wining and dining

What a way to end the workweek and begin my (fake) weekend - as soon as I stepped foot in my apartment after work, I received a message from my friend Nick, wondering if I was at the Wildman portfolio tasting.  Clearly, I was not, and obviously I needed to be.  Fortunately for me, it was literally around the corner at Guastavino's - a space that I didn't even know existed, hidden behind the Food Emporium under the 59th St. Bridge.  Before I move too quickly into the food and wine, let me just say that it was one of the most beautiful spaces I've seen in a long while - it's a giant, sprawling space with gorgeous tiled, vaulted ceilings AND a private garden. Brilliant! 

Moving on, this was Frederick Wildman & Sons 2010 Portfolio Tasting - that being said, there was much wine to be tasted, from all over the world: France, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Australia, the States, Italy - you name it.  There were over 100 tables of different producers, and the tasting took over the entire 25,000 square foot interior.  Fortunately, I had Nick to guide me in the right direction and weed out the relatively crappy wines.  A table of note was that of Enoteca de Rham with wines from a selection of boutique wineries throughout Italy.  They had some amazing Montepulciano d'Abruzzos, Barberas, Barolos, Amarones, etc.  Three producers of note were La Stoppa (Emilio-Romagna), La Spinona (Piemonte), and, most importantly, Le Ragose (Veneto).  Wines from Veneto have a special place in my heart - Amarones and Valpolicellas tug at my heartstrings, and one of my favorite wines in the WORLD (that I can never find) hails from Veneto - Masi Osar, 100% Oseleta grape - more on that later.

Sadly, we were near the tail end of the tasting, and whoever their event manager was began bothering people (and being a prick!) claiming that he needed his glasses back IMMEDIATELY and that no pours were to be made any more - hospitality people, really?? Well, fortunately from that came a blessing when the lady from Rham decided to just give us the above bottle of wine because we "HAD to taste it!" As some may know, I am absolutely not opposed to carrying around random bottles of my wine hidden inside of my purse! After sneaking out, the next logical step was obviously aimed towards food and eating.  Now, Nick, whom I had met a few months back at yet another tasting is a serious, amazing chef.  He began at Bouley, then ran Restaurant Zinc in Boston back in the 90s and has won multiple James Beard awards, most importantly Rising New Chef of the Year.  When he worked at Zinc back in the day, he ran the place like a madhouse - people couldn't get enough of his food - and he's a genius with seafood!  Hearing his stories from his days there are epic - especially when he talks about Julia Child coming in to dine (jealousy ensues).  Needless to say, when he brought up the idea of cooking, I was in!  We picked up some wine - Meroi Nestri (2006) Colli Orientale del Friuli, and La Zerba (2009) Terrarossa Gavi - the producer of the Gavi was actually in store, so we got to discussing winemaking for a bit with him, which led to us purchasing his white - a good move indeed. After picking up some ingredients (including FRESH chervil!!), we were ready to roll!
epic crab crostini

Before I get into the cooking, let me say that I came to a random conclusion about myself last night - I apparently start getting all twitchy when other people are cooking and I'm not doing the work! You'd think anyone would be happy to have someone else cook for them, but all I wanted to do was chop, dice, stir, flip - you name it.  It was pretty entertaining - I couldn't remove myself from the kitchen for more than a second.  Back to the good stuff - this crab crostini was outstanding.  The blue crab was delicious by itself, but mixed with orange and lemon zest and a bit of juice, fresh chives, and fresh chervil to make a cool, citrus crab salad was even better - I would never think of orange as an amazing partner for crab, but it was mouthwatering.  And the cold crab on top of a warm sauteed slice of ciabatta took it to the next level.  So go out, buy some crab, and make this happen! I could eat this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day for the rest of my life, it is THAT good.

Citrus Crab & Parmesan Crostini
1 lb. crab meat (preferably blue crab)
1 orange
1 lemon
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon finely chopped chervil 
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1 good crusty baguette/thin ciabatta
Olive oil/vegetable oil if you have it
Sea Salt & Pepper
tasty crab nuggets
fresh chervil!!!
Sidenote: If you ever see fresh chervil, seriously, just buy it and use it in everything.  Make an omelet aux fines herbes, put it in your salads, sprinkle it on fish, whatever! It's a fantastic herb - it's actually in the carrot family (think about how carrot tops look, and no not the "actor"), and has a very delicate, subtle anise flavor to it.

Start by zesting your lemon and orange with a microplane grater - place the zests in a mixing bowl with the crab and fresh herbs, and squeeze half of the orange and the lemon over top.  Mix until combined, being careful not to break up the pieces of crab too much - you'll want bug hunks of the crab meat as opposed to a big mashup of ingredients.  Salt and pepper the mixture to taste and place in the refrigerator to keep it cool. Slice your bread on the bias into about 1/2 inch slices.  Heat a saute pan up over medium-high heat and swirl in about two tablespoons of oil.  If you have vegetable oil, I would advise using it since it has a higher smoke point than olive and you can really crisp and brown up your bread nicely.  If you only have olive oil, make sure not to get the pan too hot and burning the oil. Place your grated parmesan in a bowl or on a plate - the toasted bread is going to go right into the pile of parmesan.  When the oil is hot enough, place the slices of bread down, and let cook for a minute or two, until golden-brown and crispy.  Immediately dip these in the pile of parmesan - the cheese will stick to the bread and melt ever so slightly.  Top each slice with the crab mixture, and enjoy immediately.

thank you, Nick.
To round out the evening, Nick also made a delicious sauteed skate dish - the skate at the market looked gorgeous, so we couldn't resist.  

One of the better looking skate wings I've seen in a while!

Pan-Seared Skate with Oyster Mushroom and Fennel Sausage Saute
1 skate wing 
2 pork fennel sausages
1 cup oyster mushrooms
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted
1 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian Parsley
Olive Oil
Sea salt and pepper

Season the skate wing with ample amounts of salt and pepper on both sides and set aside. Cut both the tomatoes and olives in halves (or quarters if the tomatoes are bigger - you want everything about bite size).  Toss these with a just a bit of olive oil, a little salt and pepper to taste and set aside.  Heat up one saute pan over medium-high heat, and swirl in two tablespoons of olive oil.  When the oil comes to temperature, place the sausages in the pan, and brown on all sides.  Remove from heat when cooked through.  In the same pan, place the oyster mushrooms and let them cook for 2-3 minutes without touching them, so they brown up nicely. While the mushrooms are cooking, slice the sausages into pretty thick slices, and add them back into the pan.  Keep the mixture warm over low heat until you are ready to plate.  Fire up a second saute pan over medium-high and swirl in two tablespoons of olive oil.  Place the skate wing into the pan, and let saute for about two minutes - flip the wing when the one side has a golden crust and cook for just a moment longer.  Skate cooks relatively quickly especially being so thin, so be sure not to overcook it - when cooked properly, the skate should be very tender and flaky. Portion out the skate wing on separate plates, top with the mushroom/sausage saute, and top yet again with the tomato/olive mixture.  Sprinkle the chives and parsley over the plate and start to chow!

It may sound like an odd combination at first with all the different flavor elements but this was great - the fennel sausage was very subtle but added a nice savoriness and earthiness to the dish, as did the mushrooms. This was a great meal for the type of day it was as well - a little chillier and fall-esque, so all of these feel-good flavors made it a pretty cozy dish.  

This was a great dinner in general - good food and good wine, and being able to talk food and ingredients with a chef.  I am still salivating over the crab crostinis and may need to make some more tomorrow, because it is JUST that good.


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