Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Third Annual Harvest Dinner

On Thursday, August the 28th, we put on our third annual Harvest Dinner honoring the hard work and outstanding products of Beth and Gene Nowak at Mayfair Farm. Beth and Gene supply us the bulk of our produce here at the restaurant and this is our way of saying thanks to them.

I decided about three weeks ago to do a yellow gazpacho this year—I try never to repeat a dish from year to year—so I let that Spanish dish set the course for the remaining menu.

The first year that we did this menu, I told nobody that it was to be an entirely vegetarian meal and I surprised (very pleasantly) a bunch of carnivores. Since then, we've advertised the dinner as vegetarian.

Gazpacho Amarillo
Yellow Gazpacho with Poblano Crema and Micro-Celery
Castillo Perelada Cava NV
Relleno de Flor de Calabacita
Beer Battered Squash Bloom Stuffed with Queso Blanco; Salsa Verde
Palacio de Feffiñanes Albariño Rias Baixas 2006
Taloa de Maiz Fresco con Tomate
Fresh Corn and Blue Cornmeal Cake; Fresh Tomato; Herbed Goat Cheese Mousse
Tres Ojos Rosado Calatayud 2007
Patatas y Judias Verdes
Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans with Onions, Olives & Rosemary
Finca la Emperatriz Rioja Crianza 2003
Tortilla de Pimientos
Baked Omelette of Corno di Toro Peppers, Red Onions,
and Everona Dairy Sheep’s Cheese; Romesco Sauce

Tres Ojos Garnacha Calatayud 2006
Frutas con Hueso al Horno; Natillas
Baked Stone Fruits; Cinnamon Crème Anglaise; Semolina Cookie

I always visit the tables after these dinners trying to get a sense for what the customers liked, disliked, and how the wine pairings worked. My sense was that this year, the dish called Patatas y Judias Verdes (potatoes and green beans) was the crowd favorite, which really surprised me because this was probably the most unusual dish on the menu.

One of the customers asked me where this dish came from and I had to tell him that I am not entirely sure. Often dishes just come into my mind and I go cook them, as I did this one. I do know that once I saw the baby red, white, and yellow potatoes at the market, patatas bravas popped into my mind, most probably because I had just had them at Mas, a tapas bar in Charlottesville. Patatas bravas are a classic tapa of browned potatoes, sprinkled with salt, and served with or mixed with a spicy sauce.

At the market, I also saw some really pretty small green beans, so I brought them home. I'm not sure how or why I decided to marry the beans and the potatoes, but many, many Western cultures have bean and potato dishes. Boiled new potatoes and green beans, for example, seems to be a tradition in the Southern US, although it was not in my family.

I have also been on a roasted green bean kick this year ever since I left some beans in the oven far too long and they shrivelled up worse than Szechuan string beans. The flavor of these beans was remarkable.

So there you have it. I roasted whole green beans in olive oil, salt and pepper until they shriveled, about 90 minutes for 10 pounds of beans. And I quartered and roasted all those baby potatoes separately with olive oil, salt and pepper until well browned on all the cut surfaces. Then at service we mixed the beans and potatoes with lots of mixed pitted olives, garlic, fresh rosemary from the plant outside the restaurant's front door, and crushed red pepper flakes. This all went into a hot oven for twenty minutes or so to reheat. Et voilà!

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