15 December 2008

15Dec - lengthy entry on some good local eating
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Pleasure is an interesting thing.
We seek it. Sometimes we demand it.
Sometimes the promise of it drives us to make poor decisions.

And of the myriad pleasures available to us, last Sunday offered me one of the more complete forms: gustatory. This satisfies not only a desire for lovely tastes but it pleases through textures, aromas, physiological intoxication, as well as the all important satiety that only a full stomach can give you.

First, we had lunch at Ela’s on Forest Dr. (beware: the website has some music playing) across the street from that big church where the automatic doors didn’t open for me when I went there for a service because a girl on whom I had a crush invited me and I thought it might help (it didn’t.) Now, I’d been there once when it first opened and, while there were some interesting things there, I kind of forgot about it. Maybe a year’s passed and they’ve taken some emphasis away from the European Deli and put it on James Cooper’s (one of the owners) cooking skills. He’s Central American and the menu reflects it. Our brunch was Nicaraguan steak and eggs, which was a strip of steak (actually cooked to my preferred temperature of medium rare) drizzled over with what tasted like a chili, onion, and garlic mincing. This was also over something of a deconstructed guacamole, which was a big slice of avocado over a slice of tomato and some chives. Fantastic. He gave us several options of how our eggs could come out but we went with soft scrambled with three cheeses. This dish also came with a serving of refried beans that reminded me of my grandmother’s, who is Guatemalan and used to cook refried beans, tortillas, and tamales in her village’s market. In addition to this bounty there were two big pieces of garlic bread that had a great crispy and soft texture. So that happened, along with a couple of mimosas and water with fresh fruit floating in it. We had such a great time. The food was wonderful. The flavors were exuberant and honest and I felt very comfortable with the whole thing. I have every intention of stealing as much of it as I can for recreation at home.

That night we dined at Motor Supply. The executive chef is something of a regular at our restaurant and I’ve always loved his work. He seems to have a genuine, easy understanding of food and wine. While he wasn’t cooking that night, he was nice enough to help us pair (via text messaging) some items with some beverages. We began with creamy mussels, an olive plate and a cheese plate. While we were waiting for the wine I brought to open up we got a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Rose Brut, whose cork popping was enough to get the attention of a couple at the bar. They seemed pleased at the idea of someone having a good time with champagne, which is a nice thing about which to be pleased. Delicious as everything was, the one thing that seemed to make us bubble with ecstasy was a soft, Burgundian cheese called Delice. It was soft, creamy, with a bright character to it that seemed, to me, to require a bright, full, soft white wine. Leigh isn’t much of a white wine drinker but I wanted desperately to experience this so, against my sober judgment, I ordered a full bottle of a wonderful wine that Tim, the chef, had let me taste a few weeks prior: the Torbreck Woodcutter’s Semillon. Fullish bodied, crisp, slightly tart and wholly refreshing, this paired wonderfully with the cheese and I was glad to see that Leigh seemed genuinely to enjoy it. Enough to refill her glass several times during the course of our enjoyment of the cheese. When I texted Tim about this he suggested the Duck Liver Mousse to go along with it. This mousse. Oh my god this mousse. I talked to him later and I seem to recall he mentioned something like 11 pounds of duck liver and fat going into this. It was rich and light and bright and kind of salty in that way and, my god, I’ve been telling people I would happily give myself gout by eating this mousse every day. I’ve been thinking about that mousse for a week now.
And there was more food. Leigh got the duck and I got NY Strip with a Beurre Rouge that went quite well with the 04 HautBrion. Leigh loved, in particular, the skin on the duck.

About the 04 Haut Brion.
Expensive wines are curious thing. I’ve been lucky enough to experience some top-notch wines and some have been emotionally charged experiences. This was the only first growth that didn’t take me somewhere different. And I’m counting the 98Angelus as first growth status. The Haut Brion was amazing and rich and warm and aromatic and balanced. It was, in all ways, a fantastic wine but I think what struck me was how similar it was to the 02Pape Clement, which was considerably cheaper. The only explanation I can give that satisfies me is that it was either entering a dormancy period or that it was simply too young to drink. Quite likely the latter.

So, the day was a fantastic day for lovers of food, which we certainly are.
This town does have some wonderful dining experiences to offer.
You know…besides us.
So go to both and eat heartily and sit back and smile at your dining companions, if any, and nod at a job well done.

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