Thursday, February 11, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #31

TV things with a week to go until pitchers and catchers report:

I feel the internet failed us. How nobody told me that every freaking season of Channel 4's Come Dine With Me is on YouTube. This show has everything: bad food, strangers forced to try to get along, weird human ticks, conversational dynamics, and judgment...loads of judgment. Everyone on the show is also Trying: trying to cook well, trying to understand another human being, trying to have some fun, trying to be understood. Loads of Trying.

There are hundreds of episodes. If I didn't like sports, that cord would have been cut years ago.

Wednesday: French Pizzas and Walnut Oil-ed Arugula with NV La Granja Brut Cava

Food Details: A Trader Joe's feast. TJ's French pizzas with ham and gruyère. Arugula salad dressed with walnut oil, roasted garlic, grainy mustard, evoo and white balsamic. Slice of pizza, top with salad, eat.

Did We Like It? What the hell? After a lazy day and Five Guys for lunch, easy food was in order. This was easy food and oddly great food. Something about the walnut oil jazzed this up to something delicious with flavors jumping everywhere.

How Was The Wine? Cheap Cava (70% xarel·lo, 30% parellada) and usually cheap lunch bubbles that tastes like cheap wine from vacation. Nothing special, ever, but here...

And The Pairing? Best it's ever tasted in this house. The sweetness of its fruit bloomed - bright and clean and Spanishy - with a very nice nut-pit note on its finish with every bite and sip. This was a cheap, easy, whipped together dinner and it turned into something so much more.

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

Tuesday: Sumac Poussins and Braised Endive with 2014 Alloy Wine Works Grenache Rosé Central Coast

Food Details: Ottolenghi sumac-ed baby chickens (sumac, garlic, allspice, salt marinade), stuffed with Carolina Gold rice and barley (instead of bulgur), ground lamb, allspice, cinnamon, pine nuts, almonds, etc. Birds then roasted. Endive braised and roasted under the baby chickens. Yogurt to dip and dunk.

Did We Like It? We did, well enough. It had all the Ottolenghi flavors we like. Great bird meat and stuffing, and with a dip of yogurt, it reached all the basic heights of what makes Ottolenghi food our first food love. Felt like something was...half-missing here, though.

How Was The Wine? Grenache in the can from Field Recordings. We've been over this. It's nothing serious or thought-provoking, just VERY sunny strawberry and guava notes with buckets of happy acid. It's ever-so slightly starting to fade from its former fresh-fresh deliciousness, but it's still more than adequate. And was here.

And The Pairing? Fine and good. At times, even delicious. In hindsight, this might have been a food opportunity for something sherry-like.

Cost: $25 for food, $16 for wine = $41  

Monday: Beef Cheek Sugo over Pappardelle with 2007 Quinta do Vallado Tinto Douro

Food Details: Beef cheeks from a couple of Tuesdays ago, mixed with soffritto, a glop of tomato paste, a spoon of cocoa powder and rosemary sprigs; deglazed with Muscadet; added San Marzano tomatoes, brick of congealed braised beef cheeks dumped in, simmered for as long as Mrs. Ney had the patience. Parsley, pecorino, pappardelle.

Did We Like It? Had a depth similar to Bolognese and a darker, winter forest, mountain food-like warmth. Great use of leftover beef cheeks here. We liked it muchly.

How Was The Wine? Our last 2007 Vallado tinto, a great vintage in the Douro. Nine years old and still drinking well. A bit sanguine, with some cocoa, burning brush and blackberries. Typical Douro flavors with a three-act play. Everything needed was present.

And The Pairing? Linked up beautifully. The cocoa in both served as the bridge, and the rest of the flavors giddily played with each other. A fine pairing.

Cost: $10 for food extras, $20 for wine = $30

Thursday, February 4, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #30

Remember when Trump lost Iowa. Remember that? Remember the onslaught of media coverage for months, then two out of 100 registered Iowa voters voted for him?

That was awesome.

The Assassin, Hou Hsiao-Hsien's first film in eight years, might be one of the most beautiful, visceral, and perplexing films I've seen in years.

A.O. Scott releases his new book, Better Living Through Criticism, this Tuesday. Public notice.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $130 for food and $102 for wine = $232

Sunday: Choucroute Garnie with 2014 Domaine Weinbach Gewürztraminer Clos des Capucins Cuvee Theo Alsace

Source: David Leite's choucroute garnie recipe, using pork ribs and kielbasa instead of smoked pork and other wursts; Muscadet instead of beer.

Food Details: Kielbasa, pork ribs, bacon, sauerkraut, potatoes, onions, juniper berries, clove, garlic, bay, salt and pepper; all thrown in the crock pot for about five hours. TJ's baguette and Kerrygold butter.

Did We Like It? Merely fine and never reaching the point of like. Used Paulina sauerkraut instead of Boar's Head and it didn't create the sauerkraut glue between all the ingredients that this meal had last time. Everything tasted...separate instead of having that Old World, Alsatian, cold weather deliciousness. Pork ribs were tough as well. Same prep as last time, just didn't get off the ground.

How Was The Wine? It took awhile to show itself, but as it warmed/opened up, a gewürztraminer richness and floral-spicy underpinning showed its face. Lightly fruity and round, with grapefruit acid and lychee bounce. Nice enough. Probably needed a decant. Probably wouldn't buy it again.

And The Pairing? Meh. Food was there. Wine was there. Very little in the way of linkage or pairing love.

Cost: $22 for food, $30 for wine = $52  

Saturday: Lamb Salami, Broiled Feta, Arugula, Pepper Relish and Bread with 2014 Caves de Charmelieu Saint-Bris Sauvignon Blanc

Food Details: Sliced lamb salami, broiled feta, arugula, pepper relish made with roasted red peppers with preserved lemon, scallions, parsley. Pugliese bread. More pick-n-choose. Bread topped with all of said ingredients.

Did We Like It?  We LOVED it. It had everything. Creamy, broiled feta goodness, playing off the lamby salami, playing off the pepper-preserved lemon pop, playing off the arugula peppery cleanse. Had verticality. HUGE fans!

How Was The Wine? This was Greeky, and a Greeky wine would have been DE-licious here, but we didn't have any in the house. The Saint-Bris served a tick more than adequately, offering lemony cream and grassy verve. Not wow-inducing, just easy, cheap SB on the cheap.

And The Pairing? Good. Enough. Initial mild skepticism led to a general "this ain't too shabby!"

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

Friday: Fenugreek-perfumed Black-Eyed Pea Curry, Naan and Raita with 2014 Domingo Molina Hermanos Torrontés Salta

Food Details: (From 660 Curries, page 321, "Fenugreek-Perfumed Black-Eyed Peas") Black-eyed peas, onion, garlic, ginger (added), peppers, tomatoes, dried fenugreek leaves, turmeric. Make the day before. It's better. Cucumber/cilantro raita and naan, to dip, dunk and cool.

Did We Like It? A fine version of this curry. Not the best version, but a good version. But a curry, with raita, with naan, with all of the back-and-forth eating that entails, led (and always leads) to a satisfying meal.

How Was The Wine/Pairing? Basic torrontés, nothing special. And nothing special here, as it drank like it was missing something in mineral form and more than its tiny wisp of floral notes. BUT had just enough goodness to think, "meh...we're good."

Cost: $7 for food, $12 for wine = $19  

Thursday: Rotisserie Chicken, Kumatoes, Salad and Bread with NV Trader Joe's Brut Rosé Sonoma County

Food Details: Mariano's rotisserie chicken, kumatoes, sweet pea salad (pea tendril-heavy), take-and-bake Italian-style batard bread and mayo. Rip, top, eat, repeat.

Did We Like It? Fine. Good. Basic version of a house classic. Should have made a white BBQ sauce.

How Was The Wine? $10 Trader Joe's sparkler, a pinot noir and pinot meunier blend, so Blanc de Noirs done in the Champagne method from Sonoma County. Rather fascinating how personality-free this drinking was. "Well, it's certainly...wine."

And The Pairing? Meh. The wine was better on its own.

Cost: $20 for food, $10 for wine = $30

Wednesday: A Quick Note

I had a work meeting. Mrs. Ney ate use-stuff-up leftovers by compiling naan pizzas with scallion cream cheese from Sunday, empanadas filling from Tuesday, almost-forgotten asparagus from the crisper and (why do we have these?) fish sticks and drank leftover fridge fié gris. What easily could have been quite depressing became an utterly delicious textural meal with a fridge wine that was so much more than that. A big surprise. Huge! [$5 in odds and ends.]

Tuesday: Flap Meat, chimichurri and Empanadas with 2011 Three Wine Co. Zinfandel Contra Costa

Food Details: Paulina Meat Market flap meat with churrasco marinade, seared medium-rare. Red chimichurri. Homemade potato and smoked cheddar empanadas (Tanis recipe). Whole Foods Asian blend salad to finish.

Did We Like It? Meat and potatoes in Latin form. We always like it. Chimichurri on the beef was nice. Chimichurri on the empanadas was boss! An all-around delicious meal.

How Was The Wine? Opened up a Pruno Ribera del Duero to start, but the chimichurri gutted it. This $13 zinfandel blend (77% zinfandel, 17% petite sirah, 4% carignan, 2% alicante borscht) from Contra Costa falls right into the Marietta/La Posta world of very affordable and very delicious table reds that we could drink by the bucket. Good fruit, impressive second act, finishes savory, and wants/loves food. What else do you need? Dark, richer fruit, zinfandel profile but never gets California-heavy, nice length, good spice, bright overall. Happy juice.

And The Pairing? No complaints in the least. Enough guts in the wine to stand up to the stronger flavors in the food, so the wine turned into another flavor on the table that felt like it was meant to go with everything. No gushing here with the pairing, just an appreciation for what it did and an appreciation for how it continued to like what was on the table to the last bite.

Cost: $24 for food, $13 for wine = $37      

Monday: Duck Confit and Dirty Rice with 2014 Broc Cellars Carignan Alexander Valley

Food Details: Whole Foods Mary's Duck Confit, crisped up in cast-iron, served with pomegranate gastrique (from this recipe). Susan Spicer wild and dirty rice, substituting tasso for ground pork, poblano for green pepper, and Carolina Gold Rice for long-grain. Broiled asparagus.

Did We Like It? Jeebus, yes! And the duck confit was a bit tough! D'Artagnan duck confit always and forever after this. Carolina Gold Rice, after shipping, is $10/lb. Ten bucks a pound...for rice. And it's worth every freaking cent. Such...grace in the rice. It's tough to describe why it's so good. It simply lifted up and broadened out all the other flavors it played with, creating a more complex, full picture of what was happening. Like the best bass player in the world...or something. Mixing in the duck confit with a drizzle of gastrique into the rice was a perfect bite. And it got all matchy-matchy with the wine.

How Was The Wine? Broc...being...Broc. Perfect here. Sneaky depth, spice and length for a wine that initially comes off as a light, fruity, floral quaffer. It shows itself first as a simple little number, then it shows just how deep, complex and interesting it really is. Raspberry, wild burning herbs, wonderfully broad and generous. We love mostly verything Broc makes. But we love his carignan the most.

And The Pairing? This is where it shined. The Broc dug into the dirty rice and became so much more complete and wide and pairing-perfect. This wine needs food. This food served it oh-so well.

Cost: $34 for food, $27 for wine = $61    

Thursday, January 28, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #29


This Ted Cruz piece in Mother Jones is bananas. HI-larious!

The Look of Silence, Joshua Oppenheimer's follow-up to The Act of Killing is worth every second. It's not so much the stares and enthusiasm from the killers, it's the giggles and pat, uniform responses over regret. 

20 days until pitchers and catchers report.

C'mon.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $103 for food and $191 for wine = $294

Sunday: Salmon and Bagels with Two Wines with 2013 Jackys Preys Cuvée de Fié Gris Touraine and 2014 Terrasse du Moulinas Blanc Elégance Languedoc-Roussillon

Food Details: Trader Joe's smoked salmon, charred-scallion cream cheese, kumatoes and arugula. Rip, top, eat, repeat.

Did We Like It? Something about this meal on Sunday night, as my workweek ends and Mrs. Ney's comes to a close, helps reset things. It's clean, fresh, bountiful and delicious every time. The charred scallions in the cream cheese with the kumatoes made it taste a whole lot like bacon to me. Strange and welcome.

How Were The Wines And The Pairing? Both were what they always have been for us in the past, but both fell flat here with the food. VERY flat, never getting off the ground in terms of integration, cleanse or lift. Probably the charred shallots. Who knows? 

Cost: $20 for food, $21 for wine = $41   

Saturday: Rick Bayless's Tomatillo Chicken with 2014 Sauvignon Republic Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough

Food Details: From Mr. Bayless (recipe). Layered in the crock-pot: onions, potatoes, chicken, cilantro, tomatillos, pickled jalapeños and juice; salting each layer through the tomatillos. Four hours on high. Over rice with toasted coriander seeds.

Did We Like It? Always. A big dollop of sour cream here helped tone down my "free-form" dispensing of the hot juice. If we made a '50 Essential Meals' list, this would be on it.

How Was The Wine? $7 Trader Joe's New Zealand SB. Juicy tropical notes with lemongrass background and big acidity.

And The Pairing? Its perception of sweet fruit countered the spice, while the acid helped cleanse. Nice match with this food. Felt a couple ticks above a basic weeknight pairing.

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

Friday: Banh Mi Sandwiches

Food Details: Sifton's "vaguely Vietnamese pork tacos" for the pork turned into banh mi with the addition of lemongrass and carrot/jicama pickled salad. Ba Le baguette ($1 for two! - big bargain). Olive oil chips.

Did We Like It? Big Win! No wine.

Cost: $13 

Thursday: Hummus and Tabbouleh with 2014 La Granja Blanco Rioja

Food Details: Homemade hummus using up Monday's Solomonov tahini sauce plus two cans of chickpeas. Kale tabbouleh (Melissa Clark recipe) using fregola instead of bulgur. Pita.

Did We Like It? Perfectly simple hummus, pita and tabbouleh dinner. Had everything we'd want, plus ALL THE FIBER. That's all I'm gonna say about that. This tabbouleh is certainly 'a thing.' Loved it.

How Was The Wine? $5. White Spanish wine, a verdejo and viura blend, with crispness, dryness and creaminess; lightly floral, lightly citrusy. Tastes like vacation every time.

And The Pairing? No complaints.

Cost: $4 for food, $5 for wine = $9  

Wednesday: Jamie Oliver Indian Carrot Salad with 2014 Broc Cellars Vine Starr Zinfandel Sonoma County

Food Details: House staple. (Recipe) Crisped-up ground lamb with garam masala. Carrots and shallots dressed with lemon, ginger, cumin, Thai peppers and olive oil. Roasted cauliflower as a new addition, cuz we had to use up the cauliflower. Spinach blend mixed in with cilantro and mint. Sesame seeds on top. Naan and radish raita on the side. 

Did We Like It? A very good, spicy version of something we have often, because it had all the vitamins and tastes like Love. Roasted cauliflower was very welcome, though wasn't essential and didn't improve this already great meal. Don't make any radish raita recipe that says to sauté the radishes. Completely loses the radish effect, turning the raita from a refreshing, crisp cleanser to something quite boring. Overall, such a good meal. And the wine helped.

How Was The Wine? Gotta drink the Broc. More is coming. 12.8% alcohol on this zinfandel, with fresh red berry fruit and enough heft to identify as a zin while loving how so stupid light it is. Screams for food, and it didn't disappoint. 

And The Pairing? This food was spicy and the zinfandel, as zin does, countered that spice, opening up a great length in the wine and lovely fresh berry refreshment. Initially thought this might be a somewhat odd choice for this salad, but it worked in spades. Both of us fell in love with the wine. 

Cost: $14 for food, $32 for wine = $46    

Tuesday: Beef Cheeks and Chickpea Purée with 2008 Sanguis Endangered Species Act 1-3 Santa Ynez Valley

Food Details: Recipe from Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes In The World. Paulina beef cheeks marinated in garlic, cloves, black pepper/corns, green peppercorns, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and the TJ's barbera. Braised/roasted for 3 1/2 hours. Chickpeas skinned (creates a wonderfully smooth texture) and puréed with rosemary, stock, salt and pepper. Fried shallots on top. Parsley over everything.

Did We Like It? Curious. Yes, we liked it a lot. Both of us felt some diminishment from having this a couple of times before relatively recently. Blew our minds when we first had it. Now, it feels like something we should have every other year to maintain that "blowing of the mind." Curiously, when we first had it, the first 8-10 bites were utter enjoyment and it tapered off after that. This time, it got better as it cooled down. Fried shallots are boss. 

How Was The Wine? A surprise. We bought a fair amount of Sanguis wines after a Sanguis dinner at Blackbird a few years ago, then we sort of lost interest and they sat in the cellar neglected. This one, a syrah blend with a little viognier and roussanne in there, was essentially popped and poured after checking it an hour before. Lovely savory blueberry, black olive, some sort of cinnamon-driven spice mixture, and mint notes. Fairly concentrated but never a big fruit bomb. And remained savory throughout. Happy viognier lift at the end. A bigger wine in terms of alcohol but this maintained its happy place admirably. Shocked by how savory it was. It's drinking well right now and currently half the cost of what we bought it for (gulp).

And The Pairing? Very good, almost great. Loved the purée and shallots. Liked the beef cheeks. Mostly, we were happy to find a meal that utilized and served this wine so well. That's the goal. Always. 

Cost: $35 for food, $83 for wine = $118        

Monday: Fish Cakes and Fried Pickled Potatoes with 2009 Domaine des Baumard Clos du Papillon Savennières

Food Details: Fish cakes made with swai, three freezer scallops, eggs, pepper, coriander, ginger, cayenne, garlic, breadcrumbs, cilantro and flour, pan-fried. (from "fish balls" recipe in The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, page 196). Michael Solomonov's fried pickled potatoes (recipe). Cilantro and sesame seeds on top. Harissa tahini to dip in everything.

Did We Like It? This is the best fish cake recipe we've ever had, and we've had these fairly often of late. The texture of them allows for space and enjoyment of every ingredient. The "new" in this meal were the pickled potatoes. Potatoes soaked in pickling juice; drained and patted dry, then fried. It's like having delicious fry-based food that comes off so gosh-darn light and peppy. So two fried items on the plate and not one bite tasted like a big plate of fried food. This was a great meal.

How Was The Wine? Quiet compared to other Savennières we've had, including this one from a different vintage. All the notes of Savennières chenin, but with a paced, ethereal quality, and that was frankly welcome, as we worried over whether this was going to work with the food. Light chamomile and tea,very little wax that showed up more as an impression of wax, poached apricot and pear, and a finish that was a brief summary of everything before. 

And The Pairing? At first, we weren't sure this was working as we starting eating, but as we got into it, we enjoyed the subtlety and grace it offered. Backward expression that took some getting used to, finally landing on a great deal of enjoyment. 

Cost: $10 for food, $43 for wine = $53    

Friday, January 22, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #28

Going cheap and cleaning out the freezer this week, as a D'Artagnan shipment is on the way.

Some numbers:

26 days until pitchers and catchers report.

73 days until Opening Day

These are the most important numbers in the world right now.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $166 for food and $128 for wine = $294

Total food and wine cost for the month: $547 for food and $514 for wine = $1061

Sunday: Calzone-y Things with 2013 Palmina Sparkling Barbera Santa Barbara

Food Details: Kale, ricotta, sausage and other things, baked in freezer dough shaped into a log-like, calzone-y style shape. Marinara on the side to dip, top and dunk.

Did We Like It? Tasted like Italian Sunday Supper. Comforting, tasty, and entirely welcome.

How Was The Wine? Same. Comforting mixture of blue/black fruits, touch of licorice, some background spice. Not a lot of any of that. This was more along the lines of a friendly, slightly bubbly, red wine drink and we very much liked every second of it.

And The Pairing? Happy. Nothing wrong here. Italian-American homemade food, unpretentious wine that simply wants to be liked...we don't need much more than that on a Sunday.

Cost: $14 for food, $32 for wine = $46  

Saturday: Pan Bagnat with 2014 La Granja Blanco Rioja

Food Details: (recipe) 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. Whole Foods olive oil chips.

Did We Like It? Oh, my, oui! This one much more filled with southern Frenchy pan bagnat goodness than the last incarnation. Mrs. Ney had a French sandwich, Spanish wine and German film combo for dinner and loved it! I paired mine with yet another unfunny viewing on an SNL episode.

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? Enough acid here to stand up to the briny notes, then break open the wine's Spanish air deliciousness. It's $5, so nothing in the way of fancy, but it has a real place in this house.

Cost: $16 for food, $5 for wine = $21

Friday: Freezer Shepherd's Pie with 2015 Viñas Chileans Reserva Rosé Valle Central

Food Details: Barberry beef, harissa goat and jerk goat combined in typical shepherd's pie prep; celery root and skordalia with feta topping.

Did We Like It? Big D'Artagnan order coming, so it's clean-out-the-freezer shepherd's pie. This could have been weird. It wasn't. Wasn't in the least. Very good, proper shepherd's pie flavors that had a happy balance. The feta really brightened things up. Big winner.

How Was The Wine? $4. Cab-syrah. Rosé. Chile. It's $4-ness is quickly making this wine our house rosé when we don't want to get spendy.

And The Pairing? Just fine. No complaints.

Cost: $2 for food, $4 for wine = $6  

Thursday: Chicken Salad, Arugula and Crostini with 2014 VinTJ's Vermentino Sonoma County

Food Details: Old School chicken salad with dill and tarragon, toasted up homemade baguette, arugula salad. Bread + chicken salad + arugula on top = happiness.

Did We Like It? Nothing fancy here, just a simple chicken salad dinner that brought all of the ingredients to a party that led to a weirdly satisfying dinner.

How Was The Wine? Some lime notes with a wee touch of minerality and herbs. Simple vermentino, nothing special in the least, but for $8, a decent little wine when you want/need a modicum of citrusy snap to perk up and weave into the food.

And The Pairing? The wine helped make it weirdly satisfying, mostly because of the wine fails lately. There was enough here in the way of cleanse/refresh to offer some solid pairing goodness, even if this wine isn't...the best.

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

Wednesday: Baby Shower and Cacio e Pepe

Note: Mrs. Ney attended a baby shower. I made cacio e pepe. No wine, though Mrs. Ney says the baby shower could have used it.

Tuesday: Greek Chicken, Skordalia and Pickled Vegetables with 2014 Burgans Albariño Rías Baixas and 2014 Kozlovic Malvazija Croatia

Food Details: Greeked-up chicken thighs (lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, oregano, dry white wine, garlic, onion and black pepper), potato skordalia and Solomonov pickled vegetables over arugula, with pita to rip, top, dip and eat.

Did We Like It? A very fine version of a house staple. The pickled veggies tasted like 'a thing.' And a thing we'll be having again. Great subtle tang to them. And the food vastly outdid the wine.

How Was The Wine? Both of us found nothing good to say about either of them. Cheaper albariño and Croatian malvasia here. Both tasted like a Cliff Notes version of their respective grapes. Nothing to see here. Move along.

And The Pairing? Well...it wasn't hate-able.

Cost: $13 for food, $34 for wine = $47

Monday: Bistro Campagne with 2004 Ducru Beaucaillou Saint-Julien

Food Details: Brandade croquettes to start, two orders of hanger steak frites as entrée.

Did We Like It? This is becoming our default restaurant for anytime we "want to go out." Pleasant croquettes that we'd order again. But this place is about the hanger steak and fries with sides of aioli for fry-dippin'. It's a big plate of utterly satisfying food.

How Was The Wine? And one of the reasons we like Bistro Campagne so much, along with a great steak frites, is a low corkage fee of $15. We can bring a more spendy wine, drink wines sitting around in the house that Mrs. Ney doesn't really want to cater-cook to-for, and enjoy with food like this steak frites that works with them. As it was with this one. I got this 2004 Ducru for a patently ridiculous $45 from Binny's years ago (it's about $120 right now around the interwebs). Decanted at the restaurant and it moved along quite nicely after 30 minutes in. Very medium-bodied, tons of fancy cigar on the nose, pleasant red-black currant fruit blend on the tongue, touch of cedar, somewhat short-ish finish, but very pleasant overall. Could have used a couple more years, maybe, as it was a bit shy/reticent at times.

And The Pairing? A very solid use for this wine. The meal had that languid, pokey feel and the wine helped in that endeavor, as we discussed the rental apartment we just went to see and listened to the gentleman next to us explain to the waitress that he likes big portions and is allergic to everything.

Cost: $115 for food, $45 for wine = $160    

Thursday, January 14, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #27

We came to the halfway point in this 365-day experiment and arrived at a total cost of about $7600 for food and wine.

That number is about 90% of our spending on food and wine, which includes most lunches, as they typically are leftovers from the previous day, and that number includes about $1200 on food and wine for a week-long vacation to California.

So, taking out vacation (because that's vacation), it averages out to about $35/day ($6400/182 days) for overall great food with wine that matched. Not. Too. Shabby...Given:

A) This is basically our hobby.

B) We rarely go out to eat anymore due to the "We're Fabulous!" tax restaurants charge, particularly on wine but also for the level of food satisfaction that can be gotten at home for a quarter of the price if you're smart (not smart is spending $3000 for four people at Per Se, apparently).

C) For a comparison, Americans average about $150/week on food, or about $7800/year. There's two of us, so we're right in line with the food average without even including wine (tons of caveats and calculations in there)!

We've had some spectacular food and wine over these six months and haven't broken the bank.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $85 for food and $75 for wine = $160

Sunday: Meat and Cheese Plate with 2014 Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Valley

Food Details: Mortadella, salami, dill havarti cheese, arugula, mustard, and homemade bread from this recipe, using Gold Medal AP flour (bread flour in the works).

Did We Like It? Both of us found it somewhat boring. Mini-ciabatta would have helped, and the arugula wasn't the best. This bread loaf was punched down and shouldn't have, leading to a somewhat dense bread.

How Was The Wine? Chilean sauvignon blanc on the cheap. Tangerine and grapefruit and herbs with nice, punchy acidity.

And The Pairing? No complaints, but nothing to love here.

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

Saturday: Allium Tart with 2014 Montinore Borealis Willamette Valley

Food Details: Leek, pearl onion and chive blossom (cooked down with rabbit stock) tart with smoked cheddar cheese, tarragon, and dill. "Spicy spinach" salad blend. Tart shell recipe.

Did We Like It? Bistro food! Tart with salad. You don't need more than this, people. This tart had more of a cold weather, foggy, northern France feel. Great slight black char on the veggies.

How Was The Wine? New wine for us. A müller thurgau, riesling, pinot gris, and gewürztraminer blend. Brilliant bright funk to its peach, kiwi and floral notes. Shows like it's going to be sweet at first, but the high acid leads to a crisp, clean finish, leaving everything bouncy and happy. Frankly felt more like some poop and hay got into a vat of pinot gris...in a good way. Liked it muchly and has a place in our food world.

And The Pairing? Really great little pairing place. Very Alsatian, but with a more New World transparency, clean brightness and aggressiveness. Wasn't subtle as the food and wine matched up, but the tarragon, dill and touch of char and smoky cheese, the aggressiveness in the wine turned into vibrancy and class. Big fans.

Cost: $9 for food, $15 for wine = $24      

Friday: Coconut Goat Curry, Raita and Naan with 2014 João Portugal Ramos Lima Vinho Verde

Source: From 660 Curries, Raghavan Iyer, page 230.

Food Details: Substituting ground goat for pork and adding mustard greens in the curry. Celery raita. Trader Joe's naan.

Did We Like It? The recipes we've made from this book has been hit-and-miss, mostly falling into a very "meh" territory, always feel like something's missing, rarely grabbing our attention, rarely bursting with flavor. Like here. Tasted fresh and moderately vibrant, and it was nice to have an Indian spread of food. But we have little to say.  

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

And The Pairing? Wonky with the curry but got better as the meal progressed, good with the raita. We ended up finishing fridge wine just to get them out of there.

Cost: $12 for food, $8 for wine = $20

Thursday: Zucchini Goop with 2014 Charles Smith VINO Pinot Grigio Columbia Valley 

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

Food Details: Quickly became a weeknight staple a few months ago, it's goopy zucchini-meat surprise to top on bread and get our "pick-n-choose" on. This version used up Family Dinner leftovers: zucchini, onions, garlic, tomatoes, leftover pork shoulder, leftover pimiento cheese, oregano and dill. Harvesttime isn't carrying LaBriola anymore. Sad face. So we gave that large, fat, pale, basic-looking baguette that's ubiquitous at so many Latin grocery stores a try. DON'T DO THAT! It's bread that tastes like my early 20s depression.

Did We Like It? Food. This wasn't the best batch of zucchini goop but it had some nice underlying heat and veggie-centric goodness. But that bread, man... That bread.

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? Helped me from focusing too much on the wretchedness of the bread. "Got goop, got wine, good enough."

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

Wednesday: Dinner with the Family

Food Details: Pimiento cheese with crackers as an appetizer, Sean Brock pork shoulder, rice cakes, bbq sauce and kale salad for dinner. Pistachio meringue-cherry sorbet-chocolate sauce "spumoni dacquoise" for dessert. A low-key, easy-ish family gathering. No complaints. $60

Tuesday: Bittman Game Hens, Scallion Frybread and Roasted Carrots with 2013 Darting Riesling Kabinett Trocken Pfalz

Source: From Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World, Vietnamese cornish game hens, page 334. Lucky Peach spicy fish-sauce sauce (with the addition of keffir lime leaves). Crispy scallion pancakes from Serious Eats. Lucky Peach roasted carrots (using scallions instead of red onions).

Food Details: Mariano's cornish game hens (2/$7), marinated in garlic, shallot, fish sauce, keffir lime leaves (added), ginger and honey; roasted in a 500-degree oven on a preheated griddle for 22 minutes, drizzled with sesame oil after roasting. Spicy fish sauce on the side of Red Boat fish sauce, garlic, Thai green-manzano-fresno chiles, white wine vinegar and keffir lime leaves (added) for dipping, dunking and drizzling on everything. Scallion pancakes, fried up in the cast-iron. Roasted carrots made with said fish-sauce sauce and topped with arugula, mint, cilantro and pomegranate seeds.

Did We Like It? I don't know what I'm gonna say... A bite of frybread topped with game hen breast meat and skin, drizzled with spicy fish-sauce sauce is a top-12 bite of food I've probably ever had in my life. Mrs. Ney pretty much agrees. This was a most incredible dinner, right up there with Ottolenghi fish, cocount-peanut salad and rice. Funny that both are Asian. Delicious carrots, Thai chiles that didn't hold back its heat, an absolutely complete dinner that was one of the best in recent and not so memory. We're going to do a top-100 dinners of our lives at some point. This one is going to be right up there.

How Was The Wine/Pairing? We abandoned a bottle of 2013 Forlorn Hope Trou Grit (trousseau gris) rather quick-like because the aggressiveness of the fish sauce and heat were messing with it. It was trying but didn't get all the way there. The Darting riesling's sweet underpinnings offered a fine and good counter to everything on the plate, never reaching a level of great, but offering a touch of lemongrass on the finish that played happily with the Vietnamese-centric food. A Selbach-Oster would have been more lovely/complete here, but enough of a cleanse/reset with the Darting to not really care about the wine's intimate details because the food on the plate was so F*&^^$#ing fantastic. A ridiculous dinner. Absolutely perfect. And look at the cost.

Cost: $25 for food, $16 for wine = $41          

Monday: Bison Short Ribs and Zucchini Cakes with Marietta Cellars Christo Lot #1

Food Details: (David Leite recipe) Whole Foods bison short ribs (when they're there, buy them - it's not often), rubbed with coffee, cumin, smoked paprika,  chipotle powder, salt and pepper, marinated overnight. Seared then roasted 2-3 hours with garlic, onion, marzano, drizzled with espresso-tomato-vinegar mixture. Pan juice sauce on the side. House-standard zucchini cakes (recipe) on the side, our veg and starch in one package.

Did We Like It? I'm no fan of short ribs. I am a fan of bison short ribs. Leaner, meatier, less fatty and less greasy. This dinner had all the backyard bbq goodness without the bucket of fat that typically comes with short ribs. We were happy campers, especially eaten with this wine:

How Was The Wine? Our last Lot #1. Syrah, grenache, petite sirah and viognier. Fresh dirt, smoke, tar, blackberries, blueberries, lavender, grizzle. Savory. It's so damn lovely. A complete red, so versatile with food, always adjusting, always showing its best side with each different bite.

How Was The Pairing? This food would have been fine with a lot of red blends geared towards food. Spanish, maybe a Washington blend. But there's something about the fresh cut and transparent flavors with the Christo that's not trying to be anything other than it is. It's not trying to hew to traditions, or regional styles, or worry about what their next-door winemaker will think. Marietta Cellars just makes wine that's going to like food, first and only first. That's why it's a favorite. Here it took the meal from "Well...this is quite good" to "Did you taste that? Cripes, that's good!"

Cost: $24 for food, $16 for wine = $40

Thursday, January 7, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #26

Mrs. Ney is sick. So we kept it simple this week. And cheaper.

Sicario = Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation > Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I say that because it's true. The second half of Star Wars is a freakin' mess. I wanted to loop the Benny Hill soundtrack over every move the First Order made. And I understand the use of nostalgia here, but laying it on a lil thick, don't ya think?

I'm not saying Sicario or MI are great films, but at least they took the time and care to give a coherent storyline and had an attention to detail.

*** Half-Year (26 week) Summary: $3542 for food, $4065 for wine = $7607 ***

Total food and wine cost for the week: $111 for food and $82 for wine = $193

Sunday: Charred Onions and Yogurt with 2014 Terrasse du Moulinas Blanc Elégance Languedoc-Roussillon

Food Details: Shallots/onions, charred, dressed with sumac-y vinaigrette with bits of perserved lemon. Big slather of labneh on the plate, shallots/onions on top. Arugula salad with pomegranate seeds on the side. Whole Foods Ancient Grains bread to serve as a base for all of that. Rip, top, eat, repeat.

Did We Like It? Have since the first time we had it, this time going meatless, something that's been happening with more frequency because this meal doesn't need meat in the least.

How Was The Wine? Another love since the first time we had it. Grenache blanc, vermentino, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc. One liter, $10, Whole Foods. This is the best it's shown. Barely any fruit, more of a whiff of an nearby orchard mixed with European country well water. Terrific, graceful cut and bite. Three-act play that tasted like a house wine at some great little restaurant on a European vacation.

And The Pairing? There's technical pairing perfection that can feel a little clinical in its analysis. But there's another level where the food and wine together taste like some part of your history, something down deep that hits you just right and reminds you of vague happy/peaceful moments. This had that, in all its puke-inducing, schmaltzy-ness.

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

Saturday: Sopa Seca with 2011 Trader Joe's Syrah Paso Robles

Food Details: (From Cook's Illustrated's Cover and Bake, page 49-50). Thin spaghetti, black beans, onion, garlic, cumin, tomatoes, chipotle, chicken broth, Monterey Jack cheese, cilantro and sour cream.

Did We Like It? More nostalgic food. It's been years since we had this. STILL GOOD!

How Was The Wine? A wine that's been in the fridge for a month (Preserva disk)! Surprisingly full, flavorful and complete. Thicker, but not unpleasantly. Nice black fruits, smooth finish; a wine completely salvaged from being dumped.

And The Pairing? Happy. It's sopa seca. You're not going to find pairing magic here. Hope for happy, be thankful when you find it. Like here.

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

Friday: Savory Potato Tart with 2011 Kuentz-Bas Alsace Blanc

Food Details: (NYT Cooking recipe) Thinly sliced potatoes mixed with leeks, crème fraiche, garlic, thyme, nutmeg, s & p. Placed in a pie crust, topped with more crust like a pie. Baked. Herb salad on the side.

Did We Like It? I say this every time we have it, which it often, because it's perfect food: easy French bistro food at its best. We need no more than this most nights.

How Was The Wine? Kermit Lynch import (60% sylvaner, 20% auxerrois, 20% muscat). This bottle's been sitting around for a bit, needing to be drunk. Herbs and dryness from the sylvaner, dried honey from the auxerrois, touch of peach buried down low from the muscat. Some gray hairs showing here in the form of walking into a slightly musty basement, but a fruity acid that was still present. Light-bodied, pleasant bounce.

And The Pairing? Nice. I used fennel vinegar on the salad and the wine became a fully-formed, food-friendly, lovely drinker.

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

Thursday: Spanishy Sausage-Artichoke-Kale-Polenta with 2014 Rosa dell'Olmo Gavi Piedmont

Food Details: (Martha Stewart recipe) Very simple plate o' food consisting of sausage, kale, artichokes, onions, rosemary and crisped up polenta cakes, with the addition of paprika to Spanishify it.

Did We Like It? This aged well. I look back on it with food fondness, having that "Here's a bunch a stuff you like. Eat it." And cost $5.

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.

And The Pairing? Fine enough. No comments.

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

Wednesday: Hema's Kitchen with 2013 Crios Torrontés Mendoza and NV Trader Joe's Brut North Coast

Food Details: Carryout of chicken vindaloo, ghosh rogan josh, veggie samosa and three types of naan. Forgot to get raita. Idiot.

Did We Like It? Hema's, when I first had it about 7-8 years ago, was an Indian food revelation. Just loved the poop out of it. It's been less great in recent years, missing on going deep and fresh with about 40,000 different flavors jumping everywhere like it used to. Feels like they're made ahead and reheated. More of a taste memory now than true-blue food wonder.

How Was The Wine/Pairing? When we ate Hema's a lot in the past, Crios and some Trader Joe's sparkling (Albero) was the only play, because they fulfilled everything you'd need with this food. Bubbles for lift and the creation of gaps, flowers in the Crios for 'The Pretty.' Echoes of that here, but we gave up on the Crios rather quick and downed the bubbles.

Cost: $50 for food, $24 for wine = $74  

Tuesday: Smoked Trout and Salami Pasta Salad with 2014 Cuvée Azan Picpoul de Pinet Languedoc and 2014 Berger Grüner Veltliner Kremstal

Food Details: From The New Basics Cookbook; One If By Land Pasta (page 143). This pasta salad tastes EXACTLY like 2004, as this was a fairly frequent dinner right after we moved to Chicago (mainly because Mrs. Ney could find the cervelat sausage/salami in Chicago that the recipe called for). Fusilli pasta mixed with smoked trout, spicy salami, shishito peppers, onion, dill, parsley, salt, pepper, crème fraiche, olive oil and white wine vinegar.

Did We Like It? Old School pasta salad from an Old School cookbook that never gets old.

How Was The Wine/Pairing? Our last bottle of the picpoul, which is sad. It's a favorite. Nothing special here with both wines and their pairing goodness. The leftover grüner from earlier in the week won out, but both didn't offer much.

Cost: $13 for food, $8 for wine = $21

Monday: Lamb Sausages, Fried Cauliflower and Arugula Salad with NV Trader Joe's Brut Rosé Sonoma County

Food Details: Fried cauliflower (Solomonov recipe), Paulina lamb sausages, herbed labneh for dipping and dragging, and arugula salad with pomegranate seeds to finish.

Did We Like It? Interesting one-off with the cauliflower. Don't see us making it again, because this cauliflower is better. Texture here was fine, but it misses on going deeper than merely "here is fried cauliflower." Good lamb sausages, nice to have the yogurt here, as the cauliflower needed it. A fine and good dinner.

How Was The Wine? Sick Mrs. Ney so we kept it cheap. Solid $10 Trader Joe's sparkler, a pinot noir and pinot meunier blend, so Blanc de Noirs done in the Champagne method from Sonoma County. Less fruit, more dry frame with a bit of funk.

And The Pairing? Nice swirl of bright cherry on occasion, but very rare. This food needed a fuller fruit expression to the wine to offer more to the food and it didn't have it here. There's not enough second or tertiary flavors to these bubbles to take this pairing to a broader, fuller place without more fruit showing up to the party.

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

Friday, January 1, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #25

Top...Whatever Number...Pairings of 2015 (no order except the top few, so a bit of an order):

1. Ottolenghi Fish, Cocount-Peanut Salad and Rice with 2013 Darting Muskateller Kabinett Trocken

2. Tuna Niçoise with 2014 Jolie-Laide Trousseau Gris Fanucchi-Wood Road Vineyard Russian River Valley

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

4.  Fava Bean and Ricotta Salata Strozzapreti with 2014 Quinta de Porrais Branco Douro

5. Sausage, Zucchini, Tomato and Cream Cheese Surprise with 2014 Alloy Wine Works Grenache Rosé Central Coast

6. Lamb Chops, Charred Shallots, Yogurt, Tomato Vinaigrette and Pita with 2014 Charles & Charles Rosé Columbia Valley

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

8. Lamb Salami, Feta spread, Arugula and Ciabattini Buns with 2014 João Portugal Ramos "Lima" Loureiro Vinho Verde

9. Big. Greek. Salad. With Lillet Sparkling Rosé

10. Bee-Pollened Pork Shoulder and Griddle Cakes with 2009 Jean Bourdy Côtes du Jura

11. Galician Tuna Empanadas With 2012 Forlorn Hope "Que Saudade" Sierra Foothills

12. Argentinian Skirt Steak and Shishito Pepper, Inland Cress and Frisée Salad with 2012 Luca Malbec Uco Valley

Was this our best food and wine year, Mrs. Ney? Probably, I say. I missed a few. There's still a couple of vague notions of "Wow, that's good!" meals rumbling around in my brain that I can't specifically remember. Odd there's no goat meal. Just wasn't an amazing goat-wine year.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $185 for food and $229 for wine = $414

Sunday: Smoked Chicken and Sprout Sandwiches with 2014 Alloy Wine Works Grenache Rosé Central Coast

Food Details: Whole Foods packaged smoked chicken slices, mashed avocado, kumatoes, pickled onions, Monterey jack cheese, mayo, and alfalfa-fenugreek sprouts, on Mariano's Italian-style batard bread. Olive oil potato chips.

Did We Like It? A nice batch, wet overall due to the pickled onions but the crusty bread helped a bit. Fine and good Sunday night sandwich-and-chips meal.

How Was The Wine? $8 grenache rosé in the can. We've been over this. House fav.

And The Pairing? But not here. A bit astringent and a tad boring here, probably due to the copious amount of mustard seeds and peppercorns floating around in the sandwiches from end-of-batch pickled onions.

Cost: $30 for food, $16 for wine = $46

Saturday: Argentinian Hanger Steak and Shishito Pepper-Living Cress-Arugula-Blue Cheese Salad with NV La Posta Tinto Red Blend Mendoza

Food Details: (David Beran recipe) A recreation of this meal from September, using hanger instead of skirt. Overnight hanger marinade of basil, thyme, shallot, peppercorn and olive oil. Salad of living cress, arugula, celery and leaves, mint, charred shishito peppers and Rogue Creamery Blue Cheese. Dressing of charred lemon and olive oil. Trader Joe's potato pancakes for starch.

Did We Like It? I don't know what it is about this meal. There's a lively ping-ponging of flavors, mostly lightly bitter and always popping. Just when you want it taken down a notch, here comes the blue cheese to offer creaminess and depth. Brilliant meat marinade. One of the best we've had. I cooked this one. Notes: use the cast-iron. Easy on the dressing.

How Was The Wine? Laura Catena manages five of her family's wineries in Argentina and owns two of her own (Luca and La Posta), all while working as an ER physician in San Francisco. So...yeah...geesh... We had her Luca Malbec with this meal last time, a classy, polished malbec that liked the food enough. Her 2013 La Posta Tinto, a malbec-bonarda-syrah table wine blend, was better as a pairing with this food prep. Smoky herbs and happy fruit, it tastes wildly similar to the unpretentious non-vintage red blends that we love so much, like the Marietta Cellars line. Blackberry bush notes with a touch of cherry that starts to trend sweet, but takes a quick turn to dry at just the right time. A real personality here. We loved it. And will buy more.

And The Pairing? As I said, we really liked the Luca, but it demanded our attention too much and went a bit pear-shaped with the salad. The La Posta Tinto wants one thing. It wants beef-centric food with other food toys to show off how versatile it is. One of the better table-style wines we've had of late. Big thumbs up.

Cost: $32 for food, $14 for wine = $46

Friday: Green Goddess Chicken Panzanella with 2014 Berger Grüner Veltliner Kremstal

Food Details: First, a few notes on lunch. Caviar and crème fraiche on potato chips with pear-celery-hazelnut salad quickly turned into pear-celery-hazelnut salad with potato chips because the caviar was too fishy. Nice salad, but the real winner was finding our new house Champagne - Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut. When trying to find a $50-ish Champagne that simultaneously will bring elegance without breaking the bank, we've gone from Gaston Chiquet to Ayala to Paul Bara to Pierre Peters to just trying just about every $50-ish Champagne out there. Liked them all to a certain degree, went through phases where we drank multiples of each, but Bollinger tasted like "This is what we want right now." Such elegance and grace with this drinking. Egly-Ouriet is 'for the special' so 2016 will probably be a good amount of Bollinger.

The panzanella...was an enormous amount of food! Whole Foods chicken marinated in Ms Clark's green goddess dressing, roasted. Heaping plate of fava, roasted ancient red pepper (seriously, "ancient" is its variety name), charred red onion, arugula, scallions, crushed marcona almonds, Pugliese bread croutoned-up, and more green goddess dressing tossed with all of it.

Did We Like It? Not the best version of panzanella but a damn good one. The fava beans took center stage here, taking everything into a realm of a fava garden-warmness (if that makes sense). Juicy chicken, different flavor combination with each bite, all that you'd want from Food.

How Was The Wine/Pairing? A bit off. Grüner is typically a workhorse with food, but this bottle, while technically fine, seemed a bit tired when drunk by itself and offered the same with the panzanella. Opened a bottle of cheap Trader Joe's La Granja Blanco Rioja and found a surprisingly nice matchy-match with the food, tasting like they were oddly made for each other. Much better than the Berger and not even close.

Cost: $58 for lunch and dinner, $70 for wine = $128  

Thursday: Persian Beef, Barberry Sauce and Buttered Almonds with 2004 La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva

Food Details: (Recipe, with beef shank instead of chicken) Last had in April, this is essentially Iranian stew that doesn't resemble any stew we'd ever had before first eating it. Beef shank, tons of marrow, barberries, almonds, cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, rice, snap peas, mint.

Did We Like It? It's perfect stew, because every ingredient constantly bounces off each other in every bite, going deep but staying bright and lively. A wonderful back-and-forth between the dark, deep beef-marrow that played with the spices, then the barberry sauce tart-sour lifty perk. Buttered almonds that calmed all of that down with a huggy-bear nutty finish. It's brilliant stuff.

How Was The Wine? Stupid Spain. You're lovely. And you feel and taste like Home. Fruit remained in the background with this drinking, offering only a roundness and occasional cherry punch. This one was all about the sweet spice, vanilla, cedar, tobacco and Spanish air that makes good, old-style Rioja so great. We took one drink and we were back in Villabuena de Álava.

And The Pairing? This stew is right in our wheelhouse for the wine we like, but the barberries can be tricky. A graceful red with sneaky guts is needed. This one was just that. We loved it.

Cost: $15 for food,  $33 for wine = $48    

Wednesday: Chiarello Chicken Tacos and Jicama Slaw with Argus Cidery Tepache Pineapple Wine

Food Details: Michael Chiarello chicken taco recipe. Basic. Chicken thigh meat slowly simmered in onions, garlic, serranos, both paprikas, cumin, and oregano. Jicama slaw made with herbs, mayo and sour cream. Lime to spritz. Hot sauce to douse. As basic and minimalist as great tacos get.

Did We Like It? After having these, this quickly jumped right to the top of our "I want tacos that are easy and cheap, but delicious" list. We have mostly everything to make these tacos on hand at all times. The juice alone I'd drink. Loved it.

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

And The Pairing? Here's a meal that settles things. No much futzing about with various fancy sangrias with tacos for us. Chill and drink this. It's everything you want-need from a taco-pairing beverage.

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

Tuesday: Ottolenghi Tuna and Blood Orange-Black Olive Salad with NV Philippe Glavier Rose Idylle Celeste Champagne

Food Details: (tuna recipe) Half-pound of Whole Foods tuna oiled, seasoned, seared, chilled, coated in mustard and ground pistachios and blood orange zest, chilled, sliced. Charred fennel and shallots, blood orange supremes, nicoise olives, raw mustard greens. pink peppercorns, fennel fronds and pistachio oil on top.

Did We Like It? We have a bit of a thing for blood oranges and black olives with rare tuna. Typically, Mrs. Ney studs it heavily with various shades of peppercorns, cardamom and ginger. This meal was a switch-up, looking to Mr. Ottolenghi for a different tuna prep. We liked it muchly, digging the mustard and pistachio goodness that got deep into the tuna. But it wasn't the superlative love we find from white-pink-black peppercorns, coriander, cumin, cardamom, ginger and fleur de sel. Nice change of pace, though. This meal had everything anybody would ever want from "Flavor."

How Was The Wine? Roasted carrots and curried-up watermelon rind. You read that right. That was the biggest, most clear impression we got from it. For $50, meh.

And The Pairing? Didn't love it, didn't hate it. Like stadium popcorn, "It's neutral!"

Cost: $22 for food, $50 for wine = $72  

Monday: Anne Burrell Chicken Milanese with 2014 Matthiasson Tendu White California 

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

Did We Like It? Top-third of all the Anne Burrell Milaneses we've had. Not the best, but a very strong version. This meal just has that extra something that makes you say, "THAT's perfectly balanced food!"

How Was The Wine? We haven't loved the 2014 version of the Tendu White, feeling that 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 was adequate. While still not getting as much distinction as the 2013 had, nice acid-vague fruit back-and-forth to be happy enough.

And The Pairing? Fine. Frankly better than I expected.

Cost: $12 for food, $30 for wine = $42

Saturday, December 26, 2015

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #24

No family holidays for us this season.

So Christmas, for us, this year, was food, wine, and the second season of 'Fargo.'

It's not The Wild Bunch, but how many people are killed in 'Fargo?' Gotta go with about 60-70 at least. Geesh!

Before watching that, I consumed Making A Murderer on Netflix, an 10-part documentary that's infinitely intriguing while you're in it, but loses much of its impact in the last third when the filmmakers decide against employing a wider social lens.

I was busy.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $161 for food and $183 for wine = $344

Total food and wine cost for the month: $471 for food and $452 for wine = $923

Sunday: Guinea Hen "chicken and rice" with 2015 Viñas Chilenas Reserva Rosé Valle Central

Food Details: Guinea hen bits and juice from Christmas dinner, onions, walnuts and amaranth greens, over wild and brown rice.

Did We Like It? A very nice dinner compiled with things from the freezer. Tasted healthy without tasting "Oh...this is healthy food."

How Was The Wine? This is $4, fresh, fruity, round, bouncy and delicious. Cabernet-syrah blend done up rosé style.

And The Pairing? No complaints. The wine remained its juicy, bright self while never interfering with the delicate nature of the food. Nothing great, nothing not. $6 meal, wine included!

Cost: $2 for food, $4 for wine = $6 

Saturday: Pick-n-Choose with 2014 Charles Smith VINO Pinot Grigio Columbia Valley

Food Details: Mariano's rotisserie chicken, kumatoes, avocados, arugula-parsley salad, mayo, and mini-ciabatta buns, with pickled red onions for me.

Did We Like It? Siempre. It's pick-n-choose your bite, which really isn't pick-n-choose, technically. We top each ripped ciabatta with the same collection of flavors, each of which like each other so very well together, it becomes a heaping mound of happiness. They're friends, hence this oft-eaten meal.

How Was The Wine? Sparkle and polish, acid and citrus blossom notes. There MIGHT be some fade going on here, as there was a wee touch of a jumble in flavor delineation happening with this drinking. We'll see.

And The Pairing? Assembled bite: ciabatta carb, mayo, glazed chicken, kumato dark-tomato flavor, creamy avocado, herby-peppery salad. Pickled onion pop for me. Add the wine's citrus and acid cut and cleanse. You'll be happy. We were.

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

Friday: Christmas Crab Rangoon Empanada Lunch and Guinea Hen Dinner

Lunch: Homemade faux-crab Rangoon empanadas with mâche salad and pomegranate seeds for Christmas lunch, served with NV Gaston Chiquet Brut Tradition Champagne. The crab empanadas are probably a one-off, but what a nice one-off they were. Fish sauce-based dipping sauce for the empanadas. So, happy Asian flavors in a Latin wrapper.

But the fish sauce killed the Gaston Chiquet, our first Champagne love that we haven't had in a couple of years. Good food lunch with bubbles that fell flat. Something with a bit of sugar like riesling was the play here.

Dinner: Delia Smith guinea hen with 30 cloves of garlic, with the addition of cumin, caraway and tarragon; Ottolenghi harissa pommes Dauphine (feta instead of goat cheese), and Ottolenghi roasted carrots with coriander seeds and garlic, with the addition of lemon thyme, served with 2013 Matthiasson Refosco Napa.

THIS is a Christmas dinner. Perfectly seasoned and spiced guinea hen meat with more pan garlic-juice poured over top. Succulent, is the word. Little pillows of fried potato balls studded with harissa. Best roasted carrots on the planet. "Post-Ottolenghi world," my butt, Saveur. A great Christmas dinner that ranked right up there with all the other great Christmas dinners we've had when not seeing family. I think there's a connection between those two. Wonderful linkage between each element on the plate with the crossover of seasoning.

Paired with watching 'Fargo' more than the Matthiasson Refosco. A one-hour decant still didn't crack open this low alcohol, but very tannic and ripe refosco. This one was a good example of a wine that tasted very well-made, but offered little in the way of openness, ingratiation or friendliness with the food. Too tight, too tannic, too oddly full to give much here. A surprise given my perception of the nature of refosco. Tasted more like a tight-fisted cabernet without the alcohol. At times, it felt like it was trying, but nothing to see in terms of pairing here.

Cost: $52 for food, $85 for wine = $137      

Thursday: Jacques Pepin Brandade and Mustardized Asparagus with 2009 Michel Brégeon Muscadet 

Food Details: (recipe) Fussy-but-easy = lots of fiddly but uncomplicated steps that you MUST follow: Pepin brandade, using Whole Foods salt cod, half celery root and half potatoes, almond milk instead of dairy, white balsamic vinegar instead of lemon juice, pecorino instead of parmesan. Mustard-y marinade on asparagus (grilled), chopped marcona almonds, and grilled baguette.

Did We Like It? Best brandade yet. Mrs. Ney usually uses Goya pollack, but Whole Foods had true-blue salt cod this time. Great balance between the fish, creaminess, nuttiness and celery rooty-ness. Silky texture, great depth. Weirdly delicious asparagus. We like asparagus. This mound of spears, with the marcona and mustard, made them more than just a green side dish. A Christmas Eve dinner that should be a new tradition. Our own 'Feast of the One Fish.'

How Was The Wine? The 2002 Brégeon was a bit of a revelation, that time with chicken and skordalia. It was eight-year-old Muscadet that tasted like it was made yesterday. A bottle of 2005 was funky swamp water, something so rank that we've been a little gun shy about diving back in to the Brégeon. This 2009 was a touch muted and probably needed a decant/more time in the bottle. Pleasing lemon-lime zest, lovely minerals, moderately punchy acid. But in all, a bit quiet. We opened a bottle of 2013 Jackys Preys Cuvée de Fié Gris Touraine to compare and got a wild, bucking, natural wine that showed its naturalness, both the good and the not so. An explosion of grass, flowers, smoked lime and iron at times, other times it turned rather beer-like. Really enjoyed its gregariousness at first, but with the food, we turned back to the Muscadet, as it played in a much more friendly manner with the food. The fié gris wouldn't shut up!

And The Pairing? The Muscadet never got out of the realm of "pleasant" with the food, liking the brandade well enough, even if a bit withdrawn. The middle of the meal was like a huge action scene in a movie with the fié gris, bringing all the explosions and crashes, but leaving us a little exhausted with the effort. We went back to the Muscadet and found pleasing nuggets of good-enough-ness.

Cost: $20 for food, $45 for wine =  $65       

Wednesday: Solomonov Kofta, Pickled Persimmons and Zucchini Baba Ganoush with 2011 Pascal Janvier "Cuvée du Rosier" Coteaux du Loir Rouge

Food Details: Goat kofta and pickled persimmons from Saveur (in the piece, would somebody please tell me what the hell "post-Ottolenghi world" means?). Zucchini baba ganoush (from New Middle Eastern Food), subbing in zucchini for eggplant. Pita. Arugula salad on the side.

Did We Like It? First, goat kofta and pickled persimmons together in one bite is certainly something everyone should try, because it's stupid-delicious, and will be had be us again. And again. Golly, that's good stuff. Zucchini baba ganoush as a veg in dip-and-dunk form. Salad freshness. Meat-veg-carb-green. But in an utterly different and exquisite form.

How Was The Wine? I expected a floral frame, and got aromatics in the form of spice. Light-bodied with guts, crushed berries, a dancing flurry of lightly toasty spice. Delicately tart finish. 100% pineau d’aunis from the coolest part of the Loire. Low alcohol, bright acid, lovely wine. Buying again. This one fits into a unique wine place that also caters to the food we like.

And The Pairing? It threw a couple of moody fits with the food, but overall quite happy with the pairing here. Somewhat muted with the baba ganoush, but very much liked the goat and persimmon.

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

Tuesday: Bucatini, Anchovy, Caper and Chile with 2012 Regis Minet Pouilly-Fumé Vieilles Vignes

Food Details: When you're a little groggy after a work Christmas party, you want to go out to eat. We wanted to. Then we looked around the interwebs at menus, saw one list that had bucatini with anchovy and chile, and both of us thought, "THAT'S what we want!" Then we started doing the math. $18/bowl of that pasta dish at the restaurant. Bottle of wine. Probably an appetizer or two. Maybe some starter bubbles. Tax. Tip. That could easily be $150. All the ingredients for "What we want" are in the house. And we have wine. Better wine. So...

Bucatini, evoo, anchovies, capers, garlic, manzano pepper, pepper flakes; separately-charred tomatoes, parsley, mint, toasted bread crumbs dumped on top.

Did We Like It? Jeebus, yes! Tasted exactly like what great pasta can be. A perfect blend of carbs, flavor and satisfaction.

How Was The Wine? Flinty, grassy, smoky, citrusy; everything that Regis Minet is and three years old to boot. Crazy producer that makes what became our house Pouilly-Fumé years ago.

And The Pairing? The wine fell right in line with the weight and balance of the pasta, offering an even more stream-lined, broad feeling to the meal. Couldn't ask for more happiness.

Cost: $7 for food, $18 for wine = $25    

Monday: Work Christmas Party

Food Details: Potluck. Brought chicken liver pâté, toasties, ginger-scallion sauce and Korean hot sauce for the supplied Sun-Wah whole pig, and farro-olive salad.

Wine: Alloy Wine Works Grenache in the can, from Field Recordings.

Result: A good time had by all.

Cost: $50