Monday, January 7, 2013

Great Grapes and Grilled Cheese Honor Out With the Old and In With the New

There’s a time in one’s life when the way we celebrate changes and this past New Year’s Eve I felt my own transition from party girl to home body palpably. I no longer desire the cramped festive fete with flowing booze and too much dense and caloric small plate food and deafening music to shout over amongst people who either don’t know at all or would rather spend quality time with one on one during the normal daytime hours. And I like this about myself: the crawling inward towards the comforts of home, the safety of living it up off the streets, the nice cocoon of not needing to see and be seen. It’s like a warm blanket after a life of living so exposed.

So in conjunction of my seeing the need to be social whirl away on the breeze of 2012, the Cute Gardener and I decided our New Year’s Eve theme would be out with the old and in with the new. We had just finished a whirlwind holiday week of visiting relatives, too much food and constant activity so we decided that instead of trying to shop for and produce another in the stream of lavish seasonal meals, we would simply try and empty the refrigerator of all the extra food that was plumping its berth. The most logical thing to do with all the assorted ingredients was to play with the idea of grilled cheese sandwiches alongside a wistful goodbye to one of our cherished grape vintages. 

The Tom Feeney Ranch in the Russian River Valley produced a strain of grapes that had starred in some our favorite wines of 2000’s first decade. These included Starry Night Winery’s obsolete 2005 and 2006 Old Vine Zinfandels as well as Williams Selyem’s 2007 and 2008 Zinfandels. The Starry Nights in particular have become a highly sought after wine as they are almost completely obsolete at this point so drinking these two bottles was a special and poignant signifier of the true end of pieces of our old lives leading into the seeds of our new. So we uncorked all four to enjoy sips with the food, enjoying the experimentation of what wine went with what ‘wich.

The idea for the grilled cheese started simply enough, grab a piece of bread and stoke it with a leftover type of meat, cheese and veg and slather that baby with butter and fry it up American diner style. From there it twisted into a gooey and luscious adventure of which no sandwich could be termed low brow enough for the open road but more worthy for a high class gastropub’s late night bar menu.

First up was a more traditional version of thick, white sourdough bread, cheddar cheese, leftover beef from Christmas cold cuts and creamy avocado – all of which blended together with a fine meat funk between its crispy covers.

Second was a brave combination of Christmas Eve and Night leftover chow mein bella button mushrooms, bacon bits, my holiday balsamic onion marmalade, and feta on hearty whole grain bread. Sweet, tangy and earthy all combined underneath a nutty crunch turned into a gourmet concoction to remember.

An earlier in the week magnificent Jewish delight at Brent’s had provided us with leftover corned beef, Swiss cheese and marbled bread. This became a sandwich of its own, the last of our night, tempered nicely between the sweet and savory notes by peppery fresh arugula.

It was an evening of equal goodness favorites and an enjoyable bunch of good memories of both food and wine and a sense of saying good-bye to one era and welcoming in another. Another in which we will continue to carry on in our fantastic wining and dining adventures as our palates and our miens mature and ripen. I do feel like my own are growing better with age!

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