Thursday, April 28, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #41

Chicken, lamb and country ham.

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

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

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

Good week.

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

Sunday: Picadillo with 2014 La Paca Garnacha Calatayud

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday: Indian Carrot Salad with 2014 Amancay Torrontés La Rioja 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Cost: $7 for food, $8 for wine = $15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 21, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #40

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

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

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

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

Total food and wine cost for the month: $1023 for food and $1217 for wine = $2240 (New York)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday: Big Fried Chicken Salad with Leftover Wine

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

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

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

And The Pairing? See above.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday: Fish Tacos with Argus Cidery Tepache Pineapple Wine

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 14, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #39

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday: Black Bean Soup with 2015 Dark Horse Rosé California

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday: Nando's

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 7, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #38

In about 3 1/2 months, we'll be done with this 365 experiment.

At the end, we'll do a breakdown of protein, veggies, grapes, cost, etc.

It will be laborious to compile, but I think quite interesting to see how the entire year ate-and-drank out.

And I'll have the time to do it, because my favorite baseball team, the Angels, are one Garrett Richards injury from being easily one of the worst teams in baseball.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $113 for food and $104 for wine = $217

Sunday: Spanish Hotel Picnic with 2015 Barbadillo Palomino Fino Cádiz

Food Details: Petit Basque cheese, La Quercia borsellino salami, quince paste, marcona almonds, salad, baguette.

Did We Like It? When you're in Spain and just finished a long car trip to your next city (maybe your fly-out city like Madrid), you check into your hotel, really haven't eaten outside of your last hotel's breakfast and a travel granola bar, and need to get some sort of food, any food. If you've planned well and chose a hotel near things, like a Hipercor (or Carrefour), and wander into the strange and glorious K-Mart/Mariano's hybrid that is Hipercor and buy a quick mid-afternoon snack to tide you over until your 10pm dinner reservation. So you buy a spread. Meat in salami form, some cheese, bread, some nuts, maybe some quince paste. All of it is rather cheap and you'll have a true spread of food to lay out on your hotel bed to eat, watch some weird game show on Spanish television that you can't, for the life of you, figure out the rationale or rules of, and enjoy a brief rest from traveling before taking a stroll around town. In other (and shorter) words, this meal tastes like vacation, particularly a part of our Spanish vacations that we've done many times. And you need a wine. It should be cheap and it should be something you can't taste at home. Like un-sherried palomino.

How Was The Wine? Trader Joe's palomino in not-sherries form. We love how the label says it's "fruity." Nope. This is categorically not fruity. This is dry, clean, savory as hell, light, refreshing, dry, and dry. It's a blank slate. Add food that likes it and things happen. It gets into the food and tastes like standing in a dried-up wheat field in a hot, late-summer day. And it tastes like something an old Spanish man has been drinking at the exact same time everyday for 60 years. In a world of superlatives, this is not something to call some superlative. It's a nice, quiet, evocative drink. A teeny-tiny small moment in the glass. It simply makes you smile.  

And The Pairing? Tastes. Like. Vacation.

Cost: $22 for food, $6 for wine = $28    

Saturday: Rick Bayless Tomatillo Chicken with 2015 90+ 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.

Did We Like It? Always. This version was much less spicy than usual, but didn't detract from the joy that is Crock-Pot tomatillo chicken.

How Was The Wine? In our effort to replace the cheap, weekday, Trader Joe's sauvignon blanc, which hasn't been delicious or interesting for a couple of years now, we gave this one a go. Nothing revolutionary at all, but nice. Crisp, clean, bright tropical fruit with a modicum of depth that satisfied, just enough, our weekday sauvignon blanc jones. At $9, it's an option, but we're still searching.

And The Pairing? The wine had a bouncy tropical fruit bubble gum brightness by itself. That was gobbled up by the food, turning into a more subdued, pleasant quaffer that paired moderately well. Nothing great, but after a couple of wine clunkers this week, it was nice to have something that gave an effort.

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

Friday: Sandwich with More Leftover Wine

Food Details: Italian subby-type sandwiches filled with capicola, genoa salami, mortadella, provolone, onions, romaine, kumatoes, vinaigrette and mayo on Harvesttime Italian bread.

Did We Like It? We like sandwich so much that it's now referred to in the singular in this house. This version of sandwich had all the meaty-cheesy-goopy goods in one Italian-American sub shop-like package. Damn fine sandwich. And made A LOT!

How Was The Wine? More using up of fridge wine. Finished off the Lagar de Cervera, and the drinking further confirmed that this albariño ain't fo' us.

And The Pairing? Tasted like sadness.

Cost: $25 for food

Thursday: Puttanesca with 2014 Charles Smith VINO Pinot Grigio Columbia Valley

Food Details: Linguine puttanesca consisting of gaeta black olives, capers, briny green peppercorns, anchovies, garlic, red pepper flakes and extra virgin olive oil.

Did We Like It? A fine pasta bowl. We liked it. Yes.

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

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

Cost: $8 for food, $11 for wine = $19

Wednesday: Ottolenghi Three-Chile Fish and Pickled Potatoes with "Wine"

Food Details: (recipe) Mrs. Ney tried a recipe that's been sitting on the computer desktop for too long. Three-chile fish from Ottolenghi, using smoked milkfish, with a harissa-tomato sauce and tahini. Solomonov pickled potatoes to dip and dunk in harissa-tomato and tahini as well. Parsley. Arugula salad to finish.

Did We Like It? A fine one-off. Fine enough, but wouldn't have it again. Clean and light, with a sneaky depth. And I could eat tahini seven days a week.

How Was The Wine? Huge fail across the board. Finally found some level of acceptable with a bottle of Trader Joe's torrontés after opening a 2014 Lagar de Cervera Albariño Rías Baixas and found an unacceptable lack of salinity and acid for our albariño taste. Came off like a wine that would only work with the simplest of seafood prep, like octopus with the tiniest amount of lemon spritzed on top, or the simplest of oysters, which isn't how we eat. We need some guts. This one is too delicate and soft. Shame, because I've been looking forward to this one, as it's made by the La Rioja Alta people.

And The Pairing? Dud.

Cost: $15 for food, $26 for wine = $41        

Tuesday: Bittman Fish Sauce Game Hens and Scallion Pancakes with 2010 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese Mosel

Food Details: From Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World, Vietnamese cornish game hens, page 334. Lucky Peach spicy fish-sauce sauce. Crispy scallion pancakes from Serious Eats. Charred rapini.

Did We Like It? After Pok Pok, this was the meal we were most excited about, and it's probably our favorite meal right now. A piece of scallion fry bread with some ripped game hen on top and a healthy dose of fish-sauce sauce might be a perfect bite of food. You have to like salt to really dig in and LOVE it, but we do. It's a shame there are about three people in our life that would get why this is the Best Food, because it's pretty damn perfect food.

How Was The Wine? Tasted like the ripest apricot we've ever had. Lower acid, but beautifully balanced sugar with its acid. The nose alone reminded me why we need to drink more German riesling. Smells like the feeling I get when I realize I'm reading a Great book, at that exact moment about 40 pages in, when I feel how everything is coming together.

And The Pairing? About as lovely as we could expect. A higher acid riesling might have brought more electricity, but the balance here was perfect. Happy-happy-joy-joy all around.

Cost: $22 for food, $27 for wine = $49  

Monday: 'Kansas City BBQ' Sirloin and Fries with 2010 Owen Roe Ex Umbris Columbia Valley

Food Details: Meat and potatoes. Trader Joe's 'Kansas City BBQ' Sirloin steak, frozen fries with charred scallions-rosemary-garlic-balsamic mayo for dipping.

Did We Like It? We did. Sirloin ain't our thang, but Mrs. Ney bought it to have in the house for an easy dinner after our New York trip. Both of us probably wanted a burger and fries more, but this version of meat and potatoes brought enough of that to satisfy.

How Was The Wine? A mix of syrah from different Washington Vineyards around Columbia Valley, The Ex Umbris was usurped by the Marietta Cellars line of juicy, bouncy, red blends over the last 2-3 years in our world, mainly because pure syrah on the more bargain end of the cost spectrum can be oddly finicky with food. Pleasant here, with black fruits, tobacco and a moderately big black olive nose. Nice acid, more than expected. A good showing for a wine we haven't had in quite awhile.

And The Pairing? Pleasant again. Missed on a complete roundness, depth and full-blown presence, but succeeded in bringing what we want from a basic steak and fries meal with a red wine that completes said basic goodness.

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

Sunday, April 3, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #37

We've always avoided New York because it always seemed like an enormous annoyance and hassle in terms of vacation-relaxation payoff.

Completely wrong on that.

We had a relaxing, easy, enjoyable three days in Manhattan with a bit of Brooklyn.

It's not annoying or a hassle. There's just more people. Big distinction.

More garbage, but everyone was so nice!

Total food and wine cost for the week: $664 for food and $880 for wine = $1544

Sunday: Kielbasa and Lentils with 2015 Miraval Rosé Provence

Food Details: (recipe) Green lentils cooked up with shallot, bay and white wine, fennel sweated tender-crisp, kielbasa sliced and warmed up with lentils and fennel. Fennel fronds rat-a-tat-tatted and mixed in. Warm mustard-cider vinegar-walnut oil dressing tossed with all of that. A big pile of curly endive thrown on top of ALL that. Mini-ciabatta, buttered.

Did We Like It? A big pile of "move it along" fiber! And lovely. Subtle mustard mixing with the endive, fennel and lentils brought an Alsatian-ness. Warm, huggy, happy.

How Was The Wine? The Pitt-Jolie Provence rosé that used to sell for around $35, if I recall correctly. $18 at Whole Foods. At that cheap, why not give it a try? So we did. And it's forgettable. A minimum goodness exists here, showing a distinct Provençal character at its core, with a basic red and white fruit back-and-forth, but nothing to see here. Move along.

And The Pairing? So-so. Something with more pizzaz and grizzle would have helped.

Cost: $8 for food, $18 for wine = $26

Saturday: Curried Chicken and Green Beans with 2014 Sellbach Incline Riesling Mosel

Food Details: Chicken and green beans in red curry paste and coconut milk sauce, over rice with cilantro. Spritz of lime on top.

Did We Like It? We could taste the 'can of curry paste' addition, but I found it became more than the sum of its (jarred) parts. Oddly delicious rice.

How Was The Wine? Selbach's entry-level riesling. Perky, fruity, light sugar mixing with minerality, refreshing. A fine example of riesling on the cheap.

And The Pairing? The spritz of lime aided in providing a linkage to the riesling, along with the light heat and sugar interplay. It completed the meal and made it taste like more than 'weeknight dinner.'

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

Friday: Jamie Oliver Greeky Couscous with 2014 Garzon Albariño Uruguay

Food Details: (recipe subbing tuna) Whole wheat Israeli couscous, red bell pepper, peas, scallions, olives, dill, oregano. Romaine hearts as a base. As do mar oil-cured tuna. Pita. Tzatziki (half a cucumber + leftover charred onion business + yogurt, mint).

Did We Like It? Tasted like a memory. This was a version of a meal we ate regularly a few years ago, particularly right around my sequestered jury duty, as I remember it. It's a bevy of vaguely Greek flavors plus 'other stuff' that brings the happy.

How Was The Wine? We opened this for Thursday's dinner and it tasted cheap, short and boring. Into the fridge! This time, it picked up more defined fruit, length, and a delicate acidity that brought the refreshment. Happy with it. Very happy.

And The Pairing? Flavors flying everywhere and this wine picked up most of them quite well, particularly with a tuna bite. Glad it wasn't a "dump it" wine and glad that it performed well with the food. Win-win.

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

Thursday: Melissa Clark Charred Onions and Yogurt with 2014 Quinta do Porrais Douro Branco

Food Details: Home to Home Food. Charred onions, shallots and radishes over yogurt. 'Spicy Spinach' salad. Ancient Grains bread. Recipe here.

Did We Like It? Home to Home Food, indeed! Loved it. Always do.

How Was The Wine? I wasn't sure about this pairing. The Porrais hasn't performed well lately. I was wrong. Beautiful space and length, with life and maturity.

And The Pairing? See above. Caught everything thrown at it and turned into a less-fruity, savory, mature, thoughtful wine. Didn't think it had it in it and it did. Coming home to this meal after an extremely easy New York trip door to door...Yes, please. Always.

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

Wednesday: Momofuku, Keste and Prune

Momofuku Ssäm Bar: Skip it. We've had these flavors too often and everything tasted shockingly similar to each other. No punch, no pop, no broadness or surprises. Milk Bar next door, though, brought the SUGAR. So we skipped out and went to Keste Pizza.

Keste: Diavola and sorrentina with a half-bottle of gragnano. ... I like our diavola at my place of employment better. Kind of shocked by that. But a delicious sorrentina with smoked bufala and lemon slices, and the gragnano LOVED the smoked cheese.

Prune: This restaurant was basically the reason we broke down and went to New York. Her food on Mind Of A Chef seemed like Our Food. And it got pretty close. Beautiful beef rib special to start. With the char, it tasted pretty gosh-darn similar to the beef at Etxebarri, which is saying something. Radishes with butter and salt to start as well. Chicken with ham and oxtail. Skate wing Milanese with radicchio. Perfect Milanese, the chicken less so. Bottle of 2015 Idlewild, 'Flora and Fauna,' Mendocino, a nebbiolo, barbera and dolcetto blend, which was pleasant. But the best pairing of the night was a glass of 2009 Montenidoli, 'Il Templare,' Tuscany, a vernaccia, trebbiano and malvasia blend that had a lovely oxidized quality to it and was beautiful with the skate wing. Prune is a beautiful place; a sane, happy, and breezy experience that feels like the world needs more of.  

Ended the night with seeing Neal Brennan and his '3 Mics' show just a few blocks away from Prune. One of the better dinner-and-a-shows we've had.

Cost: $185 for food, $190 for wine = $375

Tuesday: Le Bernardin and Pok Pok

One of the best restaurant food days we've ever had, me thinks.

Le Bernardin: Sort of one of those restaurants we needed to visit before we die. Bacalao and octopus to start. Lobster and black bass as entrées. Billecart-Salmon Champagne to start. A bottle of 2008 Didier Dagueneau "Le Monts Damnés" Sancerre with everything else.

It lived up to what we thought Le Bernardin would be, and not necessarily because of the food, which was, of course, cooked perfectly and delicious. It was more about the precise and lovely service and beautiful room. As one would expect, it's service at the highest level, which is so damn welcome and wanted every once in awhile. We'll remember the Dagueneau's lightly sherried quality to its gooseberry/tangerine notes and confident strut. Perfect choice for this meal/restaurant, because at a place like Le Bernardin, you drink a wine like one of Dagueneau's. and it was ridiculous with the tomato water on the "bacalao" starter. A pairing we'll remember. We almost didn't go to Le Bernardin, but so glad we did. Pure class.

Pok Pok: But, I have to say, in terms of pure food pleasure and down-and-dirty, roll up your sleeves food enjoyment, Pok Pok won the day. We visited the Portland location a few years ago. Order the whole bird, whole fish, steak salad, papaya salad and sticky rice. Lay it out in front of you and go to town. Flavors galore and flavors you want. Stop by Chambers Street Wines beforehand. Buy a bottle of 2014 Falkenstein, Hofgut Niedermenniger Herrenberg Spätlese Feinherb and a bottle of 2014 St Rey (Revolution Wines) Clarksburg Sutter Ranch Pet Nat Chenin Blanc. You'll have a riesling that's like eating rocks. Not licking them, EATING them in the bestest sense. And a natural sparkling chenin blanc that has an earthy edge and frothy loveliness. You'll love the mucus out of what you just consumed.

Cost: $325 for food, $500 for wine = $825   

Monday: The Breslin

Food Details: Seafood sausage and ramp toast with a fried egg with appetizers. Lamb burger and poussin for entrées.

Did We Like It? The lamb burger is rather ridiculously great. Easily one of the best burgers we've ever had and probably the main reason Ms. Bloomfield just opened up a burger place. Everyone around us also ordered it. And the cumin aioli with the fries is stupid-great as well. A fine meal right after touchdown.

How Was The Wine? A bottle of 2014 Combe Trousseau Pet'Nat Stoplam Vineyards Ballard Canyon to start (Rajat Parr has/had a hand in it). Natural sparkling trousseau and quite nice, with enough of a backbone to allow its more delicate levels to linger. Solid with the appetizers. I'd buy it again. We were excited to try the Gotham Project tap wines, but the rosé we had was a bit too simple and overly tart. A fine enough 2013 Frederic Magnien Bourgogne Rouge to go with the lamb burger. The glaze on the poussin was a stubborn one with wine, but after a ribolla gialla failure, a fresh-floral-juicy Jean Foillard Beaujolais will be a taste I remember from here. Real presence.

Overall: Very much liked The Breslin. With restaurant food and us, it's mostly about finding a couple of great things with new wine at a reasonable price to match. So...lamb burger, check. Foulard, check. Combe, half-check. Good time. And with Chicago so segregated, it was nice being in New York where you can watch evening prayer and three Pakistani-Indian-Middle Eastern restaurants across the street from a British pub, and watching how the night unfolds.

Cost: $115 for food, $130 for wine = $245

Thursday, March 24, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #36

We need a little Pok Pok in our life.

And Le Bernardin.

And Prune.

And Momofuku.

And The Breslin.

And other New York things.

So we're going to make that happen.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $90 for food and $186 for wine = $276

Total food and wine cost for the month: $425 for food and $575 for wine = $1000

Sunday: Jeremiah Tower Chicken with 2014 Dominque Lucas Les Vins du Léman Quintessence Chasselas

Food Details: Easter dinner before our New York trip! Same prep as the rather revolutionary first eating of this Jeremiah Tower chicken recipe a month ago. One alteration (from those alterations) was the addition of fried chicken spice, just for funnsies. Doesn't need that, as it doesn't allow the viscous chicken juices to expand into a savory chicken bomb in your mouth like before. Watercress-arugula salad with white wine vinegar and a wee touch of walnut oil. Toasted mini-ciabatta, buttered. Top the bread with the above ingredients. Eat.

Did We Like It? It was a fine-arse chicken, juicy as all get-out. Loved the chicken itself, but the fried chicken spice clipped the loveliness and Chez Panisse-ness that we found the first time we had this meal. Lesson learned. Great food, though. The original wine pick for the night didn't reach the heights of the grolleau gris on the first time around with this JT chicken dinner, unfortunately.

How Was The Wine? A bit too delicate here. It's Dominque Lucas's entry-level wine. Pretty, light, somewhat ethereal, but missed on having a full-blown presence from beginning to end. It needed a strand that ran through it and a couple of changes to reach true-blue goodness and it just didn't have it.

And The Pairing? We opened a cheap bottle of Albero Cava and found bubbles and fried chicken spice are, of course, not too shabby together, even if it's in a stranger form than the typical...that.

Cost: $18 for food, $27 for wine = $45

Saturday: Mexican Rice with 2014 La Granja Blanco Rioja

Food Details: Bayless recipe here. Jalapeño chicken sausages, rice, onions, chile, garlic, cilantro, chicken on the recipe. Sour cream and hot sauce on top.

Did We Like It? We'll probably put Mexican rice to bed for a few months. But a nice, big bowl of food.

How Was The Wine? House white. Spanish verdejo-viura from Trader Joe's. It's $5 and suffices for meals like this.

And The Pairing? Fine.

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

Friday: Pick-n-Choose with 2015 Espiral Vinho Rosé Vinho Verde

Food Details: Roast beef, salami, ale cheddar with mustard, pickled onions, pepper mayo, arugula and ciabattini. Bread plus everything else as an open-faced mini-sammy. Eat. Repeat. Enjoy.

Did We Like It? Always. It's an easy-peasy dinner that brings the satisfaction.

How Was The Wine? When you're having dinner after work, want to have a bit of wine, but want to make sure the annoyance of work doesn't force you to have more wine than you really should/want/need, drink wine that isn't...the best. Spiral fits that mold. Light berry-strawberry and lil spritz. And that's about it.

And The Pairing? Wine. With food.

Cost: $20 for food, $5 for wine = $25

Thursday: Meatloaf and Pierogi

Food Details: Wine break. Food & Wine meatloaf with mustard seeds and white pepper. Onion-potato pierogi with asparagus. One of the better meatloaf batches in a good long while. Happy.

No wine

Cost: $8

Wednesday: Squid Ink Pasta, Shrimp and Fava with 2014 Txomin Etxaniz Txakoli Basque

Food Details: Sepia spaghetti, shrimp, favas, chorizo, charred scallions, fresno peppers, preserved lemon, garlic, dill, mint. On a plate, then in our mouth.

Did We Like It? Both of us were thinking before dinner, "Fine...that'll do." And then we ate it. PERFECT pasta, perfectly cooked, great texture and nice, light hit of squidy flavor without tasting like you're eating sea garbage. First fava of the spring for us, which always marks food spring and that's a good thing. Flavors galore, all of them welcome, wanted and waxed over while taking in two more episodes of Come Dine With Me UK. Good Dinner! And the wine helped.

How Was The Wine? Delicious, because it tastes like Spain. It's been a couple of years since we had a bottle of Txomin Etxaniz. Missed it. It's always had a classy txakoli shine and it did here. Something about the balance and back-and-forth between the spritz, herbs and light green-yellow fruit, then a nice pause, and a finish that tastes like driving on a Basque backroad with the sea air just starting to enter the car vent.

And The Pairing? Not superlative, but a pairing where EVERYTHING on the plate and in the glass was oh-so delicious and nothing in each was getting in the way with the other. Very happy.

Cost: $12 for food, $20 for wine = $32      

Tuesday: Rabbit Croquetas and Snap Pea-Radish Salad with NV Mumm Rosé Napa

Food Details: Jose Andres' croquetas, substituting freezer rabbit for chicken (and fried in rabbit oil), and almond milk for dairy in the béchamel. Melissa Clark snap peas and radish salad with ricotta salata.

Did We Like It? Loved the rabbit croquetas. Loved the stink out of them. Not so much the salad. It came off rather ordinary, missing a broadness and pop.

How Was The Wine? Opened a bottle of Halcyon Sparkling Rosé of Cabernet Franc Templeton Gap to start and got NOTHIN'. I was somewhat excited about this one and it tasted like lightly-flavored sparkling water. Had no anima, no personality, nothing to say. I strained to get to "sun-baked earth, chalk and white chocolate from Reeses eggs" just to be an wine-descriptor idiot. But overall, nothing to see here for us. We figured the dill in the salad (added) would help. Nope. So a bottle of Mumm rosé, that was only marginally better.

And The Pairing? Meh.

Cost: $12 for food, $53 for wine = $65    

Monday: Fish Cakes, Carrot-top Pesto and Roasted Potatoes with 2012 Ponzi Chardonnay Willamette Valley

Food Details: Fish cakes, recipe from New Book of Middle Eastern Food, page 180 (using cod, serrano, lemon zest, and basil--no spices). Roasted potatoes, carrots, onions, all separately roasted. Halved grape tomatoes and lemon slices, roasted. Ms Bloomfield's carrot top pesto. Lemon squeezes.

Did We Like It? We did. Fresh and bright fish cakes, delicious with the superlatively great carrot-top pesto. Surprisingly wonderful potatoes with perfect crisp on the outside and creaminess on the inside. An all-around good meal that Mrs. Ney didn't even want while making it. And a big wine shocker.

How Was The Wine? This Ponzi chardonnay has been sitting in the house since we got it from their wine club three years ago. Forgot it was in the house, really. This food was a good opportunity to drink a wine we typically don't gravitate towards. Unoaked. Very pretty secondary flavors showed nicely here, with an Asian herb leaf note being a big thread throughout. Shiny citrus notes. Shorter finish but we didn't care. This had a nice balance and strut. Big fan.

And The Pairing? When we drink Ponzi in any form, we taste that Ponzi acid that brings us back to the first time we had Ponzi. It's a happy memory in the glass nearly every time. The pairing here tasted like a breezy fish cake lunch where time stops a bit, and lunch becomes a true pause in the day. Very satisfied.

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

Thursday, March 17, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #36

I didn't love Carol, unlike the rest of the planet. Felt underdeveloped with respect to exactly why Carol and Therese are attracted to each other, outside of the physical, which is fine to build upon, but a bone or two thrown my way on the emotional angle would have helped.

Beautifully filmed, fantastic use of score, visually sumptuous, great performances. Blanchett and Mara are two of the best working today. It simply felt initially unformed, and the rest of the castle was built on that.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $96 for food and $130 for wine = $226

Total food and wine cost for the month: $431 for food and $519 for wine = $950

Sunday: Green Chorizo-Zucchini Goop with 2014 Alloy Wine Works Grenache Rosé Central Coast

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

Did We Like It? Bready, porky, touch spicy, vegetabley, happy as all-get out. This version brought the heat.

How Was The Wine? Fading. Still perky-sunny, but the distinctive, round, bouncy guava-strawberry fruit is fading into rather flat generic fruit.

And The Pairing? The acid still present in the wine saved it from being a pairing dud.

Cost: $9 for food, $14 for wine = $23

Saturday: Ottolenghi Chicken Salad with 2014 João Portugal Ramos "Lima" Loureiro Vinho Verde

Food Details: Mr. Ottolenghi's take on chicken caesar salad, which tastes vaguely like caesar salad, but with the signature Ottolenghi "crap! this man can cook!" spin. Yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl. Half for marinade on the chicken, other half for dressing. Easy-peasy. Chicken seared, then ovened. Salad of romaine (sub for radicchio - too tired to run to WF), arugula and tons of basil. Charred onions (added to the recipe). Chicken. Green Peppercorns. Pecorino (instead of parmesan). Dressing. Mix. Ciabattini slathered with butter-garlic-parsley. Eat.

Did We Like It? Toss it on the food rotation pile! The great thing about Mr. Ottolenghi's recipes is that his ingredients are ingredients we always have in the house. Calling this chicken caesar salad sells it short, but the outline is there. The green peppercorns in this application tastes like a perfect funky stand-in for anchovies. The copious amount of basil brought an ideal herbal pop. Yogurt-lemon creates a bright framework without overwhelming. It's a big plate of perfect. 

How Was The Wine? We've probably had two cases or more of this wine over the years. It's started to become merely "wine" lately, but here it excelled. Juicy, lightly floral, even a bit tropical. Lovely.

And The Pairing? It LOVES this food, something the Lima hasn't of late. Bright, refreshing, delicious, cleansing... We'd do this again tomorrow. It was that good.

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

Friday: Merguez Kebabs and Kale Tabbouleh with 2014 Marqués de Cáceres Rosé Rioja

Food Details: Another Yotam Ottolenghi recipe that makes us say, "Jebus Cripes, that guy likes food the way we like food!" Merguez lamb sausages made with ground lamb, harissa, cumin, coriander, fennel, paprika, etc. Along with a stupid-delicious Melissa Clark (modified) kale tabbouleh recipe, subbing beets for tomatoes. Tahini (plus lemon juice, garlic and water) with pita.

Did We Like It? Yep. It will be put right into the food catalog and eaten, most likely, 6-8 more times this year. This is weeknight food and weekday food. Fancy food and everyday food. Frankly, if this becomes your everyday food, you're eating extraordinarily well. And isn't that the goal with food? Eat well. It makes you happier.

How Was The Wine? Probably a decade ago, we used to drink this rosé on occasion. Checking back in reminded us why we haven't in a decade. There's nothing necessarily wrong with it, just nothing necessarily gripping or compelling about it.

And The Pairing? Best with the merguez on its own, with no tahini or pita. Nondescript with everything else.

Cost: $15 for food, $8 for wine = $23    

Thursday: Red Lentil Dal and Rice with 2014 Amancay Torrontés La Rioja

Food Details: Nigella Lawson recipe from NYT. Red lentils, sweet potato, onions, ginger, garlic, chile, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cilantro, etc. Over rice.

Did We Like It? A fine dal with enough depth and guts to say, "Yes. This will work just fine, thank you very much."

How Was The Wine? A better drinking than our first one of this cheap Trader Joe's Argentinean torrontés offering. Peachy-floral, bouncy, nice.

And The Pairing? No complaints.

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

Wednesday: Potato Focaccia with Petit Basque Cheese and Quince Paste with 2013 Raventos i Blanc L'Hereu Brut Reserva Conca del Riu Anoia

Food Details: Yotam Ottolenghi potato focaccia (at the bottom) with petit Basque cheese, quince paste, serrano ham and arugula salad.

Did We Like It? Weirdly wonderful focaccia that we'll be making again. Like the lightest potato pizza that never gets too potato-heavy. Easy to make, just a lot of rest-time involved. Topped with quince paste and petit Basque cheese, it went from a thrown-together dinner into something much better than that. The serrano ham was barely needed. A focaccia-quince-cheese bite repeated over and over again was enough for us. And paired with Come Dine With Me New Zealand was perfect.

How Was The Wine? We used to drink this (former) Cava a lot, but we stopped buying it after a couple of bottles didn't exactly thrill and we got into Champagne more heavily. This drinking will bring us back. 45 % macabeu-40 % xarel.lo-15 % parellada. Biodynamic. You can read about Raventos switching appellations here. Refreshing was the word of the night with this drinking, with the smallest touch of apple-lime and very happy minerality. The L'Hereu hasn't tasted like this for us before. It's lighter, shinier, more polished and direct in the best sense.

And The Pairing? Tasted like a Spanish picnic.

Cost: $20 for food, $20 for wine = $40      

Tuesday: Anne Burrell Chicken Milanese with 2013 Jackys Preys Cuvée de Fié Gris Touraine

Food Details: Home Food eaten dozens of times. Anne Burrell recipe: read it, make it, know it, love it. Breaded chicken breasts, pan-fried. Hazelnut-parsley-pecorino blend. Pickled onions. Arugula salad. A piece of fried breast, bit of nut blend, some pickled onions - eat.

Did We Like It? Al. Ways. And this was a very good version. We love it every time we have it. Felt like it had been too long since the last time.

How Was The Wine? Fié gris grape. Natural wine. Loire. Our third bottle and it's been natural-different every time. That's a good thing everyone, if you're inclined to get into such things. This time, a burnt-out candlewick note, mostly, with a wee touch of Asian fruit and white flowers. And a frothy impression that seemed like it was going to get into beer territory but never did. Wild is the word, and we loved it.

And The Pairing? Nothing wrong with that. Best when the wine was cooler.

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

Monday: Hanger Steak, Blue Cheese and Potato Pancakes with 2012 Arnot-Roberts Syrah North Coast and 2010 Abacela Tinta Amarela Umpqua

Food Details: Hanger steak marinated in Chinese black bean and brandy marinade, seared medium-rare. Trader Joe's potato pancakes for starch. Rogue Creamery Caveman Blue Cheese. Haricots verts seared in cast iron with soy and balsamic spritz.

Did We Like It? Delicious marinade, delicious beef. Rogue blue cheese in any form is so gosh-darn good. With a bite of beef with blue cheese and a lil bit of potato pancake...that's all we need in life. Very happy meal.

How Was The Wine? Two wines that were put in the fridge with Preserva disks over the last week or so. Gotta drink up 'em up and this meal seemed a good time to save on bit of wine dollars since they were already a sunk cost. The tinta amarela came off like before - a touch flat and lacking in depth. The Arnot-Roberts, though, turned into a cool climate syrah with personality, with cooling fruit frame backed by a touch of VERY black olive and a bit of thyme. Had a nice pep to its step.

And The Pairing? There wasn't any point during the meal where we thought about opening something fresh/fancier because the food warranted it. That's how well these fridge wines performed with the meal. The syrah was the overall winner on the night, but the tinta amarela loved the green beans. Good start to the weekend.

Cost: $30 for food, $55 for wine = $85