Rosé and Offal

“When the food gestapo finally kicks down our door,” I said to my wife, “and I confess under duress that I simply cannot love the flavor of pork kidney, no matter how hard I try, will you back me up?”

“I always back you up, baby. You know that.”

I do know that. It’s true. But I know also that I sometimes strain my wife’s loyalty, and that I had strained it that very night—by serving her the pork meatballs recipe from Richard Olney’s Simple French Food. The recipe called for pork variety meats, so I’d picked up a liver, heart, and kidney from Marin Sun Farms at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, here in San Francisco.

I never expected my wife to love it—the recipe fell more into the category of what we call, in our household, my “arts and crafts projects.” These are vaguely self-indulgent acts of more or less nonutilitarian creativity, as defined by my wife’s very low likelihood of wanting to eat any. Acknowledging all this, and putting a name to it, has been healthy for our marriage, because it has removed any pressure on L to eat the dishes that fall into this category (larded pork liver in aspic, anyone?), and it has likewise freed me up to make said dishes. Everyone, after all, is entitled to random creative acts.

So it wouldn’t have been a big deal, on an ordinary night. But then something unexpected happened: My in-laws agreed to come for dinner. I love my in-laws, they love food, and they’ve taken me to a lot of spectacular restaurants, so I’m always wishing I could cook for them. But it doesn’t happen.

I complain about this, periodically, to L: “Why don’t your parents ever come over, anyway? Is it our house? Is it my food?” L just laughs and smiles and ducks the question, taking the blame herself and muttering something vague about how she and her mother both prefer it this way. Because my wife is exquisitely articulate, and allergic to fuzzy thinking, I know that this is not the whole story. But I never get any further, and I usually just let it go for another few months.

Anyway, all of a sudden, they were coming. It was a gorgeous spring evening in California, cool breezes and radiant light, even some added fun: My brother-in-law’s kids were tagging along with my wife’s parents. Great little boys, they are much loved by my little girls, so we had a party on our hands.

Which brings me to the menu. Why oh why couldn’t I have been roasting a simple chicken? Or turning out some beautiful braise? Or even just making a ragoût of spring vegetables? Why did I have to be experimenting with organ meats?

Well, my mother-in-law insisted she loved the dish, which was some consolation. My father-in-law said that he liked it too. My wife took a tiny nibble and shoved the plate ever so slightly away. I ate quite a lot, trying to convince myself that I loved it like everything I’ve ever made from Olney, but the truth was that the taste of the kidney, in the mélange, was almost unbearable.

The only thing that rescued the meal, in my view, was the beautiful Fort Ross rosé we drank, a flawless accompaniment. Here’s the upshot on organ meats: I’m not done trying, not willing to give up. I have eaten and loved heart meat; I have eaten and loved a variety of liver meats. But kidney … I’ve just never liked kidney.

Anyway, the wine, which was beautiful:

2006 Fort Ross Vineyard Rosé
Grapes: 100 percent Pinot Noir
Wood: 1 month in used French oak, 3 months in stainless steel (hey, this is a rosé, so it’s not about wood)
Alcohol: 14 percent
Price: $16 from the winery
Other Winemaking Data I Think Is Worth Repeating: The 2007 vintage should be released within the next few weeks. Also, this wine is made with free-run juice bled away from the red Pinot Noir program. Fort Ross has just bottled the 2007 vintage and will probably release it in six weeks.
My Tasting Notes: To my palate, this rosé has more backbone than many. It’s a well-structured wine, in fact, with good acidity and a bright, fresh fruit quality—but quite distinct from the lighter, more fruit-forward rosés.

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