Salisbury steak, sticky toffee pudding and a sigh of relief

At the tail end of three back-to-back trips followed by my first week of overemployment, I’m feeling a little out of sorts — and it’s not just Monty’s fault. I’ve spent little time in the kitchen, even less thinking about what to do in the kitchen. I look forward to spending some time this weekend planning and preparing for another week of madness. At least with a little advance organization, we can hopefully eat in the way we have become accustomed without cooking into the wee hours.

And so it becomes a game of drumming up old chestnuts and researching new options. Salad of pain — definitely. Saltimbocca, sure why not. Roasting the occasional chicken and pork tenderloin makes for easy out-of-the-oven meals, too. But I’ll need to spend some time browsing thru my newsreader and seeing what fabulous fare other food bloggers are coming up with that I simply must try.

Speaking of salad of pain, that is precisely what we planned to make last night, albeit an anaesthetized version of it, for our friend Kathleen. However, the Safeway delivery arrived with cube steak in lieu of flank steak. Whatever, it all comes out of a cow, right? So Paul took a different tack and whipped up a quick pseudo-Salisbury steak kinda thing with caramelized onions, which was quite good. Add to that a light salad of baby arugula with heirloom tomatoes and plums (that latter two both from Bi-Rite‘s Balaikan Farms, and both truly awesome), and for dessert: Häagen-Dazs Sticky Toffee Pudding! Amazing to me that at Bell Market you cannot find basic staples, but you can find the most coveted limited-edition flavor of ice cream out there. It’s like they’re a really big corner store. Wonder if they sell rolling papers, too.

We happened to catch the televised competition for Häagen-Dazs’ new flavor when we were in San Diego last month. I was so disappointed — I really wanted Cannoli to win. I mean, there are already so many caramel-based flavors on the market, and I felt like Cannoli would be a real market differentiator. The judges felt differently. Still, Sticky Toffee Pudding was quite good: strong gingerbread flavor, rich caramel. I don’t much dig cake in ice cream, but I managed to put away an entire bowl of the stuff without complaining too loudly.

There was one other ray of sunshine from last night’s meal. During the dreadful heat wave a few weeks back, you may recall, we found our wine sweating through its very pores, and so we whisked it straightaway to our much cooler basement. I was very worried that all of our wines had gotten cooked in the 100º-plus heat, and that seemed to be substantiated a few days after the incident. We took a bottle (to Kathleen’s place, coincidentally) of Domaine Drouhin 2002 Laurène — not a cheap bottle of Willamette Valey pinot noir — to test our theory. As we feared, the bouquet had lost its complexity and the palate was completely dead. And so we decided it was time to just wipe the slate clean, consume our older wines and start the collection anew.

But last night DPaul brought up a bottle of St Francis 1997 Cabernet Franc. We love cab francs, and ’97 was an exceptional year for them, so we’ve been holding this and a couple others back for just the right moment. We were resigned to the idea that this precious wine had been destroyed by the heat. So imagine our surprise to find that not only was it not cooked, but indeed still had enough tannic structure to stand for another several years. It was a gorgeous wine, ruby with bluish tones, lovely blueberry and lavender bouquet, just wonderful. On the one hand it’s a shame to have drank it on a Thursday night with cube steak, but it was worth the price to know that, hopefully, some of our best and longest-kept wines are still intact, waiting for the perfect meal to open up and shine.

  • Mmmm, Domaine Drouhin pinot… one of our PNW favorites. I’m delighted to hear that (at least some of) your wine emerged unscathed.
    I have had the *worst* craving for chicken-friend steak — the result of previewing Cook’s Illustrated’s _Best American Recipes_ from the library, as well as some random reinforcements along the way — but worried that I wouldn’t be able to rustle up humble cube steak in this hoity-toity meat town. Good to know that won’t be a problem. 😀

  • Huh — somehow I wouldn’t have pegged you as a chicken-fried steak kind of gal. Myself, I prefer good old schnitzel/cotalettea alla milanese with veal, but wouldn’t turn my nose up at a fried slab of meat with gravy and potatoes. Diet? What diet?