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.

OR

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.
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."
Tonight I went to a Spring Picnic/ French Pantry Items tasting at Zingerman's. Part of their French month. Got to taste a bunch of yumminess, the most unexpected of which was the divine combination that is honey and olive oil.

First up we had a salad of cucumbers sprinkled with grey sea salt, then dressed with a viniagrette of Banyuls vinegar, hazelnut oil and dijon mustard, tossed with some nicoise olives (dressed with Alziari olive oil) and roquefort. Yum. I've been meaning to pick up some nut oil to experiment with, so this was a nice opportunity to try it without the considerable expense involved in buying a whole bottle of a very perishable oil. 50 lbs of shelled hazelnuts makes only 9 liters of oil, so it's understandable why the stuff is so darned expensive (50 lbs of walnuts will give you 12 liters of oil, and 50 lbs of almonds only gets you 7!).

Then we tasted mustards. Along with some baguette and rosette de Lyon salami. Due to importing restrictions, the rosette de Lyon is not actually imported from France, but made in California by a artisanal maker who attempts to follow the traditional French method. But the bread and salami were really just a forum for three mustards from Denoix (that's the producer, not the region). Violette is a deep purple - almost black - mustard that combines reduced grape juice, whole black mustard seeds and brown mustard flour. It's sweet with just a little mustardy pungency. The Piment d'espelette is bright orange and pungent, first with the mustard, then with heat from the pimento. It was my favorite of the mustards. The mustard blended with herbes de Provence was unpleasantly herb-y for my tastes.

Next up, the previously mentioned honey and olive oil. First a lavender honey with "Eric's Oil," then a fir tree honey with Gautiere olive oil. Both were excellent combinations and good contrasts. The Gautiere oil is unusual for a Provencal oil due to it's slightly peppery finish - the Eric's Oil was more typical of the rich smooth butteriness you usually find in oil from Provence. But the fir tree honey had an assertiveness of its own that let it stand up to to oil. While I'm sure there's an art to combining oil and honey to get the really stunning combos, it's pretty much a no-brainer. I liked the combination so much that I wanted to try it out on Eric when I got home, and just used what we had which was a Tupelo honey (from Florida) with the Zingerman's house olive oil, which I think is Italian. Also pretty darn tasty. So try it, and tell me what you think!

Next up, some cheeses. The Epoisses at Zingerman's is brought in at the youngest possible age (60 days) then aged in the Zingerman's cheese cave, complete with daily turning and washing with wine. Interesting Epoisses fact - the rennet used to curdle the milk is flavored with black pepper, cloves, fennel, salt and brandy, imparting a unique flavor to the cheese. The other cheese we tried was Saleres, which is similar to Cantal, which is basically the French analog of cheddar. The Saleres is only produced at the farmhouse level - it's not a cheese that's in mass production. We got a little bit of Fleur de Sel and were told to sprinkle it on the Saleres - it was interesting how the cheese brought out a certain sweetness in the salt - good combo. The Saleres was also tasty with the remnants of honey and mustard from earlier.

Solomon, our guide through the French pantry, nearly forgot the next item, and was so thrilled when he rememberd it. He'd mixed some Echire butter (84% butterfat, imported from France) with dried Pimente d'espelette to create a slightly spicy tasty butter.

And last but not least, the Echire butter was also featured in a grilled chocolate sandwich, which paired Michel Cluizel 72% chocolate with Zingerman's Pain de Montagne bread. This needed salt, either in the butter or sprinkled on the sandwich some how, but I didn't realize what was missing until someone else mentioned sprinkling it with some fleur de sel, and by then mine was all gone.

All in all quite a nice tasting. The organization was way haphazard. Having attended a number of these tastings now, it seems to me that Zing must put whoever steps up to run the tasting in charge of the whole show, so attention to detail will vary depending on who's at the front of the room. Our presenter was clearly nervous, but made up for his lack of public speaking polish with a cute, charming and obvious passion for the food (mustards excite him!). However, for a tasting of mostly condiments, he had a ridiculously small amount of bread sliced. We broke up baguettes as needed as went along (until we ran out of baguettte and we switched to Pain de Montagne), but this was a strange oversight - nearly every other Zing tasting I've attended had big baskets of bread on each table. And although we tasted over a dozen products, we weren't given a list until nearly the end, and only got a single product tasting sheet (usually you'd have one for every 2 products you're trying). But those were pretty minor complaints, and on the whole I had a good time.

Truffles

May. 9th, 2006 10:13 am
Well, my chocolate truffle making scheme has been wildly popular so far. I currently have orders for 213 truffles. Wow! That seems like a lot, but my last truffle making escapade I made 75 just for fun, so it's not actually that many. I'm pretty close to maxed out at this point, but might be able to sneak in a couple more orders.

I've decided to make 5 flavors. I was planning on only 3 or 4, but with the quantity of orders and people's flavor preferences, it makes sense to make half batches of a couple of the infused ganaches. I'll be making:

Raspberry (flavored with Bonny Doon Framboise, reduced to concentrate the flavors so I can get more raspberry punch without adding liquid)
Coffee (flavored with espresso)
Ginger (infused ganache, with a bit of crystallized ginger on top)
Mint (infused ganache with fresh mint, not an extract, so it will be a more subtle mint flavor) - 1/2 batch
Rosemary-Lemon (infused ganache) - 1/2 batch

The only hitch in my plans so far is that the chocolate is not yet in stock at Zingerman's. Duff thought she'd be ordering it Friday, and have it on Monday, but she actually didn't order it until yesterday, so it won't be in until tomorrow at the earliest and maybe Thursday. I was planning to make ganache Thursday morning/afternoon, so that puts a bit of a kink in my plans, but not too much. I was planning to go to a tasting at Zing tonight and take advantage of the 20% of coupon for my chocolate purchase, but Duff says she'll give me 20% off when it comes in anyway. Woot!

Edited to add: Duff called to say the chocolates were shipped Monday, so should be in on Wednesday. Nifty.
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.

Busy Day

Mar. 4th, 2006 08:55 pm
Today was my sleep in day, which mean that I didn't wake up until 8 am! Shocking.
Another condo showing )
Breakfast for lunch )
Visiting my mom in the hospital )
Riding tractors at Lowe's )
Front row seats at the Roadhouse )
And then it was time to come home, give Liam a bath, and get him off to bed. (Interspersed with one very hyper little guy running around in circles for a while.) And now I must get off to bed, as Eric has requested a night off AND it's his sleep in day tomorrow AND he's going to be changing fish tanks so I'll be in charge of Liam all day.
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!

APPETIZERS
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.

SOUP
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.

SALAD
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.)

ENTRÉES
Chicken braised with figs & Michigan Wildflower honey
SIDES
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.

DESSERT
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.
When last we left our eaters, we'd just worked our way through four different cheeses and four different wines.

The next course was another cheese, but this time in a slightly more adorned fashion. The Little Napolean is a lightly aged mold ripened goat cheese round. A little more oomph than a fresh goat cheese, but still light and fresh tasting. 3 small wedges of the cheese were placed on top of some raw honey sprinkled with freshly crushed peppercorns. To the left were some homemade fig preserves, and on the right, a mango chutney. This was one of the best things I have eaten in a long time. Goat cheese and figs are classic. The honey and cheese was incredible. I've had many dishes where special sea salt sprinkled on top just set the dish apart - in this case, that role was played by the black pepper, which just pushed everything up a notch. And the whole thing was just brought to perfection by a rare and unusual wine. I'd never even heard of the grape variety, Petit Manseng. The wine was a Pacherenc du Vic Bihl Brumaire Novembere 1999. This is a late harvest wine, so quite sweet. With flavors of quince and apricot and honey, it just did extraordinary things with all the components of the dish. From Ric's notes: Consider it a stroll through the yellowed world of fall: vanilla scents stir the air, wet leaves sing underfoot, tree fruits mature sweetly in the orchard along the path, and the breeze blows warm with but a suggestion of the cold to come. Elegant, alluring and complex, it is both mysterious and magical but equally well-spoken, well-dressed and polite. Less than 100 cases are imported to the US.

Our main course was a Niman Ranch free-range hanger steak broiled with the Detroit St. Brick. This cheese is a goat's milk cheese with green peppercorns. The steak was served with pureerd celeriac and a few brussels sprouts. Nicely rare, good meaty flavor, great combo with the cheese. This was the course where our chatting up the sommelier really made a difference. We'd been talking about the difference age makes to a wine, as I was saying that I really wanted to figure out how to show that to Wine Club. So for this course, Ric brought out extra glasses *just for our table* and an extra bottle of wine for us to try. The wine for this course was the Brandlin Vineyard Zinfandel 1997. Ric says: Consider this a wine time has tamed. Though the flavors are still big and brambly, the tannins have sewn themselves into silk, and the fuit has lost the exuberant boysenberry holler of its youth, achieving the deep and pleasing resonance of a truffled maturity. Up against this, Ric gave us a 2003 Ridge Zinfandel. It wasn't a perfect match, as the two wines come from different regions and have different characteristics, but it was still interesting to see how they played off of one another and what differences age made. The Brandlin was by far the bigger and fuller of the two wines and the flavors were notably more knitted together. I seem to like somewhat lighter wines, so I actually had a slight preference for the Ridge, but they were both great.

Finally, we closed with a Cream Cheese Mousse served with candied orange, brandied mince meat and a praline cookie. The mousse itself was strangely rubbery, I thought, but the accompaniments were great. And once again, we were served a wine that just made it all so much better. The Henriques and Henriques 10-Year Old Malmsey of the Broadbent Madiera collection had enough acidity to temper the richness of the cream cheese mousse, and a spicy, raisiny flavor that echoed the mince meat and orange. From Ric's notes (proving he's not just about the poetry, but informative too): Although nearly a forgotten spirit in the modern lexicon, Madeira as once the dominate wine in colonial America... The colonies were so enamored of Madeira, women of the Southern gentry wore it behind their ears as perfume.

Between the great food and the great wine, I was definitely in good spirits at the end of the meal. And what a bargain! The dinner itself was just $35 - heck, I can't get out of Zingerman's Roadhouse for that amount of money for just a regular dinner. And this amazing, best-I've-ever-had, wine pairing - well, that cost the princely sum of $19.

Zingerman's Roadhouse does these dinners monthly - I think I'll have to start making them a regular event.

So much fun

Dec. 6th, 2005 10:29 pm
Went to a special dinner at Zingerman's Roadhouse tonight. Celebrating Zingerman's Creamery cheeses. Had the best wine pairings, bar none, of any dinner I've had. And I'd say that even if it had cost more $19 for, let's see... 8 different wines. Many of them produced or imported in quantities of only a few hundred or less cases. We got one more wine than everyone else, thanks to chatting up the sommelier, who brought us a 2003 Zin to compare against the 1997 Zin that came with the tasting, since we'd been talking about the difference that age makes to a wine. The sommelier, Rick, looked really familar, and eventually Eric figured out that he was our sommelier at Tribute when we went with the Village and sat at the kitchen table. His tasting notes on the wines we had tonight are over-the-top poetic and awesome, but I'll share selected bits from them tomorrow when I'm not feeling the effects of all that wine.

Food was good too - Zingerman's Creamery cheeses are quite tasty - but the wines totally pushed them over the edge.

Tasty

Sep. 28th, 2005 10:19 pm
Went to a tapas tasting at Zingerman's tonight. Definitely great value for the money - we got to taste 22 different things! Marcona almonds, Spanish olive oil, five different kinds of olives (Gordal, Arbequina, Manzanilla, Picual, and Zingerman's house-marinated olives), five different cheeses (Manchego, Idiazabal, Mahon, Garroxta, Queso de la Serena), quince paste and fig cake, anchovies, 3 different cured meat preparations (chorizo, lomo embuchabo, jamon serrano) and four prepared dishes - roasted eggplant with spanish honey, tortilla with romesco sauce, mussels in a spicy sauce, and grapes rolled in Picon cheese and walnuts.

I'm not on olive fan, but I dutifully tried all five kinds, and I didn't have to spit any out. In fact, the marinated olives were decidedly tasty - but they didn't really taste like olives at all, just the marinade. I did kind of like the Picual olives however - they were sharp and citrusy and kind of tasty. But still olive-y. Of the cheeses, the Manchego was probably my favorite. But the Mahon was really interesting - much more assertive than I expected it to be. And the Queso de la Serena was interesting, if not really to my preference. It's apparently one of Spain's most expensive and valued cheeses. The Jamon Serrano was the best tasting thing of the night, but it had a lot of great competition - the anchovies and tortilla and mussels were all wonderful.

[livejournal.com profile] tlatoani and [livejournal.com profile] shekkara were also there and we sat together - it was nice to have people to chat with (although I've certainly been known to chat with strangers at these things in the past). There was a fun trio of enthusiastic college girls sitting behind us. I liked that they weren't afraid to ask for seconds!
Job posting for a web developer )
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Last night Eric and I went to a special dinner at Zingerman's Deli. They do these dinners every couple of months, but this is the first one we've been to. They set a big table upstairs in the deli, and serve the meal family style. Usually there's a special guest of honor or something, and last night's meal was to celebrate the first produce of spring from a couple of the local organic farms. As far as we can tell there were only about 4 of us (out of about 30) who weren't either Zingerman's employees, or somehow affiliated with one of the two farms. Which is too bad, because at $50/person all inclusive (no tax, no tip, plus a 20% off gift certificate for purchases made that night) it's the best deal in town!

The only drawback is that they can't serve alcohol, so no wine to go with dinner. Instead there was Dandelion Ice Tea and Nettle Ice Tea. I stuck with water.

Starters
Deviled Eggs and Sprouts: Grazing Fields Organics farm fresh spring eggs deviled and nested in Garden Works Organics sprouts
Tea Sandwiches: Lincoln Log, a new Boucheron style cheese from Zingerman's Creamery with Garden Works Organics buckwheat sprouts stacked on Roadhouse rye from Zingerman's Bakehouse
Arkansas peppered ham with Michigan farm butter on soft, buttery, pain de mie from Zingerman's Bakehouse

Soup
T and A Asparagus Soup: Fresh, handpicked asparaugs tips from Maulbetch Farms just north of town with tarragon and Zingerman's Creamery goat cheese

Salad
Panzanella: Garden Works Organics greens tossed with freshly foraged morels, green garlic, Niman Ranch pancetta, and oregano

Main Course
Sparrow Market's Country Ribs braised tender with a rhubarb and Balinese long pepper sauce

Sides
Oven Roasted Asparagus: Maulbetch Farms handpicked (this morning!) asparagus roasted with olive oil and drizzled with 20 year balsalmic
Richard the Greek: French Almond potatoes from Richard at Tantre Farms served warm with Mt. Athos Olives, oven-roasted tomatoes, and red onion
Sauteed Lambs Quarters with red pepper flakes

Dessert
Duck Egg Flan: Seasonally gathered eggs from John Harnois baked into a rich, astoundingly silky custard with a burnt sugar syrup

Everything was really good. The deviled eggs had pickled asparagus tips on top of them and were really quite tasty. It was hard not to eat too many with the big bountiful platters sitting right in front of us. The soup was nice and creamy rich. The salad was outstanding - I've never had fresh morels before, and boy were they good. The ribs were melt in the mouth, rich and fatty, with a nice tang from the rhubarb sauce. The roasted asparagus was really excellent - I love roasted and grilled asparagus, and this was a fine, fine example, with nice course ground salt and pepper and the balsalmic. The warm potato salad was okay, although I was getting very full and didn't eat very much of it. I probably would have liked it more if I liked olives. The lambs quarters are a type of green - usually thought of as just a weed, really - and they were quite yummy, with a lot of bite from the pepper flakes. And very high in calcium to boot. Luckily there was a pretty long delay before dessert, because I was thinking I was about to burst. Fortunately there was room in my dessert stomach, because the duck egg flan was stunning - soooo rich and creamy and intense.

It was definitely an "Ann Arbor is a small town" kind of night though! We had one of the former workers from Liam's daycare come over to babysit Liam last night, and that went really well. But the reason she left the daycare was to go to work at Tantre Farms - one of the providers of food for the dinner we were going to, and she'd been out picking for dinner just the night before! So we said hello for her to her friends and coworkers who were attending the dinner. Then we ran into someone who used to live in our cohousing community at the dinner. The woman who greeted us at the door (Kate) is the person who's currently doing the job at Zingerman's that I sort of interviewed for! And the weirdest of it all had to be that Rob from GardenWorks farms, one of the guests of honor, turned out to be a guy who Eric was friends with in high school!

Day

May. 7th, 2005 09:09 pm
So I'm still really tired and a have had a slightly upset stomach all day. Which has not been nice. But I had a busy busy day despite all that.

Early this morning we got up to go check out the yard sales. Liam fell asleep in the car on the way out (as was our plan) so we took turns staying in the car and looking at sales. Found a couple of great subdivision sales with lots of individual sales close to one another. My big find for the day was a pressure cooker for $1. I have no idea if it works, but if it does, it's the bargain of the century. I've wanted a pressure cooker for a long time, but wasn't sure I would use it enough to merit paying $75-$150.

After we were done with yard sales we stopped off at Zingerman's Creamery and Zingerman's Bakehouse. The Creamery was rolling out a new gelato flavor today, and in honor of the start of gelato season, they were giving out free mini-cones. Their Burnt Sugar gelato is even better direct from the Creamery, as it still has crunchy bits of burnt sugar candy in it that always seem to have melted away when I get it at Next Door. We picked up some cheese and bread for later, and some calzones to eat for lunch.

Then home, where I wanted to do nothing but collapse on the couch for a nap. But alas, instead I had to get ready for the Mothering Arts Birthday party. We've got a bunch of babies all born around the same time, so instead of being invited to 12 separate parties, we decided to hold a big joint party for all the babies. I was very tired throughout, but it was still really fun. It was nice to see some of the babies who we haven't seen in a long time, including Jack, who is only 3 days older than Liam (and whose mom, Susan, has almost the identical story to mine in terms of a c-s for breech). Jack used to be much, much bigger than Liam, but now Liam has caught up and their much closer to the same size. And we got to see Chase, in his lovely Korean birthday outfit. Chase is down to only nursing twice a day, which wouldn't seem all that unusual unless you knew that Chase spent his entire first 2 months of life latched on to his mom. Carol could barely go anywhere, Chase was nursing so much! Liam missed a bunch of the party when Eric took him home to get a nap, but he was grumpy and tired and needed to sleep. Our attempts to get a group photo were even less successful than last time.

Speaking of grumpy Liam - you've all heard of the terrible twos, I'm sure. Well, we've got the whiny ones. If we don't pick him up/give him what he wants RIGHT THIS MINUTE, then he whines and cries and complains. God forbid we should try to take away whatever item he is coveting at the moment, or he screams bloody murder. He's still freakishly cheerful, but that's becoming a little more tempered, unfortunately.

Impressive

May. 4th, 2005 10:12 pm
That's how Leah described my interview. At least according to Elph. So that's a good thing.

Liam had the hardest time falling asleep tonight. We just finally got him down about 20 minutes ago. Craziness. I really, really hope he sleeps okay for the rest of the night - his fingernails are very sharp and he loves to pinch my breasts when he's restless and nursing, and I had to work really hard not to scream. Nail trimming, first thing in the morning.

Zing update

May. 4th, 2005 02:09 pm
I think it went well. Leah and I had a nice hour long conversation. There's nothing open right now that I'd be a good fit for. There is an administrative position opening up in a couple of months - the same one I almost pursued 2 years ago. So she'll pass my information onto Ron to look at, and she'll keep me in mind for anything else that comes up. I'll continue to have my neighbor Elph send me the job postings, and get in touch if something else appears that looks interesting. So no immediate news, but things continue to be in the works.

After the interview I went to Kosmo Deli for my favorite bi bim bop for lunch, then dropped into the new Everyday Wines shop in Kerrytown. Had a nice chat with the owner, and she helped me pick wines for the first tasting of the wine tasting club I'm starting at Great Oak. So that's one less errand I have to run. Now I'm back to work, where I'm finally nicely busy, working on a data collection/synthesis project for Northeast Texas.
So last Wednesday I had my little meet and greet, hand over my resume and cover letter, lunch with my friend Elph. At which the HR person and I made an appointment for an interview type thing. Which is happening tomorrow at noon. I just finished completing their stock application, which Leah gave me last week to bring back with my tomorrow. I'm excited to have a chance to talk to her and see what I might be a good fit for. Now I just have to figure out what to wear. They're a very casual place, plus I don't want to go to work tomorrow looking like I'm dressed for a job interview, so I'm leaning towards business casual, with more weight on the casual than on the business.
Met Elph for lunch. One of the HR assistants came down to say a brief hello, and schedule a time for us to talk - next Wednesday at noon. I left her with my resume/cover letter package, she left me with one of their stock applications to fill out and bring with me.

Had fun talking with Elph and one of his coworkers about working at Zing, then headed back to work. About what I expected for today, so that's good.
I'm skipping my yoga class to work on my resume and cover letter, because there's just no way I'd be able to get them done if I don't. But that means that I can take a minute to upload a picture of Liam demolishing his birthday cake at common meal tonight...

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