Monthly Archives: February 2008

Open That Bottle Night #2

For the general population, it was the ninth annual OTBN,  but here at my house it was just the second year we’d joined in the fun. OTBN is a sort of unofficial wine holiday, brilliantly dreamed up by the wine writers from the Wall Street Journal who grew tired of answering reader questions the likes of “When should I open that 1985 Petrus Pomerol I’ve had for 20 years?” While there are many ways to answer a question like that, some delving into the year’s qualities, the wine’s style, how the wine was stored, philosophical discussion of wine appreciation….often the very best answer is simply just ‘open the bottle, enjoy it.’ So to help those in need of an excuse to open OTBN4exquisite, old or otherwise special wines, Dorothy J Gaiter and John Brecher created Open That Bottle Night, celebrated on the last Saturday of February.

As I mentioned in my enewsletter last year, I called upon 10 friends “who eat and drink well with others” to help us celebrate OTBN. Perhaps no surprise, but the same 10 from last year were eager to relive the experience this year. Here’s what we drank. And ate. For me, this is a blissful opportunity to cook my brains out, stretch my culinary-school muscles and have a ball in the kitchen.


Juana Palo Cortoda Sherry

in the Sacristia (very old soleras) collection of Bodega Garvey


Carrot-Thyme Soufflé

1996 Nicolas Feuillatte Cuvée Palmes D’Or Brut


Duxelles Egg Custard In Egg Cups

Frisée with Truffle Oil

Dom Perignon 1999


Sole and Salmon Packets

with Shaved Celery, Chive & Lemon Salad – Classic Beurre Blanc

2006 Robert Hall Sauvignon Blanc Paso Robles


Foie Gras on Crostini

with Dried Cherry & Cocoa Nib Compote

1999 Gunderloch Nachenheirner Bothenberg Riesling

Trochenbeeranauslese Reinhessen Nackenheim


Warm Duck Confit Salad

Local Morels, French Green Lentils, Red Cabbage & Arugula

Toasted Hazelnuts, Sherry Vinaigrette, Marinated Goat Cheese

Vertical of Chinook Merlot: 1992, 1993, 1994


Herb Marinated Lamb Loin with Grain Mustard & Mushroom Demi

Potate Galette – Bacon Braised Savoy Cabbage

1966 Chateau De Pez, St Estephe

1962 Chateau De Camensac Grand Cru Classé, Haut Medoc


Artisanal Cheeses with Homemade Walnut Bread

2002 Nackenheim Rothenberg Riesling Auslese

1996 Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon, Bin 707


Chocolate/Raspberry Terrine

Coffee Madeleines

Almond Gateau

Clear Creek Pear-In-The-Bottle Eau de Vie

Vin Santo Toscano Vendemmia 1988

Here you can read the forum at WSJ where readers are sharing stories about the wines they poured. I hope might consider celebrating OTBN yourself next year. It’s by all means NOT about the fanciest, most noteworthy wines. Anything that means something to you that you’ve been holding on to for a special occasion. Life is a special occasion and meaningful wines are meant to be enjoyed. Cheers!



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Breakfast at Home: French Toast

Sundays are kind of a mixed bag around here. Some weeks it’s all Up to read the paper!! Do the puzzle with Will Shortz on NPR!! Go to the YMCA when it opens at 10:00!! Get a little gardening in before lunch!! Then there are Sundays like today. When I want to stay in my flannel sushi pajamas until noon, do little more than knit and watch old movies, only the most basic and necessary exertion. We celebrated my sister’s birthday here last night and, well, it was fun. Let’s just leave it at that.

When I got up early to make a pot of coffee and drink my weight in water, I realized—as I do most mornings like this—that I needed some sustenance. No toasted English muffin today. I spied the bag with remnants of last night’s baguette (used for crostini that got 2 toppings, roasted garlic with kale pesto, and garlicky roasted chiles with marinated mozzarella). French toast. That’s what I needed, French toast. Like a Frenchtoast_4bowl of ice cream after dinner or the occasional peanut butter-mayo-lettuce sandwich (a tasty quirk of my father’s), French toast was something of a ritual around my house when I was growing up. I recall the bowl (a casual white Noritake with ridges around the edge, from our time in Japan) and fork (a fancy-looking silver thing with fluted edges and spiky tines) that were the standard tools of production. The bowl’s surely long broken, I wonder where that fork is?

So, the ingredients came out: a couple of eggs, some sugar, vanilla, half-and-half, a tiny drizzle of almond extract, cinnamon. Then I went to find the maple syrup in the fridge so I could warm it up (I learned a while back that good maple syrup needs refrigerating; I mean, who needs to look at fuzzy blue maple syrup first thing in the morning?). Where is it? Behind the mustard? Buried under containers of olives? No maple syrup to be found. You know how it is when you’re already salivating for something, and the prospect of suddenly being denied seems the most inhumane injustice? I wasn’t going to let this little hurdle stop me. I set about to make me something—anything—vaguely akin to maple syrup. (And not the way my mom used to “make” maple syrup by blending some syrupy substance with maple extract. I had lots of amazing food experiences while I was growing up. That wasn’t one of them.)

Now here is where I realize that I don’t have the average American pantry. And it’s part of what I love about my career, particularly in regards to these moments where it spills over into real life. I grabbed some thick, heady macadamia blossom honey from the cupboard and spooned a couple globs into a small saucepan. Added a good dose of vanilla extract, a splash of half-and-half, and then set about wondering what might help replicate the real thing’s mapleness.  What will it be, what will it be……? In the liquor cabinet what do I see but a bottle of Amber, a liqueur based on whisky, “delicately balanced with natural maple and pecan.” Bingo. Maple essence and hair-of-the-dog in one fell swoop. A generous glug into the pan and I’m on to making the French toast. Since the “syrup” is rather liquid, I decide some reducing is in order, so on to the boil. Imagine my surprise and delight (particularly with my slightly diminished faculties) when the mixture goes into flambé mode. Woo-hoo!

So here’s to the occasional lazy Sunday morning. All About Eve sits in its red Netflix envelope just waiting to be watched. I’ve got a one-of-a-kind French toast experience waiting for me. And maybe I’ll even get around to some gardening on this lovely blue-skied day. But not until after noon.

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