Friday, October 08, 2004

The Joy of JoJo

Discovering a great restaurant on your own is like inadvertently learning a little secret. When you are introduced to one, you feel honored that someone let you in on theirs.

In this case, the secret is JoJo, a tiny slip of a restaurant that identifies itself as 'country French cooking.' Having never eaten in the French countryside myself, I think this is the closest I've come to that famously honest cuisine. John and I were invited to JoJo by Sarah and Scott, fellow food and wine enthusiasts we met at a tasting of Nicolas Feuillatte champagnes. Having previously bonded over frites, we were eager to join them for dinner at one of their favorite restaurants.

We commenced the evening with a bottle of Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut Rose. This is one of those lovely, versatile wines that both champagne partisans and neophytes alike can gush over. It's food friendly and can be sipped on its own.
The fruit and creamy mouthfeel are equal pleasures. Sigh.

Sarah and John both gave in to 'tart blindness,' our friends' dead-on way of explaining how the ethereal crab and goat cheese tart can inspire cult-like devotion to that appetizer. John liked it so much that he didn't offer me a single bite of the precious tart. No matter; my order of Pate de Campagne was so generous that I, a certified pate nut, struggled to finish each rich bite. Cornichons, thin slices of radish, picholine and nicoise olives, and a bold mustard made my valiant attempt that much more delicious.

Selecting a wine to match four different entrees can be more difficult than securing peace in Northern Ireland. Yes, I'm exaggerating--but oh so slightly. It's inevitable that someone will prefer big, powerful California reds over a Burgundy with finesse; fruit over earth; or--horrors--a Merlot. After some dialogue over what would accompany entrees of roast salmon, Portuguese shellfish stew, and lamb brochettes, we decided on a bottle of 2000 Robert Sinsky Vineyards Pinot Noir. It was my pick, and I hoped Sarah and Scott liked it.

My lamb brochettes surrounded a mound of shell beans and chanterelles. Tender leaves of baby swiss chard could turn even the most fervent hater of the green into a devotee. John enjoyed his salmon so much that he barely said two words; I think he was in a state of rapture as he cleaned his plate.

I didn't think I could make it to dessert. I had half my lamb boxed up so that I could have a slice of the persimmon pudding. Oh my. It was delicious on its own--moist, dense, spicy and nutty--but a bottle of Andrew Rich Gewurztraminer Ice Wine made it a decadent experience. It was such a tease to have the essence of stone fruit in a glass while enjoying a slice of the fall harvest.

If it weren't for a very full belly, I would have floated out of JoJo. I felt like I was let in on a sumptuous secret.

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