We moved to Lakeland just over a year ago and nearly immediately found a great local wine shop. Ric’s Wine Market has become the place we get most of the wine we don’t pick up from mailing lists. More importantly, it’s a place we go nearly every Friday because the regular crowd that hangs out there are great folks who accepted us with open arms right away. It starts with owners Ric and Sherry, who run a great, customer-oriented place. Ric has a great palate and nose for picking out great wines as reasonable prices. To make things even better, Ric and I share a fondness for the same kinds of wines; although we both love wines from all around the world, there’s a great deal of overlap in our sweet spots, Bordeaux in particular. Ric and Sherry host a small tasting from 5-7 (the “Friday Wine Down”), and then some portion of the crowd usually goes out to dinner afterward.
A few months back, we got together with some of the regulars and agreed that occasionally we’d go to someone’s house afterward instead of going to a restaurant. One of the reasons is that we never know how many folks will be going out, and it’s tough to take 8 or more people to a restaurant on a Friday without a reservation. The effort has gone quite nicely because for what the two of us would spend on a meal in a decent restaurant, we can cook for the 12-15 people who are in the normal rotation. This past Friday, we did just that–although the crowd was more like 20 this time (for which we thankfully prepared). For the most part, I’m going to let the pictures tell the story.
We did all the cooking ourselves, since buying it or catering it would kind of defeat the purpose. Here’s what the layout looked like before some of our friends brought a few additions and desserts.
All of the food went over extremely well, but the hit of the evening had to be the mini twice-baked potatoes (in the back, on the right). We roasted small potatoes at 400F for about 40 minutes–enough to get the skin nice and firm, even a little crispy. After letting them get cool enough to handle, we cut a hole in the top and scooped out the meat with a melon-baller. Into this we mixed melted butter, sour cream, shredded cheddar, and a little salt and pepper. We then stuffed the filling back in, dusted with some smoked paprika, and baked for another 30 minutes at 350F. When they came out, we topped them with some diced scallions. They’re a great cocktail party food because they’re a single bite that you don’t even need a plate for. If we had made half again the amount, they’d have probably all been gone as well.
Of course, the reason this group gets together is wine. The first three on the list were all picks from Ric’s. They’re all in a nice price range for a larger crowd (around $20 each), and every one is a winner. The last one on the original list is from one of our mailers, Bedrock Wine Company, and wunderkind winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson. This particular Syrah was the early hit of the evening, as Bedrock wines tend to be. More than one person asked “where can we get some of this?” We were on the waiting list for the wines for about a year, but now we get enough of an allocation that we can share some of it with our friends, which we’re always happy to do. Of course, the list grew as folks showed up and brought bottles. We eventually ran out of room:
Even later, as they sometimes do, things got serious:
You can just barely make out the vintage on the left of the bottle. It’s a 2003, as is the Chateau Valandraud you seek peeking out to the right. The 03 Lynch is a spectacular wine from a sometimes-challenging vintage, all barnyard, leather, black fruits, and well-integrated tannins. I know I’m a little biased since Lynch-Bages is my favorite Bordeaux house, but this is exactly what I want the perfect wine to smell and taste like.
Great food and great wine are by themselves a treat, but they’re even better when you enjoy them in the midst of wonderful friends. I have a feeling Post-Ric’s Friday is going to be happening for a long time to come.