Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, as an introduction to his great treatise, The Physiology of Taste, includes twenty aphorisms on food and drink, the second of which is “Animals feed, men eat, but only the man of intellect knows how to dine.”
I was reminded of this aphorism last week while attending a delightful evening at the inaugural meeting of the Plus 40 Supper Club. While I may not have met the club’s implied age requirements, I was truly grateful that the dinner’s organizers were willing to bend the rules and extend an invitation to me.
The dinner was the brainchild of Dan Rabinowitz, a bibliophile, oenophile, and bon vivant, who was kind enough to not only to host the dinner in his home, but also to do much of the cooking and serving. (Dan is also the brains behind the new kosher wine auctions at Kastenbaum’s Auction House)
The company for the evening consisted of a convivial group of about a dozen gentlemen, and the ambiance was somewhat akin to that of a New England dining club. Although the food was far better than one would find in such an establishment.
The idea of the evening was to create a seven course kosher tasting dinner to accompany some excellent kosher wines. In this goal, Dan and his fellow cook, Yehuda Malka, succeeded quite admirably. Indeed I cannot think of a more enjoyable evening I’ve spent dedicated solely to the pleasures of the table.
I cannot comment on the wines in detail, as I did not take any tasting notes, (and my palate would certainly not have been up to taking notes by the end of the evening) and also, for the same reason, I cannot provide a detail description of the food (the preparation of which Mr. Malka describes in some detail on his blog, http://crazytastykosher.wordpress.com/2 ... nnerpart1/ ). However, a few of my fellow diners requested that I share my thoughts on the evening on this forum, and it is the least I can do in recompense for such a delightful dinner.
The meal started with an amuse-bouche of fire grilled watermelon and peaches, served with a balsamic reduction. The fruits were well sauced, with just enough balsamico to compliment, but not overpower, the fruit flavors.
This course was accompanied by a jellified margarita, that was prepared sous vide, and then sprinkled with sea salt and lime zest. While consuming this margarita, I was reminded of Brillat-Savarin’s anecdote of the oenophile who is offered table grapes, and responds “I do not take my wine in capsule form.” While this margarita in capsule form was tasty, I’d have much preferred an icy cold, freshly shaken, liquid margarita.
The next course was an Alaskan salmon fillet prepared sous-vide, and the fish, which was medium-rare, was as soft, succulent, and flavorful as any poached salmon I’ve ever tried. The salmon was served with three homemade mayo based sauces—grapefruit orange and lime mayo, lemon dill mayo, and garlic and shallot mayo—all of which complimented the fish nicely.
This course was accompanied by Jeff Morgan’s 2009 Covenant Lavan Chardonnay, which was drinking very well, and was a good accompaniment to the fish. While one of my fellow dinners voiced the opinion that the wine was reminiscent of a good Sancerre, to me it tasted like what it was—California Chardonnay at its best.
Then can a delicous chicken soup. The soup, based on a Thomas Keller recipe, was strained, thickened with a roux, and served with al dente carrots, onions, leeks and celery.
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The soup was quickly followed by tasty, cold dish of tomatoes three ways: stuffed, grilled and marinated, served with a jellified tomato coulis, and couscous.
Both of these courses were accompanied by Pierre Miodownick’s 2009 Domaine Netofa Vin Rouge. Pierre was for many years Royal Wine’s winemaker in France, before he moved to Israel to open his own winery. His vin rouge, a blend of Syrah and Mourvedre, is a medium bodied, country style red that reminds me of a good Cotes du Rhone. It was a perfect choice for the soup, although I thought it might have been a bit too much for the tomato course.
Then, at last, the first of the meat courses arrived at the table. This course consisted of two open face sandwiches, the meat in both of which were prepared sous vide. The first sandwich was sliced beef short rib-meat which had been cooked for 48 hours, served with an Asian-style coleslaw, and pickled whole yellow mustard seeds, on a fried slice of bread. The second sandwich was a beef and lamb “slider” topped with duck confit and carmelized onions, on a slice of bread fried in rendered duck fat, and served with port braised cabbage. Both sandwiches were absolutely delicious.
The sandwiches were served with Capcanes’ 2001 Peraj Ha’abib. This full bodied Spanish red has long been a favorite wine of mine. While this vintage may be approaching the end of its drinking window, it does still have a bit of life, and was drinking well that night. (Although I did make a mental note to quickly finish off what few bottles of this vintage that are still sitting in my cellar.)
This was followed by a second meat course, a rib roast, cooked sous vide and served with a medley of sauces—all of which were quite good—intended to be a sort of deconstructed A-1 sauce. (Personally I would always take any of these wonderful, freshly made sauces in preference to any bottled steak sauce.)
This course was accompanied by another vintage of Capcanes’ Peraj Ha’abib. This time it was the 2000, and what a vintage that was! I still remember my first taste of that wine, seven years ago. At the time it was the finest kosher red I had ever tasted. While it may have been knocked from that top spot, it still remains rather high on the list. And unlike the 2001 vintage, I think it still has another 12 or maybe even 18 months of life left.
The final course was a pineapple upside-down cake, served with a homemade parve ginger “ice cream,” and a coffee-flavored cocktail. While I usually don’t go in for parve ersatz-dairy dishes, I must say that the “ice cream” was very good indeed, as was the cake. I was less enthusiastic about the cocktail, which while enjoyable was a bit one-dimensional.
Dessert was accompanied by Carmel’s 2006 Sha’al Vineyard Late Harvest Gewürztraminer. While the wine was drinking quite well, it unfortunately was the only poorly chosen paring of the evening. The wine was just a bit too sweet to go with the desserts, and might have been better served after dessert as a digestif.
All in all, it was a wonderful evening, and one of the finest culinary experiences I can remember. And it was an evening I am sure I will remember for years to come. I would like to again thank all of those who made the evening possible.
I’d especially like to again thank Dan Rabinowitz, who is a wonderful cook and a gracious host, and who has clearly taken Brillat-Savarin’s last aphorism to heart: “To invite a person to your house is to take charge of his happiness as long as he is beneath your roof.”
Please note: all of the photos are from crazytastykosher.wordpress.com