Sunday, September 10, 2006

Shellfish Fest

After hearing that co-blogger Jonathan and my Moto dinner companion John had never schucked raw oysters, Stephanie and I decided to invite them over for a lesson in opening the delicious bivalves. Dirk's Fish Market was the source for the oysters, which included Kumomotos, Fanny Bays, Virginicas, and Malpeques. Our guests picked up the technique rapidly despite imperfect instruction. Fortunately, no fingers were lost. Unfortunately, a number of the Fanny Bays were not edible, but the rest of the oysters were delicious. I was particularly impressed by the briny yet clean character of the Virginicas and Malpeques. We drank a delicious 2004 Beauregard Muscadet as we schucked. It's crisp acidity and minerally finish accented the oysters perfectly.

Following the raw fish, we decided to eat something cooked. I smoked Prince Edward Island mussels on the grill with hickory chips. They took a while to open, but they had a splendidly rich flavor tinged with smoke. The obvious wine pairing was a Pouilly-Fume (Fume is French for "smoke"), and we enjoyed an excellent bottle of 2004 Chatelain (it was manifestly better than one reviewed earlier on this blog). It seemed round and broad following the muscadet, but the flinty finish went perfectly with the mussels. Also, following a recommendation from co-blogger Charlie, we tried a bit of peaty Scotch with the mussels, choosing the obviously delicious Johnny Walker Blue Label. If only we had more mussels and more Scotch.

Deciding that we were no where close to full, I grilled a pair of mackerel, seasoned only with salt, pepper, lemon, and Sicilian olive oil. Mackerel is a rich, oily fish (so much so that Stephanie declined to try it), so it was just the thing to follow the smoked mussels.

Jonathan was kind enough to bring by a bottle of grappa, which a welcome resource for continued gastronomic pleasure. It was full, rich, and oily with a delicate hint of plums. Unlike some of the more fruity or restrained grappas on the market now, this one had the heft that signified its authenticity.

With such a wonderful digestif, we were fully prepared to enjoy the wonderful cheese, goose pate, and 2003 Carmes de Rieussec Sauternes that John provided. Although I'm sure I don't even have to say it, the sweet, rich wine paired excellently with the extravagant goose pate and the Rochefort and Humboldt Fog cheeses.

Having plied our guests with enough food and drink to put a horse into a coma, I decided that it was an excellent time to revenge a bocce drubbing that John and Jonathan had given my neighbor Willie and I a few days earlier. Grappa in hand and straw bocce hat on head, we managed to tie the series at two games a piece. It was a fanatastic evening.

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