Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ad Hoc Inspired Salad - Beets, Avocados, Blood Oranges

Ad Hoc inspired salad.
This weekend AJ and I took a short trip up to Napa to see some East Coast friends of ours. When our friends invited us to dinner in Napa on a Friday night I was initially a little hesitant. Driving up to San Fran on a Friday from Mountain View is a nightmare, so Napa would only be worse. Plus, I had just taken a lot of time off for the holidays and wasn't sure about taking more time off from work. But then two very important things happened. First, our friends emailed to say they wanted to make reservations at Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc. And second, AJ said, "Are you saying you DON'T want to go to Napa?" Thank you husband of mine for slapping some sense into me.

"Bears, beets, battle star galactica."
 AJ and I had been to Ad Hoc for brunch two years ago during a trip to Napa with Malia. For those of you who have never been, Ad Hoc does a four-course, family-style, California cuisine. You are given no choice about what to eat, but I have never heard anyone complain about their meal. For brunch, we had their epic chicken and waffles. This meal was perfect after a day spent wine-"tasting" the entire day prior. So I was excited to experience their dinner.

Close up. Ahhh yeeeeaaah.
We arrived at dinner after a impromptu tasting hosted by Somerston winery at our hotel. The cab sav we tried was nice, but the reason I would visit their winery is for the opportunity to ride ATVs through their vineyard and hang with their sheep. Needless to say after a few glasses of vino, I was ready to eat. Luckily, we didn't have to figure out what to eat! AJ and I decided to split the wine pairing. Our first course was the salad, which turned out to be my favorite part of the meal. I know that sounds crazy, but the salad featured perfectly ripe avocados, blood oranges, golden beets, toasted hazelnuts, pomegranate seeds, mixed greens, and quinoa. The dressing was a citrusy vinagrette and we were offered a creme fraiche to drizzle over top. This salad was creamy, crunchy, bright, tart - essentially exploding with flavor, but perfectly balanced. While the dishes that followed - the pork, cheese plate, and apple crisp - were all delicious, I knew I wanted to recreate that salad.

Flavors melding in the bowl.

The salad I recreated on Sunday was an inspiration, not to be confused with a replica. I used some ingredients I had on hand, supplemented by purchases at the farmer's market. The focus was on avocados, beets, and blood oranges (Side note: I can't think of beets without thinking of Jim's imitation of Dwight on the Office.) I added some mixed greens, thin slices of fennel, and toasted almonds to the mix. I dressed them with a meyer lemon and garlic vinagrette. I also made a "creme fraiche" dressing in addition. At Ad Hoc they served the salad with a side bowl of an herby creme fraiche. I didn't have creme fraiche, so I mixed pepper goat cheese with olive oil mayo and meyer lemon juice. It was delightful. I love when you can find inspiration at restaurants and recreate the dish in your own home. I served this salad with a nice slice of pain au levain and a Torrontes wine. NOMS!

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