Partying Like It’s Millenovecentonovantanove

John came over on his one free night before the touring begins again; it’s always a treat to have some real time with him since he’s so busy and we usually get together in bigger groups for dinner parties. I didn’t have a lot of time to put together anything fancy, but this time of year the ingredients are so great that they really just need to be arranged on a plate. We began with a corn soup I whipped out- simmered kernels with onion, puréed, strained, added butter, seasoned, garnished with serrano, truffle oil, pepper, and chive. It was an excellent match with the 1992 Fiorano semillon that John brought; another wonderful part of having him over solo means that we can break out the very best wine and enjoy multiple glasses of it. Read the piece about it- it’s a great story, and having tasted it, it seems even more appropriate that the new Ferrari is also named Fiorano- it was a fascinating, complex creature, and more than lived up to its fairy-tale reputation.

As the white evolved, I made another course to show it in a different light. Crisp lardons of our bacon- amazingly, there’s a little left- served with kimchi warmed in a little bacon fat and topped with a quail egg gently fried in still more of the bacon fat. Simple, but rich and deep, and it tied bacon and eggs to pork and cabbage pretty handily. With this course, the wine tasted less like sherry and more like a sort of dry burgundian dessert wine, if that makes any sense.

For the main course, it was simple Summer picnic food all the way. Chicken legs grilled with a simple spice rub, penne with basil-sorrel-nasturtium pesto, two kinds of heirloom tomatoes with salt and oil, wilted chard, sautéed zucchini, local black trumpet mushrooms with garlic and calvados, and tomatillo salsa. There are so few weeks when the heat of the sun comes back to you through the food on your plate, and we are in the thick of that time right now. Corn, pesto, and tomatoes especially are so beautiful and this meal let them all do what they do best.

For the wines, we started with a 1999 Solaia, which is dense, rich, and gorgeous- tasting the way a Cali cab wishes it could be, with all the structure, leather, and spice, but none of the cloying sweet fruit- everything is so seamless and integrated. Next up, a 1999 Giusto di Notri, which did all the same things but with a completely different personality. The two together made for an excellent mini-study of Super-Tuscans from that year. For desert, John brought a 1999 Fèlsina vin santo, and we paired it with a Roquefort. Pure beauty, and another astonishing glimpse of Tuscany nine years ago.

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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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