Friday, March 27, 2015

The Hawthornes Enjoy Another Six-Course Meal At The Saltbox Café.

 The Hawthornes have been around the world
at the Saltbox Café,
enjoying their 6-course meals thoughtfully paired with wines.
We've been to Spain.
We've been to Argentina.
We've been to Paris.
We had a chocolate dinner in February.
And last night we went to Italy for their Italian Wine Dinner.
They will be doing this dinner again April 2
which will be Chefs Sprinkles' last stop in
"Vines Around the World" until fall.
Call 252-255-5594 for reservations.

The theme for tonight's dinner,
per Chef Randolph,
is "Springtime and Fresh!"

We started out with a traditional antipasto platter -
marinated kalamata olives,
Italian dried salami,
and a Caprese salad of
grape tomatoes and bocco fresh mozzarella balls
in oil and vinegar.

A bread basket was immediately brought out
with lovely foccacia brushed with sea salt and Italian dried herbs
and black truffle grissini breadsticks

The breads were served with
a roasted garlic, balsamic vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil
dipping sauce.
And we ate every bit!
 I've noticed the artwork is changing.
Haven't seen the owls before.

Our first wine is a Lamberti Prosecco.
And don't make me describe the wines.
Wine descriptions make no sense to me.

"An arrogant and pretentious wine
with undertones of Skittles found in your tennis shoes..."

"A confident wine with a cacophony of aromas..."

"Reminiscent of a Tahitian sunset..."

"Oh my! You can really taste the terroir!"

"Hints of gym locker with a whiff of desperation..."

"This wine sings softly in my glass..."

"A complex wine, yet simple in its approach to life..."

"Appealing to my inner child whilst satisfying
my urge to be an adult..."

"Takes me back to Arabian Nights -
 jewels, dark satin, and flying carpets..."

"The faintest soupçon of artichoke
with a flutter of Gouda..."

"It's just as if they took my childhood summers
in Provence and bottled them..."

"Aggressive notes of spring..."

"Ahhhh.  Quite a devious wine, with notes of a coquettish grape
and ever so slightly reclusive hints of wilting truffle."

"A playful wine with a hint of quince..."
Do you even know what quince tastes like?
Some descriptions read like resumés.
"Profound and mellow, opulent in character..."
"Intense and focused, balanced and persistent .."
"Quite approachable..."
"Delightful personality..."

I could go on and on,
but let's get to the food.

Our first course -
Spring greens!
Spicy arugula salad dressed with olive oil
topped with grated Parmesan and powdered prosciutto
atop a cantaloup purée with apple juice, honey, and fresh ginger.

Chef Randolph explained that the prosciutto
 was first frozen and then microplaned.

This was paired with a saucy and ballsy Jermann Pinot Grigio
Shall I describe the wine?  
I didn't think so.

Our second course, from Sardinia -
linguini with house-made botargo, 
sautéed rockfish, and a lemon gremolata
 with lemon zest, parsley, and garlic.
Botargo is a Meditarranean treat of salted fish roe.
As I said,
Chef Randolph emphasized Spring and Fresh for our meal.
Shad runs are starting now,
so we had shad roe.
And we had some of the first rockfish of the season.
Doesn't get much fresher than that.

Chefs Amanda and Randolph Sprinkle, hard at work.

This dish was paired with La Viarte Ribolla Gialla,
a delightful wine with forward hints of butterflies and angels' tears.

The third course was my favorite.
What can I say?
I love scallops.
Seared scallop with pecans
 over FRESH SPRING basil-scented risotto
 with sugar snap pears
on a sweet carrot purée.

This delightful dish was paired with
a flamboyant and sexy Benevelli La Costa Dolcetto,
endowed and erotic.
Makes one question whether one's palette 
is capable of handling this much worldliness.
Our fourth course was open-faced ravioli
with pancetta and Spring lamb ragout
with the slightest hint of cinnamon.

A sophisticated Benevelli La Costa Dolcetto
accompanied this course.
Provocative and blooming.
Grandiose and exotic.
Elegantly structured yet brooding.
Yep.  That's it to a T!


 I love watching the magic happen.

 Our fifth course was osso buco
over soft mascarpone polenta and sundried tomatoes
with Spring asparagus sautéed in olive oil and garlic
 and vegetables puréed in the braising liquid.

Our wine for this course was Azienda Agricola La Ragose.
Leathery.  Earthy.
I think this wine's name is Griselda 
and I want to take her out dancing all night long.

Oh wow!

Italian cream cake with Chantilly Cream.
And strawberry gelato and strawberries.

Dessert was paired with Cantine Volpi Moscato.
Solid structure and pleasant mouthfeel.
I felt like I was at the ocean when I tasted this wine,
the wind blowing through my hair
and waves lapping at my feet.
Tongue-spanking comes to mind.
Shall I stop with the wine descriptions?
Yeah.  I thought so.

A sweet and lovely ending 
to yet another wonderful meal at the Saltbox Café.

Thanks, Chefs Sprinkles!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Rosie Makes A Roasted Beet Salad.

Every now and then,
I want a hearty salad.
Is that an oxymoron?

I had three small beets left over
from a bunch I'd bought to make a
bratwurst, beet, and cabbage concoction.
The hamster's a-running and the wheel is a-spinning.

I sliced the stems off the beets,
poured a little olive oil,
kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper over top,
wrapped them in foil,
and baked at 350° for about 75 minutes.
Let cool in packet of foil .

Roasted Beet Salad
3 small roasted beets, peeled and sliced
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
assorted lettuces and spinach
nectarine slices
red onion slices
crumbled feta
toasted walnuts

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
2 tsp coarse ground mustard
zest of one nectarine
1/2 cup Bertolli extra light olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Mix vinegar, honey, mustard, and zest.
Slowly whisk in olive oil.
Season to taste.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Rosie Likes Purple Food.

 I'm going purple today.
Purple cabbage.
Purple onion.
Purple beet.

Purple passion symphony.
I'm saving the wurst...  and best...  for last...

  Purple onion.
 Purple cabbage.

  Purple patterns.

Roasted, peeled, and grated beets on the left.
Shredded cabbage and chopped onion on the right.

 Beer, Bratwurst, Cabbage, Beet, and Onion 
1/4 purple cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 purple onion, chopped
1 medium beet, peeled and grated
(I used "Medical Exam Quality" vinyl gloves from Walgreens
to keep the stain off my fingers.)
2 bratwurst, pricked
1 40 ounce beer
1 TB oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground allspice
Prick the bratwurst all over and place in large skillet, medium heat, with the oil.
Add beer halfway up side of brats and bring to a simmer.
Cook, turning once, about 20 minutes.
Slice sausages into thirds.
Increase heat to medium high and cook until liquid evaporates.  Add more beer and continue cooking until it evaporates. Continue adding beer and evaporating until you have about 12 ounces of beer left.
Roll brats to the edge of skillet and add onion in center.  Cook, turning bratwurst often and stirring onion occasionally until sausages are browned and onion soft, 6-7 minutes.  
Transfer brats to a plate and add beets and cabbage to skillet.  Season with salt and pepper.
Cook, stirring, until cabbage wilts, about 5 minutes.
Add vinegar, brown sugar, allspice, and remaining beer.  Cover and cook about 10 minutes.
Add sausages to skillet, cover, and cook another 15-20 minutes.

By adding the beer and evaporating several times,
you end up with lots of flavor in the goody bits
 at the bottom of the pan.
These roasted bits are referred to as "fond"
and it's all concentrated flavor.

Add onions.

Transfer brats to a plate
and stir in cabbage and beet.
 Pretty colors!
Apple cider, brown sugar, and allspice in.
Cover and cook 10 minutes.

Last of the beer in.

Return brats to pan, cover and cook about 15 - 20 minutes.

And serve!