Monday, July 19, 2010

It was like being in the Mediterranean...

Though I have never been in that area known as the Mediterranean, I do have thoughts about it, what it would be like.... what it would feel like to be in Provence, or southern Italy, or Greece, or Lebanon, or Spain, or any of these warm to hot weather places where produce flourishes, where the fat of choice is always olive oil and the red meat of choice is always lamb, where the breeze smells of lavendar and the salty sea, and the sun brings out the bounty of ripe melons, tomatoes, fresh herbs, and wine grapes.

The people spend their time outside; they walk, they farm, they tend to their animals and their homes; they know each other and they live in a town that doesn't think about the stock market or the big corporations, but instead are interested in the goings on in the local area.

On Friday, when I took out my leg of lamb that I scored earlier in the week, and marinated it a paste of minced garlic, olive oil, fresh oregano and basil and rosemary, sea salt, black pepper, and Dijon mustard, I felt like I was doing what was done in the mediterranean - preparing a leg of beast so that it would not dry up and become tasteless on a hot outdoor grill.

Saturday came, and the weather turned up even hotter than Friday, and the idea to cook this piece of meat outdoors made even more logical sense. Who would heat up an already hot house by turning on the oven? We fired up the barbecue, then turned off the left burners and put the marinated leg on the "cool" side of the barbecue.

The barbecue lit up in flames (don't think it was supposed to do that). Perhaps I had been a bit liberal on the olive oil in my marinade - fat dripping onto even a turned off grill can fire up. We took the meat off, let the grill cool down a tad.

Finally, it was figured out, and the meat thermometer went into the meat, with the goal of taking it out when the temp hit 140 degrees for rare. Three hours later, the 8 pound leg looked completely awesome, but since I was hosting the dinner party and had other things to tend to (opening rose wines 2009 Chateau La Canorge from Luberon and 2009 Domaine Dragon from Provence, and the less glamorous but necessary task of getting people parking spaces), I neglected to take a picture of the whole leg when it was done.

Here was my dinner plate though:

On the upper left corner we have the bright yellow aioli, made and brought by our friends; going clockwise, the delicious beans, also brought by friends, then we have the luscious lamb; followed by purple potato & some tiny golden potatoes (done in foil also on the barbecue); grilled qucchini and yellow squash, brought by same friends who brought aioli, and some fresh salsa. Yum, and a great community meal, if I ever saw one!

Wines were also brought by above friends:

The always rare and super-special 2009 Domaine Tempier Rose, the amazing older wines of the southern and northern Rhone, cellared for just about 25 years: 1985 Vieux Telegraph Chateauneuf du Pape and 1985 Chave Hermitage. All terrific wines, especially the Chave Hermitage.... yum yum..... what other tasting notes do you really need? Prestige wines, all meeting & exceeding expectations.

A great evening of socializing was had by all. And that was the best part, getting people together, enjoying good food and wine. This is why I think the Mediterranean so-call "diet" works. Not omega-3 fatty acids or lycopenes in a pill, but the human's natural desire for socializing and destressing among fellow humans fulfilling the soul and the heart. And we achieved that one blistering Saturday evening in Southern California.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Heat Wave

Not much time to post today, but I wanted to make a quick comment about the recent arrival of summer to Southern California. This year has been one of the mildest ever, and the weather has been absolutely wonderful and kind in an unusual way in that June gloom lasted well into July. Cool, overcast weather is perfect for a gal like me who burns easily (even though I'm not a red-head or anything), who runs (running in heat is no fun), and drives wine around in a car (hot car = not nice for wine).

It has been such a cool summer that last week I even complained about being too cold when walking on the west side of LA, of needing a sweater in the middle of the day, and when I did a wine tasting outside on the evening of July 7, which, as I look on the calendar right now, I can see was only last Wednesday, I was absolutely freezing (between 7pm and 9pm).

But in the middle of the week this week, the marine layer lifted, and disappeared. Hot, hot weather made itself known, along with it the bright sunshine for which southern California is known. Many cheered the arrival of summer.

Though I'm not a fan of 90 degree temps, I have nothing to complain about. I have gotten off easy this year, so my running has benefitted. And, the hot weather arriving just this week is just in time for my fun dinner party tomorrow night, whose theme is southern Provencal type grilled whole leg of lamb with aioli, grilled vegetables, beans, Rose wine, and some red Rhone wines.

I'll be attempting my first leg of lamb, and it will be on a grill outside, and after posting this, I'll be going off to marinate it, smothering it with garlic, herbs, pepper, salt, olive oil, and maybe a touch of Dijon mustard.

Can't say I'm not excited........

Monday, July 12, 2010

One more month till vacation...

...and I cannot tell a lie - I'm looking forward to it! :)

Summer - it just makes you think vacation, doesn't it? Skool taught us that.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dinner at Petrossian

In celebration for a great work month in June 2010, where Rudipalooza was a roaring success, and I sold more German wine than I've ever sold in my life (which is a very nice feeling, I have to share!), we decided to go to Petrossian in Beverly Hills (or is it West Hollywood), a caviar purveyor that has in the past few years opened a restaurant. I read about this restaurant with interest in the blog Gastronomnom, where the pictures of the food are spectacular, and the cuisine seemed very interesting, so armed with a bottle of champagne that I bought from Manhattan Fine Wines, the 1999 Gosset, we went. (Normally I get my Champagne from The Wine Country, but I was at Manhattan Fine Wines last week and spotted this, so gave in to the temptation).

The surprising thing about the restaurant was that it was close to empty - on a Saturday night. 7:30 reservation - no problem. 3 tables total, including ours. The room was downright stark. Okay, it was the night before the 4th of July, which would make sense as a slow night, but still, it was a little surprising.

The room is beautiful, with clean lines, done in black and white, with splashes of color from the art on the walls. Very modern looking with fine details, like the tabletop done in a black with a texture of beads like caviar, which matches the menu covers.

We started off with the blinis topped with three types of fish eggs. Very tasty amuse-bouche type pre-appetizer, perfect for the Champagne:

I followed with foie gras salad, with was a very creamy, rich, and flavorful piece of cold foie gras sitting on a bed of diced crunchy haricots verts in a light creamy dressing with tons of truffles, so much that their flavor was too strong in the absence of the foie gras, overpowering the green beans.... but if you put on your fork some beans, truffles and foie, it was a terrific balance.

Johan had the steak tartare with a layer of caviar through the middle and on top, which was a delicious generous portion with tons of caviar. The meat was also very fresh and had great texture and flavor that balanced the salty richness of the fish eggs. I had this same dish as my main course after the foie gras salad.

Johan's main course was a specially ordered sweetbreads dish, which was rich and nicely done, served on a wild mushroom pasta. The portions at Petrossian were so generous that he couldn't even finish this pasta!

Overall we had a delicious meal, attentive service, and enjoyed relaxing ambiance. I liked the restaurant very much, and I liked bringing my own Champagne to the meal. All the food was well made and generous. We both agreed that we would come back.
We noticed the folks at the other two tables didn't order as many menu items as we did - they mostly ordered mounds of caviar to share! I liked what we got and thought the steak tartare with caviar was most unique, but Johan thought we might come back to indulge in caviar only some day. And if the mood struck, I'm sure this is the right place to come for that.
In all, it was a terrific way to celebrate the end of a great month and the beginning of a new one. Highly recommend!