Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Food: Mexican: Tamales: Butternut Squash

For purposes of indexing, I've described these tamalaes as Mexican. They are also thoroughly east bay - stuffed with a mixture of butternut squash, nopales, poblano chile, and jack cheese. We also used banana leaves as the wrapper - I'd seen them used first on Iron Chef America, and then eaten pork tamales prepared that way at Tamarindo Antojeria.

The recipe we used called for a couple of steps that I probably would have approached differently, if left to my own gringo devices. Rather than placing enough masa on the leaf or husk to completely surround the filling, the recipe recommended packing additional masa directly on top of the filling. Apaprently tamales should also be steamed in the full upright position, using balled-up tin foil if necessary to keep them that way.

We served these with an avocado based sauce of my own devising.

Editor's note (08 December 2005): It has been brought to my attention that I failed to attribute the vision for these tamales to my lovely and talented wife. I assert that this was an innocent oversight, rather than --say-- base blackguardism, an oversight which I am happy to correct.

Cheese: Roaring 40's Blue

According to the information packed write-up over at Gary Danko:
cow/ blue cheese/ pasteurized - wax sealed to preserve the moisture content and to also limit the development of the blueing. This most popular cheese begins on the Island of Tasmania (Australia) where the diverse plant life offers up flavor unlike anything else in the world. It's name is derived from the 40th parallel that relies upon a wind pattern strong enough to give sailing ships a boost, but not so hard that shipwrecks result...
We first came across this cheese at A.O.C., down in Los Angeles. I could go on at considerable length about that particular meal, but suffice to say the Roaring 40's, was the standout on a first-rate cheese plate.

Assertively sweet, creamy, and densely flavorful. Our local favorite the Point Reyes Blue is austere by comparison.

Hadn't seen it anywhere in the bay area, until a couple of weeks ago when it turned up at Market Hall. Their "blue-haired cheese lady" indicated that it wasn't hard to get, but that they did have to remember to order it. She expects them to have it through the end of the year.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Cake: Cranberry Up-side Down

The division of culinary labor in our house falls roughly along the divide between sweet and savory. Such distinctions and their nuances are loaded topics in a house occupied by an academic concerned with feminist issues who winds up chopping a lot of vegetables and a recovering academic who likes to think of themselves as somewhat enlightened.

All that aside though, one of the desserts I genuinely look forward to eating is this Cranberry Up-side down cake - we brought this one to Thanksgiving dinner.

My wife makes the cake according to a Marion Cunningham recipe, with two distinct nods to contemporary taste: less sugar, more cranberries.The cake is baked in an old MagnaLite skillet I've had since college.

Scrupulous and fruitless googling for this recipe lead me to suspect that ours is an adaptation of the ubiquitous M.Cunningham pineapple version.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Wine: Languedoc: 2003 Coteaux du Languedoc Rouge - Château de Lascaux

This was another bottle I picked up the day before we moved into our new digs. As it's a "value of the month" ($12.50/bottle), and given my consumptive proclivities, the Château de Lascaux may seem an unlikely choice for me and a special occasion...

I was introduced to it at the first wedding I attended with my wife. Before settling on it, the bride and groom had conducted a tasting at Kermit Lynch. We weren't rolling quite that high when our wedding came 'round, but we capitalized on their initiative and served it all the same.

The wine has more structure and better mouth feel than the price would suggest, and is cranky in the way that we like: tannic and funky, all sorts of dark tastes. Good company for a mid-week meal, though I can't recall what we served it alongside.

Wine: Champagne: J.Lassalle Rosé

I was dispatched to Kermit Lynch the day before we moved into our new house. This was ostensibly a trip to pick up boxes from a friend who works there. In addition to the boxes, I managed to come home with two persuasively recommended champagnes — the 2001 J.Lassalle Rosé and the 1998 Paul Bara Spécial Club.

We drank the J.Lassalle first, serving it with some house cured salmon from Market Hall. Despite the recommendation, I was unprepared for just how much we enjoyed this wine. Here's the Kermit write-up:
Lassalle’s Champagne Rosé is very pale in color with strawberry and raspberry perfume in the subtle bouquet. No, it doesn’t shout, and red wine was not added to color it. It grows on you—a connoisseur’s rosé, and it is bone dry!
Agreed on all counts, especially how dry it was. It is also worth pointing out that the color of the wine was more copper than pink and that the bubbles had an incredibly fine bead.

If you're planning on buying some bubbly from Kermit, November is apparently the time — 11th month discounts abound in their current newsletter (PDF Format).

Fruit: Apples: Sundowner

I saw these for the first time at the Grand Lake Farmers' Market this past weekend. They may have shown up earlier though, it's been a week or two since I've made it down there.

This apple was not particularly flavorful, but it had classic apple aromatics —as opposed to the floral qualities of the Pink Lady aromatics— and a clean tart taste. The red and white lenticles seen here are considered typical of the variety.

According to the Brandt's Fruit Trees website, the Sundowner (also known by the varietal name Cripps Red) is a product of the Western Australian Department of Agriculture Breeding Program. Like the Pink Lady, developed in the same program, it is a cross between Lady Williams and Golden Delicious apples.

Of particular interest to me, was the note about how late the fruit comes to maturity. In fact, in the Pacific Northwest it can't be brought to maturity.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Been a while

Haven't had much time to post these past two weeks, my wife and I having consumed that most precious of bay area consumptibles - a house. So, I'm sneaking this post in while at work (more on that later).

This didn't prevent us from heading up to Dry Creek Valley a couple of Saturdays ago; the fence posts along the driveway up to Rafanelli each topped with a pumpkin. Availability at Rafanelli is down to 3 bottles of merlot per person ($27.00 per bottle), 1 bottle of zinfandel ($32.00 per bottle), and a bottle each of two Hillside Terrace Select cabernets (100.00 per bottle).

Pickings were slim at Ridge too. York Creek Petite Sirah is gone for good - the folks who supplied these grapes to Ridge will be using them in their own cabernet. I had a bottle from 1998 a few months back - one of the more memorable bottles I had this year. But maybe I just dig on fumes and char. I picked up the Jimsomare you see below (that's Iron Chef America on the TV btw) and a few odds & ends.

Work though. It's been busy enough that I've had to eat lunch on campus a few times recently. To give you some idea, I type between bites of 'Lamb & Argentinian Style Potatoes'. The the hash-slinger behind the counter at our cafeteria asked if I wanted,"the sauce on it." When I asked what kind of sauce the lamb came with he said,"a lamb-based sauce."