It was a dark and stormy night
. but inside the Half Moon Bay Brewery the candles glowed on the tables covered with white linen tablecloths making the tempest outside seem less threatening.
This post is long overdue about one of the most pleasurable dinners I have ever had. A recent post about Half Moon Bay Restaurants reminded me about this event.
Earlier this year I started to learn a little about Portuguese food. I almost didnt go to this dinner as it seemed a bit pricy, it didnt seem all that Portuguese and, by this time, I was looking to move on to different cuisines.
This was the first of what is planned to be an annual Portuguese dinner at HMB Brewery.
The menu included:
Chick Peas and Baby Mixed Greens with Salt Cod, Tomatoes, Wild Mushrooms, Cucumber and Red Wine Vinaigrette
Traditional Portuguese Soup with Linguisa
Pan Seared Salt Cod with a Garlic Pepper Sauce and Broiled Petit Filet Mignon and Sauce Madera served with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Garden Fresh Vegetables.
Pastis de Nata
Traditional Cream Custard Tart with Fresh Berries
The menu, printed on parchment, rolled and tied with a gold ribbon, did not begin to describe the meal.
The last room of the HMB had a lovely large communal table where the 21 participants were escorted at the same time for the three hour meal.
The tables were set with appetizer plates containing slices of San Miguel cheese, green olives, smoky black olives and chick peas drizzled with olive oil. In the center of the appetizer plate was chopped mixed parsley, tomato and cheese. The French bread was accompanied by pretty butter balls rolled in herbs and paprika.
I took notes and lost them so this doesnt do true justice to the meal as it is from memory.
Wines were included in the meal and were generously poured. We started with Gazela Vinho Verde. This is a mid range non vintage Portuguese wine. Although my favorite wine in this category is Alveda, the least expensive Vinho Verde, I appreciated that they started the dinner with a better wine.
Somewhere around the third glass of Vinho Verde, we were only beginning the salad course. I looked out at the rain beating against the windows and listened to the fog horn moaning in the harbor. I was thinking that my chances of driving back successfully over Devils Slide were not good.
There were two unused wine glasses on the table and the decision was to whether or not to continue dinner with wine or stay overnight. The restaurant graciously arranged a lovely room for me at the Pillar Point Inn next door, offered to drive me there and secured a deep discount out this charming bed and breakfast with fireplaces in every room and a view of the HMB harbor.
The mildly flavored salt cod was wonderful in the green salad which was also sprinkled with pretty pink peppercorns. I liked this salad not only because it was delicious but it was one of the few unique dinner salads I have had in the Bay Area in many years.
Out of the four restaurants in the Bay Area where I have tried Caldo Verde, this was the best version, smoky and peppery with the best balance of kale to soup. They used Silva linguisa which was very good.
During the dinner there were explanations of each dish. They showed a kale stalk and said that if you are in the HMB area and see yards with kale growing in it, you can be certain that Portuguese families live there.
The generous mango sorbet was refreshing with a true mango taste. While most people would not associate mangos with Portugal, the Southern Azores are tropical and pineapple and mango are common parts of Portuguese diets on the islands.
The Entrée was one of the most beautiful dishes I have ever seen. I particularly remember the hollowed out tomato with grilled asparagus, baby carrots and beans artistically arranged inside. The garlic mashed potatoes were piped on the dish separating the very salty thick slice of salt cod from the generous bacon-wrapped filet mignon garnished with a fresh rosemary sprig. .
It was explained that the reason for the Portuguese surf and turf was that if people didnt like the salt cod, there would be the fillet. I am not someone who usually takes pictures of food, but I was really regretting not having a camera to capture that beautiful dish.
Having recently visited a fish market in San Jose with a dozen different types of salt cod, I asked how the different types were used in cooking. The answer focused mainly on the size. Some salt cod is served in pieces from small to extra large. The small pieces are meant to be used flaked into sliced potato dishes. The largest cod are used for steaks similar to the version we were eating.
With the Entrée we switched to a decent Portuguese red which I had before, Primavera. Like the Vihno Verde it was a respectable mid range quality and the glasses were kept filled. I think I had another two or three glasses of red.
Dessert was complements of a Fremont Portuguese bakery. The dessert plate was beautiful with a large spiced scoop of whipped cream, a custard tart, a round brown and white spicy cookie called and especie. Fresh berries were strewn on the plate.
We finished the dinner with two glasses of port (Porto Bocas), one a tawny port and the other a red. Then everyone was presented with the book Portugal: Charming Inns & Itineraries written by Karen Brown who owns the Seal Cove Inn in Moss Beach and is the author of 17 world wide travel guides (link below). It is an excellent read.
With good food and lots of wine everyone was friends by the end of the dinner. It turns out that many of the diners were Portuguese. I saw boiled taro root being sold at a number of Portuguese stores and asked how it was used. Basically the Portuguese use them sliced with either spicy or salty food.
Many of the Bay Area Portuguese were dairy farmers or ranchers. One gentleman at the table had a ranch. He said that the best use of taro root was to slice it up, feed it to the cows and eat the steak.
I also learned that Duartes in Pescadero serves a Portuguese dish on Friday nights and that about 40 days after Easter there is a Portuguese Festa in Half Moon Bay. HMB Brewing put the dinner on to acknowledge the local Portuguese community in the area. It also has a few Portuguese dishes on its regular menu including a seafood stew.
When the bill came, the total not only included the dinner, unlimited wine and the book, but the tip as well.
This wasnt highly advertised this year because they wanted to do a trial run of the dinner. I recommend the dinner next year or any of their special events. Another couple at the table went to a special dinner where each course paired chocolate and beer. They said they enjoyed it very much. In May HMB Brewing will be having an event that pairs their beers with the local Harley goat cheeses.
I guess I pretty much remember everything except the names of the people who helped to make this such a warm memory.