Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Beef: It's What's for Farm Dinner

I won't bother much with preamble here: Spring, my trench coat, yada yada yada, steak!

Farm Dinner 03.08.10
Course 1: Heirloom red corn polenta with black trumpet mushroom agridolce, stinging nettles, fromage blanc, and ash-baked fennel

Preliminary Pairings: 2007 Prager Gruner Veltliner Federspiel, 2006 D'Antiche Terre Greco di Tufo

Vegetarians, get ready: at last, something other than a salad to whet your appetites before the mains. Jason and Mike are consciously trying to provide at least one non-meat appetizer for our herbivorous diners, and this premiere offering is nothing short of inspired. The polenta took center stage on the plate and was courtesy of Anson Mills (out of South Carolina) a producer of organic heirloom corn varietals that are ground on site on a Civil War era stone mill. Buttery and bolstered with parmesan cheese, the red corn polenta was baked and then pan fried to order. Accompanied by a black trumpet mushroom agrodolce and sauteed stinging nettles (the first of the season, from the West Coast), the polenta was topped with mustard greens interspersed with our own line cook Nathan Whittaker's home made fromage blanc, which, texturally, was a cross between cream cheese and chevre and possessed a tangy, creme fraiche quality that provided a perfect foil to the brightness of the agrodolce and the savory, crispy polenta. Finally, to add a bit of earthiness and depth to the plate, fennel was cooked low and slow in ashes from the smoker, which lent a campfire-y flavor and brought out all the fennel's low notes.

My preliminary picks, both white wine, worked for disparate reasons but both were enjoyable. As a side note, I would also recommend drinking a light, fruity, juicy red wine with the polenta dish. Old staff fave 2007 Prager GV, of the clean, austere citrus flavors and steely minerality, was a lovely counterpart to the smoky fennel and creamy cheese. D'Antiche Terre G di Tufo, whose near-effervescence makes it a shoo-in for food pairings, brightly complemented the agrodolce and cut through the richness of the crispy polenta.

Favorites: Both! And any juicy, fruity red. Try our 2006 Protos Roble!

Course 2: Dietzler Farm Ribeye with beets and celery root, rosemary, and a caramelized onion-sweetbreads tart

Preliminary Pairings: 2006 Tierra Divina Old Vine Malbec, 2008 Crios Cabernet

Dietzler Farms: 100 % grass fed. Yowza. Amazing what happens when the focus is not longer on fat content and tenderness but on flavor: a much more interesting, complex, and interactive steak experience, at least in my book. The ribeyes were cooked sous vide with red wine and aromatic herbs and then pan roasted to order, and sat atop rosemary aioli dressed roasted beets and celery root, which were adorned with watercress lightly sprinkled with a white anchovy vinaigrette. The little surprise on the plate was a tartlett of caramelized onions and sweetbreads accompanied with juuuuuust the right helping of taleggio, that stinky ole Italian cow's milk cheese. The sweet onions, funky cheese, and tender sweet breads, inside a piping hot puff pastry shell. The trick here, ladies and germs, is that half the butter in the tart shells was replaced with . . . (drum roll pleeeeease) . . . BONE MARROW. As Jorge (illustrious PM server) would say, "Oh f*ck yeah." Delicious.

As is quite often the case, one of the wines provided a complement and one provided a counterpart. In the situation of Course 2, '06 Tierra Divina Malbec's jammy, stewed fruit, integrated tannin, and baking spice-tinged oak acted almost as a cushion for the amalgam of flavors on the ribeye dish, particularly with the onion and taleggio combo in the tart and the earthiness of the steak. '08 Crios, on the other hand, is actually quite light for a single-varietal cabernet and possesses bright fruit and soft tannin, both of which were evident, even in tandem with all the aspects of Course 2. Again, both wines worked for their own mysterious and seductive reasons, which is always cool for us here at Lula because we just get more stuff to talk about.

Favorites: Both (again!)

Course 3: Apple, Calvados, and raspberry ice creams with ginger cake and crabapple broth

Preliminary Pairings: Maculan Dindarello, Chambers Muscat

Apple sorbet, Calvados ice cream, and Klug Farm raspberry ice cream atop a ginger cake (like a molasses-free gingersnap cookie) and steeped in crabapple-raspberry broth. Sounds like a dream confection, and it was truly delicious--light in the right places, rich where it counts, with spicy ginger and tart crabapple providing moments of interest. Calvados poached dehydrated apples and candied ginger floated in the broth. Maculan's sweet citrus and honey flavors stood back and allowed the ginger to shine, and acted as a supplemental aspect for the broth, while Chambers took the ginger flavors by the hand and did a nice little two-step, complete with twirls and dips. This was a great combo. Chambers' nutty, caramely aspects also did nice things for the apple and raspberry flavors respectively.

Favorites: Both!

Well, there wasn't a loser in the bunch (score for Miriam) and we're serving them by the glass all week, so come in and see what I'm talking about!

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