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Quarantine Cuisine: Mother's Day Special

Happy Mother's Day to all the mamas and mama figures out there!

It's been a wonderful day here in Cedar Rapids. Despite some really dreadful, cold weather, mom and I had a great day. We Skyped with Georgia for several hours in the morning, had a sweet phone call with Grandma Shirlee in Salt Lake City, and watched the stellar Broadway revival of The King and I online. Moreover, I was able to provide mama with a delightful Mother's Day dinner, with ingredients selected by mom and executed by the Maestro.

Quarantine has resulted in some boredom-induced snapchats (and facial hair)

To thank her for all she does for me, I asked mom last weekend what she'd like to have for Mother's Day dinner, in hopes of producing a spectacular curated dinner for her. She wound up throwing out a series of ingredients––Filet Mignon, scallops, Brussels sprouts, Caesar salad, and a dessert––leaving me to figure out how to incorporate all her wishes in one dinner.

We started the evening with a "virtual tasting" with one of the staff at Beaux Frères, one of the founding wineries of the Willamette Valley in Oregon. I visited the tasting room with Georgia this past summer, and they were one of the several wineries offering a "lockdown" special, which included a tasting of two of their pinot noirs accompanied by a Zoom meeting with one of their staff. We loved talking with Jillian about the farming and winemaking methods of Beaux Frères, and enjoyed two fabulous half-bottles of pinot from their two estate vineyards.

Combining mama's request for scallops, Brussels sprouts, and Caesar, I decided on an "appetizer" dish of seared diver scallops with several preparations of Brussels sprouts––a purée with Vidalia onion under the scallops, some fried salty leaves atop the scallops, and a Brussels sprouts leaves Caesar salad in the middle. We paired this with a 2016 Liquid Farm "Golden Slope" chardonnay from Santa Barbara County, with some lovely body befitting of the rich scallops.

For an entrée, I ordered a pair of domestic Tajima wagyu-cross tenderloins from Holy Grail Provisions. They were little, but stunning. I reverse-seared them and included some hand-made tater tots fried in duck fat, with some lemon-dressed watercress alongside to provide a palate cleanser between bites. Mom said this was "the best steak [she's] ever had." I won't claim that, but it was really good! A testament to the value of fantastic meat and the magic of the reverse sear.

Piña is probably my favorite Napa winery, and they produce almost exclusively single-vineyard cabernet from the Napa Valley. Their wines are absolutely exquisite, and this Firehouse Vineyard cab from Rutherford was silky and effortlessly easy-drinking, with a vegetal complexity and ripe red fruit and smooth tannins. It worked beautifully with the steak, and we devoured the rest of the bottle while the dessert cooked.

Georgia and I visited one of Heston Blumenthal's joints, appropriately called just "Dinner," in London back in 2015. The meal's most memorable facet was the dessert, called "Tipsy Cake," a take on pineapple upside-down cake. On a spur-of-the-moment decision while conversing with Georgia over Skype, I decided to try my hand at Tipsy Cake before realizing it would take several more hours (24 or more) and ingredients than I had handy. What resulted was some Tipsy Cake improv.

I made a brioche dough with not nearly enough time to let it rise in the freezer as Chef Blumenthal demands, but wound up with a tasty, buttery dough that filled the cast iron skillet perfectly, despite screwing up the sponge at the very beginning of making the dough, and also despite the Kitchen Aid vibrating its way off the counter midway through the first knead. I had also run out of butter while making the dough itself, so I didn't have the chance to brush the top of the rolls with butter, as required. Womp.

Midway through baking, Blumenthal instructs you to add "cooking cream" consisting of heavy cream, Demerara sugar, Sauternes wine, and rum, none of which I had. I used a bit of crème fraîche, half-and-half, brown sugar, vanilla, añejo tequila, and Cointreau to make my cooking cream, and poured it between the dough balls after they'd cooked, and put them back in the oven.

Meanwhile, I heated some brown sugar in a skillet and added pineapple chunks, cooking until tender and coated in reduced, melted sugar. A little bit of vanilla extract finished it all off, and the warm pineapple was a perfect complement to the gooey brioche cake.

I will make a legit attempt at Tipsy Cake next time, but the result was actually pretty tasty, and most important, mama was very happy.

We are now watching 30 Rock and finishing our chardonnay! I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother's Day, and enjoyed some wonderful food and beverage. More delicious things, as always, to come this week, including brisket and my first attempt at paella. Yum!

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