RoshHashanah (literally translated “head of the year”) has come and gone again, and once more I am reminded that it is a holiday that is more about your relationship with God than your gastronomic relationship with friends and family. Yes of course it is not a fast day like Yom Kippur, of course, but still the frivolity needs to be toned down a bit, and the attention placed on the fact that we are all being judged at this time of the year. So with that frame of mind, yeah too many early morning Selichot Services kind of kill the mood, my wife and I set out to make our menu and meals.
This year we hosted the first meal. We invited friends and family and it was quite awesome! Like last year, we had the same simanim (literally translated to “signs”), except that we added sesame to this year’s lineup, for reasons I do not fully understand. The simanim are a play on words and are a very basic Jewish tradition of using word play to bring out symbolism and actual changes or good tidings. Our friends brought over two of the simanim, and we took care of the rest. The simanim are a yearly rite of passage, and one of my favorite Jewish traditions. Many of the recipes have been changed to protect the innocent. The customary recipes from my mother recipes consist of 4 basic ingredients, oil, more oil, honey, and some vegetable, and one cooking style – frying. We decided that this tradition was awesome, but that it needed to be toned down such that it could be enjoyed for years to come and not just for the few where we are vertical. So it called for some baking and less oil. We ordered the symbolic food in the order of Sephardic Jewry, and here they are:
- Dates or Figs (Tamar in Hebrew)
- The symbolism here is that God should end our enemies
- Broad Beans coated with a mixture of olive oil, cumin, and garlic (Rubya in Aramaic)
- The symbolism here is that God should increase our merits
- Leeks – prepared masterfully by our friends, sautéed in oil and spiced Italian (Karti in Aramaic)
- The symbolism here is that God should cut down our enemies
- Spinach Roll and Spinach Pastry Puff – prepared masterfully by our friends (Salka in Aramaic)
- The symbolism here is that God should remove our enemies
- Sweet Butternut Squash – sliced butternut squash, sprayed with oil and covered with honey, then baked in an oven set to 400 degrees (Kra in Aramaic)
- The symbolism here is that God should tear up our evil decrees and read before him our merits
- Pomegranate seeds (Rimon in Hebrew)
- The symbolism here is that our mitzvot (observance of the Jewish laws) be as plentiful as the pomegranate seeds
- Sweet apples dipped in honey
- The symbolism here is that God should grant us a New Year as sweet as honey
- Fish head – Salmon head poached in white wine and water
- The symbolism here is that in this New Year we should be at the head of the class and not at the tail
We always joke that we should try to bring out a head of a lamb instead of a fish head and freak out everyone there. It would be totally epic, but while it is the preferred manner of implementing the head symbolism, it would fly in the face of “behaving”. The good news is that we did FAR better than last year on the wine parade, which was not too difficult!
The rest of the meal started with some lox and simanim left over’s. The main course consisted of shoulder pot roast with festive vegetables, brown rice, and fresh vegetable salad. The festive vegetables were cooked with the roast, but at different stages of course. The shoulder roast was coated with a spice mix and flour, and then seared on all sides, and then removed. Diced onions and garlic were then placed in the hot dutch oven and were caramelized until nice and brown. The meat was returned to the pot, along with half a bottle of wine. After the meat and wine turned into a nice piece of meat, the potatoes and carrots were added. Twenty minutes later peas and green beans were added and cooked for a few minutes and then all of this was poured into a shallow pan to cool off and sleep overnight in the chill chest. After some 24 hours, the meat was removed and sliced, and then placed back in the pan with all of the juice and vegetables, where it would lie until it was warmed up the next day.
Finally, for dessert our friend once again brought us a magnificent specimen – a peach cobbler, which was consumed in totality, and it was awesome! From my family to all of yours – May God write and seal you all in the book of life, one filled with good tidings, health, and happiness.
One last pair of notes about the wines (yeah yeah – I will keep it low key). I finally had a chance to try the Syraph One Two (1-2) Punch for more than a single sip or two. I first tasted it a couple of times during the Carlebach Shabbaton at the Four Gates Winery. On Rosh Hashanah I had the chance to open another bottle and sip it slowly and it watch it open in the bottle, glass, and my senses. It was so cool to watch it truly open and express its layers and unique characteristics. We also had a chance to truly enjoy a bottle of the 2003 Four Gates Syrah – Webb Family Vineyard. That wine is kicking still and continuing to blow me away, rich, expressive, layered, and big – quite a joy.
The wine notes for the evening follow below in the order they were enjoyed:
2002 Gaston & Pierre Ravaut Ladoix (France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Ladoix) – Score: B-
The nose on this browning ruby colored wine is smoky with vanilla, coffee, strawberry, cherry, plum, herbs/mint. The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine has strawberry, plum, and cherry notes. The mid palate is acidic with fading tannins. The finish is medium long with cherry, coffee, strawberry, and mint. It is a wine well past its peak, and one that should be used up or tossed.
2008 One | Two Punch 50% Grenache & 50% Syrah (USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara) – Score: A-
The nose on this garnet-black colored wine is truly unique and very hard to pin down. Sometimes it smells like coffee and sometimes it smells like chocolate. I think it is actually a blend or maybe a mocha espresso, along with ripe blackberry, plum, vanilla, smoky, oak, along with crushed herbs. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is layered and concentrated with blackberry, vanilla, mocha espresso, nice tannin, and plum. The mid palate spikes with acid, oak, and vanilla. The finish is super long and spicy with chocolate, vanilla, black fruit, tannin, oak, and herbs. Quite a unique and fun wine. Look for the tannins to slowly calm down and add to the mouth feel along with richness.
2003 Four Gates Syrah, Special Reserve, Santa Clara Valley – Score: A- to A
WOW! This is a killer wine. The first thing that hits you when you open this bottle of wine and peer into its purple-black stare is the ripe blueberry notes that come screaming out at you, along with blackberry, cassis, plum, tobacco, chocolate, tar, and rick oak. The mouth on this full bodied, mouth filling, concentrated, and structured wine comes at you in layers with fruit that follows the nose, ripe blackberry, plum, blueberry, tar, and oak. The mid palate is balanced with acid, oak, tobacco, and chocolate. The finish is super long, black, and spicy, with rich oak, chocolate, tobacco, tar, and blackberry. This is a truly wonderful wine that is highly structured with lovely tannins and a wine that still has a few years left under its belt. The nose is killer with the lovely ripe blueberry and blackberry, along with the oak, tar, chocolate. It follows through with the mouth till its tantalizing finish. Quite a powerful that has its sea legs beneath it and bright horizon ahead.