Reservations now open for SPAIN on August 20

Maybe it’s because we’ve been drinking a lot of albariño lately, or maybe it’s just that jamon iberico is so damn delicious–but either way, we’ve decided to let Spanish cuisine, both traditional and modern, guide our next monthly dinner.

If you’re on our mailing list, this is old news to you because we gave you a two-day head start to claim your seat. But if you’re not on the list, this is the point where you probably want to sign up. Because all of the spots for this dinner were reserved within half an hour of the email announcement.

HOWEVER. We do have a waitlist going, and we’ve never had a dinner without at least a couple of cancellations. So if you’re interested in joining us for a fabulous Spanish-inspired meal, just drop us a note. Cheers!

July dinner recap

Huge thanks to everyone who joined us for our July dinner this past Saturday! For y’all who weren’t there, here’s what we served.

Fluke crudo
2007 Ulysse Collin Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut (Champagne)

Chilled zucchini soup with mint oil and creme fraiche
2008 Vignea-Cheavreau Cuvee Silex Vouvray (Loire)

Burrata with heirloom tomato, pluot, and hazelnuts
2005 San Lorenzo Vigna delle Oche (Fattoria, Italy)

Ceviche amarillo de pulpo y camarones
2000 Lopez De Heredia Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva (Spain)

Pork belly with spiced stone fruit compote
2006 La Stoppa Ageno (Italy)

Roasted peach and blackberry pavlova
Blackberry whiskey sour

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.