Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Foods and Wines of a Spouse's 80th Birthday Celebration.

Larry's Market, Brown Deer Village

Larry, with his signature beret.
     Recently my husband of 49 years celebrated his 80th Birthday. He has been feeling those 80 years and I did not think he would really want to celebrate other than perhaps a visit to our most often attended restaurant, Joey Gerard's, in Milwaukee. But I discovered that even after knowing a person for 50 years, it is not always possible to know what would make them happy. My husband began talking to his sons about them coming to visit around the birthday time. And, God bless them, they both agreed to work a visit into their  busy work schedules. Then they began to ask what the celebration would entail. That prompted me to ask my husband if he wanted to have a  true dinner party. After some discussion, he seemed to actually want a few guests in addition to our two sons. Therefore, I was able to find a few friends, most of them MD's to come to a dinner at our home on April 30, Saturday night. I decided at this point in my life, I was too lazy to do a complete dinner party for 10 people myself. First I went to Shully's in Thiensville, to check out what they had to offer. I had hired their catering services fully 25 years ago when we celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary on the same day that we celebrated our youngest son's Graduation -- a two party extravaganza. They had done a superb job. However, now they have built a lovely venue along the Milwaukee River to host weddings and other events. At least regarding my intentions for this party, they were too pricey. So my husband and I returned to an old favorite in the Old Village of Brown Deer -- Larry's Market. As we entered to discuss our dinner with the Event Planner, we met 92 year old Larry, himself leaving the premises. It was a Friday and the first Baseball Season outdoor cookout at Larry's and he had come to kick it off. Well, suffice it to say, Larry's Market also came through for us. I was able to serve a wonderful pate' appetizer plate, a fresh green salad, both roasted tenderloin and mashed potatoes and a grilled salmon entree with lemon dill sauce and noodles, glazed carrots, dinner rolls. For dessert, we had an Edible Arrangements fruit bouquet that my sisters sent, and Larry's Chocolate Decadence Cake.
The James Gang; our cousin, right, at the end.

1860s  Brunswick mahogany bar, Blue Eye, MO
Tobin James Wine Tasting Room
   For our wines at this dinner party, I chose the James Gang Club Wines, from Tobin James Winery, Hwy 46, Paso Robles, CA. The co-owner of this Winery is Lance Silver, a third cousin of my husband, on his mother's side. Some years ago, we made a surprise visit to Tobin James fun tasting room, found his wife behind the tasting bar, and spread out a huge genealogical tree that showed how we were distantly connected. Amos' father used to say we were not a shirt-tail relative, but indeed we were like the threads of the shirt tail. Lance was called out from the winery and seemed mildly impressed with the family tree, but his eyes lit up when we began to comment about his Silver Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. After another comment about his Zinfandel, he gave us a fresh tasting glass and invited us out to the "cave" where he dipped some soon to be bottled reserve Cabernet from the oak barrels in which they were aging. We were able to do a vertical tasting of several years worth of some of his best wines. We were a member of his Club, called the James Gang, for a while and these wines are at peak at this time. A few of us sampled a 2010 Radiance, a Reserve Chardonnay by Tobin James. My dinner guests enjoyed the 2010 Silver Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon just as much as we had in the past. I let my sons choose what to open next. These wines included a combination of 60% cab and 40% syrah, a very unusual combination of a bordeaux grape and a Rhone grape. (They grow a lot of Rhone varietals in the Paso area.) We also drank a very unusual wine: The 2010 Tobin James Reserve Lagrein. Here is a quote from the winemaker's website:

"Lagrein is an ancient grape variety that finds its home in the sunny vineyards of Trentino-Alto Adige in northeastern Italy. Its wines are strong and full bodied with plum and wild cherry flavors, and the variety is particularly well known for the deep, dense color it imparts on wines. Lagrein has a characteristically north-Italian fresh, acidic structure and a slightly astringent finish, making it best paired with food.
The grape is most probably native to the region, and is thought to take its name from the town of Val Lagarina in Trentino. It has certainly been grown in this area for hundreds of years, and is first mentioned in texts that date back as far as the 16th Century. Other theories give Lagrein a Greek origin, suggesting that it is closely related to wines that were once made around the city of Lagaria in Greece. DNA testing has suggested Teroldego as a possible parent, supporting the theory that the variety is native to Italy's Alpine northwest." A description on line reports that this ancient and little known grape is being grown in the New World, especially in Argentina and in California.

     It is quite interesting that Lance Silver and Tobin James have tried very unusual wine varietals in the past. I wrote at this site in the past about a Tobin James varietal wine, called Refosco. See the following link:
As an interesting aside, the Lagrein grape comes from a similar area as the Refosco grape. Trentino, an area in northern Italy, is named in both of their origins.

A grouping of Tobin James wines with the famous logo.

       Getting back to our dinner party: Tobin James makes a late harvest Zinfandel, I believe, every year. It is called "Liquid Love." I have purchased a lot of bottles of this wine over the last few years and there were still a couple bottles left from our "James Gang" club orders. This was the perfect sweeter dessert wine to serve with Larry's Market Chocolate Decadence Cake. At that Tobin James tasting bar, a few pieces of semi sweet chocolate are placed on a napkin when Liquid Love is poured.  I believe it is unusual to make a 'late harvest' zinfandel, though since so much zinfandel is grown in the Central Coast of California, there are a number of late harvest zinfandels bottled. I just have learned that the typical "Liquid Love" vintage can be 35 brix at harvest; this is a lot of sugar. Yet the wine is not overly sweet and is often classified as a semi-dry wine. That is because it is made in a style that ferments most of that sugar to alcohol, reaching often over 17% alcohol, making it very Port-like. Our guests certainly enjoyed the Liquid Love.

       Here are a couple photos of our Saturday night celebrations:

      Our sons gave my husband a very nice birthday present: a gift certificate to Sanford's, our favorite restaurant in Milwaukee. I guess after 49 years of marriage, I deserve to get to go along for a wonderful dinner, on my husband's actual birthday evening.

The intimate Sanford Restaurant, Milwaukee, East Side

Intimate Interior of Sanford Restaurant.

Hard salty and spicy breadsticks welcome on every table.
      Sanford's has not changed at all since we were last there a couple of years ago. We both chose the Chef's Surprise menu with wine pairings. This special menu is supposed to be 7 courses, but they serve everyone a small bite of a liver pate mousse first and then we also got a special dessert plate
with Happy  80th Birthday written in frosting with some whipped cream and a candle at the end. So we really had 9 courses -- that is 9 different plates of food. The first of the seven courses was a goat
sausage with goat cheese yogurt drizzled with apricot honey and sprinkled with toasted walnut pieces, served with a Spanish sparkling rose wine. Cindy, I bet you could smell that goat even from
Indianapolis. The second course was a sea scallop with some veggies and a mole sauce served with a German Riesling; which was my favorite course. Then there was  swordfish with sauteed  baby fiddle head ferns; served with a Vouvray chenin blanc wine from the Loire Valley which was my favorite wine;  then a grilled piece of quail with heritage potato pieces with salmon roe and an Argentinian malbec wine. Last savory course was grilled tenderloin with mashed potatoes and finely slivered
carrots and other root veggies served with a very nice Sonoma Zinfandel. Then there was a palette cleanser -- a sweet coconut soup with a dollop of lime sorbet floating in it. The dessert was an
espresso chocolate cake with coconut sorbet, chocolate sauce and roasted peanuts., served with a sweet bordeaux white wine.  Then came Amos' Happy Birthday plate. Then coffee. It was a very fun evening. The surprises on the palette were fabulous. And many people around us were also trying the Surprise Menu so one could share the tastes. I thank our sons so much for this wonderful evening. We enjoyed it very very much.
Goat sausage with goat milk yogurt, apricot honey and roasted walnuts. Yummy!

Swordfish with ferns and apricots.
Quail with salmon roe and veggies.
     So now my husband is 80 years old and we are completely satiated. Wonderful!