Did You See The Date?????

Date

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!

Buffalo Fries

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?

Burrata

Burrata2

GnocchiOrecciette

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.

WV Course 1

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.

Perfection in a Demitasse

Perfection in a Demitasse

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!

WV Course 4

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.

WV Course 3

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!

WV Dessert

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.

WV Cup Holder

We only bought 4 extra bottles, but they gave us a huge box.  Kind of embarrassing hailing a taxi this way.

We only bought 4 extra bottles, but they gave us a huge box. Kind of embarrassing hailing a taxi this way.

WV Wine to Go

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!!

Tractor Room on Urbanspoon

Arrivederci Italian on Urbanspoon

Wine Vault & Bistro on Urbanspoon

Fabulous Friday?

My intention was to write about what I loved this week for another “Fabulous Friday” posting.  Yesterday was National Cocoa Day.  So, accordingly, last night I put on my pjs, whipped up a hot mug o’ chocolate, cozied up on the sofa with Sweet Pea, a.k.a. Monsieur, and watched a French movie I recorded months ago.  I was set to write about that amazing hot cocoa this afternoon.  I had a great run on my treadmill this morning.  I’ve been battling some minor knee and heel pain for a bit, and today I ran 3 miles without pain.  I was in a great mood.  I was about to write my post when I noticed a bunch of Facebook postings about a school shooting.  I turned on the t.v. and heard more details.  What started out as such a great day turned dark quickly.  I don’t feel like writing about the cocoa.

Cocoa

But I started thinking about what really made me so happy last night and today.  Last night I was really happy to be with my dog, and eager to see my husband who was coming home a little later than usual that night.  The cocoa and the glow of the Christmas lights inside and outside were just sprinkles on top of the sundae.  And today, I was so happy to have a relatively pain-free run so that I can get back to running with my husband.  I will discuss hot chocolate another day.  But today, let’s all remember what truly makes our week fabulous – family.  And whether family is your Mom, your husband, or your best friend since fourth grade, never forget how important they are in your life.  It’s so easy to forget.  So grab a glass of wine or a mug of cocoa and give those loved ones a big hug.  It’s those people who are truly what makes life fabulous.  Again, it’s so easy to forget.

Gill Fam Plus

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Fabulous Friday Again!

I hope everyone had a great week!  I had a sweet surprise this week.  My husband was craving sweets all week (I’m rubbing off on him!).  Tuesday night he proclaimed that we were going to Jack in the Box for milkshakes.  It was around 8pm, and we were basically in our pajamas.  Life is so good!!  If you haven’t had a Jack in the Box milkshake, I feel very sorry for you.  They are so thick that you have to remove the straw and lick it because the goodness of the shake just won’t flow through the straw.  We always get chocolate.  “Jack” tops the shake with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry.  And it’s super cheap!  And you can take it home and sit on the sofa with your family in your pjs will attempting to slurp the cup o’ ice cream and milk down while watching another episode of Law & Order!

Popular Jack antenna ball (Christmas version)

Merry Christmas from Jack!

In keeping with my new Friday “tradition”, I want to tell you about my favorite thing (other than a milkshake) this week: Pomegranate Molasses.  It can be a little tricky to find in the grocery store, but ask around and you’ll find it.  If you have a Middle Eastern market near you, that’s a great place to look.  I bought mine in San Diego at Specialty Produce (http://www.specialtyproduce.com/).

I need another bottle!

I need another bottle!

I love this product because you can use it on so many things.  It has a very tart and tangy flavor, and it is thick (hence “molasses”) so it is a great saucy topper.  You can drizzle it over sweet or savory dishes.  You can take any grain, for example wheat berry, and some dark greens, like mustard greens or arugula, and drizzle the molasses over it.  Or you can go sweet.  The first time I used Pomegranate Molasses was about 8 years ago when I came across a recipe from Big City Cooking: Recipes for a Fast-Paced World by Matthew Kenney and Joan Schwartz.  It is the most simple recipe, but you have to use the highest quality of ingredients.  Hold onto this recipe until the peak of strawberry season.  I promise people will rave!  And, again, it couldn’t be easier!  Don’t wait for strawberry season to buy it! Go out, find a bottle, and start using it.  The next grain salad you make for dinner, pour a little over each serving.  It will be a great addition to your pantry!

Strawberries with Pomegranate Molasses and Fresh Ricotta by Matthew Kenney Serves 4

1 quart ripe strawberries, stemmed and halved

2 tablespoons sugar

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Kosher salt

(My addition: couple pinches of cinnamon.  I love cinnamon and it’s so healthy, so I always try to add it to recipes.)

1 cup whole ricotta cheese (***Remember, do not use the commercial stuff.  Go to a cheese purveyor and get the good stuff!!)

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, or substitute balsamic syrup (***But don’t!  And I believe the amount is to taste.  You may want a lot more!)

12 mint leaves

In a large bowl, toss the strawberries with sugar.  Whisk the lemon zest, lemon juice, cinnamon and a pinch of salt into the ricotta.  Divide the strawberries among 4 bowls, top with the ricotta mixture, drizzle with pomegranate molasses, and garnish with mint leaves.

Have you used this product before?  If so, tell me how!

Take Care and Happy Eating!