Aglianico meets Vermont Local New Year’s Eve Dinner

(Gastronomeg)

It’s the first winter I’ve spent back in Vermont for 15 years now… but a couple of nights of howling wind brought it all right back: it gets COLD here! Fortunately, our enormous Vermont Castings ‘Defiant’ wood stove heats the whole house, except around the edges on the windiest nights.  New Years’ Eve was setting up to be one of those nights (after a day of snowfall), and we were glad we had no plans except to sit by the fire and listen to the silence on the baby monitor.

Dinner wasn’t going to be anything fabulous until about mid-day, when our neighbor Dan stopped in. Dan is an experienced and accomplished hunter. He loves the time in the woods alone, and he and his wife enjoy eating the fruits of his fall hobby all winter and spring. This year he’d been lucky enough to bag both a buck, during rifle season, and then a doe, during the muzzle-loader season.

Jason has expressed an interest in going out hunting next year (meat doesn’t get any more local than that, after all) but he’d never eaten what city slickers refer to as ‘venison’ (around here we just call it deer). So Dan brought us some really choice cuts as an introduction. There were two packages: medallions of tenderloin as well as some nice thinly sliced steaks (this was definitely the best return on a plate of Christmas cookies I’ve ever gotten!).  We opted for the medallions for our New Year’s Eve feast.

This cut is incredibly simple to prepare – just pan-sear the meat on both sides, then take it out and start braising some onions in the pan. De-glaze with some red wine, pop the meat back on top for a minute to finish cooking, and it’s done.  Wild deer meat can take some cooking – I like it medium (warm through but still pink in the center). For side dishes, we had  on hand some of the inevitable local winter fare – gilfeather turnips (which I wrote about here) and potatoes. I decided to roast the turnips with herbes de provence to bring out their sweetness, and we’d throw some extra butter in the potatoes to ramp up the richness a tad.

Meanwhile, Carla had just called to suggest Aglianico as the wine of the month for January, and I happened to have two bottles of Ocone’s Taburno Aglianico in the cellar.  The wine pairing was a cinch as well. This was a wine that could handle the deep richness of the meat (wild venison has an almost liver-like quality) and balance the earthy sweetness of the roasted turnips to boot. I love the Ocone for its balance of power and lightness – it is dark and focused, but still has a vibrant acidity and enough restraint that it would marry with, rather than fight the flavors on the table. I can’t think of a better wine pairing for Jason’s first taste of deer than a nice old-school Aglianico like this….

This was one of those meals that just came together with what was on hand (or brought by a generous neighbor). All in all, it was the perfect New Year’s Eve at home!

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A Toast to my favorites from 2009

Gastronomeg:

I’m a very present-tense, on-to-the-next-thing sort of person, so it’s been fun to look back at 2009 for some of my favorite food and wine memories. Here is a series of belated New Year’s toasts:

1. To dinners at home: While we were still living in Harlem, the weekly ‘salon’ on Tuesday nights with my half-sister Ellen and Jason’s sister Charmayne and her husband Roberto… the food was usually simple (and dessert was often made on the fly; thank goodness for Dorie Greenspan’s Swedish Visiting Cake, to which I always add chopped apples) but the company was full of youthful energy and much silliness usually ensued. Here’s to inviting friends and family over for casual meals!

2. To dinner parties: A higher level of cuisine prevailed at all the Vinartculture wine dinners, which are definitely in my Top Ten Meals of the year.  Thanks so much to Carlita for masterminding the effort. It was great to take the time to seek out and taste wines with friends and make great food. Here’s to dinner parties with friends who are great cooks!

3. To dining out: Although we didn’t do much dining out last year, when we did we sure did it right. Jason treated me to an extravagant feast at Gramercy Tavern to celebrate our anniversary. The dining room is well appointed and the food is great, but there are a lot of attractive places to get good food in NYC. What makes Gramercy Tavern stand apart is the service –I can’t put my finger on exactly how they do it, but they make you feel like your dinner is a truly special occasion, despite the fact that there are other people’s special occasions going on all around you (it seemed like every table had a birthday.) I can’t remember what we ordered, but I do remember that everything was delicious and that we were ridiculously full after 4 courses. The whole evening has a special glow around it in my memory.  Here’s to Gramercy Tavern!

4. To terrific wines that aren’t expensive:  What with the life changes this year (as in: buying a house and having a kid) we have been more overjoyed than ever to realize you don’t have to spend a lot to get a great bottle of wine. My perennial top-favorite white is Marc Ollivier’s Domaine de la Pepiere Muscadet. Even at the new price of $13.99, it is a bargain: complex, refreshing, and downright delicious. I love this wine so much that it HAD to be our wedding white in 2008, and of course we have been drinking it at home with everything ever since, too. On the red front, I’d have to say that the Deux Anes Corbieres “premier pas” 2007 was definitely our top everyday wine in 2009.  When the supply we brought from New York ran out and we had to shop locally for wines (Jenny and Francois wines are not available in Vermont…. YET) this was the wine that all selections had to measure up to (and failed).  Here’s to Jenny and Francois and Joe Dressner for importing such wonderful, natural wines!

5. To having a place to buy them: As a corollary, my vote for the top place to shop for wines, anywhere, in 2009 and forever anon goes to Chambers Street Wines. When we visited NYC briefly on Christmas Eve, we’d had them deliver a case and a half of wine uptown to the apartment…. I don’t know any other shop where you can make such a delicious assortment of wines for so little money. Chambers Street is also where I go when I want to go the whole hog and spend some serious money, but isn’t it great that they pay just as much attention to the wines they sell for under $15? Here’s to Chambers Street Wines!

And here is to another year of great eating, drinking, and art in 2010. I’m looking forward to spring gardening projects and more fresh and delicious local food. Meanwhile, we are getting creative with root vegetables and frozen greens as we watch the snow fall and wait for spring. Oh, and we are about to bottle our first batch of home-brewed beer! Here’s to that, definitely (in a few weeks, anyhow)!

Looking back and ahead to 2010…..

Carlita:

Cheers to 2010!  The holidays slipped away quickly and I finally have time to sit back reflect on the festive times and hopes for the new year.   Christmas Eve brought Gastronomeg, Jason and little Charlotte to the city.  We had a perfect throw together dinner on Christmas Eve at Gastronomeg’s parents pied-a-terre on the upper west side.  The small studio is  conveniently located around the corner from Salumeria Rosi, Fairway and Citarella.

I brought pasta puttenesca, a traditional recipe from my days cooking at the Pink Door in Seattle, thanks Jackie!  For some reason I make it almost every Christmas, first because it is so yummy, and second I usually have all the ingredients at home.  I find the holidays full of baking, caking and chocolate making and never get to the store for real food.  I’m sure there must be a papal penalty for serving the most un-holy pasta on the most holy night……..

We were joined by Jason’s sister Charmayne and husband Roberto.  Besides the pasta we had salumi and cheeses, roast chicken and an escarole salad.  Charlotte snoozed away in her portable crib in the walk-in closet.  It was great catching up with some Burgundy and Sagrantino.  We covered all the bases…………

Carlita’s 2009 vinartculture favorites:

–       Gastronmeg’s goodbye Manhatten lunch at Filidia.  A 3-course lunch at Lidia Bastianich’s mothership restaurant is a fantastic deal at $29.99.  A classic old New York setting in a brownstone on east 58th.   Impeccable service with many of the same pasta dishes from the evening menu.  Don’t miss the pear and pecorino ravioli.  My roasted peach and beet salad was amazing.  Chef Fortunato Nicotra continues to push the envelope with classic Italian dishes, minimal and elegant.

–       La Esquina Taqueria taco’s, my favorite is the chorizo with potato.  Authentic taqueria’s are few and far between in the big apple but this little corner stand in Soho is the real tortilla.  Taco trucks are great but I need a place to sit and taco’s don’t travel well.  La Esquina has a row of stools and tables outdoors for that perfect lunch or afternoon taco fix.

–        Company pizza and salads, a great combination, usually order the special pie which is an inventive combination of seasonal ingredients.

–        Ribollita at Pepolino, this Italian spot just south of Canal is so authentic from food to décor.  I come here whenever I want to be transported back to Tuscany.

–       Joe the art of Coffee– As a former Seattlite I am overjoyed that artful coffee has finally made it to the Big Apple.  New Yorkers left their blue and white deli cups for Starbucks and now they are making the next leap up thanks to Joe, Stumptown, 9th St. Espresso……

–        Anything at any of David Chang’s restaurants.

Recession wine favorites of 2009 –

–        White: Commanderie Quincy, a refreshing minerally white, a stones throw from Sancerre for half the price.

–        Red:  Argiolas Perdera-100% Monica, round, soft, great with food and on its own, I love it with a slight chill in the summer months.  Year after year this winery puts out natural, consistant great value wines from indigenous Sardinian grapes.

–        Inwood Farmers Market

–        Sharon Horvath: Parts of a World at Lori Bookstein Fine Art, luscious paintings of various imagined spaces full of texture and color.

–        Spectrum Squared at Bussaco Restaurant Wine Bar in Park Slope- Ok, a little self promotion is what the web is all about, up through February, abstraction/color based paintings by four artists.  While your there have the bison and wild mushroom bolognese with fresh farro pasta.  Bravo to Bussaco for putting out great food, wine and rotating art shows in their impeccably designed space!

–        Tart flambe, liverwurst and a glass of chassalas at the bar in the Modern, a great afternoon treat after taking in the galleries.

–        Sour Cherry Crisp at Yura, a bakery catering outfit near one of my jobs on the upper east side.  This bakery does consistently good old fashioned baking.  Where else can you get sour cherry crisp!  Other favorites include farm cake and an exquisite lemon tea loaf.

–        The Highline

–        David Dunlap at the Cue Foundation

–        And did I mention Salmaria Rosi……..