Newsletter for March 2006
Your source for what’s cooking at OBW
25 South Indian Alley
Winchester VA, 22601
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February was a busy month with two wine dinners, Valentine’s Day, and Mardi Gras, all occasions for special menus. March continues with two more special dinners: a wine dinner with Veritas Winery on the 8th, and beer dinners with Dogfish Head Brewery on the 22nd and 23rd.
Spring is just about here: we’ve had Shad Roe on the menu for a little over a week. We’ll feature it on the menu as long as we can, but don’t delay. The season will be gone again before you know it, and we’ll be off in search of softshell crabs and Alaskan salmon. And another sign of spring: we’re starting to get a bit of local arugula.
This month, I got tired of all those catalogs telling me what indispensable kitchen gadgets I should have and I tell you what I do have. And I take a look, in the first of a two-part series, at the wine service ritual in restaurants. Finally, I love roasted peppers and so do many of you, thus a recipe and some how-to.
And a reminder, as usual, we’re planning to close all of Apple Blossom week (May 1-6). Unless some of you want to rent the restaurant for your Apple Blossom entertaining, we’re planning to be closed.
All my best,
Ed Matthews, Chef/Owner
Every Wednesday night, we serve tapas from open to close.
Wednesday March 8, Veritas Wine Dinner
Almost Fully Booked. This dinner features food paired with the wines of Veritas Winery from Afton, just west of Charlottesville. We are pleased that Andrew Hodson will be with us to talk about his wines, which are some of the very best in Virginia. His Cabernet Franc is one of the best that I have ever tasted. We’ll be tasting his Sauvignon Blanc with shellfish, Chardonnay with pheasant, Cabernet Franc with duck, and his wild Traminette dessert wine called Kenmar, probably solo. It’s too rich to pair with food.
Wednesday, March 22, Spring Beer Dinner
Overbooked. Finally, we have been able to get our hands on some Dogfish Head ales from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Rehoboth, DE . For most beer lovers, I need say no more. For the rest of you, Dogfish is one of the very best brewers in the country.
Thursday, March 23, Spring Beer Dinner Reprised
We had to open another night for the Dogfish dinner to accommodate the demand. Tables still available.
May, June, and the Summer
Coming in April and May, but not yet scheduled, an Italian dinner and a garlic dinner paired with funky Spanish wines. Once the weather breaks, we’re going to move the dinners out on the patio for the summer, weather permitting.
I just received another glossy retail kitchenware magazine, one of the dozens I get each week. For some reason, they think professional chefs need onion choppers, fondue forks, and egg poachers! Recently, a customer asked me what gadgets I really use, seeking, I am sure, some advice for a present for a foodie. What do I really use? Not much.
I am sitting at my desk in the restaurant looking at my small collection of things that I use somewhat frequently. On my person, I always have a Taylor instant read thermometer and a Laguiole waiter’s corkscrew (in the business, we call them wine keys). When I mention a brand, that’s because I think it is significant.
On the office wall on my magnetic knife bar, I have six knives, only one of which I use daily: my santoku. The others are more special purpose: a paring knife (almost never used, but when you need a small knife, you need one), a cheap offset handle serrated bread knife (great for slicing lemons and tomatoes), a boning knife (I bone a lot of meat—at home, I doubt you do), an 8” fish slicer (I fabricate fish every day), and my big 8” chef’s knife (used only for heavy duty work such as breaking down rabbits and chickens or for prepping large items such as shredding heads of nappa cabbage).
Also on the bar are a 20mm melon baller that I bought in NYC fifteen years ago (infinitely useful for seeding small tomatoes and coring pears), a Messermeister serrated vegetable peeler (it will take the tip of your finger off in a heartbeat), a pair of needle-nose pliers for deboning fish, and a flat Wüsthof diamond-coated sharpening steel (used daily to maintain my knives).
In the kitchen I have my favorite metal spatula (we’ve cooked thousands of pieces of fish, that spatula and I) and a couple of small digital timers, without which I could not survive. Finally, I don’t leave home without my Microplane® zester, the most useful kitchen hand tool of the last half century.
And that is the sum total of my gadgets.
Part One: Selecting and Inspecting the Bottle
Uncomfortable about how to order a bottle of wine? Unclear on what you’re supposed to do? Relax, you’re not alone. It’s a really simple process once you understand what you are trying to accomplish. The steps are simple. Order the bottle from the server. Inspect the bottle that the server brings you. Taste the wine to see if it is spoiled. Enjoy. This month, we talk about ordering the bottle and inspecting it. Next month, we talk about tasting it.
Ordering the Bottle. Many people are intimidated by ordering a bottle of wine, simply because they have no idea what to order. Again, relax. You are not supposed to know our wine list; we are. We spend a lot of time training our staff to help you negotiate the list to find something that you will like or that will pair well with your food. So, if you don’t have an idea what to order, ask your server, the front of the house manager, or me. Make sure to describe what you like and dislike in a wine and equally importantly, how much you want to spend. Don’t put us in the awkward position of trying to guess how much you want to spend. If we recommend a bottle that is beyond your budget, say so. And here’s a hint for you. When I go out to eat at a restaurant with a nice wine list, I never pick my wine in a vacuum. It’s always the result of a conversation with the server, sommelier, wine buyer, or chef.
Inspecting the Bottle. When the bottle comes to the table, this is your first chance to reject it for obvious flaws. Naturally, we’re going to do this inspection before the wine gets to the table, but you should know what to look for anyway.
First, make sure that we got the wine that you wanted and the vintage that you wanted. We have thousands of bottles and sometimes we make mistakes. Once the bottle is opened is not the time to reject a wine because it is not what you ordered.
Next, examine the foil capsule. A bulging cork or capsule is a sign that the wine may have been overheated (in a container on the deck of a ship or in the back of a truck or in an unrefrigerated warehouse). Feel free to send this bottle back for another. But chances are, if one bottle has been mistreated, all of them in the case have been. If you have your heart set on this bottle or it is the last bottle in stock, have the server open it. I have had plenty of bottles with bulging corks that have been just fine. If the wine is sound, drink away. If not, reject the bottle and select something else.
Then examine the label. Look first for wine stains. If wine has come past the cork, it may have run down the label. However, it sometimes will happen that one bottle in a case will break and that will spoil the labels of several other bottles. Wine stains on the label don’t mean anything per se, but they are a warning sign of maltreatment. Again, we reject all such bottles at the front door, but not all restaurants are so careful. Also, if the label is highly marred or looks tampered with, you may reject the bottle. The real issue here is for very high end wines which you suspect are counterfeit. Our wine list doesn’t approach the level at which this would be an issue.
Finally, touch the bottle to assess its temperature. Like many restaurants, we store our white and sparkling wines in our walk-in refrigerator. The health department insists that we maintain a very cold temperature in the walk-in, far too cold for most wines. Cold kills your palate and flavors and aromas. If the wine is too cold, let the server know that you will not need a chiller and let the wine stand in your glasses for a few minutes. Wine will warm much faster in glasses than in the bottle. On the other hand, if the wine is too warm, ask the server to chill it. Most reds taste best around 65 degrees, lower than ambient temperature. If the wine is positively hot, you might question how the restaurant is storing its wine.
Next month, Part Two: The Cork and Tasting the Wine
I’ve cooked a lot of dinners in my life and this was one of the best. I have never had a menu come to me so quickly in all my life. It tumbled out of my brain faster than I could write it down.
Focaccia, Smoked Salmon, and Arugula Finger Sandwiches
with Smoked Trout-Hazelnut Butter
Domain Meriwether Brut “Discovery” NV
Dungeness Crab and Avocado Salad with Chives and Lemon Zest
Maysara Pinot Gris 2003
Seared Wild Coho Salmon with Pinot Noir Beurre Rouge and Sea Beans
A to Z Pinot Noir 2004
Roasted Moulard Duck with Wild Hedgehog Mushrooms, Sautéed Fiddleheads, and Syrah-Green Peppercorn-Huckleberry Reduction
Cristom Syrah 2003
Wild Huckleberry and Lime Shortbread Trifle
Recipe: Cream of Roasted Red Pepper Soup
Whenever I get the urge to make cream of roasted red pepper soup, it is always a big success with our lunch customers. Nothing could be easier. Like all simple preparations, quality of the ingredients is paramount. I’ve tried to scale this down to human proportions. And, relax, it’s just soup. A little more or less of this or that ingredient will make no huge difference. You don’t actually think I measure anything when I make soup, do you?
1 quart roasted red peppers
1 clove garlic, minced
4-5 basil leaves, en chiffonade (Google it, if you don’t know it!)
¼ c toasted almonds
2 c heavy cream or half-and-half
dash of Tabasco®
1 t sherry vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Place the red peppers, garlic, basil, and almonds in a blender. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a soup pot and add the cream, Tabasco, and vinegar. Stir well, heat, and adjust the seasonings.
Feel free to send email if there is some technique or ingredient that you need help with.
Roasted peppers are a wonderful ingredient to have on hand for soups, salads, pasta, and other dishes. In the summer, when peppers are coming hot and heavy, roasting and freezing them is a great way to enjoy them in the cold months.
There are many ways of roasting peppers. The idea is to char the skin, let the pepper steam for a few minutes, then peel and seed it. You don’t have to peel the peppers, but most have really thick skins that are annoying.
At home, if I am roasting one or two peppers, I stick a fork in them, turn a gas burner on and roast them like marshmallows in the open flame, turning to char the skin equally all the way around. Once roasted, the pepper goes into a plastic grocery bag on the counter for 15 minutes or so. If I am roasting a bunch of them, I put them on a sheet tray under the broiler, turning them once they blacken, until they are blackened all about. At the restaurant, we load up the grill with peppers, turning them as needed.
Once the peppers have steamed in the bag for a few minutes (and are cool enough to touch), you can remove the skin in strips with a paring knife. Don’t worry if you cannot get all the skin off: it seldom happens that you can. Slit the pepper open and remove the stem and seeds.
A note of caution: be careful when dealing with chiles that may have some spice. I once roasted a bushel of poblanos, usually a very mild chile, and got such bad chemical burns on my hands that I had to soak my hands in ice water for hours. Use gloves if you’re not sure about the peppers.
For once, I think I am at a loss for words, so let me just say thanks to all of you who have supported us over the winter. While we’re not out of the woods yet, the red ink has not been nearly as bad this year as in years past, and I thank you for your help.
I have got my hands on a few elk tenderloins and they were fabulous this weekend. Always a favorite meat of mine, elk tastes like a cross between good pork and venison. If you would like some, come early this week before it is gone.
All my best and come see us when you can,
Copyright © 2006 Shenandoah Food and Beverage Holdings, LLC
sensational seasonal cuisine and the W logo are trademarks of Shenandoah Food and Beverage Holdings, LLC.