Remember me? Yeah, I went AWOL this week for a couple reasons. For one, I had one of those spells where I just didn’t feel like blogging. For another (and I’m big enough to admit being a baby about this), I had a pretty crappy birthday. There was the cake fiasco (I ended up just throwing it away, both because I was so disappointed in it, as well as because it dried out almost immediately, probably because of the lack of frosting on the outside). Then there was the fact that Jay had to work, so we couldn’t go out or anything (and I’m not blaming him for that–It was all part of the crappy circumstance). And there were a few other things that led to me basically sulking because I felt forgotten and overlooked. And while I don’t go out of my way to proclaim my birthday a national holiday or declare that the entire month of November needs to be dedicated to celebrating ME ME ME and my glorious entrance into this world (although I think my mom would beg to differ on that!)…It still kind of stung. Plus, there have been other Murphy’s Law-type things going on this week that finally came to a head this morning, when, after coming back from the store, I tripped on our back stairs, face-planted into the side of our house, crushed a dozen eggs, royally screwed up my glasses (which sucks because I’m in need of new ones anyway, but was hoping to wait until next year, when I have flex-plan money again), dinged up my left leg, and am now sporting this on my forehead:
Looks bad, doesn’t it? It looks even worse in person. The nice thing is, the way I usually style my hair will hide the bulk of it. Which is good, because it’s already starting to turn that sickly greenish-purple color of a really bad bruise. But I also get to make a lot of Klingon jokes about it, so there’s that.
And Jay has been going out of his way to make up for the week of horrible nonsense…First by ordering me The Hollow Crown, which I’ve been wanting to see since Tom Hiddleston started tweeting about it over the summer (and we’re getting it from the UK because I was adamant that if at all possible, I wanted to see it before it airs over here in the US–Which I believe it supposed to be either sometime next month or early next year). That’s apparently due to arrive at some point next week, so I’m kind of geeked about that.
And he took me out for a make-up dinner at The Pheasant. Part of the reason I wanted to go there is because while I’ve eaten plenty of lunches there, I’ve only ever had dinner there once, and that was back when I was pregnant with the bambino. It’s changed quite a bit since then–It’s been remodeled, the menu has changed (for example, I had a grilled sirloin topped with sun-dried tomato butter over a balsamic reduction, which was AWESOME–I practically inhaled it!), and it’s evolved into something pretty cool.
The other big reason I wanted to go was so that I could check out their new wine cellar/olive oil tasting bar. If you’re in Brookings, you need to experience this. They feature olive oils and balsamic vinegars from Coteau des Prairies Olive Oil Co. (I’m a little fuzzy as to whether it’s a partnership-type thing or it’s their house brand), and if you ask for Michael or Trevor, they’ll walk you through the whole tasting process (I met with Michael while I was there).
And I must say, I learned a LOT. I like to think I’m fairly educated about food (although I’ve chronicled plenty of failures and misconceptions here on the blahg)…But, for example, I had no idea that a good quality olive oil is supposed to have a “nose,” or that there’s a process for tasting it, which involves warming it up first, and actually consuming it a certain way. I suppose it makes sense–It’s akin to the procedures for tasting wine or coffee. The first olive oil I sampled smelled almost like fresh-cut grass, and after I got a decent coating of it on the inside of my mouth, I could taste some peppery after-effects once I slurped it. It was kind of wild. I was also immediately embarrassed by the fact that I have grocery store versions of both olive oil and balsamic vinegar in my pantry, which have since made their way to the trash.
I’ve always been convinced I don’t like balsamic vinegar…I find it too syrupy and sweet–Probably because what’s available in the grocery store or what you get at a restaurant isn’t true balsamic vinegar.
Michael explained that it’s kind of like Champagne only being true Champagne if it comes from the Champagne region of France–True balsamic vinegar only comes from either Modena (where Coteau des Prairies’ vinegars are produced) or Reggio Emilia in Italy. The only ingredient on the label should be grape must. And now having had authentically real balsamic vinegar…not surprisingly, I like it!
I was a bad food blogger, and in hindsight, I wish I’d grabbed a notebook to jot down all the pairings of the different oils and vinegars I tasted. My favorite was probably the Red Apple Balsamic Vinegar with Walnut Oil…It was like a little shot of autumn! Michael was kind enough to send me home with some samples…One mid-level olive oil that’s on sale at the moment (they need to clear out to make room for new stock), and a flavored oil and vinegar of my choice–I picked Garlic-Infused Olive Oil and Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar (which I’d had on my salad earlier).
And then as soon as we got back home, I immediately started scouring the internet for things to make with both! For the garlic-infused olive oil, I decided I’d start small and make some simple toasted bread brushed with the oil and then sprinkled with salt and pepper.
For the vinegar, I couldn’t decide what to do right off the bat….And after about two hours of searching recipes, I finally decided on roasted pork tenderloin.
Pork pairs really well with sweeter sauces or fruit (think pork chops and applesauce!), and I like tangy-sweet glazes (a couple years ago my mom emailed me a recipe for a pork loin with a maple glaze that includes white vinegar as one of the ingredients and it is SO good), so I originally thought I’d make a glaze or even do a reduction to drizzle over top. In the end, I decided (at least for starters) I didn’t want to monkey with the vinegar so I just drizzled it straight up over the pork once I sliced it.
Gods this was good. Like lick-the-plate good. And really you don’t need a flavor-infused balsamic vinegar–But do make sure you buy something that’s quality and real balsamic vinegar (chances are, if you can find it at the grocery store, and it’s under $10, you’re better off buying yourself some soon-to-be-obsolete Twinkies instead!).
We made quick work of the tenderloin, but there are enough leftovers I can take them for lunch tomorrow. I even managed to get the bambino to try the “sauce,” after explaining to him that it was a fancy vinegar (he’s already fond of malt vinegar on his fries). Many many thanks again to Michael and The Pheasant for such a cool experience (and the samples!). And seriously, for those few of you who read this nonsense and are here in Brookings, go check out the olive oil tasting bar (I gather the wines there in the cellar are decent too, but I’m going to have to make another trip to check those out)!!