Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Vanillas at Foreign Cinema

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, February 3, 2009

JUST ABOUT THE ONLY organization I belong to these days is The Baker's Dozen, a group of serious home and professional bakers that meets every three months in San Francisco to pool ideas, answer questions, socialize, and eat lunch. You couldn't find a nicer bunch or people. We meet at Foreign Cinema, a favorite restaurant of mine because of the quality of its food and the quiddity of its place. At night they'll throw movies up against the white-painted wall back of the outdoors dining room, but that's no good at lunch. Not that we need it; we're plenty entertaining enough without the movies.

Today we tasted seven different vanilla extracts: from Bourbon-Madagascar, India, Java, Mexico, Tahiti, Uganda, and (ringer) the Safeway. First we listened to three guests who described, from professional and experienced points of view, how to go about such a tasting. Then we each of us looked at seven little plastic cups, identical except for the numbers one to seven printed on them, each containing 94.8% water, 5% sugar, and 0.2% vanilla extract.

Oh boy, I said to Lindsey, this is going to be embarassing, I've never made any secret how much I love Tahiti vanilla, what do you bet it comes in near the bottom. Then we looked at them — four rather watery looking, numbers 3 and 5 a little darker, #7 hinting at a bit of color. Then we sniffed them. Then we tasted.

I thought the watery-looking ones were, well, a little watery. I liked the floral taste of #1, the peachy overtones of #3. I didn't like #6 at all. Best of all was #5: full and complex and substantial. Then the room was asked to vote on each in turn: Number 5 was the overwhelming favorite.

Then we had lunch, and what a nice lunch! A risotto galette — I'd have said a rissole — creamy inside, crunch out; on a fine lettuce salad with impeccable vinaigrette and shavings of wonderful Parmesan cheese.

Next, grilled mahi-mahi with little boiled potatoes, romanesco, cauliflower, all in a green coconut curry sauce, piquant and delicate at the same time.

Finally, grapefruit and blood orange granitas.

Oh: the vanillas? #1: Java; 2: Bourbon-Madagascar, 3: India fair trade, 4: Uganda, 5: Tahiti (yes yes yes), 6: Safeway, 7: Mexico. We win.
In the nature of ladies lunching, perhaps, no wine at this meal. Wouldn't a nice Riesling have hit the spot!

1 comment:

Curtis Faville said...

Remember, in Captain's Paradise, that Guinness's English wife's favorite preparation for dinner was rissoles!

Near the end of the movie, his Moroccan wife, who's decided to settle down and be a good domestic housekeeper, serves him--rissoles! And he bolts from the apartment in horror!