Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Where Menus Come From

Here's how two very different ideas converge to make dinner.

Our friend Mary is visiting from California and she brought a suitcase full of her favorite wines for us to try. Since we have so often complained about not being able to find a reliable Pinot Noir, Mary brought one she thought we were sure to like from the Russian River Valley near her home base in Sonoma County.

Meanwhile, I've been fretting over our crop of onions. The foliage looks like its dying on a number of plants. But the onions appear to be too small for harvesting. I dug up some red and yellow onions for a closer look. While I was at it, I dug up some potatoes, too, from plants that seem to be under some distress from one kind of fungus or another.

Pretty soon, a menu emerges: grilled pork tenderloin to go with the Pinot, plus some mushrooms because Mary thought they also would taste especially good with this wine. After boiling the potatoes until just cooked through, I browned them in the iron skillet and tossed them with the onions, which I had sauteed until lightly caramelized. To finish the plate: green beans tossed with butter and parsley.

Mary was right. This Pinot from Lynmar vineyards was not like any of the candy-ass Pinots we're used to. It was complicated and nuanced and full of rich berry flavors--all the things we look for in a great red wine and probably too much wine for this little bit of pork tenderloin.

I've heard a lot lately from gardeners here in the District of Columbia about troubles growing onions. I asked our farmer friend Mike who supplied us with the original onion sets and he said the red onions have not worked especially well for him either. So perhaps it's just a matter of switching to a different onion. They look and taste great, but really, they should be bigger than a golf ball.

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