Tue Oct 28, 2008
Share a meal with Diane and Todd from White On Rice Couple and you know you’ll learn something or eat something you’ve never tried before you leave. So when Diane excitedly handed out mottled grey branches at a dinner party a few weeks ago and told us to nibble on them, I went with it. I bit, rabbit-like with my front teeth, slowly breaking down the small, fibrous piece, mixing it with my saliva as instructed. Slowly my mouth filled with a sweet heat. The branch I was eating tasted exactly like the cross between an Atomic Fire Ball and Red Hots. I was struck at first by the spicy, lingering flavor, then by the idea that Fire Balls and Red Hots actually tasted like anything in nature.
Mon Oct 20, 2008
Rosemary Olive Oil Ice Cream
The basil plant was the first to go, its fragrant leaves curling in, then turning yellow and limp. Next it was the mint. I can’t remember who told me that mint grows like a weed and is impossible to kill, but they were wrong. The only thing weed-like about my spearmint plant is the apocalyptic-looking skeleton it left behind when it died, like it was doused by a gallon of Roundup. Now you can count one dead rosemary bush among my summer’s worth of failed gardening achievements. Loved and, perhaps, a bit over-watered, I thought I’d let it dry out a bit. But then I forgot about it altogether. Now my rosemary looks like a tiny Ponderosa pine sapling struck by lightening. So much for developing a green thumb. Mine is black and blue.
Thu Oct 9, 2008
On Monday the Dow plunged like Paris Hilton’s neckline. It continued to fall on Tuesday and again yesterday, all the while our national debt has climbed. The economic turmoil might drive you to drink, if you could still afford a quaffable bottle of wine.
Fortunately, affordable wine is my specialty. Working at K&L Wine Merchants, I have the opportunity to taste dozens of wines a week, from the dirt cheap to the “I wish I could afford this.” One recent discovery on the “dirt cheap” end of the spectrum is this delicious, snappy Côtes du Rhône from Château Suzeau. This beauty comes from winemaker Cecile Chassagne’s negociant project, where she buys fruit and occasionally finished wine and helps to get it to market. K&L has done business with Chassagne for years, importing her wines directly and passing the savings on to customers, which is why this incredible little wine only costs $8.99 a bottle!
Surprisingly fresh and approachable for such a young wine, its deep crimson color has a purplish rim, like velvet trimming on a royal robe. Comprised of 80% grenache and 20% syrah, the wine’s black cherry and blackberry aromas mingle with a little garrigue and black pepper spice. On the palate the wine is soft and giving (as in: give me more), with savory herb and black fruit flavors, fresh acidity and barely there tannins. Sure this doesn’t offer the complexity of a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but it has enough intrigue to enjoy on its own and the style to enjoy with everything from braised lamb shanks to short ribs with parsnip puree or a even a warm Brussels sprout salad with pancetta and sherry vinegar. Because it’s so young, I recommend decanting for an hour before drinking to full appreciate everything this wine has to offer. And if your belt isn’t too tight, buy a little to stash away. This kind of deal doesn’t come along everyday, but the wine will continue to develop over the next five years.
Wed Oct 1, 2008
Fresh bread, gorgonzola and quince paste
Fall is by far my favorite season and, since the trees here refuse to play dress-up in their crimson, persimmon and gold-colored October wardrobe like a stubborn child refusing to have fun, it’s the one I have to work the most to capture. Autumn comes in from the edges in Southern California. It’s most obvious in the morning—when the light is a little more slanted, illuminating the palm trees and mountains to the east with a pumpkin-tinge—and in the evening, when Orion rises in the sky, the stars on his belt sparkling like Paris Hilton’s bling. It creeps in at the farmers’ markets too, with apples and winter squashes peppering the farmers’ tables along with grapes and figs and dates.