The First Date of Christmas – Labor-of-Love Black Beans and Pork Tenderloin

If a dish is a labor of love does that qualify it as date-night food? In my book, yes–and my husband John’s lovingly flavor-layered black beans are exactly that.

And of course tenderloin is just plain sexy in both name, and in nummy-ness, when he prepares it this way: the loin is split and scored to create nooks and crannys that take up the seasoning and increase the surface area available for the char imparted on a white-hot grill.

Paired with a very singular wine – a Barboursville Vineyards Reserve Nebbiolo 2012 from Virginia – it makes for a memorable first-date-of-Christmas meal. Why the Nebbiolo? Well, it has the bewitching earth-tobacco-gamy savor of great Nebbiolo (think Barbaresco from Italy) that’s perfect with the lusty earthiness of the beans and the crunchy-silky tenderloin. And, it’s from Enoteca Wine Shop in Calistoga, where the great wine merchant Margaux Singleton’s sublime tastes and discovery talents have made her selections frequent features on our date nights. The wine’s spice notes perfectly parallel the spices in the dry rub John uses on the pork…

… (and another John tip: season with smoked salt to further enhance the wine affinity), and its bracing acidity helps to pop the flavors in the rub, as well as the bacon-y-earthiness of the beans. Because it’s tenderloin, a hot, quick fire is key to wrapping the meat’s interior tenderness in a crunchy-smoky char. It all adds up to a heavenly marriage between the plate, the glass, and the couple. Here’s to a lusty first date of Christmas (and hopefully, many more to come–the kids’ activities make it a busy time of year so we’ll squeeze in as many “dates of Christmas” as we can!)

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