It was my birthday over the weekend. Yay. Everyday is a good day for champagne but it's always better when shared with a group of friends or family. Especially when it's frickin delicious like Moet Chandon White Star. But I won't be too hasty to forget to give credit to the delicious starter beverage of the night, Brasserie Dupont's Saison Dupont - always something to get happy about. Pleasantly sour, fruity, lightly carbonated with a beautiful hue. Do try it, you will be pleased. :)
A few dishes for the night...
*Sherry Vinegar Marinated Sardines with Avocado & Spring Onion*
Who better to ask how to eat sardine than Brett of In Praise of Sardines? This was my first sardine ever, canned or fresh. I got this particular French canned Sardines from Surfas although I've seen cans from Portugal, Spain, and Italy. I followed Brett's suggestion and marinated the fillets in a vinaigrette of sherry vinegar, olive oil, and parsley, and got avocado and spring onion to go with it. Since I didn't want to preassemble the avocado and sardines before the guests came, I placed the sliced avocado in a separate dish with a good squeezing of lemon juice, olive oil, and sliced scallion. It was soo good. I would probably make some crostini next time though instead of using crackers because there is more juice and oil that would be easily soaked up by the porous crostini.
*Zucchini Carpaccio with Lemon Juice, Olive Oil & Mint*
*Cheese Plate of Gorgonzola & Grano Padano*
Originally I wanted to serve homemade rosemary focaccia with roquefort, walnuts, and orangeblossom honey but I kind of messed up. It came out really pretty, but bland and too crispy. I threw it out to the horror of Boy but there's always next time. It wasn't that hard to make, just a little time consuming.
So I had to make a replacement dish, which is where the zucchini carparccio came into play. A while back I saw Tyler Florence make this dish and thought what an easy and refreshing dish to make. The lemon juice, fruity extra virgin olive oil, and mint really brought some spring freshness to the zucchini. It was yummy topped on top of a cracker and a piece of parmesan. If the zucchini was sliced lengthwise very thinly and grilled just for a few seconds, to get some nutty attractive charring, and dressed with the same ingredients, it would have been better. It's too bad I have an electric stove though. I tried to buy a grill/griddle once but it said "do not use on electric." Pooey.
And with the lonesome "cave-aged" gorgonzola (Trader Joe's no longer carries roquefort!!) I made a cheese plate with some grano padano I chunked off with a pairing knife. The blue cheese - eh. The grano padano - yumm. The grano padano is "similar to Parmesan Reggiano made in the Parma region... produced north of the river Po and is matured for less time than Parmesan cheese. The result is a slightly milder cheese." [http://www.foodforfood.co.uk/cheeses.html]
Roasted Dates with Bacon & Parmesan
I also tried to make one of AOC's well-known dishes, the bacon-wrapped parmesan-stuffed roasted dates. I cannot express how good this is! But all the mejool dates I've seen around town has been huge, and I could not locate any that were small like the ones used at AOC. Also when I got bacon from Whole Foods, and requested them thin-cut, it came out too thin and fragile. The dates didn't turn out as pretty as they were supposed to and I overcrisped the bacon on one side, but taste wise it was still addicting.
*Chocolate Dipped Strawberries*
And I made dessert too! Fresh and ripe fruit desserts are my favorite - its sweetness derived from perfect ripeness instead of an injection of sugar. Another favorite fruit dessert of mine is simple balsamic-macerated strawberries with whipped cream. I got super juicy, healthy, beautifully berry-blushed strawberries and dipped them in a melted mixture of bittersweet chocolate, sugar, butter, and heavy cream. I didn't use measurements but tried to get the chocolate to be drizzley. Didn't happen but the strawberries still came out good. Everyone loved the fact that the chocolate was soft and not shattering and falling apart like many chocolate-covered strawberries. I used bittersweet chocolate because that's what I had at home. In case it might turn out too dark and bitter I added a small spoonful of granulated sugar. The chocolate didn't turn out shiny like I had wished. Maybe more butter?