CQ's latest feast took its cues from the culinary munificence of the Basque Country.
After an afternoon set in rosemary, crushed coriander seeds and garlic, a number of bunnies got roasted whole - one for each two guests. We baked baby organic chick peas (soaked overnight) separately in homemade roasted vegetable stock with saffron, onions, garlic, corander seeds, bay leaves and a chile. The beans went in a good half hour earlier than the bunnies, which meant that after a bit more then an hour of grazy appetizers - tapenade and a greens jam with semolina flats & a few fine bottles of white - dinner was set. Each plate fairly groaned under its half bunny, mess of garbanzos and fat quiver of skinny roasted asparagus, wrapped in strips of smokey bacon. Not that much work but a memorable feast, the lesson of which may well have been never serve bacon-free dinner: a single strip (pounded & sliced lenthwise from a standard Niman cut) brought all the flavors together.
Dessert was an Istara (Basque sheep's milk) cheese gratin that couldn't have been more delicious or more simple: lightly toasted then chopped a cup of walnuts. Whisked 3 eggs with half a cup of sugar (dark Muscovado) then mixed in a generous cup heavy cream. Added the nuts and the grated Istara (4 oz minus nibbles), mixed just to combine, and poured into a buttered baking dish. After a little less than a half hour on 375, a knife exited the gratin cleanly. We let that sit while we passed a huge hunk of (Italian, yes) Piave cheese around, delicious as it was with the now cold semolina flats, then served the gratin in wee ramekins. The evening's sole regret: desert was a dish of which only one guest got seconds, though more would have liked it.
The above menu comprises a CQ interpretation of recipes culled from Gerald Hirigoyen's fine book, The Basque Kitchen. We never get through San Francisco restaurants without visits to either Hirigoyen's fine Piperade restaurant and / or his sweet, new and much less formal Bocadillos. Preferably, both.
To drink: CQistes brought scads of wine about which we are quite embarrassed to say we didn't find time to make notes. No fewer than 3 very pretty white 'Valley Girls' from the Loire Valley graced the table -the 2003 Chavignol, the 2003 Closel Savenierres and, and... well we encourage you to weigh in should you remember. A 1994 Gran Reserva from Rioja Alta showed pretty well: rusty and hearty if a little brutish, which we like. It worked perfectly too with the stunning 1991 Burgaud Cote Rotie we opened next, which garnered unanimous accolades as Wine of the Evening. After dessert we cracked a camomile-infused grappa, whose deliciousness - for those of us generally adverse to all but the freshest camomile - came as a great surprise.