Sunday, October 26, 2008

October Surprise

In popular usage the term "October Surprise" denotes a major event that effects an election in either a positive or negative way depending on one's particular view point. There is no way this blog will deal with politics as the U. S. election has been enough to drive me away from radio and television due to the overwhelming volume of nasty ads for both national and local candidates and causes. Thank heaven it will end soon!

October Surprise for our purpose here simply means it was a fantastic day weather-wise for late October in Ohio. There were no clouds in the sky, the temperatures were in the mid 60 degree range and there was a light breeze. It was just ideal and weather that I would love to see day after day.

That made it a major food day as well, and the grill was busy.

The first thing on the grill was some fresh beets. They were wrapped in foil and holes were punched in the foil before they were placed on indirect heat on the grill. Oak chips soaked in water were tossed on the charcoal and the lid was securely in pace on the grill for over an hour. The beets roasted and absorbed a small amount of the smoke. They were cooled, peeled and sliced and allowed to rest in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Finally they were dressed with some balsamic vinegar, a touch of Bolivian rose salt and some fresh goat cheese. They were earthy and sweet and just subtly smoky. It was a perfect salad for a wonderful day.

While the beets were chilling they were replaced on the grill by a flat chicken. This was a free range bird with all but the leg and wing tip bones removed. It was marinated in sparkling wine, basil, shallots, tomatoes, salt and pepper and then grilled for an hour over indirect heat. I fixed some polenta loaded with fresh thyme and sage, herb butter, red pepper flakes and several varieties of grated cheeses. It was soft, creamy, fragrant, mildly spicy and just a delightful dish. The chicken was was slightly smoky, tart and delicious.

The wine was a pleasant surprise. I am not a general fan of California Merlot, but the 2004 Villa Toscano Sierra Foothills Merlot was a refreshing change of pace. There were some blackberries and some dark plums, soft tannins, decent acidity and a subtle balance to the wine. It wouldn't stand up to a strong, hearty meal, but it did pair well with the chicken and polenta. There was very little residual sweetness, which is my major complaint about California Merlots. It was a very good wine for this particular meal.

I have no idea on the price because the bottle was a gift from a non-wine drinking friend who was in the area of the winery on business last year. He visited the winery on a break from work and brought the bottle back with him.

The dogs got their weekend walks in early this morning and they spent the afternoon helping to cook and chewing on rawhide bones. They were more than willing to munch on some of the chicken skin and pieces of polenta once it cooled.

There is chicken left and the remaining polenta was poured onto a board, allowed to cool completely and cut into rounds. The leftovers will make a wonderful weeknight dinner this coming week.

October, because of days like this, remains my favorite month in this area. It is doubtful that we will have another day like this until next October as the forecast is for deteriorating conditions and November like weather. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem about Ohio wine when it was a premier product in the mid 1800's and in it he described November as "dark and drear." At least I have today to carry me through until good weather arrives again in the spring.

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