08 September 2008

John's 30th Birthday

Good Lord, I'm getting old.

On August 29th, my younger brother John turned 30. For his birthday dinner, he asked me to do the cooking, and I was more than happy to oblige. While we fought a lot as kids, I have to give the boy credit for putting up with my high school experimental cooking phase. I'd check a cookbook out from the library and make as many things as I could from it during the three-week period. When the cookbook was Italian or Southwest or French, the food was usually edible. When I held on to the British cookbook with the tenacity of a barnacle, the food was awful.

Not only did John serve as a test subject for my homemade electroshock device, he was also the guinea pig for what were truly the worst years of my culinary self-education, and the fact that he has forgiven me enough to let me cook for important events such as his pre-wedding Bachelor Dinner is a high honor indeed.

For the first course, I had a little fun with the dish. I got a nice corvina filet from the grocery store. It was about as long as my arm and weighed in at 2.5 lbs. I sliced it up in roughly 4 oz. portions and hit them with Old Bay and sea salt to rest in the fridge.

The corvina was pan fried in olive oil and finished in the oven. Including myself I was feeding nine people, so you're just seeing the first four plates. I prepped a pile of fresh arugula with a light olive oil and tarragon vinegar dressing, a hemispherical mound of sundried-tomato couscous (prepared by my young niece!), and rested the corvina on the greens with a final touch of roasted yellow pepper sauce. My plate painting isn't great, but will get better with practice.

The wine served with the Corvina was a Kim Crawford New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, with great grassy/grapefruit flavors. John had it waiting in his fridge, and this style has been a long favorite of mine for pairing with seafood. Several people present were having couscous for the first time, and the presentation was a bit nouvelle cuisine, but at the end I had a stack of clean plates and folks hungry for the next course.

In my continuing evangelism for dry rosé, I brought along a bottle of Angove's Rosé from South Australia. $12, 12.5% abv. 70% Grenache and 30% Shiraz. I only had a sip or two--it was delicious but I don't have any notes on it. Fortunately the rest of the group got to really enjoy it.

I don't have any photos of the second course, because it's one that I've done several times. In anticipation of the dinner, John purchased a nine pound boneless ribeye roast and dry-aged it in his refrigerator for eight days. This preparation is damned near biblical. I hit it with some salt and pepper and slow roasted it, serving it with a light pasta salad and a mayonnaise-based horseradish sauce.

In his role as patriarch, Dad provided two excellent red wines for the beef course. One was the 2005 Coppola Merlot. It had elements of cinnamon, spice, and bacon fat. One of those great meaty, manly wines. I've found this to be a reliable performer on wine-by-the-glass menus around the country. The second was a new one for me, the 2004 Red Dirt Cabernet Sauvignon. I couldn't find any online information about this specific wine, but it had elements of cherry, chocolate, and leather. Both were great performers for the second course, and it was fun to switch back and forth between the two.

Mom and Dad provided dessert as well, and we all had a great time. The post-dinner conversation stretched well into the evening as I sat back, satisfied that everyone had a great time.

Happy birthday, little brother.

4 comments:

Gerald said...

I have to admit that I struggle with food and wine in the sense of choosing what wine is best for a certain type of food. I'm a big fan of wine but to get the full potential and compliment the food I am eating, is another story.
I shop online for my wines, at a recommended place called Majestic Wines and even though their range is absolutely superb and varied, a food and wine guide would be helpful.

John said...

Thanks for preparing a wonderful dinner. Everyone had a great time, and I am lucky to have you as a brother. Suffering through some of your childhood culinary experiments was more than worth it. One of these days you will have to tell the story of the port jello.

Allen said...

Grand evening and as your father, a proud day indeed. Happy Birthday John and Ben, to you on your 32nd.

The Ole Man

Big Mike said...

Ben,

I heard about this one from the old man, said you out did yourself for sure. Hard to believe you and John are this old. You know I will always remember ya'll as the little guys!! Not so much anymore. Well damn proud to know you and your family my friend. And please tell the Port Jelly story!!!
Later

Big Mike