Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Christmas week

Photo: Eric Monrad (edited)
Portland, Oregon, January 2, 2018—

NO WEEK SO IRREGULAR, when it comes to dining, as Christmas week. In our household it's complicated further by two birthdays, one exactly a week before Christmas, the other exactly a week later, on New Year's Day.

We have a fairly large family: three married children, eight grandchildren, four great-grandchildren. They're spread out, geographically, and it's rarely possible to find them all in one place. This photo shows our own dinner table on the day after Christmas, when the fairly local were able to gather — those living within a hundred miles or so.

We'd seen other family members a week earlier, in Denver, and a month earlier, in Rome. And a couple of days after the dinner in the photo we drove up here to Portland for the New Year festivities: the traditioal dinner with a couple of old friends — that tradition is forty years running by noww — and the youngest daughter's birthday, yesterday.

In between there was a fine lunch at home with a couple of old friends visiting from New York, and a couple of their friends from southern California.

Another complication: in such circumstances note-taking seems out of place — even lifting the iphone for a quick casual shot seems intrusive. (And, to tell the truth, I'm usually too involved in conversation to think of it.)

So what have we been eating and drinking? Well, lots of meat; lots of wine. At the photographed table you would have found meat sliced from an eight-pound goose — far too small for the company — and a ten-pound prime rib beef roast — rather too much. The goose was from Salmon Creek, a local farm specializing in duck and goose. The beef was raised by our son's neighbor, a Scottish Highlander (the steer, not the neighbor), sustainably fed and raised. The meat had been carefully aged, too. Paolo cooked it over grapevine wood in our Weber, covered part of the time, and it was tender and delicious.

     🍷Cava: Bohigas, Reserva, nv; Bourgogne, Domaine Michel Gros (Côtes de Nuits), 2014; Port, Fonseca, 1970

Christmas Eve we'd gone down the hill to the neighbor's house and feasted on lamb chops grilled in the fireplace, after a long pleasant prologue with appetizers: almonds, cheeses, tapenades, capers, crackers, boquerones and such. With them, Cava; with the chops,

     🍷L'Arnot Negre (Garnacha/Syrah), Terra Alta (Spain), 2016; Valpolicella ripasso, Corte Saibante, 2013

The Contessa, in her role as Cook, had provided the dessert: Timbales Elysées! These are cups of langue de chat pastry, which she had filled with soft vanilla ice cream with blackberry and mulberry garnish, and covered with spun-sugar cages — fun and festive, perfect for a party.

On the 27th, the day after our feast with the family, we were content with leftovers. Goose and beef, of course. But also those delicious prunes that had stuffed the goose — prunes cooked in white wine, then stuffed themselves with foie gras. How had they not all been eaten the day before? But no one's complaining!

With the meat and garnishs, tagliatelle in thinned goose-gravy, and dark, long-cooked, buttery green beans.

Our New York guests and their friends arrived next, on the 28th, with bottles of wine. We were able to sit on the patio with a bottle of Cava, then another, of Grüner Veltliner, with chicken-liver mousse and crackers and other such things, but the real fun came next, when we all moved inside for the boneless pork tenderloin Cook had roasted in the oven. It was topped with a mustard sauce and served sliced with its jus, a Bavarian-style potato salad with mustard vinaigrette, and a green salad afterward.

     🍷a Tuscan red whose name and vintage escape me; Beaune, Giboulot, 1er cru Clos du Roi, 2015: authentic in the present style, fruity and delicious (Thanks David!)

New Year's Eve we had a fairly early dinner at a restaurant new to us — one I would return to, except that there are so many places to try in this marvelous restaurant town. We shared a couple of plates of fine grilled Brussels sprouts, the six of us; then went our own ways — though many of us agreed on the grilled New York steak, which came with truffled mashed potatoes, broccolini, and a butter sauce brightly colored with, I think, mostly parsley. This was a good cut of meat, tender, flavorful, perfectly cooked to order.

Dessert: I couldn't resist a flourless Black Forest cake with ice cream and brandie4d cherries. The ice cream was delicately flavored with brown sugar and malt, a flavor I particularly like.

     🍷a Martini; Barbera d'Alba, Mauro Molino, 2016

•Altabira, 1021 NE Grand Avenue, Portland, Oregon; 📞503-963-3600

Which brings us to last night, New Year's Day and our youngest daughter's birthday. Ham, brined here in house; Hopping John; collards. The traditional New Year's dinner, and may it bring us all good luck throughout the year!

And green salad, of course; and birthday cake: a chocolate ganache-with-raspberry, store-bought but very good indeed…

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

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