Asparagus & Wine Pairings


We are pleased to introduce our good friend and guest blogger Zinfreek!
Two of my favorite things (plus chive blossoms): Local springtime asparagus in California, and a Franciscan Ware platter (part of the collection I inherited from Mom and Dad Palmer, who received the set as a wedding gift in 1956).

Asparagus gets a bad rap when it comes to wine.  Alas, it’s true, as many wines can take on a weirdly sweet yet metallic, artificially canned fruit kinda flavor when paired with this iconic spring delight.

Not to worry, tho, for two reasons.

The first is that you’re probably not sitting down to a lonely platter of asparagus for lunch or dinner; unless you’re me and do do that, it’s probably just one part of a larger meal, so grab a nice bottle of whatever you find works with the main event and sip away.  If, however, asparagus is the star attraction and you wish to hone in on a pleasant match, you may want to bear in mind a basic rule of thumb (we’re talking white, here): choose something really fresh, crisp, lean and acidic even, with zero oak treatment I would suggest.  Sauvignon blanc naturally comes to mind, and world-wide this wine is better than ever as winemakers learn to leave it alone and let the grape’s aromatic, pungent personality shine.  Sancerre from the Loire Valley in France is a classic, or a Touraine sauvignon for an even less expensive choice.  A slightly less tropical and less bodacious New Zealand offering can do the trick, as can a balanced California version from Lake County or Monterey County, to name a few.  Other suggestions include an honest, zesty Pinot Grigio from Italy, of course (thinking Friuli or the Alto Adige), or a citrusy Rueda from Spain.  And whatever you do, do not forget about Grüner Veltliner from Austria (or try one if you’ve never before), one of the current darlings of the wine world: a slightly peppery, mineral laden white wine, and a great foil for vegetable-based dishes.  Finally: a pale, firm and dry (and ever so slightly earthy) Mediterranean-style Rosé, another of my favorite springtime indulgences as the newest vintage comes to market, and a wine that needn’t be fussed over.  There’s a bevy of other fine options out there, and most of them can be easy on the pocketbook, so chat with your neighborhood wine merchant to get some more suggestions.

Grüner veltliner was going to be my second tip (especially a lighter and leaner expression), because it’s so damned adept at succeeding where other wines fall a bit flat, but I already mentioned it.  So my second suggestion is to squeeze a bit of fresh lemon and a couple grinds of cracked pepper on top of your log jam mound of asparagus (maybe some minced chives, too); a no brainer as the threesome go hand in hand, but one that seems to help mitigate the sometimes difficult or awkward food/wine match.

Eat real food, people.  And eat your veggies.

Peter J. Palmer

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Restaurant Tip #1


Restaurant Tip #1: Never put your gum under a restaurant table.

Growing the Fava Beans is the Easy Part


This lovely mound of beans was my third harvest from my plants, and honestly by this point the prep required to actually get the beans to the table had me daunted.  The process goes like this, you shell the beans from the pod (not easy),  the shelled beans have a tough outer skin that needs to be removed, so you parboil the shelled beans for 2-3 minutes, drain, ice and then remove the outer skin from each and every bean (not easy).  So before this 3rd harvest I got some advice……

Take the bean pod and rip it in half

Then just squeeze the pod and the beans will pop right out

Yes my thumbnail is dirty, shucking Fava’s is HARD WORK!  and yes that is a dog hair jauntily sticking out from my index finger, but unfortunately you cannot eat in this house without dog hair, it is a condiment.

Fava Mania!


Years ago my friends Shelley & James planted a cover crop of Fava Beans in their yard (the Fava’s put lot’s of good nitrogen in the soil). When I first saw them they were in bloom and just beautiful, I couldn’t stop commenting on how pretty the plant was with it’s silvery green leaves and, such lovely flowers! When I saw some Fava plants at the nursery this winter I decided to try my hand at growing some in a half wine barrel.

The Fava plant grows tall and bushy, not viney like other beans

 They grew like the proverbial weed and before I knew it they were loaded with beautiful blossoms.

          

The center is such a deep purple it almost looks black

The flowers bloom in clusters all over the plant, not much of a scent, but the bees sure did like them!  Soon enough little baby Favas were sprouting.

              

Swiss Charred Pizza


Well, I was right in the middle of cooking a pizza last night, when my oven konked out.  I decided to finish the pizza on the grill.

I was very pleased with the way it looked when it came off the grill.  It looked beautiful!

Until I looked at the bottom………

Rainbow Chard


I’m harvesting the last of my Chard today

It’s so pretty and super easy to grow.  These plants were grown in  a half wine barrel and provided us with fresh, tasty greens all winter.

Love the hot pink ribs.

  Looks like we’ll be having Rainbow Chard Pizza for dinner!

FarmShop


This is the new restaurant, soon to be bakery/butcher/charcuterie/larder etc in the Brentwood Country Mart.  Jeffrey Cerciello who is the Chef/Proprietor was the Director of Casual Dining for the Thomas Keller Group for 10 years.  The space is very pretty although not quite finished.  The restaurant is open but the shop part is still under construction.  Large community table in the middle with banquette seating along 3 walls.  Pretty wood tables and chairs, blue velvet banquettes.  The food was absolutely gorgeous, very pretty, colorful presentations.  I had the Poached Chicken Salad, it comes with a little glass beaker of dressing on the side so you can drizzle over the salad as you like.

I also had a side of French Fries.  These also come with a little glass beaker on the side, this one filled with housemade ketchup.  Not a big fan of ketchup, so can’t comment on that but the Fries were hot & crunchy.

My husband had the Steak Sandwich and Fries.

All in all an enjoyable lunch, we will definitely try again and look forward to seeing the Shop part open.