I spent the Fourth of July Weekend near Nashville with the R family (last name truncated to protect the innocent). My buddy Paul grew up with the guys in this family, and we were invited up for the weekend. Part of the bargain was that if I cooked both nights, the family cellar would be open for whatever food was served. With a couple hundred well-aged bottles in wait, how could I say no?
The first night, I slow roasted a prime rib roast. Roughly 12 pounds, about two feet wide. It took me a good five hours just to get it rare, but it was worth it. Served with creamed mashed potatoes and fresh green beans.
We had cold slices of the beef for lunch Saturday (whole wheat bread, horseradish sauce and green leaf lettuce--awesome), and for dinner that night, I started out with a root vegetable soup. It was supposed to be vichyssoise, but I had a few more diners than expected, and it smelled and tasted too good to strain and chill. Essentially, the soup was good chicken stock with three sauteed leeks and some garlic cloves, five russet potatoes, a parsnip, and a good chunk of fresh ginger. After long simmering and immersion blending, I added two cups of cream. This was quite popular, even though I'd never cooked it before that evening.
For the first course, I grilled bacon-wrapped scallops, served with some asparagus and twists of lemon and lime. Jenny was kind enough to make a caprese salad with fresh sliced Ripley tomatoes, garden fresh basil, and some good fresh mozzarella. Yes, it was indeed fresh and delicious.
The main course was roast pork tenderloin, cooked medium rare with just some cracked black pepper and homegrown oregano on top. Some diners were hesitant at the pink middle, but I showed the digital probe thermometer and everyone soon pronounced it the most tender and flavorful pork they'd ever had. On the side, I made some roast acorn squash with butter and sorghum, and as a sauce for the pork (served sliced in medallions), I mixed bourbon, Dijon mustard, and some homemade peach jelly from the Farmer's Market. (That combo is rapidly becoming one of my favorite sauces for grilled pork or lamb.)
But what, you may ask, about the alcohol? I'm getting there... Like I said, it was a long weekend, and I had access to a veritable treasure trove of fermented beverages. So I'm going to be mean and save the wine for last. None of this is in chronological order, or any other order for that matter, but I'm going to group them roughly by categories.
First, I'll start with the cigar. The gentlemen present gathered after dinner on Friday for cigars and fortified beverages. Paul wanted to buy the cigars, so I recommended the Romeo y Julieta Bully, a maduro hand-rolled cigar made from an Indoesian wrapper and Dominican filler. I'm not a cigar expert, but I know what I like: a short, thick, full-flavored cigar. I only smoke a few a year, but when I do, I like it to taste and smell good, and at the same time, I don't want to spend two hours smoking it. Just writing about it makes me crave another one... My precioussssssss...
Next, the beers. For lunch with the cold roast beef sandwich, I grabbed a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, an old favorite from the company that helped start the microbrewery revolution over two decades ago. Crisp, slightly bitter, and great served cold. Late both evenings, to top things off, we sampled the Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter, which I reviewed back in May. Deep, flavorful, complex, and excellent at room temperature, served in a wine glass or brandy snifter.
Thirdly, the liquor. I brought along a bottle of the 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Bourbon, an eight-year old Bourbon in an attractive bottle with a natural wood/cork stopper and a ring of burlap around the neck. Smooth with classic Bourbon aromas and flavors, and a clean finish. I sipped on this while cooking for much of the weekend. Also very affordable--$20 here in Memphis for a 750 mL bottle.
The only bad liquor I had all weekend was some Courvoisier Napoleon. It smelled like decent Cognac, but tasted like cheap brandy. Strong burning sensation on the way down.
A nice treat: brother Dave had a bottle of Nicaraguan rum. I'm a rum fanatic, and I loved this stuff. As near as I can tell from the native label vs. the website, we were drinking the Ron Flor de Caña 5 Year Old Black Label. It had a delicious sugarcane flavor, but was lightly spiced like cake. Smooth and delicious.
Dave also had a bottle of Grasovka vodka from Poland. It's flavored from buffalo grass. Now, I'm not a vodka fan. I don't mind drinking it, but I prefer something with more flavor. But this was awesome. The bottle actually has a stalk of buffalo grass in it. The flavor is creamy and grainy with light grassy elements. Vanilla hints top off the aroma. Strangely tasty, and I'm really glad I got to try this. Not sure of its availability outside of Europe.
Finally, the absinthe. Tom brought back two bottles of absinthe from Europe, one green, one red. To skirt past customs, he peeled off the labels and attached handwritten ones bearing the titles "Apfel Schnapps" and "Kirsch Wasser". We prepared it in the traditional French manner, five parts cold water poured over a sugar cube into one part absinthe. We only tried the green absinthe. The first couple of sips were fun--strong anise flavor, very bitter. With all the water, it's not that strong in terms of alcohol. As it warmed, it didn't taste as good. I also tried it with more sugar (too sweet) and straight (pretty goddamned strong). I can't say that I'll be drinking it again anytime soon, but I'm definitely glad for the opportunity to try it. And none of us became great artists or went crazy after drinking it.
On to the Ports! We enjoyed the old standby Yalumba's Galway Pipe. This is affordable, tasty, and classy. Available everywhere, mostly 12-14 years old, and fantastic. We all loved this tawny Port, until...
Mike grabbed two bottles of the Penfolds Grandfather Fine Old Liqueur Tawny. It pours sort of a ruby color but the flavor is pure tawny, blended in part from Ports that are 30-40 years old. Great raisin flavors, and very smooth. Made from Shiraz and Mourvèdre. Nice side note: it is plugged with a natural cork (and the top is sealed in wax), but the box also comes with a separate cork-based stopper for plugging the bottle after the initial opening. Friendly touch there. Runs around $70, and we mostly killed a bottle on the second night.
And the wines? But what about the wines? Please, for the love of God, write about the wines! And I will... Sometime Friday.