Tuesday, August 25, 2015

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #7

Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher, was house favorite over the last couple of weeks. Breezy, hilarious read, particularly for anybody who spent WAY too much time in a college town.

The rest of the year will be me reading books I never finished. This week, White Noise by Don Delillo. It's rather refreshing to read post-modern literature after reading the pile of suck that is post-post-post-modern literature.

And I've never looked less forward to football season than this year, college and pro. It all seems so freakin' exhausting. Go...Browns?

Saturday: Indian Carrot Salad with Goat Curry, Naan and Raita with 2014 Earthstone Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County

Source: Jamie Oliver recipe here.

Food Details: Took goat curry from the freezer, cooked it down to evaporate most of the liquid. A salad of carrot, onion, cilantro, mint and sesame seeds. Dressing of lemon, ginger, olive oil, cumin and mustard seeds, s/p. Mixed with salad. Plate of arugula, carrot salad on top, goat on top of that. Raita and naan on the side.

Did We Like It? Big thumbs up! Way up! And two more items came out of the freezer. It's rarely been so empty. I should clean it. Or maybe not. The goat curry turned into spicy Asian goat BBQ and it was delicious. But this meal, always, is a big spread of Indian-influenced food that satisfies every jones you'd ever have. Spicy, fresh, meaty, vegetable-y, dip, dunk, eat, cleanse. I love it so much. I like it more than I like most people.

How Was The Wine? We stayed cheap. The Earthstone Sauvignon Blanc has taken over for the Trader Joe's Growers Reserve, mainly because it offers cool, breezy acid and fruit restraint that went missing from the latter lately. It's nothing special, and wasn't here, but it hits some guzzle-worthy place when drunk during a busy and annoying work week, as it was here.

And The Pairing? See above. Missed on a goat curry bite, but the acid liked the carrots, cilantro and arugula. Fine "refreshing beverage" with this meal.

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

Friday: Ham and Cheese on Pretzel Buns with 2014 La Granja 360 Tempranillo Cariñena

Food Details: That's it. You read it above. Cheap ham and cheap cheese on pretzel buns. We're saving for vacation, so poof! ham-cheese-pretzel.

Did We Like It? We're saving for vacation, so poof! ham-cheese-pretzel. Did I mention that?

How Was The Wine? Chilled tempranillo was put in a glass so I could keep up this 365 business.

And The Pairing? Wine. Food.

Cost: $9 for food, $4 for wine = $13

Thursday: Mexican Rice with 2014 La Granja 360 Verdejo-Viura Castilla y León

Food Details: Freezer-garbage Mexican rice dinner consisting of Mexican rice, kielbasa from Wednesday, freezer salsa, freezer peas and non-pooped-on cilantro. Sour cream on top.

Did We Like It? Went above 'filling a hole.' We MUST empty the freezer. Nothing goes in and at least one thing comes out with each meal. So, strange food this week, according to Mrs. Ney. Here, we had carbs, protein, herbs and sour cream goop. A big bowl of Mexican-ish stuff in it. That'll do.

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? No complaints. Food and wine in the basic sense, but I wasn't left wanting.

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

Wednesday: Tapas Spread with NV Albero Sparkling White Wine

Food Details: Trader Joe's Spanish meats sampler pack of saucisson, serrano and chorizo, Sardininan Brigante cheese, marcona almonds, arugula, garlic/parsley/olive oil baguette and kielbasa-stuffed dates in piquillo-tomato (?) sauce, which we barely touched and will probably be puréed and used for a meatball dinner.

Did We Like It? Yep. Tasted like our Spanish/Portuguese vacations, when we go to a supermarket and compile a cheap dinner with what we can find at El Corte Inglés or Pingo Doce. This $5 sampler pack isn't too shabby. The serrano isn't particularly distinctive, but the other two maintain a minimum quality in terms of flavor/freshness to be worthwhile. And it's the perfect amount for two. Solid Sardinian cheese, which is true for most Sardinian cheeses I've tasted. They like cheese in the way I like cheese - sheepy, creamy, grassy, nutty. Almonds, arugula, garlic, parsley, all the goods needed for a tapas spread and a leisurely two-hour dinner. What's not to like?

How Was The Wine? $6 cheap Trader Joe's Spanish sparkler made from viura, malvasia and airén, we believe. Fruity, fuzzy, frothy, focused, six dollars. Likes food. What's not to like? Not. Fancy. Just bargain bubbles with nice acid and fruit, and tastes like cheap house wine in Spain, which has a quality we enjoy.

And The Pairing? Tasted like thrown-together vacation food, where the pairing doesn't really matter, and there's enough elemental Spanish-ness all over the place to bring a smile to your face.

Cost: $15 for food, $12 for wine = $27

Tuesday: Melissa Clark Green Goddess Chicken, Zucchini-Tomato-Onion Salad and Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits with 2014 Matthiasson Tendu White California

Source: Two Melissa recipes: Green Goddess Chicken and Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

Food Details: "Use stuff up!" dinner. GGC recipe altered a bit, using chicken thighs and cooked under a brick in the cast-iron. Green Goddess sauce, using as many herbs in the crisper as possible (no chives, so dill), while using a whole serrano to bring more pep. Used freezer GG to marinate the chicken. Made a fresh one for dipping and dunking. Buttermilk biscuits, a bit charred, but served admirably as a carb component. Grilled zucchini mixed with leftover pickled onions, and tomatoes that needed to be used up. Make it, drag and dump GG sauce through everything, and you'll be a happy camper.

Did We Like It? Yes, yes and yes. We went through a big Green Goddess phase from mid-2013 through mid-2014, but haven't had it recently. It has everything you need in terms of greeny punch and broad, healthy zip. Wakes you up and goes quite deep. Your stomach wants herbs, veggies, acid and balance. Your head wants it to taste good. This has all of that.

How Was The Wine? We fell in love with the 2013 Tendu, a 100% vermentino in a one-liter bottle that gave lovely herbal, ocean, briny notes with plenty of snap and character. Simple, lovely, right and     proper. We blew through 6-8 bottles last year. The 2013 started to lose its snap and energy by the winter of this year, so we waited for the 2014s to show up in Chicago. Then it didn't, until Pastoral had it on their restaurant wine list and they were kind enough to sell me three through their shop. The 2014 is mostly vermentino with French colombard and chardonnay thrown in due to the fact that the vermentino this year didn't have the acidity needed to make Tendu, Tendu. At first, we loved it, thinking it might be better than the 2013, but the chardonnay showed up a little too much for us, losing the personality, grizzle and verve that we loved so much in the 2013. It's still Tendu. We like it, and will buy every release. It's wine that likes food that we like. This year just won't be "We need a case! Now!"

And The Pairing? This is where the Tendu wasn't the Tendu we love. The GG gobbled up the vermentino and shoved it into the background, allowing the chardonnay to come forth from the shadows. We like chardonnay but don't crave it, except with very specific food. And this was nice chardonnay, lean and mean. But this food wants vermentino to give everything that vermentino is, a wine that tastes like a stiff ocean breeze blowing over a sandy, grassy bank. Stupid California drought and heat.

Cost: $11 for food, $29 for wine = $40  

Monday: Sean Brock Steak, Potatoes and Steak Sauce with 2003 Chateau Fombrauge St.-Emilion

Source: Heritage, by Sean Brock: herb-marinated hanger steak with onion gratin and steak sauce (pg. 135; sauce page 240). Here's the recipe from someone on the internets.

Food Details: Hanger steak marinated tarragon, parsley, chervil, chives, s/p and olive oil. Let sit. Seared medium-rare. Onion gratin. You don't have to slice onion paper-thin. It's going in the blender. You do have to slice the potatoes paper-thin, because, like potato tart, the texture it gives is essential. For the gratin, the recipe says 8-inch round baking dish. No way three pounds of potatoes fits in there. Adjust. Steak sauce made from about 15 different ingredients, simmered, blended (used dried apricots instead of golden raisins).

Did We Like It? Here's steak and potatoes, with a steak sauce that tastes like a hybrid of Heinz 57 and A-1, but it's so much more than mere steak and potatoes with steak sauce. In fact, the entire meal was a hybrid of steak and potatoes many of us grew up with, while elevating everything enough that anybody could get into the nostalgia trip without thinking it's a gimmick. Make it. It's Sean Brock. He makes things that come from a good and honest place. Everything will taste like a better version of every steak and potatoes with steak sauce meal you've ever had.

How Was The Wine? Gotta. Drink. All. This. Bordeaux. So this meal seemed like a good opportunity. Huge, pretty nose. Real presence. Very alive wine, with round blackberry/cherry that gives way quickly to an earthy mid-palate and a subtle vanilla oak/blue Sweet Tart finish. Sounds like a generic Right Banker, but it's very nice, medium-bodied, properly aged, value-driven stuff.

And The Pairing? Delicious with the gratin, giving everything it could give, and creating that thing that nice Bordeaux and food creates. Less so with the hanger and steak sauce, as the vinegar in the sauce interrupted the linear progression of the wine, chopping it up a bit. But happy stuff overall here.

Cost: $34 for food, $33 for wine = $67

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #6

Watch Two Days, One Night. It's the Dardenne brothers doing what the Dardenne brothers do best - break your heart. Netflix.

I can't recommend more highly this GQ's cover story of Stephen Colbert.

And NYT's piece on Amazon will make me avoid Amazon until I'm shopping for something and it's wildly cheaper on Amazon. That's when the true test of my half-baked conviction will be put to the test. We'll see.

Birthday Week!

Total food and wine cost for the week: $120 for food and $331 for wine = $451

Sunday: Smoked Trout and Salami Pasta Salad with 2014 Quinta de Porrais Branco Douro

Source: The New Basics Cookbook; One If By Land Pasta (page 143)

Food Details: Fusilli pasta mixed with smoked trout, salami, green pepper, onion, dill, parsley, salt, pepper, crème fraiche, olive oil and white wine vinegar. Old School pasta salad from an Old School cookbook that never gets old.

Did We Like It? It's fresh. It's bright. It's substantial. It's delicious. Great vehicle for dill with fish. And there's something about the green pepper in this salad. Green pepper's utility is limited as a showcase/integral flavor in almost anything, but it works here in spades. Nothing fancy, just a big pasta salad with a lot of Stuff in it.

How Was The Wine? Last had here. It's a $14 Douro white with all the goodness of Douro whites, but without the "hey, that's good...like that part...oooo, that's nice...ah, ya just lost me. Damn!" It's complete in every sense. I bought what possibly could be too much of this wine for its drinking window so I tried to shoehorn it into this meal.

And The Pairing? Weirdly good. The salami gobbled up the acid in the wine, leaving it without a refreshment that normally wouldn't work here, but the firm body and texture with this one picked up the slack, leaving a unique expression of delicate flowers and fruit with wisps of gassy minerals. But not flat. Vertical flavors that came in stages. The wine's youth and great winemaking took a meal that needed an acidic snap from the wine, pivoted, adjusted a found a way to offer something unique and good. Big surprise.

Cost: $17 for food, $14 for wine: $31

Saturday: Porchetta and Asparagus Flatbread with 2014 Trader Joe's Reserve Pinot Gris Yountville Napa

Food Details: Leftover Syrian Bread from Friday topped with herbed cream cheese, asparagus, onion and thinly sliced porchetta. Simple. Easy. Done.

Did We Like It? Yeah. Not too shabby. Not too shabby at all. Don't know if the more expensive porchetta offered more than simple ham would have, but a modicum of "hey, you're more fancy" was achieved. Good stuff.

How Was The Wine? A new Trader Joe's bottle, just in and the first time it's been sold, I believe. For $9 and for all that it offers, it pushes the bounds of acceptable, but just enough acidity, pleasing gas, and a watery, but sunny Napa fruit burst. Liked the order in which it brought everything.

And The Pairing? Big blast of pleasing pineapple in the wine with this food. And it gathered more body with each bite. Really, not a bad little wine. Liked it. Interesting enough weekday one-off.

Cost: $11 for food, $9 for wine = $20

Friday: Pissaladière and Herb Salad with 2009 Didier Dagueneau Silex Pouilly-Fumé

Source: Recipe here.

Food Details: Onions, carmelized. Lemon thyme, garlic and Muscadet added, cooked down. Onions put on top of Syrian bread with oil-cured olives and anchovies, baked for 10 minutes. Herb salad with tomatoes.

Did We Like It? Not the best version, but acceptable.

How Was The Wine? QUIET! The 2009 Silex was one of our favorite wine experiences, at Etxebarri in Spain. We gave up on it here. Gave. Up! It had all the hallmark flavors of Silex, but way too quiet, and without the vibrancy, electricity, lift and life typically of it. Usually it's a tour de force. Quiet and a bit tired here. Just never wanted to get going and show itself. This is our first bad experience with Silex, a wine I've pronounced on many occasions to be my favorite wine on the planet. Makes me want to open another to wipe this experience out of my mind.

And The Pairing? Nope. The 2007 worked beautifully last year with pissaladière. Off bottle this time. Stored perfectly, even decanted it once we realized it wasn't perking up. No-go. C'est la vie.

Cost: $8 for food, $135 for wine = $143  

Thursday: Greek Hand Pies and Tomato Yogurt with 2014 Earthstone Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County

Food Details: Using up leftovers! So...Greek hand pies. Phyllo stuffed with leftover chicken from Semiramis, amaranth greens, leftover kale from Tuesday, feta, scallions, mint, oregano. Yogurt blended with tomato to glop on top.

Did We Like It? Worked quite nicely. Three hand pies for each of us. Everything you'd want from a Greeky weekday meal in hand-pie form. The tomato yogurt made it. Something about how tomatoes blended into yogurt. It gets all 'essence of tomato'-ish.

How Was The Wine? A perfectly good substitute for the $5 Trader Joe's Sauvignon Blanc from Napa that's out of stock right now (and frankly, the last vintage wasn't its usual deliciousness in $5 form). Has that Napa-Sonoma sauvignon blanc fruit, but more restrained, less bullyish, something that more expensive Napa SB can become when the winemaker tries to get all showy, which is why we don't buy them. Nice body, lilty-bouncy acid, pleasing all-around.

And The Pairing? We found what we wanted - a refreshment, mop-up and cleanse, without the wine's flavor getting lost in the process of doing that.

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

Wednesday: Anne Burrell Chicken Milanese with NV Trader Joe's Reserve Brut Sparkling North Coast

Source: Recipe here. Make it, eat it, and you'll make it 200 more times throughout the course of your life. It's that good.

Food Details: Chicken breasts, breaded. Quick-pickle red onions. Pecorino-nut-herb dry gremolata-ish goodness. Arugula. Mini-ciabatta, buttered.

Did We Like It? Yep. Always. Good batch here to boot.

How Was The Wine? The superlative greatness that is the Owen Roe Pinot Gris Crawford Beck Vineyard with this meal can be mimicked with any wine giving a minimum of snappy acid. Matthiasson Tendu White (the 2014's haven't shown up in Chicago yet - c'mon!), a good falanghina, albariño, you get it. The Trader Joe's Brut Sparkling does the job, and did here. Nothing ridiculously great, just "fine and good." With this food, it's all you mostly need.

And The Pairing? Decent cut, nice froth to cushion, stood up to the pickled onions, no complaints whatsoever.

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

Tuesday: Yakitori-marinated hanger steak, yuca fries and Tuscan kale salad with 2006 Quinta do Vale Meão Douro

Food Details: Freezer yakitori mixed with olive oil and rosemary. Hanger steak, seared medium-rare. Post-sear marinade of hanger with yakitori, with extra on the side for drizzling. Yuca fries fried up. Semiramis garlic sauce mixed with mayo and lemon zest for dipping. Tuscan kale salad (Melissa Clark recipe).

Did We Like It? Umm...I don't want to get all superlative here (it's eventually going to a big yes, it'll just take me some time to get there...), but this food (which is a house staple) with this wine from Vale Meão (always for "The Special") reminded us of how Avec, when Koren Grieveson worked there, informed Mrs. Ney's concept of What Is Good. Umami, earth, high salt, high acid. It's food your tummy wants. It's food your soul wants. The food we eat is utterly influenced by Ms. Grieveson's food and this food is a prime example. Soy sauce, rosemary, crunchy-creamy yuca, not wimpy garlic - garlic galore, RAW greens providing cut and planty-ness. The beef here was even secondary, mainly serving as a vehicle for the yakitori, and bringing a beefy-meaty depth to the overall meal. We loved this. Birthday week happy food. It's steak frites taken to a more personal level.

How Was The Wine? Surprising as hell. We've had the Vale Meão vintages from 2002 through 2007 with more in the hopper. This 2006 was the lightest Vale Meão has shown to us and it's not even close. Had everything Vale Meão has - kirsch, plum, earth, cocoa, sweet mesquite - but ticked them off like a greatest hits of the winery, all enveloped in a shockingly light body. There was a lot of swearing and silly pauses-stares as we enjoyed every sip. This drinking was YET ANOTHER example why Quinta do Vale Meão is one of our top-three favorites wine on the planet.

And The Pairing? Perfection. Vale Meão loves soy sauce. Always has. And garlic. And rosemary. And kale, weirdly. It just LOVES these things so why would we mess with that? A lot of people don't care about wine pairings. They think it's too complicated and/or unnecessary. Others think you don't have to be that fussy. We say "BUNK!" Not when we can have a dinner like this, a dinner that reminds us that the joy of food and wine is...wait for it...the Joy of Life (just threw up a bit in my mouth, but it's true).

Cost: $30 for food, $120 for wine = $150

Monday: Semiramis with 2014 Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Blanc Les Moulins and NV Albero Cava Brut

Food Details: Two orders of hummus, pita, fattoush, whole chicken, arabic coffee and date/walnut maamoul cookies

Did We Like It? One of the best leisurely dinners out in the world in a good long while. Our love for Middle Eastern food for us began with Semiramis (Lebanese here, specifically) about ten years ago. I have no idea how we were directed to this place, but we're so glad we didn't have to waste too much time with other Middle Eastern restaurants because it begins and ends with Semiramis. It's the atmosphere, the flavors, the owner Joseph who feels like a friend, his staff over the years that have been nothing but great, just everything. We can't replicate this food. We can get close, but when we take into account the utter comfort of his sun-drenched dining room and an atmosphere that's come to feel like home, it's one of the best meals out in Chicago. BYO and silly cheap.

How Was The Wine? This place can make for a funky match. We've found decent enough pairings over the years (I seem to remember liking the Crios Malbec Rosé more than I thought I should), but Loire chenin blanc, and specifically Saumur, even more specifically Guiberteau Saumur, was a revelation a few years ago, especially with his hummus. It's the kind of individual pairing that can make a meal. The Guiberteau entry-level blanc worked that time. This time, a cuvée that I THINK is a new bottling for this winery. Softer than the entry-level and a little tight, a underlying buttery texture without the butter, little wisps of white flowers and lightly smoked citrus. Liked it. Very nice.

And The Pairing? The Guiberteau worked with the hummus, if not reaching the heights of their entry-level bottling. The Albero Cava turned all creamy white peach with the fattoush in a nice way. Overall, a very pleasant back and forth.

Cost: $35 for food, $38 for wine = $73

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #5

Nice piece by Eric Asimov about domestic chenin blanc in the New York Times a few days ago.

And Julia Edelman pretty much nails The Food Blog in the New Yorker this week.

But we're immune to such criticism here. We're more of a food journal (see what I did there). With terrible pictures. One might even say we're the ANTI-food blog, because this is wildly disorganized and has only been of interest to us for years. Which is the way we like it.

And let me save you a few hours of your life: don't read 10:04, A Novel, by Ben Lerner. Just...don't. Unless you enjoy 78 segues akin to "you know... everything is just one big organism, you know..."

Total food and wine cost for the week: $138 for food and $123 for wine = $261

Sunday: Salmon, Bagels, Cream Cheese, Arugula, Kumatoes and Pickled Onion-Manzano with 2014 Berger Grüner Veltliner Kremstal

Food Details: Simple stuff. Smoked salmon from Trader Joe's, bagels, herbed-up cream cheese, arugula, kumatoes and pickled onion-manzano from Friday. Build. Eat. Drink. Enjoy.

Did We Like It? Best meal of the week, me thinks. Right there with Pizza Art and chicken with fennel panzanella. The workweek's been long and it's freakin' hot. This Sunday staple Wipes. That. Right Out of the Mind. This is always delicious, but typically has avocado. Weren't ripe yet. But the absence of it here made this meal better. Avocado creaminess would have taken away from a sharpness and cut in each bite that we like/d. Tastes more balanced, rather than some sort of embarrassment of food riches that doesn't always add up to great. Plus, adding avocado to all the other stuff makes for a tall-ass bagel, with neck cranes that make me feel like I'm in a competitive eating contest or something.

How Was The Wine? Perfect. Fresh Berger, our first of the year. We had the 2013 in week #1 of this 365 experiment and it was ever-so subtly losing its zip and verve. Not here. All of Berger's freshness here on full display. Stony, peppy, lively, proper hits and hints of greeny-citrusy fruit, a smart and smooth conversationalist with great flow.

And The Pairing? Perfect times two! Without the avocado, each salmon-bagel bite had a more properly pared-down interplay between the ingredients, allowing us to taste everything and how they played with each other. The wine picked that up, snuggled its way in, gave even more to the pithy conversation, and then refreshed. Per. Fect.

Cost: $19 for food, $15 for wine = $34

Saturday: Pasta With Meatballs, Rapini & Amaranth with 2014 Innovacíon Rosé Mendoza

Food Details: Greek creste pasta with TJ's meatballs, rapini, amaranth greens, pecorino, garlic, onions, olive oil, and herbs.

Did We Like It? Big bowl of food. Mrs. Ney found it disappointing. After working a patio shift in 90-degree heat, I found it to be welcome meat and carbs with greens.

How Was The Wine? One-liter rosé, malbec and syrah, $7.50 at Whole Foods (on sale with 6-bottle discount). It's been our workhorse rosé this summer. Here, it tasted like cherry Life Savers

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

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

Friday: Zucchini Baba Ganoush, Pickled Onion-Dill-Serrano, Kumatoes, Arugula and Pita with 2014 Nortico Alvarinho Vinho Verde

Source: Recipe here, from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, by Claudia Roden (page 65)

Food Details: Zucchini instead of eggplant in baba ganoush, skipped the cumin. Generous amount of olive oil and za'atar dumped on top of baba ganoush. Onion-dill-serrano pepper quick-pickled, mixed with arugula. Sliced kumatoes. Pita to stuff, top, and/or dip. It's Lebanese-Eygptian pick and choose.

Did We Like It? Good Lord, Yes. Creamy, herby, spicy, bitter, pickle, tomato. All that crap. It's the polar opposite of the casserole food we ate growing up. That's probably why we love Middle Eastern food so much. First, it's freakin' great, then we compare it to the meatloaf-lasagna dinners we ate when we were 12, back when lemon-pepper chicken was for Special.

How Was The Wine? Here's an example of a wine that tastes so much better when there isn't a Luis Pato Branco sitting next to it to compare. Firmly in the realm of 'like' that time, this time, with this food, it was perfect. Loads of energy and verve, with seaside air, gas and snap. Such firm, yet forgiving acid. For $11 at Whole Foods, after having it with this food, this wine went from a nice alternative to "buy that, you'll like it. A lot!"

And The Pairing? See above. Something about the char on the vegetables and the umami of the tahini played perfectly against its brightness. You put this meal in front of me on vacation at some cheap café on the coast with this wine...I'd remember it for years.

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

Thursday: Chicken Enchiladas with 2014 La Granja Blanco Castilla y León

Source: Enchiladas (here) from Cook's Illustrated's Cover And Bake, rice from Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday.

Food Details: Leftover chicken from Tuesday, corn tortillas, onion, tomato sauce, cilantro, cheese - it's all in the recipe linked above. Mexican rice with tomatillos, onion, herbs and peas.

Did We Like It? If there's one weekday meal that we've eaten throughout our 12+ years in Chicago, it's probably enchiladas in some form, these enchiladas for the last eight or so. It's a Mexican "clean out the fridge!" dinner in a form we always like. Tastes like Home.

How Was The Wine? Tastes like vacation on the cheap. White Spanish wine, a verdejo and viura blend, with crispness, dryness and creaminess; lightly floral, lightly citrusy...$5 wine done well. Guzzle-able.

And The Pairing? It works. Cleans everything up nicely while offering some stone fruit pit to finish. We're always happy to drink this wine, because it's just so likable.

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

Wednesday: Pizza Art Café with Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco

Food Details: Greek salad to start, margherita, diavola and Pugliese pizzas. It's our standard order at this wildly underrated pizza place in Albany Park. Solid margherita, best diavola yet, and the Pugliese with smoked beef added is crazy-pants, smoky-cheesy good. "Why are we not there more often?"

Did We Like It? See above. Big thumbs up. Beautiful night to boot. Napa-style clear air. Felt like it'd been months since a night like that, or any beautiful kind, showed up in Chicago.

How Was The Wine? After some experimentation, Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco is the one and only wine to take to Pizza Art for us. Captures everything in a wide net while maintaining its tart, frothy, energetic strut, while its $12 price tag at Vin Chicago keeps everything budget-y. Brought a bottle of 2013 Efeste Feral Sauvignon Blanc for the Pugliese, a surprisingly good individual pairing.

And The Pairing? See above. If you're going to Pizza Art, Cleto Chiarli is the choice.

Cost: $50 for food, $32 for wine = $82

Tuesday: Roasted Chicken and Fennel Panzanella with 2014 Broc Cellars Picpoul Blanc Luna Matta Vineyard Paso Robles

Food Details: Chicken rubbed with white pepper and fennel pollen, bay and lemon shoved under the skin; roasted. A roasted fennel panzanella salad which, and you can see to the right, was enough to feed a small army. And yet both of us pretty much finished our plates (with a good chunk of the bread taken out), because it was delicious. Salad of roasted fennel, lemon, onion; the rest of the celery/fennel mostarda from last Monday, multi-colored baby tomatoes, arugula, dill, tarragon, oil and vinegar. Apart from dumping in the mostarda, this was exactly the recipe from New Year's Eve.

Did We Like It? First of all, great chicken. Moist, fantastic white pepper-fennel pollen chicken skin, just a terrific bird. But this was panzanella with a side of chicken. A wacko amount of flavors we love all together in Big Salad form. With a wine this was nuts.

How Was The Wine? We joined the Broc wine club because it included wines like this (still available, btw). Picpoul, a wine we dismissed for years but have come to sort of love recently due to a Trader Joe's cheap-o French one, is all fennel bite, creamy citrus, wee bit of salt and acid. It doesn't crave your love. It's just itself. This Broc offering from Paso Robles is more delicate than the French ones we've had, offering a sunny-foggy acid, lilty fruit presence, and delicious gaseous finish. Just when you think it might be too ethereal, it asserts its presence. We loved the snot out of it. Loved, loved, loved it. Particularly with food catered to it.

And The Pairing? The food brought everything out in the wine, especially with a roasted lemon bite and fennel, becoming a broader, more friendly, complete wine. This isn't a drink-on-its-own wine, as it barely reaches even pleasant by itself. It's too simple and muted. With food, it's "HELLO! Look what I can do!"

Cost: $24 for food, $32 for wine = $56     

Monday: Indian Spread with 2012 Luis Pato Vinho Espumante Bruto Baga Rosé Bairrada

Source: 660 Curries, by Raghavan Iyer

Food Details: Goat curry, substituting goat for lamb in the recipe for lamb curry in a sweet onion-tomato sauce (pg. 190). Coriander, cumin, sweet paprika, cayenne, turmeric, ginger, garlic, cardamom pods, bay, tomato sauce, fried onion, ground goat, stewed. Topped with cilantro. It's Indian Goat Chili!

Amaranth leaves recipe (pg. 461) mixing amaranth leaves and beet greens with peanuts, black and yellow mustard seeds, cumin, turmeric and cayenne. Didn't have asafetida. We'll be picking it up on the next trip to Devon, as Mrs. Ney is curious. Beet raita (adding beets to David Tanis's raita recipe - it's a good one). Trader Joe's naan - entirely acceptable naan on the cheap, done well.

Did We Like It? We did. Didn't love it by any stretch but we got our Indian fix with plenty of spices and a proper triangulation of Indian dip-dunk-cool-repeat. The Goat curry was nice, but maybe a bit too chili-ish. Big winner was these freakin' amaranth leaves. Greeny-planty-earthy loveliness with every bite. Beet raita served its purpose quite well. We liked this. All of it.

How Was The Wine? It's Luis Pato. Enough said. This is sparkling baga with a bit of maria gomes. Called a rosé but it's more of a sparkling red, with a cherry-currant punch, touch of spice and earth, and lovely froth. The maria gomes, with its characteristic wooly quality, offers a lacy structural help and something that turns into a red apple-watermelon background refreshment. We love it. And it loves food.

And The Pairing? Helped immensely. Became the tie that bound all the flavors together. Nice elevation and brightening of flavors with this pairing, taking the Indian spread to a place that was quite happy. Luis Pato loves food. You can tell by the wine he makes.

Cost: $17 for food, $20 for wine = $37

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #4

Ever buy tickets to a show a couple of months in advance and think at the time, "That will be fun. Dinner and show downtown during the summer. It'll be a nice night out." 

Then the show begins to approach, and slowly you begin to think, "Why are we going to see this person. He's fine and all, but...did we really just PAY money to see this person?" 

That'll happen this week. We'll see. 

Update: Completely fun show. A professional, veteran comic that knows how to entertain. 

Total food and wine cost for the week: $89 for food and $110 for wine = $199

Total food and wine cost for the month: $361 for food and $555 for wine = $916

Sunday: Big Greek Salad with 2014 Sigalas Assyrtiko Santorini

Food Details: Greeky salad of kumatoes, kalamata olives, onions, green pepper, corn, salami, feta, dill and oregano, over arugula, dressed with white wine vinegar (red for Mrs. Ney - a mistake, she said, with the wine), olive oil, salt and pepper. Buttered mini-ciabatta buns on the side. "A Big Salad….it's a salad, only bigger, with lots of stuff in it ..."

Did We Like It? Both of us worked hard this Sunday. A Big Greek Salad helps in forgetting the bad parts of most of that hard work, leaving, "Yeah. That sucked. But look what in front of me on the plate! It's a Big Greek Salad! I need nothing more right now."

How Was The Wine? We loved the 2014 with fried haloumi, skordalia, pita, and tomato-fennel salad in May. Pretty minerals and acid with wonderful length and gaps. Less so this time.

And The Pairing? It had the acid we wanted overall with the food, but became a little clipped and moody with the red wine vinegar for Mrs. Ney and the green pepper for me. Not everything we wanted in terms of pairing paradise, but still the kind of meal where you pause halfway through, lean back like Costanza's girlfriend after the risotto, and relish in the goodness.

Cost: $9 for food, $22 for wine = $31

Saturday: Dirty Rice with 2013 Michel Léon Vin D'Alsace Gewürztraminer 

Source: Recipe here, from Susan Spicer via Food & Wine, recipe halved.

Food Details: Andouille chicken sausages, wild rice, mirepoix, chicken stock, herbs, ground pork, chicken livers, chopped scallions on top, habanero hot sauce added. It's a big, honkin' bowl of rice chockablock with meaty, herby, Cajun flavors.

Did We Like It? Always do. It's strangely deep and dirty, while being simultaneously clean. Probably have it four times a year. Rotation food that pops up when the crave hits.

How Was The Wine? It's $10 gewürztraminer, sold at Trader Joe's, that's better than any we've had in this price range, and even a bit above. We don't particularly like gewürztraminer, mostly because they can be more hit-and-miss than other grapes we like (i.e. - we don't take a chance on a random gewürztraminer in a store just for funnsies. We gotta know if it's going to be good).  But it picks up spice, herbs and heat well. Get one with a nice sweetness and acidity play and it can elevate itself to something quite nice with the right food. Michel Leon is our default gewürztraminer because it always delivers. Its shimmering and bouncy acid lifts the lychee and grapefruit notes to something that tastes elevated and sprite-like. As it did here with heat, herbs and Cajun accents here.

And The Pairing? The wine was a great refresher, countering everything in the bowl quite well, particularly with the excess hot sauce I dumped on top. WHEW! That was HOT for the few first bites!

Cost: $9 for food, $10 for wine = $19

Friday: Chicken Parmesan and Garlic Bread with 2012 Trader Joe's Barbera Mendocino County

Food Details: Chicken breasts, breaded, fried. Mozzarella from Monday and tomato sauce dumped on top, then baked off. Basil on top. Pugliese bread, sliced, slathered with a butter, olive oil, parsley and garlic spread, broiled off.

Did We Like It? It's a "use stuff up and eat like it's 1986!" dinner. The fancy restaurant near my hometown growing up was Rastrelli's, an Italian-American place where everyone went for their graduation-reception-"just got my braces off!" dinner. This meal tastes like I just got my braces off (and this is still on the menu at Rastrelli's, by the way). Homey, goopy and delicious.

How Was The Wine? It's our house red for weekday Italian meals, because it's juicy, bright and friendly, with an underlying spicy edge. We always wonder if we should have something different and inevitably wander back to this one, because it delivers.

And The Pairing? Lively and lovely. Simple Italian-American meal with a wine that kept things on the bright side.

Cost: $12 for food, $10 for wine = $22

Thursday: Fava Bean and Ricotta Salata Strozzapreti with 2014 Quinta de Porrais Branco Douro 

Source: Recipe here, via Lidia's Italy, using strozzapreti instead of cavatelli.

Food Details: Onions sweated with garlic and red pepper flakes. Fava beans added to the pan with some pasta water and reduced down to a sauce. Strozzapreti, cooked, drained. Fava-onion-garlic sauce added to the added to the pasta in the pasta cooking vessel and swirled, plated. Dressed with ricotta salata, pecorino, dill, tarragon and parsley.

Did We Like It? Best batch yet! Less of a saucy-sauce this time, which allowed the dill and tarragon to come through, taking this batch to a different place, and we loved it. This is great with fresh fava, it does make a difference, but bagged fava didn't leave us wanting here at all. It's a simple dish where the triangulation of the fava, ricotta salata and onions is simple Italian cooking on full display.

How Was The Wine? We were stunned to hear Francisco Olazabal of Quinta do Vale Meão made a white Douro wine at Quinta de Porrais, about an hour northwest of Vale Meão in the Douro Superior. How did we not know this? High elevation, cooler climate; 55% códega do larinho and 45% rabigato. It's at Perman Wine for $14 (and somehow about $4 at Jumbo - a strange, but pleasant supermarket chain all over Portugal - like if K-Mart and Jewel had a baby). This might be the best expression of a Douro white we've had. Cool climate gaseousness and acid. Plenty of space offered to enjoy its subtle hints of flowers and spiced pears at your leisure, with only of hint of honeydew, something that typically takes Douro whites to a rather basic, boring place. This isn't a fancy white. It's just all the Douro white parts in all the right places. And it LOVED this food.

And The Pairing? The dill, tarragon and parsley medley made for a firmer, greeny background in this plate of food and the wine picked up on it and ran, rounding and extending itself out beautifully. While the finish reminded you of what you just tasted, just in case you forgot. This is a fairly versatile meal. We've had it with frappato, Sancerre, even a Douro red from Duorum. This was the best yet. Just the tops. We bought four bottles when we heard this existed. After having this meal, we bought four more two hours later. They'll be gone by winter.

Cost: $16 for food, $14 for wine = $30          

Wednesday: Cornish Game Hens, Amaranth Greens and Pretzel Rolls with 2013 Broc Cellars Mourvèdre Martian Vineyard SBC

Food Details: Cornish game hens (domestic - Harvesttime - $3.69/bird), spatchcocked (fun word to say, along with dessert - a schichttorte), stuffed with a fig jam/kalamata tapenade under the skin (David Leibovitz), roasted Dorie Greenspan-style (from Around My French Table, a book that's been good to us, page 225). Amaranth greens, leaves removed, tender stems sauteed with a shallot, garlic; leaves wilted in that pan; drizzled with balsamic. Lemon spritz on bird and greens. LaBriola pretzel dinner rolls, butter and lavender jam.

Did We Like It? We liked the "lil chickens!" Could be a good vehicle for other "lil chickens!" preparations down the road on the cheap. And the tapenade was delicious. But these amaranth greens are just the tops. We've had amaranth greens once or twice before and liked them. Bump that up to LOVE with this meal. These are rarely stocked in Mrs. Ney's supermarket sweep. You see them, you buy them. All sorts of greeny-planty-earthy goodness here. Grown-up greens. Pretzel rolls with butter and lavender jam that brought more "Holy crap! That's delicious!" shouts. Overall, we liked it. My goodness, we liked it.

How Was The Wine? More Broc being Broc. Smelled like smoky brisket right away. Turned into a light mourvèdre that highlighted its floral-bright fruit character with low alcohol, light spice and sunny disposition. There's something that Broc Cellars does with their reds. About 2/3 of the way down, a place where many reds concentrate, get a little showy, strut around, try to show how masculine they can be, Broc allows space at this point. There's a pause to allow food to frolic. That's why we love them. Same with this mourvèdre. Because...

And The Pairing? So freakin' perfect with the amaranth greens, taking this wine to a maximum expression. Long, broad, juicy, rich, balanced; everything on full display. A bit short with the game hen and tapenade, which was surprising. Figured we had a match there. But with these greens, it made the entire meal into something memorable. One of those times where you say, "Why do people care so little about their food and wine pairing when this exists in the world?"

Cost: $15 for food, $24 for wine = $39               

Tuesday: Peanut Chicken Satay, Pot Stickers and Carrot Salad with Watermelon Sangria

Food Details: Chicken satay using peanut sauce from the freezer (golly! Was this from TWO years ago?). Surprisingly great freezer sauce, vacillating nicely between peanuty and coconuty; concentrated, yet light. Chicken, sauced and skewered, grilled off. Trader Joe's vegetable pot stickers. Here's a product good enough to avoid making pot stickers if you don't have the oomph to make pot stickers, pan seared, then steamed, and delicious. Multi-colored carrots for carrot salad. Ponzu for drizzling and dipping. Extra peanut sauce for dipping.

Did We Like It? We did. "This is really pleasant," was the phrase of the night. Pan-Asian flavors that satisfied the Asian-flavor jones, quite nicely, thank you very much.

How was the booze? Watermelon purée from the freezer, lychee juice steeped in lemongrass leaves, mint, manzano pepper, ginger beer, liter bottle of 2014 Innovac!ón Malbec-Syrah Rosé Mendoza ($8 - Whole Foods). Sangria? More of a delicious spritzer. We got all of the flavors included at first sip, then it become so broad and friendly about a 1/3 of the way down. Thought about adding gin, then abandoned adding gin, because gin is satan's spawn the day after for us.

And the pairing? Pleasant and friendly, friendly and pleasant, we liked this. Great minimum goodness across the board. Floor was raised with every bite and every sip. At $5 a plate and about $10 total for the booze, we say big winner in terms of dollars-to-satisfaction ratio.

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

Monday: True-Blue Pick-n-Choose with Laurent Savoye "Magma des Granites" Vin Mousseaux Rouge

Food details: Heirloom tomato, salt, peppered and oiled. Celery and fennel seed mostarda (fun word to say in combination with dessert - a blueberry/peach crostata). Sliced roast beef. Salami. Marinated mozzarella balls (barely eaten). Arugula-parsley-basil salad. Baguette. Pick-n-choose on crack.

Did We Like It? Yeah. Definitely certain combos. Way too much food, a result of trying to turn the all elements of caprese that we had on hand into a dinner. Big winner here was a baguette, mostarda, salad and heirloom tomato bite. So gosh darn fresh and vertical in flavor. Mostarda-roast beef-bread = happy. In the end, a fine and good pick-n-choose with a garden-like quality. But this wine, man... This wine...

How Was The Wine? Outrageously good. A mousse-y gamay from Beaujolais, this was jumpy, jaunty, juicy, light and delicious. Round and upfront blueberry-blackberry fruit. Big herby background. Tasted like eating black fruits right from your picking basket, seeds, dirt, vines, leaves and all. Straightforward bubbly red that's so friendly and done oh-so well. It's $20, from Vin Chicago, and can't be recommended more highly.

And The Pairing? A baguette, mostarda, salad and heirloom tomato bite with a sip made the wine become an HD 4K version of itself. On a 90" TV. Rather ridiculous stuff. Nice with the roast beef. Less so with salami. Less-less so with the cheese and greens. But this wine, man... This wine... We'll be buying much more.

Cost: $18 for food, $20 for wine = $38

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #3

Vietnamese brioche sandwiches from La Patisserie is a freakin' game-changer.

Why it took us so long to get to this beautiful place is a mystery to me, particularly when it's about eight blocks away and you can buy ten sandwiches that have the diameter of a softball for about $12.

Ham and cheese, curry chicken, curry beef, chicken pot pie, bbq pork for this order.

Buy them, make a salad, pop a sparkler (Luis Pato this time), and poof! Great Monday Lunch.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $97 for food and $197 for wine = $294

Sunday: Cornbread Panzanella with 2014 Trader Joe's Petit Reserve Pinot Grigio Monterey County

Source: Adapted from this recipe, via The Smitten Kitchen. Used the basic idea, including the buttermilk-lime dressing (adding anchovy, tarragon, and a bit more acid). Cornbread here, via Cooks Illustrated. Made the day before, halved the recipe, used rice milk.

Food Details: Crouton-ed up the cornbread, toasted them off. Mixed together black beans, onions, avocado, heirloom tomato, croutons, huge handful of arugula, and the dressing. Put it on the table, pop your wine, take your time, sit back, relax, and enjoy.

Did We Like It? We thought it was going to be taco salad panzanella, but this turned into more of a California-style panzanella. And we loved it. Bright, herby, filling, end-of-week flavors. Big fans.

How Was The Wine? We don't hate this pinot grigio. Light, breezy, lightly creamy, peachy. Not too shabby at all on its own. Not with this food.

And The Pairing? A creamy element in the wine matched up with the buttermilk, but there wasn't enough bouncy acid to cut through the bevy of flavors on the plate. It was merely present and didn't turn ugly at any point. Best that can be said. Mrs. Ney switched up to the Espiral Vinho Verde and at least found the acid I didn't have.

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

Saturday: Kielbasa, Lentils and Frisée with 2013 Schloss Gobelsburg "Gobelsburger" Grüner Veltliner Kamptal

Source: Recipe here, via Epicurious.

Food Details: Lentils cooked up with carrots and celery, fennel sweated tender-crisp, kielbasa sliced and warmed up with lentils and fennel. Dill rat-a-tat-tatted and mixed in. Warm mustard-fennel seed dressing tossed with all of that. A big pile of frisée thrown on top of ALL that. Mini-ciabatta, buttered.

Did We Like It? Felt like it's been a couple of years since we've had this. Used to be rather prominent in the food rotation. The kielbasa and lentils are always good, but it's the mustard and fennel for me that makes this meal stand out. We probably eat fennel once every 6-8 weeks. That break between consumption allows fennel to taste fresh and new every time. With the kielbasa and lentils backing it up, warm mustard floating around, and the frisée cut bringing a superlative degree of 'RAW,' it tastes New-School Bavarian/Austrian in a great sense (I barely know Bavarian-Austrian, but...).

How Was The Wine? One of the better $14 wines out there. It's entry-level grüner veltliner that gives much more than most entry-level wines in their respective categories. Nice fruit, energy, roundness and edge. Less of the distinctive grüner flavors that you get from higher-level, single-vineyard stuff - like some that say "LENTILS! - but this offers a simplicity and refreshment along with some of that, particularly on the gaseous finish.

And The Pairing? Very nice. That'll do. A basic happiness was there. The Schwarzbock or Berger might offer more here (and their one-liter-ness is appealing). Schwarzbock, with its oodles of minerals and grassy-green notes, is quite good. And the Berger brings a guzzle quality that's always welcome. But this worked.

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

Friday: Savory Potato Tart and Salad with 2008 Domaine Sylvain Langoureau St.-Aubin

Source: Recipe here, from David Tanis at NYT Cooking.

Food Details: Make a pie crust, sauté up some leeks in chicken stock (addition to the recipe), use the fancy mandolin to cut the potatoes into paper-thin slices, assemble your pie and bake it off. Make a simple salad. Put pie slice on the plate, salad next to it, done. It's Paris bistro lunch food at its freakin' best.

Did We Like It? It made us swear, we loved it so much. I challenge anyone to eat this and not think, "I should be paying a lot more for this! It's delicious!" The addition of leeks offers a French country garden note and chicken stock brings the slightest hint of a background meaty lilt (tried bacon fat with this once. Weighs it down a touch). Slicing the potatoes this thin is key, making for a restaurant-quality texture to the entire pie. It's next-level stuff. Herb salad blend to mix and match in between bites of pie. Don't finish with the salad. Mix this one in. It brings more of The Joy, especially when a wine of this quality is at the table.

How Was The Wine? It's been sitting in the house for over four years, bought at Wine Discount Center when it was still Wine Discount Center. Probably recommended to us by Amy or Sean, and probably bought as a sort of inventory wine with little more thought behind it. I sorta forgot it was even here. We also burned ourselves out on white Burgundy a couple of years ago and took a break. Then, almost by accident, we ran into a wine of this caliber. Lordy! $25, made in the same way as the more spendy white Burgundies, and it's all sorts of lovely. Typical pear-apple fruit, but the love came in the oh-so pretty use of oak on the mid-palate here. Like a delicate, bouncy balloon on a breezy spring day. Simply sparkled. Like Auxey-Duresses and Viré Clessé, in Saint-Aubin, you find $25 white Burgundy that tastes like wine at twice the price. Loved. It.

And The Pairing? Nearly perfect, particularly when we take into account that this was a weekday meal for us (we're not Mon-Fri people). Coming home to this washed away all my workplace $&#^@.

Cost: $8 for food, $25 for wine = $33

Thursday: Chicken, Tzatziki, Kumatoes, Arugula and pita with 2014 João Portugal Ramos Lima Loureiro Vinho Verde

Food Details: Harvesttime roasted chicken, homemade tzatziki, salt and peppered kumatoes, arugula and pita. Open a pita, throw all the stuff above inside the pocket and go to town.

Did We Like It? Yes. It's pick-n-choose with a Greek bent. Well, not so much pick-n-choose. We used everything for each bite. More of an easy-peasy dinner. No cooking. Just whip up a tzatziki, slice some sort of tomatoes, dress some arugula, put it all on a plate and eat it. Feast. Good batch. Harvesttime chicken was lacking in skin-glaze goodness, though.

How Was The Wine? It's $7 at Binny's. Lightly fruity, lightly floral, happy acid, cheap as hell. Loureiro is delicious. We like it. We've had some fancy ones, but this is the loureiro we drink the most...by far. Mostly because it has all the loureiro goods for $7.

And The Pairing? Good enough. All the basic elements were there. Lift, nuance, snap, pause. Nothing superlative. Just nice.

Cost: $11 for food, $7 for wine = $18

Wednesday: Moroccan Goat Meatballs, Farro And Barley with 2013 Broc Cellars Carignan Alexander Valley

Source: Recipe for Moroccan meatballs here, via Leite's Culinara. We use a lot of Mr. Leite's recipes, because he likes food. Mrs. Ney used the recipe as a guide. Alterations: ground goat meat, buttermilk/butter instead of crème fraîche, shallot and parsley instead of cilantro, manzano pepper instead of cayenne, orange juice instead of lemon, and used one 14 oz. can of tomatoes to beef/juice it up.  And the big one: farro/barley pilaf instead of rice, with the addition of dried apricots, almonds and scallions.

Food Details: See above and see the picture to the right. Arugula salad to finish.

Did We Like It? Mrs. Ney didn't want it/didn't want to make it. And it turned into such a pretty, bright, spicy, slow North African dinner with flavors we love bouncing around all over the place. This capped off a pretty great food and wine weekend (see below). On the wine...

How Was The Wine? Broc being Broc. We want everything they make. And are working to make that happen. They make nero d'Avola? Sparkling cabernet franc? Valdiguié in multiple forms? I. Want. All of it. Loved the 2012. The 2013 is less floral, more concentrated red fruit - smoked dark raspberries here - with a beautifully angled slender body, great lift and a spicy finish. All with a background feeling of walking through a garden set right on the ocean. Clean, herby, and cool. Vacillates so nicely between being svelte/tender and showing an attitude/having a chip on its shoulder.  Tailed off a touch after 1.5 hours, but it's delicious. We need more very soon.

And The Pairing? LOVES. GOAT. It's perfect. Goat and this wine play in the same weight region, with both able to pick up what's happening around it and take everything to a better place. And I'm beginning to think Broc just makes their reds to like Middle Eastern-inflected goat. The valdiguié loved goat-stuffed artichokes last November. Their style and light Middle Eastern flavors... Gee whiz, that's good. Big surprise dinner here with a wine that really loved the food.

Cost: $12 for food, $29 for wine = $41                     

Tuesday: Tuna Niçoise with NV Pommery Rosé "Brut Aganage" Champagne

Food Details: Niçoise salad of A's do Mar oil-cured tuna, grape tomatoes, baby potatoes, onions, green beans, Niçoise olives, capers and one hard-boiled egg for me with a dressing of tarragon, dijon, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, white balsamic, salt and pepper, all over arugula. It's a heaping mound of healthy, delicious goodness. Whole Foods ancient grains bread with butter to round it out.

Did We Like It? Oh, my, yes. Not the greatest version of Niçoise we've had, but that's like saying that playoff win wasn't the best playoff win your favorite team has won. Still a playoff win. Who cares? It's a win in the playoffs. And using this oil-cured tuna instead of cooking up some rare tuna from Whole Foods cuts the cost of this meal by about $18, with virtually no loss in quality, because we just want the vegetable bounty anyway. We'll get our rare tuna experience from Szechuan peppercorn-crusted tuna at some point. It's better.

How Was The Wine? Champagne Rosé, nearly half-off at Binny's (down to $50 from $90), and quite good. Plums, blood orange, figs, dry as all get-out, rolly bubbles, nice gas. A damn good Champagne rosé that was clean and moderately complex. Never would have guessed this was 60% chardonnay. Red grapes at the fore, with pinot noir serving as the guider and meunier bringing the interesting weirdness. Nothing wildly extravagant or great here, just Champagne rosé done well. And nice to have it again. Been awhile for us. And we want it by the bucket now.

And The Pairing? Niçoise and rosé, in any form, brings the love. No exception here. Wasn't "slap-my-face" great together, with flavors bouncing off the walls, but we had zero complaints.

Cost: $25 for food, $50 for wine = $75

Monday: Marinated Hanger Steak, Cold Sesame Noodles and Cucumber Salad with 2000 Clos Fourtet Saint-Émilion

Source: The Silver Palate Cookbook and The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. It's a thowback dinner! A remake of the first "fancy" meal Mrs. Ney made a month after we moved in together 13 years ago.

Food Details: Hanger steak marinated in olive oil and homemade yakitori sauce from the freezer, basted in the same sauce. Cold sesame noodles from SPC (page 79), using 1/4 of the mayo the recipe calls for. Nobody needs two cups of mayo in their noodles. Cucumber salad with Asian flavors, from NYT Cooking, placed on top of the noodles. Carrot-garlic-ginger topping for the steak, from SPGTC (page 275). The result tasted like a well-done time warp back to 2002, then back to 1978. We loved it. Made us think, "Okay, they weren't stupid eaters back in 1978. They made good food, representative of a region, with what was available." Growing up in Iowa, eating a lot of meatloaf and pot roast, sometimes I forget that might have been true for the rest of the country.

How Was The Wine? Stupid-great, silly-good! We have a boatload of Bordeaux that has to be drunk quite soon. This begins that journey. One-hour decant. We were surprised how Old-Old World it was, and French specifically. No compromises here, very Frenchy-French from a great year in Bordeaux. Blackberry liqueur on the nose to start, turning into something like walking through a well-kept old house. We could smell the years. Not dusty, really. Just old. As if you can smell the attic. Nice flowers. Ripe-ish fruit, full-bodied, but never a bully. A bit of Jack Daniels at times. Happy length, fine tannin perking up on the finish, nice acid. This was big, and texturally a touch more flamboyant than we typically drink, but golly, we loved it. Had those pauses and breaks that allowed us to think about it for a bit instead of being bombarded with a bombastic, bellicose, belligerent nature that comes from so many aggressive fruit bombs. A 15-year-old Right Banker, from the house that originally got us into Bordeaux, and it's simply great right now. Could have waited on this one, didn't, and loved it. Real presence.

And The Pairing? That's probably what made us love the wine even more. Slipped right into this food that came off Asian only in a Silver Palate sense ("Apparently cilantro didn't exist in the 70's"). Held its ground beautifully. Different with each bite while maintaining its core goodness so nicely. Big winner here.

Cost: $18 for food, $65 for wine = $83      

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #2

It continues...

El Carrito, on Peterson and Lincoln, makes solid Mexican street food tacos that don't skimp on ingredients and are priced right. Two steak tacos and a southwest salad for $7? 


My bi-monthly drive right by that intersection makes it an option.

And...creepy clown alert! A bit close to home.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $92 for food and $118 for wine = $210

Sunday: Pick-n-Choose Meat, Cheese and Bread with NV Elvio Tintero Grangia Favorita Blend 

Food Details: Speck, salami, provola, arugula, Provençal mustard, and baguette. Pick and choose your combination of food-types on the plate to put together for each bite and go to town.

Did We Like It? Yep. It's a long, meandering meal perfect for Sunday night (the end of my week, second-to-last for Mrs. Ney). No cooking. Just throw a bunch of stuff on the plate, dress your arugula, cut your baguette, pour the wine, eat and enjoy.

How Was The Wine? Might be my new favorite cheap white. Piedmontese favorita blend (50% Favorita, 25% Moscato, 20% Arneis and 5% Chardonnay) that's light (11.5%), ever-so-slightly fizzy, lightly sweet, and deliciously mouthwatering. And it's $10! Great gaps and pauses here that extend it out nicely. Tastes like walking through an orchard on a surprisingly chilly morning.

And The Pairing? Quite good. Mustard messed with it on occasion, but the salty cured meats and this wine really like each other.

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

Saturday: Southern Chicken Sandwiches with 2013 Charles Smith VINO Pinot Grigio Columbia

Food Details: Breaded Southern-style chicken breast sandwiches with pickles, mayo, kumatoes, onions and lettuce on pretzel buns. Olive oil chips. Sandwiches and chips.

Did We Like It? Oh, my, yes. For me, after a crappy work shift clouded by the general annoyance of watching people chew for a living, coming home to jazzed-up, sunny, picnic food wiped the slate clean.

How Was The Wine? We don't like pinot grigio, but we like THIS pinot grigio. Its 2013-ness makes for a wine that's losing some of its distinction, sparkle and polish, but the acid and citrus blossom notes are hanging on enough to 'bring the happy.' We'll be buying this one until Mr. Smith stops making this one. It's $13.

How Was The Pairing? Good. Enough. After two days of terrible wine, The wine's quality was more than welcome. The pickles messed with its segues a bit for me.

Cost: $12 for food, $13 for wine = $25  

Thursday and Friday

Wifey worky pool party on Friday. She ate food there, with jug Aldi Lambrusco, probably. It's fruity and tastes like the 80's in not a bad way. Or when you go to someone else's church service that's much more wealthy than your church, take communion, and realize that even their 'blood of Christ' is more fancy. I ate work pizza and drank a glass of chilled gamay from Thursday. Still...not good. Bit like chilled wood polish.

Meatloaf and potato salad on Thursday. Opened a bottle of wine that's been sitting around the house, WELL past its drinking window, the 2009 Gilles Bonnefoy Côtes de Forez Gamay, and it was just that. Good stuff a little over a year ago. Not so much now. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Cost: $8 for food, $12 for wine = $19

Wednesday: Fried Haloumi, Yellow Beet Salad with Walnut Gremolata and Garlic Bread with 2013 Palmina Sparkling Malvasia Bianca Larner Vineyard SBC

Source: Beet salad recipe straight from Palmina's website for malvasia pairing (this beet salad is a house fav)

Food Details: Yellow beets, roasted. Slathered with a walnut, garlic, lemon-orange zest and juice and anchovy blend. Put on top of arugula. Haloumi fried off in mini cast-iron with parsley and olive oil. Jamie Oliver garlic bread. Rip, cut, dip, eat.

Did We Like It? Always. The beet salad is a 3x a year thing. It's stupid-great and stupid-easy. Fried haloumi, same. Who doesn't want fried Greek-Cypriot cheese? It's delicious even after it gets a bit waxy. Plenty of bread to do as you do. Arugula to keep it lifty. Complete and satisfying meal.

How Was The Wine? The star. Loved it. More fresh on New Year's Eve, but we liked it better here, as its malvasia-y floral notes became FLORAL notes! Apricot blossoms to start with oodles of dying white flowers backing it up. Bubbles just barely hanging on, but I got something akin to a great Cava-like mineral finish occasionally. Turned into a delicate sour-bitter beer about halfway through and we loved it. Nutmegged pear fruit in the background throughout. It was like a Haruki Murakami novel. It took about two minutes to realize that this was going to go to deliciously odd places and we're going to love it.          

And The Pairing? So great with the beets. Less so with the haloumi but still happy. A leisurely meal with loveliness at every turn.

Cost: $15 for food, $36 for wine = $51

Tuesday: Uzbek Lamb Plov and Kumato/Onion/Arugula Salad with 2010 Abacela Tempranillo Umpqua Valley

Source: Recipe here, via Cucee Sprouts

Food Details: Lamb, chickpeas, carrots, barberries, garlic, cumin, tumeric, basmati rice. A one-pot meal that's considered the national dish of Uzbekistan. And boy, does it have people that are passionate about the assemblage of it, right down to the carrot cutting. I heart the tyranny of the authenticity brigade. Recipe followed to the letter, but left out the raisins and used barberries fished out of the torshi seer. Kumato, onion and arugula salad to finish.

Did We Like It? The result was a delicious, savory, light, homey, country, lamb and rice dish that both of us utterly loved. And will be having again. Probably soon. Very easy to make. The kumato salad rounded out of perfectly great meal. We're beginning to think we gravitate more towards land-based Mediterranean-Middle Eastern food instead of something more sea-based. Gets into our bones more.      

How Was The Wine? Tempranillo from southern Oregon's Umpqua Valley. Abacela has two, one for aging and this one. Happy, round, fresh dark cherries, getting plummy later. Smooth texture, medium length, nice acid keeping everything lifty, enough tannin to keep everything in place.

And The Pairing? The wine served as a pleasant supporting actor to the star on the plate. Missed that third-level, Spanishy, Ribera, lamb-and-tempranillo complete greatness, but got kinda close. Liked it.

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

Monday: Nando's Peri-Peri in Lakeview

Food Details: Full chicken platter for two, fries and mashed peas. Chicken slathered in peri-peri, heaping mound of fries with peri-peri mayo for dipping, mashed peas with mint parsley and chili. Open on Monday and straight-through from lunch to dinner, if we want spicy chicken and fries and don't want to make spicy chicken and fries, Nando's does it well. At 3pm, because we're old.

Did We Like It? Like other souped-up, fast-casual places out there, it's just good enough to say "this will work and it's cheap enough to justify the expense." There's some flavor, preservative or otherwise, that all of the Shake Shacks, Five Guys, even Urban Bellys of the world uses that make it taste quite somewhat similar. There's something there we can't quite pinpoint. And all of this can be made at home at 1/2 the price, but no kitchen time + no dishes = why not, once or twice a year. $15 more and we'd make it at home, but it's not. Amsterdam Falafel still reigns in the fast-casual category, though. That's The Stuff.

How Was The Wine? the 2013 Cara Viva Lisbon Branco is probably a wine made specifically for Nando's. Zippy, easy, with enough guts to stand up to the hot sauce. No complaints at all. Tasted like Portugal in nice ways. They probably pay $3 a bottle for it and charge $17 but who cares?

And The pairing? Refreshing. It helped in the overall impression of the meal.

Cost: $32 for food, $17 for wine = $50