Thursday, March 7, 2013

Delaplane Cellars/Pasta Fagiole

I'm working on way too many things at work right now, so many that my head is constantly spinning and I am unable to get any badly needed downtime even when I am not at work. So, Ann has purposely not scheduled anything for us to do on Sundays in March so that I can just chill on my day off. Even though we didn't have anything planned on Sunday, it did seem to be a good idea towards late morning just to get away from the house and have a little lunch/wine and try to unwind.

We needed to get to Delaplane to pick up some wines (we are members of their club) and since it is the closest of the upper tier wineries to us, we often end up there when we don't have any other plans and so we did on Sunday. The change of context worked for me. I was able to relax with the help of a half bottle of really good wine, my best girl, and a total change of scenery!

A Special Treat 
We arrived in the tasting room shortly after noon and were among the first to arrive for the afternoon, which turned out to be fairly slow but not atypical for this time of year. Although I don't wish slow times on anyone, it is so much easier for me to relax without tons of people around. As a restaurant guy, I love the buzz and the people, but I'm on all week and when I'm not at work, I don't necessarily want to be on. I need a little off time to recharge my batteries.

Upstairs on the mezzanine level, Jim was conducting a class on wine and food pairing called Sunday Sipping, with food supplied by Tarver King and crew at the nearby Ashby Inn. Betsy spied Ann and me while we were tasting through the line up and brought us each a sample of the final pairing along with a taste of their Petit Manseng. Tarver made what he calls potted cheese (basically a gelatin-stabilized cheese mousse) of Challerhocker cheese and milk topped with a bit of honey and accompanied by a biscotto.

Cheese geek that I am, I freely admit that I don't know much about Swiss cheeses other than the usual suspects and Challerhocker is a new cheese to me. It's a washed rind cheese that melts well. The salty cheese mousse with the sweet floral honey was a great contrast to the sweet Petit Manseng. This highly savory contrast is always my approach to a pairing with a great sweet wine. In my current frame of mind, I probably would have gone with an unctuous pork liver terrine, but this pairing and the presentation were excellent.

The wines being tasted at the counter are all reds now, the whites being sold out and the new 2012 vintage not yet ready for prime time. I am particularly surprised at the 2011 reds; they are very drinkable, especially for the worst vintage that I can remember.

Our Favorite: 2010 Williams Gap Bordeaux Blend
Ann and I gravitated to our favorite of the current wines, the 2010 Williams Gap red blend of four traditional Bordeaux varietals, basically equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc with the balance Petit Verdot.

Cheeses and the Fennel Sausage from Croftburn Market
We always seem to get the sampler plate of whatever cheeses and sausage they have on offer and this time the cheeses were uninspiring, but the fennel sausage from Croftburn Market in Culpeper was delicious. We like the charcuterie from Croftburn a lot, but recently we have been spoiled by the amazing salame from Olympic Provisions in Portland. Nothing against the home team, but those guys on the left coast have got it figured out. I've even learned some tricks for my own charcuterie by tasting theirs.

Mousse Truffée
Ann has never seen a piece of truffled liver mousse that she could pass up, so we ordered a slice to go with our bread. There is something luxuriously comforting about a piece of hot crusty bread slathered with silky liver mousse!

Baguettes, Good and Crusty
After Jim finished his tasting upstairs, he wandered over and sat and chewed the fat with us until he and Betsy left for brunch up the street at the Ashby. He was kind enough to grab a bottle of the 2012 Springlot Sauvignon Blanc and pour a glass for each of us. It has a really tropical nose and decent enough acidity, though a person could want more acid. 2012 was a bit too warm at times for that though. Springlot is across the valley directly west of the winery and up at a pretty good elevation; Jim pointed it out to us from the winery. With only 18 cases made, the general public will never see this wine and we were delighted and surprised to be able to taste it.

Midafternoon, we headed back to the house where I started prepping for dinner and then went to fetch Carter while Ann was baking another awesome loaf of bread for dinner.

Root Veg and Pancetta
I had promised to make pasta e fagiole for dinner this winter because Carter likes it so much, but I hadn't yet got around to it. It kept getting bumped by other equally delicious dishes. So I made it a point to make some this weekend and I gathered some celery root, carrots, onions, pancetta, garlic, sage, and rosemary and went to town on it after we got back from the winery.

Pancetta Loves Rosemary, Sage, and Garlic
Ann also made some bread dough on Saturday so that we could have a loaf with our beans. I'm giving away her secret here: she bakes it in the big cast iron cocotte. Not only does it give the loaf shape, but when covered for the first part of the baking, it traps in the steam necessary to give the bread great oven spring.

Sadly, this loaf didn't turn out too well. Our primary oven appears to be malfunctioning and we ended up moving it to the secondary oven. The loaf suffered for want of a decent oven, but not enough to keep us from gorging on the bread to the point where we were too stuffed to want the pasta and beans!

Ann's Bread Secret: Cast Iron

Pasta e Fagiole

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