There is a set of friends from back "home" that moved to Franklin, TN last year, and the four of us are friends from college. The 4 of us are meat eaters. We have another set of friends who moved to Pittsburgh, and we had a nice week long visit from the 'Burghs. The Burghs are foodies and winos, and 1/2 the fun they have is creating great dishes. Most of the time, one is nearly vegan (she eats honey), and the other is a lacto veggie, but when they are on vacation they eat some meat. Most of the time, the food they make is so good, you don't miss the meat, so we were totally happy to have them cook with us. On opening day, we were all going to do a pot luck dinner, and the Burghs were going to wine pair, and we were going take all the food down to the Franklin McMansion so we could spread out. Just about time we were ready to roll to Franklin, the tornado warnings were kicking in, and we decided to stay in town and not go the 17 miles. As luck would have it, the Franklins were just getting off work and got stuck in the traffic, so they popped over to our tiny little city house near their work, and for them to get out of the rain. It all worked out in the end.
We started with an olive oil tasting and Provence Bread. I order all my olive oil from the Olive Press because they are all California grown, organic olives that are truly 1st cold pressed to make the olive oil. The flavor of these oils are so intense, that you only need a little of it. I set out an Italian blend, Arbequina Spanish, and a lemon and olive pressed oil. It was fun to show case the oil. The Burghs said that most Italian oils sent to the USA are blended with tasteless oil and are not tasty. They were totally impressed with the Italian Blend I got because it is full on olive oil, and there is no blending. The Spanish olive oil imported in th is country is less likely to be blended with cheap tasteless oil, so that is why Spanish oils are flavorful. The Arbequina varietal is spicy, woody and aromatic, so a little goes a long way.
The 2nd and 3rd courses included smoked summer veggies and truffled mac and cheese. These 2 dishes were made with mostly local ingredients. The veggies included zucchini, yellow zucchini, broccoli, summer squash, red sweet peppers, poblanos, onions, garlic, cayenne pepper and thyme and oregano from my garden. All of these ingredients were grown local organically. I diced them all up, and stirred in some salt, pepper, olive and truffle oil. All of the ingredients are plopped in a grill safe pan, and put over hickory and a little mesquite wood until tender. People love this dish. Yes, people seem to love eating smoked and truffled veggies. The light veggie dish was paired with a heavy truffled mac and cheese. Here is the recipe that was given to me by the Capitol Grille: 5 cups pasta, 2T white aged cheddar, 2 T yellow cheddar, 1/2 cup heavy cream, and a few drops of truffle oil and salt and pepper. My artistic license included a 1/2 cup aged cheddar from the local producer Kenny, 3/4 cup cream from Hatcher Dairy, a 60 cow local dairy, a crushed clove of garlic, salt and pepper, and about 2 T of truffle oil. The truffle flavor is not as intense as the Capitol Grille, but it served its purpose for a tornado ridden evening.
The 4 dish was the Burghs dish beans and greens. They just got a 2 cans of mixed beans, rinsed and dried, and dumped them into a heavy pot with about 1/4" of olive oil in the bottom. It was kind of like frying the beans until parts the outsides were crunchy. They added sliced garlic into the pot, and the the garlic bits get fried and crunchy. Then after about 30 minutes, they added the washed and shredded green chard, but kale, Swiss chard, turnip greens, beet greens, etc would work too. They just left the beans and greens going on low until it was ready to serve (about 1.5 hrs after they started cooking). The Burghs said that this beans and greens dish was a real staple main dish in the USA before the 1950s, and before we became a beef and milk eating country. The beans and greens are a good source of fiber and protein, and it really got our meal back to the basics of American eating.
As a palate cleanser before moving on, we served lemon and mango sorbet. I finally got a use for this tiny ice cream scoop the size of a melon baller. I bought that darn thing from the Pampered Chef because it was cheap and cute. It comes and it is a right handed scooper, and I am left handed. It is kind of a bother, but I managed to fudge through while scooping these refreshing blobs onto our little dishes with blue fish on them. I was excited to use the blue fish because it means a wish of good luck and prosperity to those whom I serve the dishes to.
For our 5th course, we made a whole beef tenderloin in the manner of Alton Brown. About 15 minutes on the highest setting in the oven, then turn down the heat to 200F until the internal temp is where you want it for doneness. I wanted a rare roast, so I looked for 135F internal temp. Since this was a toss together meal, I did not get to age the beef, but it was ok. The Burghs made a Pasia sauce with roasted garlic and honey. The dish was a hit. The ends were well done for the midwest gal who likes her meat dead, and the middle was quite rare for people like me who still like a cold center.
What did I drink with that beef? I bought a bottle of Brother Timothy a couple years ago from Mrs Newton, the Newton Winery Winemaker. Mrs Newton is not only one of Napa's oldest vineyard's winemaker, and vineyard owner, she is also a retired doctor who practiced in downtown San Francisco. She is Chinese, from an area called Toysan, in southern China. It is the same region where 1/2 my family is from. Her town was poor and rural, and she had no future there except to be a peasant. After WWII, and the crackdown in China to communist rule, Brother Timothy and his foundation were able to bring some bright children out of Southern China to attend school in the USA at no charge to the children. Mrs Newton was one lucky child. She excelled and was so intent on learning, she learned so much all they way to becoming a doctor. She loved Brother Timothy and the foundation who gave her a chance for an education, that she has always looked for ways to give back. After she met her husband and became a Master Winemaker, she started calling in her vineyard friends all up and down the valley to help her support Brother Timothy and the education foundation. She was able to go and hand pick cabernet grapes from all the greats including Newton, Mondavi, Hess, Opus One and others to make the Brother Timothy 2001 vintage. Now, each year, the participating winemakers rotate who makes the wine, with 100% of the sales price going to the the Brother Timothy LaSallian Education Fund. The wine was well integrated, and we enjoyed it with our beef course. Wine must be enjoyed. It can't do anything for you while it just sits in the bottle. So, as the course went on, and as the wine oxidized, the fruit and oak blend to make a different wine from when the bottle first opened. The aroma, well as one said at the table, we would be happy to have a fragrance made from the wine aroma. Any woman's fragrance maker out there, read up, we want a wine aroma for a perfume!
Our 6th and last course, if all the rest was not enough, we had a cheese and fruit plate. We went traditional with pear, grapes and figs as our friuts. We had a mimolette, manchego and a reggiano for our cheese. Because I wanted to be gluttonous, Burghs got me Marcona Almonds and we had those too. Someone mentioned that this was a civilized dinner, but I think it was the 1st over the top dinner I have ever served at my house. I don't think I have ever served sorbet as an intermediate for the meal, and I don't think I have ever had 4 different wines with a meal in my house either.
What did we drink? Well, good thing most of us were not driving, only one was, and she only had one sip of each. We started our bread course with a Grande Rose Champagne from the Rhine region. It was smooth, on the sweeter side, and a nice refreshing start to our meal. We had an Italian wine Piano Di Montevergine Taurasi, made by Feudi di San Gregorio, that was able to stand up to the smoke of the veggies, the truffled of the mac and cheese, and the garlic of the beans and greens. All three of these dishes had it is own strong flavor and this Italian because a hero while we dined. We had my Brother Timothy withe the beef course. We then finished our meal with a sweet dessert wine that paired will with the pear and figs. The Italian Muscat wine, moscato d'asti, was a surprise to me. I did not originally know it was a dessert wine. While I was clearing the table, someone poured a bit for me, and I took a sip, after moving from the Brother Timothy cab. I was taken by surprise! Once I realized that it was a dessert wine, and got to nibble on some fruit and cheese, I had come to love the moscato. It was a sweet way to end our meal. Stay tuned for more to come.