I’m still eating Halloween candy! It can’t be December 23rd! When did this happen??? What can I do but roll with it. I feel like the Christmas Season really started Friday night. My husband and I stopped into Tractor Room in Hillcrest for a drink and an appetizer. I love entering the restaurant through the heavy velvet drapes. I feel like I’ve entered another world when I go here. It was dark and cozy, and old school music was playing. We ordered a light appetizer of Braised Buffalo Fries with Griddled Smoked Cheddar Cheese. I highly recommend this place for Happy Hour. They have great nibbles, tasty drinks, and good prices. It’s a great spot for dinner, too. I haven’t had their brunch, so let me know if you’ve tried it!
We headed down the street for dinner at Ristorante Arrivederci. It’s been a while since I’ve been to this spot. I figure that with the Christmas Holiday starting, why hold back now. Franz ordered a delicious sausage orecchiette dish with broccoli rabe. I had a craving for gnocchi. We shared one of my favorite appetizers, burrata. With a lovely bottle of Sangiovese, what could be better?
I made reservations at The Wine Vault & Bistro a couple of weeks ago for their Christmas Dinner. Fortunately, we didn’t have much to eat on Friday, so we had a huge appetite. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I love this restaurant. If you haven’t gone yet, what are you waiting for??? Make sure to check the website and call ahead for reservations. Dinner is only certain nights throughout the month, and the food and drink pairings are always changing. Our first course was marinated tuna with celery root and a clementine ponzu. It was plated with the second course of crispy white fish and what tasted like a parsley pesto. The courses were paired with a glass of 2010 Gerard Bertrand Cremant de Limoux, a sparkling blend of Chardonnay (70%), Chenin Blanc (20%), and Mauzac (10%). I am very particular when it comes to sparkling wines. My favorite (and always stocked in the house) is Veuve Clicquot. I thought the sparkling blend we were served was just as delicious and not too sweet. And at $14, I think it’s a steal! So we bought two bottles to go. They were almost sold out when we requested our bottles.
Next up was an amazing dish of Dana Blue Cheese served with thinly sliced persimmons, toasted pepitas and mizuna. Accompanying the cheese course was a sunchoke veloute with spice roasted apples and chesnuts. Oh my. I was dying at this point. The cheese was perfectly creamy. And the veloute?? Imagine taking the taste and smells of Thanksgiving, turning that into creamy liquid perfection, and pouring it into a demitasse. I guess you could say I liked it. It was paired with a 2010 Stolpman ”Golden Point” White Blend (Roussanne (64%), Chardonnay (21%), Sauvignon Blanc (15%)). Red wine is my favorite, so whites have a hard time meeting my expectations. This wine was decent, and the smoky quality was an interesting match with these courses.
The next course served was a perfectly cooked thyme roasted salmon with fennel and beets with a light blood orange dressing. Plated with the salmon was the 6th course consisting of a pomegranate glazed duck breast, spiced roasted plums, and scallion rice. I thought the rice was a lame choice. I changed my mind when I tasted everything together. The rice was a welcomed texture on the plate, and it was flavorful. These two courses were served with what turned out to be another wine pairing favorite, 2010 Vine Hill “Santa Cruz Mountains” Pinot Noir. We were forced to buy a of couple bottles. Not a bad price at $16!
I was sad to see the arrival of our last savory courses: braised leg of lamb served on top of crushed kabocha squash, and (my favorite cheese!!!) ricota salata and a sous vide pork loin with rosemary potato mousse and dried fruit. Even though ricotta salata is my favorite cheese, it was unnecessary in this dish. The lamb and squash had such amazing flavors that the ricotta salata just got lost. It’s hard to say which course was my favorite, but these two may have been the winners of the night. But maybe it was the veloute. I can’t pick a favorite!! These bites were served with 2009 Sika Cabernet Sauvignon.
The last two courses were desserts: a gingerbread cake with mascarpone mousse and quince and a maple pot de creme topped with a cinnamon crumble. It was served with Wine Vault’s legendary eggnog. I’m not a huge fan of eggnog, but this was really yummy. Fresh local eggs, dark rum, Cognac, vanilla, cream and spices could be to blame. I am a huge dessert fan, so I will be honest. I (and Franz agreed) was not a huge fan of the gingerbread. It was kind of bland. The maple pot de creme was heavenly! It was so smooth and not too sweet. The crumble put it over the top. That was a huge hit!
Franz and I thought they had a smart way to make sure the veloute didn’t fall off of the plate! A dollop of goat cheese as glue! Franz was the one who figured that out.
As you can see, I kept this weekend very light in anticipation of all of the Christmas goodies I will be eating for the next week. Let me know what’s on your list of places to eat (no matter where you live!!), and tell me what amazing stuff you or your family is making! I will post again after January 1st, but you can always see what I’m up to on twitter (@megangillkopp) or on my Facebook page: Monkey Bread and Sweet Pea.
Take Care and Happy Holiday Eating!!