Paul and I hit the road this past weekend to venture up to Middle Tennessee for a visit with the R family. Faithful readers may recall our visit last year (posts here and here). The standing rib roast was a big hit last year, and my presence was requested for a repeat performance. So I arrived at one in the afternoon, threw it in the oven, turned it up to 200° and didn't do anything to it for five hours. Though I did get a little busier with other dishes before dinner started... After sampling the 1996 Müller-Catoir Muskateller trocken, of course. Lemony acidity with a dominant aroma and flavor of green apples. Full bodied and great for afternoon sipping.
I wanted to start with a soup course based on the duck stock that I made and froze a couple of months ago. Many of my soups over the past years have been of the "cream of x" formula, generally a stock paired with a main vegetable and seasonings which was then blended with cream before serving. I felt like something lighter was in order.
Starting with the duck stock, I sautéed three sliced leeks and tossed them in the pot. Later I soaked two ounces of dried mushrooms (a combination of morels, lobster mushrooms, woodears, and several others). These were chopped and added to the soup with some of the steeping liquid. About a third of a bottle of wine (2000 Bott Geyl Alsace), a nice bouquet garni of leek leaves surrounding my homegrown thyme, rosemary, oregano, and lavender, and I let the whole thing simmer for about an hour. The result was rich, complex, and savory, but certainly light on the stomach. For the wine, the R brothers picked out the 2005 Uniqato Rosé, a Bulgarian wine made from the Melnik grape. Dave had grabbed this for me a year ago and it had taken a long journey into my glass. The Uniqato was nicely dry, medium fruit, and a smoky aftertaste. For my first introduction into Eastern European varieties, it was a delicious and mysterious bottle.
Next up was a little surprise: frisée aux lardons. This French salad is more of a lunch entree dish, but it made for an excellent second course. I started with spiky, peppery, slightly bitter frisée (or curly endive). Then I added some crisped up cubes of pork belly (blanched first to remove some salt). A dash of fresh vinaigrette, and topped with a poached egg and some cracked black pepper. The photo shows my staging area before serving, and I briefly explained how to eat the dish: pierce the yolk first so that it runs down through the greens and mixes with the vinaigrette. Some felt it was a little odd at first, but afterwards there were lots of perfectly cleaned plates and loving comments the next day. The R brothers picked out the 2002 Thomas Fogarty Gewürztraminer from Monterey, California. Apple and pear flavors, mellow and dry with a smooth finish. A really amazing combination with the salad.
The final course was the aforementioned ribeye roast. I brought out my demi-glace for topping the beef. For sides, I cooked up some crookneck squash and zucchini in the same unwashed skillet that had held the leeks and pork belly. Ann (mother of the R family and gracious hostess for the weekend) provided a crisp vinegar-based slaw of cabbage and green pepper. This provided a spicy kick to the beef that was even better than horseradish. The beef was even better than last year, and much late night snacking was had with the leftovers.
For the wines, the brothers descended once again into the family cellar and produced three bottles of exquisite quality. First up was the 1995 Bernardus Marinus Carmel Valley Red Wine, a California claret blend. This was one of my favorites of the weekend, though I thought it had much more Petite Verdot in it: lots of hearty blackberry and violet aromas, great classic claret profile and gracious aging. Next up was the 2001 Мавруд (Mavrud), made from the grape of the same name in Bulgaria. Want more information? The label also says Червено Вино and Златен Ритон. Вино means wine, but beyond that you can translate the rest on your own. I can read Cyrillic but don't know any Bulgarian. Regardless, this is an unusual and savory wine that is begging for some wild game, like boar or venison. Last we had the 1995 Chateau La Louvière, a great Bordeaux with firm aromas of green bell pepper, tomato leaves, and green tobacco. Smooth and deliciously aged. All three reds were decanted for a couple of hours before consumption.
For dessert, I'd left matters to the hosts... Ann made cream puffs filled with custard and topped with chocolate. Frozen custard from a nice mom & pop establishment was available, and after dinner the gentlemen retired to the back porch for Port (Rosemount Old Benson and Penfolds Grandfather), Scotch (The Balvenie 12 Year Doublewood and Glengoyne), as well as Romeo y Julieta Bully cigars. The final nightcap came in the form of Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout.
More details on the second night of festivities will follow... Stay tuned!