leave your inhibitions at the door
So you find the one that you want to spend the rest of your life with and you get hitched. Gents, there are two guarantees – first, within a year or two, the wife cuts her hair and second, you’ll see a lot less of your friends. While hair grows back, nights out with the boys are a thing of the past. You’ll fight it for a while, but eventually you’ll end up with a whole new set of friends. But it’s not as bad as it sounds – chances are you traded up. With these new friends, you’ll start having dinner parties because none of you want to go out to the bars and get hit on anymore (like me). Then, when everyone starts having kids, you schedule “Gourmet Groups” where you gather at one couple’s house for a good dinner, lively conversation, and a ton of alcohol. It’s the one night of the month you can look forward to without screaming kids. Of course, you’ll settle for just the alcohol.
Our group meets quarterly with the host picking theme and assigning courses. Past themes have ranged from ethnic (Moroccan, Mexican) to a particular chef/restaurant (Keller, Trotter, Batali) to seasons (fall, summer). We even had an Iron Chef night complete with mystery ingredient and judges. Recently, we convened at the home of The Sicilian, who chose “Aloha Night” as the theme – complete with tropical flowers, leis, and Hawaiian shirts. (I don’t own one and hate wearing them. As a Filipino, it’s waayyy too obvious. It’s like if I hosted a honky theme, served a casserole, and had everyone wear sandals with socks.)
When I heard the Hawaiian theme, I immediately got excited with the prospects of different variations of Spam. But nope, she got all high-falootin on me… (Titles are links to recipes)
Roy Yamaguchi’s signature drink started the night off with a bang. It was surprising how a small amount of the rum added a lot of the coconut flavor. Infusing the vodka with pineapple not only added fruitiness, but also turned out to save dessert. Read on…
The Sicilian saved the best recipe (courtesy of Michael Mina) for herself. That little yellow thing you see in the middle is the yolk from a quail egg. Although they were a beyotch to separate, it was well worth it for the silky, creamy texture it added to the tuna. The preparation involved mixing the tuna with the pears, jalapenos, mint, and pine nuts. It was downright decadent. We served it with a fresh Alsatian Riesling (sorry don’t recall which).
It’s easy to forget that Emeril Lagasse is a legitimate chef. His soup, expertly prepared by The Jackal, was delicious, especially the Lobster Relish. It was paired with a choice of two wines – 2009 Franciscan Sauvignon Blanc (Napa) and a 2009 Georges DuBoeuf Beaujolais-Villages. Beaujolais is kind of like the Emeril of the wine world – easily dismissed as shallow and annoying, but can be excellent at times. The fruitiness of the wine, along with the banana overtones on the nose, matched well.
The big surprise in this dish wasn’t that Pineapple made a wonderful vinaigrette. It’s that a couple of bloodsucking lawyers made it – with such a beautiful presentation, too. It was served with a 2008 Fess Parker Viognier (Santa Barbara) whose tropical notes complimented the fruit and shrimp nicely.
I doubt that this is a true Hawaiian preparation, I think she picked this as it was served at the Halekulani Hotel when she stayed there. No complaints here. Salt crusting seals in the moisture to steam the fish, but doesn’t add extra saltiness to it.
It was tender to the point that we didn’t think it was fully cooked. Amazing. This was paired with 2009 Les Deux Rives Corbieres Blanc.
Braised Hawaiian Pork Shoulder (with pureed parsnips and pineapple foam)
Yours truly did this one. Fact – in the 2000 census, 14% of Hawaiians were of Filipino descent (represent!). So, of course, pork has become a big part of their cuisine. So which famous Filipino’s or Hawaiian’s recipe was used? Brian Boitano, of course. (FYI – he’s neither). It’s a nice recipe with it’s mixture of pineapple and spices and the video on the site is worth a giggle with his hip moves. I ended up pimping it out a little by topping it with a pineapple foam. Besides adding a nouvelle cuisine flourish to it, it also accented the faint pineapple flavors in the braising liquid.
The white stuff it’s resting on is pureed parsnips. It’s very much like mashed potatoes, but with a slight nutty flavor. Boil 4 peeled and diced parsnips along with a peeled russet potato in veal stock. Drain the liquid, add butter, cream, some chives, and mash it.
I paired this with a 2003 St St Supery Merlot I got for about half-price, due to the vintage. There’s a misconception that Merlot doesn’t hold up as well over time. This was just fine and probably could’ve gone another 4-5 years. The body was equal to the weight of the pork, while its fruity lushness complimented the spice.
Due to a last-minute cancellation, Boom Boom and I offered to make this Bobby Flay recipe. It seemed pretty straightforward – simple preparation of the sauce, throw the pound cake on the grill along with the sliced pineapple, serve with ice cream. Not so easy when you forget to bring the pineapple.
So I took the pineapples chunks that the Sicilian used to infuse the vodka in the martinis and sautéed in butter. I knew they’d have alcohol in them, so I tipped the pan to flambé them, hoping that they would caramelize.
What was unexpected was that they’d keep burning. And burning. And burning. It was like a little funeral pyre in the pan. After more than five minutes I thought, “Screw it, all the alchohol should be burned off. If not, a little alcohol wouldn’t hurt.” Alas, they were still super strong – barely edible.
The saving grace was the 2006 Hillebrand Late Harvest Vidal (Ontario) I paired it with. It’s notes of pineapple, pear, and honey along was perfect with the dessert. It was medium sweet with a luscious texture that helped breakup the excess alcohol in the fruit, yet didn’t clash with the ice cream.
Despite the screwup on dessert, overall a menu full of winners. Great time!