Thursday, June 4, 2015

Summer Begins

Summer, in our house, tends to be a high-low concept. One ridiculously great meal a week surrounded by an easy-peasy, greatest hits-style collection of dinners. Along with a fair amount of grilled food without the grill, some boozy sangrias, more cocktails, and tons of freshness.

So, no ribeye and vanilla mashed potatoes with Bordeaux for us. We want to light, perky and fun, not brooding and self-serious.

This weekend illustrates that point.

Got a cucumber, some tomatoes, and leftover pita floating around? Make fattoush for lunch. Grab some arugula, a bell pepper, a lil sumac, some mint, lemon juice, olive oil. Use those radishes that have been sitting in the  crisper for a bit. Maybe the chervil you bought for a very specific purpose and only used a tiny amount. It's an open book. Cut everything up, toast up that pita, toss it all together. Make it big because this is starting off your weekend. It shouldn't be a salad, with all that entails. It should be a SALAD, like a Seinfeldian "Big Salad" (Julia-Louis Dreyfus on CCGC this week). Drink fridge wine with it, like a 2014 Charles Smith VINO Rosé Wahluke Slope ($10 - Whole Foods), a 100% sangiovese from Washington. It's friendly and fresh, if not the lovely, distinct wonder that is Charles & Charles's syrah-based rosé from Columbia Valley. Maybe watch some 'Family Feud' or 'Cutthroat Kitchen.' Nothing heavy. That's a good lunch, and kicks off the weekend right.

Speaking of tomatoes floating around, and not wanting to get too heavy in the kitchen, there's a butcher shop here on the North Side, perhaps you've heard of it, called Paulina Market. If you haven't, shame on you. Those crazy men sling some quality meat down there. Like their sausages. Buy some of those sausages, like their spicy Italian ones which aren't that spicy, grab some grapes from somewhere (I'm not telling you where - can't hold your hand through every step - geesh!), print out this recipe of sausage, grapes and tomatoes (print out...that's rather antiquated for some, I know, but using your phone or an ipad is frankly annoying), and start cooking. A lil rosemary or sage, touch of balsamic, get those grapes and tomatoes bursting in the pan, sizzle off some sausages, toss it all in the oven and go to town with Jamie Oliver garlic bread using Pugliese. It's delicious. Been awhile for us since the great Trader Joe's sausage incident where the casings had a bleach-y quality. That'll turn off most people to any kind of food for a bit. But this was a happy version, with quality sausages, and a wine that made it complete. A bottle of 2012 Palmina Dolcetto ($23 - Whole Foods) with its meaty, spicy goodness and echoes of dark red fruit served us rather perfectly. Not a deep, long wine. Just simple in the best sense with hints of complexity here and there. And matched up with the simple Italian-ness of this meal is such a "fine job, old chap" way. Happy, happy.

And speaking of Paulina Meat Market, when you're there and they're breaking down a whole cow, as they do, maybe ask for some. That's fresh damn meat RIGHT OFF THE FREAKIN' COW. So Mrs. Ney got freshy-fresh flap meat. Marinate it in a ton of garlic and rosemary, some soy sauce, balsamic, and evoo, season with salt and pepper, sear it off while basting it in butter and bacon fat. We usually avoid butter. I can heartily recommend butter here. It's one of my terrible secrets. I seem to gravitate to recipes involving butter, even as I make fun of butter. Fry up some yuca fries. When I say some, I mean a lot, because yuca fries are fries that taste like they found a way to put more fries inside of fries. Wouldn't doesn't want that? Make a kale salad with homemade croutons and parmesan, because you gotta eat something that's going to help move this meal...along. That's A dinner. Meat and potatoes like a Frenchman living in Peru would make. Drink a bottle of wine that you're entirely sick of seeing on your wine list and thinking about when the best time to drink it will be, like the 2003 Hobbs Gregor Shiraz Barossa ($125 - Hart Davis Hart). Here's the two previous drinkings of this vintage. It's been good to us, but we're probably done with shiraz this spendy. It was a good phase...but we're probably done. And this was a good one to end on. It was certainly on the downslope, with its rum-raisin Port-like quality and pruney notes, but some fresh tobacco at times. Big, but not Port-like thick, with a surprising lift on the finish. Large Marge dinner, but just jump in and enjoy the decadence.

After that, something light NEEDS to occur. So sushi. At Indie Café on Broadway. Ate some decent sushi (and fried things), drank a bottle of Veuve Clicquot on the menu for a stupid-cheap $59, and did it all in about an hour. Nice. We avoid Veuve because it's Veuve, the Champagne everyone thinks is fancy. I've made fun of the fact that everyone thinks it's fancy for years, but I honestly hadn't had it in years myself. So... We did that. We had that. And it's...fine. Worked here with the food and at about a 1.25 times markup from retail, why not, we say.

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