Friday, December 31, 2010

Cellar Report: 2004 Alain Boisson Cairanne "Cros de Romet"

Yeah, I know the label says 2008. That's what I have in store at VINO since there's a
chance I may have forgotten to take a pic of the '04.

When I first had the 2004 Cairanne from Alain Boisson I was sitting at a table at Le Pigeon here in Portland, probably sometime in 2007, with a bunch of my boys on a guys night out. Forget the strip clubs and meat market bars. We're all about eating and drinking as well as is humanly possible in PDX. We had probably just been delivered a plate of foie gras or some other so wrong/so right part of an animal that chef Gabe Rucker has a way with. This bottle ended up on the table because as the "wine guy" in the crowd I'm usually tasked with ordering and with my love of all things wine-ish and southern French, and also because the south of any wine Euro wine producing country is almost always where the deals are, there was a bottle of Boisson. Anyway, all around the table there was consensus that this as something pretty special. Back at VINO the next day I ordered some for the store, and a half dozen extra for my basement.

So here I was a couple nights ago at home pulling the last bottle out of the basement. 2004 wasn't considered an average year for Rhone reds, but like in every mediocre vintage great winemakers will most likely make better than average wine. The other five had been delicious, getting better and better with each opening. So it was with the last bottle. As always upon opening I got a nose full of dark, plummy fruit. This wine always takes a few minutes to develop the nuances beyond the fruit. Sure enough, soon those classic aromas of pepper, smoke, earth, and roasted meat we making their way out of the glass. Taking a drink, this has dropped its hard edges and is all soft, beautifully developed flavors. More dark fruit, more hints of garrigue (that taste of wild herb, earth, and spice that are the hallmark and siren call of Provençal reds), more velvety smooth texture that led to a finish that demanded another taste. As the wine sat in the glass after about 30 minutes it really opened up...bacon fat, plum jam, spring blossoms...crazy flavors that kept changing with each sip. An hour or so later the bottle was almost empty and that delicious French haze going was going on in my head that causes irrational trip planning and dreams of escape. 2004 turned to be quite a good year. Merci, M. Boisson!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Keeping hunger and the Boy at bay!

My new paradigm of weekday cooking:
1-racing after work to pick up C-boy at daycare before their clock starts ticking at their usurious rate of a ten spot for every five minutes late (like the college tuition I'm already paying them shouldn't buy me some fucking leeway)
2-stopping at the market to shop, hoping said boy maintains composure at the store as hunger and cranky end-of-the-day tiredness start to encroach on his usually sunny disposition
3-getting home, plopping him on his play mat while I whip out some homemade babyfood to stuff in his starting-to-scowl piehole
4-stuffing C-boy's piehole
5-doing dinner prep and cooking while he sits on the kitchen floor playing with various cooking utensils and plots new forms of parental torment to draw me away from the task at hand, which is making something to stuff in our pieholes after he-who-must-be-served goes to bed.

Is it any wonder that my new cooking life revolves around fast and easy? If I can throw in delicious then that's icing on the cake. Which is why this soup I cadged off of epicurious was so satisfying. With a couple of refinements (i.e.- adding more flavoring ingredients/less liquid) we ended up with a belly warming and palate tingling bowl of goodness, which along with its ease of prep drops it near the top of my list of do-overs. Plus should your soul need some warming on a cold winter evening, this does the trick beautifully!
*** *** *** *** ***
Curried Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Soup

The cilantro oil listed is optional, but really adds a nice pop, both visually and taste-wise, to the curry.- bb

yield: Makes 4 main course servings
active Time: 25 min/ Total Time: 1 1/4 hr

ingredients :
For soup:
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced peeled ginger
2-1/2 tablespoons curry powder (a mix of 2 or 3 different curry powders really builds complexity if you can swing it)
1 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
16 oz. water
16 oz. chicken stock
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

For cilantro oil:
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup vegetable oil

accompaniment: cooked basmati rice

Make soup:
Heat oil with butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook squash, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, ginger, and 1 teaspoon salt, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
Stir in curry powder and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes.
Add lentils and water and stock and simmer, covered, until lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

Make cilantro oil:
While soup simmers, purée cilantro, oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a blender.
Serve soup over rice, drizzled with cilantro oil.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bar exam: Corpse Reviver #2

How can you not want to make, and more importantly drink, a cocktail named the Corpse Reviver #2? Not that I need to be pushed too hard when it comes to trying new libations, but this was almost too easy. And at this time of year, all of our walking corpses could use a push as we stagger from party to party. A classic from the 1930's, this has several things going for it: 1- A great name, which came from the fact that it was originally intended as a morning beverage to get one's supposedly needy spirit revived (there is, of course, a Corpse Reviver #1, brandy-based, and to my taste nowhere near the drink this is); 2- its main ingredient is gin; and 3- it is an equal mix of all four ingredients (with an added tiny dash of absinthe or pastis), which allows you to taste each and every one, and like the negroni (an equal mix of three components) it is a perfectly balanced drink. Although I have to say better after the cocktail hour than before. But to each his or her own, I suppose. Whenever you decide you need some revivification, this is a perfect place to find it!
*** *** *** *** ***
Corpse Reviver #2

Serving size: 1
3/4 oz. gin
3/4 oz. Lillet blanc
3/4 oz. Cointreau
3/4 oz. lemon juice
Dash absinthe (or pastis should absinthe not be in your repertoire)

Fill cocktail shaker half full with ice. Add all ingredients and shake for 20-30 seconds. Strain into cocktail glass and garnish with amarena cherry.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

What's your food craving??

A brilliantly beautiful (bountiful?) series of photos by pro photog Ted Sabarese of models and foods they are currently craving he calls "Hunger Pains"....

Thanks to my pal Kathryn for the heads up!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

I should be above this.....

....but, well, apparently I'm not. So effing funny, it's worth the embarrassment of admitting you watched it!

I am officially bereft.... the news that the best Italian restaurant in Portland is closing. Word comes to me that Alba Osteria, owner/chef Kurt Spak's paean to the glory of Piedmontese cooking in SW Portland, is closing as of Dec. 31st. I ate at Alba quite often, and was always impressed by Kurt's passion and precision. His ethereal tajarin and agnolotti pastas and his perfectly prepared sweetbreads will be sorely missed.

Apparently financial issues, as they seem to do all too often, played a factor. They are serving their last dinner December 31st, a 5-course feast that I'm sure will a worthy sendoff. Hats off to Kurt and his wonderful staff who always made us feel very welcome and provided a true taste of the Piedmont. I can only look forward to where he'll turn up next.

UPDATE: my original post had the closing date Dec. 1st, due to an error of omission, mainly the fact that I left off the "3", so Alba will be open through the month of December. Make sure you get in to get your pleasure buttons pushed!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Short Ribs Braciole: kicking cold weather to the curb!

I'm sure everyone is getting a little tired of looking at some self-important baby food blather for the last few weeks on this blog. So let me get back to a more adult theme with this perfect recipe for the cool weather season of sweaters and big red wines: short ribs braciole from NY chef Andrew Carmellini out of his book "Urban Italian". Now I have to admit to being a little put off by the title of AC's book. Sounded a little too...what would be the word..."dorky" maybe? Dork fest or not, this book is filled with easy-to-follow recipes and simple-to-prepare plates of deliciousness. Case in point is this braciole I made a couple of weeks ago. There's a lot of soul here, and nothing shows that better than this rich, tomatoey a cut of meat short rib recipe. I adore the short rib. Along with pork shoulder it is impossible to beat for the $$ when subjected to time and heat in your favorite braising pot. This recipe says it serves four, but if it's just the two of you have at it anyway and use the leftovers, like I did, for a kickass ragu-like pasta sauce when mixed with a some homemade tomato sauce. And sorry C-boy, this food is strictly for the big people!
Wine match: I opened a sublimely good bottle of 2000 Produttori Barbaresco that was perfection. But any good, fruit-filled bottle of Barbera d'Alba would be just right to stand up to the savory beef and tomato flavors running riot here.
PDX Shopping tip: I picked up some great Painted Hills Natural Beef boneless short ribs at Sheridan Fruit for about six bucks a pound.
*** *** *** *** ***
Short Ribs Braciole
from "Urban Italian" by Andrew Carmellini and Gwen Hyman

"If the name of this dish doesn't ring any bells for you, you're not alone. To be honest, I never knew what braciole meant until one of my cooks made it for family meal when I was at Café Boulud. He used his grandmother's recipe: rolled-up flank steak with provolone cheese, prosciutto, and hard-boiled eggs, braised in tomato sauce. I looked for braciole when I traveled through Italy, but it was nowhere-until one day I spotted it in a butcher's window in Puglia, made out of horse. Maybe mine is a little less authentic, but instead of having to compete with the dog-food guys at the racetrack, I've done it with short ribs (and everyone loves short ribs). This dish is great in the depths of winter: real stick-to-your-ribs stuff, if you'll excuse the pun, with deep flavors balanced by the freshness of the topping."- A. Carmellini

serves 4
timing: About 3 hours

For the short ribs:
½ cup roughly diced pancetta (about ¼ pound)
4 boneless short ribs (about 2 pounds), cut into thirds
1 heaping tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, sliced Goodfellas thin
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
20 canned whole tomatoes (2 28-ounce cans, about 4 cups), preferably San Marzano, plus their juice; or 4 cups crushed tomatoes, plus their juice.

For the topping:
¼ cup pine nuts, chopped roughly
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup Crumbs Yo! or panko breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably on the branch
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
a pinch each of salt and coarse-ground black pepper
2 tablespoon grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

For the short ribs:
1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
2. Cook the pancetta in a large, dry, ovenproof saucepot over medium-high heat until the fat renders, about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking.
3. Season the short ribs on both sides with salt and pepper, add them to the pan, and brown the meat, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the onion and cook until it softens, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes, mix well, and continue cooking.
5. Crush the tomatoes over a bowl with your hands, then add them to the pot along with their juice. Bring the mixture up to a low boil.
6. Remove the pot from the stove and place it in the oven. Check the ribs about every 15 minutes or so to make sure they're not boiling too hard. Cook until the meat is supertender and a fork can pass through it without sticking, about 2½ hours.

For the topping:
1. Toast the pine nuts in a dry sauté pan over low heat, shaking the pan occasionally to avoid burning or sticking, about 8 minutes.
2. Add the olive oil and mix well. Add the Crumbs Yo! or panko breadcrumbs and continue cooking over low heat, mixing occasionally, until everything is toasty brown, about 2 minutes.
3. Add the oregano and parsley. Season with the salt and pepper and cook together for a few seconds, so everything is warmed but the parsley does not wilt.
4. Remove from the heat and then add the Parmigiano-Reggiano (not before-otherwise, you'll have a melted-cheese mess).

To finish the dish:
1. Remove the pot from the oven and immediately remove the ribs to a plate, using a pair of tongs.
2. Use a ladle to remove some of the fat from the sauce, by pressing the chunky sauce away as you tip the pot so that the ladle fills only with the clear fat. (This is optional, but it definitely makes the sauce prettier-there's about 2 tablespoons' worth of fat there.)
3. Add ½ cup of water to the sauce and stir to bring it together.
4. Place 4 to 5 pieces of meat on each plate. Pour the sauce from the pot directly over the short ribs and sprinkle the topping generously over each dish. Serve immediately.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Making your own: a babyfood manifesto!

After our wildly successful trip a couple of weeks ago to the Beaverton Farmer's Market where, compared to other farmer's markets in town that happen to be located next to a city university and are filled with, ugh, "foodies", double-wide strollers and people who seem to have no clue as to how to navigate their overfed bodies in public, all was uncrowded and delicious. I mentioned in my post about said visit that a whole bunch of fresh produce from that visit was going to feed the insatiable appetite of C-boy, whose hunger knows no bounds and who has yet to meet anything on a serving utensil that doesn't meet his standards of deliciousness.

So far, nine months in (3+ months on solids) we have yet to buy any jarred baby food. So, not only is he loving what we're shoving in his piehole, we're also saving a shitload of money by making our own. Too much hassle, you say? I say are you too damn lazy to fill a pan with a skim of water to steam various ingredients and pop them in the blender? If you answered yes, then I can only assume your child's favorite toy is the remote control to your TV which is never turned off. So to help you all who need to regain the respect of your children...and their pediatrician...and for god's sake's all you do.....
*** *** *** *** ***
Baby Food

First off, before I give you the "complicated" recipe for infantile home cooking using a steamer basket and blender, I have to admit to using an egregiously, embarrassingly overpriced and unnecessary gadget called a Beaba steamer/blender (pictured above, filled with beautiful peaches from Baird Family Orchards). Why would I spend too much money on such a thing when I have a perfectly usable steamer basket and even a Cuisinart mini-processor? Two reasons: 1-I'm a gadget whore. If it goes in the kitchen (and better yet plugs in!), I'm probably likely to buy it; 2-It is really fucking convenient and easy to clean/use, and I am lazy in my own way. So, with that out of the way....

1-Cut up whatever you think your precious reason-for-living might like, such as squash, apples, pears, zucchini, etc., into 1"-2" pieces and place in your steamer do have a steamer basket, right? If not they're about five bucks at the store. If you can't afford that, and you can with all the $$ you'll be saving on baby food...then I'm picturing your baby rolling around naked because he has no clothes to wear, and soiling himself and everything around him because he obviously also has no diapers. You can also dump frozen organic peas and other veggies right out of the bag into the steamer.

2-Fill the bottom of whatever pan you steam food in....again, you do have a pan for steaming food, right?...with a 1/4" of water. Place steamer basket into aforementioned pan. Cover pan. Place on stovetop. Turn burner to high. Don't forget to place the pan on the burner you just turned, do I have to tell you everything? Steam food until very soft (and yes, you will want it softer than you like it unless you have a proclivity for gumming your food from lack of childhood dental care). Carefully remove steamer basket from pan (this shit is HOT, 'yo) and place contents in blender. Purée food in blender until very smooth. When food cools, feed child results. I told you it was easy, didn't I??

NOTE: Okay, maybe you don't have a blender. But you do have forks, right? If you answered no to that question, perhaps you should rethink this whole "raising a child" thing. If you answered yes, take the fork and mash the hell out of the steamed food, which as I said above should be very soft, until it is smooth with no lumps.
That's my boy!!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Drama queen....

...or as my friend Nisu said when he facebooked the video, "This girl is grounded...for life!" Hear that C-boy??!

Beaverton Farmer's Market: Hey PDX, it's worth the drive!!

Usually the mere thought of leaving the city and driving to the suburbs of Portland induces a slight panic. Why would I possibly leave this place where everything is at my disposal (except access to TGIF's and Cheesecake Factory without which I still seem to be living a remarkably full life)? What compelling reason could there be? I thought none, until last Saturday when my PR friend Bette S. encouraged me to give a visit to the Beaverton Farmer's Market which is held every Saturday in the remarkably charming "old town" area of Beaverton. So last Saturday, on a dazzlingly sunny morning, w and I packed up C-boy and headed west into the great unknown.

On the surprisingly short 20 minute drive over (that from our house in the Mt. Tabor neighborhood), we talked about how could this be remotely as good as PDX's famous downtown PSU market, which has received national press as one of the best in the nation. It is an amazing market, albeit getting almost too crowded as throngs attend every Saturday, many of whom I suspect go just to go. You know, those people who consider themselves, in a term that has come to represent a sad type of neediness, "foodies", just because they show up at the market. Not too mention the parking chaos, doublewide strollers (ours, BTW, is a slender single, small uppababy that should you be in the market for an umbrella style stroller is worth every penny. Funny thing, too: if you had asked me two years ago, before we found ourselves in this parenting predicament, what an umbrella stroller was, I would have had zero idea), and a distressing number of small dogs being carried in bags by their owners, which in any setting is a very disturbing, seemingly anti-evolutionary development. So we arrive in B-ton, park about 1/2 a block away, and wander into what I have now decided is probably the best, most shoppable farmer's market in the metro area.

I was first struck by the size of the market. Much bigger than I would have suspected, with row upon row of vendors, spacious aisles between them, and in this high season for farmer's markets everywhere, an eye-popping array of beautifully presented produce. We wandered around to get our bearings, noticing appreciatively how many more small farms were representing, then dove into the bounty. A little over an hour later, with C-boy relegated to mom's Ergo carrier since his stroller was overflowing with edible goodness, we went back to the car with days of dining fun ahead. I'll give a few of the many highlights followed by a must-try tomatillo recipe....
Blindingly bright carrots from the too-cutely named Gathering Together Farms, to be made into baby food for C-boy
one of w's favorite things, plucots from Alex Farm Produce
Always great cured meats from O.P. We took home the awesome Chorizo Rioja!
Tomatillos from Sosa Farms which were the key ingredient for the fabulous appetizer recipe below

This is not to leave out all the other splendor to be had: a 9am beer tasting of superb ale from Captured By Porches Brewing; the freshest cilantro and french radishes from Galin-Flory Farms; deliciously surprising coconut milk yogurt from Gata Foods (which I'm eating right now); peaches from Baird Orchards (some of whose perfectly ripe peaches went into a disastrous recipe for peach cobbler from Paula Deen. If you see it on the Food Network site, avoid it! We used the rest to make more food for C-boy); and so much more. This, my Portland-centric friends, is a place totally worth the drive. And if you need one more reason, the temple of all things fresh, fishy, and Asian, the Beaverton Uwajimaya market, is a mere five minutes away!
*** *** *** *** ***
Tomatillo Guacamole
By Martha Rose Shulman/NY Times
"This is a guacamole with a punch. The roasted tomatillos blended with hot chilies add acidity and spice to the creamy avocados. It has the luxuriousness of guacamole at just over half the calories."- Martha Rose Shulman

1/2 pound fresh tomatillos, husked
2 or 3 jalapeño chilies, seeded if desired and roughly chopped
10 cilantro sprigs, plus additional leaves for garnish
Salt to taste
2 large ripe avocados
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1. Preheat the broiler. Cover a baking sheet with foil and place the tomatillos on top, stem side down. Place under the broiler at the highest rack setting and broil two to five minutes, until charred on one side. Turn over and broil on the other side for two to five minutes, until charred on the other side. Remove from the heat and transfer to a blender, tipping in any juice that has accumulated on the baking sheet. Add the chilies, cilantro sprigs and salt to the blender and blend to a coarse purée.

2. Cut the avocados in half and twist the two halves apart. Scoop out the flesh into a bowl or the bowl of a mortar and pestle. Mash with a fork or pestle. Do not use a food processor or a blender, as you want to retain some texture. Stir in the lime juice, the tomatillo mixture and salt to taste and combine well. Transfer to a bowl and serve with baked or microwaved tortilla chips or crudités, or use for tacos or avocado sandwiches.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups, serving six.

Advance preparation: This will hold for a couple of hours in the refrigerator but is best eaten soon after preparing.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cellar report: 2002 St. Innocent "Shea Vineyard" Pinot Noir

Given my usual thirst, a half bottle of pinot noir shared would barely put a dent in my pleasure center. But when it's a half bottle from Oregon winemaker Mark Vlossak and it's from arguably the finest pinot noir vineyard in Oregon, then for once less is more. I've had these half bottles down in the basement for years, and every time I pull one out I am constantly amazed at how youthful they are. St. Innocent has a reputation for producing some of Oregon's most age-worthy pinots, a rep that I can wholeheartedly vouch for. With way too many Oregon producers making pinots that speak more to the availability of discretionary income on the winery owners part (i.e.- forests of new oak), Mark has always, to borrow some '70s vernacular, just kept on keeping on. Pure, perfectly ripe fruit, a very judicious layer of oak, acids and tannins that are always in balance. This St. Innocent '02 "Shea Vineyard" was right out of the bottle practically screaming "I'm from OREGON, dammit!" It has the classic strawberry, plum, and spice aromas and flavors. With the passing of eight years, this bottle is really starting to show some secondary development. The fruit is all there, but hits of earthiness and darker cherry notes are coming through, making something that started out in its youth so good, so much better. The mouthfeel is full and rich, the finish is long and lush, the smile on my face is wide and true. Even in the 375ml format, I suspect that this beauty will continue to provide pleasure for the next 5-8 years, maybe longer. I'm all about the wine LTR, so I'll let you know how we get along, okay?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Time well spent

In just five short hours, you can go from this....
to this....
to this....
....and end up with the best, sweetest, freshest tomato sauce you'll ever taste. Even though tomatoes seem to be in over-abundance...I harvested 18 pounds off of three plants Sunday morning...soon enough the season will have run its course and you'll be kicking yourself for not preparing for the long, cold winter nights ahead when the only cure is a dose of summer. I posted this recipe almost exactly a year ago, and it bears repeating, as last night w and I made up the last batch of last years sauce and it was heavenly.
*** *** *** *** ***
Slow Roasted, Herb Scented Tomato Sauce
an E.D.T. original

Destem tomatoes and cut in half. Arrange on foil that has been placed on top of grill grate (poke several holes in foil to facilitate smoke seepage). Arrange tomatoes on top as shown above. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt on tomatoes and top with sprigs of thyme. Place grill over medium-hot fire, arrange soaked rosemary sprigs around the outside of the coals (not on top of them as they'll burn to quickly), cover grill and let roast for four or five hours. To maintain a good temp, close top and bottom vents halfway (you may need to replenish the charcoal to maintain the temperature). When done, carefully slide tomatoes off of grill with spatula into large bowl. When cool place tomatoes in food processor in batches and purée until smooth. Portion into freezer containers, place in freezer, and wait for winter! You can also do this in a 250* oven, but you’ll lose out on the herb-tinged smokiness that takes this sauce over the top.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A day in the life of The French Laundry

This is great reading for all food obessives. San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Sophie Brickman is doing a series of behind-the-scenes, in-the-kitchen looks at some of the Chronicles four star restaurants. Starting with the Everest of restaurants, her first report is on a day in the life of Thomas Keller's French Laundry. Absolutely stellar, appetite whetting reporting that will show you just how much effort goes into food that has to perfect, every time out of the pass through. Find out what it takes to work at arguably the best restaurant on the planet, with the world's finest ingredients at your disposal. Loved it!

picture from the SF Chronicle

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Everything's better with bacon!

Like I need to tell you that. Going with the "health" theme of the last post, wherein I sought out greater personal well being by slathering a piece of fish with butter, why not go all in and sauté some home grown collards in bacon "juice". I call it juice; w calls it grease. I'm sure you'd agree my way is much healthier!

My garden has been supplying a ginormous amount of greens this summer. I haven't had to supplement our green intake with anything from the store for months, which is more satisfying than I can tell you. Plus our garden greens have such a nice texture. Much softer than any store bought organic produce that gets grown on the factory farms that supply most organic grocery chains. Collards are like the rabbits of the garden world. I planted five little plants, which seemed quite manageable. Next thing you know I'm leaving bundles of collards, from the plants pictured at the top (that's just one plant, btw), on the neighbors and searching for new things to do with all the abundance. I hadn't done this, and I have to say "this" may be the best version yet. Sure the bacon...or pancetta in our example...helped, but also cutting the big leaves into tiny ribbons and sautéing them super fast added a wonderful freshness and a perfect bite. I would guess that even people who swear they hate greens would find something to love with these!
*** *** *** *** ***
Collard Greens Miniera
adapted from epicurious/Gourmet Magazine

active time: 25 min/ start to finish: 25 min
yield: makes 4 servings

1 1/4 lb collard greens, halved lengthwise and stems and center ribs
4-6 ounces pancetta or bacon, finely chopped

Stack collard-leaf halves and roll crosswise into a cigar shape. Cut
crosswise into very thin slices (no thicker than 1/4 inch) with a sharp
knife. Cook bacon in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat,
stirring, until crisp. Add collards, tossing to coat, and cook until just
bright green, about 60 to 90 seconds. Season with salt and serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

"Hello doctor, this is BB's heart calling..........."

My last four dinners before last night: Ragu Antica (a post on that saucy wonder in the next week, I promise) with beef, pork, veal, & chicken liver; a perfect grilled burger & fries from Castagna Café; slow roasted pork shoulder with potato salad & bacon; leftover slow roasted pork shoulder. Throw in a few sides of wine, cocktails, and desserts. What I first notice about that list is that I had better schedule an angioplasty before my heart explodes out of my chest. Second, last night's craving for some sort of fish...anything but red meat...shouldn't come as any surprise. Hence, the picture of the broiled salmon you see above. I got the recipe from epicurious, which in this age of C-boy and his 8 month old world of distraction has become my quick, go-to source for new inspirations. It seems lately that even finding time to look through the cookbooks collecting dust on my kitchen shelf takes too much time. With epi I can sit at "work" and figure out what will be on my plate that night. This isn't a plug for epicurious, it's more of a confession of my own laziness and lack of time management.

Trying for the healthiest alternative I searched "broiled salmon". Now, I know that nothing is easier than broiling salmon. I just wanted to see what other ideas were out there. How I started out with such good intentions and ended up with two salmon fillets slathered deliciously in a tarragon butter sauce should come as no surprise. Apparently it is time to acknowledge that I have zero self-control. I'm just hoping that those Omega-3's that supposedly infuse salmon with its health giving powers can counteract 3 tablespoons of butter. At least I added to the health quotient with that pile of collard greens you see lurking behind the fillet. I'll blog the recipe tomorrow for those, which turned out to be perhaps the best collard preparation I've had. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that I sautéed then in pancetta fat........oh, god, help me..............
*** *** *** *** ***
Broiled Salmon with Tarragon Butter
from epicurious/Bon Appétit

yield: 2 servings; can be doubled or tripled

3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Fresh ground pepper
2 1-inch-thick salmon fillets
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried, crumbled

Preheat broiler. Melt butter with lemon juice in small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and add generous amount of pepper. Arrange salmon skin side down on broilerproof pan. Brush with half of butter mixture. Season with salt. Broil without turning until just cooked through. Transfer to plates. Add tarragon to remaining butter. Spoon over salmon and serve.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Beauty of the Power Game

My title is the title of an upcoming NYT Magazine piece about women tennis pros. You can dress them up and they still blow you away with their athleticism and grace. Click HERE for a glorious video slide show, including an awe inspiring Serena Williams, pictured above in a photo from the same article.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Secret Ingredient Is....

The Chairman of Iron Chef America knows how to emote like nobodies business. In this hilarious compilation he's angry, he's manic, he's retarded. In all his glory, today's post is..............THE CHAIRMAN....

Thanks to eaterpdx for the hookup

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bar Exam: The Derby Cocktail

With the paucity of posts going on here you might think I've been getting my drink on a bit too much. Such is not the case. Just the usual amount of drinkable...and edible...indulgences going on. Whether that is too much or not I'll leave to my doctor. Like he knows anything! Someone who does know a thing or two is the author of perhaps the most inspirational guide to better living I've read in a long time.

Why he hasn't been on Oprah I have no idea, but Ted Haigh, author of "Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails" certainly should get the call. Haigh, also known as Dr. Cocktail (his parents must be SO proud!) has written a cheeky, clever, very well researched, and all too useful guide to home improvement with his adult beverage-filled bible. The book was given to me by my compadre and kindred spirit K, who is known around here as "Mr. Manhattan" (and frankly whether his mother is proud of that or not I could care less as long as he keeps mixing them up), and is a man with a keen insight into why this subject is so important.

Considering the amount of temptation contained within the liquor stained pages of "VS & FC" the fact that I have remained relatively sober...and that is a very relative term...since receiving this book is remarkable. Especially since so many recipes, like the following for a fabulously delicious summer cocktail called The Derby, are just begging to be tried. The Derby was interesting to me because of its mixing of bourbon and lime. I usually relegate most of my bourbon and other brown liquor consumption to cooler months, but something about this one called to me after a hard slog at the wine shack on an early July evening. I mixed it up, after a run to the, liquor grab some orange curaçao, the one ingredient I was missing. I poured, mixed, and strained and immediately was rewarded with one of the most enlightening drinks I've had in a long time. The lime juice provides just the right "lift" to the bourbon and a sharp counterpoint to the sweet vermouth, making this nothing less than an exceptional summer sipper. See for yourself, and maybe enjoy one or two while reading "VS & FC" and finding your own inspiration!
*** *** *** *** ***
The Derby

makes 1 cocktail
1 ounce bourbon (or rye)
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce orange curaçao
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice

Add al ingredients to an iced cocktail shaker, shake vigorously for 20 or 30 seconds, strain into cocktail glass and garnish with lime...perhaps a bit smaller piece than the one pictured!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Lady Gaga for the rest of us

Maybe it's my newfound awareness since the birth of C-boy 6 months ago and the conversations my wife and I have about body changes (and it's not just hers, either!), but I found this Lady Gaga parody hilarious, and somewhat brave on the part of the woman making it. Enjoy!

hat tip to for posting this

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Slow Cookin'

It was a good delivery day from Amazon. A new Capresso coffee maker to replace the Cuisinart that disappointingly died a much too early death, and more importantly a long awaited and much anticipated new slow cooker! Okay, maybe the timing isn't the best for slow cookery considering we've (finally) entered a string of 70+* days, but I have been so looking forward to getting this little bit of kitchen convenience. I've never been very Crock Pot-ish, but with C-boy and work taking up more of my time these days, it seemed time to take the plunge. I also didn't want to spend $100+ for one, and found good reviews and a great price (under $50 and free shipping) on this 6 quart Hamilton Beach model. So with that, what the heck should I cook with it? Any Let me know!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Drool on: The French Laundry menu

Thomas Keller's little "family" restaurant in Yountville, Ca., The French Laundry, is without question one of the top two or three foodie meccas of the world where, if you want to have any bragging rights whatsoever when it comes to restaurant cred, you have to be able to say "Oh, The French Laundry? Of course we've been. You mean you haven't? Gee, that's too bad." I am among those looked down upon by those more fortunate. I have been this close more than once in rationalizing the $250 per person cost...before wine which can take the ticket up to $350 to $400 per person quicker than it takes the fizz to subside in your Champagne flute...but haven't quite crossed over to the other side. Not helping was this recent menu from TFL, which I saw posted on FoodDude's blog this morning. Totally drool worthy, and I love the descriptions. A seemingly simple "Beets and Leeks" is actually a sneaky way to make sure you get your daily requirement of lobster. To which I would say "Bring it on!" All I know is next time temptation collides with opportunity, I am in!!

Clicking on the menu below will bring it up in a larger format.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Eating PDX: Yakuza revisited

I worry because it means so much to me. I'm sure you know what I mean. You know when you go to a restaurant and have an incredible experience, but for various reasons (none of them so good that you have any excuse to stay away for so long) you just don't make it back. For months. Such was the case with Yakuza Lounge here in Portland's northeast side. I had my first experience with my friend DOR (read the post here) last October. If you'll remember it was such an out of control meal we ended up with their burger for dessert. Good times! So after my rave to w about that dinner she has had it on her agenda. Due to recent extenuating circumstances involving pregnancy, birth, infancy and all the nasty bits that entails, we hadn't the chance to go until last night, when, thanks to that liberating army of one we call "babysitter Amy", date night was locked and loaded, and Yakuza was the target.
Yakuza is owner Micah Camden's take on a Japanese izakaya, or drinking bar, where the plates are small and meant to be washed down with copious beverage. I love walking into the cozy, cool, low-slung dining room, with two and four tops along the walls and communal tables spread in the middle of the room, with the bar and kitchen in the rear left corner. The menu has a definite Japanese bent, while not adhering that strictly to the Asian tradition. I mean, there is a burger, right?. Divided into four sections...Salad; Signature Dishes; Signature Sashimi; and House Rolls...I am once again finding myself wanting everything. But reason, in the form of my lovely wife w sitting across from me, prevails. So we start in first with a glass of Cava for w (is it from Germany as the menu says?) and a Ginger Fizz for me, which was a bitey combination of fresh ginger, vodka, lime, simple syrup, and prosecco that would have gone from good to great if it had been served colder. Then the parade of plates commenced, starting with their beautiful Scallop Tempura ($9- pic above), a gorgeous and delicious plate of scallop surrounded by a frizz of shredded filo, sitting atop a spicy cream sauce with nori. This is pretty spectacular, a rare dish that tastes as good as it looks. The sauce provides the perfect counterpoint to the crunchy filo and rich scallop encased within. Following that was their Soba Noodles ($7- pic right), which was perfect simplicity. Cool soft soba noodles with bits of ginger to wake up your palate, a scattering of green onion, a sprinkling of toasted black sesame seeds, bits of nori, and a snappy ponzu sauce lightly dressing the whole dish. Really good and almost palate cleansing in its freshness. Also landing on the table about the same time was the Sashimi Trio ($16- pic left), which comprised beautifully plated and very fresh and clean tuna, hamachi, and salmon with a light Thai chili sauce and tobiko. Sashimi this good is something I could eat endlessly. Luckily we had other options coming at us.

After that auspicious start our most friendly waiter, after refreshing us both with glasses of Cameron Winery "Giovanni" Pinot Bianco ($8 per, and the perfect wine with their food, IMO), brought out the next round. To table was the Dynamite ($10- pic left), which was described as Dungeness crab, apple, celery root, and tobiko. We were expecting a salad of some sort. What we got instead, and ate with zero complaint and much gusto, was a hot pile of shredded fresh crab (very generously portioned) that had been mixed with the other ingredients. The slightly crisped exterior played beautifully with the sweet crab. In fact, tat is what struck me most about the whole meal at Yakuza. Camden and his kitchen staff seem to really have a handle on texture, and how important that is to a satisfying meal. Soft with crunchy; sweet with tart; hot ginger countered by cool, soft soba. It is really impressive and no mean feat when you sit back and take notice. Understanding that, and a perfect edible illustration of that concept, was our next two plates: the Shrimp Roll ($10), a sushi house style roll of tempura shrimp, avocado, that same spicy sauce that under laid the scallops and tobiko. Again with the texture thing: spicy sauce and the crunch of tempura batter around fat, sweet, tender shrimp; and the Yakuza Roll ($9- pic right), a really eye opening and palate pleasing combination of fried, grilled Japanese eggplant and "assorted vegetables" (as the menu says). The smoky charred eggplant, all softly cooked, succulent and sitting astride a crunchy underpinning of cucumbers and carrots held together with a nori wrapper and superbly cooked sushi rice. Then, because of the impression it made on me the first time, I couldn't leave without the taste of the Yakuza Burger ($12) in my mouth. Once again, this piled high beauty was so satisfying. The grilled, hand-formed patty (and I'm not sure where they get it) was very clean tasting, cooked perfectly medium rare, and layered with rich chevre, shoestring potatoes, a zippy house made ketchup, all cuddled in between what seemed like a brioche style sesame bun. This is still easily one of the best burgers in town. The surprising thing was that we saw at least two tables who looked to having burgers and nothing else with their drinks. How do they do tat? Where does that self-control come from? Most importantly, I hope to god it isn't contagious!

As we were getting ready to leave, I mentioned, and w agreed, that this would be a perfect place to take people from out of town for a casual, fun, sure to be satisfying dinner, and to give them what feels like a truly Portland dining experience. Eight months between visits, and just as good as I remember. Kudos to Camden for keeping this part of his mini-empire firmly on course. Rest assured it won't take me eight more months to get back!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Omelette Explained

Is there any more classic and simple egg dish than a perfectly made omelette? I would say no, and there are also innumerable ways people make them. Seemingly as many preperation methods as there things to stuff inside them. In an attempt to put an end to the argument of what exactly is the right way to make that perfect you add milk or water? use a spatula? how hot should the pan be? what kind of pan should you use?...UK Guardian blogger/writer Felicity Cloake attempts to settle all arguments and answer all questions. Easier said than done, but her column on the UKG's Word of Mouth blog is a very interesting and entertaining bit of food fluff. Of another opinion on how to make a classic French omelette is Julia Child. Read Felicity's column first, then watch a real master at work in the video! BTW- love the point at about 3:10 where Julia get's a bit tongue tied. The French Chef at its unscripted finest!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Perfection at $1.99 a pop!

This won't come as a news flash to anyone who consumes the demon alcohol at home, but I'm guessing that like me you are so freaking tired of breaking and chipping the rims on martini glasses when you wash them. I had these beautiful Spiegelau martini glasses that run about $9 a stem. That means that every time I chipped the rim or dropped it in my sink....which was basically every time I even looked at money saving drink-at-home plan was costing me about ten bucks a pop. I mean, if I'm going to spend a sawbuck on a cocktail I'd rather do it in a bar and break their fucking glass! Finally, after having people over a few weeks ago and scrounging in my cabinet for non-chipped glassware that wouldn't threaten to splatter blood from their bleeding lips all over the room, I finally got off my ass to search for a new vehicle to deliver gin-laced pleasure. So a couple of days ago I find myself out at the A.D.D. wonderland that is IKEA to buy a new crib for C-boy (FYI to all parents-to-be who are tired of being bent over by the fear-mongering producers of egregiously over-priced baby gear, this highly rated bad boy is a deal for $99!), and as I wander by their glassware section I see them...EXACTLY what I was looking for. Clean lines, a perfect height and bowl shape to show off the glories to be contained within, an 8-ounce capacity for when I REALLY need a stiffy, and miraculously only $1.99 per glass!!! Two bucks a glass?? At that price I felt like breaking it on purpose after finishing the above pictured Tanq martini. So if you find yourselves running short on the appropriate cocktail ware and want to avoid the social stigma of your guests having to accompany their Negronis, Gimlets, and Manhattans with emergency room visits, then you'd best be skedaddling out to IKEA. No IKEA by you? Well, too bad for you. Move to a bigger city. Me, I've got some cocktails to shake!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

4 courses for $1 in NYC??

Hell yes, as long as you shop at the bodega! Apparently not everyone in New York City shops at Whole Foods. If you live in the outer boroughs, you know about the bodega. I don't. I live in Portland, so this tutorial in nourishment on the cheap from bloggers/budding video stars Dallas Penn and Rafi Kam was most informative. And really fucking hilarious!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

My former life....

Before I became the über-successful, carefree wine retailer at VINO here in Portland, I had another life in the wine business as a sales hack for a local wine wholesaler. A masochistic, degrading, mind numbing life. But at least it was financially unrewarding as well. Not to forget the "interesting" people I met: the smug, know-it-all sommeliers at the many new restaurants I called on who wouldn't know a food-friendly wine if you forced it down their throats, but who at least were rude and dismissive to me; the chain grocery store manager who thought it was so important for me to show up at his store at 6am for a wine department reset so I could watch the assholes from Gallo and Sutter Home fight over shelf space; the Beringer and Kendall Jackson reps who would go on "drive alongs" with me and blather to my valued accounts about the over-processed, over-priced, and sugar-added swill they expected me to sell. Best of all the compassionate owner of the wholesaler I worked for who was "really excited" about the pickup of Wild Irish Rose...basically the evil spawn of MD 20/20 and Night Train...and wanted the guys calling on the convenience stores in "the poor neighborhoods" to really push it because "those people" can't not buy it. Don't tell me the wine business isn't romantic.

The following video on youtube neatly encapsulates the mortification, aggravation, and humiliation of my previous life. Is it an exaggerration? Of course....but not by much!

The video is an eight part series. The first three episodes are money, but then the joke gets a little repetitive, so you might want to stop there.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Lucky 7: Shrimp Curry with rice

Are you of the "simple is better" school of cooking? Me too...depending.
There are times when I want to complicate my life in the kitchen
(mainly pre C-boy), throwing various meaty bits & other goodness into a pot for a slow braise. Other times, not so much. This absurdly satisfying shrimp curry recipe definitely attends the "not so much" school. Seven ingredients. That's it. I've made cocktails that had more ingredients. Oh, and it took about 20 minutes to throw together. You have twenty spare minutes, don't you? Well, if you're like me trying to keep a four month old entertained while you cook, just barely. The rest of you, get cooking, because this dish killed it. It supposedly makes enough for four. However, once w and I started in we couldn't stop ourselves and pretty much ate the whole damn thing. Plan accordingly!
*** *** *** *** ***
Shrimp Curry with Rice
adapted from Bon Appétit

yield: Serves 4 (maybe)

3 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 pounds uncooked large shrimp, peeled
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoon curry powder
3/4 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup bottled clam juice
3 tablespoons mango chutney

Cooked white rice
Chopped green onions

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat.
Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper. Add shrimp to skillet and sauté until
almost opaque in center, about 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer
shrimp to bowl. Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter to skillet. Add onion and
sauté 3 minutes. Sprinkle with curry powder. Stir until onion is tender,
about 1 minute longer. Add cream, clam juice and chutney. Boil until sauce
is thick enough to coat spoon, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.
Return shrimp and any collected juices to skillet. Cook until shrimp are
just opaque in center, about 1 minute longer.
Spoon rice onto plates. Top with shrimp, sauce and green onions.

NOTE: the recipe called for serving this with small bowls of chopped peanuts, toasted coconut, raisins and chopped bell pepper. I used the roasted cashews and red bell pepper I had on hand. I highly recommend the additional options!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Grazing the food web.....

A few share plates of food bits from across the internet that have caught my attention....
Zester Daily is a site I go to regularly for their wide and varied food related news. With raised beds replacing well manicured lawns as the new status symbol in front yards and parking strips across the country, their series of posts called "Tomatoes for Amateurs" might just come in handy if you've just dug up your first garden patch and are wondering what the hell to do now. The link is to the first in a series of three posts on tomatoes, from planting to sauce, and I love how they open it up: "The best tomato sauce is the one you make from scratch. You start with seedlings."
If the fact that bottled water is the biggest scam, both environmentally and economically, hasn't quite pierced you consciousness yet, then check out this piece from The Vancouver Sun. Apparently in tests done by a laboratory in Montreal, many brands of popular bottled water had bacteria counts that were up to 100 the permitted limit. In classic understated scientist speak, researchers called the bacteria counts "surprisingly high". Guys, around the country your tap water is tested daily, probably tastes just fine, and if you're still scared spend the twenty bones for a Brita filter pitcher. Then fill up your reusable stainless water bottles and maybe feel a little better because you just chalked up another mark on your sustainability scorecard.
"It will begin with free-ranging and highly lubricated conversation about everything from politics to perversion and, unless you host has had the foresight to lock you in, may well end three months later when they find you lying face down in a bar in Macau, heavily bearded and with the name of a transvestite fire-eater tattooed on your left buttock."
That vivid bit of prose comes near the end of a very entertaining bit in the UK Guardian, which I regularly go to for that particularly British slant on things foodish. The piece concerns the concern many have about when exactly to serve the cheese course. Is it before or after the dessert? Does it matter? Do you care? Whichever side of the bootlace you fall on (a great line I stole from another item in the UKG), you just might after giving this a read.
Cookbook author, CIA trained chef, food world insider, Iron Chef judge, and generally interesting guy Michael Ruhlman has always had one of my favorite food blogs. He is on a hiatus from blogging for the last two weeks of May, so in place of new posts he's doing his version of a "Best of Ruhlman". If you've got questions about homemade ravioli, short rib pastrami, or how to make a quiche (and I have to admit I have never made this unfairly maligned yet always satisfying dish), then check him out. Great stuff always!
The beautiful image is by Ruhlman's wife Donna, whose very tastefully done food porn accompanies his posts.
My wife is not usually a picky person. She normally keeps an even keel and is fine going with the flow. But when it comes to her beloved fresh cherries, and the season here in PDX is fast upon us where they'll be flooding the farmer's markets around us,, she doesn't approve of my grab-a-handful method of shopping. She is a pick-through-the-bin-one-by-one until she has a bag of perfect specimens. I've never been able to divine exactly what her criteria are. I find it wiser to stand a pace or two behind her while she in that particular groove, as my suggestions are usually met with a (deserved) dismissive silence. For the rest of you who might want to get the most cherry for your money you should check out this story, in of all places the LA Times, on how to pick the perfect cherry. Or you could email my wife. Um, just kidding, sweetheart........

Friday, May 28, 2010

Braised Artichokes: get thee to the farmer's market!

I just came across this recipe in Mark Bittman's "Minimalist" column on the NYT site today (plus watch a video of the ever entertaining Bitty making the dish). This is the first time I've ever posted a recipe without first making it, but this is so simple and reads so perfectly that I can't imagine it not being delicious. Plus Bittman has built up a pretty good credibility reservoir in my consciousness. So if you're looking for inspiration as to what to grab at the weekend farmer's markets around you, a half-dozen or so fresh artichokes might be just the thing to add to your list.

As always, thanks to the NYT for letting me "borrow" another picture (this one by staff photog Evan Sung). It made my mouth water just looking at it!
*** *** *** *** ***
Braised Artichokes
from Mark Bittman/NY Times
time: 45 minutes

4 medium artichokes
4 tablespoons butter ( 1/2 stick)
1 cup chicken stock, or more as needed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Zest and juice of 1 lemon.

1. Cut each of the artichokes in half; remove the toughest outer leaves,
use a spoon to remove the choke, and trim the bottom.

2. Put 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large, deep skillet over
medium-high heat. When it melts and foam subsides, add artichokes, cut side
down. Cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add stock (it should come
about halfway up the sides of the artichokes), bring to a boil, and cover;
turn heat to medium-low. Cook for about 20 minutes or until tender, checking
every 5 or 10 minutes to make sure there is enough liquid in the pan, adding
more stock as necessary. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and transfer
artichokes to serving platter.

3. Raise heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid
is reduced to a sauce. Stir in lemon zest and juice and remaining tablespoon
butter; taste and adjust seasoning. Serve artichokes drizzled with sauce.

Yield: 4 servings.

NYC's "Bartender's bartender"

A great bartender doesn't just know how to make a cocktail. He remembers what you're drinking, what your friends are drinking, what the six people behind your friends are drinking, who's drinking too much, all the while keeping the other 40 people in the joint happy when the bar is rocking. And he does it all by himself! Apparently, in New York City the man who is considered the city's "bartender's bartender" is Doug Quinn at P.J. Clarke's on the East Side. Not only does he do all of the aforementioned multitasking magic, according to Quinn, “A great bartender will get you a date for the evening, get you a job, and get you a new apartment.” And make a perfect cocktail? Now this is a man I can respect! Click here to read a thirst inducing profile of Quinn by the NYT's Frank Bruni. And it most definitely wouldn't hurt to have a Manhattan in hand while you're reading along!

photo "borrowed" with much gratitude from the NY Times

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cellar report: '01 Mas des Chimeres Coteaux du Languedoc; '99 Monchiero Barolo "Montanello"

The life I lead is not so bad. A perfect example of how good it can get was last weekend's dinner at my sister's, where not only were the rib-eyes char-grilled beefy perfection, the two bottles of red wine that accompanied said meat did most definitely not suck. How not sucky were they? Read on, oh thirsty peeps, and see what 20 years of combined cellar time has wrought....

2001 MAS DES CHIMERES Coteaux du Languedoc
This was a bottle pulled out my sis and bro-in-law's basement, one they have coddled for the last six years. The Mas des Chimeres has, in the 10+ years I've been hanging out schlepping grape based beverage at the wine shack, annually been one of my favorite bottles. Not just because I adore wines from the south of France for all their earthy, rich, complex garrigue infused aromas and flavors, but because winemaker Guilhem Dardé obviously tends his family's vineyards just outside the village of Octon in France's vast Languedoc region with meticulous care. A blend of 70% Syrah, 20% Grenache and 5% each Cinsault and Mourvedre, it never seems to disappoint, especially given a few years of loving care in the cellar...or basement...or closet. The 2001 we poured didn't just live up to my hopes and expectations, it blew them away. The aromas had the classic Chimeres blackberry, white pepper, and dirt notes. Then when I took that first sip the word that popped into my head was "thick". Like having a glass of luscious blackberry jam in liquid form, only instead of slathering toast with it you're washing down hunks of meat. 2001 wasn't considered a great vintage in the south, but over the last few years this has put on weight, and is drinking absolutely beautifully with layers and layers of fruit, a tannic structure that has melded perfectly with the fruit, and this freakishly long finish. This is one of those crazy bottles that punched you in the palate when it was first opened, then just kept landing haymakers as it sat in the glass and blossomed. If anyone ever wants top know why the hell you would stick wine away in a dark basement instead of slurping it down on release, all they'd need to do is take one taste of this nectar. The best part- I still have a bottle in my own basement to ensure future happiness!

1999 MONCHIERO Barolo Riserva "Montanello"
This was a bottle I brought with to pop open. I told you we were drinking like kings! Barolo from Piedmont is at the top of Italy's wine heap along with its sister Barbaresco and Tuscany's great Brunello di Montalcino. Both Barolo and Barbaresco are made from 100% nebbiolo, and give you a sensory overload like no other red wine. It may be the only food & beverage related product in the world where if you use the term "barnyard" to describe it, it is a great compliment. In my mind Barolo from good vintages needs at least ten years to really show its stuff. Young, they tend to be tight, wound up, tannic wines. They're like people who take time to get to know. With age they finally relax and show all the goodness that has been hiding underneath that curmudgeonly exterior. 1999 was an excellent Piedmontese vintage. This single-vineyard Monchiero, produced at the family run winery in the village of Castiglione Falleto, showed all that vintages quality, and was still surprisingly youthful. Dark cherries, rose petals cedar, spice, and yes that stinky good barnyard aroma came flowing at you. The flavor echoed those sensations, but I think this beauty is still a good five years away from its peak. It's all there and all good, it only needs time. Since I have a couple more of the '99s left at home and plenty of other bottles to distract me, I think I can wait!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Barbequed Chicken Thighs w/ Hickory Sauce. Summer's calling, are you listening?

Just in case you're out of ideas on what to make this holiday weekend, let me help you out. Actually, this isn't Memorial Day specific. This stuff is so off the hook that it'll be your go-to 'que sauce all summer on a hell of a lot more than chicken thighs. I found this on epicurious when I was in a 'queing mood a few weeks ago. You know, those long ago days when the weather was actually nice enough to cook outside. On the off chance they come back...and I hear they might by Sunday...then this should be on your menu.

Barbequed chicken seems such a throwback to me childhood. Maybe that's why it just isn't something I look to do. I throw pretty much everything else on the Weber (including this perfect roast chicken), but in the last 5 years I think I've grilled chicken pieces maybe once. In my lust to keep trying new and more complicated recipes, I forget how damn satisfying a perfect piece of chicken slathered in sauce hot off the 'que can be. When I read this recipe and saw that it included ketchup and bottled barbeque sauce I was a bit skeptical. Seemed a little too easy, not "complicated" enough. And I know there's plenty of you bbq purists our there who just quit reading. Well, forget that self-important shit because when all the other ingredients get thrown into the pot and slowly simmer together, this is absolutely amazing. It just might be the best 'que sauce I've ever had, and several friends I served it to seemed to agree! The chix thighs were the eprfect vehicle for this, but I'm guessing it will be equally happy dripping off some ribs or slow cooked brisket (Dave, do you hear me? Time to fire up one of your famous briskets!!).
*** *** *** *** ***
Barbecued Chicken Thighs with Brown Sugar-Hickory Sauce
Bon Appétit | July 2004

yield: Makes 6 servings

ingredients: 1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup bottled chili sauce
1/2 cup bottled hickory-flavor barbecue sauce
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

12 chicken thighs with skin and bones

1-Bring first 10 ingredients to boil in medium saucepan, whisking to blend. Reduce heat to low; simmer 10 minutes. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

2-Clean grill rack. Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken on grill, skin side down; cook until skin browns, about 8 minutes. Turn chicken over and continue grilling until cooked through, about 8 minutes longer. Transfer 1 cup barbecue sauce to small dish. Brush skin side of chicken with sauce from dish; turn skin side down and cook 2 minutes. Brush chicken with more sauce; turn skin side up and grill 2 minutes. Arrange chicken on platter. Serve with remaining sauce.