Playing Doctor

Initial Visit?

Monday, November 13

Blackbird I

My mother and sister drove up to spend the weekend with me. We’d planned on having dinner Saturday night with the Marquee, whom they’d never met. I suggested we cook a meal and asked them what we should make.

‘We could do hamburgers,’ mom offered, ‘that would be simple.’

‘Hmmm,’ I said, ‘I was thinking more along the lines of a pork loin.’

‘With,’ my sister added, ‘a Rum Orange reduction. And some roasted vegetables.’

‘Roasted root vegetables would be good,’ I said, ‘parsnips, turnips and potatoes,’

‘Sweet potatoes would be better than potatoes,’ my sister said, ‘with some coriander and Moroccan spices. And a frissee salad with a lemon vinaigrette.’

‘How about a lemon caper vinaigrette?’ I suggested.

This went on until the menu was settled. We went to the grocery store and picked out our supplies. When we came home, I made the pâte brisée for the tart, the lemon caper vinaigrette and started marinating the Pork loin in Myer’s dark rum, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns and the juice from eight Florida oranges.

By mid afternoon, we’d started roasting the eggplant for the ajlouke we were serving for an opening snack. While I concentrated on the Pear and Blue Cheese tart, using Bosc pears and Danish Blue, my sister prepared the roasted root vegetables. We ended up also getting a rutabega, pearl onions and fennel. After she finished the cutting, she built the bonfire to roast them. While she was getting the fire going, I put the pork loin in the oven and put the marinade on the stove top to make the reduction.

When the Marquee arrived, we had the ajlouke and toasted pita in the living room. We also served pickled hearts of palm and artichoke hearts. We served Lillet blanc with grapefruit wedges in chilled tumblers.

We moved to the dinner table and served the salad, mixed greens—rather than the frissee—with dried currents and freshly ground pistachio nuts topped with the lemon caper vinaigrette. We served the Trinchero Family Select 200 Pinot Noir.

After we finished the salads, I served the pork loin with the rum and orange reduction and the roasted root vegetables with Moroccan spices.

I was most excited about the dessert though. A few years back, I was at a tasting and had The Noble Semillon 1999, a dessert wine by d’Arenberg, from Australia. Now, I know what you’re thinking, because I think the same thing all the time, ‘Australian wine? I’d sooner drink horse urine.’ But I think the very things that make Australian wine taste so unimaginably bad, are the right things to make a good dessert wine. The d’Arenberg Riesling is in higher production, but if you can get your hands on the Semillon, do so. At the tasting, I remembered thinking that it would go really, really well with pears and blue cheese. So for the past couple of years, I kept on trying to come up with an autumn occasion to think up a recipe for a pear and blue cheese tart.

And the pear and blue cheese tart and The Noble did go very well together. Most exciting.


Anonymous Anonymous writes:

Exactly how broad a range of Australian wines have you actually tasted to validate your sweeping statement? Sounds incredibly under-researched to me...


Blogger robotomy writes:

Oh, remember the wine tastings!!

Miss you,


Blogger Erik writes:

I couldn't tell you exactly how many Australian wines I've tasted. I'd figure it to be somewhere in the range of 75-125, most of them because someone said, 'no, this one really is good.'

I've tasted at least 40 shiraz wines from Australia, many of them seemed more diesel fuel than something one would intentionally put in their mouth.

True Story: shiraz, which is actually the syrah grape, got its name when some one said, 'Have you noticed that when syrah is grown in Australia, it tastes like ass? When the Australians grow it, they should call it shiraz, cause it "sure tastes like ass".'

(By true story, I mean it really is the syrah grape and it really does taste like ass when grown in Australia. As a side note, some California winemakers are now using the name shiraz. Many of them are quite nice.)

(Confession: I have been trying to figure out if grape varieties should be capitalized. I usually seem to see them so, but technically they are subspecies/varieties and should not be. I have chosen the technical answer and have not capitalized them.)


Anonymous Anonymous writes:

The menu sound terrific! I'll have to try some of your wine suggestions. Hey, how about giving us recipes from your meal???



Anonymous Anonymous writes:

So... everyone else says 'no, this one is really good' and you say 'diesel fuel'... sounds like you may have an under-developed palate to me.


Blogger Erik writes:

Look, if you like Australian wine-or even if you make or distribute Australian wine-it doesn't make you a bad person. Is that what you'd like me to say?

As children we're told stories of lemmings and jumping off bridges and emperor's clothes because conformity can be an overwhelming impulse. People will often believe and repeat whatever they're told about the quality of a wine, for fear of appearing 'under-developed' if they disagree with the assessment.

I have no doubt that Australia will eventually start producing better quality wines, with more complexity and nuance. As I said, the dessert wine I had was quite good.


Anonymous anon. writes:

australians don't take criticism well, something could actually be as tasty as horse sh#t, but if criticised by anyone else (and my apologies, but especially yanks) well, we'll stand up and defend it to the death i.e. vegemite, and this is coming from an aussie who travels with a vegemite supply. coupled with our defence mechanism is a love of beer, hot tip:: best not to knock an aussie in a pub, especially when your best defence is Budweiser


Anonymous Anonymous writes:

I also grew up in Iowa. After the hamburger suggestion, my mom would have said something like, "And for a vegetable, we can have corn; or if you don't want corn, how about a potato." And later offer you a glass of Mogen David.


Blogger callmekidd writes:

what an ass


Blogger dan writes:

You had me at blue cheese.


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