CATEGORY: Food and Drink

Cleaning past

Doing my best to drag the weekend out. Napping helps extend the day. Counter lunches help – first at Chez Maman late on Good Friday then Delfino Saturday afternoon after cleaning out the past.

Tossing old unnecessary memorabilia from boxes marked “journal” helps. Winnowing down the scraps of the past, reducing the cubic footage of air taken up by those remnants helps.

A successful delving into the recipe clippings helps: Saturday’s dinner of pork in ad hoc bbq sauce, lemon quinoa and braised broccoli yielded a successful assemblage perfected by a serendipitous discovery in the wine aisle at Whole Foods: Phantom, a blend of Petite Sirah, old vine Zin and Cab France that coats your tongue with an adult sort of candy. It was just compensation for Friday night’s dinner of cornichons, olives and a remnant wedge of Point Reyes Blue.

Sometimes that’s all it takes: a very simple confrontation of things that once were, and are now no longer dangerous.

Gerbera daisies and a glass of Bogle 'Phantom'

Gerbera daisies and a glass of Bogle 'Phantom'

Carniverous delights

Every year my mother makes a rib eye roast for Christmas. And every year the cow slogs its way across the kitchen to the dinner table along with the rest of us, except instead of taking a chair it flops itself down on a serving plate in the middle of the table.

In thick ruby red and bloody slices.

Fear of frying

I like my meat cooked, not crawling across my plate. But that doesn’t justify turning a lovely boneless leg of New Zealand lamb into mutton, which was the culinary trick I pulled on friends who came over for dinner Saturday night.

I’m much more adept at frying food: a quick sear on thinly cut pork chops; a sizzling sautee of flank stank; chicken browned then finished in the oven. Lamb, I know only how to broil – and truly I only know how to cook chops. So to roast a leg of lamb..? For guests..? That was a gamble.

Blame it on the oven

The instructions were clear and simple: cover and roast at 500 degrees for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 and cook for 45 minutes or until the internal temperature is 135 degrees.


After 1:10 in the oven – a piece of crap that probably was le haut back in 1986 – the meat was a corresponding 110 degrees.

Blame it on the wine

Wine is also a luxuriant way to ease into a Saturday night with friends. It is also, I’ve learned throughout life, is a handy excuse. For years we’ve used it at family holidays as an excuse for everything from fatigue, marked sarcasm, high boredom to outright hostility.

There was none of that at our Saturday gathering, though. Instead there was news from Hawai’i, news from Italy, wine from Spain, Argentina and Italy…and one reticent leg of lamb.

Reveling in Regaleali

Dawn and Marco brought this Sicilian treasure, a sun-soaked white with rustic undertones and a flowing white dress of a finish. A blend of three Sicilian vines, it comes from a significant » wine estate on Sicily. When that bottle emptied (rather too quickly) we followed up with a Nessa Albariño to accompany the big meaty green Castelvetrano olives, kalamatas, feta and sliced ciabatta that nourished the get-reacquainted hour.

A blend of the Sicilian vines Inzolia, Cataratto and Grecanic from Regaleali-Tasca estate, Sicily

REGALEALI – a blend of the Sicilian vines Inzolia, Cataratto and Grecanic from Regaleali-Tasca estate, Sicily

Far, far west of Jumilla

What does one serve with a leg of lamb that sits so long on the cutting board, covered, that it transforms its age during first course?

Mourvedre, monastrell, mataro…The best come from Jumilla, Spain, but this old vines Contra Costa mourvedre was superb. Tamer and a tad more luscious than its dustier, lustier Spanish counterpart, the Californian paired exquisitely with the tender meat, overcooked though the little lamb may have been.

The __ State of the __ Mind

As I typically do at the end of each day, I walked down the hill last evening to find something for dinner at the market.

You would have thought I was trying to buy a condominium.

Office Desk - SF (artwork by A Munoz)

Office Desk - SF (artwork by A Munoz)

Let them eat __ ?

I stood at the meat counter and looked at every fleshy red slab of fresh meat. Although made inviting by lighting and sprigs of bulbous parsley, the meat itself seemed too spry for my state of being. Too free range, too reminiscent of happy little animals bouncing about the green Sonoma hillsides. It begged attention and careful preparation; my mind, by contrast, was sated with too much paying the rent.

Something simple, came the instruction. Keep it simple.

Cow in the grass - Sonoma, 2003An adjacent glass case was filled with numerous selections of house-made sausages, pressed and filled by hand there on the butcher block, all of them lined up in enticing rows. They beckoned. Mild Italian. Hot Italian. Chicken mango. Andouille. Cilantro-onion-pepper…

“Does this one have meat?” I asked.

“We don’t have vegetarian sausage,” answered the surly little butcher in his perfectly white apron. I won’t mention his name or describe him further; he works with sharp knives for a living and is doubtless adept at slipping a weighted thumb upon the meat scale when you’re not looking.

Rogue little napoleonic butcher.

I tell him I’m not ready and he should move along, go help somebody else. I will wait for the butcher I like: the one who laughs at my jokes. The one who doesn’t have a relative buried in his backyard or a restraining order against him.

Loaves and fishes

Adjacent to the sausages lie the pre-made goods: alimentation for the hurried. Pre-packaged, pre-sauteed, pre-herbified and tenderized chicken breasts…

I’ll pass.

Same for the meatballs doused in a flour-like substance. And the rolled fillet so stuffed to overwhelming with spinach and god knows what else that it wanted to belch on its own, never mind its unlucky ingestor.

Further down the line, opposite the fresh bread racks: Fish. It sounded a novel option, given that we’d had steak the night before. I stood before the case, my mouth agape to match the droll look on the faces of the whole fishes on ice. I muddled over my confusion regarding the pluralization of a certain fish: I always thought the name was Branzino, but here they rendered it Branzini. There were 4 of them – 4 individual branzino, in my book. Would they change the sign back to singular when there was only 1 left in the case? And what of the other fish – how come they were labeled in the singular and not as Cods, Halibuts, Salmons, Shrimps…?

And on the 8th day God created wine.

When befuddled by indecision, and when inspiration has not so much fled as evaporated, one can often find guidance in the grape.

As a youth my preference was Chivas and cigarettes but I’ve since graduated – magna cum laude, mind you – to an appreciation for the liquid renderings of those tiny jewel-like beads of sweetness, their flesh a virgin green or virulent maroon – the timid one and the handsome abductor – their output the renderer of nighttime dreams. Long, languid, storytelling dreams.

Así fue.

Onward to Jesus Swede and the Junior Consultant from Cleveland.