Old World Wine dinner (guest post by Neil)

Well what to do when Mardi is away?  No one to cook, nothing to eat, Cleo and Neil waste away…  HARDLY.  To prove that cooking can still continue without Mardi (Editor’s note – I never said that…), an impromptu dinner gathering was planned.

Last weekend was the final exam for my Old World Wines course at George Brown.  So just after the exam, decided to invite a few of my fellow wine snobs aficionados over to celebrate.  With two vegetarians amongst the four of us, Mardi (and in fact anyone who knows me) would be wryly chuckling at the thought of me preparing a menu for vegetarians. (Editor’s note – indeed!).

Sparkling of course was there to greet everyone, befitting the course.  Though while méthode Champenoise, it was in fact a Canadian bubble – Cuvée Catherine.  I’d forgotten this in the cellar (Editor’s note – how convenient!), so it was needing to be drunk.  Still lovely, the yeast had softened slightly and the citrus nose was not as strong as I recall.  For those who haven’t tried this, it’s a wonderful sparkling from Ontario that provides great value for those wanting a traditional sparkler outside of Champagne.

We started with White bean soup with truffle oil, brought by Adrienne.  Being the contrarian (Editor’s note – not sure what you mean here, this is not a word according to spellcheck!) that I am, I mischievously made my truffle oil a sad face.  The white beans were nicely pureed, but still with enough of the skin texture to make the soup not feel like pabulum.  I’m all for rustic soups – so Adrienne’s totally hit the spot for me.

Jenn brought a silky Pouilly Fuissé, which was a perfect match for this starter.  A treat, as it was one of her collection brought over from one of her trips to the region in France.  She was afraid it may have “gone”, being too old — but not at all.  The three of us had fun doing a bit of a “what wine is this…” guess, befitting our course (Editor’s note – see now this is why I don’t attend these dinners even when I am in town…).  We did rather well, in fact – we picked the slight butteriness of Chardonnay, but with more mineral accents.  So Jenn gave us full marks for getting this white Bourgogne!

Being a busy work Friday, and cooking on my own, I went for a fairly “easy” menu.  So out comes my (in)famous Provençal roast chicken – with lemon,  herbs and heaps of butter.  Yes, the sinfully glorious butter hiding under the skin trick.  🙂 (Editor’s note – I could eat this every night of they year and still not get sick of it!)

That was accompanied by roast fingerling potatoes with olive oil, sea salt and fresh thyme.   (Cooked in a separate roaster, of course.)

Next was Bucatini a’lazio, a favourite new pasta.  This was done with a herb & spice collection brought back from Italy.  So it’s cheating, I suppose – simply simmer and reduce in water, then add a few tablespoons of olive oil, dash over the pasta while still hot.

Last up was Middle eastern Brown rice pilaf, with coriander and apricots.  The toasted chopped hazelnuts didn’t make it — by this time we were enjoying too much wine, and I lost track of the frypan for just about 20 seconds too long…  A very simple dish, really – in keeping with my going-solo-many-dishes-at-once theme.  Brown the onions in (yet again) lots of butter, toast up the rice for a couple of minutes until the edges are clear, then add the coriander and other desert spices, salt and pepper to taste, and four cups of organic vegetable broth.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes.

At this stage the roast chicken came out to rest — Cleo was VERY interested in this, as you can see.  She knows chicken, and she knows the carving knife — so was awaiting her portion.  (The guests howled as of course, she did get her dish.  Editor says “Just as well!”)  Alas, at this stage it was serving madness – so no pic of the finished bird (Editor’s note – see if I had been there that would not have been a problem..). Which, if I say so myself, was gorgeously golden brown and smelling divine.

Here’s a final plate:  YES, please don’t comment on how starch-heavy the night is, with an absence of greens.  Was caught late working so did not make it out (Editor’s note – TONS of veggies in the fridge, my friend…).

More good wine was introduced…we stayed in Bourgogne and had a lovely Côtes de Beaune.

My running late WOULD have meant sparse picking for dessert:  but Stephen came to the rescue and brought his own HOMEMADE chocolates.  They were divine!  Centres included caramel with salt, ouzo and dark chocolate ganache, and an intriguing one that was a tree resin.  Think eucalyptus – but not as strong.  They were a wonderful way to end the evening (Editor’s note – I suppose I will excuse the sloppy plating here on account of all the wine you seem to have consumed).  We paired those with this sticky:  Buller Fine Old Tokay.

We ended the night in the early hours of Saturday with small snifters of Filfar, from Cyprus.  All in all, a great evening with good food and wine.  Cleo was an active part of the party, saying goodbye to guests in the hall… (Editor’s note – she was glad to see everyone leave, she’s not getting any younger and these late nights catch up with her. Oh wait, no that’s her dad!)

Thanks Neil and “wine group” for a great post.  Wish I could have been there to make sure you all ate your veggies!

33 thoughts on “Old World Wine dinner (guest post by Neil)”

  1. Wonderful post, Mr. Neil! Now, I’m definitely going to come knocking on your door. 8-D

    Had a small chuckle at the first shot of the chicken with butter pats under the skin – it looked a bit like breast implants gone bad! But the whole meal turned out lovely, especially the Bucatini. I’m a carb person, so this was a perfect plate!

  2. Looks like a wonderful meal, greens or no greens! And Cleo seems rather content to be a part of the whole affair. Entertaining post!

  3. Hilarious! Can you tell me what widget you are using for your e-mail subscriptions… I need to find it – and have been looking! I have subscribed, and I will be back.

    • I know re: fingerling potatoes – they are my new favourite potato! And thanks re: Cleo. I know some people don’t like seeing pictures of people’s pets on their blogs but she is such an integral part of our lives it seems silly not to include her every now and then!

  4. I am definitely sending this post to my husband. If I go out of town without leaving him a some kind of roasted meat, there’s a week of Taco Bell wrappers and pizza boxes overflowing at our house.

    We have our own Cleo, her name is Rizzo and also demands her portion -lol (our animals and their mind control)

  5. What, no Blue Nun or Black Tower left over to imbibe in???? Great to see some shots of Cleo Cat looking serene and mellow in her advancing years. As they say, no show without Punch…

    • “Advancing years” what do you mean? She’s only going to be 9 in April and still acts like a kitten. Today I watched her throw her mouse that makes annoying sounds up in the air 10 times as she tried to get my attention (I was having a macaron failure at the time and couldn’t play…). And errr… Neil finished both the Black Tower and the Blue Nun. Even if he is a wine snob.

  6. Looks like a fun time! My hubby never would have done that well cooking without me. He usually goes for convenience foods (which I keep a few of in the freezer, just in case). In fact, when I was in NYC he made some frozen pierogies and emailed me a picture to prove that he wasn’t starving. 🙂

    PS – I loved all of the editor’s comments in this post 🙂

    • Aw that is too cute re: sending you a pic of the pierogies! Neil will often do that too to prove he is fine!

      Re: the editor’s comments, we are practising our repartee in case we get chosen for Dinner Party Wars!

  7. I read this post this morning but couldn’t comment on my BB. I love the fact your husband cooks, I can’t imagine what would happen if my husband attempted this. I also loved your comments… I can just hear your voice responding to him! 🙂

  8. Main Entry: con·trar·i·an
    Pronunciation: \kən-ˈtrer-ē-ən, kän-\
    Function: noun
    Date: 1657
    : a person who takes a contrary position or attitude
    : a person with a preference for taking a position opposed to that of the majority view prevalent in the group of which they are a part. A contrarian style of journalism, for instance Slate magazine, has been popular, but has also been the subject of severe criticism. Contrarian styles of argument have historically been associated with radicalism and dissent.

    (Oh look – a very Mardi word, in fact…)

  9. You know, you could have lied and said that you forgot to photograph the greens. Or photoshopped some in. Or put some in using Paint using the green spraycan tool, hehe. I suspect Mardi may have seen through this clever ruse, however.

    That poor bird looks so undignified, stuffed to its eyeballs, but it is the price it must pay for its deliciousness.

  10. Great post Mr Neil! I’m sure that chicken tasted wonderful… I love the lemon stuffing and the huge butter piece melting on it 😉
    You got my attention with the dried apricot and coriander pilaf rice, I’m definitely going to try that. It sounds awesome 😀

  11. Hah! Loved the very pro post with hints of that contrarian attitude poking out via the back to back truffle oil frowny face and “is that a lemon between your legs and didn’t mama teach you to keep ’em crossed?” shots. I’m a bit of a “contrarian” too, so I like the combo.


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