The Front Porch

Seasons - Summer 2007


Many neighborhoods in Connecticut boast quiet tree-lined streets with white clapboard houses faced with shady restful porches framed by neatly trimmed gardens. It reminds us of Mayberry RFD, the small town on the Andy Griffith TV show that was popular in the 60’s and 70’s. We can  almost hear the tickety tick of Opie’s stick skipping across the picket fences alerting those resting in the quiet shade of their porch that a neighbor is passing by. Sheriff Andy Taylor’s hand would go up in greetings followed by a question about the neighbor’s children, a statement on the weather, or did Aunt Bee’s apple pie win first place at the county fair. Often this would invite a longer chat and perhaps even an invitation to a glass of homemade lemonade and a chocolate chip cookie.

Not much has changed. The front porch is still an open invitation to be neighborly and host casual impromptu gatherings on a hot summers evening.

And on those warm summer evenings a chilled glass of ‘pink drink’ is the ticket and pairs beautifully with jars of ready-made savory toppings like black or green olive tapenade, sun-dried tomato and  red pepper spreads, or caponatas. They make perfect instant hors d’oureves.

Always charming to look at, the best rosés have a dry bright nervous acidity and a prickly freshness tempered with lively red fruit flavors. Spain is a good source of value Rosés. René Barbier Mediterranean Rosé  is a soft charming non vintage blend at $6. Marques de Caceres Dry Rose is made with Spain’s Tempranillo grape. It’s an exceptionally full bodied rosé for $8.50. From California look for the zany producer Bonny Doon’s Vin Gris de Cigare. It costs $12. In its attractive shaped bottle Francis Coppola’s ‘Sofia‘ Carneros Pinot Noir Rosé at $16 is complex. It’s definitely a step up to serve to especially favored neighbors!

Although porch entertaining is inherently a more subdued affair it doesn’t mean you can’t have a sit down dinner party. We once had 30 people on our wrap-around porch for a full-blown sit-down event. The ensuing merriment reverberated down the block and could be seen by many a passerby!

Recipe – Photo (with bottle and glass of wine.)

1 cup ready made olive tapenade

1 crumbled feta cheese

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh thyme or marjoram leaves

Lightly toss the tapenade with the feta cheese.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh thyme. Serve with crisp crackers or slices of chewy French style bread.

The Backyard Deck

While front porch entertaining suggests small impromptu early evening gatherings, the backyard deck says it’s party time! In the privacy of a backyard a larger affair can be hosted with more substantial food, music and even a round or two of bocce and can last well into the night!

As soon as we discovered we could buy a rotisserie attachment for our barbecue we stopped slaving over the hot grill like short order cooks and instead were able to party along with our friends while dinner cooked itself. There is also something impressive and mouth watering about a large chunk of meat slowly turning and crisping on an outdoor grill. It makes any BBQ special. One of our rotisserie favorites is a roast loin of pork. It can be served as BBQ sandwiches for a very informal party, or sliced and served with our favorite, a parsley and garlic chimichuri sauce.

Recipe – Photo (grill with pork loin, piece sliced with sauce)

A whole pork loin is about 2 1/2 feet in length, weighs around 8 pounds and can feed up to 15 people. To cook this evenly cut it into two or three lengths and rotate it once throughout the cooking time so the areas in the center of the grill are moved to the outside. Marinade in the refrigerator the day before with your favorite marinade. Tie the loin with butchers twine every 3” to help hold its shape. Sprinkle with coarse salt, and skewer it on the rotisserie.  Put the grill top down and let it roast until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. There is no need to baste. As it rests for 15 minutes before slicing, the temperature will eventually rise to the FDA recommended internal temperature for pork of 150 degrees. Roasting time can take from 3 to 4 hours depending upon the grill, the outside temperature, and the size of the pork loin.

Parsley-Garlic Chimichuri Sauce

1/2 to 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 medium garlic cloves

2 big handfuls of parsley

1 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt to taste

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

With the food processor running add garlic, then parsley. Pulse to chop medium-fine. Add the oil and vinegar. Pulse to combine. Add salt to taste. It should be thick but saucy.

A roasted pork loin calls for a heartier wine. Classic red Zinfandel from California is effusive, not so subtle and coarsely opulent. It’s so easy going and wonderful stuff for grills and back yard barbecues. All priced at under $15, I’d recommend Ravenswood  Lodi Zinfandel, Dry Creek Vineyards Sonoma County Heritage Zinfandel, and Bonterra Mendocino County Zinfandel.