Food, Beer, and Travel

a dump from the mind of Jon Piper

Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

Boston – Ten Tables

Posted by jwpiper on January 29, 2009

Whenever I need to be in Boston on a Tuesday night, Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain is the first place I call. I think I first found out about it more or less simultaneously through Zagat and a friend who lives in Jamaica Plain. Generally, I’m relegated to 9:30 or 10pm seatings, as the restaurant has a strong local following and is limited to 10 tables. It is truly a neighborhood restaurant while simultaneously offering some of the best fine dining in Boston – and certainly at the best prices. The Tuesday 4-course wine pairing menu is a paltry $42.

The chef, David Punch, specializes in good, clean food made with local ingredients. Some of the plates are familiar and homey and others are combinations which wouldn’t necessarily have crossed my mind. All are well considered and executed – I’ve yet to have a course which didn’t impress. Stan Hilbert is a refreshing sommelier – passionate, real, and unhaughty. His pairings are always equally well considered, and the two along with the rest of the team create a unique experience which I look forward to on my currently frequent trips to Boston.

This Tuesday started with moules mariniéres, mussels in a crème fraîche with taragon, shallots, parsley, and wine, paired with a 2006 Muscadet Sevre et Maine Domaine de la Batardiere. The mussels were huge and succulent and the wine bright and minerally. The second course was a garbanzo bean and chorizo ragout paired with 2005 Ad Libitum, Domaine la Grange Tiphaine. The stew was fresh with a rich earthiness and spice lended by the spanish chorizo and begs me to attempt it at home. The third course was an herb roasted all natural culotte steak, escarole potato cake, and fourme d’amber butter paired with 2003 Saumur, “les Vigneaux”, Chateau la Tour Grise. The pair was perfect, and the wine gives an extreme IPA a run for its money alongisde a blue cheese. I’ll be seeking it out in the near future. The final course was a cheese, Ste. Maure de Touraine, paired with a 2003 Vouvray Moelleux, Domaine Lemaire Fournier which was a nice clean way to end the evening.

Between this location in Jamaica Plain and the new restaurant to be opened in Cambridge in a matter of weeks, I think David is building a reputation for excellent food. And atmosphere they’ve created results in a memorable dining experience. If I were local, it would be tempting to make it a weekly ritual.

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Pistachio-Crusted Lamb

Posted by jwpiper on January 26, 2009

Some great restaurants you do research to find, others come on a recommendation. It’s the minority of good restaurants which you more or less stumble onto. After a conference in San Diego, Matt C. and Andy asked some randoms for a good restaurant. This is usually not advisable, but after some convincing that they liked good food, the got a strange and intriguing recommendation: an Afghan restaurant called Chopahn Restaurant.

I tagged along for the adventure and we were amazed at what we experienced. The dish which blew them all away, however, was the Shinwari Kebab – pistachio encrusted lamb chops in a roasted garlic sauce with grilled tomatoes, zucchini, and cardamom rice. Almost every trip I make to San Diego includes a dinner at Chopahn and every time I order the Shinwari Kebab. I’m told that this is a traditional dish which is made in a special clay/brick/or-something oven. I’ve yet to see or taste anything like it elsewhere.

I’ve come up with a recipe which has actually made me capable of going to San Diego without visiting Chopahn. After all, there are plenty of other meals which I can’t pass up in San Diego. This isn’t meant to be a replica of the meal by any means. Instead it incorporates the flavors and textures of the dish. An alternative preparation is to make a side of spiced rice and leave the cardamom out of the main dish. Given that I’m lazy, I usually go with the preparation below. I serve the meal with sauteed or grilled zucchini (or some related squash) on the side and usually break out a bottle of Layer Cake Shiraz.

The wine deserves a mention of its own. There’s so much going on with this $16 bottle, and it happens to be one of my favorite bottles. A real value on an under $20 bottle of wine. It brings an extreme level of complexity and the earthy, rich flavors complement the lamb excellently.

Pistachio-Crusted Lamb

Ingredients:
2 tbsp olive oil
1.5 lbs lamb loin chops (4)
salt
6 medium cloves garlic
pistachio topping
serves 2

Preparation:
Heat a heavy pan (I used a cast iron pan) on high.
Add oil.
Add garlic and salted lamb to sear.
Keep moving and flipping the garlic to cook without burning.
After 1-2 minutes, salt and flip the lamb.
While the lamb is searing, spread the pistachio topping onto the already cooked side of the lamb.
After a minute, transfer the pan under the broiler on high to brown the topping.
This will cook the lamb to rare, if a higher level of cookedness is desired, either sear longer or cook longer under the broiler.

Comments:
The lamb can also be prepared on the grill in much the same way. Grilled zucchini is just incredible, so this method is preferred. The lamb should still be finished under a broiler so the topping doesn’t fall off.


Pistachio Crust

Ingredients:
50g pistachios
5g cardamom (two pinches)
40g course ground mustard

Preparation:
Use a mortar and pestle to grind cardamom and pistachios separately.
Add mustard to the ground pistachios until a very thick paste is formed.
Add cardamom to taste.

Comments:
The paste should have a taste strongly of pistachios with some mustard and a hint of cardamom.

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Eggs, Truffles, and Sparkling Wine

Posted by jwpiper on December 30, 2008

I don’t often drink in the morning – there is some sort of social stigma against it. I think it’s silly – if there’s a food which asks for an alcoholic beverage, who am I not to oblige? Responsible drinking, day and night seems like a better course, not an arbitrary decision that excessive drinking is ok as long as it’s after 17:00.

One of my wife’s favorite breakfasts is truffle infused scrambled eggs – though being vacation, we didn’t partake until 11:30. Here is a meal which yearns to be accompanied by sparkling wine. This time, a bottle of Tarantas cava was standing by. A dry wine with notes of grapefruit and citrus, it also seems appropriate for breakfast in it’s own right.

Truffle-Infused Scrambled Eggs

Ingredients:
7 large eggs
2 tbsp truffle-infused olive oil
1 tbsp olive oil (optional)
salt
serves 2

Preparation:
Whisk eggs with a few pinches of salt until well mixed.
Pour plain olive oil into a non-stick or cast-iron pan as needed to keep the eggs from sticking to the pan. Don’t use too much – the flavor should be about eggs and truffles, not olive oil.
Pour the eggs into the pan, and keep scraping the cooked eggs from the bottom.
Turn off the heat when the eggs are still soft and a bit wet.
Give a few splashes of good truffle infused olive oil and leave in the pan while mixing until the aroma intensifies slightly.
After plating, sprinkle with a pinch of salt.

Comments:
I used Urbani White Truffle Oil, which is made with real truffles. It’s a bit mild, but not fake tasting.

We save half the botttle for a repeat breakfast the next morning. Of course, it would be preferable to serve with real truffles rather than infused olive oil – some day I’ll break down and buy a few ounces of fresh truffles for a week in heaven.

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