Sunday, December 23, 2012

McCrossen's 'All Things Sparkling'

Between work getting busy and my increased time spent in the country, it has been a while since I partook in one of McCrossen's wine/cheese/food events. LW asked me if I wanted to go to one a few weeks back and I steadfastly said no, mainly due to funds and a need for some R&R at home. But as the days went by and suddenly the event was at hand, LW asked me again. The menu for the event had also been posted to the restaurant's Facebook page, and unfortunately for me it was very promising. All sparkling wines? Those are so often my favorites! Delice de Bourgogne and Taleggio as some of the cheeses? Ditto! So while rest and a bigger bank account would have been nice, I accompanied LW to McCrossen's for an evening of tasty treats. We met up with two others, one a cheese/wine/food vet, the other purportedly a big fan of cheese, though  not so big a fan that she had ever tried goat cheese. Our welcoming wine was a Spanish Cava Rosé, Conde de Subirats. Frankly I don't think I disliked any of the wines but this was a nice start. The first full round started with Riesling/Chardonnay "Brut" from Brazil, which I recall being a bit dry but in the best way? With that we tried a Nettle Meadows Kunik cheese from New York, which was a mix of goat and cow milk and oh so creamy.
And then there was this. They went hard with the food this time around. I told T. later that I felt like a few of the past events that I had attended served wonderful dishes, though it seemed like some of them were reiterations of similar plates from previous pairing nights. This particular night it seemed like he and his wunderstaff had found a little new passion/were rejuiced creatively (which is a term people use all the time). So. Maine lobster risotto with lime zest, shellfish emulsion and black truffles. Y'all. Come on. Do I need to tell you that the creaminess of the risotto matched with succulent bites of lobster and complemented overall with that rich emulsion was just outstanding? Do I? Well. I just did.
And it kept coming. I believe this was my actual fave sparkling of the night: Cremant de Loire, Baumard, NV, from the Loire Valley area. Paired with Taleggio, which is a cheese that will never steer you wrong.
And then there was the oyster-leek chowder with pont neuf and paddlefish caviar. I had to look up pont neuf. It basically means pomme frite, only  suggests a thicker cut fry. You're welcome. So this here chowder. We all commented on its richness. There is no doubt that heavy cream played a big part in its overall luxury, but there was depth to the flavor. Heavy cream used with a heavy hand but no especially creative mind will just be fatty. Yes, it will taste good but it won't be all that special. This, on the other hand, had the oyster/leek element going on. Leeks. When I was a kid, we'd go to a family friend's for Thanksgiving. I feel like my mother or the hostess would often make leeks, usually baked with cheese or cream of some kind. But as a kid I didn't get it. I didn't even try them. I stuck to creating mashed potato mountains with secret reserves of gravy hidden beneath their peaks. I've lately been ruminating on leeks, and their specific taste and just how unlike any other of their onion cousins they are. All to say, yummy. The fried oyster was so great I exhibited significant self-control when it came to not devouring it in one bite. And the 'pont neuf' was a nice touch too.
This is LW turning her eyes to the heavens in appreciation for the meal she had already begun to receive.
And here is the Coach Farms Peppercorn Brick goat's cheese. I liked the addition of the peppercorns, which certainly added a bit more of a kick to the whole shebang.
With the goat's cheese we enjoyed Brut Rosé "Timido," Scarpetta from Italy. It was a very pretty wine and perhaps my second favorite.
The hits kept coming with the food. Here you'll see crisp pork belly with quince mostarda and rose-vadouvan. Words I also had to look up. I'm not as big a fan of quince as some. My feeling towards them is similar to my feelings on figs. I understand that there is hype and but I don't 100% buy it. That personal preference aside, damn, look at that fatty tasty piece of pork won't you? A little unwieldy when it came to eating (the crisp part was hard to cut) but that only made the pay off more worth the while.

Final glass was Champagne "Cuvee Sainte, Anne Brut," Chartogne Taillet. Actually maybe this was my favorite. Ha. So basically they all were. The cheese with this was the above Delice de Bourgogne, which I think I first found and enjoyed back in my Chicago days.
Our last dish was roasted monkfish with snapper saupiquet and marjoram. Snapper in this instance, unless I totally misunderstood, was turtle. While my faves were - unsurprisingly - the dishes featuring heavy cream, lobster, truffles and oysters, this little plate was a delicate reminder that you don't always need loads of fat to make something delightful to the tongue.
Another great event that introduced me to new wines, gave me the change to reacquaint myself with a few of my favorite cheeses, and gave me a renewed appreciation for the collective creativity of McCrossen's kitchen.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Birthday Night Darts c/o The Bards; Birthday Night Dancing c/o The Barbary and Midnight Magic

Next up on my birthday night agenda was darts at the Bards. I wasn't sure who would or would not be there, but I had certainly invited a number of darts loving folks. LW and I arrived and gladly met up with S. (who is on my dart team) and TDoc. It was a little whirlwind because of the third act of my evening, but we got in a few games and, of course, some photos.

Next up was a relatively last minute addition to the night in the form of music and dancing at the Barbary. This was a venue I'd never actually been to before, so it was nice to broaden my horizons. Basically I bid adieu to LW, S., and TDoc and met back up with BC, BM and AS, who had stayed north in preparation for the dancing.

The band in question was Midnight Magic.
I went to college with one of the band members, and via Facebook it was brought to my attention that they'd be in the area that Saturday, and I figured what better way to round out a night then by dancing to the musical stylings of a group that includes former college people? No better way really.

As always, I was the annoying girl with the camera taking pretty not great photos. But it's what I do. It's too late to stop now.

I'm not sure I recall exactly what transpired between the first and second photos. But clearly it was hilarious.

It was a really fun show. Lots of dancing and sweating and jazz hands all around. Maybe not that many jazz hands. Of course by this part of the evening (2 AM ish) I was pretty sauced, which made me think it was a good idea to chat with A. (the college compatriot) while he did his post-show rounds. I can only hope I didn't embarrass myself entirely. Hope is half the battle.

Then I followed him (I mean not like without his permission, that would be very much weirder) to the green room area, insisted on taking a photograph, and then proceeded to blather about this and that and god knows what to his bandmates.
My face become fatter with every passing photo.

Yikes. In any case, my own ridiculousness aside, it really was a fun night, and definitely not the norm for me in Philly. It reminded me that when I put to my mind to it, I can have adventures in the city and talk to strangers. And that even if I'm not a good dancer, it's still fun to dance. Thanks to LW, S. and TDoc for coming out for darts, and to A. for putting on a good show and putting up with my college remembrances and overall ridiculousness.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Birthday Magic Times c/o Modo Mio

Ever since my first Modo Mio experience with LB back in 2009, I have always thought that celebrating a birthday at the establishment would be a whole heck of a lot of fun. Even when just a guest with no particular reason for celebration, the meal is in itself just that. I also heartily enjoy the how the bustling space's patrons will all come together and sing happy birthday to a total stranger in a way far more authentic than you might come across at, say, TGIFridays. So when I started thinking about how I might want to mark my 31st year on earth, I decided enough was enough: Modo Mio it would be. I am so happy that a great group of folks were all able to make it and celebrate with me; I really just had the most delightful dinner and overall birthday night. So. To start. We were a table of 9, so there were plenty of opportunities to try other plates than my own. For example, this was the chicken liver creme caramelle with fennel apple jam, gorgonzola and crostini, which CP ordered. The liver remained a revelation free of that extra bite that can make liver go so wrong for some, but we both commented that we were surprised by the temperature of the overall dish, which was cold. Definitely on-purpose-cold, but I believe we thought it might have been better at room temperature. I wonder if the coldness had to do with keeping the liver in shape?
BC tried the beet dish, which seemed pretty satisfying in a more straightforward way than many of Modo Mio's options.
I believe this was a fried cheese concoction that LB enjoyed?
I had this delightful seared scallop, which was served with a potato torta, fontina, and a cherry vinaigrette. Perfectly cooked and tender. And that torta, which you can't see at all, was not your run of the mill potato accoutrement. Truly added its own signature mark on the overall dish. Pleased, was I.
I believe this is CP's goat cheese ravioli, which was really just so very good I don't have words.
R.'s lasagna?
BC's gnocchi.
My bucatini. Oh man. I love this simple pasta with its pancetta, pecorino and bit of spiced up tomato sauce/dressing. While one of the great things about Modo Mio is its oft rotating menu, I am always a bit relieved to find some version of this plate in their pasta section.
CP tried veal for the first time.
And I went with the grilled ribeye steak with aged goat cheese, chickpea crepe, boquerones and jus. By this point I was intoxicated on a combination of wonderful company, fantastic food, and BYO wine, but I still found the energy to make a marked dent in this element of the meal. So good. So very, very, good. The cheese. The chickpea. The jus! Golly oh molly.
Also offered were complimentary sambuca shots.
I think it was around this point, while drinking espresso, that I managed to get coffee on my nose, which lingered there for the majority of the rest of my evening. Literal brown nose.
And then there was dessert. We just ended up getting two sample plates of everything. And man oh man was everything just a wonderful show of how sweet can be mellow and how sweet can be neat. Why yes, it was a wonderful show.
Seriously. Thanks to BC, CM, LB, AS, BM, LW, CP and R for all coming out and making this such a truly special evening!