Bread, Olive oil and Wine パン、オリーブオイル、ワイン

japanese cake
BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze, Beer, Bottle) is a concept foreign to most Japanese. For that matter, I encountered a BYOB restaurant for the first time when I attended a professional meeting in Pittsburgh many years ago. I went to the restaurant which was in walking distance of my hotel. The weather was lovely and I was delighted to see diners enjoying wine and food al fresco. I got an outside table, sat down, and asked for a glass of wine. That is when I was informed that this was a BYOB restaurant. Being unfamiliar with the term they had to explain that they did not sell any alcohol. If I wanted some wine I had to “bring my own bottle” (BYOB).  The customers I saw enjoying wine had brought it with them. Somewhat at a loss as to what to do the waiter was kind enough to explain that there was a state run liquor store just 4 blocks away from the restaurant (how convenient). I walked there (quickly), got a bottle of decent red and came back to the restaurant to my table which they had kindly held for me. That was my introduction to a dining style rather common in Pennsylvania. 

Pennsylvania is not alone in this custom. BYOB is reportedly permitted in 27 states and prohibited in 13 states in US. In the DC area, some restaurants may allow BYBO with conditions (only wines that are not on their wine list can be brought in, there is a limit of only 2 bottles per party or table, and a $25-50 corkage fee applies, etc). We learned that, in Pennsylvania, however, BYOB is very common and less stringent. Since we stayed in rural/suburban PA recently, we made a point of taking our own bottles of wine to the BYOB restaurants (and if truth be told, our own wine glasses too. Let’s face it clearly wine tastes better drunk out of crystal than thick glass). 

One evening, we went to a BYOB Italian restaurant. The owner was very gracious. The food was excellent. When we commented on the good quality of the bread and the very green fruity olive oil served on the table, the owner having taken note of the crystal wine glasses apparently suspected he had some “foodies” on his hands so he brought out his special and very best olive oil which was from Spain (to our surprise, not from Italy).

We tasted the olive oil. It had a nice fruity, grassy taste with peppery spicy finish which lingered in your mouth for some time. We raved about how great it was with the bread and the wine. We never tasted anything like it before. He offered to sell us a bottle, and we snapped it up immediately. 

The olive oil is called “Family Reserve – Escribano Estate” with crush date of October 2014.

Quoting from importer’s website;

This year’s Family Reserve is made from Picual olives at our owners private family mill in Andalusia, Spain. Soraya Aguilar’s family mill produces early crush, super premium quality Picual for our stores every October.”

“The green fruit, estate grown Picual olives are crushed very early, with an extremely low 8% yield (oil/olive) and milled at 17 degrees celsius.”

“This year’s oil has a bright, sweet and fruity nose with sweet green fruit and clean feel in the mouth. Upon tasting, you will find notes of green almond, artichoke and grassy aromas finished by a clean, robust peppery finish. High polyphenol counts (more than 400) make this oil one of our most healthy.

After we got home I decided to bake my baguette to try this olive oil. I have not baked my baguette for some time. I got up early on Sunday to bake it. I served thin slices, with this olive oil with sprinkles of Kosher salt in the evening with a red wine.

I ended up baking two batches of bread using two different yeasts, which happened by accident not by design. The first thing I did was to proof the yeast. Since I have not baked for some time (my wife has been doing most of the baking). I grabbed a package of yeast and started proofing by mixing the yeast and a pinch of sugar in 1/4 cup of lukewarm water. After 5 minutes, it did not bubble up as I expected. My wife came downstairs at this point and asked me which yeast I used. I fished out the yeast package from the trash bin. This was Hodgson mill active dry yeast. This one is dubbed as “for all flours especially whole grain” which my wife uses for whole grain breads. She suggested to use Fleischmann’s Yeast instead. I proofed that yeast and it bubble up within 5 minutes. I used this Fleischmann’s for the first batch which are the two on the left (picture below). By the time I finished kneading the first batch, I realized Hodgson mill yeast was also vigorously bubbling up; it just took more time than the other yeast. So, instead of wasting the yeast, I made a second batch (the two loaves on the right). They came out quite different in appearance; the only difference was the kind of yeast I used.

Although they look different in shape both had a nice crust and the center had many irregular holes with good texture and tasted about the same. In addition to the baguette and olive oil, we also had thinly sliced Manchego and applewood smoked American cheddar cheeses. This called for a good wine and I decided to open 2005 Shafer One point five. When I opened the bottle, the cork almost disintegrated which was not a good sign. But upon tasting, the wine was just fine. From our memory of tasting, when it was released, it had all characteristics of highly extracted California wine with fruit forward with vanilla and chocolate. After 10 years, it had aged gracefully. There were brown hues at the edge indicating some age/oxidation. The fruits were more muted but added dark molasses/ dark chocolate flavors and smooth tannin. Tasting my baguette with this spicy and fruity Spanish olive oil alternating with Manchego and Cheddar, sipping good wine I thought  ‘if you have good olive oil, good bread, good cheese and good wine what else do you need’?  I also realized that, aside from the olive oil, all these food items are “fermented” or formed using the help of micro-organisms.  The Japanese equivalent of basic food items like these would be sake, rice and miso.

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