AUTUMNAL BINGE:Feeling down in the dumps about fall? Then treat yourself to a night of luxurious pampering at Napa Valley Grille's September wine dinner. Wines will be from St. Helena, California's Franciscan Vineyards, an estate vineyard that produces wine under the Estancia, Mount Vedeer, and Franciscan labels. You'll start out with multigrain blinis accompanied by smoked trout, osetra caviar, and chive crème fraîche; move on to broiled stuffed citrus prawns; slip into gold potato "cannelloni" accompanied by duck confit, chanterelle mushrooms, and spinach in a roast-shallot vinaigrette; progress to heirloom tomatoes stuffed with thyme and goat cheese--and by heaven, you've polished off the appetizers. Pepper-crusted beef tenderloin with foie-gras truffle, mashed potatoes, and braised Oregon morels makes your entrée, and dessert is a veritable castle of chocolate: double fudge cake, Kahlua chocolate truffle, chocolate tuile, and chocolate-amaretto gelato, all served with a raspberry coulis. Each course is accompanied by an appropriate wine, and the whole experience is sure to inspire you with joy over the pleasures of autumn, the harvest season. September 18 at 6:30 p.m., $80; call 858-9934 for (required) reservations.
QUICKWURST: One of the great joys of knowing how to cook is knowing how not to--i.e., coming off like Martha Stewart when you've really been kicking back on a lawn chair. That's why I like the following recipe from Williams-Sonoma's Outdoor Cooking. Serve it with a nice beer, a flowery centerpiece, and a loaf of good store-bought pumpernickel, and enjoy some well-deserved undeserved praise.
Mustard-Glazed Sausages with Sauerkraut Relish
For the Sauerkraut Relish:
3 cups sauerkraut (fresh or canned)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 tbls. olive oil
4 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
For the Sausages:
1/2 cup Dijon-style mustard
1/4 cup honey
2 tbls. white-wine vinegar or cider vinegar
2 pounds fresh sausage (bratwurst is ideal)
To make the relish, place the sauerkraut in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Drain well, then squeeze with your hands to remove the excess water. In a large bowl combine the sauerkraut, parsley, vinegar, olive oil, sugar, and pepper. Stir and toss with a fork to mix. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days, to blend the flavors.
Prepare a fire for direct-heat cooking in a grill. Position the grill rack 4-6 inches above the fire. To prepare the sausages, in a small bowl whisk together the mustard, honey, and vinegar; set aside. Arrange the sausages on the rack. Have a spray bottle of water handy to extinguish flare-ups. Grill, turning frequently, until well browned and fully cooked, 15-18 minutes. During the last 6-8 minutes of grilling, brush the sausages two or three times with the mustard mixture. To serve, spread the sauerkraut relish on a warmed platter or individual plates and arrange the sausages on top. Serves 4-6.