Yesterday was our twentieth wedding anniversary, and we decided to dine at home and I'd create something special. We have two friends with birthdays, plus our anniversary, so we'd already made plans to go dinner tonight with them at a new restaurant here in Bend. Our actual anniversary would be a stay-at-home dinner compliments of yours truly. To make this even more special, we had a bottle of champagne and a bottle of wine that would be the perfect compliment to what I'd planned to make.
We have a couple of friends, Gary and Laura, who are Hollywood stunt people. Gary's a former stunt guy, and pretty much concentrates on directing stunts now. This is a business that takes its toll on your body, as you can probably imagine. Laura still does stunts, including doubles, driving, martial arts, and anything considered too risky for the "stars." She's appeared in Fast and Furious, Coyote Ugly (the one who did the "fire trick" on the bar), Speed, and many more. Very nice people, and we love having them visit. Gary and Laura stayed at our house for a couple of nights last year when we were in the Bay Area, and as a thank you, left us a bottle of 2000 Vintage Dom Perignon Champagne. An amazing gesture, to say the least. We've been tempted to pop it several times, but our 20th anniversary was the perfect time.
I'd started prepping dinner, and thought I'd open the wine that I'd planned to serve (more on that, ahead). My wife heard the "pop" and yelled down ... "Don't open the champagne yet!" I'd already gotten out the Waterford champagne glasses that I bought her for our first anniversary, but I was actually opening the wine so it would breathe ... not the champagne. I assured her that the Dom Perignon was still chilling, and a couple of minutes later she came downstairs with a bag. "Open this," she said. The reason she didn't want me to open (and pour) the champagne, is that she'd gotten us a pair of beautiful champagne glasses for our anniversary, and wanted to use these instead. Then, I popped the Dom, and we enjoyed it immensely ... in the new glasses pictured here.
The wine I've been alluding to was a gift from my friend Larry Wolff, who visited us last week with his lovely wife Trish. I met Larry in our seventh grade homeroom class, and we've been the best of friends ever since (this was a long time ago!). He wanted to be a doctor as long as I've known him, and is in fact a cardiologist, specializing in cardiac electrophysiology. Larry and Trish made their annual trek to Washington, where Trish's family has a piece of property that they've camped on since she was young. And instead of going straight down Interstate 5, back to Sacramento, they cut inland along the Columbia Gorge, past beautiful Multnomah Falls, and south on 97 to our house in Bend. Larry's also an amazing athelete, currently training for a world class level bicycle race in Portugal. He could end up number one in the world in his division, and knowing his drive and capabilities, he just may do it! He had one of his Scott bikes with him during his visit, and of course had to take a little jaunt up to Mt. Bachelor, which is a twenty mile uphill battle that would kill most mortals. But this is the kind of thing he enjoys, and he totally took it in stride and rode up and back, in the afternoon Central Oregon summer heat.
Back to the wine ... Larry brought us a bottle of Joseph Phelps Cabernet, vintage 2003. A very nice California red, to say the least. Although I could have and arguably should have put it in the wine rack and let it be, I decided that it would be the perfect compliment to the 20th anniversary meal (which I promise to get to eventually), and had to pop it on this night. And what would be the perfect glasses to serve it in? Of course, I had to go for the Waterford wine goblets that Larry and Trish had given us twenty years ago. These were in fact our first wedding gift, and a very nice one at that. Done!
The Meal ...
Grilled loin lamb chops
Marinated for four hours in garlic, olive oil, chopped fresh rosemary, salt and pepper
Grilled on the gas barbeque, 7 minutes per side, turned a couple times, medium high heat
Vodka cream penne rigate
(Variation of a recipe from the Silver Spoon cookbook ... the bible of Italian cooking!)
This is a very simple, yet totally tasty pasta recipe. As opposed to the classic idea of a spice and garlic laden Italian preparation, this one's pretty much devoid of these expected ingredients. This pasta, along with the tomato cream pesto rigatoni (also from the Silver Spoon) are two of my favorite pasta side dishes. And if you don't have the Silver Spoon in your collection, and aren't lucky enough to have someone like my friend Angela give it to you as a gift, you owe it to yourself to buy a copy. Amazing book.
16 oz. of penne pasta, cooked 11 minutes for al dente
3-4 ounces of proscuitto, chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tomatoes, diced, seeded, strained
3 tablespoons of heavy cream
3/4 cup of vodka
1 tablespoon of dried parsley flakes
Parmesan cheese for garnish
Plan ahead for the penne rigate ... the sauce will take about 15 minutes to prepare, the pasta takes 11. Have the water boiling, drop the pasta in the water about 5 minutes into your sauce prep time.
Heat the oil and butter over medium heat
Add the proscuito, parsley and tomatoes and cook over medium low for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
Stir in the vodka and cream, simmer on medium low for another 5 minutes
Drain the penne rigate, combine with the sauce, stir in a couple tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan
1 pound of thin, fresh asparagus
Drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil
Shaved parmesan strips
There's a simple trick to trimming asparagus to the perfect length. Find the place on the "thick end" that breaks easily when you bend it. It's usually a couple inches from the end, you'll know it when you find it. Save the broken off piece to measure the right spot, and cut the remaining pieces the same length. You'll now have equal length pieces to cook, without having to break them all individually. Looks better cut, vs. broken too!
The technique is to blanch the asparagus, then cool it on a flat pan or plate until you're ready to garnish and serve it. Have a big bowl of icewater next to your sink. Boil a couple quarts of water with a little salt. Drop the asparagus into the pot, and boil for 5 minutes. Drain the asparagus in a colander (a pasta pot with an insert works perfect for this), and immediately plunge it into the icewater. This stops the internal cooking process and keeps it crispy, which is what you want when you serve it.
After a minute in the icewater, lay the asparagus out on a small cookie tray or dish, cover with foil, chill in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve it.
Serve by laying the asparagus out flat on a serving platter, drizzle a small amount of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with salt (good use for your fleur de sel), and garnish with some Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler. Makes for a beautiful presentation, and it's a consistent crowd pleaser.
Dessert? Couldn't do any better than chocolate sundaes with Oregon's own Umpqua Vanilla Bean ice cream.
Great dinner, plenty of leftovers for lunch today, and tonight we'll check out the brand new "Bourbon Street" restaurant in town. Not a bad couple of days and meals!