Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ryan Farr Dinner

ZAP write up to come, hopefully Monday.

After ZAP, I napped, with the plan of having enough energy for the Ryan Farr dinner at Flora Grubb Gardens. Fittingly, to finish a day of zin, this was a meal of meat and more meat. The portions were enormous and service was lovely and much more organized than many events I have attended. Some great pictures are available here:
I've copied the menu below but want to mention a few highlights.
As always, I had more of the chicarrones than one should consume. As my friends said, "They are crack."
The Terrine en Croute was a nice start, though the woman sitting next to me was very intimidated by the blood sausage.
The handmade sausage was wonderful-flavorful, and lovely with the pinot.
The beef was beautifully roasted on a spit outdoors and served with a perfect nettle puree. One of my table mates was delighted by the gigantic rib he requested. Although I was very full by that point, I thought the accompanying roast vegetables were a highlight.
The persimmon was not a tart, but persimmons with creme fraiche ice cream and a truly wonderful and adorable lard shortbread cookie shaped like a pig.

I also have to say that the atmosphere was really great. I had not been to Flora Grubb before, but will be back. The creative decor with plants on the ceiling, walls and every space through out the room made me wish I had better luck with indoor plants. I may have to go back for advice.

Cured Meats on a Fence 16-month Dry Aged Ossabaw Ham, Chicarrones, Smoked Bologna, Curry Lardo -Hanger One Dirty Martini-
Head-to-Tail Terrine en Croute Smoked Lengua, Head Cheese, Blood Sausage and Mangalitsa Pork baked in brioche served with Watercress and Crispy Pigs Ears -Magnolia Brewery Prescription Pale Ale -
Handmade Sausage with Pecorino, Fennel and Mustard Violete Chicories, Sourdough Crouton, Onion Confit Vinaigrette -Scribe Winery 2008 Pinot Noir
Spit Roasted Magruder Ranch Beef Winter Vegetables, Bordelaise -Scribe Winery 2004 Cabernet-
Persimmon Tart Anise and Black Pepper Crust, Vanilla Ice Cream -Ritual Roasters Espresso or Macchiato-

Friday, January 29, 2010

ZAP Good Eats

As most of you know, this is ZAP weekend in San Francisco. Starting Thursday night and lasting through Saturday, there are multiple events around the city celebrating Zinfandel. More details can be found at :

This year, for the first time in many years I am attending two ZAP events. Last night was the Good Eats & Zinfandel Pairing events, described by the ZAP folks as:
If you are a devoted foodie with a passion for Zinfandel, make plans to indulge your “inner epicurean” and spend the evening at Good Eats & Zinfandel Pairing! Noteworthy restaurants and award-winning wineries turn the art of food and wine pairing into an entertaining and approachable affair. Talented chefs present the ultimate combination of distinctive tastes, while winery proprietors offer delectable Zinfandels to match.

Since I am attending the Grand Tasting Saturday, (10 am sharp for press and trade), I decided to enjoy rather than take extensive notes. I did want to point out a few highlights that those attending on Saturday might want to keep their eyes out for.
My wine favorites, in no particular order were:
Ridge Lytton Springs, which was no surprise as I had enjoyed it during the TTL last month
Ravenswood Dickerson was a lot of fun as they were pouring both the 97 and the 07. I don't drink a lot of older zin and it was great fun to see how the wine develops over time. I admit to coming back for a few tastes.
Manzanita Creek featured three 07s, Three Vines, Carreras ranch and Alfonso Reserve all of which are worth a stop.
Edmeades deserves a special shout out for their pairing with a "Zinfandel & Pomegranate-Braised Brisket with Berbere Spice, Saffron and Toasted Basmati Rice" one of my favorite tastes of the night.
Other food and pairing highlights were the Pork Tostaditas from Mustards at Outpost and the Pork Belly Sliders at Murphy-Goode.

Although I'm only highlighting a few here, I want to stress that the food at this event is far superior across the board to regular tasting events. This event is also less crowded and chaotic than some and would be a great opportunity to introduce friends to the world of wine tasting.

Now on to Saturday!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pork Belly and Pinot

One of my items from pork prom was a three pound piece of pork belly. I considered "makin' bacon" as I had learned in the class, but decided that I really wanted to slow roast it. I spent a bit of time searching for a recipe before settling on one from the River Cottage Meat book. That, of course, called for company. Last night K and I were joined by four adults and two children for a night of pork belly and pinot (plus). Well, Shirley Temples with homemade grenadine for the kids.

First for the food. I had out bread, cheese, pickled carrots and green beans and nuts for people to nibble on. I apparently am incapable of having guests over and not serving a triple creme cheese, even if rich meat is to follow. Lisa brought a frisee salad with avocado and goat cheese. Fresh and perfectly dressed, it was a nice contrast to the roasted dishes to follow. I had rubbed the pork belly with salt, pepper and thyme and roasted in the oven for several hours, until the skin was crisp and meat tender, taking it out of the oven several times to remove excess fat. I pulled a jar of our apricot chutney off the canning shelves to accompany it which turned out to be perfect. The apricot was sweet and a bit tangy, but did not overpower the meat. I also roasted cauliflower, romanesco and green garlic, with a bit of olive oil, lemon and hot pepper. I love the way roasting brings out the sweetness in cauliflower. For the kids and kids at heart, I made mashed potatoes and pasta served simply with butter. Dessert were Haiti fundraiser cupcakes and several flavors of ice cream.

Now for wine. While some opted to start with sparkling I went straight for pinot. I started with a 2006 Cellar Rat from the Anderson Valley. Next up was a Craggy Range 2006 from New Zealand. Both were lovely and complimented the food perfectly, but also showed the differences in style that make pinots so intriguing to me. My favorite of the night was the 2007 Cobb Rice-Spivak. This is another Sonoma Coast wine and like the other Cobb pinots I have had suited my palate perfectly. We also opened a 2006 Tablas Creek Grenache and their 2006 Syrah. I'm a big fan of both of these wines but they did taste quite big after the more subtle pinots. Happily, I have more of both and can enjoy them at another time.

Now of course it is time for the worst part of entertaining: the dishes. The one flaw in this apartment is that lack of a dishwasher. However, the fun last night of the food and company more than makes up for that. Now if I can only figure out what to do with the pork jowl.

Friday, January 22, 2010

And he reads Robert B Parker

Friday night at my house is pizza and pinot--Navarro 2007 and a friend over for my daughter to hang out with while they watch the new Disney movie on dvd. Yes, it is not yet out. Yes, we have a copy.

Anyway, I could write a lot about Navarro. I've been a member of their wine club for a while now as I find it hard to find their wines at stores. I also can not recommend highly enough their non- alcoholic grape juices, both for kids and for those who abstain. They were a favorite during my pregnancy.

Anyway, this post is really about Terry Theise. As I have mentioned on twitter, we are publishing his book in the fall. I'm hoping that some of you are familiar with Terry and his work. Terry is a wine importer, one of those jobs that seems like a fantasy to many. Terry's list is mainly Austrian and German. On Thursday, his local distributors hosted a tasting for him at Fort Mason. As I admitted to Terry, I don't drink as much German and Austrian wine as I did when I first started drinking wine. Part of that is regional, the store that I shopped at in MD had a great selection and knowledgeable staff. The other part is that these wines can be hard without guidance. The names and regions are confusing. Will a wine be dry or sweet? It can be bewildering.

I'm not proud of my confusion and actually, it is a pity. As I tasted the wines last week, I realized once again how food friendly and honestly lovely they are. And, with more knowledge I probably enjoy them more than I did at 19. Terry said to me that one of the joys of many of his wines is that they are enjoyable both at the beginning and end of a wine drinker's lifetime. They are accessible, yet full of complexity for those who seek it. I will admit though to cheating, I tasted a few I knew I would like and then had Terry pick for me.

Terry's manifesto is simple and clear:
  • Beauty is more important than impact.
  • Harmony is more important than intensity.
  • The whole of any wine must always be more than the sum of its parts.
  • Distinctiveness is more important than conventional prettiness.
  • Soul is more important than anything, and soul is expressed as a trinity of family, soil, and artisanality.
Tyler Colman's post last week: provides an interview with Terry. Read it.

I just ordered an assortment of Terry's wine from Debbie Zachareas at Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant so I look forward to having time to learn more at home.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cobb Pinot and A-Z Update

I realize that I mainly write about wines I have not has before. In truth, I may drink more wines than I have had before than my favorites. The appeal of the new is strong. Looking back on my entries I have rarely mention pinots. Which, given my love of the grape is surprising. On the other hand, most good Burgundies are far out of my price point as are many good Oregon or California options.

Luckily, I have some Cobb Pinots on my wine rack. Cobb wines are made by Ross Cobb, formerly wine maker at Flowers on the Sonoma Coast. They currently make 3 pinots: Coastlands, Rice-Spivak and Joy Road

According to their website: Coastlands Vineyard is the original planting of Cobb Wines, and contains some of the oldest (20-year-old) pinot noir vines on the Sonoma Coast. This 15-acre vineyard has elevations ranging from 900 to 1,200 feet, and sits on a ridge that overlooks the Pacific Ocean four miles to the west. The varieties of pinot noir at Coastlands include Pommard, Martini, Wadenswil and Mt. Eden. The extreme, marine-influenced weather of Coastlands produces outstanding pinot noir fruit. Periods of spring rain or heavy fog can cause the vineyard’s yields to be very low, and in some years virtually nonexistent. 240 cases made.

Last night, I tried the 2007 Coastlands. It had a very elegant nose, even in a smaller glass. Ruby red, it featured raspberries, white pepper, minerals and cherry with a very long finish. It was lovely at first sip and only improved as it had some time in the glass. I'm very happy to have a second bottle to taste again after some time passes. I'm looking forward to tasting all 3 of their current releases at the end of the month.

For local Bay Area folks, there will be a Cobb Wines tasting at Jardinere in San Francisco on January 31. Please email me for details.

I also wanted to give an update on the A-Z Challenge. First of all, we have clarified: tastings do not count, only glasses. The spreadsheet can be found here:
It looks like for producers I have:B C F P R V
and for grapes: A C F G P Z
I have much work to do!

Some canning pics

First pic: assorted tomatoes and cranberry mustard
second: pickles and cranberry and pomegranate items
pic three: apricot and quince on bottom, strawberries and cherries on top
final tqo pics: whole bookcase conveniently located next to cookbooks

I'm having camera issues, but here are some shots of my "canned bookcase" as a whole and the shelves two by two.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Frances in SF

I've been trying to go to Frances since they first opened. I had followed the pre-opening reports from sites like Eatersf and Tablehopper and was eager to get there right away. Between my flu and holiday plans, I did not make it until last night.

One of the reasons I was so excited about Frances, besides the chef and menu, was that it is walking distance from my house. Well, if you consider 3.25 miles round trip and an intimidating hill walking distance. I do. So I hiked down to meet my friend Lo for our 8:45 reservation. I was both early and thirsty. Amazingly for a Friday night at a popular spot, within minutes, I was seated with a glass of their house white in front of me. Acknowledged as soon as I walked in? Seated early? I can't remember the last time that happened.

One of the interesting options at Frances is the house wine, white or red, at $1 an ounce. The wine is brought to the table in a large beaker and at the end of the night the waiter simply calculates how much you drink and charges accordingly. Due to the A-Z challenge, I queried the waiter as to the blends and found that the white is 80% grenache blanc and the red is a blend heavy on the gamay. Both were very food friendly and easy to drink, as our $30 wine tab later proved.

Lo was late so I entertained myself by reading both the food and wine menus. After chatting with the waiter a bit I ordered the chickpea fritters to tide ourselves over. They and Lo arrived at just about the same time. Looking vaguely like fried mozzarella sticks, they were served with meyer lemon aioli. The fritters were smooth and not greasy at all. I'm a big chickpea fan and thought these were wonderful.

We had consulted with our waiter over our food orders. To my delight, he had strong opinions. When asked to choose between crab salad and gnocchi, he did not hesitate on gnocchi. Served with duck confit and cavolo nero, it was made with semolina. This dish was excellent, but small. Although the gnocchi and duck were both good, the highlight of the dish for me was the very flavorful cavolo.

Our waiter also had strong feelings on entrees. His preferred item was, sadly for me, the chicken. Given the Soul Food CSA membership, I've been eating a lot of chicken and was eager for anything else. He steered me towards the steak and Lo happily ordered the chicken. The steak was served sliced, rare, with a green garlic chimichurri , arugula and carmelized onions. I was very pleased and the house red paired nicely. Lo's chicken was Zuni-ish with a savory bread pudding with sultana raisin and apple relish. I can't say I felt I should have ordered it, but do highly recommend it for anyone not suffering from chicken overload.

When it came time for desert, Lo opted for the Valrhona Ganache Tart with McEvoy olive oil ice cream. I debated the hot buttered Madeira and the lumberjack cake. Again, with no hesitation the waiter suggested the cake. I have never had lumberjack cake before though it is apparently a traditional cake. Moist and flavorful it featured both dates and pears and was perfectly complemented by the Humphrey Slocombe maple walnut ice cream. I'm planning some internet research for a recipe to make this at home.

I'll be back to Frances soon. The food is both simple and highly flavorful. The service is lovely and the space inviting, if slightly cramped. It is the neighborhood restaurant we all wish was walkable.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Wine for Haiti

Just a quick note. Like many others my heart goes out to the people of Haiti during this incredibly difficult time. Through my work at UC Press, I am donating books for an online auction to raise funds. More info can be found at

I also can not highly recommend enough the work being done by Partners in Health. Paul Farmer is a UC Press author so I have had the opportunity to hear about his work for many years. PIH like all aid groups in Haiti is looking for donations right now. Please take a look at and give what you can.

Also for local Bay Area folks check out this event:
and another a friend just sent me--Bakesales

Eatersf is also listing upcoming benefit events.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cheap Wine Challenge

I must admit that I had to go and seek a bottle for this challenge. I admit to not buying a of under $10 wine these days and when I do I tend to drink it right away. Rarely is it around to age. Now under $15? More of that thanks to Kermit Lynch.

So I hit a wine store in San Francisco in a neighborhood called Laurel Village. The store, Wine Impressions, is one that I had shopped at before but not in years. It is not my usual neighborhood, but errands called. After explaining my quest to the merchant: under $10 and widely available, he suggested several bottles. I opted for red and his top choice a 2007 Altano Duoro from Portugal. With tax, I came in with $.18 to spare.

The label tells me that the wine is 70% Tinta Roriz and 30% Touriga Franca coming in at 13% alcohol. Upon opening color is quite dark. Nose is "light" with some fruit flavors but also pepper and spice. It actually complements my meatloaf sandwich quite well. I'd say it is light to medium bodied with a relatively short finish. Keep in mind that I have had a lot of big wines lately (see Ridge ttl) so my palate may be off-kilter.

With more time I could probably find an under $10 wine that I prefer, but this one works well for what I call a Tuesday Night Wine: the bottle that you open knowing you want a glass or two but will not fill that bad if you do not finish all of it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

American Chop Suey or What I Ate When I Was 8

I think I did not have my first burrito until I moved to California when I was 22. Ditto for artichokes and sushi and tofu. Yet, two of my favorite childhood foods were Jamaican beef patties and what we called Vietnamese Ravioli or as Slanted Door calls them, fresh spring rolls. We ate Spanish food because we had family friends who owned a restaurant, drove many miles for both "good" bagels and Lithuanian brown bread and the pizza was from a Greek-owned restaurant.

I'm thinking about this today because I made a use-up-the-food-in-the-fridge version of American Chop Suey last night. When I mentioned this to one of my coworkers, she assumed something with water chestnuts and soy sauce. Growing up in suburban Connecticut in the 70s and 80s American Chop Suey was tomato sauce, elbow macaroni and ground beef, onions or garlic powder or maybe peppers if your family liked them. Mine did. My modern version, btw, had home-canned tomatoes, whole wheat shells, CSA onions and spinach and grass fed ground beef. My coworker, who is a native Californian had never heard of such a thing.

When I think about the foods of my childhood, I think of my mothers garden with tomatoes, always too much zucchini, peas and lettuce but also Swiss chard. I think of my grandmother picking fresh asparagus from her garden to serve with hollandaise sauce or spending time on my uncle's farm and eating corn right off the stalks and tomatoes still warm from the sun. Exotic winter squash we had, because he grew them. But I had never had fresh tuna. Tuna fish, always with mayonnaise and celery, sure. In my house we were not allowed white bread or soda, unless we went out. Ice cream was something you walked downtown to buy one cone at a time. I also think about PuPu Platters and the Wonder bread with fluff we would sneak at Sean's house.

I also think about the foods that I have been unable to recreate here in California. The fresh pressed apple cider. The butter and sugar corn fresh from the farm stand. Wild black raspberries from our back yard. Real Italian sausage grinders and that Lithuanian brown bread. The cannoli that was available at many of Hartford's Italian bakeries. The cheesecake from Junior's that my father, a Brooklyn native, insisted was the best.

When I was home this summer, those were the foods I sought out. I ate grinders and fried dough and and pizza and more. I ate container after container of local blueberries and far too much ice cream. And I introduced my daughter to those foods that I still love and miss. I'm working on a new book, Breaking Bread that deals with families and cooking traditions. I'd like my daughter to have those memories some day.

I'd love to hear about some of your childhood foods or foods that you did not have growing up. Share with me?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

January Can Jam and Ridge TTL Repost

Reposting this due to Can Jam timeline.

Some days are busier than others. Yesterday was one of them.

Having agreed to participate in the year-long Tigress Jam Can, Lisa and I had eagerly been awaiting our first assignment. Not surprisingly, it was citrus. Although I was strongly tempted by lime, we decided on oranges. In our usual way, rather than just attempt one project, we did 4: Orange Pomander in Brandy, which to be honest took all of 5 minutes, and three marmalades. Luckily, we were joined by my friend Molly and her daughter, who was the perfect playmate and distraction for K. That and the backyard chickens. She even found 2 eggs!

Our three recipes were Blood Orange Marmalade with Port, Orange Marmalade with Rosemary and Orange Marmalade with Whisky, though I admit that in an exhausted haze at the end of the day I omitted whisky and added just a small amount of the brandy we had on hand. I don't can well when exhausted. One of the nicest things about having Molly join us was that she joined right in. We welcomed her to canning with a mandoline and pounds of oranges to slice.

Most marmalade recipes seem similar, juice oranges or other citrus, slice peel, cook down until peel is soft, add sugar and cook for far too long. The Rosemary recipe was a bit different so I'll describe it here. First off, it was from The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfield published March 2000 by Simon and Schuster
As always, we made some adjustments to the recipe, doubling, substituting and altering as necessary. I'll paste a link to the complete recipe here:

Our main variations were first to double the recipe and second to avoid the soaking of the citrus. We did this to enable ourselves to complete the recipe in one day, but as the recipe suggests this step helps to release pectin, I would suggest if you have time to do it. We ended up boiling for much longer than the recipe suggests and I think that the soaking may help. We also used both regular and blood oranges simply because we had some on hand. The other thing that stands out for me on this recipe is that it calls for slicing the oranges on a mandoline, skin and all. It is a different technique than most we looked at. I also think the rosemary adds a fun note and will make it a great foil for poultry or roast pork.

While the pots were still boiling away, I joined the Ridge Twitter Taste Live over at the Tastelive site: I may be missing someone, but those involved included: @jswineblog @RidgeLS @RickBakas @20dollarwine @enobytes @winebratsf @Oenophilus @dirtysouthwine @marcygordon. I had originally planned to head up and taste in person, but given childcare and canning needs, they graciously shipped the bottles to me. We tasted 4 wines:
2007 Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains Estate
2007 Carignane Buchignani Ranch
2006 Zinfandel Caboose from the Nervo Vineyarde
2007 Lytton Springs.

I had taken the Chardonnay out of the fridge a bit early to allow it to warm up a bit. I found it creamy, with tropical notes and some nutty overtones. Some of those participating picked up more minerality than I did, but that may be due to temperature as they seemed it be drinking it colder than I was.

The Carignane was lovely. I tasted strong blackberry and red fruit notes but felt it has enough structure to carry them off. I have not had many California 100% Carignanes and would be curious to taste others.

The Caboose was much rounder than I expected. I tweeted rich color, fruity, concentrated and smooth. Others said brambly and jammy which I think were great descriptors.

The final wine of the night was the Lytton Springs. This was my highlight of the night and I'm very curious to see how it is tonight after being open a while. This one made me sad we had not paired food and actually led to the ordering of takeout from Pizzaiolo. The blend is 71% zin 23% pet 7% carignane. I found it smooth and elegant. It had good structure and strong but not overwhelming red fruits. A big hit with myself and my marmalade making friends. I wish I had some to age.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Best Dress

Note: This is not a food and wine post. This is a post about my daughter. Though, I will say that the AZ Biltmore makes a lovely Manhattan and that you may need to consume several while there for a family wedding, especially after a few trips down the giant slide in the main pool. If you are here for food and wine come back this weekend as I have both a canning day and the Ridge Twitter Taste Live planned.

Now, the best dress. When I was little I was not a dress girl. With an older brother and a boy from the neighborhood as my best friends, I was very much a tomboy. Yet, I still remember a green gingham dress I wore for a year or so. Short sleeve and slightly scoop neck, it at first hit mid calf and as I grew it eventually allowed a clear view of my knee scars. I'm sad to say that it was passed down to younger cousins and I do not have it today. But, I remember it clearly.

My brother got remarried this past November. I had been assuming, second marriage and all, that this would be a casual event. Of course, I should have considered the fact that it was the bride's first, but, that did not happen. About a week before the wedding I got an email from my Dad talking about his need to rent a tux. Sure enough, a call to my brother confirmed that this was a formal wedding: tuxedos, white dress with train and all. I had something in my closet that would work for me. But for my daughter, not so much.

As I've mentioned before, I have a very opinionated 7 year old. And, like most 7 year old girls, her idea of appropriate wedding gear is essentially princess wear. Luckily, not Disney Princess, but princess nonetheless. To satisfy this desire, I've been buying K a special birthday dress each year from my favorite girl's designer, Ses Petites Mains. Although many of the pieces are "day wear", the birthday dresses we buy are decidedly not. Unfortunately, given the Spring birthday and the growth patterns of elementary school students, this year's dress was not going to work.

After perusing their website, I realized that there was nothing in K's size available. Coincidentally, the designer's daughter is a classmate of K's at her new school. Which is interesting to me as I feel I have been watching this girl grow up on the web site for years. Anyway, I emailed the designer, hoping that by chance she might have something. Luckily, she had a dress, a sample described as:
A silk shantung taffeta, amethyst color and peony color. The lining is a slightly iridescent tissue silk w/ fringe trim. Here’s the link to the online version… The dress has silk lining and vintage pearl buttons, they are very sweet.

I jumped on it. A few days later, we exchanged a check for the dress at a birthday party. After a few adjustments, it was perfect. I think that she was the best dressed woman, adult or child at the wedding. She has now taken to calling it her best dress. Unlike, my gingham dress, we'll be saving this one.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wine alphabet challenge for 2010 & B

The things that you come up with on Twitter. In a discussion with @gonzogastronomy this morning I came up with the concept of a wine alphabet challenge for 2010. She was looking for a challenge for the new year and I suggested the alphabet. After some back and forth, I settled on grapes and producers. So for example A is for Albarino, and C is for Cobb. I think my challenge for myself will be to do the alphabet twice, once for wines and once for producers.
I'm tempted to force myself to go in alphabetical order, but I think just continuing to track as I go along. I must admit that our forthcoming publication of Evan Goldstein's Daring Pairings me be giving me false hope, as Evan lists grapes for almost every letter.
I would love your suggestions, particularly for the trickier letters. I'll keep you updated letter by letter here and possibly on twitter as well. Wish me luck!

Looks like we have a group. Also joining are:@oenoblog and @marycressler!!!

B is for Bonny Doon. In this case 2006 Cigare Volant. The 2006 is a blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah,Carignane I've written about Bonny Doon before and have had the pleasure to work with Randall Grahm on Been Doon So Long For those who have not read it, it you should! Randall is articulate and creative and truly inspirational.
I'm excited to make this my first letter of our challenge!

And for the laugh, I was explaining the challenge in the car on the way home to my daughter. She has decided R is for Rose so I'll be looking for a rose with an r grape or producer.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Yesterday afternoon I went to a late matinee of A Single Man at the Kabuki with my friend L0. Why do not all theaters have reserved seating? And cocktails? Anyway, after the show we wandered up Fillmore in search of food debating SPQR, Out the Door or Pizzeria Delfina. Walking in the door at SPQR we were told to expect a half hour wait. Then, while we debated and perused the menu were told that we could be seated right away. Sold!

We decided to order a few items and share. First up was chopped chicken liver, balsamic vinegar, apple jam & crostino. This was served in a jar with the crostino on the side. It was very smooth and I really liked the apple jam in this dish. I think on my next chicken liver pate experiment I will incorporate homemade jam.

As Lo always has to have a salad, our next course was the baby lettuce, beets, walnuts, pickled red onion & gorgonzola salad. As a beet lover I would have been happy to have a few more beets, but overall the flavors worked well together. We have all had variations on this salad before, but this was quite well done.

We then had two pastas: Stinging nettle torchio, garlic crema, pancetta & parmesan and Beef cheek pyramids, burro & parmesan. I thought both were excellent. I've been a fan of beef cheeks ever since first encountering them at Bizou and then Coco500 years ago. The plate featured 5 pyramids, kind of like large tortellini. I thought the dish was great, but a little small for the price. The nettle torchio was my favorite of the night. It was an almost perfect dish that combined the nettle pasta with a rich, very comforting sauce.

For dessert we Chocolate baci & mascarpone cream, which was almost like a plate of miniature brownies with white chocolate chips. Our second dessert was the Chocolate Panna Cotta served in a glass. More pudding than panna cotta, more cocoa than chocolate, it was also comfort food.

I did not write down wine details as I expected they would be on the website. I will say that for a restaurant that has such a good wine selection, this was the one place where the service let us down a bit. My first glass of wine, name unremembered, came filled with cork. The Nebbiolo that followed was great with the food. Lo started with a white and then ordered a half glass of red after we finished our appetizers. However, it did not arrive for at least 20 minutes, at which point we had finished our entrees. I was surprised there was no apology for the delay.

In all, I enjoyed the "new" SPQR. The menu seemed less casual than it had been, but still accessible. The fact that they take reservations will make me a lot likely to go back, probably after another movie at the Kabuki.


Yesterday, in an attempt to take better advantage of our proximity to wine country, I joined Thea (@winebratsf) for a day of wine tasting in Sonoma. Our itinerary was somewhat planned but also random. Because Thea had been to the Russian River Valley recently, we did not head over there, though I admit it is usually my stop for tasting. In all we made 5 stops: Eric Ross, Mayo, Kunde, Deerfield and Audelssa.

My favorite for the day, by far and to my surprise was Audelssa. Surprise simply because I had not tried their wines before. Thea tells me that they are yet another reason I need to try the Winery Collective.
We tasted 6 wines.
First off was the 2008 Chardonnay. This was my least favorite of the bunch. It was very well done, but with a bit more oak than I prefer.
The second was their 2007 Tephra. Tephra is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Zinfandel, from their hillside vineyard. The grapes are hand sorted, and punched down every 8 hours. I thought it was very rounded with red fruits and some tannin. They consider this their everyday wine at $28.
Next up was the 2006 Alder Springs Merlot. My notes suggest dry cocoa, fruit on the nose, very smooth. Price is $60.
Next was the 2007 Summit. This wine is 38% cabernet, 30% merlot, 12.5 %cab franc, 10% malbec and 4.5% petite verdot. Clearly, a Borddeaux style blend. My notes say that cab tempers merlot with good body. This wine is still young, drinkable now, but likely to improve in the coming years.
Wine #5 was the 2007 Summit Reserve. The blend on the wine is 75% merlot, 25% cab franc. This wine had the smoothness of a good merlot, with some cab franc on the finish. It had a lot of structure and should age beautifully. At $125, this is not an everyday wine (for me at least), but was quite lovely.
Our final wine as the 2006 Cabernet Reserve. I thought it was very smooth, with low tannins, lovely fruit. I also have a scrawl about brandied cherries, but I seem to spend a lot of time thinking about the ones we made. At $90 this wine is also not one I can drink everyday, but I very much enjoyed it.
When we were getting ready to leave they happened to mention that come February they will have their Rhone blends to taste. As a Rhone fan, I'm eager to taste.

Note that any errors in blend numbers or prices are probably due to my sometimes illegible scrawl.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 recap

2009 was a lousy year for most people that I know, myself included. However, there were some highlights.

For food, this was a low key neighborhood and home cooking kind of year for me. With my Mariquita Mystery Box and chicken and egg (!!) CSA from Soul Food Farms, I did a lot more home cooking this year. I also canned, well, often. This year I have joined
so I expect more canning to come. As for food highlight of the year, best meal, no contest was at Commis. The slow cooked egg alone was reason to visit, but the rest of the lovely food and service did not hurt. The other memorable meals were at the kind of neighborhood places that we all wish we could walk to: Pizzaiolo, Piccino, Gialina, Maverick, Beretta, etc. As I look at that list it seems to me it was a year of fried chicken and pizza. Hmm. . . Katie adds that for her the year's were silver dollar pancakes, hot chocolate, Piccino pizza and Soul Food scrambled eggs, served with home made toast and jam.

As for wine, the memories will be of a Terry Thiese tasting, Family Winemakers, Wine & Spirits Top 100 for large tastings. Of these, Donhoff, Moric and a Peay Syrah really stand out. Of course, if I had my notes at home and not at the office I could add more. Other memories will be of the Cobb Pinot we opened for Thanksgiving, Tablas Creek with Amy in Morro Bay, the rose champagne from last night, creative wines from Bonny Doon, the Navarro wine club, and the South African Syrahs from Twitter Taste Live. As always, the mixed case of rose from Kermit Lynch was a highlight.

This was also a year of cocktails. The scofflaw at Pizzaiolo was so good that we made our own grenadine. Early in the year, I experimented with Sazeracs, but by fall returned to the Manhattan, my favorite of the classic cocktails, made extra special with our own brandied cherries.

I imagine that next year this will be easier as I'll have a record here.