Wednesday, October 7, 2015

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #13

Seasons change. Baseball's regular season has ended.

It's a sad day in many ways. The day-to-day workings of my life alter slightly. No more coming home from work, turning on the Angels, scanning through boxscores, watching highlights, calculating possibilities, creating a vague picture of how this week, month, year will play out. It's a process that means nothing, constantly changes and ultimately useless. And I could have taken the 350 hours a year I put into watching baseball and learned about five languages by now.

We all need processes, methods, well-understood flows and familiarities to get through the day-to-day and year-to-year. Baseball is mine. 184 days until Opening Day.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $170 for food and $365 for wine = $535

Sunday: Salmon, cream cheese, bagels, kumatoes, pickled onions and herb salad with 2014 Matthiasson Tendu White California

Food Details: Trader Joe's smoked salmon, cream cheese (tarragon, cilantro, chive, serrano, garlic, cream cheese), sesame seed bagels, sliced kumatoes, herb salad dressed with white vinegar and olive oil, and pickled onions. It's more pick-n-choose, because it's delicious. bagel+cream cheese+salmon+kumato+salad+onion, then eat.

Did We Like It? Always. This batch took on the ridiculous amount of coriander/mustard seed I put in the pickled onions quite nicely. Flavors flying all over the place!

How Was The Wine? We didn't love the 2014 version of the Tendu White last time we had it, feeling like the chardonnay toned down the spritely bounce that the 2013 offered. Mr. Matthiasson said the vermentino - which is the vast majority of the three-grape makeup here, along with French colombard - didn't have the requisite acidity to go 100% vermentino in 2014. But this drinking showed better. While still not getting as much distinction as the 2013 had, nice acid-vague fruit back-and-forth to be happy enough. Two bottles left.

And The Pairing? With the flurry of flavors in the pick-n-choose, the wine offered a nice acid-slight mineral refreshment and cleanse. We liked this pairing, even if it didn't reach higher than mere like.

Cost: $17 for food, $30 for wine = $47  

Saturday: Croque Monsieur-Champagne Lunch & Steak Frites-Syrah Dinner

Food Details: Croques Monsieur (recipe) lunch, with chicken and abondance cheese, using almond milk for the béchamel. Olive oil chips. Steak frites from Bistro Campagne for dinner. It was a Day of Celebration that turned bistro-style French.

Did We Like It? Golly this was a Good food day for Anniversary-type celebrations. Easy croques monsieur that weren't traditional but have all the goods that make good croquet monsieur good. Steak frites from Bistro Campagne. At $27 each, with the quality of the hanger here and the huge handful of fries that accompany it, and $15 corkage, it makes for one of the best quality-to-price ratios in our neighborhood. When we break down the cost of making steak frites at home, food is going to be in the mid-$30s with the hanger, potatoes, all the marinating ingredients, arugula, and probably something extra to make it different than other preps (like Sean Brock steak sauce). We'd drink a wine that isn't everyday cheap, probably between $25-40. So we'd already be in the $55-70 range for the both of us. Our bill at Bistro Campagne was $100 before tip (tip on the wine you bring, people). No dishes, no frying or frying-oil hassle and mess for the fries, and we get out of the house and go to an utterly pleasant restaurant space that has neighborhood charm. Big winner. And given how good their steak frites are, it's a bargain. A big one. PLUS! We have a glut of wines in our cellar that were bought with good intentions and former interest years ago that simply don't excite us like when we first bought them (I'm looking at you, 40 bottles of Right Bank Bordeaux). With $15 corkage, this is a perfectly productive way to shed these wines with food that goes with it. Might become a once-a-month thing.

How Was The Wine? The 2004 Gaston Chiquet Special Club Brut Millesime for lunch was nothing like Mr. Chiquet's other bottlings. Very loose, with tons of space. It wasn't vanilla. It was like the juice in the tank was NEAR vanilla. Or peach skin and cream. It was like the juice in the tank was NEAR peach skin and cream. Nice mousse and happy lift, with a minty undertone. Tasted like a unexpected yet welcome chilly breeze. We Loved it. We have no idea why we stopped drinking Champagne about a year ago. That'll be changing.

The 2007 Jonata "La Sangre de Jonata" Santa Ynez Valley Syrah, brought to Bistro Campagne and decanted there, needed a few more years and more air. Lovely violet, licorice, plum, tobacco, everything expected from this big-boy syrah (with 2% viognier), but with nice pauses and real elegance. Initially did feel very northern Rhône, but turned more Californian as the night went on, which wasn't unwelcome, but few surprises here underneath its alcohol and richness. We liked it. It was nice. And now we don't have it in the cellar, which is mostly fine with us. It was heady, and would still be a few years on, something we've mostly moved away from.

And The Pairing? The Gaston Chiquet was flat-out lovely with croques monsieur and chips. Just the best. And it kept changing; towards the end it felt like it was losing steam just a touch. The Jonata, though shortened a bit by a garlic bite, had real a presence and complete expression. Though again, maybe not an expression we love anymore. Like it, but paying $70-80 more for 10-15% more joy than, say, a Marietta Cellars or Owen Roe Ex Umbris...doesn't feel wise and certainly isn't in the budget. Also, some of these big boys can be surprisingly finicky with food. Since we don't drink red wine by itself...

Cost: $72 for food, $224 for wine = $296

Friday: Fenugreek-perfumed Black-Eyed Pea Curry, Naan and Raita with 2013 Recuerdo Torrontés La Rioja, Argentina

Source: From 660 Curries, page 321, "Fenugreek-Perfumed Black-Eyed Peas"

Food Details: Black-eyed peas, onion, garlic, ginger (added), peppers, tomatoes, dried fenugreek leaves, turmeric. Make the day before. It's better. Raita and naan, to dip, dunk and cool.

Did We Like It? It's now our favorite curry. This one helps on this day, because it's vegetarian and we have a large slab of meat on deck for tonight's meal. Lovely altering curry depth and lift, moving back-and-forth, up-and-down so nicely. Then the same back-and-forth, up-and-down with the altering curry-then-raita-on-naan bites. It's the best.

How Was The Wine? Fine enough torrontés. A higher floor for this torrontés in the cheap torrontés world, but nothing special. A little bit of Earthstone Sauvignon Blanc as well, just for funnsies.

And The Pairing? The floral notes in the torrontés brought a peek into the world of what good torrontés can be in the vindaloo/curry realm, but it never brought more than a peek. Even given that, this food was so good, with said peek, we were both quite tickled.

Cost: $9 for food, $12 for both wines = $21      

Thursday: Rotisserie Chicken with basil, tomatoes, arugula, pickled onions and ciabatta with NV Grifone Bianco Sicily

Food Details: After a chicken fail, have more chicken. Because who doesn't like chicken? Mariano's rotisserie chicken, ripped up into pieces, sliced tomatoes, pickled onions, arugula and mini-ciabatta buns. Build your own open-faced mini-sandwiches. It's pick-n-choose your own combination for each bite.

Did We Like It? Always. Easy and delicious. The basil and the stupid glaze Mariano's puts on their chicken was key. Both sets off this $5 riesling-moscato blend from Sicily in ways that's just strange. It's store-bought chicken and $5 wine...and it's perfect (also great with white BBQ sauce).

How Was The Wine? Fruity, bright, bouncy, and floral. For $5, this wine has a disproportionate amount of balanced refreshment.

And The Pairing? We wouldn't drink this wine by itself. It'd taste like $5. But with this meal, particularly this exact meal of Mariano's glazed chicken, tomatoes and basil (it needs all of those together), it turns into a great example of lightly floral, minerally refreshment with great snap. For me, it even offered more chicken skin notes in a different form. Oddly more savory than it's ever tasted, especially given that this is a riesling and moscato blend. We L-O-V-E this.

Cost: $13 for food, $5 for wine = $18
Wednesday: Let's Not Talk About It with 2012 Birichino Malvasia Bianca Monterey

Food Details: Failed chicken in mustard sauce. Weird texture on the chicken so we dumped it and had salami and dill havarti cheese with homemade Pugliese bread, which turned out quite nice. Mustard green salad with tomatoes and pickled onions. Filled a hole.

Did We Like It? See above.

How Was The Wine? Last bottle of Birichino Malvasia. Pretty elderflower and lime leaf. Happy stuff, but the failure of this meal clouded its loveliness.

And The Pairing? I can't believe I'm still writing words about this meal!

Cost: $5 for food, $28 for wine = $33

Tuesday: Lamb Chops, Charred Shallots, Yogurt, Tomato Vinaigrette and Pita with 2014 Broc Cellars Valdiguié Solano County and 2014 Charles & Charles Rosé Columbia Valley

Source: Melissa Clark shallot recipe, via NYT Cooking

Food Details: Trader Joe's lamb chops marinated in garlic, rosemary, evoo, soy and balsamic, seared medium-rare. Shallots, roasted in oven, placed over Middle Eastern yogurt, topped with parsley, mint and pomegranate seeds. Pita charred on the flat-top. Tomato vinaigrette to round out the meal.

Did We Like It? Mother F%7k! There was a lot of moaning, and strange sounds, and cursing. Here's a meal with flavors we have ALL the time, just in different proportions. It's Middle Eastern food, which is our favorite food, but this wasn't Middle Eastern food we've ever had before. The glut of yogurt coupled with the char of the shallots, the addition of herbs, all of that put on top of pita...again, all flavors we know well...but this was utterly different and stupidly delicious. It all came in the small adjustments to well-known goodness. This will be placed in the rotation and eaten once a month henceforth. Omit the meat (which also was so simple, yet so lovely here), substitute arugula and we'd be Just Fine for an easy weeknight meal that would completely satisfy every corner of our being (and serve it with any minerally, snappy white you like). The tomato vinaigrette was its usual goodness here, but superfluous. Not needed in the least.

How Was The Wine? The Broc Valdiguié was its typical loveliness. A well-made, light-bodied wine giving nice lilting notes of cherry, herbs and dried rose petals. A mismatch with this food though. We could have stayed with it and it would have been fine, but the Charles & Charles Rosé came off freshy French and jumped out of the glass with this food. Best this wine has shown for this vintage.

And The Pairing? The tomato vinaigrette and pita liked the valdiguié but shied away from the best part of this meal, the shallot-yogurt-pita bite. The Charles & Charles rosé didn't in the least. It loved every bite, turning gutsy and punchy in the best sense. This meal was so ridiculously great, words aren't gonna do it. Just make it, but skip the tomato vinaigrette until another day, when it can be the star of the show.

Cost: $29 for food, $39 for wine = $68

Monday: Asian Short Ribs with Star Anise and Tangerine, Kabocha Squash and Amaranth-Basil with 2010 Abacela Syrah Umpqua Valley 

Source: David Tanis recipe, via NYT Cooking

Food Details: Bison short ribs from Whole Foods (not always there, so buy them when they're there). Short ribs marinated with five-spice, tangerine zest and juice, ginger, garlic, etc., two-hour slow roast.  Roasted kabocha squash, wilted amaranth and basil, salad of tangerine-radish-scallions. Pan juice drizzled over bison and squash.

Did We Like It? There was a boatload to like here, though short ribs have a lower ceiling than many of our food loves. Juicy short ribs that went well with a multitude of different food bites. The amaranth-basil-meat combo was a big winner, but the kabocha squash and meat bite came in a close second. Nice with radish, solid with tangerine, this was a good meal. Mrs. Ney just wouldn't make it again.

How Was The Wine? With tangerine and five-spice, a tough match, but we found a wine that performed better than what most anything else would. The Abacela Syrah Estate is co-fermented with
1% viognier and includes 4% tempranillo, and each of them showed up to the party. Black fruits and plum, black and white pepper, cinnamon and smoke. Medium-bodied, trending more savory. But this was defined by its citrus-like acid that kept everything bouncy and buoyant, which helped immensely with the food.

And The Pairing? The wine changed with each bite, showing about ten different expressions with each chew-and-sip, all of them rather nice. Good wine guts here. Liked it muchly.

Cost: $25 for food, $27 for wine = $52  

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #12

Three links:

For decades, the concept of a 'hot hand' in sports was considered a fallacy. Not so now. And the reason is so simple. It's a overall modest adjustment on a long-held theory but a big one nonetheless.

Tonight, on 'Frontline,' the brother of a victim of the Lockerbie bombing spent 25 years trying to find the culprits. He just might have found the big fish. This great New Yorker piece last week has all the background.

When Taylonn Murphy's daughter was shot and killed over a turf war between rival gangs in New York's projects, he got angry, then went to work.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $82 for food and $79 for wine = $161

Total food and wine cost for the month: $557 for food and $627 for wine = $1184

Sunday: Pick-n-Choose with 2014 La Granja 360 Verdejo-Viura Castilla y León

Food Details: Salami, dill havarti cheese, kumatoes, arugula dressed with white vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, mini-ciabatta buns. Rip bread, top with the ingredients of your choosing. It's pick-n-choose.

Did We Like It? A nice version, a happy version. Arugula wasn't the best, but didn't distract. When there's pick-n-choose in front of you, and an easy, friendly, Spanish white, I recommend watching some food TV, like Bourdain's 'Parts Unknown' with Eric Ripert in Marseilles. It makes for a Good Time.

How Was The Wine? House white. Spanish verdejo-viura from Trader Joe's. It's $5 and suffices for meals like this. Its flavor tastes like a random Tuesday when we decided it was time for afternoon wine.

And The Pairing? Good. Enough. By no means anything great, just weekday food and wine together that made for a breezy, two-hour meal.

Cost: $11 for food, $5 for wine = $16

Saturday: Chili and Cornbread with 2011 Trader Joe's Syrah Paso Robles

Food Details: Black bean soup from the freezer - Mrs. Ney had no clue of its origin - turned into chili. Quick cornbread from this recipe. Bowl of chili, cornbread on the side. Butter.

Did We Like It? Just chili and cornbread. What originally was chili-soup right out of the freezer became chili-chili with a little adjustment. And it used stuff up.

How Was The Wine? We don't drink wines this big, typically, so in that sense, a nice change of pace. Big, indistinguishable fruit, wet cigar notes, pepper, something like candied violet. With black olives on the plate, this wine has always shown very well. Here, barely interesting enough for $10.

And The Pairing? Meh. Nothing to see here. Move along.

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

Friday: Dirty Rice with Andouille and 2013 VinTJ's Gewürztraminer Mendocino

Source: Susan Spicer's wild and dirty rice recipe, via Food and Wine.

Food Details: Andouille chicken sausages, wild rice, mirepoix, chicken stock, herbs, ground pork, chicken livers, chopped scallions on top, hot sauce added. It's a big, honkin' bowl of rice chockablock with meaty, herby, Cajun flavors. This batch had a big bundle of thyme cooked with it, turning it into the best batch of dirty rice we've had, I believe. Delicious thyme background pervading every freakin' bite. Golly, this is good.

How Was The Wine? It's cheap Trader Joe's gewürztraminer. Nothing special, but does have the ripe, sugary edge to counter to heat in the dirty rice, while maintaining enough energy to never turn sappy.

And The Pairing? This is a good example of cheap wine chosen well and matched well with food. Alone, this wine is fine enough, representative of the grape, but that's it. With this food, it takes that mere representation of the grape and utilizes it nicely to counter what's on the plate (or in the bowl). You have a weekday meal that tastes better, you find yourself wanting to take longer to eat it, and everything feels more complete. It becomes a pause in the day. Who doesn't want that everyday? We were quite happy.

Cost: $9 for food, $7 for wine = $16    

Thursday: Meatloaf and Potato Salad with 2013 La Caumette L'Authentique Languedoc-Roussillon

Food Details: Meatloaf (recipe here), made with ground beef, oats, onion, ketchup, egg, Worcestershire, garlic, s/p. Tried a new potato salad recipe to use up the mountain of russets in the house.

Did We Like It? It's meatloaf and potato salad, a 2-3 times a year thing, because it tastes like food from our childhood. Plus, it's getting cold, which we enjoy, so meatloaf and potato salad, with its loaf of meat and carb overload fits.

How Was The Wine? It's non-vintage, $5, Trader Joe's, GSM-like red from Languedoc-Roussillon. Smooth, medium-bodied, darker cherry-raspberry fruit. Tough to find the grape blend here but I wouldn't be surprised if the 'M" was merlot. It's French table wine that won't offend in the least.

And The Pairing? Mrs. Ney loved it with the ketchup. I haven't been a huge fan of this wine over the years, but didn't hate it here. Didn't love it...but didn't hate it.

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

Wednesday: Flaming ouzo shrimp, braised cucumber-radish salad and Ancient Grains bread with 2014 Schwarzböck Grüner Veltliner Austria

Source: Tony Mantuano shrimp recipe here. Julia Child cucumber recipe here.

Food Details: Simplified Mantuano shrimp (without the potato), serrano pepper, parsley, salt, pepper, lemon thyme, flamed up in the cast-iron. Spritz of lemon. Braised cucumbers and radishes. Basil, butter, white wine vinegar, onion, sugar, salt and pepper, braised in the oven. Ancient Grains bread from Whole Foods with butter.

Did We Like It? Best cooked shrimp we've had in this house. Perfect, with a perfect blend of herbs with ouzo hit. You ask me if I'd like to have some braised cucumbers and I'd say, "Eeeeh, sure, why not?" Nope. This was one of the oddest disconnects between look and taste. Looked like merely "braised, liquidy veggies" and tasted utterly...not that. The cucumbers retained much of their texture, sunniness, and juiciness, just in a toned-down way. Essence of cucumber without being cucumber-y. Quite delicious. Reminded me of Waxman's braised endive salad, something we loved a couple of years ago and have to have soon. Ancient Grains bread. If there's a better bread out there that brings more to the table, adding so much to so many different food preps, I haven't had it. Butter. We loved this.

How Was The Wine? Schwarzböck grüner, one-liter, $15. It's basic grüner with lemon-mineral notes, dry, high acid, nice length and balance. We'll be buying it until they stop making it.

And The Pairing? A technical problem with all three elements - shrimp, cucumber, wine - possessing the same level of high acid, but that didn't detract from us feeling like this was a fine dinner. Mrs. Ney said if she took away the spritz of lemon on the shrimp, we'd have had better balance and back-and-forth between acid levels. But happy enough.

Cost: $15 for food, $15 for wine = $30
Tuesday: Rick Bayless chicken, charred onions, Creek frybread and tomatillo sauce with 2014 Field Recordings Pinot Gris in the Can

Source: Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday, page 178-81 (or here). Tomatillo salsa, page 154 (essentially this, leaving out avocado and adding whole-grain mustard).

Food Details: Chicken marinated in ancho chile, oregano, cloves, cinnamon, garlic and apple cider vinegar, roasted on the griddle in the oven. Charred knob onions. Tons of cilantro on top. Tomatillo salsa made with charred tomatillos, garlic, roasted poblanos, cilantro, onion and whole-grain mustard.  Creek Native-American frybread (slightly different than Blackfeet fry bread, with buttermilk as dairy instead of low-fat milk) to top, dip and dunk.

Did We Like It? Yes, sir. All the flavors we like in sufficiently different taste and form. The cinnamon on the chicken showed up just enough to turn this chicken darker and deeper. Plus, beautiful roast on the chicken. "Moist." This frybread will be happening again. All your frybread needs are here. Subtle differences between all of them but it matters in terms of taste. The Creek version has a brightness, substance, and slight chewiness we like. The mustard in the tomatillo salsa played in the same world as the cinnamon in the chicken: taking everything into a darker realm, which we liked muchly. Essentially, this was pick-n-choose. Rip a piece of frybread, top it with whatever combo you like, eat, take a sip of wine, enjoy. On that wine...

How Was The Wine? Second straight night of Field Recordings canned wine. Mostly pinot gris here, with some chenin blanc, sauvignon blanc and malvasia tossed in for expansion, depth and guzzle-ability. Tons of sunny fruit in vaguely Asian form with some sort of Asian floral fruit leaf thrown in. Bright disposition, delicious acid, VERY nice. Stayed dry and loved this food.

And The Pairing? With the relatively darker food flavors, the sunny brightness in the wine served as a counterpoint while never clashing. Loved the salsa with frybread, and enjoyed everything else just fine. We wish this can was $7-8 like the grenache rosé here in Chicago, but it's $11. We'll still buy it, because it's lovely, just not 20 cans like the rosé.

Cost: $21 for food, $22 for wine = $43  

Monday: Indian Carrot Salad, Goat, Naan and Raita with 2014 Alloy Wine Works Grenache Rosé Central Coast

Source: Jamie Oliver recipe.

Food Details: We don't really mess with this recipe. It's a house joy eaten every 4-6 weeks. Fresh and delicious Indian flavors, made quickly and easily. Subbed ground goat for ground lamb this time, because we had goat and not lamb in the freezer. Arugula base, carrots, onions, ginger, garam masala (on the goat), cumin, cilantro, mint, lemon, sesame seeds. Crisped-up ground goat on top. Naan and raita on the side.

Did We Like It? Spicy, fresh, meaty, vegetable-y, dip, dunk, eat, cleanse. This was a great version. We probably like lamb more in this recipe, but the goat brought its subtle meaty funk while letting the veggies and spices shine more than lamb does here. If we were asked our top-10 house meals that we return to over and over again, this one is right up there, because it offers a feast of freshness with depth, takes forever to eat, and checks all the boxes in terms of satisfaction, on every level.

How Was The Wine? After we left a tasting at Field Recordings in Paso Robles a few weeks ago, we had to go back and get their grenache rosé in the can. It was so sparkly, fresh, broad and perfectly simple. A guzzler if there ever was one. $7 for a 500-ml can. We LOVE it with grilled lamb, arugula, tomatoes and bread back at our little Airbnb cottage in the country. And we were quite shocked to see it at a wine shop in town (not telling - we want more and they don't have a lot). It's been a rather terrible year for rosé in this house. Nothing's been particularly interesting and/or deep. This one has such a sunny disposition with pretty, bright strawberry and guava fruit and hints of brush, like the air as you sickle the weeds out back in the dead of summer (does anybody sickle anymore? I haven't seen a sickle in years).

And The Pairing? Big explosion of guava with the naan and raita. Delicious! Darker and a bit shorter with the goat. Nice balance with a veggie bite. Picked up the ginger and ran with it. We have 12 cans of this left. They'll be gone by mid-November. Gotta get more.

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #11

If some vine disease hit cabernet and malbec (and touriga nacional for me), our wine lives wouldn't be upset one bit. Like people, it's a personality thing. The personality expressed by those grapes don't offer the grace and quiet we want. It's not that they don't possess very own particular grace and quiet, just not the type we want.

With a somewhat limited wine budget, the flurry of fascinating grapes/blends/expressions out there today, and the fact that we don't eat beef five times a week, those grapes don't need to have a place in our wine life. We aren't left wanting in the least without them. 

But, at times, in order to challenge our preconceived notions so we don't become aging, grumpy, uncompromising curmudgeons, we have to drink cab and malbec on occasion so we don't become the people we hate. So we did. 

But you can go to hell, touriga nacional! You go to hell! You're great in a blend, but yourself, you go to hell!

Total food and wine cost for the week: $102 for food and $81 for wine = $183

Sunday: Meatballs in Date Sauce and Kale-Smoked Almond Salad with 2014 La Paca Garnacha Calatayud

Food Details: We're still sick, but getting better. Freezer date-kielbasa-tomato sauce. What do you do with that? It's sweet. It's sweet sauce. We don't want that! But this worked. Pork meatballs in date sauce, kale salad with smoked almonds and pecorino. A ton of parsley dumped over both the meatballs and salad. Mini-ciabatta buns. Rip a bun in half, top with meatball and kale salad. Eat.

Did We Like It? Kind of a lot! Tasted like a fall Italian mountain meal in a basic sense. Not sweet. Mrs. Ney toned down the sweetness to a point that the taste of date without a ton of date sweetness came through, and the kale provided a cut and lift quite nicely. No diminishing of results as we ate either. This was a big surprise.  

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? The low-level sweetness from the dates and ripeness of the fruit in the wine matched up and cancelled each other for the most part, allowing all the other flavors in the food and the wine to shine. We found a bevy of fluctuating flavors in each bite and sip. With both of us ill, this seemed like a perfect time to get rid of the date sauce we didn't particularly want. But this turned into a meal that was more than just "food to fill a hole." It tasted intentional, like people somewhere in the Italian mountains eat this in the fall and someone passed along the recipe to a cookbook as a meal indicative of the region. We liked this.    

Cost: $7 for food, $7 for wine = $14

Saturday: Pan Bagnat with Leftover Wine

Ours was less bursting with ingredients than this
Source: Recipe here, via Mr. Bittman in NYT Cooking

Food Details: Now I'm sick. Mrs. Ney recovering well, I take her place. More easy food. Pan bagnat, essentially tuna Niçoise in picnicky sandwich form. Ciabatta loaf filled with kumatoes, red peppers, marinated artichokes, capers, Greek olives, onions, basil and As do Mar jarred tuna. Drizzled with red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Entire loaf smushed flat.

Did We Like It? Yes. One note: don't skimp on ingredients. Load that baby up! I put on a simple layer of all of the ingredients. This needed an overflowing layer of each. Tasted like French street food from a park food cart that isn't going to be generous with everything. But we'll be making this again. We usually have most of these ingredients on hand.

How Was The Wine? Leftover fridge wine from the last two days.

And The Pairing? The malbec rosé served merely as basic "wine" matcher, but the picpoul was quite nice, tasting like regional food and wine dancing like they typically dance. Sad we only had one glass left.

Cost: $10 for food, $0 for wine = $10

Friday: Arroz con Pollo with 2014 Innovacíon Rosé Mendoza

Source: Recipe here, Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday

Food Details: Mrs. Ney still can't taste anything, so easy food that has texture, something she can taste. Mexican rice, black beans, chicken, onions, chile, garlic, cilantro, chicken on the recipe. It's a good one. Sour cream on top for me. No dairy for Mrs. Ney. Hot sauce. 

Did We Like It? Fine. Rice and chicken went a little over. Big bowl of Mexican goop. Served us well enough.

How Was The Wine? Wine. A Whole Foods liter bottle of malbec-syrah rosé that we've loved this summer for its cheapness and liter-ness. This bottle had a church wine quality.

And The Pairing? Barely registered.

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

Thursday: Pick-n-Choose with 2014 Trader Joe's Cuvée Azan Picpoul et Pinet Languedoc

Food Details: Harvesttime Roasted Chicken, Tomatoes, Pepper salad, Ciabatta and Mayo.

Did We Like It? Mrs. Ney is still sick. And there's gonna be a lot of "Let's just buy a chicken and bread and use up tomatoes and greens" meals on Thursday through the end of the year. Mrs. Ney's job and the upcoming holidays associated with that job demand it. Buy a chicken, char up some bread, use up tomatoes and greens in the house, open up some mayo, go to town. It's open-faced mini-sandwiches that has everything you need. We ditched the herb butter made for the bread rather quickly and moved on to something we love more than most people: mayonnaise.

How Was The Wine? Trader Joe's picpoul, another house love. Has the nose of pit fruit, the dryness of rosemary, the tart, puckering crispness of Muscadet, and the minerality of basic albariño. There's a minimum quality here that's always welcome for $8.

And The Pairing? This bottle showed more of its alcohol than it usually does. Wasn't unpleasant, but didn't show as well as it has.

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

Wednesday: Southern Biscuits and Gravy with NV Trader Joe's Reserve Brut Sparkling North Coast

Source: Alton Brown. Biscuits here. Gravy here.

Food Details: I'm a sucker for novelty food products created by multinational conglomerates. To the letter, they're terrible, though Lay's jamon chips have a vacation taste. When Lay's came out with their gyro/reuben/biscuits and gravy-flavored chips, my sucker impulse kicked in. Finally found the gyro and reuben, but not the biscuits and gravy. So with Mrs. Ney sick and no dinner joneses after the past few days of ridiculously great food, we had biscuits and gravy.

Mariano's breakfast sausage. Rice milk with a little flour subbed for milk in gravy.

Did We Like It? It was just fine. Satisfied the jones of biscuits and gravy, a food I think I've had only three times in my life. I've never been a breakfast person and this has ALWAYS the third choice in my world growing up so it simply never made it onto my plate.

How Was The Wine? Trader Joe's, $10, fresh bubbles done well.

And The Pairing? This TJ's sparkler isn't fancy, but it has an fresh breeze quality, herbs and fuzzy fruit, and accommodating structure that goes well with food, particularly buttermilk or biscuits or buttermilk biscuits. It's our default, cheap, house bubbles.    

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

Tuesday: Tuesday: Ottolenghi Fish, Cocount-Peanut Salad and Rice with 2013 Darting Muskateller Cabinet Trocken

Source: Yotam Ottolenghi recipe from The Guardian

Food Details: Whole Foods whitefish (substitute - we don't love mackerel), salt-pepper-seared. Salad of fresh coconut, peanuts, manzano pepper, scallion, mint, cilantro. Dressing of mirin, rice vinegar, coconut sugar, ginger. Rice. Charred lime spritzed on top of everything. Go to the recipe and buy all the specific ingredients. Don't get creative. Don't get lazy and say, "Oh, it doesn't need mirin." Just make it to the letter. Your fish substitute isn't a big deal. Fish is background here. This is Mr. Ottolenghi. You DON'T screw with it. He knows.

Did We Like It? This meal is a statement piece. This is Armani worn well. This is the first spring breeze. This is perfect food.

This is the best meal AND pairing we've had in a LONG TIME.

How Was The Wine? The color of the wine with this meal ALONE! Smelled like gewürztraminer, tasted like gewürztraminer and Muscadet had a baby. We've had Darting's muskateller before and liked it, even sort of loved it. Here, after having this - along with picpoul and Gavi - it's all I want. Grapefruit, peach, floral, herbal, medium-light, dry. Sparkled. A second bottle of 2014 Selbach Incline - cheap, well-made, representative German riesling - only told the story of how perfect the muskateller was with this food.

And The Pairing? As pretty, classy, and jumping out of the glass as I've had in, again, a LONG time. This was very nice on its own, but with this food, utterly complete. This wasn't just a pairing. This was perfect food with a wine perfectly tailored to this food. We can't think of a pairing we've had where that was more true.

Cost: $15 for food, $18 for wine = $33

Monday: Tuesday: Argentinian Skirt Steak and Shishito Pepper, Inland Cress and Frisée Salad with 2012 Luca Malbec Uco Valley

Source: A David Beran recipe in this month's Food & Wine, a publication we have a love-hate relationship with, but a recipe like this pops up once an issue, and the $12/year seems worth it. 

Food Details: Whole Foods skirt steak (very pretty beef), marinated overnight in rosemary, thyme, garlic, shallots, peppercorns and grapeseed oil, seared medium-rare. Salad of blistered shishito peppers, inland cress, frisée, mint, celery and leaves, and Rogue Creamery Flora Nelle Blue Cheese crumbled on top. Dressing of charred lemon and evoo. Using the apple peeler, potatoes run through, creating thin, long, narrow potato crisps, fried. Garlic-parsley mayo for dipping. 

Did We Like It? There was a lot of swearing. Perfect meat with a marinade that was so gosh darn delicious. A salad that ran right up against the wall of the high-end of bitter, even breaking through at times, that we nonetheless loved, mostly because it was flavors we like and enjoy while being entirely new. Potato crisps and mayo dip that offered a carb to the meal while coming off light. If we saw this meal listed on a restaurant menu, we'd blow right by it, dismissing it outright. Skirt steak-shishito pepper-watercress salad? It'd probably be $32 and not conger up anything resembling "I gotta have that!" But this was freakin' stupid-great.

How Was The Wine? Malbec. We're not friends. But with food you like, like here, you can offer an enjoyable conversation, especially when you're made by Luca, a great house. Classy fruit. Very classy. So polished and spit-shined; never overripe, heavy or burdensome. Always buoyant and on the right side of the savory-sweet line. Two-hour decant and it helped. becoming a wine of medium length but proper presents parsed out at a pretty pace. Black cherry/berry and plum, smoky meat, cola and a wee hint of roses. A very nice wine. Does it change our mind about malbec? 3%. We're 3% more open. 

And The Pairing? That's where the 3% comes from. It felt like this food and this wine were made for each other/belonged together, making for a stellar two-hour meal. The wine loved-loved-loved the crisps and a bite of beef and blue cheese. Less so with the salad but never obstinate. A very good meal.  

Cost: $38 for food, $30 for wine = $68

Thursday, September 17, 2015

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #10

One the disgusting subsets of browsing through social media is the drive of many people to out-obscure each other; the more obscure, the more "authentic" and "serious" they seem to think they are. But it's downright bizarre to see that impulse translated to a restaurant wine list.

This house can't recommend Dept. of Speculation more.

And I love John McPhee. His writing feels like the writing that first made me want to read writing.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $96 for food and $186 for wine = $282

Sunday: Sausage, Zucchini, Tomato and Cream Cheese Surprise with 2013 Charles Smith VINO Pinot Grigio Columbia Valley

Source: Based on a recipe from Mexican, by Jane Milton (page 186)

Food Details: In a fairly hot pan, brown two sliced onions. Add garlic and four [previously salted and rinsed] sliced-into-sticks zucchini, sautée some more. Add diced pickled serranos to your taste, half-pint of halved cherry tomatoes; sautée briefly. Turn off burner, add half a block of cubed cream cheese to melt in residual heat. In a separate pan, brown  8 ounces of loose Italian sausage. When fully cooked, dump into zucchini pan, warm through. Fresh oregano and dill. Buy everything at Harvestime so total cost for all this is $5.  Plus a $5 loaf of Whole Foods Ancient Grains bread.  What more do you ask of life?

Did We Like It? In the category of "goop on bread," I think this might be the best "goop" I've ever eaten. "What the hell?!" were the unanimous words over this. And this was good before the sausage. Objectively RIDICULOUS after. We'll be having this again. On a Sunday. Probably soon. And definitely often.

How Was The Wine? Juicy, silky, peppy, fresh and clean. We'll be drinking this guzzler until Mr. Smith stops making it. When one talks value wines, if this isn't on the list, stop reading that list.  

And The Pairing? Dreamy. It spit in the face of the relatively high heat from the pickled serranos and became a full, bright and lovely version of this pinot grigio that's become our house wine for veggie-centric meals. I thought it was starting to tail off eight weeks ago. Nope. Here, it was pumping along quite nicely, thank you very much. This dinner was as surprising as it gets.

Cost: $10 for food, $13 for wine = $23

Saturday: Savory Potato Tart and Salad with 2013 Jacques Bourguignon Chablis

Source: David Tanis recipe, from NYT Cooking.

Food Details: Mandolined potatoes, sliced very thin (creates a perfect potato goop), leeks, crème fraiche, garlic, thyme, other seasonings; all baked pie-style, this time using buckwheat flour. Spring green salad on the side.

Did We Like It? Paris bistro lunch. Nice one-off with the buckwheat flour. We probably like the traditional crust better, but this was nice.

How Was The Wine? Decent. All the basics of Chablis in Trader Joe's cheaper form. At $13, if it had a couple of deeper, distinctive nuggets to offer, this might be a solid bargain. But it doesn't. Tasted like a cloudy day where nothing much happens.

And The Pairing? Serviceable.

Cost: $9 for food, $13 for wine = $22

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

Food Details: Orecchiette with sausage, rapini, onion, red pepper flakes, parsley, bread crumbs and evoo.

Did We Like It? It's a once or twice a month dinner. Has been for years, mostly because it's classic Italian that has what we want on a work-night: meat, bitter, carbs, a little heat and herbs. Odd we haven't had it during the 10 weeks of this here 365 experiment. Solid batch this time. Bitter rapini, which was wanted by me. It's a Big Bowl of Good.

How Was The Wine? Trader Joe's Gavi done well. Dry, crisp, lightly floral, peaches, medium-bodied. A dryness resembling the air of a freshly cut 2x4. Gavi and picpoul. It's all I want right now.

And The Pairing? Italian with Italian. It's always happy. If you're stumped on a pairing for Italian food, start with Italian wine and you're halfway there.

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

Thursday: Rotisserie Chicken, White BBQ Sauce, Herb Salad and Ciabatta with 2013 Pazo Señoras Albariño Rías Baixas

Food Details: Harvesttime Greek rotisserie chicken, ripped up. "HEY! WE STILL HAVE WHITE BBQ SAUCE!" Herb salad with dill added. Mini ciabatta to top.

Did We Like It? We'll be having this probably once a week through the end of the year. Not this exact meal, but store-bought chicken with various accompaniments. Because it's no-cook, two-seconds-in-the-kitchen-on-a-weeknight Good. Mariano's has a soy-glazed chicken. Harvesttime, Greek. Rip a piece of bread, slather it with mayo, butter or some sort of leftover sauce from earlier in the week, add ripped chicken, top it with some tomatoes, or kumatoes, finish with some dressed greens. There's dozens of combinations and all of them delicious, just make sure to have some food acid involved. White BBQ sauce here, use tomatoes with mayo, etc. Each bite has everything you need for Sat-is-faction.

How Was The Wine? There's always some cheap white wine in our fridge, full bottle or leftover bottle, with some minimal level of refreshing, snappy acid. It's what we like. Like the albariño from below. Mrs. Ney experimented with this and the Earthstone Sauvignon Blanc. Albariño won. Both were nothing to get excited about, but the albariño let the food shine more.

And The Pairing? We wanted the food, while the wine didn't get in the way, even bringing some wee hints of food-wine nuzzle that made it acceptable.

Cost: $11 for food, $20 for wine = $31  

Wednesday: Cacio e Pepe with 2013 Cos Frappato Sicilia

Source: Saveur.

Food Details: Linguine, with paski sir (Croatia) and medoro (Sardinia) cheeses. Tellicherry pepper, oregano, olive oil. Arugula and pomegranate seed salad to finish.

Did We Like It? A miss. Something about the sheep cheese didn't pop like it usually does. Tasted like something it was missing. The dog Loved it though (see video).

How Was The Wine? A bottle of 2013 Pazo Señoras Albariño Rías Baixas REALLY missed, so we opened the Cos Frappato, which was better. But that's the best that can be said. Light, as frappato is, with notes of iron, strawberries and parsley that's just about to turn. Fine enough, a bit pricey at $26 for what it is, but pleasant overall (read: probably wouldn't buy it again).

And The Pairing? Meh.

Cost: $16 for food, $26 for wine (both wines included) = $42

Tuesday: Husk Cheeseburgers and waffle fries with NV Marietta Cellars Christo Lot 1 Sonoma-Mendocino 

Source: Sean Brock's Heritage cookbook, page 131.

Food Details:  Double stack burgers with American cheese, onions, mustard-pickle sauce, potato buns. Bagged waffle fries.

Did We Like It? Last had here. They were delicious then, but "The Bestest!" here. Best burger we've had in this house and rivals the very best out in the world. Mrs. Ney has no idea why this batch was so perfect. Juicy, cheesy, meaty. A perfect blend of all that with every bite. Our burger standard has been Kuma's for the most part. Maybe a little Five Guys thrown in when it's really good. Skyway and  Husk Cheeseburgers has nudged its way in and it's here to stay.

How Was The Wine? Syrah, grenache, petite sirah and viognier. Fresh dirt, smoke, tar, blackberries, blueberries, lavender, grizzle. Savory. It's the perfect summertime red in our world. Came off lighter this time, but still retained its signature smoky entry followed by a bright, herby black/blue fruit bouncy middle and viognier "vooooop" finish. A bit of dark red cherries sneaking in on the finish this time.

And The Pairing? It's the opposite of the link to that stupid wine list in the introduction above. Good food, good wine, no pretension, no obfuscation. Loved it.

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

Monday: Thomas Keller Chicken, Fennel and Olives with 2012 Domaine de Vieux Télégraphe Blanc CDP (two 375mls) and 2014 A Tribute to Grace Grenache Rosé Santa Barbara Highlands

Source: Mr. Keller's recipe, via the LA Times.

Food Details: Braised chicken thighs, onions, garlic and fennel, sweated. Pan deglazed with wine, Castelvetrano olives, pitted, added with red pepper flakes, lemon zest, thyme. Return chicken to the pan with everything. Oven for 20 minutes, broiler until skin crispy. Topped with sunflower sprouts and parsley. Separately, grape tomatoes braised in evoo, herbes de Provence, garlic and anchovies for a different spin on Provençal tomatoes (this will be popping up again in puréed form). Pugliese bread to butter, dip and drag.

Did We Like It? Hell, yes. Always. And it was completely different from any time we've previously had it. Funky, groovy depth. Came off more lean than before, with a late summer garden quality, similar to when everything in the garden starts to meld together in smell, probably due to the sunflower sprouts. No crispy potato roast this time, which is always good, but wasn't missed. A great meal.

How Was The Wine? Our default wine for this meal, a white Vieux Télégraphe, because it's perfect with this food. The prep was slightly different this time, but the wine remained the same well-made, utterly delicious, perfectly structured wine that revealed itself at its own pace. Big, bright macadamia nut and apple mixture this time, our first of this vintage. It's the best stuff, and ideal for TK chicken with fennel and olives in any form. Highly recommended pairing. A bottle of A Tribute to Grace Rosé as well, which surprised us with its more boisterous personality, something we haven't found in this winery's grenache reds. Butter-braised strawberries with touches of herbs. Quite bright and friendly. Very nice.

And The Pairing? See above. I really don't know if we've had the Télégraphe Blanc with anything else. And why would we?

Cost: $29 for food, $90 for wine = $119

Saturday, September 12, 2015

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #9

The end of our week-long California trip, low-lighted by a delayed flight, crabby flight passengers, and getting home at 2am.

California, you're nice. We like you in doses and in specific spots. Your food and food culture are wonderful, but only in doses. Getting back home to Home Food, as I seem to write every time I do a vacation recap on this here bloggy-blog, is What We Want.


Total food and wine cost for the week: $277 for food and $281 for wine = $558

Sunday: Ham, Cheese, Onion and Pickled Jalapeño Flatbread with 2014 Innovacíon Rosé Mendoza

Food Details: "What's in the house?" naan pizzas. Cheap ham, cheap cheese, onions and pickled jalapeños, baked.

Did We Like It? Fine, good, food, done.

How Was The Wine? Great rosé for $8. Weeknight workhorse. On its own here, I loved the snot out of it. All bright, sparkly and refreshing.

And The Pairing? Jalapeños killed it, turning it into a rather boring drinker. A bite without jalapeño was much better, but never got out of the realm of run-of-the-mill rosé.

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

Saturday: Beet-marinated Chicken Curry with 2014 João Portugal Ramos LIMA Loureiro Vinho Verde

Source: Weeknight riff on chakundari chicken tikka, from Mark Bittman at NYT. Mr. Bittman is retiring from the mothership, by the way. Sad face.

Food Details: Beet-marinated chicken (beet marinade from freezer), cilantro, peas, onions over rice. Chicken, un-skewered; onions sauteed in fond, deglazed with stock; lemon juice spritz.

Did We Like It? Big bowl o' food! Great smells while cooking, but something got lost in translation. Never rose above vaguely curry-ish, beety chicken and rice.

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

And The Pairing? A miss here as well. The food stripped out LIMA's lilting appeal. Fine enough, but boring. Better on its own.

Cost: $6 for food, $8 for wine = $14

Friday: "What's in the House?" Quiche and Arugula Salad with 2014 Caves de Charmelieu Saint-Bris Sauvignon Blanc

Food Details: Onions, tomatoes, leftover peppers, parsley, thyme. Gruyère cheese. All in quiche form. Arugula salad on the side. It's bistro lunch food.

Did We Like It? We always like it. It's once-a-month quiche that's we haven't had once-a-month in a while. Not fancy, just everything you need. Quiche, with salad on the side. Done. Eat.

How Was The Wine? It's Trader Joe's sauvignon blanc from Saint-Bris in Burgundy. Didn't think Burgundy made sauvignon blanc? They do. There's a creamy-pasture note with nice snap that makes this one a good sauvignon blanc alternative on the cheap. Last year's vintage was better, but it showed well here.

And The Pairing? It showed well because of the gruyère cheese, which likes sauvignon blanc. Best this vintage has drunk.

Cost: $6 for food, $10 for wine = $16

Thursday: Duck Meatballs, Amaranth Seed Polenta Cakes and Borlotti Bean Gravy with 2012 Raul Péréz Ultreia Mencia Bierzo and 2009 Domaine des Tours Vaucluse Rouge

Source: Gravy and andouille-spiced meatballs [Mrs. Ney was not stuffing sausage casings] in Sean Brock's Heritage cookbook. Amaranth polenta cakes from this recipe, from Bob's Red Mill.

Food Details:  Ground duck meatballs, amaranth seed polenta cakes, borlotti bean gravy (using borlotti instead of lady pea gravy in the cookbook), red, yellow and green peppers, leftover amaranth greens, and parsley on top.

Did We Like It? Yes. Wouldn't make it again, as everything was very subtle in pop and punch, but some very good flavors here. And very complete in flavor play. The bean gravy created a subtle, peppery-bean, underlying flavor to everything that was quite nice. Everything was done well, ate well, very much liked and enjoyed. It was simply more quiet than we like. But amaranth seed polenta cakes are A Thing. Like the amaranth leaves with the goat kofta above, they offer an earthy, expanding, country breeze note that broadens things out and integrates into savory, planty, veggie-centric flavors quite well.

How Was The Wine? We figured the Raul Péréz mencia would match the weight of the food and like the duck. It didn't. Not even a lil bit. Came off flat, tired and saggy. No lift or liveliness. So we opened a Vaucluse that's been sitting around, was past its prime and HAD to be consumed. It tasted like it.

And The Pairing? The duck helped make the wine taste like its former self, if only a little bit. Enough resemblance of a proper wine flow to not open a third bottle.

Cost: $25 for food, $47 for wine = $72 (oof!)

Wednesday: Goat Kofta, Cauliflower, Amaranth Leaves, Tahini and Pita with 2006 Two Hands Beautiful Stranger Barossa

Source: Goat kofta from Yotam Ottolenghi (do a book search here). Cauliflower, hazelnut, pomegranate salad based on this recipe, from NYT, and Ottolenghi's as well.

Food Details: Goat kofta made with allspice, cinnamon, etc. (similar flavors used in the salad). The only real difference in this meal to the last time we had it was using amaranth leaves as the greens. Roasted cauliflower-hazelnut-pomegranate salad. Celery, parsley, onions, mint, serrano. Tahini and pita.

Did We Like It? "This is what all other food wants to be!" Spicy, nutty, crunchy, fresh, bright, slightly sweet, every flavor and food sensation, all put together on a plate. There is absolutely nothing missing here. You don't like this, you don't like food. It's perfect, perfectly balanced, makes your tongue go, "Wow!" and was a much needed meal after simple California food. We had arrived Home when we ate this.

How Was The Wine? Shiraz done in the Amarone style. Our second 2006. 2004 was one of our favorite wines of last year. Very pretty nose of smoldering fire and berries. A bit alcoholic, nice fruit, quite round, bit of ash, burning wood. Nice wine, didn't work here.

And The Pairing? Too big for this meal. Didn't work, but we didn't really care. This food is surprisingly light in overall impression. The cauliflower creates a gap that allows the spices to take a break, sucking up its possibly larger punchy blitz on "spices!" That creates bouncy, broad, deliciously balanced food, but it needs a wine that matches those gaps. This one is too brawny and in your face to allow that. The mint helped a bit, as it does with shiraz, which was nice.

Cost: $15 for food, $75 for wine = $90 

Tuesday: Bocadillos and Gioia Pizzeria 

Notes: Two lunches in San Francisco we wanted to hit before leaving, and our only trip into the city, oddly. Just didn't want anything from the city after sitting on the bay. Bocadillos, Gerald Hirigoyen's sister restaurant to Piperade, feels like a San Sebastian interpretation for the corporate lunch crowd during the day and young tech-types for nosh and drinks at night. It's done well for that realm. Pretty space, solid food. Bocadillos of salmon, lamb and BLT. Patatas bravas and empanadas. Cheap pink Cava to drink. A pleasant lunch.

Gioia Pizzeria's San Francisco outpost inevitably drew comparisons to the original Berkeley spot. A bistro-style feel inside that San Francisco does very well, but our hearts lie in Berkeley. Something was a tad amiss in flavor. Same dough deliciousness, less overall greatness. Two acciughe and two summer squash slices. Two glasses of Zibibbo to drink, which is fun to say.

Airport early to see if we could catch an earlier flight. Nope. Our flight delayed, then not, then delayed, then a new plane, it was hot in the terminal, hot in the plane, people were crabby, got home at 2am. Annoyed. Could have been worse. Vacation done.

Cost: $85 for food, $60 for wine =  $145

Monday: Fish in Sausalito and Harmony Chinese in Mill Valley

Notes: This is exhibit A of the above. We could have gone out into the world for another spendy California meal. It would have been fresh. It would have been good. It would have had $300. So cheap eats.

Fish in the Sausalito Harbor is a "form a line before they open" kind of thing, because it's fresh fish boated right up to the Sausalito Harbor, 50 feet away. was fresh and it was good. Since the freshness of the fish is the star, nothing too complex is added. The fish and chips were quite great, the fish tacos less so. Crab roll, lacking a bit. Bottle of house Vinho Verde to wash things down. We'd go back for the fish and chips with house tartar. That's good fish and chips.

Harmony Chinese for dinner, because it was right around the corner and a take-home Chinese spread before flying out the next day, sitting outside on the bay, sounded perfect. Kung pao chicken, house beef, green beans, pot stickers, egg rolls, rice, all the Chinese goods. Once again, fresh and good. No complaints. Had to drink the wine we bought during the trip, so two bottles: 2014 Broc Cellars Picpoul Blanc Luna Matta Vineyard Paso Robles and 2014 Field Recordings Camp 4 Carignan. Loved both wines. The Picpoul we knew, and love. It's domestic picpoul with a Muscadet edge. The carignan (25% cinsault) was a surprise. Better than when we tasted it at Field Recordings, all flowers and bright, round red fruits with a touch of fancy dirt. Big fans.    

Cost: $130 for food, $73 for wine = $203

Friday, September 11, 2015

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #8

A week in California...

Jeremy Fox's Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica...The Price Is Right...Paso Robles for two days...Field Recordings...Pacific Coast Highway...Santa Cruz...Spanish Table...Kermit Lynch...Chez Panisse Café...Broc Cellars...North End of Richardson Bay/Tiburon for three days...Skydiving...Pig In A Pickle after skydiving...Fish...Harmony Chinese...Bocadillos...Gioia Pizzeria.

A nice vacation. A lot to like and remember, highlighted by skydiving, freakin' Berkeley again (feels like early retirement Home to us), some good wine, two spectacular Airbnbs, and a lot of sitting.

I'll forget most of it by early next year, with flashes returning here and there. September in the U.S. hasn't been the way we do it the last few years. This trip was fine, and being in the country has its advantages. Being out of the country has more.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $439 for food and $387 for wine = $826

Total food and wine cost for the month: $787 for food and $939 for wine = $1726

Sunday: Skydiving and Pig In A Pickle

Notes: Can't recommend Bay Area Skydiving more. Organized, efficient, and a great staff. Bruce and J.P. as instructors were rather awesome. 85-degree day, clear skies, 13,000 feet, in and out in less than two hours. Perfect (except don't leave your mouth open on the free fall like I did. Oof!) This was our third jump, first in ten years. We gotta do this more!

Pig In A Pickle southern BBQ after skydiving, because we wanted an enormous comfort food feast after jumping out of a plane. Whole smoked chicken tossed in Alabama white sauce, potato salad, cornbread, rolls, and more tomato-parsley salad. Served with 2014 Kermit Lynch Côtes du Rhône Blanc (formerly the Sunflower Cuvée, I believe) and a bottle of NV Veuve Fourny & Fils Blanc de Blanc Brut Nature Champagne. Fine, fresh and good. Nothing really to report with the pairing, though the Champagne was delicious on its own.

Cost: $50 for food, $70 for wine = $120 

Saturday: Chez Panisse Café, Broc Cellars and Spanish Table cured meats and cheese spread

Notes: Solid meal again at Chez Panisse Café. Our fourth trip to Chez Panisse in some form, this meal confirmed again that while it's never the best meal you've ever had, or even close, it's a reminder that restaurants should get back to what Chez Panisse has been doing for decades: Feed People Well.

Heirloom tomato salad to split, chicken and scallop entrées. Silly-good California freshness all around, but the best part was the wine, a bottle of 2012 Jolie Laide Trousseau Gris, Fanucchi Vineyards, Russian River Valley, a wine that will probably be bought by us for years after having it here (best wine of the trip and it's not even close). Such prettiness and purity. Shimmered and sang a beautiful song. Dirt, flowers and stars. At $54 on a wine list? Wow!

Our standard Berkeley stops at Spanish Table and Kermit Lynch. Beautiful Berkeley morning air. An enjoyable Broc Cellars tasting after Chez Panisse, another stop this trip was built around. Golly, we like their wines. And I got to try the Nero d'Avola, something I've wanted to do, and now I don't have to buy it.

Spectacular Airbnb #2 (pictured). Extreme north end of Richardson Bay with the San Francisco skyline in the background. Quiet, right at the end of the trail that leads all around the bay, plenty of birds, dogs, a seal, and people that view not having kids as a valid life choice. Our people.

And plenty of warm smiles and faces. That's quite a contrast from Chicago.

Dinner of cured Iberico meats and idiazabal cheese spread with baby parsley and "Jon's tomatoes" salad and TJ's bread. Served with 2014 Raventos i Blanc La Rosa Rosado Penedès, a 100% pinot noir rosé, from Spanish Table.

This was a good day.

Cost: $200 for food, $130 for wine = $310

Friday: Los Robles Café, the Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Cruz, the Picnic Basket and Falafel Hut

Notes: The Pacific Coast Highway, was...rather...underwhelming. I had built this road trip up in my head so much since my early 20s that, after so much natural wonder in Spain, Portugal, Italy and southern France over the years, it fell short of my bloated expectations. And not helped by the end-point being Santa Cruz and the Labor Day Weekend kid fest that it was. Los Robles Café Mexican food before getting out of Paso. Then the PCH. Beautiful landscape that, hate to say, wore thin a bit. $6.50/gallon gas near Big Sur. That was fun. Then Santa Cruz for lunch at Picnic Basket. Two BLAs and two glasses of Birichino Malvasia. Hotel Paradox for a dip in the pool that didn't happen. Humans and human children galore! Dipped our feet in the Pacific at the beach, then got dinner at Falafel Hut (with 2014 Field Recordings Jurassic Park Chenin Blanc). Nothing to report here. Move along. We couldn't get out of that town f'in fast enough.

Cost: $45 for food, $35 for wine = $80

Thursday: Lamb loin, tomatoes, arugula and bread with 2014 Field Recordings Grenache Rosé 

Notes: This Airbnb, sitting among Paso Robles vineyards, was a top-5 stay for us. Gorgeous views, quiet, stars, fire pit, great owner, perfect little cottage.

Went to a Field Recordings tasting and bought a 4-pack of canned grenache rosé. Went to Trader Joe's, bought some lamb loin. Jon, the owner of the property, gave us some of the ripest tomatoes we've ever seen. Grilled up the lamb, set the table, popped our cans, eat and drank. Lovely weather, lovely views of the vineyards, lovely fire pit, lovely dog, Percy, that keeps watch over the property and any possible food droppings (loves lamb fingers).

Flip through the pictures of the Airbnb link. This place is better than the photos. Great outside-inside, light-dark-light flow. We don't even gravitate to Paso wines. We loved Villa Creek in the past specifically, but generally don't drink them. We'd return just to stay here. And shoot down to Santa Barbara.

Cost: $20 for food, $16 for wine = $36

Wednesday: The Price Is Right and In-n-Out Burger

Notes: Yep. The Price Is Right. Then In-n-Out Burger. TPIR was an 8-hour ordeal that we're glad we did, just for funnsies, but wouldn't do it again. EVER. Both of us were surprised how small the studio was, and how completely insane the crowd really is. Whew! Not our element. And In-n-Out Burger makes a fine burger. Didn't love it though. Skipped the lower half of the PCH through Santa Barbara, etc. because Google said traffic was jammy-jammed. Up the I-5 to a great AirBnb just outside Paso Robles. Cost: $20 

Tuesday: Jeremy Fox's Rustic Canyon Wine Bar in Santa Monica

Notes: We heart getting bumped up to an earlier flight and placed in economy plus. And we heart Alamo's "just go pick a car you like" at LAX. Good start to the trip. 

Jeremy Fox's Ubuntu was one of our favorite meals out in the world ever. We had read Lucky Peach's profile of him, knew he had a place in Santa Monica, saw REALLY cheap tickets to California and compared it to Europe (our typical September vacation) and said, "Why the hell not?" A stop at Huckleberry Café before Rustic Canyon. 

Food Details: Ciabatta with lardo, boiled peanuts, beets with blackberry, squash salad, malfatti, trout, potatoes.

Did We Like It? Lots of echoes of our experience at Ubuntu to confirm if Mr. Fox had a place near us, we'd be semi-regulars. The boiled peanuts with vadouvan were lovely. The malfatti ricotta dumplings so balanced and delicious. We had a fine time.

How Was The Wine? Two glasses of LaSalle Champagne to start. Standard Champagne, but nothing to get excited over. A bottle of 2012 Arnot-Roberts "Old Vine" Sonoma County White Blend was, tough. Sylvaner, riesling, French colombard, Green Hungarian and some other obscure grapes. Subtle waxy texture with minerals, pear, quince; delicate acid and flowers backing everything up. We loved it.

And The Pairing? Mostly, the Arnot-Roberts was loved because of what it did with the ricotta dumplings (malfatti). Perfect. One of the those moments you chase in a meal that says, "THIS is why food and wine are so good together."

Cost: $115 for food, $135 for wine - $250 

Monday: Falafel, tahini, kumatoes, cucumbers and naan with 2014 Broc Cellars White Zinfandel Sonoma County

Food Details: Falafel, which probably wasn't the best choice before a flight on Tuesday morning, with tahini sauce and naan, salad of arugula, onion, herbs, cucumbers and kumatoes. Middle Eastern feast, substituting freezer naan because we had them. Rip, top, drizzle and eat. Good, fresh, light, goopy and pleasant.

Did We Like It? Bouncy Middle Eastern spread to begin vacation. Note: No falafel before flying.

How Was The Wine? Mr. Brockaway makes white zin. A typical Broc fresh edge to the oft-maligned white zinfandel. Organic, no sulfur used on grapes. We liked it, and I would drink it again, but it did reveal itself to be white zinfandel a little too much for our taste. We wanted to get into the nod to the 70s-80s, but I heard a little too much Def Leopard and Journey when taking a sip for my taste.

And The Pairing? Fine enough. Nothing to really report here. A brightness to the fruit in the wine held firm, which was nice.

Cost: $9 for food, $17 for wine =  $26