Sunday, September 6, 2009

Grilled corn and mushrooms

Last week I promised to recreate the corn and mushroom dish we fell in love with at Slanted Door. It is actually quite simple to do, as many dishes are that let the fresh ingredients express themselves. Here’s the recipe:

Slanted Door Grilled Sweet Corn
Serves 4 as a side dish

Grill 2 ears of fresh sweet corn. Cool and strip the kernels from the cobs.
Chop a dozen small chanterelle or shitake mushrooms into medium dice (each dice about four times the size of a kernel of corn)
Heat 1 tablespoon peanut oil to smoking in a wok.
Keep the heat below the wok on high and work quickly.
Add mushrooms and sweat until they release their moisture
Add corn kernels and 1 teaspoon fish sauce.
Once corn is heated, serve and enjoy.

Last week, Stacy and I had one of those rare Friday vacation days to enjoy together, just the two of us. After luxuriously sleeping in until 7:30 AM, we rose, fed our dogs and walked them a couple of miles to get our blood flowing again. One back home and showered, we enjoyed a light breakfast of Bellwether Farms sheep’s milk yogurt with fresh berries followed by a hot shower. What a wonderful way to get our goof-off day started.

Well, not quite a goof-off day. We did have a mission to accomplish as part of our preparation for the Sept 12 benefit dinner party on Howell Mountain: I needed to measure the oven at Spence Vineyards to make sure 48 pounds of braised short ribs would fit in it, which is the one hot dish we plan to serve next Saturday. A trip to Howell Mountain gave us the opportunity to make a day trip to the Wine Country, which is one of our favorite things to do to relax and enjoy each other’s company. I also had several phone calls to make to stay on top of my consulting business, which I planned to do from the car during the hour and a half drive from our home in Burlingame to Angwin on top of Howell Mountain.

Then there was the Bay Bridge closure to contend with. We chose to route across the San Mateo Bridge to get to 880 and travel North to Vallejo on 80 and over on 37 to 29 for the drive up the Napa Valley. Traffic was stop and go on the East side of the San Mateo Bridge as we crawled towards 880. It took a half hour longer than expected to get to Napa which meant I had to lead my conference call from the passenger seat of the truck as Stacy sped North. As we neared Saint Helena, the traffic slowed to a craw again prompting Stacy to leave the line of cars to taste some wine at Hall Winery. I was able to wrap up my call as she eased the truck into a shaded parking space much to Stacy’s delight.

Scott, our pourer at Hall was very friendly and eager to share all of the sustainably farmed wines including some delicious single vineyard bottling of three different varietals. We really like the two sauvignon blancs that comprise all of the white wine program for Hall. Their T-Bar-T at $22 was a rich and complex blend of SB and vigonier and a touch of new French oak that we highly recommend. We also loved the Diamond Mountain Cab which is only available at the winery. It was luscious with a good balance of dark berry fruit and oak and a long finish. Yum. It is $100 per bottle though, which makes it a special occasion wine and more than we wanted to pay. It was nice to have a taste, though.

After our tasting, we back tracked a few hundred yards to buy three of specialty sandwiches from the deli in the back of Dean and Deluca. Stacy also bought a bag of chips and a German chocolate cupcake to share. Then we got back into traffic to make the final slog into Saint Helena to pick up a case of olive oil from Olivier Napa Valley. They recycle bottles and the customer fills their own bottle from the large copper vats of oils that include small tasting cups and crunchy bread for tasting the oils. It is nice to taste and compare the different oils to find what you like the most before buying. We bought six Mission and six Arbequina that I will use for cooking, making vinaigrette, mayo and aioli.

After loading the case of oil into our truck we headed up Howell Mountain to Spence Vineyards where we enjoyed a leisurely lunch with Allen Spence on his porch overlooking his vineyards and expansive herb garden. It was such a beautiful day to munch delectable sandwiches in an Eden-like setting even with the swarm of hornets that wanted part of our lunch, or a nibble of our skin for their lunch. I felt reconnected to nature in a very real way, and content too.

The oven checked out so I believe there will be enough room for braising all 48 pounds of short ribs next Saturday if I combine the space of their Viking oven in the kitchen with the gas grill on their porch. It will be challenging to control the heat of the grill and to pack the braisers so that the meat fits and still develops the flavor profile I’m looking for to delight 60 diners at dinner next week, but I think we can manage.. Wish me luck, please!

After lunch, Stacy and I were back on the road, although this time we were on back roads between Calistoga and Occidental. The drive over the mountains was glorious as we sought to accomplish our second mission: picking up two cases of Baletto Pinot Gris that will be served with the dinner next Saturday. It’s a crisp refreshing wine that sells for $9.80 a bottle if you buy a case. When a wine is both affordable and good we like to buy quantity to share. A quick stop at Baletto and then we went around the corner to Lynmar to relax in their garden overlooking the Quail Hill Vineyard while enjoying their reserve tasting of two chardonnays and two pinots. They served the 2006 La Sereinit√© and 2007 Old Wente selection chardonnays. The La Sereinit√© was superb and priced accordingly. The Wente was okay and while priced much less than the LS, it wasn’t something we would buy as it seemed to heavily oaked. The pinots were the 2006 Russian River and 2007 Terra de Promissio Vineyard. Both were quite good and priced fairly (if you get the member discount that is). Stacy and I lingered at Lynmar to enjoy the smells of their organic vegetable and herb garden and to stroll the grounds to enjoy the late afternoon mild weather. It was blissful.

We headed south on 101 from Santa Rosa just before 4 PM. As we got to Petaluma a half hour later we saw miles of cars stacked up to get onto roads that connected North Bound 101 to points east. I mean miles and miles of cars that didn’t seem to be moving at all. Then just north of Sausalito, Southbound 101 came to a grinding halt. It took us ½ hour to go 2 miles to the Spencer Avenue exit to make our way down the cliffs into the downtown district of Sausalito. We decided to take refuge in our favorite sushi restaurant for an hour or so to let rush-hour traffic dissipate.

Sushi Ran is one block of the main drag just across from the marina in Sausalito. It is housed in the ground floors of two buildings separated by a breezeway in a small office complex. One building is the sushi bar and restaurant which is always crowded with narrow passages between tables making it difficult for the patrons and wait staff no navigate without occasionally jostling a seated diner. We prefer the bar across the breezeway with expansive spaces to relax both at the bar and at cocktail tables inside and on the patio. They serve a full dinner menu to patrons there along with wines, a vast selection of sakes, and beer and well drinks. We sat and enjoyed fresh hamachi nigiri, roasted kumamoto oysters, spicy tuna rolls, and scallop dumplings along with a chilled, floral sake called Akitabare that was poured to overflowing into a clear glass set inside a lacquered wooden box. Everything was great although the spicy tuna rolls were something we would not order again.

The bar at Sushi Ran is a typical sushi bar atmosphere where patrons will strike up friendly conversations with strangers seated next to them. We met a fellow foodie couple also taking refuge at the bar before the showing of Julia & Julie at the nearby theater. They live in Tiburon and make their own wines at their weekend place in Sonoma. They are very fortunate to get access to fruit that is contracted for Napa Silver Oak Cabernet. Apparently during harvest some clusters fall off the tractor onto his crush pad where he just lets the fruit speak for itself. We hope to be invited to dinner there soon!

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

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