and Riesling Ice Wines from the Niagara Penninsula, I think I prefer Vidal.

We had planned to stop at Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars, but missed the entrance and decided that we'd really had enough. So we headed all the way back up the lake to Geneva to relax for a little while before heading out for dinner.

Dinner, as previously mentioned, was at Port's Cafe. It was lovely. Simple food, well prepared. Nice but casual ambience with lots of wood, a view of the lake and semi-open kitchen. But noisy. The menu on their website is rather eclectic and not necessarily all that enticing, but they have many daily specials, and that's where the action is. We split the baked brie with a peach apricot almond topping and it was great. I had brown sugar-black pepper brined salmon steak with horseradish cream atop a potato pancake (basically just like really good hashbrowns, which I adore) and served with a perfectly cooked vegetable mix - asparagus, zucchini, etc. My coworker had the sea bass on a mixed greens with an orange vinaigrette. Both were excellent, with the fish steaming hot and perfectly cooked. Perfectly balanced seasonings on everything we tried. Not pretentious at all, but a good meal. And open on Tuesdays!

The have a great selection of Finger Lakes wines on their wine list, with by the glass and bottle selections. No Tierce, sadly. I originally ordered the Weimer Dry Riesling, but then decided to ride out the Cabernet Franc kick I'd been on all day long by getting the 2004 Hosmer Cab Franc. Great wine - very smooth, still with varietal character, but rounder than most of the others I'd tried. Hosmer is over on Cayuga Lake, so maybe this was terroir in action once again!
We had our manufacturing forum first thing this morning, and it went really well. They managed to get a bunch of people to come out - too often we go to these things and there's hardly anyone there, which feels like a waste of time for all of us. They'd managed to get about 50 people to show up, most of them employers. I did my big presentation of the data, which went pretty well, and Donna, my coworker, really complimented my skill at the front of the room and my ability to make the data interesting to non-data people. Donna is very good in rooms, so this was a very nice compliment coming from her.

After the meeting she and I debriefed, then went over to the WIB office to meet with the director and make a few changes to the PowerPoint we'll be using tomorrow morning at the board meeting. Our professional responsibilities for the day dispatched, we then headed out to check out beverage manufacturing in the Finger Lakes first hand. :-)

We visited 6 wineries in about 3 hours, including stopping at the first for lunch in their cafe. We went all the way around Lake Seneca, picking which ones to stop at based on research I'd done. There are about 50 wineries around Seneca Lake alone, so there's lots to choose from. I'd gotten some recommendations from Ric at Zingerman's, and this month's Wine Spectator had a feature on Finger Lakes and I pulled some recommendations from there. The first few wineries we stopped at I wasn't very impressed by, although I did fall in love with the Tierce Dry Riesling, a collaborative effort from three different wine makers in the region. At $30 I couldn't convince myself to buy a bottle, but I'm still thinking about it. As we reached the eastern side of the lake, however, the wines suddenly got much, much better, and there were a few that I really wanted to take home. Maybe next time I'll pack a wine shipper, or at least leave some extra room in my suitcase - but I'm already overburdened this trip. And I couldn't buy enough wine to make shipping a smart move.

Now we're back the hotel for some relaxation time. We're meeting at 6:30 to head to Port's Cafe for dinner. I've had the hardest time finding someplace to eat tonight! All the recommended restaurants are closed on Tuesdays. But Port's Cafe was recommended by three different people on our winery wanderings today, and is purportedly the place where all the winemakers from the western coast of the lake go to eat, so that seems promising!
Wine club was last week, but I'm late getting these up. Southern France was a big hit - this is one of our highest scoring nights - I think only our sparkling wine tasting was higher. Which is kind of funny, because the descriptors we use in the notes probably don't sound tasty to most of you! Leather, earth, burnt rubber, anyone?

For the wine geeks )
The blow out Great Oak Wine Club Anniversary dinner is all done. People were as pleased as I'd hoped. Everything turned out great. There were a few things I'd tweak here and there, but it was great. All the wine pairings were good, some especially so. Everybody pitched in - some people before for prep, and some people during for plating and cleaning, and people after for cleaning. Many hands make light work and it didn't take a long to clean up after we were done - we were able to take advantage of gaps between courses to run things through the dishwasher. The menu was such that almost everything could be cooked in advance, with only a little bit of a la minute required - but that meant we were able to keep 5 or 6 people busy for going on 3 hours getting ready before dinner. Plus the time Katie and I spent last night and this morning. We had 16 people attending.

The final menu, with wines, and some pictures:
Rosemary Parmesan Coins
NV Collabrigo Prosecco Spumante Brut
Really great hors d'ouevres. Easy and very tasty. Sort of like a savory cookie. We had these and the sparkling wine out for people to have as they were arriving and before they sat down.
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Mixed Greens with Zingerman’s Creamery Goat Cheese, Roasted Red and Gold Beets, and Toasted Walnuts
2004 Jardin Sauvignon Blanc, Stellensboch, South Africa
The goat cheese was more aged than I remembered. Elph, who works at Zingerman's did the actual buying, so I wasn't there to assess. I might have used something else. But it was a very good salad. The planned sherry vinaigrette fell victim to my not actually having the bottle of sherry vinager that I was sure I had, so we used a balsalmic vinaigrette instead, which was fine.
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Farfalle with Smoked Salmon and Creamy Vodka Sauce
2004 Domaine Cordier Père& Fils “Terroir de Charnay” Macon
The only "eh" course, I thought. Needed more salt, but someone else was in charge of this course and I didn't taste it until I'd sat down. It probably would have been better when it was warm. And it suffered some, I think from all the things we needed to do to deal with the vegetarians and gluten free eaters. Boring plate - I had planned on making a chive oil to drizzle on the plate to jazz things up a bit, but didn't have time.
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Blood Orange - Rosemary Sorbet
Presentation leaves a bit to be desired (I was busy with the next course, and the person doing the plating wasn't very concerned about looks), but it was very good. The blood oranges were totally anemic though. The duck course that followed was the course that required the most last minute preparation, so I added the sorbet to fill in the long gap.
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Seared Duck Breast with Dried Cherry Sauce, Lentils and Swiss Chard
Lentils, Butternut Squash and Shiitake Mushrooms with Dried Cherry Sauce
2004 Domain Robert Chevillon Bourgogne Passetoutgrain
I'd written down a great to-do list, but the one thing I'd forgotten to write down was "score skin on duck breasts" so I forgot. Luckily, I'd put them into cold pans, so I realized it right away and was able to pull them out. Then none of the knives I had handy were sharp enough to cut the skin... ugh. This was definitely the most hectic course. Sear the duck, rest the duck, carve the duck, saute the chard, heat up the sauce, get everything plated. The vegetarian offering was totally different too, so that was a whole other set of things to do at the same time (although I delegated that to someone else). I only have a picture of the veggie option, since my camera was being obstinate. Jillian was also taking pictures, so I hope to get one from her of the duck.
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Five Spice Braised Short Ribs (or Portabellas), Parsnip-Turnip Puree, Snow Peas
2000 J.L. Chave “Offerus” Saint-Joseph
I braised the short ribs this morning, and strained and reduced the braising liquid into an intense sauce this afternoon. The portion size was waaay to big on this one - I was expecting the short ribs to cook down more, and these ones didn't. Everything got eaten, but people were definitely feeling full, so I sent them all out for a walk while we prepped the cheese course.
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Tasting of blue cheeses
NV Alvear Carlos VII Amontillado
The cheeses were Cashel Blue from Ireland, Stilton from England, Roquefort from France, and Gorgonzola from Italy. We served a variety of sides along with - some pears, some port glazed walnuts, a hearty nut and seed bread, and a little dollop of port reduction. The port glazed walnuts are amazing! And they played especially well with the excellent wine.
Read more... )
Lemon Sabayon Tart with Pine Nut Crust and Honeyed Mascarpone Cream
2002 Peller Estates Riesling Icewine
A yummy and easy recipe from the French Laundry Cookbook. And a *great* wine pairing.
Read more... )
Gianduja Gelato Filled Profiteroles with Chocolate Sauce
Warres Otima 10 year Tawny Porto
Wow, this was the ever evolving course. We'd originally planned dark chocolate filled profiteroles, caramel sauce and Banyuls as the wine. But I couldn't get any Banyuls. So at the last minute I changed the gelato to Gianduja, as I thought I'd serve a Vin Santo instead. But then I couldn't get that! So we ended up with a tawny port. The caramel sauce didn't turn out - I think the recipe was messed up. So Katie brought over a jar of Sanders bittersweet chocolate sauce and we used that instead. And in the end, I think it turned out for the best - it was a really nice match for the wine.
Read more... )
Lessons learned - I was overambitious and took too much on myself instead of delegating. I basically planned and executed the whole meal. I had plenty of people assisting, but I was definitely in charge. Yeah, I'm a control freak, why do you ask? In the moment that was fine, but there were definitely a couple times this week where I was dreading the dinner or in "can't wait until it's over" mode instead of looking forward to it.

Too much food. Primarily the short rib course - one bone each would have been plenty, instead of the two we had. Which would have saved a bunch of money, actually.

Speaking of money... When we were planning the dinner, I told people it would be $20. But as things evolved, the price kept rising, and it ended up at about$25/person. Not a huge deal, but it stressed me out because I know that some of our people are really price-sensitive. The price wasn't at all unreasonable - wouldn't you pay $25 for that meal? And in any case, no one had any issues with the increased cost (at least none that they mentioned.)

I know there are people who want recipes, etc, but those will have to wait for another day. Liam will be up in 7 hours, and I'm on morning duty.
We've had a very busy weekend. Saturday morning was Eric's sleep in day, so I hung out with Liam. After Eric woke up, the three of us went over to Sunward Cohousing (just across the pond from Great Oak) to attend a Kindermusic class. It was the first time we've take Liam to something like that, and he loved it. Once he got over his initial shyness, anyway. He loves music, and really enjoyed playing drums and bells and dancing as the instructor/ leader played her guitar. He was very excited by the guitar.

Then it was home for lunch, and then into the car for a car nap on the way to visit Grandma. This particular Grandma lives the closest, but for a variety of reasons has seen Liam very little. He was shy at first, but warmed up when he saw their dauschund (sp?) named Buster. He got even more excited when we told him we were going to take Buster in the car. We went to a neat little nature trail hidden away right in the middle of some very urbanized Detroit suburbs. Liam got to walk the dog, and got to see the dog go potty - all very exciting to a not-quite-two year old. After that we went back to Grandma's house (trailer), got Grandpa and we all went out to dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant, Bangkok Cafe. It's been a long time since we were there, but it's as good as I remember it, and they've finally started accepting credit cards!

This morning was my sleep in day. After I got up, Eric went upstairs to take a nap, and Liam and I went outside and played. There was a little girl visiting from Touchstone Cohousing (next door) and she and Liam sort of played together on the play structure for a little while. Then we played a little bit of ball. Liam's idea of playing ball is walk up really close to someone and throw the ball AT them. This doesn't work so well when the someone is the same size as you! So we worked on this idea of kicking or rolling the ball on the ground instead.

I was tired and headachy, so when I took Liam up for his nap, I decided to crash too, and giving me a very nice almost 2-hour nap this afternoon. Ah - I feel caught up on sleep for the first time in a while. We spent the late afternoon over at Scott and Sue's. Liam had heard me mention Alex's name on Friday, and was talking about him for the rest of the day, so I promised him we'd try to visit. The boys played beautifully together for the most part - it gives us all great hope for the future, when our kids will go off and play together, and maybe we can play some board games like we used to!

Scott and Sue already had plans for dinner, so Eric and Liam and I went over to Zingerman's Roadhouse for dinner. We weren't very hungry, so Eric and I each had some soup, and then we split the mini-burger sampler. Liam was pretty well behaved, especially given that we'd arrived just far enough into the dinner rush that there were a bunch of orders ahead of us and ours was a little slow. Ric brought us a couple of tastes of wine, including a really interesting aperitif that they had a sample bottle of. The maker will be releasing it an upcoming Roadhouse special dinner. It was infused with rose, geranium and some other flower. It was very remiscent of Gewurztraminer, but without some of the overwhelming aspects that some Gewurz can have. Really neat - [livejournal.com profile] sarahf you'd like it a lot!

Then home. We're taking advantage of daylight savings time to try out an experiment with Liam's bedtime. Previously, we started bedtime at 7, with the goal of him being asleep by 8. Now we're starting at 8, with the goal of asleep by 9. This is the same body time for Liam - we're just not adjusting his bedtime to match the clock, we're keeping him the same. Our hope is that this means he'll sleep until the same time in the morning, but since we're adjusting our own clocks, that will mean 6 instead of 5 for us. Of course, this means we have less baby-free time in the evening. That will make some things harder (we'll need to relocate wine club, and Eric won't be able to attend anymore, since it runs from 8 to 9) but may generally turn out to be positive, as we'll be less rushed in the evening and Eric will get more time to see Liam (during the week, he gets home from work just in time for dinner, then we'd start bed right away - now they'll have some time to play). This will be good for the summer, when there's lots of Great Oakers hanging around outside after dinner - it was a bummer last year to always have to rush home for bedtime.
Today was the day for the wine tasting I was holding for this Touchstone marketing thing. We had about 8 people from Touchstone, and 6 from Great Oak (including friends and family, not just residents).

It was really fun! We did a regular walk around tasting, not the really structured thing we do for Wine Club. We had 7 wines - 3 whites and 3 reds that I picked up for the tasting, plus an extra red that [livejournal.com profile] nubianamy and Tom brought to contribute. Mary Ann and Lois brought crackers and bread and artichoke dip and cheese etc for snackies. Everyone contributed $5 towards the wine.

I made up a tasting sheet for everyone to use to write notes as they tasted the wines. All the wines were covered, so people wouldn't know what they were tasting. Then, at the end, we revealed all the wines and I handed out a sheet I'd made up with the name of the wine, price, and a review that I pulled from the net.

I think each of the 7 wines had someone who found it their favorite, so that was cool. And we had a really wide range of wines that demonstrated the huge variety that's out there. There were a couple of wines that I made a point of telling people to go back and taste with food, because they were wines that don't necessarily show well on their own, but are great food wines (the Borsao in particular is almost unpleasant on its own, but great the minute you eat almost anything with it).

The best thing is that everybody had a good time - from the people who knew nothing about wine tasting to the people who have several hundred bottle cellars in their basement.
What We Tasted )
Last night's menu: Eggs Masala, Chana Dal, Cucumber-Mint Raita, Rice, Peas.

I only had 40 people sign up (28 adults, 12 kids), a pretty small meal for me. Don't know if the menu scared them off, or if everyone was just otherwise occupied. In any case, they sure missed out, because it was a very tasty meal, if I do say so myself. And having only 40 people meant we had a lot fewer hardboiled eggs to peel.

In fact, the eggs were the source of the only problem with the meal - I didn't adequately separate the plain eggs I was holding back for the kids from the rest of the eggs, so when my assistant cooks were halving the eggs and putting them on plates to be topped with sauce, they cut those up too. And I didn't notice until they were all topped with curry sauce! Doh! We told the parents to just scrape off the mild sauce, but I'm sure that wasn't acceptable for at least some of the kids. Oh well, just meant there were more curried eggs for the rest of us.
Meal Making Details )
Hey locals - I'm hosting a wine event Saturday afternoon. It started off as a marketing event for Touchstone, but they've not been getting much if any response to their marketing events. But they had at least a few people just from Touchstone who wanted to do it, so we're going ahead with the plan, and I'm hoping to get a few other folks from Great Oak or my friends list.

It's at a weird time - 2 pm Saturday afternoon! But it should be a fun. Taste a few wines, chat with folks, hang out. If you're interested, let me know!
Had another fun wine club gathering on Monday night. We were all a little low key that night for whatever reason. I think because all the wines we had were kind of middling - no strong passions on either side to liven up the conversation. But things picked up, and a bunch of people stayed quite late, finishing off the bottles from the club AND the half full bottle of Zin I had leftover from a previous night. Then things started getting really raucous!

Probably nobody but me cares about the notes )


Mar. 6th, 2006 11:01 pm
Finishing the bottles after wine club is always a good way to get a little tipsy on, but finishing the bottles from wine club PLUS what was left of the Zinfandel we opened on Friday is a surefire way to end up more than tipsy. I can always tell when I've had too much to drink because my teeth and tongue get numb. Probably gonna stay up a little longer to make sure I drink enough water to avoid a morning after.

But it was lots of fun hanging out with my friends/neighbors, drinking wine and planning fabulous foodie events for the summer.

When I called my mom today to check in on her, she was in the middle of having some severe chest pains and was taken off for x-ray or something while I was talking to her. Haven't heard anything since, hope she's okay.
Monday night I attended another special dinner at Zingerman's and it was a great time! It was a book release party and dinner in one.

Bo Burlingham has written a new book - a book about companies with "Mojo" - the corporate equivalent of charisma in you and me. The book, titled Small Giants Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big is a study of 14 companies in varying fields and industries that have chosen to reject the pressure of endless growth and focus on more satisfying goals. Goals like being great at what they do, giving excellent customer service, personally committing to their employees, and even contributing to their communities. Those companies include: Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco, Righteous Babe Records: the record company founded by singer Ani DiFranco, Union Square Hospitality Group in New York City, and Zingerman's Community of Businesses in Ann Arbor.Bo Burlingham was an interesting and engaging speaker.

The food was great, as expected. Ric, the sommelier, tied his wine choices into the theme of the book by giving us a selection of really unique wines that are only made in one place in the world. And that have a certain amount of "mojo" for one reason for another. We're all pretty sure that these five wines have probably never been at the same table at the same time before!

When I got there, Ric remembered me from last time and thanked me for the kind comments I made in my post to eGullet. Turns out he's a lurker there. He also said he'd had me in mind when he was picking wines for the dinner, and was really glad that I was there. Which I'm sure was just him being a gracious host, but was very sweet of him to say!

Lobster shepherd's pie
Crostini with smashed shelling beans, giblet-mushroom sauce, & greens
Hot garlic potato chips
Crispy artichoke hears with antique Wisconsin parmesan
Wine: Retsina, Kechribari, Domaine Kechris, Thessaloniki, Greece NV

At least one of the appetizers (the lobster shepherd's pie) is a recipe from Union Square Cafe (the Union Square restaurant group is one of the companies profiled in the book). It was great. My favorite thing had to be the garlic potato chips. They weren't especially hot (the trials of serving 80 people at once) but they were incredibly yummy. I'd never had Retsina before, and was a little afraid, what with all the tales of Pinesol, etc. This one, however, was a lovely exception. Ric didn't write out his tasting notes for us this time, but the way he described the wine was right on. Think, he said, of someone deciding to make a lemon-almond-rosemary gelato, but accidently switching the ratios of lemon and rosemary, so you got about 3 times the rosemary you were expecting. Yep, pretty much. A nice acid opening, a hit of almond extract or marzipan in the middle, and then a piney finish.

Black lentil & sweet red pepper soup
Wine: Barleywine, Old Foghorn Ale, Anchor Steam Brewing Company, San Francisco, CA

Deep black soup, heavily seasoned with black pepper, with a red pepper swirl to brighten things up. It was tasty, but the portion was too big, with all the other food on the menu. The Barleywine is actually a beer, of course, but as Anchor Steam Brewing Company is also in the book, it seemed a given. I'm not a beer drinker, but I did try it several times and still couldn't come around to it. Too bitter for me.

Onion, apple, & Rogue River Blue cheese tart with baby greens & walnuts
Wine: Vin Jaune de Chateau-Chalon, Reserve Catherine de Rye, Domaine Henri Maire, Chateau-Chalon, Arbois, France 1986

In a great coincidence, I'd just been reading about Vin Jaune in an eGullet thread mere days before the dinner. I've heard about these wines before, but had never had a chance to try them, so I was pretty excited. Despite all the warnings that most people don't like this wine until their 3rd or 4th try (if ever), everyone at our table liked it right off the bat. And it was a great combination with the lightly dressed salad topped with walnuts and a heartly slice of the blue cheese tart. (For those unfamiliar with Vin Jaune, they are an unusually made oxidized wine. The flavor was simliar to a sherry, and it reminded us a lot of the Alvear Carlos VII Amontillado we had at the last dinner.)

Chicken braised with figs & Michigan Wildflower honey
Cornmeal hash
Sweet potato mash with Quebec cider balsamic vinegar
Spaghetini all'amatriciana Iowa pancetta
Braised kale
Wine: Amarone della Valpicella Classico DOC, Vaio Armaron, Serege Aligheiri, Agricola Masi, Veneto Italy, 1999

The chicken was fine, but didn't really excite me. An interesting variety of sides, though they felt pretty disconnected from each other. The cornmeal hash was a take off on another Union Square Cafe recipe. The sweet potato mash was sweet and flavorful with a definite touch of je ne sais quoi - presumably the vinegar. Iowa pancetta was crispy and tasty. And the braised kale was meltingly good. At 15.5%, the Amarone was a monster of a wine, and while one of my tablemates loved it, it just didn't float my boat. Interesting to try, though.

New York cheese cake from the Zingerman's Bakehouse
Wine: Vintage blanc, Domaine du Mas Amiel, Maury, Cotes de Roussillon FR 2002
Freshly poured, the wine had a lot of volatile acidity, which fortunately blew off after a few minutes in the glass, revealing some more fruity aromas. Sweet, with pretty good acidity, and unlike anything I'd ever had, this is a White Grenache based wine that comes from a region where almost all the wines made our red, giving it that mojo Ric was looking for. Also, a very unusual bottle for a French wine, with a very stylized modern looking label. It was a good match for the rich but light cheesecake.

A very fun night as always. Next month is a Kentucky theme dinner, where apparently they'll be drinking Bourbons instead of wine. If I go to that one, I think it will just be for the food.



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