Guest beverage pairings for Lazy Bear

Where the magic happens

We had a great time this weekend playing guest sommeliers for Lazy Bear! If you haven’t been to one of their underground dinners yet, GO. These guys are working on opening up a full-on restaurant–and once they do, it’s going to packed all the time. You really owe it to yourself to eat David’s food before it becomes impossible to get a reservation.

In the meantime, here’s the scoop on the menu and the pairings we chose.

AMUSES: Bacon cracker with egg yolk and chives, asparagus soup
Bubbles always start things off on the right note. The Deligeroy Cremant de Loire is a fun mix of chenin blanc, chardonnay, and cabernet franc. Full of complexity and a chalky finish, it’s a perfect wine for getting to know each other and a few opening amuses.

FLUKE with Meyer lemon, pistachio, and kalamata olive
David prepared the fluke in a fairly classic crudo style–sliced raw, with a bright lemon oil and some crunchy salt flakes on top. We went clean and fresh too: the 2009 Fefiñanes Albariño, from one of the oldest wineries in Spain’s Rias Baixas region, offers strong minerality and citrusy notes that enhanced the delicate flavor of the fish while providing a nice foil to the salty olive puree.

Delicious magical radishes

RADISH with chicharrones, honey, and grapefruit
Most people, I’d venture to guess, have only eaten radishes raw. But when you saute them in lardo fat and honey, then toss them with grapefruit and top them with crumbled pork skin chicharrones, they taste a lot like spicy turnips that have been dipped in MAGIC.

Pork goodness and honey sent me off to develop a slightly sweet, rum-based cocktail that would underscore the sweet/spicy notes in the dish but not overpower the radishes. Following the Caribbean tradition of using local rum for Dark & Stormys, we came up with this extra-gingery version using rum made right across the bay.

Agua Libre Extra Stormy
1 ounce St. George Agua Libre Fresh Squeezed Pure Cane Rum
2 ounces Reed’s Extra Ginger Beer
1/2 ounce ginger simple syrup

Infuse the rum with fresh chopped ginger root for 2 days for a little extra kick. To make the simple syrup, simmer equal parts cane sugar and water with chopped ginger root until dissolved, then cool and strain.

Combine all ingredients and stir, then garnish with a lime wedge and serve over whiskey ice cubes. Makes 1.

SMELT with fiddlehead ferns, buttermilk ranch, and angry bear sauce
Fried fish and some delicious dipping sauces call for beer. We actually found this one on accident, when Dan ordered a pint of it at Boot & Shoe Service. Serendipity!

Linden Street Brewing

Linden Street Burning Oak Black Lager is brewed in Oakland and sold solely through restaurants and bars in the Bay Area. It’s made with dark malts, so it looks like a stout or a porter–but it’s brewed like a lager, so it comes out around 5% alcohol and tastes like a slightly roasty, supersmooth version of a light beer. Definitely order a pint if you find it on tap. It’s awesome.

SAVORY PEAS with Benton’s ham and morels
Sometimes you just know that a particular wine will work with a course. Recently, we had tasted the 1998 Thomas Fogarty Late Disgorged Blanc de Blancs, which is an amazing wine, full of savory, earthy, funky notes with a long finish. At the time we thought “ham!” So, when we saw this course, this wine was instantly what came to mind. It ended up going wonderfully with the layered fresh pasta, peas, ham, and morels.

PINK GROUPER with fried artichokes, saba, brown butter, and endive
Artichokes are notoriously tough to pair with wine. They contain a chemical called cynarin that can mess with your perception of sweetness–so we wanted to choose a wine that was pretty far over to the dry side of the spectrum. Our choice: a Herederos de Argüeso Amontillado sherry with enough acidity to play off the saba, plus a great nutty quality and just a tiny hint of sweetness that complemented the brown butter and the meaty fish.

RABBIT roulade and scrapple with favas, carrot, scallion, and tare
Rabbit is a great wine food because you can go in so many different directions with it. David wanted to keep the course light, so we opted for gamay–a fun, fruity grape that is way underrated. The particular wine we chose, the 2010 Paul Mathew “Turner Vineyard” from the Sonoma coast, was light without being thin. It delivered a hint of spiciness on the nose and ripe, fresh fruit that harmonized nicely with the plate.

SWEET PEAS with yogurt and mint
Peas for dessert? It sounded weird, but David made believers out of us. He left the peas fresh and prepared the yogurt three ways (panna cotta, frozen, and a light cream), then drizzled the whole thing with mint oil and sprinkled it with dehydrated pea dust. The result was a phenomenally light, refreshing dish that in no way read as a plate of vegetables. David, if you’re reading–I’m putting in my vote now for this one to appear on the future restaurant menu.

Peas for dessert

But what to pair? Peas, yogurt, and mint: any one of these ingredients is difficult to pair with on its own, let alone all together. We ended up finding a beautiful Moscato d’Asti from La Caudrina that stood up to the subtle sweetness of the dish, but without overpowering any of the flavors in it. The peach on the nose and the tiny bubbles were a crowd-pleasing way to end a fantastic evening.

Reservations now open for Wine vs. Beer, 5/21

For next month’s dinner, we will attempt to answer one of life’s great dilemmas: wine or beer?

Each of our five courses will be paired with *both* a wine and a beer. We’ll be highlighting several of our favorite local booze producers–as well as some favorites from further afield.

This event will be on Saturday, May 21 at 7pm. Cost will be $85, inclusive of all the beverage pairings. We’ll send confirmed guests the exact directions to our location (in the Dogpatch) a few days before the dinner.

Seats went quickly for our 4/15 event, so drop us a note ASAP to RSVP. Hope to see you there!

Duck: A delicious, magical animal

It’s no secret that Dan is a little obsessed with duck. Sous vide, roasted, seared, confited, whatever–if it’s made of duck, he’s crazy for it. So I wasn’t terribly surprised when he floated the idea of doing a January dinner centered on ducks and geese. I’d never cooked either one, and I was excited to learn.

Getting ducks was easy (we ordered directly from Liberty Ducks in Sonoma). But finding a locally and ethically raised goose wasn’t so simple. We Googled. We tweeted. We searched Chowhound. And ultimately, we discovered that the last remaining goose farm in the area had just sold their birds and planned to quit goose-raising entirely. I was ready to admit defeat.

The next morning at my regular coffee shop, the guy behind the counter listened as I relayed the story of our dead-end goose-hunt. “Oh yeah,” he nodded. “I just did a whole roast goose for Christmas dinner. Drewes Brothers in Noe Valley can hook you up.”

Have I mentioned how much I LOVE living in a city where small talk with your barista turns out to be the most effective method for sourcing whole animals?

Anyways, once we had our birds in hand (one whole goose plus 8 duck breasts, 12 duck legs, 10 pounds of duck fat, 10 pounds of duck carcasses, two pounds of duck livers, and four pounds of duck tongues), we got to work. I made three enormous pots of duck stock. Dan slow-cooked duck and goose leg confit overnight in the oven, saturating the air with a rich meaty perfume. We researched techniques for making liver mousse and sausage (both incredibly easy, as it turns out). We ate duck and goose whenever we found it on restaurant menus. We fried a lot of stuff.

And somewhere along the line, a funny thing happened. I caught a little bit of Dan’s duck fever. Remember how Homer Simpson felt when he found out that pork chops and ham and bacon all came from the same delicious, magical animal? That was me with the ducks. And I hope that’s how our guests felt too when we presented this menu.

duck fat fries with three sauces

0. Goose leg confit a l’orange and fried duck tongues
Beer cocktail: Saison Dupont, Knob Creek bourbon, spiced kumquat syrup, orange

1. Duck fat fries with spicy banana ketchup, caper parsley relish, and curry aioli
2001 Michel Dervin, Cuchery, Champagne, France

2. Goose pho
2008 Clos Habert, Francois Chidaine, Montluis Sur Louire, France

3. Duck leg confit slider on a housemade bun, pear mostarda, purple slaw with pomegranate
Curieux, Allagash Brewing, Portland, Maine

4. Duck / duck / goose (duck liver mousse, housemade duck sausage, and goose breast with a sweet potato tater tot, bourbon caramel, honey poached apple, and cider gastrique)
2007 Domaine de L’Oratoire St Martin, Côtes du Rhône, France

5. Blood orange and ginger trifle
NV Caveau du Mont July Bugey Cerdon Rosé, Jura, France

Pairing wine, beer, and cocktails with Mexican food

Finding the right pairings for our Mexican meal was a lot of fun. And also a bit challenging. Personally, when I think Mexican, I don’t think haute cuisine. I think street food and una cerveza. So my default mode of pairing wine to anything and everything doesn’t necessarily work (and it’s a habit I should break myself of anyway). Mexican food and wine can work, but for a number of dishes, it certainly isn’t the best option. There are lots of tasty beer and cocktail options you should be considering instead.

Seared scallop with avocado cream and pickled radish salad
There were a lot of options for the scallops. They have a very mild flavor lending themselves to lots of different things.  A very obvious choice is a white wine, perhaps a German riesling or Champagne.  In both cases, acidity and a little bit of sweetness would be a great contrast to the salinity of the scallop.  (Because of the mild flavors, you want to stay away from oaked wines – they’ll overpower the flavors of the scallop pretty rapidly.)

However, that’s all a bit too obvious.

We decided to venture off into the less-expected cocktail arena for this one. Taking a cue from the classic pairing of fish tacos and margaritas, we developed this refreshing, vibrantly green drink that complements the delicate sweetness of the scallop and delivers a hint of heat on the finish:

1 ounce St. George Spirits Agua Azul tequila reposado
1/4 ounce Hangar One chipotle vodka
2 ounces honeydew agua fresca

Make the honeydew agua fresca by pureeing honeydew melon chunks in a food processor. Strain twice using a fine-mesh metal sieve to get rid of the pulp.

Combine the ingredients in a shaker, fill with ice, and shake. Serve over a single whiskey ice cube in short glasses with chile salt rim.

Rice and beans
We knew from the beginning that we wanted to echo the everyman nature of rice and beans by pairing it with a beer. Our version of the dish incorporated a variety of unusual flavors (the beans were stewed in a thickened sangrita broth made with tomato, orange, and chile) and textures (we topped the warm, soft beans with both puffed rice and crunchy fried brown rice grains)–but the basic flavor was the same as the classic.

In the name of research (ahem!), we bellied up to the bar at Monk’s Kettle. Our kindly bartender seemed enthusiastic about the challenge and poured us a couple of saisons and IPAs to try. They all seemed like solid contenders–but then he had a bolt of inspiration. Hitachino Red Rice Ale! (It wasn’t available at Monk’s that night, but BevMo carries it.)

It was a perfect match. The beer is crisp rather than hoppy, and its subtle fruitiness complemented our sangrita broth beautifully. The mellow rice undertone echoed the toasty flavors in the dish.

“Masa ball soup”  (round pork tamales with salsa roja and posole broth)

This pairing actually started with the beer rather than the food. After enjoying a pint of the Ocho Negro Black IPA at the Deschutes Brewery in Portland, Jeanne knew she wanted to create a dish that would complement its smooth, roasty character. It turned out that Ocho Negro is only available on tap at the brewery–but 21st Amendment, just up the street from us in San Francisco, makes Back in Black. Convenient.

Black IPAs tend to be way less bitter than the traditional IPA hop bomb. This one struck a perfect balance between dark, chocolatey notes of de-bittered black malt and the refreshing bite of Columbus, Centennial, and Simcoe hops. These flavors worked as a foil to the deep meaty flavors in the posole broth and the bright red chile in the tamale.

Pork belly and mole negro
We had some debate over what to pair with the mole. Mole is tricky. It is slightly sweet, but charred, with a bit of spiciness to it. Ultimately we were very happy with our choice of the Benanti Rovittello, but how did we decide on an Italian red with mole?? Well, it’s a bit of a process of elimination:

  • White or red? Red. Darker red fruit flavors are needed to stand up against the intense flavors of the mole. Most whites would get lost in the mix.
  • Tannins or no tannins? No or very fine tannins. They’ll fight with the mole. You’ve already got some astringent texture from the mole, so you want something which can clear the palate and contrast the texture of what you’ve eaten. Otherwise, you’ll be reaching for your water instead.
  • Low or high acid? High acid to cut through the mole.
  • Old world or new world? We definitely want fruit. Subtlety will be lost against this dish. One could easily go for a new world Grenache or even a fruit forward Spanish. Italian is also an option here.

Ultimately I chose the Benanti out of personal preference. If I’m going to go with a more fruit forward wine, I still want it to have some old world feel. And this one had not only the fruit and acidity, but also a bit of earthiness on the nose to bring out the charred peppers in the mole.

Gingerbread with spiced chocolate consomme and persimmon granita
Tokaji is the immediate thing that comes to mind here. Its golden, honey flavors would be a wonderful complement to the warm gingerbread, the persimmon, and spiced hot chocolate.

K&L even had an amazing Tokaji in stock: the 1993 Chateau Pajzos 5 Puttonyos. Unfortunately for our guests, we drank the last bottle of it for “testing purposes.” It was amazing, full of peach and honey and coconut macaroons. If you find this wine, buy it. (I ordered the rest of the K&L stock, but it didn’t arrive in time).

Thankfully, there was another delicious Tokaji in stock: the 2001 Hétszölö Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos. It also had all the characteristic flavors and textures of a great Tokaji and worked wonderfully.