August 31, 2013

End of Summer Smattering of Stuff

End of summer? One can hope, anyway. It's been slow posting for me the last few months. Many reasons for that, being busy this summer with things that don't involve having fun with food and wine is part of it. However, some pics of things from the last few weeks.
Met a friend for lunch at The General Muir last week and had another very good meal. The double stack cheeseburger is pretty righteous. It's fast-food-ish, and sloppy, in a good way.
We also shared some of the chicken liver appetizer. Good, creamy chicken liver. Could use a thinner bread here, or veggies, as spreading the liver on this bread will fill you up fast. Oh yeah, if you have not tried The General Muir cheesecake, do so soon. Could be the best cheesecake I've ever tasted.
Another recent lunch stop at El Rey del Taco on Buford Highway. Best tacos in town? Perhaps. I won't disagree. They are legit and only about $2 each.
I don't know why I don't frequent Sun in My Belly more often. I live right down the road, the place has a homey-bohemian vibe, and I have had nothing but solid experiences with each visit. $10 corkage fee is a great feature, too. Last week, the salmon on couscous was right on. 
Also from SIMB, the pork shoulder bowl with hatch-chile polenta, broccoli rabe, and grilled peaches.
Been drinking my share of beer this summer. Pictured above is the new beer from Westbrook. The Gose (pronounced Go-suh) is made in the style of a sour German wheat beer. It's salty and sour and acidic. I didn't love it. Too much like a sour cider for my palate. I hear that people who like sour beer love it. To each their own, I suppose.
I love crisp, dry white wines from the Loire Valley when it's hot out. I also really like the wines of Jean-Francois Merieau. This Sauvignon Blanc did not disappoint. At $16 around town, it is a nice buy.

August 20, 2013

Home Cooking: Gargouillou

Just to prove I won't go away quietly, another blog post happens. This time, a home cooking exploit. I recently became obsessed with a single dish. It is no ordinary dish, mind you. It's not a dish I've ever tasted, and there is a damn good chance I never will. This fact, my friends, did not dissuade me from trying to recreate said dish. The dish is called gargouillou, and it is, rather directly, a melange of various vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers. It was given the name by the reticent genius of a chef, Michel Bras. Bras has been at the helm of his namesake restaurant Bras, in south-central France in the Aubrac mountains for the last thirty years.You can find an inspirational post on eating at restaurant Bras at A Life Worth Eating. Gargouillou is one of Bras' signature dishes, a dish he has meticulously prepared daily for the last thirty years. Below is a video of Bras's son Sebastien preparing gargouillou:
When Bras makes the dish, it involves upwards of seventy-five ingredients, basically any or all of the freshest vegetables, herbs, and flowers he sources at market each morning. My prep plate is pictured below with some of the forty or so different ingredients I used.
Each item is prepared using a variety of cooking methods. Some are simply boiled in salted water, others sauteed in a little butter or pork fat. And, equally important to the spirit of the dish, any usable part of any given product is used. For example, carrot greens and cauliflower stalks are part utilized in the dish, as are spinach stems and radish leaves. The vegetables are par-cooked hours in advance, making the actual execution a bit easier as all items are warmed in some butter and ham fat just before plating.
So...what was I to do with my pedantic obsession over this dish? I called some of my food and wine buddies who would not be ashamed or put-off by my geekery to share in the preparation and consumption of said dish. The finished product. A bit messy, maybe a little less wine consumption before and during plating would help. Along with the vegetables, a series of sauces are served as accoutrements. I made a pepper puree, garlic aioli, parsley oil, and black olive tapenade. In the end, it was a fun and educational way to prepare a diverse set of vegetables. It was difficult to not think of each component and flavor as playing a role, which led to a very deliberate preparation, as well as a thoughtful consumption of the dish.
As we are want to do when we get together, we drank some great wines. And ate more food. There was a delicious and fatty porchetta that cancelled out any of the health benefits from the plate of veggies pictured above. 

August 12, 2013

The Wines of Lopez de Heredia

Lopez de Heredia is perhaps not a name that lies on the tip of your tongue; unless, of course, you are a bit of a wine geek. As a recent convert to the brilliance of LDH wines, I encourage you to seek some out. Lopez de Heredia has been producing Spanish Rioja wine for over 135 years. As both the red and white LDH wines age (and man, they can age!), they become beguiling wines that offer singular wine-drinking experiences. The red wines are made primarily from tempranillo, the whites from obscure varietals such as viura and malvasia. The wines, even the Gran Reserva wines from the early 1990s, can be found now in the Atlanta market.
The oldest LDH wines pictured above at a  party with friends last fall. They all showed especially well, feminine and delicate wines that are also serious and stoke one's intellectual curiosities about how carefully-crafted wines transform with age. The red wines take on a profile that is similar to Burgundy's great Pinot Noir as they age, but they are, in my experiences, often more delicate.
 The 1994 that I brought to Bocca Lupo last weekend.
The white wines display a nutty, oxidative profile as they age. When first opening, the whites can almost seem too old, as if you've opened a wine that's long past its prime. However, with some air, they usually open to display a interesting waxy feel to the palate and can seem almost oily at times.
The white wines pair well with grilled meats, veggies, and seafood. This 1991 is opened several weeks ago was not nearly as nuanced as the 1981 below. Hard to think of a 23 year old wine just starting to drink well, but that's the case. The 1991 is on the shelf in town for under $40. While that's not cheap for most of us, it's worth it for the experience if you are open to trying new an interesting wines. If you've not tried an LDH wine before, you can find them around town at fairly reasonable prices relative to what they offer.

August 5, 2013

Recent Eats and Drinks

Some recent eating and drinking things as we work our way through summer. Dinner at a friend's house last weekend featured some killer food and wine.

I made the crostini pictured above topped with my pimento cheese, bacon from a pork belly I cured, and my spicy pickles. I used my go-to baguette recipe from Jacques Pepin. Yes, I stole the idea for the crostini from Husk. Here's proof.

We also had some lobster and squid paella cooked on a Big Green Egg.
I brought along this killer champagne, the 1999 Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill. In case you didn't know it, Dr. Churchill liked his bubbly, and Pol Roger has made this commemorative bottling in his honor since 1975. It is good wine. Not cheap, though, so there is that.
This 1966 Cos D' Estournel from Bordeaux's Saint-Estephe commune in the Medoc region was also pretty freaking fantastic. Slumming it, we weren't.
I also made a return visit to Bocca Lupo last weekend. Had to get the damn octopus and mortadella dish again. So  good. It's got such great smoke flavor throughout, and the shell beans are a new favorite ingredient for me.
Grilled asparagus with soft-poached egg and croutons. Good dish. Perfectly cooked egg.
Strano pasta with Gorgonzola cream, mortadella, and broccoli. No, it's okay, it has broccoli in it, it won't kill you. Gorgonzola cream, anyone? I waddled home. We had several other pasta dishes as well; the 20 yolk tagliatelle is still pretty damn good, though still not sure about those 20 yolks.
I brought along an excellent Chardonnay from Etienne Sauzet. Bocca Lupo has a very reasonable $15 corkage fee. The 2000 Etienne Sauzet Puligny Montrachet La Garenne wine was drinking really well and was perfect sitting outside on a hot summer night. I really like Bocca Lupo. I'll visit again soon, I'm sure.