Chef Alex Marsh Presents "Dungeness Crab Dinner"
When Rose invited me to Chef Alex Marsh's Dungeness Crab dinner at Coffee Bar in SF, (which I love because they serve Hitachino Nest beers) I couldn't say no. I had heard great things about his last ingredient centric dinner - the heirloom tomato dinner - and I didn't want to miss out (also the crab dinner offered a fairly priced wine pairing which is always a draw for me). Plus Rose offered to drive.
Our "amuse" - an avocado gazpacho with Dungeness crab, tomato, and cilantro.
Although it received a lukewarm reception from some at our table, I really enjoyed this dish. It was light and very subtle but not boring at all. No ingredient (such as the cilantro) dominated, instead they all worked harmoniously together. There was a touch of citrus that worked really well with the Prosecco's crisp acidity. Rose tasted a lot of cucumber but that didn't bother me since I'm a cucumber fanatic (check out my latest favorite recipe for pepinos con chiles y limon aka "tangy cucumber snack" from Mmm, Me Gusta).
A mache salad with Dungeness crab, tangerine, and the most amazing Meyer lemon "crisps."
Quite a lovely salad, with a balanced acidity that went really well with the Prosecco though the tangerines were a bit superfluous in my opinion (I have to admit with the exception of Daphne's outstanding Academy Awards salad I usually don't like fruit in my green salads.) The "crisps" were not only brilliant but insanely good - you could really eat these like potato chips.
Our second course: "Spring Roll" stuffed with bacon, crab salad, and green beans, with creme fraiche.
I didn't dislike this as much as others at the table. This dish was also very subtle but maybe a bit too subtle. I was lucky in that I could taste the bacon because one complaint from some at the table was that there was no bacon flavor at all.
Unfortunately, this dish was paired with a horrible tasting wine, an '07 Vina Valoria Blanco Rioja. We must have gotten a bad bottle because it was fairly dreadful and the head waiter that night had told us that they had received a lot of compliments on that particular wine. My notes say "chemical smell" "rotten mushroom" and "overly ripe ammonia cheese." I always give wines that I don't like drinking a chance with food since wines that I've "hated" I end up liking with the right food. It didn't improve with the Spring Roll but I have to say it wasn't as horrible with our next course.
That's right the wine improved with our creamy white corn polenta with artichoke and crab spiced with Old Bay. This was perhaps the most unusual dish of the night. It wasn't my favorite but I did enjoy eating it. However, like the Spring Roll it could have used just a touch of oomph.
Next up: an '07 Balletto Pinot Noir Russian River Valley (if I had a dollar for each Russian River Valley Pinot Noir produced...)
Everyone knows that with few exceptions I am not a Pinot Noir person. This one was barnyardy on the nose and sour on the palate as most are to me. However, this wine paired surprisingly well with one component of our next course of beef filet cook sous vide served with collard greens and a crab bernaise.
I really loved this course. My favorite part, which paired excellent with the wine, was the collards with the crab bernaise. Who would have thought that collards would pair better with a red wine than beef? I just loved the bernaise and loved it slathered all over my greens. Fried Dough Ho thought that the collards were too bitter to serve with the beef, but this Italian girl, who serves arugula, rapini, and dandelion greens with meat all the time, thought that the collards were on the sweet side (the more unctuous the meat the more bitter the green can be and with the filet, which was quite lean, it was better to serve a milder tasting green.)
Fried Dough Ho went crazy for our fried dough.
Yes, homemade doughnut holes with crab jelly, vanilla, and apricot. Since the crab, throughout the entire meal, was so fresh it was very sweet and not fishy at all so it actually worked well with the doughnut holes. I really liked this dessert since it wasn't too sweet and the doughnut holes were perfectly fried.
Chef Alex Marsh