Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Burgers

I busted my butt last week to be able to take Memorial Day off so I could feel more or less like a normal human being at least for a day. Truth be told, most of the people that I need to deal with don't work on Memorial Day, so even if I work, it is not a super-productive day. In any case, I planned both to be off and to grill burgers, so I ordered some burger from our beef supplier, Martin's Angus Beef. After working all morning and some of the afternoon in the yard, I wasn't up for doing more than pattying some burgers and grilling them. And my only concession to side dishes? A bag of chips. I don't eat many burgers in a year, maybe one or two, so they need to be awesome. This one was.

Now That's a Burger!
And as the burger was awesome, so was the wine. Ann brown-bagged a wine for me to taste and it was obviously by color and nose a Pinot. Having really acclimated my palate to Oregon Pinot Noir over the last month, my first sip of the mystery Pinot was a dead giveaway. It was clearly California Pinot but not from Paso or further south. It had to be the 2010 Dutton-Goldfield "McDougall Vineyard" Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir that Kenny and Mel brought back from their Apple Blossom trip to Sonoma. We gave Kenny and Mel a bottle of Patricia Green "Quail Hill" 2002 in exchange. After drinking so much restrained Oregon wine, this wine that is restrained by California standards seemed way over the top with huge very ripe dark cherry fruit and only moderate acidity.

Awesome California Pinot vs.
After this, we opened a bottle of 2011 Patricia Green Balcombe Dundee Hills by way of contrast. This wine displays similar fruit but also brings a noticeable acid core to the party. It was very, very interesting to taste these wines side by side.

Awesome Oregon Pinot
And while I was at it, I managed to get a good shot of these two goobers as well!

Sometimes I Take a Good Photo

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Annie Cooks Sunday Dinner

Some time around Thursday of last week, Ann announced, "I'm cooking dinner on Sunday." Well all right then! She cooks a lot during the week, but Sunday's generally my thing. When I'm home, I like to cook for her, but I wasn't arguing. No problem sitting back and relaxing for once.

And I knew I would be really tired. We had a huge dump truck load of mulch delivered on Saturday morning and I schlepped it from 7am to 2:30pm at which point, I took both a shower and a nap. Of course, Ann did her fair share, but I was at it 2 or 3 hours before she was, so I was beat.

After we picked up Carter at 6pm and got back to the house at nearly 6:30, Ann started prepping dinner, first the red potatoes, then the chicken, and then the asparagus.

Beautiful Red Potatoes

Prepping Potatoes

Can't Cook Without Wine at our House

Snackies: First of the Year!

Stuffing the Bird with Lemon and Rosemary

Browning Before Roasting

Prepping Asparagus
Once the chicken and potatoes were in the oven, Ann prepped the asparagus and got them ready for the oven (to cook while the chicken was resting) and then we took our bottle of Pinot Noir out back while the chicken roasted. Along about dusk each evening, the rabbits come out of the bushes to feed in the yard, but probably more to drive the dogs nuts. If they get in my garden, there are going to be some roasted rabbit photos on this blog!

Watch Out Mr. Bunny, You're Next!


Meal Fit for a King!
This is about as simple and as great a meal as I know. Everything is tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasted. And bonus! Ann put the chicken on a bed of garlic cloves and poured over the juices from deglazing the browning pan with a little white wine, yielding tender roasted garlic cloves when the chicken was done. Great meal honey!

A Well Deserved Rest

Thai Winchester, Winchester VA

Sunday afternoon late after I awoke from a short nap after schlepping mulch all morning, Ann suggested that we go get some lunch before picking Carter up at 6pm. And more to the point, she wanted to get some sushi. Sushi options in Winchester are slim. Let me restate that: there are lots of places where you can get sushi but not many of them any good.

Though locals will debate this, the best of our sushi options is probably Awabi on the Old Town Mall, so we headed there even though there were several closer options. [Personally, I try to avoid sushi in Winchester so it's all splitting hairs to me.] But for some reason, Marcus had closed even though he is usually open on Sunday. I didn't check out the sign on the door to see why. We really like to support Marcus: he's a really hard-working guy trying just like the rest of us in our restaurant community to make a living and support our families.

In the spirit of getting something light, we stopped a few storefronts further north on the Mall at Thai Winchester where we would have sat outside except that all the shaded tables were occupied, so reluctantly we went inside. I know all the staff really well there and they always take great care of us as they did on Sunday.

I let Ann pick the dishes. I usually get the Roasted Duck Noodle soup because I love pho and this is the closest thing to it that I can find to it that is also close to my office on Mondays when I am looking for a quick bowl of soup between chores. And I was in the mood for something lighter on Sunday.

Summer Rolls

Something Fundamentally Wrong Here, Drinking Singha from a Chang Glass

Cellophane Noodle Salad

Roasted Duck Salad

Spicy Seafood Salad
I am happy to report that all these dishes were well done. That hasn't always been the case as they have struggled under the weight of three restaurants. The quality of the cooking has been up and down over the years and for the last couple of months, it seems on the upswing again. Yay!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Fish Tacos

Fish tacos are so light, easy, and delicious that I think of them often when the weather turns nice. The fish is especially nice when grilled, but the frying pan works fine as well.

Monday was a long day and I wanted something easy for dinner so I grabbed some catfish on the way home. I have a standard catfish marinade which goes along the lines of rubbing the filets with a touch of oil, ancho chile powder, freshly minced garlic, lime zest, and finely, finely minced stems of cilantro. Then on to a very hot grill for 2-3 minutes per side and done.

Catfish Grills Extremely Well
With my grilled meat tacos, I always want a zippy, fresh, and herbaceous salsa or pico de gallo. Here you see that I have roughly busted up some tomatoes and then added minced cilantro, green onion, garlic, jalapeño, salt, and lime juice to taste.

Salsa or Pico de Gallo: Fresh by any Name
Add tortillas and you're done! Light, simple, refreshing, and pretty good for you too.

Of Peaches and Fish

It was a long time getting to Sunday this week, given that we were open for dinner 6 nights this week instead of the usual 5. And given that I had to go pick Carter up at school at nearly midnight after dinner service on Saturday. So Sunday was a sleep-in kind of morning. Even the dogs didn't start their usual milling around until around 8am. Ann and I finally roused ourselves around 9am and I immediately got to work in the yard to finish some things that just had to be done before we left at noon to get to Ann and Tom's for a barbeque. Ann busied herself making some awesome locally roasted Black Dog coffee and baking another of her wonderful loaves of bread.

Baby Peaches, After Thinning
Our tender veg are all now set out in the garden beds (tomatoes, peppers, squashes, cucumbers, basils, etc). And I got some annuals seeded in the long bed against the fence: cosmos and a couple varieties of sunflowers. But what needed most doing was thinning the peaches. Just like dropping fruit on grape vines to make more concentrated wine, dropping fruit on stone crops increases size and flavor intensity of the remaining fruit. And for peach trees in particular, they want to produce way more fruit than they can support, so removing excess fruit is vital if you don't want broken branches everywhere. But it does make me sad to see all that fruit on the ground. We have pickled these baby peaches before, but I have no time for it this year.

Makes Me Sad
Bringing this post back to fish, after working in the yard, Ann, Carter, and I drove over to Tom and Ann's in Capon Bridge, WV, not 30 minutes from the house for a cook out. I brought the guests of honor for the grill, two snappers and three branzini. Ann brought bread. Tom and Annie supplied everything else. Lunch at Tom and Ann's is a long, leisurely affair, with many courses spread out over several hours.

The Guests of Honor
We started with Tom grilling slices of my Ann's roasted garlic rosemary bread (which is freaking awesome) that we spread with Tom's wonderful chicken liver mousse with a port jelly on top.

Awesome Roasted Garlic-Rosemary Bread
Tom's Great Chicken Liver Mousse with Port Jelly
Then on to several skewers of  wonderful shrimp. The turbinado sugar that Tom put in the marinade gave the shrimp a little sweetness and helped them color on the grill. I think they were delicious: Carter camped himself in front of the plate and destroyed them!

Showing off on the Big Green Egg

Food Porn

More of Same; Carter ate 90% of These Shrimp

Tom's Back Yard Does Not Suck
After the shrimps came a salad that I have been hearing about for years now:  red lettuce, green lettuce, curly endive, radicchio, green onions, prosciutto, cheese, toasted pine nuts, pickled red onions, and a warm balsamic vinaigrette. Really good.

And a Little Salad Before the Fish
The fish are slashed and rubbed with salt and olive oil and stuffed with basil stems, cilantro stems, and slices of key lime.

Ready for Action

Yum! Grilled Fish Garnished with Basil, Cilantro, and Key Lime Slices

Grilled Asparagus with Feta

And the rogue's gallery of dead soldiers:

Check out These Two!
Finally, cheese for dessert while we watched Robin Williams and Nathan Lane in Bird Cage for the 40th time each. These cheeses may all look similar, but they are very different. From upper left to lower right, the four blond paste cheeses are: Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Cabot's clothbound Cheddar, Kirkham's farmhouse Lancashire, and Lincolnshire Poacher. The blue, which is one of the more outstanding blues that I have ever eaten is Bayley Hazen blue. I thought that the Pleasant Ridge Reserve was the best American cheese I had ever tasted, until I tasted the Bayley Hazen blue. That stuff is ridiculous!
Incredible Cheeses, American and British

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's Day 2013

I asked Ann some days ago what she wanted to eat for Mother's Day dinner and she had to think about it for a little while. She hasn't been feeling all that great of late and so I wanted to make sure that she would be up to eating whatever I made. She emailed me a recipe for a smoked salmon, asparagus, and lemon pasta that appealed to her and so I planned to make something similar.

We planned to spend this Sunday at home, an increasing rarity. With it being the dreaded trifecta weekend at the restaurant (Mother's Day, two high school proms, and Shenandoah University graduation), we were swamped and we knew we would be swamped for months in advance. This weekend is historically about our frost date too and is the weekend that we typically set out our tender plants, tomatoes, peppers, basils, and the like. So we planned nothing except a lazy day of gardening and sitting on the patio.

And a good thing too. After getting home very late and going to bed later still, I awoke in a zombie-like state. Actually, awoke is the wrong phrasing. I was awakened is more to the point: the dogs decided it was time to get up and the brown one nuzzled me until I got out of bed and took them out. Black-and-white just whined. Ann made coffee while I lay on the sofa and finally, I got myself motivated and outside, cup of delicious coffee in hand, about 10am.

Proud Mama

Year Five for the Wisteria

New Calibrachoa Hanging Baskets

Ann Might Have Found an Orphan Digitalis to Bring Home

This Salvia is Stunning
We managed to weed a lot and plant some new perennials, but ended up not planting the vegetable beds. The National Weather Service has issued a frost advisory for Monday night. Of course. Oh well, better safe than sorry.

Wildflowers for Ann on Mother's Day
After gardening all that I could or wanted to garden, we took avantage of the sunny cool weather to sit out and have a glass of Albariño, our last bottle of 2011. What a great, light, crisp, and lemony wine, perfect for patio drinking!

Albariño! Love this Wine Outdoors!
While we were outside, I picked one of the few remaining leeks, planted at this time last year. What a beautiful specimen this guy is!

Leek from the Garden; Big as the Chair!

Pasta Mise
And then once inside, I started on a 15-minute dinner, all I was up to after getting killed all week at the restaurant. The ingredients for the pasta from the blanched asparagus clockwise are lemon thyme, heavy cream, smoked bluefish, lemon zest, leek, pappardelle, and sliced shallots. I've done dozens of riffs on this pasta at the restaurant over the years, mostly with smoked salmon, but I just happen to have some awesome smoked bluefish on hand right now.

Happy Mother's Day, Ann!

Linguini with Clam Sauce

It felt good to get back in the kitchen yesterday, if only for a few minutes to make a late afternoon lunch of linguini with white clam sauc...