Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me!

My birthday has the impeccably bad timing to come right after Valentine's Day. For most people, this isn't any big deal. For restaurant people, this is terrible timing. Valentine's Day week is crushingly busy and so each year on my birthday, I find myself exhausted and not wanting to do anything but sleep through my birthday. Luck usually has it that I am working anyway and unable to celebrate.

This year, it had the good graces to come on a day off, but right after the busiest weekend of our year. I really didn't want to do anything, but on Sunday, Ann had arranged for us to go see my aunt and uncle out near Keyser WV and as it turned out, my cousin Sarah and her two boys were there as well. It's always great to see my family, even if I am exhausted.

Warning: I didn't bring the big camera home. I was too exhausted on Saturday night after dinner service to care. And besides, I might as well learn how to shoot decent photos with the iPhone. Remember the old saying, "It's not the camera...."

My Kind of Cake!
When we arrived out at Marshall and Susan's, we were greeted by their dog and my cousin Sarah's two dogs, so I knew she was there as well. Inside on the counter was this "cake," definitely my kind of cake! I'm not a sweets guy so this definitely was a great idea. After a glass of wine, a couple of noshes, and some chitchat, we got down to lunch, a slow cooker full of chili.

Chili with Pickled Jalapeños and Avocado Salad
On a cold, blustery day with snow squalls blowing in off the ridge line opposite us before slamming into us up on the other ridge, my aunt's chili really hit the spot. It was delicious and not very challenging, just the kind of food I like when I am tired. I really don't care to eat too much chef food on my days off. The avocado salad which she called pico de gallo was just wonderful especially with all the fresh cilantro in it. Other people try to impress me with their food when we end up at their houses for dinner; my aunt always serves tasty comfort food and that impresses me more than any chef food could ever do.

Carter Entertaining Xavier and Patrick
Not only did we get to see photos of Marshall and Susan's recent trip to Dehli, Jaipur, and Kerala with their daughter and my youngest first cousin Melissa, we also got to catch up with cousin Sarah who lives in Reston with her two guys Xavier and Patrick, my first cousins once removed. Carter got the honor of playing video games with them while the adults got a little adult time. Thanks Carter!

On Monday, my actual birthday, I had to work, but it was a short day of only seven hours! For a guy used to working 13-15 hours a day, seven is a real treat. And since it was my birthday and I had to be at Costco to pick up a few things for work, I decided to treat myself to some wine for dinner. Ann and I planned to stay home so that I could rest and I greatly appreciate that.

Kirkland? Yeah, Not Bad!
I picked up a bottle of this Kirkland Champagne for two reasons. The first is that I am professionally curious about what Costco is selling under their Kirkland label and this is the first Kirkland wine that our Costco is carrying. Yeah, out here in Nowhere, Virginia, we're slow on the uptake. The second is that I saw on the back label that Manuel Janisson is responsible for the wine and I know that he always does a great job, both in France and here in Virginia with Thibaut-Janisson. It really was a surprisingly nice bottle and a very good value for the price. It isn't earth shattering, but at the price, I didn't expect it to be. It does taste like very good non-vintage Champagne and that is all I expected. The price is a bonus.


2006 Brunello, Soft Like a Châteauneuf-du-Pape
I knew we were pulling a bag of my pork ragù out of the freezer and serving it with orecchiette for dinner, so I decided to get a bottle of Brunello as well. I haven't had much from 2006 yet as we are still drinking older vintages, but I know that 2006 is well regarded. This wine from Tenuta Col d'Orcia was extremely ripe with slightly jammy fruit backed with some spice and very mellow tannins and much lower acidity than I was expecting. This wine reminded me a lot of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and that is not a bad thing. I like a softer, riper, lower acid wine to go with my braised meat dishes.

A New Oil, Garda DOP, A Little Grassy
We also tried a new-to-us olive oil, a Garda DOP from way up north in Italy near Verona. It is a replacement for a very good Greek olive oil that we got back in the summer. Neither of us liked it as well; it's good oil but just a touch grassier than we were hoping for.

Not a Bad Way to Start off an Afternoon
And finally, the pièce de résistance of our meal, the pork ragù with orecchiette. On a cold day, I can't think of a better or more fitting dinner. Happy Birthday to me!

Orecchiette with Meat Sauce

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