We bought a whole 50# shoat, removed the legs, and ground them for the sausage filling. I chopped through the spine at the neck, keeping the skin intact, and boned out the spine and ribcage in one huge piece. We brined the loins, tenderloins, and top rounds overnight, then wrapped the sausage around them and tied the skin up. Off the porchetta went into the smoker for a good 6 hours.
Last night we had Jayson Woodbridge here with his Layer Cake, Cherry Pie, and Hundred Acre wines. We even tasted his Fortification, a fortified red wine (18.5%) made only from Cabernet grapes–he and Marko Karakasevic, of Charbay, made an alembic brandy from some of them, and used the brandy to stop the fermentation on another batch. Special.
We went Paleolithic with the oak-roasted monster ribeyes . . .
My gratitude goes to the Chef de Cuisine, Ryder Zetts, who not only did all the hard work on this dinner but tasted the wines with me and collaborated on the menu items. (I’ve thanked him in person, but he’s the type that can’t take a compliment.)
It’s not magic, but it’s also not for kids.
I usually switch my office phone to silent because I’m seldom in there, but today I had the ringer on and my fingers and toes crossed . . . and sure enough the Michelin Angel called to grant my wish. One Michelin star for solbar–are we the only starred restaurant at which you can have pancakes, pizza, or kobe beef at the exact same table, depending on the angle of the sun? I certainly effing hope so, because I’ll tell you, our mountain climber breakfast dish may be the best thing we do. Wait till I add Perigord black truffles to it in three weeks.
My friend John McClure, the chef proprietor of Starker’s in St. Louis, took his own life last week. John and I attended CIA together and were contemporaries in New Orleans; he even visited solbar a couple of times. My thoughts, prayers, and positive energy are with his family in this time of sorrow. John was a good chef and a good man.
But for now, lots and lots of menu changes to lunch and dinner last week, and we were so busy I didn’t have time to snap a photo of every one of them with my HiPhone.
Here are a few that were captured–and the ones that got away are the Cuban sandwich (back for a limited time only), butternut squash veloute, escarole and treviso salad with sherry vinaigrette, flatiron steak of Kobe beef with olive oil fried potatoes and beurre colbert, chicken with pumpkin agnolotti and red grapes . . . last Wednesday night, we even put on a 22-oz ribeye of painted hills ranch beef with duck fat potatoes, charred onions and fresh thyme.
Had a regular call me on my day off to request a whole roasted pig for his wife’s birthday. Mike Panza from Biagio came through with the guest of honor; Goose seasoned and smoked the pig, then we roasted ‘er off. Even though I have an iPhone 5, the picture came out blurry. Hm.
Those pomegranates and branches came from right outside our back door. To get that shine, I brushed the skin with some rendered pancetta fat, left over from crisping up lardons of pancetta that Andrew cured a few weeks ago. The fragrance coming off of that pig was unreal.
As I carved the pig, I anticipated tasting wines that the guests had brought with them . . . in this case, 1980 Zinfandel from a double magnum. They moved from that one to younger zins in smaller bottles, which is really the only way they could’ve gone, right?
I served the pig over creamly anson mills polenta and rapini all’arrabiatta with shelling beans with a slightly sweet/sour pork jus. They wiped it out and asked for more, but I had run out of the vegetables, so we made suckling pig sliders with house recipe barbecue sauce and peach coleslaw on griddled pain au lait buns. Now THAT’s a good pairing with zin.
Thanks to all for our great showing in the 2012 Zagat. Keep up the voting for solbar so we can make it to 27 next year.
DAMN I wish I had taken pictures, but Ryder and I didn’t allow ourselves a lot of extra time or bring a commis with us when we cooked at Fisher Vineyards’ Napa property for their Cellar Selection dinner last Sunday night. Ryder snapped a few of the canapes, I’ll post them if they came out looking good.
The setting was ur-wine country–an old plank barn on the valley floor, doors thrown open to view the vineyards as the sun set over the Mayacamas range, a string and flute trio barely covering the droning of the short-track racecars over at the fairgrounds in Calistoga. We were a good country mile away, they’re just that loud. Everyone sat at a king’s table right in the barn, on the gravel floor. By the NY strip course, we were cooking in the dark . . . Most of the menu is Ryder’s inspiration:
CELLAR SELECTION DINNER
September 4, 2011
BARBECUED KUSSHI OYSTERS With Sweet Corn and Fresno Chile Butter
FORNI-BROWN GARDENS PADRON PEPPERS Ambrosia Melon and Prosciutto San Daniele
GOLDEN TOMATO GASPATXO with Garlic Blossoms and Gremolata
Schramsberg, Blanc de Blanc, Sparkling
GRAVLAX OF SACRAMENTO DELTA KING SALMON
Horseradish, Rye, Pink Pearls Apples, Armenian Cucumber, Dill
1999 Whitney’s Vineyard, Chardonnay, Sonoma County
2009 Whitney’s Vineyard, Chardonnay, Sonoma County
SEARED PORK BELLY
Poached Farm Egg, Black-eyed Peas, Tomato Jam, Marjoram
2005 Wedding Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County
GRILLED NEW YORK STRIP OF PAINTED HILLS FARM BEEF
Salt-baked Onion, Parisienne Gnocchi, Broccoli Rabe, Sauce Bordelaise
2008 Coach Insignia, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2007 Lamb Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
PLEASANT RIDGE RESERVE COW’S MILK CHEESE
Black Mission Fig, Pepperonata, Pain de Campagne, Sunflower Seed
1998 Coach Insignia, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
1994 Lamb Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
DARK CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES
I banished tomatoes form my thinking and lo and behold, Barney Welsh called to say that he could have them by Wednesday last. Allelu.
They’re on our BLT served on house-made basil bread, on our cheeseburger, and today on an heirloom tomato salad with crispy house-made mozzarella, balsamico spheres, fino verde basil and extra virgin olive oil:
When we were deciding how to serve the tomatoes this year, Goose (or Ryder, I can no longer recall) said, “Everyone does homemade mozzarella, but how come no one does FRIED homemade mozzarella?” Well, now we do. And it’s as good as you’d expect. There’s a fine line, isn’t there, between clever and stupid.
If you want to know all the varietals we serve, call Barney, he’ll get a good laugh out of it. At you, not me.
We’re only going to put them on the menu when Barney over at Forni-Borwn Gardens has them ready, and he’s still more than a week out . . . a lot of cool, foggy mornings here in the valley this summer. The rains better hold off till Halloween or we’re going a lot of despondent vintners. Cooks can always move on to hard squash and turnips.
While tomatoes aren’t ready, it IS prime time for summer squash and eggplant, and Ryder, our Chef de Cuisine, came up with a killer riff on ratatouille and rice that is the only vegan and gluten-free option on our menu: eggplant involtini with saffron-tomato arancini, red pepper glaze, and squash ciambotta.
The preparation is so intricate that it would take 1K words to explain, but the natural sweetness of the vegetables, the creamy-crunchy of the arancini, and the perfect acid-sugar balance of the peeled sun gold tomatoes (which ARE ready) makes for a satisfying meal.
A few other mentions:
–Can’t wait to eat at La Condesa in St Helena when it opens, same goes for R Reddington’s pizza place in Yountville. And French Blue (SH).
–Why the heck don’t the 49ers appease their fan base and acquire Tebow from Denver? He’s obviously not wanted there, and I don’t think even Harbaugh can convince Alex Smith that he’s a winner again. I’m not even a 49er fan and I think this should happen. Coupla the A Smith games last year were flat-out unwatchable.
–Let’s just say my expectations for the UNC football season are low. Let’s skip right on over to bball season where we’re preseason #1 with good reason(s).
I’m just a dumb country boy, and I get my hipster fill after ten minutes in SF’s Mission district–is that individual wearing a scoutmaster’s uniform as an ironic statement about retro-Smallville, faux-military plumage, or just on the way to a weekly meeting? And it doesn’t take much longer to become inundated with Italian food. The restaurant names generally end with a vowel and are Italian-esque words of nebulous origin, and each seems to be a lesser cousin–of the same bloodline, but short a couple of chromosomes–of the long-reigning champ, Delfina.
OR SO I THOUGHT. I’m wrong a lot of the time, and most recently when I was taken to dinner at a Sardinian restaurant waaayyy out in the Mission called La Ciccia. The hostess nearly hugged us when we walked in. The room was dim, with no tattooed staff or exposed ductwork in sight. Capital letters on the bottom of the menu forbade cell phone and computer use, and the long wine list–one page of 4-point font–was all Italian.
The gentleman waiter paced our dinner perfectly, and whisked away a too-maderized bottle of Cannonau he had recommended and replaced it with a bright Nero d’Avola. Standout dishes were the sardines, gnochetti with pork bagna, and sea bream with tapenade. I am always impressed when hot food is served HOT, and ours was scalding.
But the best part was the atmosphere. Table spacing kept the noise level suitable for conversation, soft surfaces muted the offensive jokes before they could be overheard, the ambient light had the ladies sparkling. White tablecloths reminded us we were in a Restaurant, not a bar/club/pizzeria. Old world dining, old fashioned, and you know what? Civilized and pleasant for that reason.
And before anyone else points it out, yeah yeah, La Ciccia is at 30th and Church, which may not even BE in the Mission, depending on who draws the map.