Saturday, May 2, 2009

Friday No-Corkage Dinner at 231 Ellsworth!

Three Course Prix-Fixe Menu
$ 39. per person

******
Baby spinach, strawberries, balsamic vinaigrette
-or-
Spring vegetable pistou
-or-
Crab cake, braised romaine, olive vinaigrette
******
Roasted salmon, citrus grilled gambones, asparagus, bearnaise
-or-
Filet of beef, braised kale, potato gratin ($5 supplement)
-or-
Chicken breast, creamy polenta, wild arugula, roasted peppers
******
Chocolate pudding cake, strawberries, vanilla crème fraîche
-or-
Kaffir lime crème brûlée with housemade cookies
-or-
Mandarin soufflé with crème anglaise
($5 supplement)


Indeed, every cloud has a silver lining. To thrive in the economic slowdown savvy restaurants are coming up with deals I've never seen before. The best restaurant in the Peninsula, 231 Ellsworth in San Mateo, is offering a most attractive Spring special: 3-course prix-fixe at $39/person and no corkage on Mondays and Fridays. How can I resist?

My buddies Kevin and Ben couldn't resist either when I mentioned the deal. So we all headed down there Friday night, with wives in tow, and were treated to first-class fare at economy price. And lucky me, when I'm with Kevin and Ben I always drink first-class. These guys have the two best wine cellars I know of.

I brought a 1997 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles that dazzled us. 1997 is a Leflaive year and I advise you to scoop up 1997 Leflaives--you could probably find some at Vineyard Gate at a great price. My notes said: intense floral, honey, citrus, gravel, and botrytis (the telltale sign of a Leflaive) scents; flavors of greengage, grapefruit, lemon custard, and minerals. Utterly persistent. Its petrol scents got more noticeable as the wine opened up. Very lovely.

Ben recalled a tasting several years ago of 1969 Leflaive Pulignys. People thought they were tasting German Rieslings. The petrol and botrytis emanating from the wines surprised everyone.

Kevin commented: "The Leflaive kept unfolding. The botrytis component was oh so good. Thank you. *** (**)"

The 1954 Chateau Latour is proof yet again that being vintage-obsessed is dim-witted at best as one misses out on sublime wine experiences like this. A gift from Ben's 49 degree F cellar to honor Kevin's birth year. Decanted, it was unbelievably youthful; deep ruby up to the rim, with no bricking. More fragrant than the '55 Margaux we had a few months ago--cedar plank, dried herbs, blood, and earth. Started off with flavors of velvety ripe blackberries that brightened to cranberries as the wine faded. What a treat!

Ben brought a bottle wrapped in aluminum foil and already uncorked, no doubt he had given it his usual seven to eight decantings before leaving home. Both Kevin and I assumed it was red Burgundy, but we did a quick blind tasting before unwrapping the label. I said definitely grand cru because of the power. It was dark ruby and really fruity, I thought about a Russian River Pinot Noir for a moment, like a Williams Selyem or Gary Farrell but said, "nah", not likely Ben would bring something like that. Kevin later said that he thought it was a Corton, and so it was--a 1966 Corton from Coron Pere et Fils, a negociant I'm totally unfamiliar with. Anyway, it was wonderful and paired well with my beef filet. Black cherries, mint, sage, earth, beef broth, cinnamon, and cloves. A melange of flavors that showed the odd, anything-goes character of aged Corton.


231 Ellsworth Restaurant
231 Ellsworth Avenue
San Mateo, CA
650. 347.7231

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