Monday, November 16, 2009

My uncle can be an unusually thoughtful giver of gifts, and recently he gave me one of the best housewarming gifts imaginable. We moved in to our 1895 brick farmhouse on the first day spring, March 21, in 2008, and we have become comfortable with the routines of the farm, the bounty of our woods and gardens, and the possibilities inherent in the largish kitchen. So last Saturday I was surprised when Bill called and told me he had a housewarming gift for us.

We met at the indoor market at Lincoln Square in Urbana, and he gave us a mixed case of wines from Sunsinger, one of the local wine specialty stores. Each bottle is different, and the case represents many different grapes, wine-making styles, and countries. When he handed me the box, he suggested I look up each wine on the internet and find out what the suggested food pairings might be.

On Sunday, we had the first of the wine-inspired dinners. Ken chose a Portuguese red from the box, Tuella, made from Douro grapes. It is a medium-light red, sort of a heavy Beaujolais. The first course was a warm pear-zucchini soup accented with thyme and garnished with mint. I served a chenin blanc that I had on hand with this, although most opted for cider or beer. This soup would be nice served cold, and I'll keep it in mind for next year at pear/zucchini time.

The entree was Portuguese-style pork roast braised with wine and vegetables (featuring the man carrot--photos later), and the meat was quite tasty and tender. My comments: I prefer to brown a roast first rather than braise it blanc, and the sauce looked like squid ink, so I probably won't make this one again. Mom brought Caesar salad, which was delicious as always, and I made a pear upside down cake for dessert. Bill, Ernie, Mom, Neil, Ken, and I enjoyed a very convivial and pleasant evening.

Things to think about for next time: Ask Ken to choose the wine a week before the event so I have more time to plan the menu and to source all foods locally. We might expand the guest list, too. . . . Thank you, Bill!

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