Sunday, January 8, 2017

Szechuan Tuna and Blood Orange-Black Olive Salad with 2007 Ponzi Pinot Noir

Missing out on a possible dream apartment by a matter of hours made our hearts drop. It wasn't the end of the world by any means, but for a few hours, something close to that feeling came over both of us, in no small part a testament to what the physical and psychological hellhole our current apartment has become.

When a better place in many, many ways opened up, two days later, we grabbed it by the balls and had sex with the leasing process. This. Was. Going. To. Happen.

And it did. Life is better.

Eating rare Szechuan tuna freshness during the application process also made things better, a meal we've had a ton of times before, but not lately.

Szechuan peppercorns, cardamom, white pepper, coriander and thyme ground up and crusted on the tuna, seared rare. Served with blood oranges and black olives tossed with shallot, thyme, cumin and hazelnut oil. Mâche salad with pomegranate seeds. Seeduction bread on the side with butter. Über-satisfying. Beautiful dry low heat with a background bright, almost sweetness brought by the Szechuan peppercorns to the great rare tuna. Eat this food and you'll feel as clean and bright as the freakin' food.

We have a few leftover Ponzi pinot noirs laying around since we mostly moved on from Oregon pinot noir a few years ago. Still like it, just not buying it. Here, a 2007, we found an awful lot of deliciousness for a wine with a more than fair amount of age on it. Fresh wet earth, dying roses, and settling, yet a still lively red fruit blend in very nice proportion. Almost a molasses bread note floating around in the back. Entirely pleasant, and rather nice all-around here with the tuna, bread, mâche, everything. It was a nice reminder why we liked Ponzi in the first place.

Now, two months of sifting through everything we own and finding out what goes.

And we're hiring movers. Because we're adults and that's what adults do.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Tomato Crostata with 2014 Domaine Glinavos Paleokerisio

A quick pairing that's characteristic of the weekday food made in this house.

Or. Check that. This tomato crostata with honey-thyme glaze, from Melissa Clark of NYT Cooking, makes for an utterly satisfying weekend meal done on the (fairly) quick and cheap.

It has everything: a flaky, buttery crust; lil punches of thyme; a light background body of cheese; a garden-quality "abbondanza!" glut of tomatoes (multi-colored used on this one - pic above is from a previous) and an arugula "eats your greens!" side salad that rounds everything out.

It's Happy Food and Bistro Food, food that Mrs. Ney has made a lot over the last year and a half, because it doesn't get old. Walking through the aisles thinking about dinner plans and find cheap tomatoes at your local green grocer? Make this. Just...make it.

And maybe drink some $12 Greek orange wine with it. It's $12. Twelve. Available at Vin Chicago. It's another somethin'-somethin' that works on weekdays (because it's cheapy-cheap) or weeknights (because it's fancy with the right food).

Made from the local Debina, Vlahiko, and Bekari grapes (never heard of any of them), it goes through prolonged skin contact, hence its orangey-ness. Off-dry and semi-sparkling, with smoked orange/tangerine peel backed up by heavily-spiced poached pear. Friendly and long, with lovely dried baking spices on the finish. Tons of energy here.

It was delicious here on a cold-ass Chicago day. And this tart works with a ton of moderately zingy whites, like grüner or a Portuguese white blend. But, with this Greek orange goodness, might I recommend Yotam Ottolenghi chorizo chicken with baby peppers and potatoes (38% of the way down the page)? We've done that pairing twice over the last few months and that's chorizo juice-chicken Love. That's get-your-hands-dirty, finger lickin' stupidity.      

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New Year's Eve and Day

Going through the process of finding another place to live turns one's brain to a gooey, drippy mess.

In the 13 years of living in our same place, moving always came up, and the cost-benefit analysis (along with sheer inertia) kept us planted where we were. But no more. It's time to stop staring at crappy hardwood floors and "weathered" walls; hearing EVERYONE come in and out of the apartment building, with the accompanying doors and gates slamming; and it's time to not live below what sounds like a gaggle of apes playing with a football.

Thank all that is holy. It's time to live like adults.

Two meals, one to close out a REALLY shitty year and one to open a new one.

New Year's Eve "Feast Of The One Fish" with 2008 Gaston-Chiquet Special Club Brut

Food: Jacques Pepin brandade. Salt cod, more celery root than potato, almond milk, garlic, cayenne, pecorino, etc. Served with charred bread. Mustard-ized ($10) asparagus for veg, and it's been too long because they were freakin' delicious. Everything was delicious. Silky texture with the brandade. One of the top batches ever made in this (soon-to-not-be-our) house. Perfect balance between the celery root lightness and meatiness of the salt cod, with the almond milk lending a wee touch of nutty goodness. Just a great bite of food on perfectly charred bread. Great way to close out this year's silliness.

Wine: $58 Special Club from Vin in Barrington. This one is also available at Binny's (!). We got three and need three more, because this one has a LONG life ahead. Barely any fruit right now, just fireworks-like minerals everywhere. It's chalky, it's lean, it's a bit floral and it's all sorts of awesome. This one might turn out to be one of our Champagne threads over the next ten years.

Pairing: Wasn't perfect, yet somehow that made it better. Brandade isn't an ideal pairing accompaniment with Champagne, but we found loads of goodness "in this corner, and that corner, and over here and over there." And super with the asparagus. Overall, top-notch, TOP-NOTCH!


New Year's Day Hoppin' John with 2010 Antica Terra Pinot Noir Willamette Valley

Food: Sean Brock Hoppin' John - New Year's good luck food, with 12 green grapes as well - from his Heritage: A Cookbook, page 16, over Anson Mills Carolina Gold rice (we're out and gotta git mo - can't live without that now...). Sean Brock shortcut collard greens mixed with mustard greens and pomegranate seeds. Pan gravy to dribble over all the goodness, and this was good. Subtle, but a subtlety that PER-SISTED all the way down and well after swallowing. This isn't our food, but nice to have once a year (or every other).

Wine: I'm not a red Burgundy expert. Too spendy for us. But blind, this is what a damn good red Burgundy tastes like, with teeny-tiny wisps of New World sun. PLENTY of earth in about five forms, with integrated, pretty fruit, and lil pops of roses all the way down. Hell, I thought I tasted a little truffle at one point. A beautiful wine. Really, quite beautiful. We forget sometimes that Good red wine is Really Good.

Pairing: The wine was the star, as it was all class. But this one weaved into the subtlety in the food and didn't bully, didn't demand things. It only took what was offered and gave all it could with each bite and sip.

Now, we need word on our apartment today or my head is going to explode.

Like...now.

Or...now.

Anything yet?  


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas

Let's kickstart this here blog back up.

The 365 Days of Food and Wine experiment, while interesting, sapped my ability to accurately describe the delicious food Mrs. Ney made. It got to the point where my word canon reached the very end of its description limit. I'd re-read things I'd written and think, "Hot damn that's boring!" And that wasn't doing any justice to the time and effort Mrs. Ney had put in to researching, thinking about, and making dinners.

The break was needed, but it's time to step back in, because while we hope anyone searching for food and wine pairing advice - a vexing and frightening proposition for many - comes across this site and comes to understand that it's not that frightening, mostly we want and need the reference. We also like to see how our year and tastes flowed and changed.

Christmas seems a good place to start.

Food: Bittman Lamb Osso Buco with Sean Brock Grits and Rapini

Mark Bittman osso buco recipe, from NYT Cooking. Lamb osso buco from D'Artagnan, seared, then cooked for 90 minutes on the stovetop with garlic, anchovies, sage, marjoram, rosemary, white wine, salt and pepper until tender. Meat removed, sauce reduced, served on the side. Cracked pink peppercorns sprinkled on top of lamb. Sean Brock grits, from Heritage: A Cookbook (page 74 - "How to cook grits like a Southerner"). Simple rapini done up with salt and pepper that somehow didn't taste so simple.

Luscious lamb. Frenchy touches with northern Italian guts. Osso buco is never going to be the best meat I've ever had in my life, but when it hits, like here, it's a meat-melty wonder. Rather perfect grits, as Mr. Brock seems to offer with most anything he offers (see burgers, patty melts, steaks, grits, griddle cakes...he's one of our house food guiders to the delicious). Silky, but corny and buttery, with a surprising jump and lightness. A great balance and vacillation between all the flavors. When some of the anchovy pan sauce bled into the rapini, it was maybe the best rapini we've had in a good long time.

This was a dinner worthy of Christmas, after a shockingly easy Christmas Eve visit to the family.

Wine: 2015 Jolie-Laide Trousseau Gris Fanucchi-Wood Vineyard RRV

We loved the poop out the 2014 Jolie-Laide Trousseau Gris, first had at Chez Panisse two Septembers ago. So board and giving. The 2015 is more sturdy and focused in its flavors. It gets more directly and quickly to the point it's trying to make. Bitter orange peel galore, like Chinotto or Aperol in presence and aggressiveness. Wispy touches of herbs and minerals, particularly on the back-end, even something tea-like thrown in there on occasion. This one needs to warm up significantly in order for it to stretch its legs and become more elastic and playful. The 2014 was all ethereal, sunshine-y goodness, but sputtered with some food. The 2015 is more punchy, and that over the course of the next year might make it more suitable to the flavors we love.

Pairing: Once it reached the right temp...nothing wrong with that.

I opened a 2005 Gourt des Mautens Rasteau (Jérome Bressy) and decanted couple of hours before dinner, but it didn't budge from its hairy-backed, tannic self, and would have been just terrible with how delicate the lamb was. But the Jolie-Laide served us quite well. Not perfect, not by any means. Once it warmed up though, there was enough weaving in-and-out with the grits and lamb together to say, "Slap Daddy! That's just fine!"


Lunch: Homemade duck pâté with Rogue Flora Nelle Blue Cheese, fig marmalade, baguette and salad, served with 2011 Matthiasson Vermouth. Mrs. Ney whipped up A LOT of duck pâté, this one more country in style with its small chunks of duck meat. Turned into one of those pâtés one eats and thinks THIS is how all pâté should be. Every flavor bouncing and jiving with each other. Rogue Flora Nelle has that ideal touch of blue streaks while still retaining a clean brightness to it. House fav.

All served with a Matthiasson Vermouth that's been sitting in this house way too long, and it was great here. Smoky tangerine peel, blood orange and bark. Still going quite strong. A bite of cheese and fig marmalade on baguette with a sip of vermouth was as pairing-perfect as it gets.

Damn good (and lazy) Christmas Day! We didn't get to the "Feast of the One Fish" (brandade). It's in the works for New Year's Eve. With bubbles. We need bubbles. So we'll have them. Because bubbles are essential in life.

After the jump is a list of all the pairings we've had since this blog stopped, some of it in shorthand. It's for our reference:

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: A Year In Review

This breakdown will be changing over the next week or so as I whittle it down to more specific food and wine things.

But here's a (very close to very accurate) broad breakdown:

Total Cost for (nearly all of) Food and Wine for the Year:  $7307 for food, $8161 for wine = $15,468

Times We Ate Out: 24 (that includes vacations up the California coast in September and New York at the end of March) - Le Bernardin, Prune, Pok Pok, The Breslin, Momofuku, Keste, Rustic Canyon Wine Bar, Chez Panisse, Fish, Pig In A Pickle, Gioia Pizzeria, Bocadillos, Spacca Napoli, Bill's Drive-In/Jimmy's Pizza Cheese Fest, Nando's (thrice), Pizza Art Café (twice), Bistro Campagne (twice), Hema's Kitchen, Spiagga, Semiramis,

Protein

Note: I went with the main focus of the meal for the most part. If there were a couple of anchovies in a veg-centric meal for depth, I went veggie (which is only a handful of the veg meals). If there were a lot of anchovies (i.e. - pissaladière), I went fish. Charcuterie is probably more than half of the pork category.

Vegetarian meals: 61
Chicken: 78
Pork: 67
Fish: 47
Beef: 36
Lamb: 22
Goat: 13
Cornish/Guinea/Poussin: 7 
Rabbit: 4
Boar: 4
Duck: 2
Turkey: 2
Quail: 2
Bison: 1
Venison: 1

Wine

Note: If it had bubbles, it's under sparkling. I did not parse out natural wines. Might get to it. If a blend was predominately (more than 60%) one grape, it's under that grape. 

Rosé (still): 44
Sparkling (Champagne, Cava, Malvasia, Baga, Rosé, Chenin, Erbaluce...): 34
Others: Pineapple Wine: 3, Sangria (watermelon, purple corn, grilled fruit): 3, Lillet Rosé: 1





Thursday, July 7, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #52

This is it, our last week chronicling every day of food and wine for an entire year.

The sheer volume of red herrings and incomplete explanations in Marcella made for a confounding consumption of a TV series.  Worth it? Marginally.

Taste of Cherry is on Hulu if you're interested in perfect filmmaking and seeing why Abbas Kiarostami's death was so mourned this week.

*** Full-Year Total: $7307 for food, $8161 for wine = $15,468 ***

*** Last Half-Year (26 week) Summary: $3765 for food, $4096 for wine = $7861 ***

Total food and wine cost for the week: $100 for food and $75 for wine = $175

Total food and wine cost for the month: $492 for food and $339 for wine = $831

Sunday: Scaccia with 2013 Cleto Chiarli "Vecchia Modena" Lambrusco di Modena

Food Details: Fitting that we end this 365 Days of Pairings with one of our new favorite things. It's pizza babka/lasagna bread (recipe). Semolina dough, San Marzano tomatoes, sharp provolone and smoked mozzarella standing in for caciocavallo, basil and garlic. Arugula salad to finish. It's layered, folded, Sicilian deliciousness.

Did We Like It? It's our new definition of Sunday Dinner. Fairly easy, fairly cheap, and the payoff is through the roof. Satisfaction to the nth degree.

How Was The Wine? An older Cleto Chiarli we found for $10. It's Lambrusco. Put a lil chill on it and you got tart red wine juice that knows what to do with Italian-type things. This one showed its age, with flavors somewhat muddled and a lack of top-notch verve, but even as it's settling in on its way to death, a lot to like. Nice cherry with a touch of tart red apple.

And The Pairing? It was $10, so no complaints. And overall, very little to carp about here with the pairing. The wine didn't cast its usual wide, frothy, tart, energetic net, but we didn't find much to dislike.

Cost: $16 for food, $10 for wine = $26  

Saturday: Salmon, Sprouts and Bagels with 2015 La Peña de España White Wine 

Food Details: Trader Joe's salmon, bagels, tarragon-dill cream cheese, kumatoes, and clover sprouts. Rip, top, eat.

Did We Like It? This is all anybody needs in life. The simplicity with this batch made it the best batch we've had of salmon and bagels. Sometimes, it's been with avocado. Though nice, it's sometimes too clumsy in the compilation of a bite and generally makes for too much "stuff." Usually, it's with arugula. Clover sprouts are better, here bringing a spiciness and a more delicate touch of greeny-ness that was rather perfect. Ripe kumatoes, perfect touch of herbs in the cream cheese, oddly very fresh bagels that had a wee bit of rye flavor to them. We loved the stink out of this.

How Was The Wine? A blend of 25% each of sauvignon blanc, muscat, verdejo and chardonnay, with a tiny wisp of Spanish air to it. It's mediocre at best, but showed its best face here.

And The Pairing? A fresh well water note popped up in this wine that previously was there the first time we had it. Wasn't resplendent, but a fine effort was being made on the part of the wine to lead to pairing satisfaction.

Cost: $25 for food, $6 for wine = $31

Friday: Uzbek Lamb Plov with 2015 Innovacíon Rosé Mendoza

Food Details: Recipe here, via Cucee Sprouts. Leftover lamb shoulder from here, chickpeas, carrots, barberries, garlic, cumin, turmeric, rice. A one-pot meal that's considered the national dish of Uzbekistan. It smells like the worst gym sock ever while it's cooking, but it's damn delicious.

Did We Like It? We love it. Something about the low-level perkiness of every flavor coming together to create a unified, elevated, delicious whole makes for an utterly satisfying dinner every time.

How Was The Wine? We loved the 2014 for its price-to-happiness ratio, then its focus faded rather quick-like towards the end of last year. Only our second 2015 of this rosé. One-liter rosé, malbec and syrah, $7.50 at Whole Foods (on sale with 6-bottle discount). Tastes like dirt and iron, backed up by dark cherry and plum. And right now, it's so gosh-darn bright and fresh.

And The Pairing? PER-FECT! Weaved right into the food, giving beautiful, shiny fruit and refreshment reminiscent of a cold glass of water after laying sod in 90-degree sun. It glowed.

Cost: $4 for food, $8 for wine = $12    

Thursday: Pork-on-Pork Pizzas with NV Ocarossa Cuvée Rosso 

Food Details: Pork rib meat from the 4th, with ham, onion and tomato sauce, on Whole Foods cornmeal pizza crusts. Fresh basil on top after baking.

Did We Like It? Porky. Plenty of pork. Pork galore. We liked them. Didn't love them, but we liked them.

How Was The Wine? 100% ciliegiolo, one of the grapes used with sangiovese in Chianti blends (among others). It's essentially another in a long line of regional, light Italian quaffers in the style of Lambrusco, broadly speaking (I can recommend wines from the Lettere DOC in Campania). This is a wine made for a little chill to be put on it before serving. Big basket of cherries covered in dirt. On the drier side, with moderate acid and softer overall, with a tiny bit of pucker at the end. For $5...it's an option, and a good chance to try a grape most haven't. Can't say it's better than putting a chill on a TJ's barbera from Mendocino where, for $10, you can get a more sunny disposition to its fruit and acid while finding more length, lift and depth.

And The Pairing? Fine. Can't say much more than that.

Cost: $15 for food, $6 for wine = $21    

Wednesday: Charred Onions, Yogurt, Greens and Bread with 2014 Barão de Figueira Beira Interior

Food Details: House staple, because it's Great food. Charred onions (recipe) with yogurt, sunflower sprouts, Trader Joe's lemon-herb greens blend, Ancient Grains bread. Rip, top, eat, repeat.

Did We Like It? Always. Always. Always. Usually use labneh, this time used Krino's. No diminishment of deliciousness. Nice greens, and a good break from the pounds of arugula we eat each week. Pita is fine with this meal, but Ancient Grains bread from Whole Foods is perfect.

How Was The Wine? This one was quickly dispatched to the fridge Sunday with fish cakes. Way too soft for the aggressiveness in that meal. But here, and we were initially quite skeptical, it stretched out nicely for a $9 siría from Whole Foods. Started out soft and rather ordinary, but quicked up halfway through, offering more distinctive lemon notes and finishing with the signature wooly siría broadness. For $9, here's a chance to find out if you like siría. It's delicious on the more spendy end. This one gives glimpses of what it can do.

And The Pairing? This is one of those meals where you can drink an acid-driven white sitting around the house that you don't really care about or your house white that you intimately know, because the food makes up for it. The food will always allow the wine to show its best face, as it did that here. And this pairing is growing evidence that Portuguese whites really like this food.

Cost: $12 for food, $9 for wine = $21  

Tuesday: Chicken Thighs with Clementines and Fennel with 2014 Louis Antoine Luyt Coelemu Cuvee Des Brasseurs Gordo Blanco

Food Details: Ottolenghi chicken thighs with clementines and arak (using ouzo). Essentially smothered chicken, Ottolenghi-style, with fennel, clementines, mustard, fennel seed, thyme, etc. White rice with onion on the side.

Did We Like It? Our third time having this and it was the best batch. Beautiful marriage of everything together. It's easy food that's fancy food. I'd pay $25 for this in a restaurant and I'd do it a few times a year.

How Was The Wine? Natural Chilean muscatel (great interview with Mr. Luyt on the Louis-Dressner site here). You say yes to that when you see it. You say double-yes to it when you drink it. Natural wine nose, the kind where you say, "I know what that fermentation tank smelled like!" A ton of smoked oranges and a bit of chile heat to this one, even a brooding moodiness to it. Beer-like, but only as a façade and not in its guts. Sometimes natural wine can come off as more of a beverage than wine. Not here. Its wine pedigree is intact, with just enough wildness to enjoy its weird and strange ride. Big fans.

And The Pairing? Hot damn! This wine love fennel, clementines and chicken thigh skin. Loved-loved-loved it! We'll be having this exact same pairing again, fo sho!

Cost: $13 for food, $22 for wine = $35

Monday: Fourth of July Ribs and Hushpuppies with Grilled Fruit Sangria

Food Details: Govind Armstrong ribs (The Daily Meal); a different white barbecue sauce than Armstrong's (Serious Eats); hushpuppies (Saveur); salad of cabbage dressed in Alabama white barbecue sauce and topped with Farmers' Market tomatoes, avocado and basil.

Did We Like It? I hate (mostly the concept of) ribs. The payoff in terms of deliciousness usually falls short of the utter mess they inherently tend to be. Not these. These are dry ribs with dry, savory notes everywhere, making for delicious rib meat, particularly when you drizzle on a lil bit of white barbecue sauce and top it with a basil leaf. Them's Good Eats. Basil and white barbecue sauce together are already bestest buds. Put this rib meat with it and it's Holiday Food. BIG hushpuppies that served as another Holiday joy. With those two things, this stupid freshness of the cabbage-tomato-avocado salad was a perfect counterpoint to all of it, a salad that could have almost been a (gassy) meal on its own. This is the first American-y meal we've had on July 4th in a long time. Glad we did.

How Was The Wine? Well, it was sangria actually. Grilled fruit sangria, a beverage we loved the first few times we had it and then it lost its newness/cachet for us (Chiarello recipe in F&W). This batch came off quite savory with less of a fruit punch. Batches of this sangria aren't sweet, but the level of fruit that comes through varies (used clementines, lemons and white grapes; no simple syrup). This batch came off like wine more than sangria, with fine balance and subtle tannic notes. Tasted like a blood-red sunset on a hot day. Used two bottles of Espiral rosé and Metaxa brandy, which we felt that next day. Funny what even a tiny bit of hard liquor does to us now.

And The Pairing? Fine, festive Fourth of July feast. These ribs aren't terribly bullying in flavor. They're more toned-down and graceful. The sangria liked that, and the bevy of flavors all over the plate like the sangria as well.

Cost: $15 for food, $14 for sangria = $29

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #51

Movie reviews:

'Hail Caesar!' - a bit pointless.

'45 Years' - Great acting, but a little hollow. Wasn't enough there there.

'Trainwreck' - You know, for someone whose entire show/persona is taking on sacred cows, could you choose a more formulaic, sappy movie, Amy. I wanted to bang my hands on the desk like Jon Oliver, saying, “NO! NO! You can’t do that! You can’t be what you say you are and do that!”

'F for Fake' - Welles' last film, and if you allow yourself to be lured in, it's quite lovely.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $97 for food and $84 for wine = $181

Sunday: Fish Cakes, Pickled Potatoes and Beet-Avocado Salad with Two La Granjas

Food Details: Fish ball recipe (page 196) from Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, turned into cod fish cakes and using a dried lime variation at the bottom of the recipe (along with eggs, pepper, turmeric, cumin, garlic, breadcrumbs, cilantro). Michael Solomonov's fried pickled potatoes (recipe). Farmers' Market beets, beet greens and avocado salad with serranos, cilantro, lemon thyme and pomegranate seeds. Chermoula from the freezer mixed with mayo for dipping and dunking.

Did We Like It? As Mrs. Ney said, this wasn't even great, but it was so gosh darn good. The dried lime business in the fish cakes turned out to be a dud. Flat taste, with mostly a vague brown spice flavor coming through. But great pickled potatoes, as always. And this beet-avocado was boss. Beety, creamy, with a firework explosion of flavors bouncing everywhere. Good. Meal.

How Was The Wine? We opened a síria to start, but it came off too delicate for the flavors on the plate. Moved on to fridge wine, a Trader Joe's La Granja throwdown: one verdejo-viura blend and a Cava. Cheap Spanish wine that has served our house well over the years, because it does this with the food...

And The Pairing? The verdejo-viura blend was terrible with the pickled potatoes, neutral with the fish cakes, but jumped out of the glass with the beet-avocado salad. Wonderfully broad, aromatic and all-around delicious (we'd pay $20 instead of $5 for how it performed with this beet-avocado salad). The Cava served as a mop for everything else, liking the pickled potatoes best as it became frothy and sparkly, turning into a right and proper Cava with all its Spanish-style strut. Very happy how this turned out given the síria failure.

Cost: $12 for food, $12 for wine = $24    

Saturday: Caprese with 2014 Charles Smith VINO Pinot Grigio Columbia Valley

Food Details: Trader Joe's bocconcini balls of marinated mozzarella, Farmers' Market baby tomatoes, copious amounts of basil, and baguette.

Did We Like It? This used to be a Monday lunch staple. We loved it then, a few years ago, as it served as a long lunch that made a clean break from the after-burn and frustration of the workweek. Having it now reminds us of that. And we're glad we don't have it as often today. Good. Tasty. Fine.

How Was The Wine? We love Charles Smith's pinot grigio for its zip, fruit and cheapness. But it must be fresh. This 2014 showed as other 2014s have of late - getting a little tired and lacking chisel, cut and verve.

And The Pairing? Fine, basic, elemental matchup, just nothing to get all worked up about.

Cost: $10 for food, $11 for wine = $21

Friday: Lamb and Pickled Vegetables Salad with 2014 João Portugal Ramos "Lima" Loureiro Vinho Verde

Food Details: A riff on a house fav, Indian lamb-carrot salad, using Solomonov pickled vegetables (cauliflower, celery and carrots) from the fridge instead of carrots (Mrs. Ney needs the pickling liquid for upcoming Solomonov pickled potatoes). Ground lamb crisped up in the cast-iron with onion, ginger, garlic, black cardamom, coriander and black pepper. Arugula on a plate, pickled vegetables on top of that, then the lamb with pomegranate seeds and toasted sesame seeds on top of everything. Black mustard seed raita and naan on the side.

Did We Like It? I found it perfectly simple, perfectly spare, perfectly dressed and perfectly poppy. This riff on Indian carrot salad is missing nothing. Nothing at all. I'd go so far as to say that it had a cut and intensity that Indian carrot salad doesn't. Not better, just blissfully different.

How Was The Wine? Lightly fruity, lightly floral, lightly acidic. It's $8 loureiro.

And The Pairing? It was trying... Tons of wine-trying... But the LIMA has been missing its élan, its joie de vivre, its purpose and pep of late. Same here.

Cost: $14 for food, $8 for wine = $22    

Thursday: Roasted Carrot and Ricotta Sandwiches with 2015 Terrasse du Moulinas Blanc Elégance Languedoc-Roussillon

Food Details: Carrots from the Lincoln Square Farmers' Market, roasted; leftover ricotta/country ham mixture from Tuesday, with garlic and piquillo peppers added; tomato, onion, arugula, basil and marinated artichokes (for me), all on ciabatta. Olive oil chips on the side.

Did We Like It? What was essentially a "Use stuff up" sandwich dinner turned into "Who doesn't want roasted carrots, ricotta and tons of other matchy foodstuffs together?!" Messy and so damn good. I certainly didn't want a camera on me while eating it. I'd eat this once a month.

How Was The Wine? $10, one-liter, grenache blanc, vermentino, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc blend from the Languedoc. This was our house white for awhile. Less so lately. It's rather happy juice for $10. Mixed bag of orchard fruit with enough of an acid edge to like a lot of food that leans Mediterranean.

And The Pairing? Here, it was more of an accompaniment to the food than any sort of pairing wonder. I like this wine and it was nice to have it there.

Cost: $8 for food, $10 for wine = $18      

Wednesday: Dirty Rice with 2014 Firelands Winery Gewürztraminer Ohio

Food Details: Susan Spicer's wild and dirty rice recipe, via Food and Wine, subbing tasso and country ham for ground pork, with beet greens and andouille sausage.

Did We Like It? Great balance to the spice in relation to all the other flavors with this batch. Cleaner, yet still dirty. Had a sparkle to it. Meaty, herby, Cajun bowl of Happy.

How Was The Wine? Huge Ohio Winner! June is Cleveland's month with the Cavs championship, and even the Indians have won 14 straight as of this writing (six away from the MLB record). Mrs. Ney is from Ohio. I'm a 30-year-plus Browns fan. This is an Ohio house (except for OSU - screw them). If we see something like an Ohio gewürztraminer for $14, we buy it. "Gotta support the team." This one is a straight-forward, well-made, rather delicious gewürztraminer, giving a perfect, baseline tension to its acid and fruit. Lychee and peach with real lift. Stick this in a lineup with Old World gewürztraminers and this house would put it right up there with all the others, particularly with food.

And The Pairing? This wine loved the dirty rice. Every bite and sip jolted us out of the run-of-the-mill drink and sip and made us pay attention. Can't ask for more.

Cost: $10 for food, $14 for wine = $24  

Tuesday: Carrot-top Pesto Ravioli with 2015 La Spinetta Vermentino Toscana

Food Details: Homemade ravioli, using 00 pasta flour, stuffed with a Whole Foods ricotta, country ham, nutmeg and black pepper blend. Carrot-top pesto with carrot tops from the Farmers' Market: garlic, olive oil, tarragon, dill, sage, lemon zest, pistachios, whatever was in the house. More Farmers' Market baby tomatoes mixed in with the ravioli and pesto, topped with pecorino, parsley and crushed pistachios. Arugula (not baby) salad with pomegranate seeds to finish.

Did We Like It? Big plate of Good. Plant-y. A little bit of everything and not much of one thing.

How Was The Wine? I liked the 2010 of this vermentino and remember enjoying the 2013 (no write-up). This vintage brought oodles of green apple and pear, but not enough minerality, acid or ocean breeze to give the grizzle and presence we want from vermentino. This is more quiet and, to us, less interesting.

And The Pairing? They didn't really want to be friends. Not unpleasant, just not particularly interesting. A few sips and bites were trying, but overall, nothing to see here. The plantiness and surprising subtlety in the food wanted the pecorino we had in the house.

Cost: $15 for food, $20 for wine = $35      

Monday: Lamb and "Potato-Tomato!" with 2013 Bokisch Montastrell Belle Colline Vineyard Lodi

Food Details: Paulina Meat Market lamb rosettes (marinated in onion, garlic, oregano, evoo, white wine), seared in cast iron; Sam Sifton faux pommes frites; tomatoes with shallots, serrano, oregano, parsley, mint, evoo, white balsamic; arugula; Saveur olive-anchovy aioli.

Did We Like It? More nostalgic home food done better than when it was first consumed. We used to eat something akin to this meal once every couple of months a few years ago. It's been too long since we've had Paulina's lamb rosettes and that's gotta change. They're everything that's best about lamb. And the Lincoln Square Farmers' Market has tomatoes right now that are so perfectly ripe that it's turned into tomato week in our house. FUNKY aioli in the best sense for potato dipping. This was a spectacular meal.

How Was The Wine? We're members of two winery clubs: Broc Cellars in Berkeley and Bokisch in Lodi. We get a case from each twice a year (just joined Bokisch). One thing we've learned over the years of being members of other clubs is that one should pick a winery that a wide array of bottles from different and unusual grapes that are made with food in mind, bringing the requisite amount of acidity and balance. And you're not being given their showy wines at $50-80 a bottle. Join a wine club to have a bottle for those casual lunches or solid dinners. Don't go for the club that gives you the "look how rare this wine is" bottles (read: stuff they couldn't possibly sell on the open market). Join a wine club that wants you to drink their wine everyday. Like Bokisch. Our last shipment had two gracianos, four albariños, a verdejo, two verdelhos, garnacha blanca, a rosé and this montastrell (mourvèdre by another name), all for around $220. Spanish grapes with California sun.

9% graciano in this montastrell, it's earthy, with red fruits galore, figs, and a light floral background. Very mourvèdre with a clean edge. More medium-bodied than expected, but a touch of sappy fruit on the finish. Very long and very nice though, and a good example of getting something different from a wine club that satisfies. This one is not going to blow you away with its amazingness, but you're going to get a well-made wine that wants food from a producer you like and trust.

And The Pairing? Changed often with various bites, liking the lamb and the anchovy-olive aioli well enough to be happy overall with what it gave to the grub. Again, nothing amazing, and the pairing could have been better, but this one was clap-your-hands-together and say, "That was quite fine!"

Cost: $28 for food, $20 for wine = $48  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #50

When you have the urge to hate on something, the New York Times Style or Weddings section will usually fit the bill.

I've wandered over or stumbled upon pieces in those sections over the years and came out with an adrenaline rush of hatred combined with gut-busting laughter so weirdly pleasurable that I felt like I really should examine why I found those pieces of garbage so pleasurable.

But then I read something like 'The Sound of Music Is in His Blood and Now His Heart' from yesterday's Weddings section and I know that there is objective terribleness in this world and it really should be resoundingly mocked.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $117 for food and $120 for wine = $237

Sunday: Tapas Spread with 2011 Juvé y Camps Brut Nature Reserva de la Familia Cava

Food Details: Iberico ham, Harriet sheep's cheese, marinated grilled artichoke hearts, piquillo peppers, rosemary marcona almonds, ciabatta and arugula/parsley salad.

Did We Like It? Feels like it's been years! We used to have this "rip open some packages and open some jars" Spanish-style tapas meal quite often. Good ham, good cheese, all the Spanish accoutrements; eat pokily, drink good Spanish bubbly, enjoy. This wasn't even great Iberico but it's been so long that we loved it. The big star here, though, was the Trader Joe's artichokes. They're grilled, then marinated, and the result on top of ciabatta with some parsley (maybe some cheese) was the bite of the night/week - offering a taste that was long, wide and delicious. This was a two-hour meal that reminded us why we love Spain so much.

How Was The Wine? Another reminder of Spanish goodness. I feel like I would have done a write-up on our last drinking of this Cava favorite. Looking back in the history, it's been 2 1/2 years since we've had it. Odd. Very odd. One of the problems of buying wine in Chicago is that everyone carries the same wine when it comes to non-hot/less popular regions. We've drunk every Cava in our market - there's only about six - and Juvé y Camps is our undisputed go-to Spanish bubbly in that group. It has the rawness and grizzle all Cava should have, not bubbles trying to be Champagne and coming up short. It should taste like an quiet explanation, and not a justification, of why Spain doesn't have to compete against other European or Mediterranean food-type stuffs. You be you, Spain. You. Be. You. This Cava tastes like that. Plus $5 TJ's Palomino as an alternative to the Cava.

And The Pairing? Pure Spanish breeze.

Cost: $36 for food, $23 for wine  = $59    


Saturday: Ham and Pretzel Bread Panzanella with 2015 Field Recordings Fiction Grenache Rosé Paso Robles

Food Details: Garbage salad of baby kale, ham, pepper jack, vidalia onion, tomato, dill, pretzel bread croutons and honey mustard dressing.

Did We Like It? No need for a plate, just eat it straight from the bowl you mixed everything in. Perfect Saturday night food that tastes like a nostalgic hug.

How Was The Wine? I can't find anything on this bottle around the webs. Feels like a Field Recordings one-off to get some rosé on the market due to the fact that the Alloy rosé cans sold out so quickly this year. Frankly, we liked this one more than the 2015 cans. It's very much a straight-up grenache rosé, no frills, just dirt and fruit with brightness and balance. Paso sun without the Paso syrup. Kudos on this one for $15. Perfect price for a rosé that gives much.

And The Pairing? It loved the mayo-honey in the dressing and the copious amounts of dill in the salad. And of course...rosé and ham are besties. Big pairing success here. Wasn't superlative, just a damn good garbage salad with a rosé that liked it.

Cost: $10 for food, $15 for wine = $25    

Friday: Green Beans, Peanuts, Lime and Radish Sprouts with 2015 Lila Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough

Food Details: Yotam. Ottolenghi. Always. An enormous amount of green beans mixed with a slurry of peanut, kaffir lime, ginger, lemongrass, garlic, etc. Over white rice, topped with radish sprouts, cilantro and a lime spritz.

Did We Like It? I mention the radish sprouts twice (not included in the recipe) because they brought a garden-dirt quality and verticality to an already delicious Asian-y green bean curry-like bowl of happiness. It's the summer of radish sprouts in our house, it seems. They brought something akin to mung beans without being too mung bean-y as mung beans can be.

How Was The Wine? Barely worth mentioning. Mrs. Ney was sick, so no wine. I had a can of Lila, which brought a bit of grassiness that linked with the food in basic ways, but it lost its cleanse. Meh.

And The Pairing? See above.

Cost: $10 for food, $3 for wine = $13

Thursday: Allium Tart with 2013 Jean Masson Jacquere Savoie

Food Details: Allium tart (garlic scapes, chive blossoms, charred spring onions) with tarragon, dill, and feta. Arugula salad with pomegranate seeds on the side. Tart shell recipe here. It's bistro food.

Did We Like It? A damn solid tart. Elevated weekday grub.

How Was The Wine? Another wine that slipped through the storing cracks. This meal seemed like a good opportunity to get some value out of it. At three years old, it's lost some of its crispness and floral nature, coming off as slightly better than basic white wine here. Touch of oily peach pit notes that was pleasant though.

And The Pairing? Merely okay.

Cost: $7 for food, $13 for wine = $20

Wednesday: Chicken-Radish Sprout Sandwiches and Chips with 2013 Heidi Schrock Muskatellar Burgenland 

Food Details: Paulina Meat Market smoked chicken, radish sprouts, pickled onions, avocado and tomato on pretzel bread. Olive oil chips. Mrs. Ney finished the chive blossom-garlic scape pancakes for her side.

Did We Like It? Radish sprouts are delicious, and turn an already well-crafted sandwich using up some leftover stuff from the week into The Fancy. Delicious.

How Was The Wine? This is aborted wine from yesterday's pairing, and it's helpful when you can take fridge wine and find food that turns it into so much more than "fridge wine," like here. The radish sprouts pried open a depth and mineral-driven fruit in this muskatellar that was never present in yesterday's food. A real roundness and tick-off of deliciousness. At $24, it's a bit pricey compared to Darting's muskatellar that offers similar goodness and less finickiness, and it's $6 cheaper. But big fan here.

And The Pairing? See above.

Cost: $8 for food, $24 for wine = $32  

Tuesday: Bittman Fish Sauce Chickens and Chive Blossom/Garlic Scape Pancakes with TJ's Lambrusco

Food Details: From Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World, Vietnamese cornish game hens, page 334; Lucky Peach spicy fish-sauce sauce; crispy chive blossom/garlic scape pancakes (instead of scallions), from Serious Eats. Charred yu choy (Chinese flowering cabbage).

Did We Like It? It's the kind of meal that reminds us, "God, food is Good!" Even when we've now had this meal a handful of times. It always tastes new and punchy and possesses everything anyone who likes food would ever want or need. This batch a touch salty overall (from the fish sauce bottle) and the yu choy offered nothing in the way of interestingness, but we loved nearly everything about this meal.

How Was The Wine? Our original bottle, a 2013 Heidi Schrock Muskatellar Burgenland was DOA with the food. And another bottle in the fridge, a 2013 (!) Ponzi Pinot Gris, which slipped through the wine-storing and monitoring said wine-storing cracks, was dead, period. The only other thing chilled was a Trader Joe's Lambrusco. We gave it a go and had absolutely zero issues with its ice-cold-water-like refreshment and sweet, bright fruit.

And The Pairing? The Lambrusco salvaged what could have been a disaster. Its sweet-like fruit and frothiness stood up to the aggressiveness SE Asian flavors quite admirably. Tailed off as it warmed up but no complaints given the situation. In fact, the fish sauce and salt negated the cheapness inherent in this wine and allowed it to ONLY give nice fruit, dirt, acid and cleanse. Surprise. Big one.

Cost: $20 for food, $20 for wine = $45

Monday: Sean Brock Cheeseburgers with NV Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red Lot #63    

Food Details: Sean Brock's Heritage cookbook, page 131. Double stack burgers with American cheese, onions, mustard-pickle sauce, potato buns. Bagged fries. This meal plus two more meals in the freezer cost $26.

Did We Like It? We like many cheeseburgers from around town. Kuma's is a great burger. Bill's Drive-In is fantastic. Recently, we had the Au Cheval burgers and found it quite good. Five Guys works. Shake Shack is good... But when we think of the most superlative cheeseburgers that exist in this world, it's Sean Brock home cheeseburgers. Not really even close.

How Was The Wine? Merely fine, and that was a surprise. Zinfandel, petite sirah, syrah, mixed Italian blacks blend. Came off a bit thin and reticent, lacking a forceful or focused personality, compared to other drinkings of this series. Reached the point of just enough pleasure but never went beyond that.

And The Pairing? Fine.

Cost: $26 for food, $12 for wine = $38    

Friday, June 17, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #49

This is the last month of our 365 experiment. For that, I'm glad. I'm running out of words.

In one important way, this experiment was to see our real cost of food and wine and the home-joy it brought over the course of one year, and comparing that to eating out 3-4 times a week like most people do now, as you can see by this piece. We'll see the comparison with a big breakdown once this is over.

Avec has always had the bones to do something like these Island Dinners they're doing this summer. Digging into the minutiae of Mediterranean food and wine, breaking out of that vague, broad definition and getting into the more place-specific nitty-gritty makes for utterly more interesting stuff.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $178 for food and $60 for wine = $238

Sunday: Fish Tacos with Argus Cidery Tepache Pineapple Wine

Food Details: (recipe - don't mess with it) Mahi mahi marinade = shallot, garlic, jalapeño, olive oil, lime juice, chili powder, cilantro and cumin, then fish cooked up in cast-iron. Cabbage slaw. Homemade guacamole. Jalapeño crema. Hot sauce. Charred tortillas.

Did We Like It? A great batch. A bigger bitter punch from the marinade truncated the typically broad flavor with these fish tacos, but that didn't detract from these universally sublime fish tacos. The crema made up for it, offering a more layered taste than it usually does. Loved these tacos.

How Was The Wine? We've messed around with different wines and sangrias over the years. This pineapple wine, with its frothy refreshment, grilled pineapple-like juiciness and spicy depth, is now our one and only beverage with fish tacos.

And The Pairing? Perfect.

Cost: $18 for food, $16 for wine = $34

Saturday: Smoked Chicken, Pickled Walnuts, Watercress and Heirloom Tomatoes with 2015 La Peña de España White Wine 

Food Details: Paulina Meat Market smoked chicken (oodles better than Whole Foods), blue cheese and heirloom tomatoes. A salad of watercress, pickled walnuts, radish sprouts, celery, parsley, etc., dressed. Mini-ciabatta buns and butter. Top bread with any combination of the above ingredients you like and eat. It's pick-n-choose.

Did We Like It? Utterly new and so golly-gosh-damn-darn delicious. Flavors galore! New is good. Flavors are good. New and tons of flavor is Great. I loved the combination of pickled walnut, celery and radish sprouts. Never had anything like it and now I want so much more of that. Golly, I loved this.

How Was The Wine? New Trader Joe's offering, a blend of 25% each of sauvignon blanc, muscat, verdejo and chardonnay, with a tiny wisp of Spanish air to it. It's mediocre at best. Nothing great. Changed often throughout the meal, though, giving what blends can give with food - versatility. Can't say we'd buy it again.

And The Pairing? See above, though the verdejo showed up a little too much for my taste. Verdejo can go to hell.

Cost: $24 for food, $6 for wine = $30  

Friday: Work Party

Work party at the Museum of Science & Industry.

Thursday: Minty Brown Rice and Wilted Greens with 2014 João Portugal Ramos "Lima" Loureiro Vinho Verde

Food Details: More Ottolenghi doing what Ottolenghi does so well - make simple food freakin' delicious. (Recipe - halfway down), using only mustard greens. Feta, mint, garlic, olive oil and mustard greens over brown rice. Threw in smoked sundried tomatoes because they were in the cupboard.

Did We Like It? Mrs. Ney wanted a huge bowl of mac-n-cheese, not 'this healthy stuff!' Then she ate it and we loved it and it was the usual Ottolenghi food joy.

How Was The Wine? Lightly fruity, lightly floral, lightly acidic. It's $8 loureiro.

And The Pairing? Great length to the wine. Real delineation of flavors and a slow revealing of said flavors. With this food, you have a few basic ingredients mingling together with copious amounts of mint. That gives this lightly floral and fruity wine a chance to get in there and play around. Nothing obstructive, nothing bullying. Just pairing love.

Cost: $7 for food, $8 for wine = $15

Wednesday: Picadillo with 2013 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles Paso Robles

Food Details: Sam Sifton picadillo, subbing fresh chorizo for dried, leftover pork shoulder for beef, currants instead of raisins, adding roasted poblanos, over white rice.

Did We Like It? It's beefy, tomatoey, spicy-sweet bouncy, olivey. It's Cuban stew over rice and it's quite good. This was probably the best version of this we've had.

How Was The Wine? Cheap, chilled, Trader Joe's Rhône red blend. A glass for each of us.

And The Pairing? Its blendy-ness and chill here made for a surprising friendliness. This wine is NOTHING special, but...very friendly here.

Cost: $6 for food, $5 for wine = $11

Tuesday: Moroccan Lamb Shoulder and Mint Dressing with 2011 Domaine de la Mordorée Tavel

Food Details: NYT recipe. Slow-roasted lamb shoulder (from World Fresh Market on Devon), with cumin, coriander, harissa, garlic, etc; roughly shredded. Mint dressing altered, using basil, cilantro, lemon balm, and mint. Corn on the cob slathered with harissa butter. Arugula salad with pomegranate seeds to finish.

Did We Like It? Delicious lamb, brought on sale.Wonderful integrity of lamb flavor. Coupled with the dressing that tasted really earthy and balmy in the best possible sense, this dinner came off perfectly simple and perfectly delicious.

How Was The Wine? This one's been sitting in the house for four years, waiting for it to mature. The biggest impression we got was, "This rosé has its big-boy pants on." We've been drinking a lot of rosé quaffers lately, cheap stuff that brings joy, compared to anything more serious. This is serious. We didn't even love it, but its earth and balance and pace reminded us that we should probably be buying more quality Rhône rosés again. We took a break. This reminded us that we should get back on that horse.

And The Pairing? Happiness. Very nice. Loved the lamb, dressing and wine together.

Cost: $13 for food, $25 for wine - $38         

Monday: Spacca Napoli

Food Details: Margherita, Diavola and a focaccia with anchovy, arugula, oregano and garlic.

Did We Like It? If not for a certain employment situation, we'd be here twice a month. On the patio.

How Was The Wine? A bottle of 16 Marzo Falanghina and an assortment of glasses: a fiano, biancalella, Lettere and Nepente. Satisfying back-and-forth, trying each with each pizza.

And The Pairing? Good enough. Patio + sunny day + great food + nice wine = a delicious, lazy, VERY satisfying dinner.

Cost: $110

Friday, June 10, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #48

Taking a trip to Tuscany in a few months. Six days in the countryside, two days in Florence. Wine, good food, quiet, pool, and a villa that has only three other rooms, so that's our speed.

Should be quite good.

And I don't know how, but we nabbed two tickets for $650 each! Went up to $1150 two days later. Big score.

We've hit a bit of a cheap wine wall lately. So taking a wine break with weekday meals that aren't going to be food-wine Good has been the play.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $137 for food and $64 for wine = $201

Total food and wine cost for the month: $385 for food and $394 for wine = $779

Sunday: Anne Burrell Chicken Milanese with 2015 Bokisch Verdelho Vista Luna Vineyard Lodi and 2015 La Val Albariño Rías Baixas

Food Details: The usual Anne Burrell chicken Milanese. Harvesttime chicken breasts, breaded and fried. Michael Symon pickled red onions, nut-pecorino-parsley blend. Arugula and pomegranate seed salad. Top the chicken breast with all the other goodness and eat.

Did We Like It? We liked all the other goodness, but the chicken breasts didn't make the cut. A bit rubbery. Cheap chicken runs that risk. Damn fine meal though, when we only ate the really thin parts of the chicken.

How Was The Wine? Toughie. The La Val...I know the Orballo label from La Val is their international label, but wasn't sure if this La Val label is merely the same thing in its original label for $4 less. It's not. It misses on the salinity and confident acid that's offered by the Orballo. A fine albariño, but it doesn't offer the confidence, sparkle and presence the Orballo does. We wavered back and forth on the Bokisch, initially liking its red grapefruit-like acid and flavor, then wondering if it should be giving more than it was, finally ending on liking its versatility enough with the food for only $14. More levels and changes than the La Val, which was simply a lemon-lime spritz with a few salty sea notes thrown in at the end.

And The Pairing? I'm glad I didn't buy the case of the La Val like I initially wanted to. It never ingratiated itself to the food. No pivot or adjustment. The Bokisch did, giving a nutty note at times with the food, turning more quiet and subtle in others. It always was making an effort. When we order another case from Bokisch, which will happen, this one may be a thrown-in at the end to round out the case.

Cost: $13 for food, $30 for wine = $43 

Saturday: Orecchiette, Sausage and Rapini with 2015 Rosa dell'Olmo Gavi Piedmont

Food Details: The standard orecchiette with sausage and rapini business. It's a house classic.

Did We Like It? Great sausage-flavor mingle here. The spices in the sausage bounced around, looking for something to pick up on and run with. It did, often. Good batch. 

How Was The Wine? Dry, crisp, lightly floral, peaches, medium-bodied, a lil nutty. The first 2015 of this Trader Joe's gavi for us. A little less broad as when this wine has showed best, but we'll be happy with it, as we'll be having it with this food another five times through the end of the year. It's a classic as well.

And The Pairing? As I said, a little less broad and a little less perky than previous drinkings, but it had enough to offer with the food to find the fundamental coziness that these two have with each other. 

Cost: $8 for food, $8 for wine = $16   

Friday: Chicken and Rice with 2015 Barbadillo Palomino Fino Cádiz

Food Details: Leftover chicken from Jeremiah Tower chicken on Sunday. Zucchini, celery, carrots, onions cooked up in the cast-iron; pan deglazed with fino sherry; parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme; white rice.

Did We Like It? The sherry with the chicken was resplendent! Real barn burner. Basic bowl of food that turned into a Big Bowl of Happy. Not one complaint. 

How Was The Wine? Trader Joe's palomino in not-sherry form. We love how the label says it's "fruity." Nope. This is categorically not fruity. This is dry, clean, savory as hell, light, refreshing, dry, and dry. It's a blank slate. Add food that likes it and things happen.

And The Pairing? Sherry grape with sherry in the food. That helped it along big time. No complaints here either. 

Cost: $3 for food, $6 for wine = $9

Thursday: Mango Curry, Raita and Naan with 2015 Lila Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough

Food Details: Mango curry, from 660 Curries, adding ginger, using ataulfo mangoes. Black mustard seed raita. Naan.

Did We Like It? Solid curry dinner! More than moderate depth, perfect heat hit, round and balanced all-around. We were happy with this.

How Was The Wine? It was delicious with haloumi and heirloom tomatoes, and excelled with piri-piri chicken as well five weeks ago. Since then, not so much. Different batch? The grapefruit-mint-acid balance has disappeared.

And The Pairing? Here, it was dull, with a faint tinge of dumpster juice.

Cost: $12 for food, $6 for wine = $18  

Wednesday: BBQ Chicken Sandwiches and Potato Salad

Food Details: Quick and easy dinner. Baked BBQ chicken breasts. Easy-peasy. Mayo. Arugula. On rolls. Potato salad on the side.

Did We Like It? Fine and good sandwiches. More than just "it fed a hole." Potato salad upset our stomaches. No idea why.

No wine.

Good place to take a break.

Cost: $10

Tuesday: Jeremiah Tower Chicken and Watercress Salad with 2013 Domaine des Herbauges Val de Loire Grolleau Gris

Food Details: (recipe) No washing, and no sauce made with pan juice. Pan juice is too dippin' delicious by itself with bread. Added Vidalia onions and sage this time. Watercress and arugula salad with walnut oil. More beautifully ripe heirloom tomatoes. Whole Foods ciabatta buns.

Did We Like It? This is our third time eating this chicken and every time, we say we'd eat this damn thing twice a week. It's Frenchy, yet firmly planted in the Chez Panisse world with its subtle, unique pop and taste-length. Each version has been slightly different and each one has been perfect.

How Was The Wine? Less oily and more fruity this time. Smoky-fruity. Lighter. A breeziness to it. Flinty, almost.

And The Pairing? This is the second time we've had this wine with this chicken. Very different expression this time and very delicious. Whole Foods has been doing some nice things with a few select wines lately. This is right at the top. Grolleau gris grape, which was new to us, and it's the ideal wine with this chicken. Tastes like Leisure. Might be one of the pairings of the year.

Cost: $26 for food, $14 for wine = $40          

Monday: Dinner With The Fam

Food Details: Ottolenghi sage-lemon almonds to start. Trader Joe's dolmas with a yogurt and Fustini's pomegranate balsamic dip. Lamb-beef kofta with roasted cauliflower, arugula and pomegranate seeds as the entrée with an heirloom tomato and Vidalia onion salad. Pita. Gluten-free nut-poppyseed chocolate cake for dessert, with the gluten-free-ness for Mrs. Fam.

Did We Like It? The kofta went a little over. So did the cauliflower, but this might have been one of the best versions yet of this fairly new house favorite. All the spice and cream and acid and juice and pop came together, forming into something quite elevated. Beautiful heirloom tomatoes. And the Fam loved it, which helped, because we weren't sure that was going to be the case.

Cost: $65

Thursday, June 2, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #47

Over on the right, just below the Twitter feed, one could click on the '365' image and see every meal we've had over the last 46 weeks as we lead up to the end of this experiment. I don't know why someone would want to read what two strangers ate over the course of almost a year, but you could do that. It's the Internet. Tons of useless information out there! But it works for us.

The Night Manager, AMC's six-part miniseries adaptation of the John le Carré novel, offers very pretty aesthetics and that's about it. Even with solid acting and a sufficiently complex story arc, it's plodding and bumpy, leading up to a finish that left me very much wanting so much more.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $88 for food and $80 for wine = $168

Sunday: Scaccia with 2014 Lambrusco Secco Fattoria Moretto

Food Details: Our new favorite thing - pizza babka/lasagna bread, first had here. Saveur recipe. Semolina dough, San Marzano tomatoes, sharp provolone and smoked mozzarella standing in for caciocavallo, basil and garlic. Arugula salad to finish.

Did We Like It? Yep, Yep, Yep! Tastes like someone fancified Italian-American food I grew up on. The bridge between fancy and 80's fancy Italian restaurant in Iowa is definitely present, but the freshness of the basil and the brightness of the San Marzanos bring it to a better place, while the semolina dough is a perfect vehicle to maximize the flavor and interaction of those things while never getting in the way. Delicious.

How Was The Wine? Bitter in a good way; juicy black fruits; Old World loveliness; frothy but isn't over-frothed. A nice $20 alternative to our favorite Lambrusco, the Chiarli del Fontadore, and we can get this wine in our neighborhood in a pinch.

And The Pairing? No love here, but a fair amount of like.

Cost: $15 for food, $20 for wine = $35

Saturday: Rick Bayless Mexican Red Rice with 2014 La Granja Blanco Rioja

Food Details: Rick Bayless recipe here, using jalapeño chicken sausages. Sour cream and cilantro on top.

Did We Like It? It's a staple. An easy staple. A happy staple. Coming home to this always makes me think, "That'll most definitely do!" There's chicken sausages, peas, onions, spice, sour cream, tomatoes... All of it comes together into something that tastes like weekday Mexican comfort food.

How Was The Wine? It's been awhile since we last had this former house favorite. It's a $5 Trader Joe's verdejo-viura blend. Fine-and-good snap and Riojaness with this drinking.

And The Pairing? No complaints. Not one. The low-level spice brought out more tropical notes in the wine, oddly, something that this bargain wine usually keeps under wraps.

Cost: $8 for food, $5 for wine = $13

Friday: Zucchini Goop with 2015 Charles & Charles Rosé Columbia Valley

Food Details: Based on a recipe from Mexican, by Jane Milton (page 186), using leftover pork from Cubano sandwiches instead of the usual green chorizo. Pugliese as bread vehicle.

Did We Like It? It's become a once-every-six-weeks type thing, because it's a veggie explosion with a hit of meat, heat and cream. Has garlic, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, all the goods. This batch was one of the best.

How Was The Wine? 63% syrah, 12% mourvedre, 10% grenache, 7% cab, 7% cinsault, 3% counoise from Columbia Valley. $8 at Target. Eight. Dollars. Perky and playful, if not as good as a couple of vintages ago.

And The Pairing? A tiny bit clipped, but worked for us in terms of offering something a bit more than just "wine" with the food.

Cost: $8 for food, $8 for wine = $16  

Thursday: Minty Brown Rice and Wilted Greens with 2014 Amancay Torrontés La Rioja

Food Details: More Ottolenghi doing what Ottolenghi does so well - make simple food freakin' delicious. (Recipe - halfway down), using only mustard greens. Feta, mint, garlic, olive oil and mustard greens over brown rice.

Did We Like It? A perfect example of a few simple ingredients mixing together to create something more than the sum of its parts. More ingredients or more complexity would have diminished the beauty of the mint, feta and mustard greens bouncing off each other. We'll be having this again.

How Was The Wine? Lightly fruity, lightly floral. It's $7 Trader Joe's torrontés.

And The Pairing? The mustard greens loved the floral notes in the torrontés. Nothing mind-blowing, but this meal brought out more in this weekday wine than it's given recently.

Cost: $4 for food, $7 for wine = $11

Wednesday: Cubano Sandwiches with No Wine

Food Details: Cubano sandwiches of roasted pork, ham, swiss, pickles, mayo and mustard on brioche. Made six sandwiches, plus leftover pork for days! Olive oil chips.

Did We Like It? Everything everybody would ever want from a Cuban sandwich. Great balance and proportion.

How Was The Wine? Mrs. Ney tried the Dark Horse Rosé with it and immediately said, "BAH! NO!" I followed said recommendation. We had water. And we were fine with that.

Cost: $19 for food

Tuesday: Malaysian Barramundi Curry with NV Evolution Sparkling White

Food Details: (recipe) Ottolenghi Malaysian fish and pineapple curry, using barramundi. Pineapple, green beans, rice, coconut milk. Recipe followed, except using 1/2 of the amount of sugar.

Did We Like It? We didn't. Didn't love the barramundi texture nor did we love the sweetness overall, even with taking the sugar level down.

How Was The Wine? Nine grapes done up Champagne-style. Muscat, gewürztraminer, pinot gris, white riesling, chardonnay, pinot blanc, sylvaner, muller-thurgau and semillon. You read that list, particularly since it leads with muscat and gewürztraminer, and you'd think this would be sweet-ish. At least highly fruity. It's not. It's quite dry, with some very pleasing bitterness and herb stem notes. More pinot blanc and muller-thurgau than anything else. Quite nice, and we'll be buying it again.

And The Pairing? Nothing to report. The wine was nice, the food wasn't loved.

Cost: $12 for food, $14 for wine = $26

Monday: Churrasco-Marinated Skirt Steak and Onion Rings with 2010 Abacela Tannat Umpqua Valley

Food Details: Freezer-churrasco-marinated skirt steak; Belgian endive charred on meat flat-top, chopped, tossed with freezer chimichurri and parsley. Endive on bottom, then meat, topped with avocado. NYT (recipe) southern-style onion rings. Chimichurri mayo for dipping.

Did We Like It? We loved it. Huge plate of onion rings with a side of meat, and an appropriate meal after the veggie explosion on Sunday. Meat went a little over but didn't detract at all, particularly with the chimichurri slather and a bite of avocado. Had a carne asada quality. Delicious onion rings with mayo dip. An all-around happy meal.

How Was The Wine? Good use of this tannat. Oregon tannat, pronounced "tun-Uh" that had the rawness, very dark dirt and grizzle of a Portuguese red from Alentejo. Very nice concentrated dark cherry swirl and roundness, dark, sun-baked dirt in the middle, and an appropriately grippy finish that didn't hold on too tight. We liked it muchly.

And The Pairing? A good use for this wine. We were too lazy to go fetch a La Posta Malbec or something else Argentinean-y. It liked the meat char and avocado and did well enough with the onion rings. Satisfied.

Cost: $22 for food, $26 for wine = $48