Sunday, August 14, 2016
Eating Local with Excited Ease
While there's the old saw the more scenic the location, the less good the food needs to be (aka, she sells shit shows by the seashore). That could not be less true for something like the Buttonwood All Farm Dinner that took place August 13. Because in this case the scene is everything--the feast all came from the very farm your eyes also feast on, from the Anaheim chiles to the heirloom tomatoes to the tail-to-snout pig to the wine. Heck someone might have tasted a stolen Semillon grape off the vine before dinner and had Buttonwood's Semi-Semi (semi-sweet Semillon) with dessert. (Wasn't me.)
When people talk local food challenges, they clearly don't live in a halcyon spot like Buttonwood, as there's no challenge at all to live off this land. It doesn't, of course, hurt to have the chef in charge be Jeff Olsson from New West Catering and Industrial Eats. Is there anyone cooking better in the County right now? He can hit on so many registers so well; take a passed app that supposedly came from pig head but had little funk or weirdness, just piggy goodness. And then there was a Thai melon salad with more kick, and garlic, than I'd expect to find amidst the watermelon and canteloupe (it totally works). And if you went looking for the eggplant in the Moroccan lamb tagine, it took a second to discover it was pretty much melted onto the lamb, a lusciously fused sauce of sorts. And how clever is it to take the risk and not fry a relleno, just roast that chile, skin it, and stuff it with piquant goat cheese and sweet corn? Dollop on a spoon of the roasted salsa and the too often heavy (or worse, soggy) dish was so light you wanted to have another, or four.
So much food, I'm not going to talk about it all, for I have to get to Karen Steinwach's wine, don't I? Again, no one suffered empty-glass-syndrome unless it was self-inflicted. We even got some of the sold out rosé saved just for the dinner, and what's better than a syrah rosé, grown to be made the wine (it's no runoff!), in a very Provencal style--light, crisp, dry. Made for outdoor imbibing, especially if you've got a spare pond and 100+ friends to hang out with. Or the robustly gorgeous (no, not an oxymoron if you make your wine right) Trevin (Merlot, Cab Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Malbec), a 2010, which is the current release, so that tells you how much they realize you've got to age that Bordeaux blend if you want to turn its angles to angels.
But then there's the heavenly setting. If wine country needs a poster child, that Buttonwood pond needs to hit the casting call. Undulating hills and oaks and the wind across the water and vines. Plus that air that's to me the soil at work, so clean. It was quite a night.