I met my husband on Craigslist. I wasn't looking for a husband, actually, or a boyfriend. I was just looking for a place to live in Los Angeles. All I wanted was a nice apartment that was walking distance to things, had wood floors and lots of light, and a roommate that cleaned up after his or herself and didn't mind that I, fresh off of selling my place in Tahoe, came fully furnished. Neal's ad was straightforward and funny, noting, "Baseball starts soon, which means pretty soon there'll be a Sox game on the tube consistently. Yankee fans beware! I'm looking for a respectful, friendly, responsible roommate. Someone who understands how to respect common areas, which includes cleaning them or for paying for them to be cleaned on a regular basis. Showers (unfortunately) don't know how to clean themselves yet..."
I went to see the apartment the same day I read the ad, and the two of us ended up sitting and talking for hours over a glass of super jammy Zinfandel, which I politely sipped. When I left I had a set of keys and a strange feeling. Were there even windows in the bedroom?
That was April 2007. Neal and were married in April 2010, and he didn't even mind that we missed some of the first Red Sox games of the year. For our first Valentine's Day as a married couple, I thought I'd whip up something from our wedding, which was held up on a ranch just north of San Luis Obispo and catered by the fabulous Dawn and Seth at Pacific Harvest Catering. They made so many tasty things to eat, from savory chicken livers to handmade tortellini en brodo to lava rock salt-cured prawns, that it's been hard to decide what to make. I finally settled on the rack of lamb with lavender salt, which at the wedding we paired with braised artichokes, new potatoes and Copain's 2007 "Tous Ensemble" Syrah, but I might do with Romanesco cauliflower, cauliflower puree and farro risotto (recipe for the lamb below).
If my pockets weren't so shallow, I would, without a doubt, pair our dinner with the 1998 Chapoutier "Le Meal" Hermitage ($184.99), which comes from one of my favorite Rhône Valley producers, from a vineyard that was said to be among Thomas Jefferson's favorites. The wine's red fruit and meaty qualities would complement the gamier tones in the meat, while the granitic stoniness and violet-scented threads would add another dimension to the dish. While that's not in my budget, the 2001 Travaglini "Gattinara" Riserva ($54.99) is, for a special occasion wine. The wine's substantial structure, sweet tobacco and rose petal nuances blend with tangy blackberry flavors on the palate, flush with lovely acidity. The extra decade in bottle should have softened the edges on this notoriously grippy grape, but it should still stand up to the lamb well. Still, there's a part of me that wants to bring a little Central Coast to the party, and the options there are even more budget-friendly. I think the 2007 Barrel 27 "Right Hand Man" Central Coast Syrah ($16.99), with just a little decanting, would pick up the lavender notes in the dish, while still providing the meatier tones, with more powerful fruit. Wow, my mouth is watering. I can hardly wait until Monday.
Are you cooking for your sweetheart this Valentine's Day? What are you making and what will you pair it with?
Rack of Lamb with Lavender Salt
Recipe courtesy of Pacific Harvest Catering, Atascadero
2 rack of lamb
1 tbsp culinary lavender
1 tbsp lavender salt
1 tbsp lavender honey
Rub the ingredients over the lamb and marinate [at least 4 hours]. Sear the lamb in olive oil until it's a nice, deep brown. Then, roast at 350 degrees until it's medium-rare (120-125 degrees internal temperature--I would pull it out of the oven at about 115 and let it rest), or until it reaches desired doneness.