Tyler, Emily, Michelle, & Chef Ryan Pollnow photo from Il Cane Rosso
Sure, San Francisco has Off The Grid and farmers markets every day of the week but ask anyone and they will tell you that the ultimate mecca for foodies is the Ferry Building. The options are overwhelming, especially on Thursdays and Saturdays when it joins forces with the farmers market and even more food stands. It is like a Hindu god with multiple arms and you are unsure of which of the limbs to grab; it all looks so good and you are so hungry. My one always safe bet is Il Cane Rosso. I can’t ever be disappointed, even on those rare days that I am good and just order a half sandwich and soup, I may long for the reunion of the other half the sandwich but one half is more valuable than 5 mediocre sandwiches. The brisket sandwich puts me in my place in the best possible way, just me lost in the moment with this sandwich. You see I share the Liz Lemon philosophy, “Can I share with you my worldview? All of humankind has one thing in common: the sandwich. I believe that all anyone really wants in this life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich.”
When I was invited to a special winemaker dinner at Il Cane Rosso, I was excited for many reasons. First, I knew and loved the wine and the winemakers because the agency that I work for, Ink Foundry, reps them. Romililly is the brainchild of two cute young brothers and it is a labor of love and a family affair. Aaron and Jesse grew up in the wine business because their uncle was August “Joe” Briggs and when it came to naming their very own Russian River Pinot the grandmother wrote down the name of her grandkids Jesse Robert (RO), Aaron Michael (MI) and little sister, Susan (LILLY) and Romililly was born. As much as I love a cute story, I also love a good glass of pinot and this one stands tall. I was in LA at the beginning of the year for another winemakers’ dinner and was blown away. The second reason I was so excited was because I knew Il Cane Rosso slays lunch so I was beyond anticipation to see what they could do to dinner.
The first course was Local Sardines “Scapece” with rhubarb, shaved radish & fresh mint paired with a 2010 August Briggs Rose. Any of the initial hesitation that I had with the idea (read: fishiness) of sardines was immediately mediated when I paired the small fish with the rhubarb and mint in the bite. The dish just went so beautifully and was so balanced.
The following course of Fregula Sarda & parmesan brodo with spring vegetables, fresh herbs & wild flowers paired with the 2009 August Briggs Chardonnay was easily the main highlight of the night. I am a sucker for a good soup and this broth and aroma was simply heavenly. I wasn’t familiar with Fregula Sarda and, yes, it sounds like a Harry Potter word but it is actually an Italian couscous. Since I am looking for a Jewish man obviously Israeli couscous is more on my radar but I am now a convert. Every element of this dish from the peas to the flowers can best be described as spring in a dish.
The main course was Braised Range Brothers Pork Cheek with preserved plum mostarda, smoked lardo, which was paired with the wine of the night the 2008 Romililly Pinot Noir. Now obviously this site is Mission Fruition and I love fruit worked into almost every dish, especially my meat, so I am sure you can imagine my delight with the plum mostarda (a condiment made from candied fruit and mustard). One of my favorite wine bloggers Sonoma William of Simple Hedonisms even made this note on the 2008 pinot, “Wonderful expression of RRV fruit, balanced with nice acidity. Modest red color and red fruit, soft finish. Pairing wonderfully with pork cheek.”
Valley Ford Cheese Company Estero Gold with lavender roasted strawberries, toasted hazelnuts & balsamic with the 2009 Romililly Pinot Noir closed the meal. Also I also got a handful of the famous caramel corn. Even with four courses and four glasses of wine, I left feeling completely satisfied but not unbearably full, which was good because right after dinner I saw Diddy Dirty Money with Tamara Palmer. What I love about Il Cane Rosso and Romililly is that even though they are full of flavor they both are much lighter than what you’d imagine. Il Cane Rosso despite knowing meat so damn well has a knowledge and use of produce and herbs that never allows the meat to get weighted down in the mix.
Keep your eyes out for upcoming Il Cane Rosso events and your tummy and mouth open for their nightly 3 course dinners for $25. Romililly isn’t an easy wine to find but it is definitely a pinot worth seeking out, as it won’t soon be forgotten…follow the brothers on Twitter @RomilillyWines for all of the latest.