Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dining Solo

E is off with her parents while her mom is in the hospital. Unfortunately, I can't be with her due to logistical issues.

Cooking for one makes me realize I've grown unaccustomed to it. While I'm happy not to be condemned to take-out or frozen dinners, cooking for myself is less than inspiring.

There have been times in my life when I did it without a second thought, but it's been a long time. The only upside is that I can experiment and not worry about being embarrassed by the results.

Tonight I found myself staring at the contents of the pantry searching for dinner ideas. I spotted a can of baby clams purchased many months ago with the intention of making a red clam sauce. It seemed like a perfect time to experiment and what resulted was a pretty good example of how to use what you have on hand.

I started with a couple cloves of garlic, which I always have. I minced the garlic, sauteed it for a minute or two in a healthy pour of olive oil and then added 1/2 cup of white wine and the juice of a lemon (which was on the verge of being a little too old).

Once the wine and lemon juice had been reduced by about half, I added a box of chopped Italian tomatoes (Pomi, 26.5 ounces). E spotted these at the grocery and the quality is great. I added the tomatoes and the drained clams (10 ounce can) to the pan. It would have been great to have some clam juice, but I couldn't bring myself to add the salty water the clams were packed in. Maybe next time.

While the sauce simmered, I chopped a mess of fresh basil (about 1/4 cup plus some extra) -- thanks to my good idea of planting a late season crop of flat-leaf basil. I just can't get enough of basil. I set the basil aside and put a big pot of salted water on to boil.

Once the water boiled, I dropped in some spaghetti noodles and added the basil to the sauce. Right before the noodles finished, I tasted the sauce and added salt and pepper to taste.

I plated up the pasta and garnished it with the extra basil. Here's the result.

When I'm by myself I tend not to break out new wines. I'd rather save those for when I have someone to talk about them with. So, I chose a lighter-style red we've enjoyed in the past.

Maison L. Tramier et Fils Roncier Pinot Noir NV ($8.99, Green's)

The Roncier is a very nice, simple drink of wine with flavors of cherry, dried herbs, earth and a hint of smoke. It was just the thing for a simple dinner of pasta.

I'm looking forward to making this dish again when I have some company.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Sound of Silence

My apologies for the extended blog silence. I fall out of the habit of posting pretty quickly, and once I lose my momentum, it's all over.

Those of you who are bloggers know how much work it is. There are times when I can hardly wait to post, and there are times when it's about as appealing as cleaning up the kitchen. Of course, much like a kitchen full of dirty pots and pans, the untouched blog is always in the back of my mind, causing feelings of guilt and laziness.

On the other hand, there are times when I don't particularly want to take notes and pictures of what I'm cooking or drinking -- I just want to eat it or drink it. Then there are the times when what's on my plate or glass isn't really worth writing about.

I also still struggle with the feeling that, instead of blogging, I should be writing something I hope to get compensated for (although there are increasingly few opportunities for that). I admire those bloggers who have made it a paying endeavor. Good for you.

Not long ago I read something about the number of people who started blogs and have since abandoned them. It's not hard for me to understand why.

Passing the three year mark clearly has me thinking deep thoughts about the nature of blogging. I should probably quit over-thinking things and follow the advice of a tried-and-true Southernism:

Ain't nothin' to it, but to do it.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Happy Blog-iversary

Three years ago, I wrote the first post for Brim.

Writing a blog has been an interesting experience. When I started, I had no idea what I was doing – as it's been with most of my endeavors. Along the way, Brim has attracted a surprising, yet modest following. I lost lots of readers when I went silent for a long stretch in 2008, but I’ve picked up some new people and lured back some regulars.

Instead of going on and on about everything that’s gone into writing this and everything I’ve gotten out of it, I’ll just say, thanks.

To all my readers – past, present and future – I appreciate you stopping in to see what’s going on with Brim. Thanks for reading, and I'm humbled by your interest.

Tonight, E and I are raising a glass to all of you. We're toasting with Gruet Winery brut sparkling wine, which is appropriate because it’s a slightly off-beat (like my blog) choice of bubbly.

Champagne wouldn’t be right for this occasion. I also passed over some California sparklers that I love, as well as a couple non-Champagne French sparklers. I picked the Gruet not just for it’s flavor and character, but also because it’s from New Mexico. As my long-time readers know, I'm passionate about the expansion of wine producing regions in the U.S.

For dinner, I'm serving spice-rubbed salmon (wild, of course) fillets with a green tomato/red onion/red pepper chutney (or something close to it), grits and snap peas. Those of you who aren't familiar with grits may not know what you're missing. Columbia just happens to be home to Anson Mills, which grinds some of the best grits anywhere.

I could gush about the yeasty-lemon-carmel notes of the Gruet, but I won't. I'll just raise my glass in your honor.

Here's to you.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Southern Wine

My plan to post some short updates throughout the weekend didn't work out. It was a busy weekend (as busy as it ever gets around here), and I just couldn't bring myself to spend any time in front of the computer.

E and I took today off to stretch the weekend a little. After spending the day dealing with the unpleasant minutiae of life, it was a pleasure a crack open a bottle of white and retreat to the porch.

I picked a recent purchase, a wine that made both of us very happy.

Horton Vineyards Tower Series Viognier Orange County, VA 2006 ($12.99, Total Wine)

I wish I could blog more frequently about the wines of the Southeast. Unfortunately, very few are available in the local retail stores. Although I understand the complexities of distribution channels for wine, I'll never understand why it's easier to find European wines than wines made a few hundred miles away. Sigh.

Fortunately, Total Wine & More does carry some wines from Horton Vineyards, which is one of my favorite Virginia wineries. Their viognier is lovely. This vintage seemed a little more austere than the last one I tasted, but not necessarily in a bad way.

The flavors lean towards lemon and apricot, with a hint of slate on the finish and a viscous mouthfeel. This is an excellent example of Southeast winemaking.

Here's to the South, y'all.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Local Lunch

Even though it's Labor Day weekend and I'm trying to stay far away from the computer, I'll try to post a few short things to keep my blog momentum going.

This morning started with a trip to Columbia's all-local farmer's market, which now has a permanent home at 701 Whaley Street. A cup of locally-roasted Turtle Creek coffee got my brain going enough to pick out some things to fashion into lunch for us.

We picked up a pound of Carolina Wild shrimp, a bag of local tomatoes, a couple loaves of Heather's bread, and Thai Oakleaf lettuce, among other things. I boiled, peeled and roughly chopped the shrimp, and then tossed it with a mixture of mayo, yogurt, lemon juice and Old Bay seasoning. I served it over the lettuce with a simple salsa of tomato, red onion, fresh basil (thanks Sean), champagne vinegar, lemon juice, a touch of sugar and salt/pepper.

I garnished the plates with a little extra basil's what I ended up with.

It was quite nice, even better with a tasty glass of white wine and fresh, crusty, sesame semolina bread. I poured a couple glasses of Domaine du Vieux ChĂȘne Viognier VDP de Vaucluse 2007, which I've blogged about before in this post. That's good stuff, as we say around here.

A great start to a four-day weekend. Here's hoping you're doing something fun and slightly decadent as well.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

College Ball

It's the first game of the college football season here in Columbia.

The University of South Carolina Gamecocks are my adopted team. My real team is East Carolina University (Go Pirates!). However, I'm happy to reside in a football-crazy town like Columbia. College football is the only sport I follow anymore....

With the notable exception of baseball and, more importantly, the New York Yankees, who are the love of E. When you're married to a Yankee fan, it means two things:

1.) You, also, love the Yankees (if you know what's good for you).
2.) You hate the *%#&@! Boston Red Sox.

But I digress, the subject at hand is college football (not to be confused with the Convicted Felon Football League, also known as the NFL).

I suppose I should be serving chicken wings, burgers or the like, but unfortunately there's my cholesterol to consider. So, I have to chuckle as I watch USC play N.C. State after a dinner of chef's salads and glasses of Le Jade Picpoul de Pinet Coteaux du Languedoc 2008 (Green's, $8.99).

I've blogged about this wine before, it's easily one of the best values in white wine going. It has notes of lemon and pear, with a nice creaminess and a tangy finish. This is good stuff. It could go toe-to-toe with some white Burgundies in the $12-$15 range.

Maybe later I'll crack open a beer. However, you can rest assured it won't be a Bud Light.

No offense intended.