Sunday, December 27, 2009

First Time

Having a first child requires preparations innumerable, and I was frequently surprised (and only occasionally annoyed) by the things to consider and choices to make as we prepared for the arrival of our daughter, Melrose Mae, on November 20. One of the happiest decisions this guy had to make was her first wine. Champagne was a given, but I have very little experience with Champagne. My attitude is similar to that of Burgundy- I know Champagne is good, and I would love to drink it regularly, but it's quite expensive, and the number of producers and geographic designations is dizzying, even for the wine obsessed.

So, I set out with a list of grower-producers culled from various sources to see what I could turn up in Chicago. Since he works with so many estates, I knew there was a good chance I would end up with a Terry Theise selection. And then, as luck would have it, Alder Yarrow, a wine blogging pioneer, posted a review of Billiot Cuvee Laetitia. As noted in Alder's review, this cuvee is named for the vigneron's daughter. What could be better? I found some bottles for sale at a shop not far from our condo.

I had plans of a perfect moment in the recovery room at the hospital, toasting our new daughter, and touching a little bubbly to her lips. Although the bottle made the trip to the hospital, reality reigned, and the right occasion never arose.

Since Melrose's disposition is best in the morning, brunch has become a popular event in our family. We were joined this morning by our friends Heather and Alessandro (newlyweds who just threw a fabulous wedding celebration in Wicker Park) and Matt and Sidney, good winos all. Brooke put together a nice spread, including a smoked fish tart and a leek and brie tart.

We kicked off brunch with a wine that has fast become a staple in our house, Bottex La Cueille, a sparkling rose from Bugey-Cerdon. Light, refreshing, delicious, this wine is perfect for any occasion, a wine I hope I will always have in the refrigerator. It's available at Binny's in Chicago.

This seemed like a perfect occasion for Melrose's first wine, so we popped the Billiot, raised our glasses, and touched a finger to her lips. I think she's hooked.

The wine was sharp, pure and remarkable. Given my lack of experience with high-end Champagne, I can't make comparisons, but it was unlike anything I've ever tasted. I wouldn't say I loved it, but it's a reference point I'm happy to have. Disgorged in '09, I assume I will age well (if anyone thinks otherwise, please let me know). We bought a second bottle to hold onto for a while. It might make for a nice toast on her sixteenth birthday.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Crabby Eggs and Maple Bacon Biscuits- Hallelujah

Our healthy eating habits continued Christmas morning. God is good, and so are these Maple Bacon Biscuits. I'm always torn when faced with a breakfast menu of sweet pancakes, french toast, and such on one hand, and savory bacon, eggs and the like on the other. Here, harmonious balance.

Dirk's crab legs yielded plenty of leftover meat for scrambled eggs. I owe what little I know about scrambled eggs to culinary legend and Iowa native Richard Olney. His salient work, Simple French Food, is required reading for anyone interested in French food (and, really, who isn't?).

Although we didn't have any noteworthy beverages with breakfast, we opened several good bottles with our friends Matt and Izzo for Christmas dinner, including a Domaine Sauvete Blanc de Blancs Brut and '07 Selvapiana Chianti Rufina. Both wines are available from Craig Perman, one of Chicago's top wine merchants. Read about the merits of Selvapiana in the words of scholar, blogger and all around good guy, Jeremy Parzen.

Christmas Eve Goodness

Christmas Eve brought a familar yearning for a seafood feast. Brooke's family tradition is crab legs on Christmas Day; my family always serves oyster stew on Christmas Eve. We crossed the two, and ordered a mess of crab legs from Dirk's. Dirk's prices are stratospheric, but they sure have good stuff. We kicked things off with one of our favorite appetizers, a salmon tartare adapted from Saveur. It's mouthwatering with homemade potato chips.

The crab legs were succulent, served with usual accompaniments, but I forgot to snap a pic.

We washed this all down with an '05 Bisson Golfo Del Tigullio Vermentino Vigna Intrigoso (Rosenthal). I bought a couple bottles of this last summer with caprese salad on the brain- a fine pairing, indeed. It served the tartare and crab legs fine as well- it's full (you could argue fat when I let it get too warm, but I wouldn't), distinctive and layered. Like most wines I favor, it recalls the place from which it came- the Ligurian coast. Bisson makes several game-changing wines, including a rosato that's a must have for summer. The wines can usually be found in Chicago, and I've purchased several at Wine Discount Center.

My other chore for Christmas Eve was making pork rillettes. We had two recipes lying around, one calling for pork loin, and the other for pork belly. I love easy decisions. We haven't tried it yet, but I'll be sure to post the results.