Quick side note: After reading the interesting comments on yesterday's steak tartare post, I remembered the first time I had raw ground beef, but it wasn't by choice. Scout Camp, 1988. I was eleven that summer. It rained for a solid week, and we all got used to sleeping in leaking tents, putting on wet clothes, and generally not being dry for days at a time. One night we had to cook over a campfire, and someone had chosen the old favorite we called "hobo dinners": ground beef and various vegetables folded up in a foil pouch and cooked for about an hour in glowing coals. They were pretty good when cooked right, but with a fire that just couldn't survive the torrent of rain, each young Scout ended up with the following on his plate: a third of a pound of raw beef, slightly gray around the edges, slices of raw onion, and slices of raw potato. On top of that, we got to eat it in the rain.
It is by far the most miserable meal I've ever had in my life, but like many such experiences, it builds character and trains you to be prepared for the worst.
For another odd story, I recently grabbed a bottle of the 2007 Stift Gœttweig Rosé Messwein from Austria. $15, 12% abv. I'd never had an Austrian rosé before, and thought it might be some obscure grape, but it's just Pinot Noir. Also, the language on the bottle was full of a lot of lingo that wasn't in my basic Wörterbuch back in high school.
When I got home, a quick Google search revealed that I'd purchased a bottle of communion wine (Messwein = mass wine) made by Benedictines at a mountain monastery. I checked with my friend the Monsignor before I opened it up. He assured me there were no penalties for a Protestant enjoying said wine since it hadn't been consecrated yet. With that, I gave it a pour and a taste. It's really light and mild, and completely dry. Delicate wild strawberry aromas and flavors, smooth and refreshing with a short finish. Perfect summer wine, though you'll want to pair it with milder fare. We enjoyed it with some light appetizers, and finished off the bottle with the heartier dish below.
That's a spinach and spring mix salad, topped with a vinaigrette and a luscious, 1.5 inch cube of pork belly. Not salted, not smoked, just raw pork belly that had been braised for around three hours. I adapted a recipe from Emeril that worked out pretty well. Pork belly is a glorious ingredient and it was the first time that most of the diners had a chance to try it in its virgin, non-bacon form. It's rich and you don't need to cook a lot of it, but fortunately it freezes well and the leftovers can be used for all sorts of applications in the future.