Friday, November 29, 2013

November 29, 2013 Thanksgiving Dinner at Marian and Jerry’s House



November 29, 2013 Thanksgiving Dinner at Marian and Jerry’s House

We were invited to have Thanksgiving dinner for 16 at Jerry and Marian’s house tonight.  I sat beside and had a pleasant evening’s conversation with Jessie, Marian’s mother.  Jerry is Elaine’s brother and Sarah her older sister was in attendance with her family, daughter Rachel and Rachel’s husband, James, who live in Columbus, Ohio, her son Phillip and husband Charlie.  Also, Elaine's father and mother, Sandy and Rita were in attendance and us Simons, Billy and Elaine and Rebecca and Suzette and me.  The live wire of the group was Jerry and Marian’s “almost” seven year old daughter, Celia, who was everywhere.  For example, during dinner Celia went into the other room and played her violin for us.  We had to celebrate Thanksgiving on Friday because Jerry, who is a pilot for Southwest Airlines, was flying yesterday. 

The food was expansive with many people bringing dishes of food.  Rita, who is one of the best pie makers I have ever met, baked 2 pies each of pecan, chocolate pecan and pumpkin.  The pecan pies were made with Karo syrup and the chocolate had lots of chocolate but did not have the fudge-like texture of the one I first ate at the Stage Coach Inn in Salado, Texas.  I remember going to the Stage Coach Inn with my family when I was very young and going down into the basement and seeing a long passageway that was an escape route out of the building to area a long way away.  We were told it was an escape route that was used in the event of Indian attacks in the mid -1800s.  So I knew it was a real state coach stop.   

Rebecca made sautéed Brussels sprouts with shallots and balsamic vinegar.  Marian made creamed turnips and a wonderful parsnip and leek  bread pudding. There was a bread stuffing and brown gravy.  I think Marian also made a great spinach and cheese gratin casserole and Jessie made sautéed butternut squash with pine nuts and red onions. Then there were candied creamed sweet potatoes with a thick brown sugar and pecan crust on top. And Billy made a Connecticut Corn Pudding.

Jerry made turkey two ways, one in the oven and one on the grill outside.

Finally, there were two types of cranberry relish; one was traditional and the other was Marian’s famous cranberry chutney.

There were several wines.  I drank a Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc (dry sauvignon blanc) and there were several reds including a very nice Rodney Strong Russian River Pinot Noir.
After dinner we watched Celia open Chanukah gifts and played a game Celia had made up.  She asked each person to write our name and what we were thankful for on a piece of paper and then we played 20 questions to guess what each person was thankful for.   

Most of the answers were obvious because they related to family or the holiday, except Billy who had written Eva Braun, James, who said getting a job and mine which said "sale of the telecom tower in California".  It was a good game because it involved each of us and lots of interaction.  Celia proved herself to be a smart girl and very personable for 6 years old.

Bon Appétit

November 28, 2013 Lunch – Turkey and Cranberry Sauce Sandwiches, Dinner – A Taste of Alsace: Chicken with Riesling Wine Sauce, Braised Red Cabbage and Spätzel and Salad



November 28, 2013 Lunch – Turkey and Cranberry Sauce Sandwiches, Dinner – A Taste of Alsace: Chicken with Riesling Wine Sauce, Braised Red Cabbage and Spätzel and Salad

This is re-written because I inadvertently overwrote the original description. 

We spent the morning getting packed and then we made turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches on sliced of mayonnaise smeared whole wheat bread.  Suzette’s Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery had taken orders for 35 Thanksgiving Turkey dinners and had given her two or three slices of turkey white meat and a small container of cranberry sauce. 
We also packed a small zip lock bag with organic greens and put the sandwiches and greens into a carrying bag with an apple.

Once we were airborne we ordered a Bloody Mary for Suzette and a Heinekins beer for me and nibbled on our sandwiches in flight to Dallas.

When we arrived Billy picked us up and took us to his house where we were greeted by his wife Elaine and their daughter and my niece, Rebecca, who now is working for Goldman Sachs in NYC.

After the greetings we opened the wine box we had brought and gave them the bottle of Green Tomato Chutney we had made and a bottle of Los Cuates Green Chili Sauce and the small bottle of black truffles we had bought in Soria, Spain (16.20 Euros) during the same trip we had taken with them two years ago and two bottles of Trimbach 2000 Hommage a Jeanne Pinot Gris. 

After dropping our suitcases in our room we went back to the kitchen and Billy poured Suzette a glass of scotch and me a glass of apple juice and we watched and talked while Billy, Elaine and Rebecca prepared an Alsatian meal. 

Billy had already prepared the Braised Red Cabbage, so he started making the Chicken with Riesling Wine by sauteing 8 chicken thighs in butter in one large deep skillet and chopping shallots and mushrooms and sauteing them in another skillet.  Here is the entire recipe:

Rebecca then started making the spätzel by mixing the ingredients (2 cups flour, 7 fl. oz. milk, 1 tsp. salt and 3 eggs) and letting them sit for thirty minutes.  After they had sat she processed them by using a spätzel tool exactly like the one shown in the pictures below.  The dough was dripped and cut into a large pot of boiling water and the cooked spätzel were scooped out of the boiling water and dropped into a sieve resting in a bowl of ice and water that immediately cooled the spätzel and kept them from sticking together. 

 


 
While Rebecca made the spätzel, Elaine made a fresh salad with locally hydroponically grown butter lettuce, with yellow and red cherry tomatoes, sliced pitted kalamata olives and one large cubed avocado and dressed it with a light vinaigrette dressing.

In about two hours the chicken dish and spätzel and salad were finished and Billy did one more thing to enhance the meal, he opened the small jar of truffles we had brought, sliced off a large slice from one of the truffles and chopped it finely.  Then I chopped it some more and put 1/3 in the spätzel and 2/3 in the chicken dish and we stirred them to mix the flavor of the truffles into the sauce and noodles and we were ready to eat.  Billy opened the Pinot Gris and I poured glasses of it and we served the chicken, spätzel and cabbage at their lovely dining room table in their remodeled dining room set with our parents’ blue damask table clothe and napkins at the dining room table set with the Florentine pattern of Wedgwood china our parents bought on our 1960 European trip.  Billy inherited the items in the dining room in the residence we grew up in on Manderly Pl. in Fort Worth.  I felt at home and very comfortable in their elegantly appointed dining room.

I laid a mound of spätzel on each plate and Billy scooped chicken and mushroom cream sauce over it and we each served ourselves red cabbage and ate it with sips of the beautifully balanced fruity with a hint of citrus 2000 Hommage a Jeanne that complemented and cut right through the creamy buttery sauce accented by the earthy flavor of truffle.  This was the best Alsatian meal I have ever had.  The meal could not have been better if we had been sitting in a great restaurant in Alsace.  

Here is the information on the wine:
  • "The 2000 Pinot Gris Hommage a Jeanne was produced from a selection of Trimbach's best Pinot Gris parcels (all harvested at over 15% natural potential alcohol). It sports 25 grams per liter of dry extract and 20 grams per liter of residual sugar. While at most firms this wine would merit a Vendanges Tardives bottling, the Trimbachs chose to pay homage to Jeanne Trimbach, the mother of Bernard and Hubert, who turned 100 in May 2000 and continues to drink Alsace's lovely nectars to this day. This gorgeous wine has mineral and smoke-imbued white peach aromas. On the palate, it is medium to full-bodied, dense, and rich. Layer after layer of apricot, poached pear, white peach, and spices can be found in its highly expressive, velvety-textured personality. It is an intensely concentrated, wonderfully balanced, fresh, and structured wine. Drink it between 2005 and 2018." - 93 Pts Pierre Rovani - The Wine Advocate

Product Info

  • Closure Type
    Cork
  • Collectable
    N/A
  • Kosher
    No
  • Sparkling
    No
  • Dessert
    N/A
  • Taste
    lemon, apple, and pear
  • Nose
    floral, butter, cream, almond, and citrus


Here are the recipes for each of the dishes and pictures of the dishes and plates of food:


Chicken in Riesling Wine sauce

Voila

Elaine and Rebecca




 






Chicken with Riesling Wine

Braised Red Cabbage

After dinner Billy made decaffeinated coffee and we moved to the table in the den beside the fireplace where Elaine had made a fire and in the semi-darkness Rebecca showed us the pictures she took on her trip to Israel and Switzerland last year.  Billy’s family is friends with the family of the Swiss exchange student they hosted several years ago who live in Zurich while we sipped a wide selection of liquors collected by Billy, including most of the ones listed in the description of the November 30, 2011 meal below and several new ones like Deau cognac from France, Ditta Bortalo Nardini Grappa Riserva from Italy, and Fidelitas William Birne (Pear Brandy) from Germany.  I enjoyed the pear brandy the best because it had a slightly sweet flavor.  Billy also served Lindt chocolate bars.  We all liked the pieces of dark chocolate filled with cranberry paste.  I sipped several glasses of Franagelico and felt like I was in heaven.  

 
It is wonderful how well organized Billy and Elaine are in designing and executing and presenting elegant celebratory meals such as this sumptuous Alsatian feast.  It makes me realize that Suzette and I have a very different approach that is decidedly less elegant and emphasizes simple dishes cooked quickly with fresh ingredients from our garden and PPIs.  We are either lazy or pressed for time or lack the level of creativity and organization of Billy and Elaine. 

Rebecca said Billy had changed the menu slightly when I told him what wine we were bringing.   So everything was orchestrated into a great Alsatian dining experience.  We could have just as easily have been at one of the best Alsatian restaurants in France tonight.

Bon Appétit
       
Here is the review of the great Thanksgiving meal Billy and Elaine prepared for us in 2011, which I believe further confirms my theory that they have a real skill for menu and meal design and execution.


November 30, 2011 – Extravagant Continental Thanksgiving Dinner and Italian pasta lunch

If I had to describe how I feel about the last day’s food and activities in an anthropomorphic simile, I would say I feel like a happily overstuffed sausage.
I started the day getting packed in the Teak wood house in the jungle south of Sayulita.

I then fixed breakfast of left over fish stew on a toasted tortilla with a fried egg on it and a cup of peppermint tea.

After packing and a near disaster backing out of the driveway of our rental house, it was on to Puerto Vallarta to meet Harold Lott, Suzette’s ex-husband for lunch.  We suggested meeting him at a small Italian Restaurant named Moka Caffe located at Plaza Marina just south of the airport.  He arrived a bit after 11:00 am with a friend from Lake Chapala named Lupe.  Suzette and I split a Cesar Salad and a fresh made linguine with butter and sage and we opened our bottle of French champagne that Billy and Elaine gave us. Luke and Harold ate fresh gnocchi in a tomato sauce and Lupe had the special of the day Lasagna.  I loved the lightly sauced fresh pasta, although the Cesar salad was dressed with a mayonnaise and Worcestershire dressing that as goopy and there were no whole anchovies as I had requested. Total bill 530 pesos.

After lunch Harold invited us to visit his boat at the marina about one mile south of the restaurant.  Harold owns a 38 foot Juneau that has four rooms that sleep two comfortably  or three uncomfortably and a space for crew with a large galley and bathroom and shower.

We sat on banquettes on either side of a table under the main sail on the deck behind the galley and in front of the steering wheels and drank beer for about an hour in the sun and shaded by a rigged bimini utilizing the tarpaulin cover for the lifeboat.  There is not a lot of room on a sailboat but it was comfortable.   We met Harold’s other sailing mates, Mary Ann and Tom and Rick, who had accompanied him from PV to San Diego and back on the fourteen day sail from which he had just arrived back.  In fact on November 29, 2011 we had seen them motor into the Banderas Bay from the seafood restaurant at Punta Mita at around 1:30 p.m.

Harold has a home at Lake Chapala that he is developing into lots and condominiums that we discussed among other things, like old friends; as we caught up on the last few years of individual histories.      

After a pleasant visit on the boat we drove to the airport and returned the rental car and departed PV at around 4:00 p.m.  We arrived in Dallas and made our way through customs and immigration by around 7:00 p.m. and were met by Elaine Simon, Bob’s sister in law.  She called Billy, Bob’s brother and told him we were on our way and Billy started the final prep of dinner.  When we arrived at Billy and Elaine’s house in north Dallas, dinner was prepped and the table set and wine decanted.  So as soon as we dropped our bags in our respective rooms, we re-assembled in the kitchen.  While Billy and Elaine did the final cooking, we nibbled duck pate on toasted slices of French bread and Leyden cheese (which we all love).  Elaine sautéed blanched broccoli in a pan with minced shallots, lemon, thyme, black pepper and garlic (America’s Test Kitchen Recipe for Pan-Roasted Broccoli with Lemon Browned Butter).  Billy heated up broad strips of Caramelized butternut squash garnished with a sage, ricotta salada, and crushed hazelnut Pesto (www.Food52.com Caramelized Butternut squash Wedges with Sage Hazelnut Pesto).  Billy also had made a lovely sweet potato casserole with sweet potatoes cooked in cream and sugar and garnished with a streusal of flour, cream, butter, brown sugar and pecans Sweet Potatoes with Streuseled Topping from Cook’s Illustrated).  The meat was slow cooked pork tenderloin (America’s Test Kitchen.com Pan Seared Oven Roasted Pork Tenderloins) served with a lovely sour cherry and white onion in port sauce (Americastestkitchen.com Dried Cherry-Port Sauce with Onions and marmalade) but without the marmalade.  Finally there was a bowl of brown rice risotto.  A real Thanksgiving feast. 

Let me discuss an issue that I noticed when both I and Billy cooked the slow cooked pork tender described above.  Billy has a fancy thermometer that has a long probe that he used to measure the internal temperature of the pork tenderloin.  The recipe says to cook the meat until it reaches an internal temperature of 135 to 140°F, which we did.  Unfortunately, the meat does not appear cooked because the center of the meat is not fully coagulated and still appears undercooked at this temperature, but I encourage you to fight your tendency to continue to cook the meat until it looses its color and turns pink or gray and try to eat the meat a little less cooked than you are used to because that is the way the Spanish and French eat it. Billy did what I usually do and that is to slice the meat and place it in the sauce to “finish cooking it”, but I do not think that is the intent of the recipe.  Billy left some pieces less well cooked and they were very tender to the point of melting in your mouth.  

To accompany this lovely array of foods, Billy opened two beautiful bottles of wine; a silky smooth and elegant Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru La Combe aux Moines 2000, Domaine Dominique Gallois and a Savigny-Les-Beune, veille vignes, 2006, Domaine Phillip Girard, fruity with a hearty finish.  We could not have had a better Thanksgiving meal.

After we ate our fill of these lovely dishes and the food cleared and talked for a few minutes, Billy said are you ready for coffee and a disgutive and brought several hands full of bottles to the table, including Mathilde Liquer Poire, Cognac Claude Chatelier XO, a Mercedes Eguren Aguardiente de Orujo, Licor Valvanera from the Hospederia (Monastery) of Valvanera in Rioja, a Pere Magliore Calvados and a Germain Robin brandy.  Then Billy served coffee and delicious Ghirardelli Ultimate Chocolate Cookies (allrecipes.com) and fresh pineapple.  Billy and Elaine had purchased the Aguadiente the day we had our lunch at Eguren Vineyard near Laguardia, Spain, in April 2011.  After lunch Billy, Elaine and Rebecca took the vineyard tour while Suzette went to the spa in Laguardia and I took the vineyard tour at Marques de Riscal at Elciego.  What a nice surprise!   The Aguardiente had a lovely, clean slightly fruity eau de vie, grappa taste; just the way you would want it to taste.  Then I tried a few sips of the Licor Valvanera.  We had thought hard about going to the Monastery when we were in Rioja, but we did not have time.  Billy said he found the Licor in Segovia.  I missed it.  What a nice treat and memory of our trip to Spain, reignited in my mouth.  Then after a few sips of coffee and a cookie, I poured a glass of the Chatelier XO and it was much softer and nicer than the VS cognac we buy at Trader Joe’s.  What a pleasant finish to a fabulous meal. 

It is interesting that Billy and Elaine use the same method for constructing dinners that we do of going to the internet to research dishes and construct menus.  It is also interesting that Billy and I seem to have inherited from our Mother and share the same Simon gene that constantly fires our passion for fine food. 

Although it is not often that one finds the type of meal described above, such a meal is out of the price range of almost every person, surely us, unless one buys the ingredients and makes the meal oneself.  The other reason to cook yourself is that you can adjust recipes to your specific taste as noted above with regard to the pork tender. When you love the above kind of foods, how and where are you going to find them, except perhaps in Paris, Madrid, or New York?  Otherwise, you can only assemble them and cook them yourself to achieve such a high quality of food and wine on any kind of regular basis. I hope everyone who reads this blog realizes that they too can stand at the top of the food chain and enjoy such wonderful food on a regular basis.  Perhaps not as grandly or in such plentitude, but at least sequentially and of the same quality and that is just as satisfying.  Only occasionally does one enjoy such a meal as the magnificent Thanksgiving table laden with so many wonderful dishes and wines presented to us by Billy and Elaine. 

Another reason to give thanks to God; that I have a brother and sister-in -law who have good food genes.

Bon Appétit


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

November 23 and 26, 2013, Dinner - PPI Ma Po Dofu

November 23 and 26, 2013, Dinner - PPI Ma Po Dofu

We are leaving for Dallas for Thanksgiving this year, so we are trying to eat all of our PPI dishes.  I ate a PPI noodle soup I made yesterday with PPI Ma Po Dofu and PPI pork stroganoff from Sunday at around 3:00 p.m. because I was busy preparing documents for filing until then.
Then I rode ten miles to Montano and back.  When Suzette came home she decided to eat some of the PPI Ma Po Dofu and rice and I finished it off at 7:00 p.m. after eating a bunch of corn chips.  I uncomfortably overstuffed myself, but that is the danger of having lots of PPIs left near the time of departure on a trip.

 

 
Ma Po Dofu is a dish I make all the time.  I bought 3/4 lb. of bulk Italian sweet pork sausage at Sprouts ($1.99/lb.) on Friday for the dish.  It takes a lot of chopping, so I made it on Saturday evening.
I minced 1 ½ Tbsp. of ginger root and 1 Tbsp. of garlic and one medium American eggplant and ½ medium red onion.  I sautéed the garlic, ginger and meat in my wok with 2 Tbsp. of peanut oil with a dash of sesame oil and one or two large tsps. of chili-garlic sauce.  When the color of the meat changed from red to gray I removed it to a bowl and added another Tbsp. of peanut oil and the eggplant and onion and stir fried that about fifteen minutes until it softened.   While the vegetables were cooking I sliced about ½ cup of portabella and white mushrooms and soaked 1 ½ Tbsp. of shredded black wood ear in three cups of boiling water to which I had added about 2 tsp. of Knorr dehydrated chicken stock and diced 10 oz. of medium tofu.   I added the mushrooms to the vegetables and stir fried them for another three or four minutes to take on color.  Then I added the meat back and added the tofu and about three Tbsps. of the new secret ingredient this time, Szechuen preserved vegetable, and the wood ear and enough of the chicken stock to just cover the entire surface of the ingredients in the wok (in this case about 2 ½ cups) and covered the wok and simmered it for about another twenty minutes to mix the flavors. 



During the cooking period we usually make 1 cup of steamed rice by bringing 2 cups of water to a boil wish ½ tsp. of Knorr’s dehydrated chicken stock and then add 1 cup of rice and lower the heat o the lowest setting and cover the pot and cook for thirty minutes.   
While the mixture was cooking I made a thickening sauce with 2 Tbsp. of corn starch, a dash of sesame oil and 1 Tbsp. of tamari and ½ Tbsp. of Mushroom soy and 1 Tbsp. of Chinese rice cooking wine in the remaining ½ cup of chicken stock.

The recipe called for cooking the mixture down for up to an hour so that it reduces into a stew like consistency but I have found that it makes little difference taste wise to do that, so after I think everything is heated and the flavors blended (usually about fifteen to twenty minutes)  I add some or all of the thickening sauce and cook the mixture for a couple of minutes to see if it thickens the dish.  If it over thickens and gets sticky and slimy, I add more water or stock until it reaches the desired thickness.  I like the sauce to coat the rice co it lies on the rice as a sheet of sauce that does not run like water but has a slick sheen and is not to sticky or gummy.  It take a bit of judgment to hit this happy medium. 

I usually drink beer or tea with Ma Po Dofu.  Usually beer in the summer when I can add fresh chilis to the dish that make the dish spicier and hot tea in the winter when the dish is not so hot, as it was tonight due to the absence of the fresh chilis.   This is a stew and in Szechwan it is made with their hot red chilis, so it can be fiery.  I have also seen the dish made without chilis of any kind in Chinese restaurants.  So it is a very variable dish.  
The dish is usually garnished with chopped green onions (scallions) and crushed Szechwan peppercorns.

I was introduced to this dish by one of my fellow workers at Pier 1 Imports in the 1970's who loved spicy Chinese food, especially the food of Szechwan.  He told me "The Good Food of Szechwan" Cookbook by Robert Delfs, was the best cookbook for Szechwan dishes and it was the first cookbook I sought out and bought. 

Here are photos of the cookbook and the recipe.

 

 


Before then, my mother had given me several cookbooks, usually as Chanukah or Christmas gifts, including: The Joy of Cooking", "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and the "1000 Recipe Chinese Cook Book" that I recall and my first wok, which I still use over forty-five years later and which I took to Europe when I lived there in 1968 and 1970.

Actually there is funny story surrounding Mother's giving me Simone Beck and Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking".  I had grown up thinking that everyone ate like we did at home, where my mother cooked gourmet food, was the Culinary advisor to the Junior Women's Club in Fort Worth, was the first food director for the Van Cliburn Piano Competition and later had a cooking school in our home.  I learned to cook and think critically about food by osmosis as I helped her prepare her menus in the kitchen after school and we sat around the table after dinner and she solicited our comments regarding the new recipes and menus. 

So, when I went to college at University of Texas and began taking my meals in a fraternity house that served very pedestrian food, like Salisbury steak and hamburgers, I found that I could not eat the food because it had none of the flavor and complexities I was used to at home.  When I lamented the food situation to my mother, she gave me a copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and told me, "If you want to eat the kind of food we cook at home you will need to learn to cook and this book will teach you."  I guess everyone has their Mastering the Art of French Cooking" story, but that is mine.  Actually mother was of the same vintage as Julia Child and Simone Beck and was friends with Simone Beck and visited Simone Beck at her compound in the south of France where Julia and Bob Child also had a house.
       
Bon Appétit

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November 25, 2013 Medallions of Salmon with Vine Ripened Tomatoes and steamed string beans and cauliflower

November 25, 2013 Medallions of Salmon with Vine Ripened Tomatoes and steamed string beans and cauliflower

I stopped at Sprouts between meetings today and picked up a 1 lb. piece of fresh farm raised Chilean salmon ($7.99/lb.) and a few more string beans (I had picked up some on Thursday at Sprouts $1.50/lb.) that were more like haricot verte because they were so thin and tender.
When I got home at around 5:45 Suzette was home and we discussed dinner.  We decided to cook the cauliflower and string beans, so I cut the flowerets of cauliflower off the stem and then de-stemmed the tips of the green beans and put them in the steamer with some water.  I also went to the basement and fetched a bottle of 2012 Les Portes de Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc I had bought at Trader Joe’s recently for $6.99 and chilled it.

I then made guacamole with the four small avocados, fresh cilantro, and red onion I had purchased at Pro’s Ranch Market last Thursday with the addition of four small cloves of garlic finely diced and some Cholulu hot sauce.
Then I went to pick up Mohan at the hotel and when I got home at around 7:15 Suzette said she had decided to cook the Salmon recipe from the California Wine Country Cookbook that she had included in her California Cuisine menu at the Greenhouse Bistro last year.    We found the recipe and while Mohan and I watched his beloved San Francisco 49ers play the Washington Redskins and ate corn chips, salsa and guacamole, Suzette made the recipe.  The only modifications Suzette made to the recipe were she did not remove the skins by plunging them into boiling water and, since the tomatoes were relatively small Roma tomatoes, she cooked them only about 30 minutes, which made them cooked but still tender.  Also, we substituted steamed cauliflower and string beans for the asparagus.


 

 
 The wonderful secret to this recipe is that when you use large filets of fatty salmon, such as  fatty farm raised salmon and fold the salmon into a medallion skin side out, it cooks the inside more slowly and you end up with a very delicate and tender center of the filet, which I find very delicious.  Also the fresh salmon gives off a very pleasing aroma as it sautés and its skin is crisp, so a special treat.  
 
We enjoyed the simplicity of the dish with its steamed vegetables.  Suzette liked the Sauvignon Blanc because it had pronounced citrus flavor overtones, but I thought it lacked the crispness of a good single vineyard raised Sancerre or good California Sauvignon Blanc.  If you look on the back label of the bottle you will see “Mis en bouteille pour”, which means to me that the wine is a monopole of different grapes from different vineyards that are processed and bottled together, which I think blurs the clarity and crispness that is more often found in a good single vineyard grown and produced Sauvignon Blanc, such as the Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc we drank last week ($10.99 Costco).  Sometimes the extra four dollars makes a world of difference.


For a healthy dessert we mixed the PPI pears poached in Moscato and the candied quince with a dash of cognac and served a spoonful of them over European yogurt.

At around 9:15 when the score was San Francisco 26 and Washington 6, we decided to call it a night and drove Mohan back to the hotel. 

Bon Appétit

Saturday, November 23, 2013

November 21, 2013 Fried Pasta, Book Club and Linzer Torte

November 21, 2013 Fried Pasta, Book Club and Linzer Torte

I was tied up in a negotiation from 10:30 to 5:15, and then ran to Lowe’s to pick up milk and some water biscuits and rice crackers for tonight’s Book club meeting at our house.   My selection for this month's club meeting was J. Michael Orenduff’s “The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier”.  Thank God, Suzette had gone to Costco to pick up some last minute items and was at home filling bowls and some of her larger Monkey Pod wood bowls with chips and candy well before I arrived.
When I arrived I immediately put the 1 kilo wheel of French Brie on a plate on the dining room table with the 2 lb. tub of Smoked Whitefish salad and began cutting and toasting slices of whole wheat baguette.  Suzette had also brought home a lovely Linzer Torte that her new baker had made for the party using raspberry jelly we had in our pantry.  It was really lovely with it traditional latticework crust and toasted almond slices.  Here is a picture of it.


 
We finally got the table set and Suzette said she was hungry, so she made a quick dinner by dicing some lobster mushroom and red bell pepper and sautéing those ingredients in a large skillet with butter and olive oil, some of her homemade pesto and PPI penne pasta.   I opened a bottle of chianti reserve and we had a quick meal.



At around 6:45 p.m. the first book club member, Rob Easterling, arrived and five more members arrived soon after.  We nibbled and drank Londer Vineyard’s 2009 Paraboll Anderson Valley Pinot Noir and New Mexico Gruet Blanc de Noir champagne.  My favorite snack was dipping Kirtland Sea Salt potato chips into the onion dip that Suzette made with 1 lb. of fresh sour cream she had bought at Costco and mixed with a packet of Lipton's Onion Soup; sometimes the oldies are still goodies.
 
We started the meeting around 7:10 by calling J. Michael Orenduff, who was kind enough to agree to do a Q&A about his career and books.  After we finished about 45 minutes of questions for Michael, we completed our meeting by giving our individual grades for the book and comments.  Then it was time to serve dessert, so Suzette made decaf coffee and I served coffee and slices of Linzer Torte.   
I explained to the group my connection to Michael Orenduff and discovery of his book, was indirectly through his wife Lai-Kent Chew Orenduff, who is a noted art historian and author in her own right, is Wayne Chew’s sister.   I discovered the book, which is dedicated to Wayne and Elaine Chew, when they gave me a copy of it as gift on my 60th birthday.   Also, I met Michael and Lai last summer at Wayne and Elaine’s home when they invited Suzette and me to dinner, while Michael and Lai were visiting them.     Michael and Lai live near Atlanta, where Lai is teaching art history.

There is also a connection between Londer Vineyards and Albuquerque.  The Londers used to live in Albuquerque where Larry was an eye doctor.   In fact, Charlie Palmer told the group that Larry had been his eye doctor.   Here is the short history of the Londers and their vineyard.  I first met Larry at a Symphony Wine tasting seven or eight years ago and we were so impressed with his pinot noir wines that Suzette and I have visited the winery many times and gone to the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival several times.
Londer Vineyards

Larry and Shirlee Londer left Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1999 and settled in the Anderson Valley to start a winery. A small 16-acre estate vineyard was planted (15 acres of Pinot Noir, 1 acre of Gewürztraminer), and the Londers set about sourcing grapes to produce Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir. Winemaker Greg La Follette got them started with their first releases in 2001, and Richard Davis, who worked with LaFollette for many years, has since taken over the winemaking duties.
The wines have received considerable accolades. The Pinot Noir lineup has varied but usually includes Anderson Valley, Corby Vineyard, Paraboll (a reserve), Ferrington Vineyard and Estate Grown.
In 2011, founders Larry and Shirlee Londer sold their home and estate vineyard in Anderson Valley, but continue to

manage the winery from their home in Colorado, and still source fruit from their former estate vineyard

Bon Appétit

November 20, 2013 My Brother’s Restaurant in Las Cruces, N.M.

November 20, 2013 My Brother’s Restaurant in Las Cruces, N.M.

I was in a nine hour hearing today, minus a 1½ hour break for lunch.  Sammie Singh, Scott and I drove to My Brother’s Restaurant for lunch, which is a local favorite.  Scott and Sammie both raved about the fajita’s and I saw that there was a fajita salad, so I ordered my, by now Las Cruces usual, Fajita Salad, with chicken fajitas.  Sammie ordered flat enchiladas and Scott ordered a large fajita platter with both chicken and beef fajitas.  My fajita salad was served with a scoop of freshly made guacamole and although I ordered raspberry vinaigrette and ranch dressing that I dressed the salad with, I mainly ate bites of guacamole and lettuce and tomatoes.  Sammie’s enchiladas looked great also. We each ordered  Bohemia's, which were on special for $3.00 on Wednesdays. 

 
 


After Court I drove back to Albuquerque in about 3 ½ hours.

Bon Appétit  

November 19, 2013 Las Cruces Radium Springs Hotel and ChaChi’s Mexican Restaurant

November 19, 2013 Las Cruces Radium Springs Hotel and ChaChi’s Mexican Restaurant

I drove to Las Cruces today so I could appear at the Lower Rio Grande Adjudication hearing at 9:00 in the morning.  Scott Boyd invited me to stay at the Radium Springs Hotel, which he is renovating for its new owner.  The Hotel dates back into the 1800’s and was originally a Harvey House stop on the railroad located next to a highly mineralized spring and the Rio Grande River, near Old Fort Selden, where the Buffalo Soldiers were stationed and right beside the Leasburg Diversion Dam, which is the subject of the litigation, so there is lots of history.   Here are some pictures.

 


 


 
After the workmen stopped working at 5:00 we drove them home and then to the small village of Dona Ana, which is a very old Spanish settlement about ten miles north of Las Cruces and to the newly opened Cha-Chi’s Mexican Restaurant at 505 Joe Gutierrez that is a second location.  Its parent restaurant is located at 2460 Locust in Las Cruces. 

 

I saw that brisket was one of the meat selections for tacos on the menu and Scott said it was good, so I ordered an Asada Salad with Romaine lettuce tomatoes, croutons and cheese and instead of Asada I asked for the brisket.

Scott ordered a N.Y. strip steak smothered in green sauce with refried beans.  Both of our dishes were great.  I ordered ranch dressing but I mostly use the sauce produced by the stewed roast beef as my flavoring for the lettuce.   The brisket is cooked for a long time until its fibers collapse and it becomes a slimy delicious mass of meat and sauce.   I nibbled a few forkfuls of Scott's refried beans and they were creamy and delicious. 

After dinner we returned to the Hotel and made a fire in the large fireplace and drank chianti reserva (Trader Joe’s $5.99).
Bon Appétit

 

November 22, 2013 Dinner –Outer Banks Clam Chowder

November 22, 2013 Dinner –Outer Banks Clam Chowder

I finally had a day free from litigation and negotiation.  After lunch I had a doctor’s appointment up on Wyoming at Academy.  My blood pressure was the lowest level it has been in recorded memory, perhaps due to my giving up chocolate and the abundance of sweet desserts I usually eat.  So I stopped at Nantucket Shoals for a 1 lb. bag of crawfish tails ($14.95), where I said hello to Nancy and then went next door to the Sprouts store at San Mateo and Academy to see what specials they had.  I was amazed to see that the Sprouts’ meat counter now is carrying mollusks: little neck clams and black mussels for $2.99/lb. and beautiful big Cherrystone Clams for $1.99/lb.  I bought six good sized cherrystone clams for $4.90 and about ¾ lb. of bulk Italian Sausage also on sale for $1.99/lb.  Then I went to the produce section and bought a white acorn squash ($.99/lb.) to try and some lovely fresh string beans ($1.50/lb.) and couple of jewel yams ($.48/lb.).
After Sprouts, I had to go to deliver a check for my home insurance renewal on West Central, so I decided to stop at Pro’s Ranch Market on my way to the insurance office, where I bought 4 small avocados (2 for $.99), large red delicious apples ($.69/lb.), a bunch of cilantro ($.33), a handful of bean sprouts to make Vietnamese soups, small Roma tomatoes ($.89/lb.), a 10 lb. bag of Navajo Farm potatoes ($.99), some bananas ($.57/lb.) and a head of celery ($.50).

When I got home,  I put the cherrystone clams in a bowl filled with ice cubes and water so they could stay fresh and filter and discharge some of their dirt.
Taunya Frank, our kitchen designer from Poulin Remodeling, came at 4:30 to go over possible designs for remodeling the kitchen.  When she left at 6:00 p.m. we decided to make clam chowder with the Cherrystone clams and Suzette knew exactly the recipe to use.  She grabbed her Williamsburg Cookbook and quickly found a recipe for Outer Banks Clam Chowder that called for 12 large clams. 

 Here is the recipe:

 
While Suzette steamed the clams open, I chopped up one large onion, about ¾ cup of celery, and 3 of the smaller fresh potatoes.
Then Suzette sautéed the ingredients in a large enameled Le Creuset casserole in 2 Tbsps. of butter and when softened, added the strained stock and cream and seasonings, while I diced the steamed clams. After adding the clams to casserole, voila, we had a casserole full of Outer Banks Clam Chowder.   

Since we had made a bucket of cream of carrot and ginger soup last Sunday, we ate a bowl of it and then watched a movie on T.V.  The carrot soup’s flavors had coalesced and tasted great.  But during the movie I could not resist the Clam Chowder and I sneaked off to the kitchen and heated up the chowder and ate three bowls of it. 
We are also cutting down on our wine consumption, so no wine with dinner although Suzette used some of the PPI Gruet Blanc de Noir champagne from last night's book club meeting instead of water in the Clam Chowder.
It is great to be back on my regular schedule of shopping, cooking and eating.

Bon Appétit

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November 17, 2013 Chanterelle, leek and salmon omelet Dinner Irish food at the Souder Grafs’

November 17, 2013 Chanterelle, leek and salmon omelet & Dinner - Irish Dinner at the SouderGrafs’

We enjoyed a leisurely morning and at around 9:30 began cooking breakfast.  We decided to make a mushroom and leek and salmon omelet.  We used the PPI teriyaki salmon, some of the fresh leeks we bought at Ta Lin last weekend and about ½ cup of the fresh chanterelle mushrooms I bought at Costco this last Thursday.
I cut up the chanterelles and Suzette tore about ½ cup of salmon into pieces and sliced about three Tbsps. of leek thinly and stirred four or five eggs.
I
 decided to try the Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc ($10.99 Costco) that I had bought at Costco on Thursday with the omelet and it was wonderful.  It was a warm sunny day and we enjoyed our meal in the garden and chatted for over an hour as we drank the bottle of wine with and after our omelet.

I was tired after having worked from 6:00 am until 8:00 am and could not work today so I dosed and read “The Pot Thief who loved Escoffier”.

Until about 3:00 and then rode the 15 mile southern loop past Rio Bravo and fields of Sand Hill cranes and Canada Geese.
 
I rested a bit more until 5:00 when I took shower and got dressed for our dinner party at the Souder Graf’s.  We took a bag with 4 Manger’s Apple Ciders and walked over to their house on Kit Carson.
When we arrived we were ushered into their lovely remodeled den with its two story high ceiling and seated on couches and served three different Irish cheeses and cocktails of Irish Jameson whiskey and Ginger Beer with a piece of crystalized ginger (Trader Joe’s).  I loved the drink and when it was time for a refill I asked to try an apple cider and Jameson and that was good also, although the flavors of the apple cider and the Jameson stood out a bit more (were not so well integrated).  Perhaps for the lack of the ginger.

While we were sitting drinking our cocktails and watching pictures the Jim and Diane took when they shepherded their younger daughter, Rachel, to Aberdeen, Scotland and took a side trip to Ireland including a visit to Willie in Dublin. Diane heated bowls of Irish stew half covered with puff pastry in the oven to make a sort of Irish beef pot pie.  She also prepped a fresh salad and in a few more bites of cheese on crackers, Suzette helped Diane place the bowls of hot Irish stew with their toasted crust on plates and we were ready to sit down to a table laid with stew, salad and a freshly baked loaf of Irish soda bread homemade by Diane.  This was a lovely meal.  I ate all of my stew which turned out to be too much because Diane had outdone herself by making a Bailey’s Cream ice box pie, using eggs, 3 Tbsp. of each of Bailey’s and Jameson’s whiskey, milk and cocoa, and a packet of gelatin and a bit of sugar as the filling for a graham cracker crust that was then frozen.
The pie was glorious.  I had a second piece because it was so unusual.  Diane made decaf coffee and it was delicious with the pie, but when I poured a bit of Bailey’s Irish Cream into my second cup of coffee, the Bailey’s flavor was too much creaminess for my taste. 

At around 9:30 we said goodnight and walked home under a clear sky with full moon and bright stars and planets beaming down on us.
Sorry for the lack of pictures of the meal. Suzette's camera is not transmitting its photos to my computer.

Bon Appétit   

November 16, 2013 Brunch – PPI Egg Foo Young

November 16, 2013 Brunch – PPI Egg Foo Young

Last night we made Salmon Stir Fried Rice with the PPI Fried Tofu and vegetables and Grilled Teriyaki Salmon.  We had a container of it left, so this morning I made one of my favorite dishes; Egg Foo Young.  I simply stir fried the salmon and fried rice mixture in a wok to heat it and then added two stirred egg whites to which I had added 1 Tbsp. of sweet soy sauce and 1 ½ tsp. of Chinese Rice Cooking Wine and poured that over the heated rice mixture

I let it cook a bit more than usual due to several things I was doing, so the edges actually darkened a bit more than I usually like, but that allowed the center of the mixture to stiffen a bit more than usual.  The difference between French Toast that is hard in the middle versus soft and a bit gooey in the middle.   I usually take it off the heat when the crust is a golden brown, so the middle is a bit softer.  Still this slightly over cooked one was very delicious, especially with the sliced green onion garnish.
 
 
We bought a bag with 8 steamed buns stuffed with BBQ pork at Ta Lin the other day for $5.99. I became hungry a bit around and 2:00 and since we were planning to go to the 3:15 showing of  “Blue is the Warmest Color” and I knew it was a three hour movie, I decided to try two of the Buns.  I cooked them by using the microwave alternative method of placing them on a plate and covering them with saran wrap and heating them at high heat for 2 minutes.

The method worked well but their skins were a bit tough.  I shall try the original method of steaming them over water in a steaming basket next time. 

I made a dipping sauce by stirring tamari soy sauce and a miniscule dab of Bea’s Chili Willie Chile sauce, which is a potent chili in oil.  

The Steamed Buns were delicious.  I stripped off their skins with my teeth, but ate them by dipping them in the hot sauce.  Then I really enjoyed the soft inner core of steamed bread and BBQ dipped in the hot sauce.

I enjoyed the actin in the movie, but we both had several issues with its plot. 

After the movie we discussed going out but finally decided to go home and eat some PPI lasagna.  It was better than before.  PPI’s can be great as they sit and the flavors integrate.  We drank PPI 4 Grape Blend Rosé.

We watched some football and went to bed early after a full day of activity.

Bon Appétit  

 

  

November 18, 2013 Cream of Carrot and Ginger Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

November 18, 2013 Cream of Carrot and Ginger Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

I thawed out two Brats thinking we cook them with some PPI penne pasta but when Suzette came home she said she wanted to eat the Carrot and Ginger Soup we made on Sunday with a grilled cheese sandwich filled with the Green Tomato Chutney we made on Saturday.
We had picked the last of the tomatoes on Saturday, November 8, 2013 and went to Ta Lin and bought fresh ginger.  On Sunday November 9th, we picked all of the rest of the carrots on the garden which ended up filling two plastic grocery sacks.  On Sunday, November 10th we cut up green tomatoes and onions and Suzette made Green Tomato Chutney. 

 

 
Yesterday, November 17th we spent the morning making carrot and ginger soup.  We removed the stalks and ends from the carrots and cleaned them. Then we sliced them into 1/4 inch thick slices and simmered them in chicken stock with chopped up celery, onions, lovage and chopped ginger for an hour or 1 ½ hours.  Suzette then added cream and blended the mixture into a rough puree. 

We ended up with several gallons each of carrot soup and green tomato chutney that we put in our fridge in the garage. 
I had forgotten about the soup and chutney until Monday night when Suzette arrived home around 6:30 and I finished with a client conference. 
So we brought in the two large stock pots full of soup and chutney and we heated the carrot soup.

Then I toasted four pieces of whole wheat bread (Pastian’s $.80/loaf day old) and sliced slices of Manchego cheese (Costco).  When Suzette said she liked to use two kinds of cheese, I fetched a small block of French Emmenthaler and handed it to her.  She then buttered the outside of each slice of bread and laid sliced cheese between the two insides and made a sandwich that she grilled in a large skillet until the two outsides were browned and toasted and the cheese inside had melted. 
We then filled bowls with carrot soup and Suzette spooned a small mound of chutney onto each plate and cut each sandwich into two halves and laid those on the plate.

I drank water and Suzette finished her Scotch with the Soup and Sandwich dinner.
We each opened our sandwiches and spooned some of the chutney into the middle of the melted cheese.  I must say it made a first rate Grilled Cheese Sandwich and I learned a new recipe. 

I apologize for a technical problem.  I am unable to transport pictures taken on Suzette's I-phone to this blog and since she took most of the pictures during the last few days the blog lacks pictures.

Bon Appétit