Recently I met a peculiar yet endearing character. He shares my love for good ingredients and great uncomplicated food. But above all, he’s incredibly passionate about bread. He can keep you enthralled in a conversation about bread, different types of flours, ovens and anything else to do with the bread making process for hours. He’s one of few that still makes bread the truly “old fashioned” way, without any commercial yeasts and spending the long hours (sometimes 36 hours at a stretch) required to produce these amazing breads. He’s an artisan baker and his name is Rick Easton.
So when I had the opportunity to attend a “Bread and Salt” dinner hosted by Rick at Wild Purveyors in Lawrenceville, I couldn’t wait. Rick put together a delicious menu featuring local ingredients provided by Wild Purveyors. As you might expect, his bread was the star of the night. I had bread before dinner, with every course and in-between courses, and I wanted more. His bread is crunchy on the outside, moist and chewy on the inside and the flavor is incomparable.
Rick is fond of saying that bread is best enjoyed with a meal. I would add that a meal is best enjoyed with good company, which we had in abundance at this dinner. (And wine, but that’s another story. Stories, actually….) Watch Wild Purveyors and Rick on Facebook for your next opportunity to attend a dinner like this one. Until Rick gets set up in a more permanent location, events like these will be your only opportunity to try his bread. I can’t wait for the next chance.
Chef David Bulman from Verde Mexican Kitchen and Cantina was getting ready for Restaurant Week here in Pittsburgh. And I had the chance to preview his tasting menu on Sunday. Four courses, a palate cleanser, and dessert. The chef worked with talented bar manager Hannah Morris to create pairings to complement each dish. The pairings were masterful, bringing new dimensions of flavor and enjoyment. Verde prides itself on its encyclopedic collection of tequila and mescal, so no Verde menu would be complete without them.
Ceviche and Agua Fresca got us off to a great start. Chilled tortilla soup with a glass of Diseño Torrontes was one of my favorites. A twist on the classic combination of potato and chorizo combination with chipotle aioli followed. The pairing: Del Maguey San Luis del Rio crema de mescal. (Many people find mescal too smoky. If you’re one of these people, please give this mescal a try–you won’t be disappointed.) Then a Mahi-mahi taco with a cerveza preparada—a beer cocktail. And then came the masa “ñoquis” with braised goat. And when I thought I couldn’t absorb any more, a smooth avocado sorbet, a perfect palate cleanser. And the final course, Coco y Lima dessert, was paired with Agavero Damiana infused tequila. This was my favorite course. Yes, I have a sweet tooth, but that’s not the only thing that made this my favorite. In the wrong hands, lime and coconut can be a disaster that tastes like suntan lotion (not that I’ve ever eaten suntan lotion, I can only imagine). But done right, the combination is a bite of paradise, a refreshing tropical vacation for the palate. And this was done right. A sip and a bite and I was in paradise.
It was a great meal and Verde’s staff will spoil you. If you told me that Jeff Catalina could assemble another front of the house staff as expert (and good looking!) as the one at Tender Bar in Lawrenceville, I wouldn’t have believed you.
When you go to Verde, drop me a line and let me know what you think.
I remember it like it just happened. But it was long time ago. I was fourteen years old, my brother eleven.
We both sat on the living room couch, looking straight ahead, limp, motionless. But everything around us seemed floating as in a dream.
My grandmother came into the living room. It was no dream. She immediately noticed a bottled of homemade sour cherry liquor on the coffee table. Most of the cherries were missing, some of the pits piled on the table around the bottle. She looked up at us, and to this day, I don’t know what she said. I only remember her body and hand gestures. Her mouth moving, but we never hear a word.
What follows, well, I’ll spare you the details. Let’s just say that a large amount of alcohol soaked cherries inside a child’s body is quick to find its way out. We were lucky that nothing else happened to us. In this case the treatment we received from the cherries was sufficient punishment. The mere mention of cherries turned our stomachs for years.
But that was long time ago. And now I have my own sour cherry tree. These cherries are great for baking. My girls love a sour cherry clafoutis. And I am looking forward to trying my own sour cherry liquour–I have a couple of pints of cherries flavoring some Everclear. Don’t worry–I promise I won’t have too many at once.