Sunday, June 19, 2011

Beef: It's What's for Dinner

My 20 mile run yesterday was hard.  Really hard.  I blame the heat, as it was 81 degrees by the end, but it also could've just been because some runs are like that.  They start off well, as this one did, then kick your ass.  When I finished I stumbled into Jamba Juice feeling like I needed something, anything, in my body.  And Jamba Juice was only steps away from my car in the parking lot where my running club met.

I'd never been to Jamba Juice before.  Honestly, when I think of Jamba Juice I think of US Weekly photos of Britney Spears from her fat years, wandering around with a Jamba Juice in one hand and a cigarette in the other.  Barefoot.  And in places where one really shouldn't be barefoot.

I was so depleted that I found it impossible to navigate the crazy large menu in Jamba Juice.  Knowing they had likely served several runners from my club that morning, I asked them to make me whatever the other runners had, and put some protein in it.  The result was some kind of strawberry banana concoction.  It was pretty good, but I won't be running back there anytime soon.  (pun totally intended.  ha.)

My instinct of "put some protein in it" was apparently my body screaming out for something it needed.  Like the Bruce Willis-voiced baby in Look Who's Talking, tugging on his umbilical cord for Kirstie Alley to give him some apple juice.

When Brad made it home from his equally exhausting bike ride, he told me that during his tough final miles he'd decided he wanted a big, juicy steak for dinner.

Protein?  Sold!

Dry Aged Rib Eye Steaks with Grilled Asparagus, Shallots and Potatoes
With steak on the menu, what to serve with it?  I found this recipe in Everyday Food for grilled shallots and potatoes.  I'd never had shallots prepared like this before, but I do love shallots and this looked really good.  And it was.  (recipe below)

To me, no steak should ever be eaten without a nice, bold red wine.  Our choice was a Cabernet Sauvignon from Andrew Geoffrey Vineyards.

The backstory on this incredible wine really deserves it's own blog post.

Brad and I were in Napa last March for me to run the Napa Valley Marathon.  Our friends Robin and Mark joined us for a few days because I'd somehow managed to snag a reservation for four at the French Laundry.

My friend Robin has exquisite taste in wine, and has introduced me to many that are now some of my favorites.  I learned on this Napa trip that any winery Robin visits must require at least one U-turn and cannot have any obvious signage from the road.  She's an expert on hidden gems, I guess you'd say.

So one day we're out touring Napa wineries and she phones a winery whose wine she likes to ask about a tasting.  Her call is answered by the owner, who tells her he'd love to give us a tasting and we should meet him at the base of Diamond Mountain.  Wow, the owner?  That's pretty cool.

We go to the appointed spot to wait.  And wait.  I'm sure we didn't actually wait that long, it just seemed like a long time because we all were like "what the heck are we doing, waiting on the side of the road for a wine tasting?"  Then a white SUV pulls up and the driver instructs us to follow him.  So we did.

The road quickly reduced down to one twisty lane, which we took to the top of Diamond Mountain.  I know I wasn't the only one riding in our car who had serious reservations about what Robin had gotten us into.  We came to the end of the road and the guy in the white SUV opens a cattle gate.  We all get out of the car because clearly the rest of this journey is to be on foot.

The guy tosses Mark a box of stemware, which Mark deftly catches, and then Mark trips and rolls down the hill.  I don't know how he did it, but as he was tumbling ass over teakettle Mark managed to keep the box of glasses high above his head and not a single one was broken.  Hurrah!

Thank goodness for that, because it would've been hard to do a tasting without any glasses.  And I now know my life would never have been complete without tasting this man's wine.

We hike the rest of the way in to the "tasting room," which is a deck built above his 13 acres of Cabernet grapes that provides sweeping views of the entire Napa valley.  He has a great picture of it here, on the winery's website.  It was a bit chilly up there in early March, but we were warmed by some of the best Cabernet Sauvingon I've ever had.  And the company of a friendly, interesting and engaging vineyard owner.

After our tasting, we all piled back in the car for the trek back down the mountain, chatting wildly about the fantastic experience Robin had just provided us all.  And Robin admits that wasn't even the winery she was thinking of when she called for a tasting.  Pure happenstance led us to the best wine tasting experience any of us ever had.

Thank you, Peter.

Dry Aged Rib Eye Steaks with Grilled Asparagus, Potatoes and Shallots
Based on a recipe from the July/August 2011 issue of Everyday Food.

2 dry aged Rib Eye steaks
Rosemary sea salt (or any kind of sea salt)
Chili powder
Onion Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh mint, chopped

1/2 pound shallots, unpeeled
3/4 pound medium-sized russet potatoes, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat grill to medium-high.

For the steaks, sprinkle each with rosemary sea salt, chili powder and onion powder.  Grill until desired degree of doneness, then transfer to a plate, tent with foil and let rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Place asparagus in a medium sized rectangular pan.  Drizzle olive oil over top, and stir with hands to coat the asparagus.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook in a grill pan, stirring occasionally, until done (slightly charred).  Just before it's done, sprinkle the mint over the asparagus.

Place shallots and potatoes on a large double layer of foil lined with parchment paper.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Fold parchment and foil around the vegetables and crimp edges to form a packet.  Place packet on grill and cook, flipping once, for about 30 minutes.  The shallots should be soft and the potatoes cooked through and crisp around the edges.

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