17 September 2007

Birthday Weekend

I turned 31 on Thursday and had a four day weekend of rest, relaxation, and good eating. Friday night The Girlfriend and I had dinner with my parents at River Oaks. The meal was amazing, including the best oysters I've ever had in my life (topped with a watermelon salsa of all things). Dad ordered a bottle of the 2002 Peter Lehmann Cabernet Sauvignon from the Barossa Valley of Australia. As the main courses arrived, I ordered the
2003 Heller Dancer Meritage
(a personal favorite) from the Carmel Valley of California. The Girlfriend was kind enough to pick up the tab on that second one, and both wines were enjoyed by all. Chicken and red snapper and duck breast and scallops... the food and service were spectacular. The charcuterie plate we had to start out with was quite nice, with a delightful assortment of cheeses and sausages.

Saturday night I had a small, informal gathering over at Paul's place while I was housesitting. Starting off, a little salad of baby greens including peppery watercress and a few sprigs of dill, sliced eggs, a disc of goat cheese, and a baguette crouton, topped with a homemade vinaigrette.

I paired it with the 2005 Yard Dog White from Australia, $12. Grass and lemon aromas, tart acidity with a splash of sweetness and a slight flavor of golden raisins. It's made up of 77% Chardonnay, 14% Semillon, and 9% Gewürztraminer. And in case you're wondering, yes, that's a chihuahua-like dog wearing an E-collar on the label so he can't chew out his stitches.

Next up I roasted some chicken thighs and made a savory French onion soup with mushrooms and homemade stock. I decided to keep the soup thick and full of onions and mushrooms and rest the chicken on top, with a healthy sprinkling of shredded Kaltbach cheese.

This was an idea that came to me earlier in the day. I'd been craving French onion soup but wanted to try something different. And I've found that a lot of my braised chicken has tasted better when served in a pool of the braising liquids, so why not try a combination of the two? It took a bit of dissection at the table but no one present seemed to find it difficult or cumbersome. My standing rule at dinner is "Tell me if you don't like it, and I won't make it again or I'll work to improve it". Fortunately for my friends I rarely spring my more adventuresome experiments on them.

Veggies were served on the side but turned out to be a favorite part of the evening. Pictured here are green and yellow beans, a slice of golden beet, and half a roasted plum (with just a bit of brown sugar and Bourbon). The beans were great but many were surprised by the golden beets (get 'em at Wild Oats while they last). The flavor is somewhere between a beet and a sweet potato, and managed to convert a few that weren't overly fond of beets to begin with. And the plums were a big hit and served as the closest thing to dessert (again, I'm not a sweets person).

For the chicken and veggies I poured the 2005 Phélan Ségur Bordeaux Rosé, $15. (Sadly, there's no info on that website about the wine, much less elsewhere on the web.) No idea about the grapes but Bordeaux's rosé production is only 3% of their total annual output, and while there's plenty of search engine hits on the topic, I've only seen a couple of Bordeaux pinks and I'm someone that actively searches for dry rosés. This one had strawberry and watermelon rind aromas with a touch of watermelon Jolly Rancher flavor. A bit of acid, a touch of ash, overall well balanced and delicious.

It was a great dinner and a good opportunity to hang out with my brother, The Roommate, The Girlfriend, and Paul's better half Grace. Paul came home the next day and was able to take advantage of the leftovers, so he wasn't completely left out of the festivities.


Big Mike said...

Happy Birthday my friend!!!! Sounds like a blast for sure. I love River Oaks.

Grace said...

I realized what a crappy friend I am. I never really told you happy birthday. Thank you for such a wonderful dinner (and the back rub). You really are a wonderful friend. I owe you something nice, you know like a pasta express, real soon.