Just about a year ago, Joe took me to Vin Rouge for Beaujolais release night. It was my first time there, and we had an absolutely wonderful evening. A few days ago, I got an email from Michael, the restaurant’s sommelier, reminding me that the next Beaujolais release night is coming up next Thursday, November 20th.
Vin Rouge will be serving a Beaujolais nouveau, as well as an old-vines Beaujolais, both from Pierre Chermette. I’m looking forward to a long evening of good drinking and eating, to celebrate both the release of the wine and the one-year anniversary of my Joe-assisted discovery of this wonderful restaurant. I’ll be there with Joe, DurmOnion and our friend A, perhaps a couple of other folks will join up. I hope to see you readers there!
Haven’t written much recently, as school and other stuff has been keeping me really busy. Looking through my camera’s CF card, though, I found a bunch of nice pictures. Here they are, plus a great recipe from last night…
Mold-ripened goat cheese, smoked mozzarella and farmer’s cheese, plus eggs
Sauteed Japanese eggplants with scallions and balsamic vinegar
Pancetta and Broccoli (for pasta, see recipe below)
(click on the pictures for larger versions)
We’ve been growing Broccoli for a few weeks. Yesterday, I harvested three heads and made this wonderfully simple, yet incredibly flavorful dish:
Pasta with Pancetta and Broccoli
- 1 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 6oz pacetta slices, coarsely chopped
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- a couple of handfuls of pine nuts
- 3 scallions, sliced
- 10 oz broccoli, cut into pieces as in the picture above
Boil a pot of salted water for the pasta.
Heat olive oil with butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Crush garlic cloves into the the pan. Add pancetta and cook slowly, stirring occasionally for 10min.
Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to directions. Either steam or blanch the broccoli until just tender.
While the pasta and broccoli are cooking, add the pine nuts and scallions to the skillet and cook, continuing to stir occasionally. When the broccoli is ready, add it to the skillet, turn the heat up to medium-high and continue to cook until pasta is ready.
Serve over pasta and grate some parmesan on top.
It’s Duke Parents’ Weekend. DO and I went to Vin Rouge last night to discover that due to this momentous event, they have a special weekend prix fixe menu. We sat at the bar and tucked in…
DO’s appetizer was fabulous – a goat cheese and potato souffle, served on top of beets. I got tastes of the various elements, and aside from my love of anything to do with beets, found the souffle light and full of textural delight and and marvelous flavor. I had the sweetbreads, served crispy this time, on a bed of lentils with pearl onions, mushrooms, chunks of bacon and a delicious broth. If you’re into sweetbreads (you should be!), VR’s renditions are always excellent.
For our main courses, we had the snapper served on potatoes with a brown butter and caper sauce, and the macaroni au gratin (mac and cheese). The snapper was just superb, and I couldn’t get enough of the buttery tart goodness of the sauce – smooth and rich, it will not soon be forgotten…
The mac and cheese was huge, and we have a lot left over for lunch or dinner tomorrow. It was good, but not standout.
We also got to try a bit of the boeuf bourguignon, with melt-in-your-mouth beef, accompanied by yet more chunks of bacon. Described by DO as an ‘orgasm in her mouth’!
We finished up with chocolate moose and apple bread pudding, and I had a glass of Banyuls, which is a little lighter than port, but along the same lines.
Anyway, if you’re in town for the weekend and looking for somewhere to have dinner tonight, I’d strongly recommend heading over to VR. Great food, and we had a lot of fun sitting at the bar.
Long time no post. Sorry, it’s been a really busy couple of weeks. We had a really excellent meal at Lantern in Chapel Hill the other night. More on that later, but for now, here’s all you need to know ’bout barbecue:
DO and I brought our first jar of the watermelon rind pickles to potluck last night. I opened it, DO sampled, and said they met her approval
I sampled a few as well. They are sweet and crunchy, as expected. The taste of cloves is pretty dominant, with ginger showing up next and the other spices close behind. It’s certainly an unusual taste – or rather, an unusual taste-texture combination. One expects these spices in a spice cake, not in a pickle! I enjoyed both the flavor and the oddness. As was pointed out by our friend C, they would go great sliced on a salad with a nice vinaigrette (that a really oddly-spelled word). I think some soft goat cheese would be a lovely addition to set salad. DO’s family eats them at Christmas with turkey. I think I’ll do the same this Thanksgiving.
The only real change I would make if I made these again would be to cut the amount of cloves by half. I thought it was quite a lot in the first place, but wanted to stick to DO’s family recipe. A little less next time.
Overall, I’d make them again, and will use them again soon. Give them a try – they’re fun!
In this month’s issue, Gourmet highlights both Phoebe Lawless’s CSP (Community-Supported Pies) program, and Chapel Hill’s Lantern. They’ve mentioned Lantern before, but this time they give piles of recipes from Andrea Reusing’s table. The entire treatment is far better than Bon Appetit’s article…
It’s not online yet, but I’ll come back and give an update when it is.
Photo by Natalie Ross
After a week (or more!) of not writing, and a few days server downtime – our host server had a big disk crash, thankfully we got all the data back – we’re back!
I’ve made a variety of things in the last couple of weeks, including a gallon of pork stock that’s slowly cooling right now, filling the house with a lovely meaty smell – the smell of the anticipation of soup, if you like
However, what I wanted to talk about was our dinner at Watts Grocery a couple of weeks back. We were four, so had the opportunity to sample quite a bit of the new fall menu.
To start, I ordered the cornmeal crusted sweetbreads, which were great, though not as crunchy on the outside as I’d expected. The sweetbreads were soft and had just a touch of toothiness. If you’ve never tried sweetbreads before, this would be a good dish to start with.
DO had the roasted beet salad with goat cheese. I got to try a bite and found it delightful. I love beets in pretty much any form, and the soft goat cheese provided a complete melt-in-your-mouth experience of beet and cheese fun. Good stuff. Our friend S had the deviled ham, which I’d tried before at a beer dinner and very much enjoyed.
The highlight of the appetizers was A’s choice of smoked duck breast. I should have gotten it myself. Glen Lozuke’s smoked meats are just incredible, and this was no exception. The smoke wasn’t too heavy, and allowed the deep flavor of the duck to shine through, yet it was very much there – a sweet smoky, ducky flavor well complemented by the fig compote that came with the dish. Absolutely gorgeous stuff – I could plates and plates of it until I was groaning and unable to move. Unfortunately, I only got a bite. More next time, lots more!
For my main course, I had the gumbo. Honestly, this was a little on the underwhelming side. The best gumbo I’ve ever had was on a random road somewhere outside New Orleans in a small roadside shack late at night. This rendition didn’t stand up – it just didn’t have the explosion of flavors that I remember. It wasn’t bad, just lacked punch.
On the other hand, A and DO both had the pepper-crusted tuna, which was really excellent. If you order tuna, please get it at most medium-rare – the flavor and texture of the almost-raw fish is fantastic. Again, I only got a bite, but it was a wonderful little mouth-filler.
We were already quite full, but had to have some dessert, of course. DO had the sweet potato bundt cake, but for the first time during the meal, I felt like I’d made the best choice of dish. I’d ordered the pear butter cake with pears poached in red wine. The cake came in an individual serving, so every bite contained both crunchy crust and soft warm cakey interior. The texture worked perfectly with the tender poached pears. Sweet, but not overly so, this was a great end to the meal.
By the way, I should mention that Watts now has a variety of single-malt scotches and bourbons as post-dinner drinks. For those who really want to leave the place drunk, you can get a flight of three of either…yum
I just got an email (from a reader, I believe) telling me about an article in Bon Appetit this month about our area. For once, the article only a little patronizing…
As usual for out-of-towners, first real restaurant they mention is Crook’s Corner (I’ll ignore the mention of food at Parker and Otis…). Yes, ok, Bill Neal did put Southern cuisine on the map, but the place is long-past its glory days. At least Magnolia Grill is mentioned next, and Piedmont gets raved about. The article also gets bonus points for mentioning two of my favorites, Allen and Son and La Vaquita, as the best places for bbq and tacos respectively. I agree.
We do have a very vibrant food culture in the area, as evidenced by the sheer number of excellent restaurants, farmer’s markets, small farms and food blogs. This little snapshot of the area is all well and good, but seriously, why describe Alice Waters of Bluebird Meadows as “a local product with appealing girl-next-door looks”?!?!?
There is always an air of surprise among those who show up in our area from NYC and other major foodie areas at the diversity and quality of our food, and the serious interest in good food shown around here. I really don’t know why. So many people have written about food in the Southeast, and especially around here that it shouldn’t be so damn astounding to find that we too can keep up and excel. It’s not at all surprising: we have pretty clean air, enormous quantities of fertile land and a hell of a lot of wonderful people farming that land. They don’t have that in NYC. Add to that the relatively low cost of living and so many other factors, and it’s easy to see why this place is just fantastic for food lovers.
I love living here, I love writing about food here. I just wish the whole ‘how amazing’ attitude would finally die out.
A long time ago, an early reader of this blog kindly gave me an old smoker of his. I didn’t get round to using it and it rusted quite badly. I’m going to get it fixed, but I finally decided to try smoking stuff anyway…
I’ve had a rack of ribs sitting in the freezer for a couple of weeks, so I took it out. I made a rub with lots of paprika and chili powder, some tumeric, garlic salt, sugar, cocoa powder, black pepper. I used my pestle and morter to crush a couple of dried smoked chipotles (without seeds) and threw those in for good measure. I then rubbed the ribs and returned them to the fridge for 5 or so hours.
I filled a starter chimney with hardwood charcoal and got that going. I took a bunch of hickory chips, soaked them in apple cider vinegar and water for about an hour. When the coals were ready, I put half in each side of my Weber grill, added a drip pan coated with aluminum foil in the middle, and threw the hickory chips on.
I put the ribs in a rib rack and put the whole shebang in the middle of the grill. I needed to regulate temperature, so I opened the holes at the top of the grill slightly and stuck in a candy thermometer. Initially, the temperature was far too high (near 350F), so I closed the holes as far as I could with the thermometer still in there, and got it down to 250F, where I tried to keep it. When it went too far down (it was down to 175F at some point), I added more coals to both sides from another batch in the chimney, plus some more soaked hickory chips.
After a little less than three hours, I took the ribs out of the rack, slathered my bbq sauce all over them and put them straight on the grill for another 20 minutes or so.
In the meantime, DurmOnion made a lovely succotash out of some tomatoes from the garden, and corn and butter beans from Brinkley.
The ribs came out incredibly smoky and really fantastic. I has smoky burps until I went to bed about three hours later – I’m a burpy kinda guy! This was probably some of the best straight-up meat I’ve ever made. I will be smoking more stuff soon
I’m lucky to have gotten an advance copy of the new dinner menu, starting to serve at Watts on Tuesday. There are a few things I’m really excited about:
- Hot-Smoked duck breast with fig compote – smoked by Glen Lozuke, happy happy happy me!
- Cornmeal-crusted sweetbreads with black-eyed pea croutons – I love sweetbreads, and everyone should try them! There will also be a return of the sweetbreads sandwich for lunch.
- Red wine and sage braised lamb shanks with lots of goodies. Lamb shanks are frickin’ awesome!
- Low country gumbo with andouille, seafood, and chicken in a tomato and okra broth. I haven’t had gumbo in forever, and will be ordering this very soon .
Sweetbreads – looking all yummy!
There are many more wonderful things, and some fantastic-sounding new desserts, but I won’t give the whole game away…
I’ll probably pop in some time this week to check it all out. Readers: go too!