Thursday, May 26, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #46

Two New Yorker stories this week:

* 'The Big Uneasy,' on the new political activism at Oberlin College, offers many nuggets that will made you say, "Eeeeeasy, stomach." The $8.20 "activist" wage, though, was the one that got me thinking. Why 20 cents? I'm infinitely curious about the math.

* 'The Bank Robber,' an account of Hervé Falciani, a computer tech guy at H.S.B.C. in Switzerland finds a loophole in the bank's firewalls and steals the names, account numbers and balances of thousands of people using the bank to evade taxes in their home countries. Then the intrigue starts.

A Bigger Splash has its moments, has the setup, has the setting, has the acting chops and has a skeletal arc that seemingly should work. It doesn't. I found it rather lifeless, even borderline tedious in its execution and flow.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $81 for food and $114 for wine = $195

Sunday: Broiled Feta and Garbanzo-Corn-Avocado Salad with 2014 Bokisch Albariño Terra Alta Vineyard Lodi

Food Details: Broiled feta, topped with pistachio oil, olive oil and parsley. Veggie explosion salad of fresh garbanzos, raw corn, avocado, charred scallions, fresno pepper, roasted garlic, cilantro and mint. Baguette.

Did We Like It? Jesus! Yes! Vegetable explosion, indeed! We used to do a version of this salad (with fresh fava) a lot a few years ago. Good to have you back, old friend. You're all sorts of freshy-fresh. And broiled feta is broiled feta. Who doesn't want that? A Great meal, our first Sunday Dinner with our schedules switches. We could get used to this.

How Was The Wine? Mrs. Ney joined the Bokisch wine club this year, receiving a mixed case of Spanish-based wines a few weeks ago. This is our first dive into that shipment. And if this is any indication of what she received, we'll be quite happy with the purchase and membership. Like Palmina, Bokisch likes food-friendly wines, so we like them. This albariño, from the Terra Alta vineyard and aged six months in stainless steel (as opposed to the Las Cerezas Albariño that utilizes 50% neutral French oak), offers a bevy of fruit layers, revealing themselves slowly, casually and cleanly, and finishing with a tart-acid pucker and perk. Long, delicious. And it's delicious in every sense, better than most cheaper Spanish albariños out there. Big fans, and only around $15 with club discount. A case of just this might be in the offing.

And The Pairing? LOVED the broiled feta and was friendly enough with the salad. Mostly we loved this food - beautiful as it gets - and loved finding out that we loved this wine.

Cost: $16 for food, $15 for wine = $31      

Saturday: Smoked Trout, Salami, Herbed-up Cream Cheese, Arugula and Bagels with 2014 Orballo Albariño Rías Baixas

Food Details: Trader Joe's smoked trout and Calabrese salami; cream cheese made with charred onion, parsley, pickled serranos, lemon thyme, celery seed and sherry vinegar; arugula dressed with sherry vinegar and olive oil; toasted bagels. Rip, top, eat.

Did We Like It? Lovely back and forth, alternating between a trout bite and a salami bite. It's a pick-n-choose riff on salmon and bagels.

How Was The Wine? All class. We've gone cheap lately on wine, and having this house classic, with all its acid-and minerals driven sparkle and shine, made for a lovely dinner, and a reminder what Good wine brings.

And The Pairing? Most of its goodness came in having a wine of this quality at the table with food that brought a flurry of flavors. Nice pairing, though the sherry and trout together with a sip of wine was stellar.

Cost: $13 for food, $19 for wine = $32

Friday: Shortcut Pipian with 2015 90+ Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough Lot 2

Food Details: From Rick Bayless and his Mexican Everyday cookbook, page 235, substituting chicken breasts for salmon. It's short-cut pepita chicken. Instead of roasting and blending pumpkin seeds and making your own salsa, Mr. Bayless takes store-bought tomatillo salsa, chicken broth and tahini to create a short-cut, nutty-green, rich sauce to pair with chicken and rice. So Mrs. Ney did that, over coriander rice with peas and cilantro.

Did We Like It? Big Bowl of Shortcut Goodness. Mrs. Ney tweaked her work schedule after years of the exact same go-in, get-off (giggity). Going in later means getting off later, and that's led to some unintended annoyances. Like getting off at 3pm and immediately diving in to making dinner. No couch time, no TPIR, no decompression. Shortcut is best with that. And this shortcut is a good one, approximating pepita chicken quite well.

How Was The Wine? It's just cheap New Zealand sauvignon blanc. Nothing special. Crisp, clean, with tropical notes and a bit of depth. Still has that New Zealandness that isn't loved in our house by and large. But...

And The Pairing? I Loved It! I could have this meal and wine next week and not love it at all. Time and place kind of thing, I'm thinking. First hot and humid days in Chicago and the wine refreshment of zippy tropical fruits, maybe. A fine, more subdued, darker in tone shine to the tropical notes showed up in the wine with the food, and it took its time to unravel and unwind in such a pleasing way. Big fan.

Cost: $9 for food,  $9 for wine = $18            

Thursday: Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef and Noodle Salad with Leftover Wine

Food Details: NYT Cooking recipe. Made as is, except swapping out skirt for flank. Flat Asian rice noodles, beef, daikon, scallions, cucumber, carrots, fish sauce-based sauce (garlic, ginger, Fresno, lime, etc.), cilantro, mint, basil... All the goods.

Did We Like It? Firmly planted into the weekday food rotation! It has everything and anything everyone and anyone would need and want and love. Two things: this salad doesn't need any beef more than $6/lb. Good, quality cheap beef from a good place is sufficient, and the flat Asian noodles got in the way a bit, particularly after a few hours (when I ate it after work) and the next day for lunch. True, thin vermicelli is probably the play. Otherwise...crap. This is Great. Oh, and cut the sugar in half at least. Needs a little. Not four tablespoons.

How Was The Wine? Leftover fridge wine for both of us. The intended and intentional wine choice, a bottle of Charles & Charles Riesling was a non-starter with the food. Mrs. Ney had a can of Lila Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough. I finished up the Lima Loureiro and the Chilean Rosé. The Lila was acceptable. The Lima, same, with a veggie bite. And the rosé was slappy-happy-pappy with a beef bite. Just the tops.

And The Pairing? The rosé was the biggest surprise. With the fish sauce, lime, Fresno and everything else in the food that seemingly shouldn't excel with a cab-syrah rosé from Chile, the opposite occurred. Delicious bright dirt and shocking length with a mouth-watering finish. Who knew? Crazy stuff.

Cost: $18 for food, $3 for wine = $21    

Wednesday: Chicken Salad, Arugula and Mini-Ciabatta with 2014 João Portugal Ramos "Lima" Loureiro Vinho Verde

Food Details: Leftover yakitori chicken from Monday turned into chicken salad, with Solmonov pickled cauliflower-vegetables, cilantro and mayo. Dressed arugula. Mini-ciabatta buns. Rip, top, eat.

Did We Like It? Nice, fine, good. Light, used stuff up, satisfied.

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

And The Pairing? Meh. I started with a can of Lila Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand. WOW! That Was Awful with this food.

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

Tuesday: Au Cheval

Food Details: Single for her, double for me. Two orders of fries and two root beers.

Did We Like It? It's a fine-ass burger, one of the best in the city. After years of people telling me "You HAVE to go to Au Cheval," we finally went. Best in Chicago/Best in the Country? We disagree. But a fine-ass burger, indeed.

Cost: $0

Monday: Yakitori Chicken, Green Garlic, Cucumber Salad and Grilled Miso Corn on the Cob with Bollinger Champagne and Trader Joe's Brut North Coast

Food Details: Saveur yakitori sauce, made with duck and rabbit bones. Yakitori slathered on spatchcocked chicken cooked under bricks (Bittman) in the cast-iron, split in half, one for each of us. Green garlic stalks charred under bricks in empty cast-iron. Grilled in-husk corn slathered with white miso butter and sprinkled with togarashi. Smashed cucumber, Fresno pepper and mint salad on the side (mashup of Nancy Singleton Hachisu and Fiona Beckett). Basil sprinkled around. More yakitori on the side for dipping.

Did We Like It? Oddly, we cared less about the chicken than everything else on plate, because everything else was delicious, though the duck-rabbit bone yakitori offered serious funk and gamey undertones. A Japanese-ish feast. White miso butter and togaroshi on grilled corn will be had a few more times this summer, I'm thinkin'. Deeply flavored and refreshing cucumber salad. All in all, a joyful and scrumptious array of flavors flying everywhere.

How Was The Wine? Bollinger is Bollinger. Elegance, length, shine. It's the best under-$50 Champagne in our book. And it was happy here. But the Trader Joe's sparkling, serving as a second bottle because we knew we'd blow through the bottle of Bollinger toute-suite, was the winner of the night with the food.

And The Pairing? The Bollinger was ever-so-slightly clipped by the food. A teeny-tiny bit of its shine and glow was dimmed. Then the TJ's Brut entered the playing field and, in one of the bigger pairing shocks in a long time, we got bubbles that brought an insane level of mouth-watering length and integration into the food. It was like this $10 wine was specifically made for this meal and this meal alone, particularly with the miso-togaroshi corn. This wine has NEVER been like this. Not even close. There was a lot of gasping.

Cost: $20 for food, $60 for wine = $80  

Thursday, May 19, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #45

Three-day consumption of fiber:

Monday: Beet greens and barley...

Tuesday: Yellow beets and curly endive...

Wednesday: Cauliflower and arugula...

Equals...wow...yep...FI-ber!

Total food and wine cost for the week: $79 for food and $136 for wine = $215

Sunday: Ottolenghi Meatballs and Fregola with 2015 Viñas Chilenas Reserva Rosé Valle Central

Food Details: (Ottolenghi Guardian recipe - second one down) Meatballs and fregola with alterations: lamb instead of veal, feta instead of ricotta, basil instead of oregano, and nutmeg instead of all-spice. It's use-stuff-up, what's-in-the-house, done up Ottolenghi style.  

Did We Like It? Oh, my, yes. Big bowl of adult Spaghetti-O's. And not necessarily a one-off. This was quite good, and highly adjustable to what's we have siting around in the house and needs to be used up.

How Was The Wine? This is $4, fresh, fruity, round, bouncy and delicious for $4. Cabernet-syrah blend done up rosé style. One glass for each of us. We're trying to cut down.

And The Pairing? Fine.

Cost: $12 for food, $4 for wine = $16

Saturday: Cuban Black Beans over Rice with 2014 Charles Smith Velvet Devil Columbia Valley

Food Details: NYT Cooking Cuban black bean recipe. Alterations: swapped out the ham hock for a big beef marrow bone; poblanos for green peppers; fresh oregano; cider vinegar; honey for brown sugar; half the beans, hence half the garlic (it's only two of us). Over white rice.

Did We Like It? This. Is. Delicious! Absurd complexity here. Highly recommended and most certainly with enter into the food rotation. It has all the Cuban happiness anyone could possibly need. A Cuban mother would be proud.

How Was The Wine? Quickly abandoned the Alloy grenache rosé (no bueno) for leftover Velvet Devil Merlot, which at least (VERY least) offered a textural match-up that offered a minimum level of moderate enjoyment. No wine for me.

And The Pairing? See above.

Cost: $8 for food, $0 for wine = $8  

Friday: Vegetable Tart with 2015 Trader Joe's Grower's Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Napa

Food Details: Buckwheat flour tart shell. Filling of carrots, onions, smoked sun-dried tomatoes and basil, mixed with mustardy-garlicky cream cheese, finished with parmesan. Herb salad on the side. It's bistro food!

Did We Like It? Missed a bit. Sandy buckwheat flour and a filling that didn't pop. Tasted vaguely Italian, actually.

How Was The Wine? Formerly a house $6 fav, this is the third or fourth vintage in a row that tastes like a watery, melony, white Napa mess. No order, no presence. This had a good run a few years ago, bringing the cheap-and-solid goods. No longer.

And The Pairing? Meh.

Cost: $8 for food, $6 for wine = $14

Thursday: Chimichurri Chicken over Brown Rice

Food Details: Freezer chimichurri as a marinade for chicken breasts, with fennel, onion, tomatoes, olives and parsley, with more chimichurri to finish. Over brown rice (one potato added). It's Use Stuff Up dinner!

Did We Like It? Herby, zingy, vegetabley. A fine meal for a Use Stuff Up dinner. No bread here, either. Sorta taking a break from bread, at least in the volume with which we've consumed it over the last few months, cutting it out where it's not needed. Not going gluten-free, just that "nobody needs this much bread!"

How Was The Wine? No wine. Nothing was in the house could have shined with this meal, so why jam it in?

Cost: $6

Wednesday: Goat Kofta and Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Two Vintages of Alloy Wine Works Grenache Rosé

Food Details: Ottolenghi goat kofta with roasted cauliflower-hazelnut-pomegranate seed salad with arugula. Pita. Tahini. Rip, top, eat.

Did We Like It? We've been over this. It has everything everybody could ever want in a bite of food. There's little else I can say. Multiple versions here.

How Was The Wine? We haven't been shy about telling the world that the Alloy Wine Works grenache rosé in the can from Field Recordings is rather silly-great. We went through probably a 36 cans of the 2014. The 2015 just came out, so there was much rejoicing. So, vintage throwdown. The 2014, while its fruit is muddled and overall zip waning, it still has most of the pop, grit and grizzle it's had in the past. It (still) has a personality, a strut. The 2015 is less so. It's rather quiet, missing what the 2014 brought: an in-your-face guava and strawberry burst, following by such friendly bright dirt and pop. This year tastes like more of an attempt to Old World it, with more graceful layers and breeze, but so far - and we will have more - the thing that made 2014 so cheap-happy gets lost in the translation for the 2015. We started to do a cost-benefit analysis comparing this and other cheap weekday rosés. The one-liter Innovacíon at $10 brings similar enjoyment for half the price.

And The Pairing? Fine and good. No complaints. Nothing special. Who cares. The food was stupid-great.

Cost: $12 for food, $18 for wine = $30    

Tuesday: Rabbit Croquetas and Yellow Beet Salad with 2014 Jolie-Laide Trousseau Gris Fanucchi-Wood Road Vineyard Russian River Valley and 2013 Palmina Malvasia Santa Barbara

Food Details: Chicken stock week, so it's clean out the freezer time. Leftover-freezer, Jose Andres' rabbit croquettes, and Palmina yellow beet salad with walnut-anchovy-zest gremolata over curly endive. Pan con tomate using ciabatta.

Did We Like It? Sort of a mishmash of two favorites that don't really go together but still bring all of the happy goods. Croquetas still freshy-fresh. Yellow beet salad that's always good.

How Was The Wine? I overbought the Jolie-Laide, last year's wine of the year, and we may have put it in the "save" category a few too many times when thinking about food pairings, as this wine isn't one that's going to last forever. But the result was surprising. A beautiful leafy-tea note has emerged. While the fruit is fading, and the acid slowing down as a driver, this now has some gray-hair grace to it that's delicious. The Palmina has been a perfect pairing in the past with this beet salad, and we had one more in the house that also HAD to be drunk. It's slower now, creaky, like it's had two knee replacements, and the acid is also slowing, but what we thought would probably be rather dead brought a modicum of beet salad-Palmina malvasia goodness to enjoy it for what it was.

And The Pairing? Plenty of delicious elements on the table to pick and choose our food-wine adventure, which led to a compiling together of a dinner that felt like a buffet of enjoyment. Nothing spectacular here, but certainly was a Happy Bounty.

Cost: $8 for food, $63 for wine = $71

Monday: Calabrian Quail and Orzotto with 2012 A Tribute To Grace Grenache Santa Barbara Highlands

Food Details: The Guardian quail, marinated in currants, passito, thyme, red wine vinegar, olive oil, s/p. Substituted chorizo for nduja. Cast-ironed quail, chorizo crisped up, pan sauce over all of it. Barley orzotto with beet greens (no mascarpone or wild garlic).

Did We Like It? This isn't "our food," but it was quite tasty. There was a sweetness from the currants here that we don't gravitate towards, but it didn't get in the way in the least. Nice balance, and delicious orzotto - creamy, woodsy, hardy and a nice counter to the sweetness. We liked this.

How Was The Wine? This wine  has been sitting around the house for a bit. The food demanded a lighter red with guts, and we didn't want pinot noir on this night. Beaujolais? Maybe. Lighter dolcetto? Possibly. Baga was what we wanted but we didn't have one that was ready in the house. This bottle was opened wearily, as it came off a bit light last time. Not this time. Lightly smoky, lightly meaty, lightly spicy, and darker in tone than last time. All of that together brought a more robust presence than it showed with lamb rosettes 18 months ago. Very happy with the overall result.

And The Pairing? Not perfect, not great, but very nice. A fine length remained with some of the more robust flavors on the plate. Best with the orzotto, but held its own with the quail and chorizo. We're probably not going to remember this meal or pairing next week. That's okay. Enough deliciousness here to chalk it up to a nice Monday dinner that made for a leisurely, happy meal.

Cost: $25 for food, $45 for wine = $70          

Saturday, May 14, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #44

Here's a nice little reminder from D'Artagnan that air-chilled chicken is the only chicken. Whole Foods carries them as well. Worth the extra greenbacks.

In the novelty food products world, for which I'm a huge sucker, the new Pepsi 1893 line is an...effort, but not worth the greenbacks. And Milky Way brownies are an abomination.

Down week in the wine world but not in the food world.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $105 for food and $119 for wine = $224

Total food and wine cost for the month: $442 for food and $439 for wine = $881

Sunday: Naan Pizzas with 2013 Regis Minet Pouilly-Fumé Vieilles Vignes

Food Details: Naan bread topped with leftover asparagus pesto mixed with cream cheese, ham, onions, leftover smoked mozzarella, peppadew peppers, and a big handful of dressed arugula.

Did We Like It? They're a weeknight house dinner platform for leftover stuff. And it's always, in the least, a satisfying dinner. Tack on "very" to satisfied with this batch.

How Was The Wine? Went fancier for weeknight wine here, and gee-whiz, the acidity and flinty minerals were just lovely. More straight-forward than other vintages of Minet, with predominantly lemon citrus notes, followed by minerals, all wrapped inside a coat of bright acid. But golly that package had all the fanciness of a great piece of furniture. Like when you see something in a living room and say, "Damn, THAT's a great chair!"

And The Pairing? Fairly ho-hum, but fine food and fine wine made for a great end of my week, especially after spending five minutes explaining to a customer who could eat tomatoes but not tomato sauce that our sauce is ONLY blended tomatoes. She wasn't having it.

Cost: $12 for food, $21 for wine = $33    

Saturday: Kielbasa-Potato-Kale Hash with 2014 Charles Smith Velvet Devil Columbia Valley

Food Details: (recipe from The New Spanish Table). Loosely based on that recipe, turning it from cake to hash. This time, using kielbasa as meat. Historically, this recipe is used as a bit of a blank slate to mix together left in the house, with potato and kale as a base. Pecorino cheese to finish.

Did We Like It? The kielbasa took it out of the Spanish realm and into a more generic "hash" world, and it served quite well as a weeknight, "warm you up" plate of food, particularly when it was 38 degrees in mid-freakin'-May here in Chicago.

How Was The Wine? Mostly merlot, with a little cab, malbec and cab franc mixed in. A dancing little number on its own, with pretty, bright, round, dark red fruits with a bit of tobacco underneath and balanced, prevalent, happy acid. But...

And The Pairing? BRU-TAL. Really, quite terrible with this food. But good to find a bargain merlot that offers...something. And this offers much more than just "something," as Mr. Smith typically does.

Cost: $5 for food, $10 for wine = $15

Friday: Tuna Pick-n-Choose with 2015 Baskoli Txakolina 

Food Details: Leftover olive oil-poached tuna from Wednesday, with peppadew peppers, onions, avocado, dressed arugula and mini-ciabatta. Rip, top with everything, and eat.

Did We Like It? Sorta great! If there's a bite of food that represents the bridge between food we ate 5-7 years ago and now, this would be it. Spanish-influenced simplicity with a tapas-pintxos nod, where a bite has all the acid, fishy, bitter, onion-pepper pop, cream and starch you need.

How Was The Wine? It's $9 Trader Joe's txakolina. And nothing here is really in proper txakolina order here. The sea spritz and mineral is off. The fruit perk is nearly nonexistent. Its slight sparkle shows up at weird times, hiding what could be good underneath, but...

And The Pairing? It's $9, half of the cost of a good Txakolina. And with this food, it offered more than enough Basqueness for us to be very satisfied.

Cost: $8 for food, $9 for wine = $17    

Thursday: Green Chorizo Tortas with NV Evolution Sparkling White

Food Details: Melissa Clark green chorizo, made into tortas. Chorizo mixed with black beans, with chihuahua cheese as the meat-cheese base. Habanero vinegar. Marinated onions, sliced avocados and arugula on top. All that inside torta bread. Mexican Bugles for side. Made four big sandwiches.

Did We Like It? We could sell these out the apartment window and make a silly amount of money. Had that perfect meat-cheese melty-ness, freshened up by the avocado and arugula, and an overall composition of delicious.

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? Didn't really go with the sandwiches, but we weren't displeased. Good food and surprising wine that don't ultimately go together but don't horribly clash can be Just Fine.

Cost: $14 for food, $14 for wine = $28  

Wednesday: Scaccia with 2012 Paringa Sparkling Shiraz Barossa

Food Details: Saveur recipe, and will be had six times a year henceforth. It's lasagna bread, but has none of soupy boringness that, for me, comes with lasagna. Semolina dough, San Marzano tomatoes, sharp provolone and smoked mozzarella to approximate caciocavallo, basil and garlic. Arugula salad to finish.

Did We Like It? It's our new Sunday night dinner! Fairly simple, just takes (mostly inactive) time. It's tastes like my first experience with good Italian food as a child in the 80's. Better, of course, but quite evocative. Everything is in proportion and everything is offered at the right level. Not bready, not too cheesy, not too tomatoey. Just DE-licious.

How Was The Wine? Shiraz likes basil and we had to drink this sparkling shiraz. Licorice, black fruits and froth. Fine enough, nothing super-duper by any means.

And The Pairing? Same with the food. Fell into the category of "nice to have wine here." That's really all it offered.

Cost: $15 for food, $13 for wine = $28

Tuesday: Tuna Niçoise with 2014 Terrasse du Moulinas Blanc Elégance Languedoc-Roussillon

Food Details: Olive-oil poached tuna Niçoise on butter lettuce with gaeta olives, capers, onion, grape tomatoes, haricots verts, fingerling potatoes, and hard-boiled eggs for me.

Did We Like It? A less delicious version of home tuna Niçoise. The on-sale butter lettuce sat there, limp and tasteless, offering nothing. Made it feel like there was a hole in the meal.

How Was The Wine? Started with an older 2010 Domaine de la Pepìere Quatre Muscadet and it offered little in the way of anything resembling enjoyment. Moved on to this year's house white, a grenache blanc, vermentino, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc blend from the Languedoc that has the acid and sparkle we do enjoy. Thought it was fading when last drunk, but here it matched up rather beautifully in the way regional food and regional wine tend to do.

And the Pairing? This tasted purposeful together. Not spectacular, just Provence Purposeful. With that, we found tons of enjoyment.

Cost: $23 for food, $31 for wine = $54

Monday: Hanger Steak and Watercress-Shishito Pepper Salad with 2012 Broc Cellars Cabernet Franc Central Coast

Food Details: (recipeWhole Foods hanger steak (medium-rare) with a salad of watercress, shishito peppers, celery and leaves, and Rogue Flora Nelle cheese. Potato pancakes for starch.

Did We Like It? Our third time having this deliciously meaty-bitter-creamy dinner and it's still is all kinds of lovely. A bite with everything - hanger, watercress, shishito and cheese - is stupid how great it is. Get good cheese. Rogue is essentially our only source for blue cheese-like cheeses now. The fresh edge it offers is perfect.

How Was The Wine? Last had with Persian beef and barberry sauce, it's full of shiny red fruits, violets and cinnamon on the nose, a bit less in the intensity of that on the palate for the first 2/3, then finishing with something like a rum raisin smack. Still chugging along quite nicely. One left.

And The Pairing? Not as good as the La Posta Malbec with this meal, but there was a grace here that was welcome. And it showed some guts with the bevy of bitterness on the plate.

Cost: $28 for food, $19 for wine = $47

Thursday, May 5, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #43

Between our dog having a heart attack every time it thunders and the year-long road construction outside our house, sleep has been a precious commodity of late.

So I declare The Summer of Sleep!

...particularly since nothing political is worth consuming until November. Gonna be a rough summer for the republic, everyone.

Drinking higher-end, well-crafted wines can help you understand what lower-end, mass-produced wines get right. When one of them gets it right, one of those cheapy-cheap wines gets the balance between fruit, herbs, acid and refreshment perfect relative to what you paid, your surprise level is sometimes higher than when you have a pedigreed wine higher up the dollars scale. With that, this house recommends the Lila Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough in the can. Four-pack of 250mls for $10.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $108 for food and $76 for wine = $184

Sunday: Charred Onions, Arugula and Ancient Grains Bread with 2014 Amancay Torrontés La Rioja

Food Details: (recipe). Charred onions and shallots over yogurt. Arugula and Ancient Grains bread. Lemon-thyme vinaigrette for the onions and arugula. Rip bread, top with stuff, eat.

Did We Like It? A Mother's Day double for me left me clueless as to what Mrs. Ney made for dinner. To come home to charred onions and yogurt is like coming home to a Technicolor version of Home. De-licious!

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

And The Pairing? I enjoyed a well water note in the wine this time. Overall quite acceptable. It loved the vinaigrette.

Cost: $10 for food, $7 for wine = $17

Saturday: Piri-Piri Chicken and Feta Potatoes with Lila Canned Wines

Food Details: Mr. Oliver's piri piri sauce dumped on top of [seared-to-seal] boneless chicken breasts and sauteed red, orange, and yellow "ancient chiles", baked in 400-degree oven for 15 minutes; boiled (old! sprouty!) potatoes mashed with leftover feta, dill, cilantro, and evoo.

Did We Like It? Chicken, spice, peppers, potatoes, feta. Who doesn't want any of that. And it's better together.

How Was The Wine? More Lila cans. I don't know how long our mild fascination will last with these little numbers, but for now they're juicy, poppy and fun. I got a cherry Now-n-Later note in the rosé this time. The sauvignon blanc is the undisputed winner between these two.

And The Pairing? Acceptable.

Cost: $12 for food, $5 for wine = $17    

Friday: Zucchini Babaganoush Pick-n-Choose with 2015 Innovacíon Rosé Mendoza

Food Details: Recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, by Claudia Roden (page 65), using roasted zucchini instead of eggplant, with tahini, cumin, lemon juice and olive oil. Kumatoes, arugula and pita. Compile a bite using all the goods and eat.

Did We Like It? Delicious babaganoush that kept adjusting to all the other elements and changing its personality. Sometimes a big hit of lemon, other times a hit of cumin, tahini pop on occasion. Every bite was deliciously different, with planty arugula and oddly solid pita from Middle Eastern Grocery (usually don't love it). Zero diminishing returns or eating fatigue. That rarely happens with Mrs. Ney's pick-n-choose, because she brings a bevy of spices, acid, veggies, herbs and greens to the plate that...if you get tired of something like that, well, you have no tongue. A great meal all around.

How Was The Wine? One-liter rosé, malbec and syrah, $7.50 at Whole Foods (on sale with 6-bottle discount). Our first 2015. Tastes like dirt and iron, backed up by dark cherry and plum. At this price for a liter, we're tickled pink (oof).

And The Pairing? No complaints whatsoever. Iron Earth!

Cost: $9 for food, $8 for wine = $17

Thursday: Rotisserie Chicken Pick-n-Choose with 2015 Barbadillo Palomino Fino Cádiz

Food Details: Harvesttime dinner! Rotisserie chicken and a new bread made in-house there, 99¢ braided sesame loaves from that crazy-cheap grocery store. With that, herb salad blend from Trader Joe's, leftover homemade za'atar mixed with olive oil. Rip a piece of bread, slather with za'atar, top with chicken and greens. Eat.

Did We Like It? It's pick-n-choose. Of course we did. Solid new bread option here and cheap as heck.  Za'atar brought all the background complexity needed, eschewing tomatoes for the simplicity and deliciousness it brought without them. And it worked better with the wine.

How Was the Wine? I'll plagiarize myself from the last time we had it: 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. It gets into the food and tastes like standing in a dried-up wheat field in a hot, late-summer day. And it tastes like something an old Spanish man has been drinking at the exact same time everyday for 60 years. In a world of superlatives, this is not something to call some superlative. It's a nice, quiet, evocative drink. A teeny-tiny small moment in the glass. It simply makes you smile.

And The Pairing? Like a nice, meandering walk through a quiet city on a hot day.

Cost: $11 for food, $6 for wine = $17

Wednesday: CHEESE!

Food Details: Dog storm anxiety, zero sleep because it, and the resulting aborted trip to Milwaukee to watch the Angels led to Bill's Drive-In for lunch and Jimmy's Pizza Cafe for dinner. CHEESE! Oof.

Cost: $40  

Tuesday: Halloumi, Heirloom Tomatoes and Garlic Bread with 2014 Santo Assyritiko Santorini

Food Details: Fried halloumi; heirloom tomatoes, (Ottolenghi) slow-roasted yellow tomatoes, roasted lemon slices, red onion, pomegranate seeds, fresh oregano, evoo, white balsamic; pea shoot salad with mint; garlic bread

Did We Like It? For some reason, we didn't eat "tomatoes as meat" last year, not spotlighting them as much as we had in the past. Good to have them back. And good to have the first, real, spring "GARDEN! on the plate" meal of the year. Tons of freshness, bite, planty deliciousness everywhere. The fried halloumi with bread is always great, but the star here was everything else: heirlooms, spectacular roasted lemon slices and yellow tomatoes with its roasty-ness contrasting with the freshness of the pea shoot salad, mint and fresh tomato chunks. It's the kind of meal everyone should eat once a week. Resets the body. Except don't follow it up with more cheese the next day, like we did.

How Was The Wine? Sigalas Assyritiko has been the undisputed assyritiko winner in our house for years. But finding an assyritiko that's cheaper than the $23 price tag on the Sigalas would be nice. So here's a $15 alternative that plays above the price difference between the two. Salt, fruit, minerals and zip in a cheaper, slightly more subdued package than Sigalas. It's nice, I might buy it again, but can't fully commit. And BUT, as mentioned above, the Lila Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough in 250-ml cans showed that uber-cheap canned wine has come a long way of late. From the company that makes 90+ Cellars wine, we didn't love the rosé, but the sauvignon blanc brought lovely levels of grapefruit, mint and acid without bringing too much of any of it. It's refreshment in a can; nothing serious but it's not meant to be taken so. Huge surprise, particularly since New Zealand sauvignon blanc isn't something we love in the least. Typically it's too much muchness. Not here.  

And The Pairing? Greek whites have a specific food place in our house. This type of meal is one of those places, but it's also a meal that can go with a flurry of higher-acid, minerally whites. This meal was very pleasant with the Santo, offering everything we needed with the food to find completely acceptable, even lovely at times, pairing pleasure. But with the surprise of the can, and the mint-mint matchy-match in the food and wine, there was an odd level of...grace...in the can of sauvignon blanc that won the night. Who'd a thunk?

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

Monday: Anne Burrell Chicken Milanese with 2015 Broc Cellars Picpoul Luna Matta Vineyard Paso Robles

Food Details: Anne Burrell chicken Milanese, pickled onions, shishito peppers and watercress salad, pecorino/hazelnuts/parsley/lemon zest crumble, and ciabattini buns.

Did We Like It? Mrs. Ney doesn't know why, but the crust on this version of Ms. Burrell Milanese was the best we've had since she started making this superlative meal four years ago, covering dozens of eatings. And probably the best version overall once we discounted the newness factor of the first few versions. The shishitos and watercress brought a raw-bitter element that drove right up to the "too much!" door but never entered. A Capital-G Great meal.

How Was The Wine? Disagreement. Both of us found goodness in the glass here. Mrs. Ney loved it, I found an ever-so tiny oxidized, maybe bottle shock (?) note that I couldn't fully get past. Tons of orange-fennel in many forms with this vintage it seems (which is only our second of this wine). Mrs. Ney loved its balance, tiny salt hit and acid integration, I found it the smallest bit tired, like it went into its shell and wasn't going to give all it had. We'll see how the other three bottles drink. Should be fairly soon.

And The Pairing? Same as above. Mrs. Ney found loveliness all around, I wanted more.

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

Thursday, April 28, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #42

Chicken, lamb and country ham.

Fennel, Castelvetrano olives, faux pomme frites, rye crepes, gruyere, onion, fava, radicchio, asparagus and watercress.

Fennel pollen, lemon, preserved lemon, garlic, herbes de Provence, basil, mint, tarragon, walnut oil, pink peppercorns, parsley, honey, soy, chiles and white/regular balsamic.

That was much of the first three days of food this week.

Good week.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $103 for food and $153 for wine = $256

Sunday: Picadillo with 2014 La Paca Garnacha Calatayud

Food Details: Sam Sifton picadillo, subbing red "ancient chile" pepper and smoked paprika instead of chorizo, currants instead of raisins, plus fresh oregano, over rice.

Did We Like It? It's beefy, tomatoey, spicy-sweet bouncy, olivey. It's Cuban stew over rice and it's quite good.

How Was The Wine? $7 Trader Joe's Spanish grenache. Bright cherries and plums. Ripe. A bit of smoked meat and tobacco. Low tannins. Medium-to-light. Easy-breezy Spanish drinker. Friendly for $7.

And The Pairing? Cuban stews focus on balance and bump. They're one-pan stews with everything thrown in there, giving a little of everything but rarely too much of any one thing. That allows an easy red to weave into the food and pick up what it wants to without being overwhelmed or surprised by something it doesn't want to be. This grenache works. It's not spectacular or memorable, it's just what Spanish grapes do with Cuban food: Like it.

Cost: $6 for food, $7 for wine = $13  

Saturday: Indian Carrot Salad with 2014 Amancay Torrontés La Rioja 

Food Details: House staple. (Recipe) Crisped-up ground lamb with garam masala. Carrots and shallots dressed with lemon, ginger, cumin, peppers and olive oil. Sesame seeds. Kale as a base green. Naan and black mustard seed raita on the side.

Did We Like It? Oh, my, yes. Been awhile since we had this. A weekday and weekend meal, because it's that good. And was here.

How Was The Wine? Trader Joe's $7 torrontés, which has just enough flowers, just enough acid, and just enough cheapness at $7 to have a place in this house with the type of food we eat.

And The Pairing? Floral notes help counter the spice and heat, and that's what it did on this night. Nothing amazing, but a basic elemental interplay usually leads to a happy meal.

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

Friday: Orecchiette with Sausage and Rapini with 2014 Rosa dell'Olmo Gavi Piedmont

Food Details: Orecchiette with (ground pork turned into) sausage, rapini, onion, red pepper flakes, parsley, bread crumbs and evoo.

Did We Like It? A nice batch. A once-a-month thing. A big bowl of meaty, bitter, spicy, herbal, carby goodness.

How Was The Wine? Trader Joe's Gavi done well. Dry, crisp, lightly floral, peaches, medium-bodied. This drinking showed its age. A lil jumbled in flavor and order.

And The Pairing? No complaints. Missed on having its typical perky cut and pause that says "this wine is $8?" with this food, but no real complaints.

 Cost: $7 for food, $8 for wine = $15

Thursday: Big Greek Salad with 2013 Jackys Preys Cuvée de Fié Gris Touraine

Food Details: Big. Greek. Salad. Consisting of leftover chicken, cucumber, yellow tomato, red pepper, scallions, jalapeno, feta, olives, dill, oregano on arugula with evoo and white balsamic.

Did We Like It? Enormous and delicious! Delicious and enormous! Eat your veggies. Here's a great way. Just dump a bunch of "veggie stuff" in a bowl with other things you like, mix and eat.

How Was The Wine? This 2013 is still super-duper juice. Natural, floral, Asian-fruity. Almost frothy-beery but never gets there. We've loved this wine over the last few months and this drinking was no different.

And The Pairing? That frothy-beery business helped with the saltiness of the feta. A fine-and-good pairing that reminded us why this wine is so funky-wonderful.

Cost: $9 for food, $19 for wine = $28

Wednesday: Country Ham and Asparagus Rye Crêpes with 2014 Day Wines Malvasia 'Mamacita' Applegate Valley

Food Details: David Tanis ham and asparagus crêpes, using country ham from Paulina Meat Market and rye flour in addition to buckwheat flour. 12-month Gruyère cheese with the country ham and grilled asparagus as filling. Watercress salad drizzled with walnut oil. Big honking plate of crêpes with salad. California brunch bistro food.

Did We Like It? I was skeptical. Mrs. Ney wanted country ham and this was the first search result and recipe of the day on NYT Cooking the day she looked. Magic! One note on the recipe: use more batter for each pour into the pan. Too tiny/delicate otherwise. One might think that, after a few bites, this would grow monotonous. Nope. Not even close. Delicious right to the last bite. Fresh, clean, filling and lovely. We went from thinking this might be a once-every-two-years thing to "I'd eat this again every spring. At least."

How Was The Wine? One of the good things about NYT Cooking (and there are many) is when Mr. Asimov chimes in with wine pairing recommendations. Go to the bottom of the recipe link and you'll see him say, "If you prefer wine...The United States is also producing more good, dry sparkling wines. Look for those labeled pétillant naturel, an ancient method that is a sparkling equivalent of cider." WE HAVE THAT! Sparkling, pet-nat malvasia from Oregon! And it's probably the wine of the year for us so far. Big mouthfeel of orchard fruit skin to start, transitioning to a sunny, white flowered, yeasty core, and finishing with a refreshing, lemony acid and perk.

And The Pairing? Tasted so gosh-darn intentional in terms of pairing, like they were made specifically for each other. Interweave your fingers. That's what it tasted like. Lovely stuff together.

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

Tuesday: Ottolenghi Lamb Rosettes and Radicchio-Fava Salad with 2014 Alloy Wine Works Grenache Rosé Central Coast

Food Details: Mr. Ottolenghi lamb recipe, subbing Paulina Meat Market lamb "rosettes" (skewered lamb flank) and swapping out coriander for basil. Lamb marinated in a blitz of parsley, mint, basil, garlic, chile, honey, olive oil, soy, lemon juice, balsamic and water; seared medium-rare. Grilled radicchio, farro and fava bean salad (very roughly based on this recipe) with preserved lemon, feta, basil, mint, pink peppercorns, etc. Lamb and salad.

Did We Like It? Beautiful-Beautiful-Beautiful lamb with a salad that said, "I'm full of Great Stuff. Eat me. You'll like me." Bitter, herbs galore, real big punch. Loved it.

How Was The Wine? We've probably drunk 25-30 of these cans of pink from Field Recordings over the nine months. The second the 2015s show up, we'll be buying 25-30 more. This drinking helped us feel better about the few left in the house. Started to fade into a nondescript rosé the last couple of drinkings, this time a perky bitterness emerged to complement its watermelon brightness.

And The Pairing? The saltiness of the feta, bitterness of the radicchio, and hodgepodge of herbs kept us away from a red. Needed a catch-all we didn't care too much about and the Alloy rosé performed admirably once again. A guzzler that brings the happy for $7 a can.

Cost: $30 for food, $14 for wine = $44  

Monday: Roasted Chicken, Fennel and Olives with 2012 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe La Crau Blanc

Food Details: Jeremiah Tower roast chicken (Whole Foods - air-chilled), rubbed with fennel pollen, white pepper and salt, roasted with fennel, onions, Castelvetrano olives, garlic, lemon, tarragon, and herbes de provence (deglazed with white wine). A mixture of Tower chicken and Thomas Keller chicken with fennel and olives. Sam Sifton faux pommes frites. Watercress salad drizzled with walnut oil.

Did We Like It? My golly, yes. Juicy chicken, gorgeous watercress from Edgewater, all the fennel-olive goodness that comes from Mr. Keller's recipe... A delicious dinner.

How Was The Wine? Two 375-mls of Télégraphe blanc that sort of slipped through the cracks due to not having this meal for a good long time. It's a nearly perfect pairing and we reserve this wine specifically for this meal. Sherry and honey notes are starting to show up and they're magically delicious. Smoked orange peel, pineapple... Lower acid now, with its body taking over and giving all we needed. Like La Crau and López de Heredia had a baby. Smoky minerals. We loved it. A huge surprise. We always drink this blanc pretty quick. Now we know it's still wonderful with a bit of age.

And The Pairing? Still one of the best pairings in the world in our book, this time in a different form. Wonderful stuff.

Cost: $18 for food, $70 for wine = $88

Thursday, April 21, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #41

Ever watched a movie you should have seen decades ago? I watched Gandhi for the first time last night. Yep. First time. Never seen Chariots of Fire either. Probably should take care of that.

The first season of 'The Americans' only made me think that the rest of the series is them almost getting caught every other episode, with them almost breaking up in the other episodes. Keep it. I have hundreds of hours of terrible Angels baseball to watch.

And I can't wait to see in what unique way the Browns screw this one up.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $126 for food and $91 for wine = $217

Sunday: Salmon and Bagels with 2015 Charles & Charles Rosé Columbia Valley

Food Details: Trader Joe's cured salmon, avocado, clover sprouts, cream cheese (with dill, cilantro, serrano, onion and lemon zest), bagels, and tomatoes for me.

Did We Like It? Leaves us clean, full and feeling healthy every time, even with bagels and cream cheese. We have it probably 8-10 times a year.

How Was The Wine? More Charles Smith rosé (this one a collaboration with Charles Bieler). 63% syrah, 12% mourvedre, 10% grenache, 7% cab, 7% cinsault, 3% counoise from Columbia Valley, with Mr. Smith's VINO being 100% sangiovese. Both are a house favorite. When the new vintages come out, at least six of each are immediately bought. This year's has a watermelon-earth back and forth with bright acid. Not as evocative or deep as a couple vintages ago, but has a playful, perky side that's welcome. And it was a stupid-ridiculous $8 at Target (!) when we bought it.

And The Pairing? Not great. Felt like two co-workers who go through the necessary pleasantries because they have to be in the same space while on the clock, but no friendship will be forming anytime soon.

Cost: $22 for food, $8 for wine = $30

Saturday: Big Fried Chicken Salad with Leftover Wine

Food Details: 'Southern style" Aldi frozen fried chicken cutlets, cheddar, green pepper, onion, peas, kumatoes, pretzel-bread croutons, romaine and homemade honey mustard dressing. All ingredients in a big bowl, mix, eat. Don't even use a table. Sit on the couch, put the bowl on your stomach and go to town.

Did We Like It? Nostalgia food! Tasted like 1998 Bennigan's, and that was a pretty darn good thing. Tasted like my 20s. Does Bennigan's still exist?  

How Was the Wine? Mrs. Ney had better luck with leftover Joel Gott sauvignon blanc than I did with leftover Schwarzböck Grüner Veltliner, which was terrible. Tasted like Pledge.

And The Pairing? See above.

Cost: $11 for food, $0 for wine = $11

Friday: Fava-Ramp-Carrot Top Strozzapreti with 2014 Schwarzböck Gruner Veltliner Austria

Food Details: Favas, ramps, carrot-top pesto, ricotta salata, marjoram, parsley on strozapretti

Did We Like It? First uber-spring meal of the year. Green and green with a side of green, and it was rampy and carrot top-y in the bestest sense. Happy. Very happy.

How Was The Wine? Fine. Lemony with green hints and fine acid. Cheap grüner in liter form that has served us fairly well over the years.

And The Pairing? Less "fairly well" this time. Not much intermingling or interplay.

Cost: $20 for food, $13 for wine = $33

Thursday: Zucchini Goop with 2015 Charles Smith VINO Rosé Columbia Valley

Food Details: Based on a recipe from Mexican, by Jane Milton (page 186), with the addition of green chorizo, from Melissa Clark in NYT Cooking. Cook your chorizo. Remove from pan, and then brown onions and scallions. Add garlic and four [previously salted and rinsed] sliced-into-sticks zucchini, sautée some more. Add a can of tomatoes and sliced pickled serranos; sauté briefly. Dump in chorizo, warm through. Turn off burner, add half a block of cubed cream cheese to melt in residual heat. Fresh oregano, tons of dill and parmesan. Ancient Grains bread to top with zucchini goop.

Did We Like It? Bready, porky, touch spicy, vegetabley, happy as all-get out. This version brought a very good dill-heat balance.

How Was The Wine? Sangiovese rosé from Mr. Charles Smith. Bright cherry fruit, pretty earth, medium-bodied, super-duper rosé happiness. We'll probably go through a case by the end of the year. Because it's delicious and because it's $10.

And The Pairing? The wine LOVED the dill. Very good version of zucchini goop with a very fresh rosé that liked the food. Do need much else.

Cost: $10 for food, $10 for wine = $20

Wednesday: Hummus, Laffa and Fattoush with 2015 Broc Cellars Sparkling Chenin Blanc Central Coast

Food Details: Hummus here, laffa here, fattoush here. Third making of this meal. Hummus somehow less bright and clear than in the past. Greens too wet, but fine enough flavors bouncing around to enjoy it. Homemade za'atar again helped immensely. Laffa instead of pita this time, which is the same recipe as pita but rolled thinner and bigger. Better than pita.

Did We Like It? Good enough was my overall thought. But this wine... Curse the heavens that it's sold out!

How Was The Wine? Pet-nat chenin blanc from Broc. 11.5% alcohol from Central Coast (that in itself seems like a miracle). We got three in our club shipment this year. Crazy-fresh peach, peach fizz and pit in a glass. Crystal-clear fruit that tastes like San Francisco morning sunshine - cool, bright, head-clearing. Five stars, Mr. Brockaway. You're ridiculous.

And The Pairing? Wine ruled the night and slid into the food well enough. Nice dinner.

Cost: $20 for food, $27 for wine = $47    

Tuesday: Argentinean Skirt Steak and Empanadas with 2009 Quinta do Vallado Tinto Douro

Food Details: Most beautiful medium-rare on some of the beautiful beef we've had in a long time. Paulina Meat Market skirt steak in churrasco marinade. Chimichurri to top and dip. Empanadas filled with kale, potato, onion, Petit Basque cheese, currant and garlic. A bit of arugula under the beef.

Did We Like It? Best meal of the week and probably the best since Fish sauce-sauce game hens! Gorgeous beef, delicious empanadas, what else does anybody need?

How Was The Wine? Dry, savory blackberry fruit, perfect earth, lovely hint of spice, great balance. Vallado's tinto is the best $20 and under red wine in my book. This thing is over six years old. Find me another $20-and-under, six-year-old wine that drinks like this and I'll give you...something...how about a hug? Tastes like the air of a mid-August Iowa summer (which is the air of the Douro all the time) in the bestest sense.

And The Pairing? The chimichurri beat it up the smallest wee bit, but overall this was so stupid-good.

Cost: $27 for food, $17 for wine = $44    

Monday: 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? Why has it been so long, fish tacos! This batch had a complete balance of flavor. Perfect hit of everything needed to find fish-taco joy. And a perfect kickoff to a great food weekend.

How Was The Wine? Pineapple wine made in Texas. We're fans, ever since having it at Minero in Charleston. Spicy grilled pineapple in a bottle. Frothy, almost beer-like but never all the way there. It demands you to pay attention to it in the best way.

And The Pairing? Strangely better than we expected, and we expected to love this. Purple Corn Sangria is great with fish tacos, but purple corn sangria can be a bit of work, particularly when you don't want to do said work and pineapple wine exists. Argus killed purple corn sangria and we're just fine with that.

Cost: $16 for food, $16 for wine = $32

Thursday, April 14, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #40

A certain Portuguese wine, in 2013 form, that is NEVER available in Chicago has popped up at a certain Chicago wine shop, Vin Chicago. We haven't seen this wine on any Chicago shelf for years, usually shipping them in and paying the premium. At $90, it doesn't get cheaper.

Put me out to pasture. I got a lil too excited about the prospect of a new vacuum cleaner this week. Get. Older.

September vacation plans are underway and this place looks infinitely intriguing.

And by September, I may have to be out of town as Chicago as a baseball town promises to be wildly stupid.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $120 for food and $142 for wine = $262

Total food and wine cost for the month: $987 for food and $1312 for wine = $2299

Sunday: Lou Malnati's Pizzas with 2012 Trader Joe's Barbera Lot #88 Mendocino County

Food Details: Sausage for her, pepperoni for me. Kale salad for both of us.

Did We Like It? Pizza snobs say they "never eat Chicago pizza." Eat. Me. 2-3 times a year, it's delicious.

How Was The Wine? Oddly fresh. It's 2012, it's cheap, it's Trader Joe's California barbera. Everything says this wasn't going to be freshy-fresh or lifty. It was, which is a good thing, because we have three more left, as these 2012s got lost in the wine shuffle over the last couple of years.

And The Pairing? Pizza and barbera. It's what's good. Juicy with acid, making for a good match with tomato sauce.

Cost: $30 for food, $10 for wine = $40

Saturday: Wild Boar Dirty Rice with 2014 Amancay Torrontés La Rioja

Food Details: Susan Spicer's wild and dirty rice recipe, via Food and Wine, using leftover wild boar from Tuesday instead of ground pork. Andouille chicken sausages, wild rice, mirepoix, chicken stock, herbs, wild boar, chicken livers, chopped scallions on top.

Did We Like It? It's a big, honkin' bowl of rice chockablock with meaty, herby, Cajun flavors. This was a Great Batch.

How Was The Wine? More TJ's torrontés. Flowers, acid, fruit, cheap.

And The Pairing? Did what gewürztraminer does with Cajun food: serve as a foil for everything in the bowl in the best possible sense.

Cost: $10 for food, $7 for wine = $17

Friday: YO-marinated Chicken Breasts, Chermoula, Avocado, Kumato, Cucumber, Arugula and Bread with 2013 La Val Orballo Albariño Rías Baixas

Food Details: Cheap bone-in chicken breasts marinated in leftover Ottolenghi three-chile sauce from last week and equal amount of evoo. Chermoula sauce (cilantro, garlic, cumin, paprika, chile pepper, white wine vinegar...)  from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. Avocado, kumatoes, arugula, cucumber and mini-ciabatta buns. Rip, top with combination of ingredients of your choice, and eat. Repeat. It's pick and choose.

Did We Like It? Stupid chermoula. It's delicious. Bevy of flavors bouncing everywhere. Delicious. Always. It's Good Food.

How Was The Wine? Stupid Orballo. All the other albariños under $20 try, but nothing beats the fruity, pitty, parsley-leaf-like, minerally, aggressive, confident goodness that is Orballo. And it wasn't even at its freshy freshest. Still perfect to us. Every time.

And The Pairing? The spiciness in the chermoula beat up the wine a bit but we didn't care. This was Good Food and Good Wine. On a Friday (our Tuesday). Lucky.

Cost: $10 for food, $18 for wine = $28

Thursday: Black Bean Soup with 2015 Dark Horse Rosé California

Food Details: No recipe. Whipped-up black bean soup using a hambone, chipotle and cumin, topped with tortilla chips, cilantro, sour cream, and cheese for me.

Did We Like It? IT MADE A LOT OF SOUP! And I've eaten it three times in the last three days. Clean you out! Soup doesn't inspire grand visions of delicious dinner for me, but this was fine soup. Simple, clean, filling.

How Was The Wine? $7 rosé from Dark Horse, a bargain California brand that's seemingly everywhere in town right now. 40% grenache, 20% barbera, 20% pinot gris, and 20% tempranillo. Nothing wonderful, but a 2015 freshness was present, the pinot gris REALLY showed up here, and it served our black bean soup needs. In moments, I got a big Charleston Chew hit.

And The Pairing? Food and wine. Nothing more than that, but good enough.

Cost: $5 for food, $7 for wine = $12

Wednesday: Barberry Boar with 2007 Angela Pinot Noir Clawson Creek Vineyard Willamette Valley 

Food Details: (recipe) A chicken recipe that Mrs. Ney typically does with beef, this time was done with wild boar shank. Slow-roasted boar, barberries, rosemary marcona almonds, cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, rice, mint. Roasted Brussels sprouts.

Did We Like It? It's just boar. Mainly, it was in the freezer because Mrs. Ney tacked it on to a D'Artagnan order to get to free shipping. Boar is fine and good, but rarely is it more than that. Here, it served as fine template-vehicle for everything else. Barberry perk and lift, spice-marrow juice, all the goods. We love this recipe for just that. Iranian dinner that we love every time we have it.

How Was The Wine? Here's an example of a well-crafted Oregon pinot noir that nearing the end of its run, yet still brings complexity and intrigue with every sip and each one was different. Sometimes dark cherries, other times wet leaves, iron at times, birch beer-sassafras others. Every sip wasn't delicious, but every sip was interesting and welcome. Very drinkable and quite fun to watch the progression.

And The Pairing? Worked. A slight sourness in the cherry fruit matched up with the barberries quite nicely, and enough in the way of guts in the wine helped to stand up to everything on the plate. We were very happy with this one.

Cost: $15 for food, $50 for wine - $65          

Tuesday: Fritto Misto with NV Cantina Sociale del Canavese Erbaluce di Caluso Spumante

Food Details: David Tanis NYT fritto misto. Bay scallops, calamari, shrimp, dover sole, fried up. Gabrielle Hamilton NYT tartar sauce, arugula salad to finish.

Did We Like It? Just look at it! When you don't want to leave the house, go down to Nico Osteria and get their fritto misto, here's an option that I frankly thought was better. Frying each fish-seafood separately seemed key. Great textural contrast, fresh batter. Arugula salad to finish so we could trick ourselves into thinking something nutritious was involved in this meal. Perfect.

How Was the Wine? We'd never heard of the erbaluce grape. After this, we want more. Sparkling erbaluce from north of Turin. Creamy pits of pit fruits to open, then it turned into a bevy of bright sherry notes with lemon peel popping up later. Long finish, delicious, and VERY interesting all-around. Most likely has been sitting in the bottle a wee bit too long for this grape, but we sorta loved the snot out of it.

And The Pairing? By no means a perfect fried-food-and-bubbles pairing, but everything separately and together was oh-so wanted and loved. Great meal.

Cost: $16 for food, $34 for wine = $50    

Monday: Nando's

Food Details: "I want a big plate of hot chicken and an enormous glut of fries with a bottomless amount of spicy mayo to dip them in." If that is a dinner thought, then go to Nando's. Whole chicken in hot peri-peri. Two sides of fries. Four sides of peri-peri mayo.

Did We Like It? For $60 with a bottle of wine, tip, no cooking or dishes, it's a great deal.

How Was The Wine? 2014 Cara Viva Branco Lisboa. Zippy, fruity, crisp, cheap Portuguese white wine. Nothing spectacular, but fine refreshment, and acid that stood up to the peri-peri in admirable ways.

And The Pairing? It works. Again, Nando's overall is not earth-shatteringly great. It's simply a whole hot and spicy chicken, tons of fries with mayo and a bottle of wine for $60 out the door. It wins in the cost-benefit analysis of end-of-week tiredness vs. roasting up a chicken and frying up fries at home. Just go to Nando's.  

Cost: $34 for food, $16 for wine = $50