Thursday, June 23, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #50

When you have the urge to hate on something, the New York Times Style or Weddings section will usually fit the bill.

I've wandered over or stumbled upon pieces in those sections over the years and came out with an adrenaline rush of hatred combined with gut-busting laughter so weirdly pleasurable that I felt like I really should examine why I found those pieces of garbage so pleasurable.

But then I read something like 'The Sound of Music Is in His Blood and Now His Heart' from yesterday's Weddings section and I know that there is objective terribleness in this world and it really should be resoundingly mocked.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $117 for food and $120 for wine = $237

Sunday: Tapas Spread with 2011 Juvé y Camps Brut Nature Reserva de la Familia Cava

Food Details: Iberico ham, Harriet sheep's cheese, marinated grilled artichoke hearts, piquillo peppers, rosemary marcona almonds, ciabatta and arugula/parsley salad.

Did We Like It? Feels like it's been years! We used to have this "rip open some packages and open some jars" Spanish-style tapas meal quite often. Good ham, good cheese, all the Spanish accoutrements; eat pokily, drink good Spanish bubbly, enjoy. This wasn't even great Iberico but it's been so long that we loved it. The big star here, though, was the Trader Joe's artichokes. They're grilled, then marinated, and the result on top of ciabatta with some parsley (maybe some cheese) was the bite of the night/week - offering a taste that was long, wide and delicious. This was a two-hour meal that reminded us why we love Spain so much.

How Was The Wine? Another reminder of Spanish goodness. I feel like I would have done a write-up on our last drinking of this Cava favorite. Looking back in the history, it's been 2 1/2 years since we've had it. Odd. Very odd. One of the problems of buying wine in Chicago is that everyone carries the same wine when it comes to non-hot/less popular regions. We've drunk every Cava in our market - there's only about six - and Juvé y Camps is our undisputed go-to Spanish bubbly in that group. It has the rawness and grizzle all Cava should have, not bubbles trying to be Champagne and coming up short. It should taste like an quiet explanation, and not a justification, of why Spain doesn't have to compete against other European or Mediterranean food-type stuffs. You be you, Spain. You. Be. You. This Cava tastes like that. Plus $5 TJ's Palomino as an alternative to the Cava.

And The Pairing? Pure Spanish breeze.

Cost: $36 for food, $23 for wine  = $59    

Saturday: Ham and Pretzel Bread Panzanella with 2015 Field Recordings Fiction Grenache Rosé Paso Robles

Food Details: Garbage salad of baby kale, ham, pepper jack, vidalia onion, tomato, dill, pretzel bread croutons and honey mustard dressing.

Did We Like It? No need for a plate, just eat it straight from the bowl you mixed everything in. Perfect Saturday night food that tastes like a nostalgic hug.

How Was The Wine? I can't find anything on this bottle around the webs. Feels like a Field Recordings one-off to get some rosé on the market due to the fact that the Alloy rosé cans sold out so quickly this year. Frankly, we liked this one more than the 2015 cans. It's very much a straight-up grenache rosé, no frills, just dirt and fruit with brightness and balance. Paso sun without the Paso syrup. Kudos on this one for $15. Perfect price for a rosé that gives much.

And The Pairing? It loved the mayo-honey in the dressing and the copious amounts of dill in the salad. And of course...rosé and ham are besties. Big pairing success here. Wasn't superlative, just a damn good garbage salad with a rosé that liked it.

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

Friday: Green Beans, Peanuts, Lime and Radish Sprouts with 2015 Lila Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough

Food Details: Yotam. Ottolenghi. Always. An enormous amount of green beans mixed with a slurry of peanut, kaffir lime, ginger, lemongrass, garlic, etc. Over white rice, topped with radish sprouts, cilantro and a lime spritz.

Did We Like It? I mention the radish sprouts twice (not included in the recipe) because they brought a garden-dirt quality and verticality to an already delicious Asian-y green bean curry-like bowl of happiness. It's the summer of radish sprouts in our house, it seems. They brought something akin to mung beans without being too mung bean-y as mung beans can be.

How Was The Wine? Barely worth mentioning. Mrs. Ney was sick, so no wine. I had a can of Lila, which brought a bit of grassiness that linked with the food in basic ways, but it lost its cleanse. Meh.

And The Pairing? See above.

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

Thursday: Allium Tart with 2013 Jean Masson Jacquere Savoie

Food Details: Allium tart (garlic scapes, chive blossoms, charred spring onions) with tarragon, dill, and feta. Arugula salad with pomegranate seeds on the side. Tart shell recipe here. It's bistro food.

Did We Like It? A damn solid tart. Elevated weekday grub.

How Was The Wine? Another wine that slipped through the storing cracks. This meal seemed like a good opportunity to get some value out of it. At three years old, it's lost some of its crispness and floral nature, coming off as slightly better than basic white wine here. Touch of oily peach pit notes that was pleasant though.

And The Pairing? Merely okay.

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

Wednesday: Chicken-Radish Sprout Sandwiches and Chips with 2013 Heidi Schrock Muskatellar Burgenland 

Food Details: Paulina Meat Market smoked chicken, radish sprouts, pickled onions, avocado and tomato on pretzel bread. Olive oil chips. Mrs. Ney finished the chive blossom-garlic scape pancakes for her side.

Did We Like It? Radish sprouts are delicious, and turn an already well-crafted sandwich using up some leftover stuff from the week into The Fancy. Delicious.

How Was The Wine? This is aborted wine from yesterday's pairing, and it's helpful when you can take fridge wine and find food that turns it into so much more than "fridge wine," like here. The radish sprouts pried open a depth and mineral-driven fruit in this muskatellar that was never present in yesterday's food. A real roundness and tick-off of deliciousness. At $24, it's a bit pricey compared to Darting's muskatellar that offers similar goodness and less finickiness, and it's $6 cheaper. But big fan here.

And The Pairing? See above.

Cost: $8 for food, $24 for wine = $32  

Tuesday: Bittman Fish Sauce Chickens and Chive Blossom/Garlic Scape Pancakes with TJ's Lambrusco

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 chive blossom/garlic scape pancakes (instead of scallions), from Serious Eats. Charred yu choy (Chinese flowering cabbage).

Did We Like It? It's the kind of meal that reminds us, "God, food is Good!" Even when we've now had this meal a handful of times. It always tastes new and punchy and possesses everything anyone who likes food would ever want or need. This batch a touch salty overall (from the fish sauce bottle) and the yu choy offered nothing in the way of interestingness, but we loved nearly everything about this meal.

How Was The Wine? Our original bottle, a 2013 Heidi Schrock Muskatellar Burgenland was DOA with the food. And another bottle in the fridge, a 2013 (!) Ponzi Pinot Gris, which slipped through the wine-storing and monitoring said wine-storing cracks, was dead, period. The only other thing chilled was a Trader Joe's Lambrusco. We gave it a go and had absolutely zero issues with its ice-cold-water-like refreshment and sweet, bright fruit.

And The Pairing? The Lambrusco salvaged what could have been a disaster. Its sweet-like fruit and frothiness stood up to the aggressiveness SE Asian flavors quite admirably. Tailed off as it warmed up but no complaints given the situation. In fact, the fish sauce and salt negated the cheapness inherent in this wine and allowed it to ONLY give nice fruit, dirt, acid and cleanse. Surprise. Big one.

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

Monday: Sean Brock Cheeseburgers with NV Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red Lot #63    

Food Details: Sean Brock's Heritage cookbook, page 131. Double stack burgers with American cheese, onions, mustard-pickle sauce, potato buns. Bagged fries. This meal plus two more meals in the freezer cost $26.

Did We Like It? We like many cheeseburgers from around town. Kuma's is a great burger. Bill's Drive-In is fantastic. Recently, we had the Au Cheval burgers and found it quite good. Five Guys works. Shake Shack is good... But when we think of the most superlative cheeseburgers that exist in this world, it's Sean Brock home cheeseburgers. Not really even close.

How Was The Wine? Merely fine, and that was a surprise. Zinfandel, petite sirah, syrah, mixed Italian blacks blend. Came off a bit thin and reticent, lacking a forceful or focused personality, compared to other drinkings of this series. Reached the point of just enough pleasure but never went beyond that.

And The Pairing? Fine.

Cost: $26 for food, $12 for wine = $38    

Friday, June 17, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #49

This is the last month of our 365 experiment. For that, I'm glad. I'm running out of words.

In one important way, this experiment was to see our real cost of food and wine and the home-joy it brought over the course of one year, and comparing that to eating out 3-4 times a week like most people do now, as you can see by this piece. We'll see the comparison with a big breakdown once this is over.

Avec has always had the bones to do something like these Island Dinners they're doing this summer. Digging into the minutiae of Mediterranean food and wine, breaking out of that vague, broad definition and getting into the more place-specific nitty-gritty makes for utterly more interesting stuff.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $178 for food and $60 for wine = $238

Sunday: 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? A great batch. A bigger bitter punch from the marinade truncated the typically broad flavor with these fish tacos, but that didn't detract from these universally sublime fish tacos. The crema made up for it, offering a more layered taste than it usually does. Loved these tacos.

How Was The Wine? We've messed around with different wines and sangrias over the years. This pineapple wine, with its frothy refreshment, grilled pineapple-like juiciness and spicy depth, is now our one and only beverage with fish tacos.

And The Pairing? Perfect.

Cost: $18 for food, $16 for wine = $34  

Saturday: Smoked Chicken, Pickled Walnuts, Watercress and Heirloom Tomatoes with 2015 La Peña de España White Wine 

Food Details: Paulina Meat Market smoked chicken (oodles better than Whole Foods), blue cheese and heirloom tomatoes. A salad of watercress, pickled walnuts, radish sprouts, celery, parsley, etc., dressed. Mini-ciabatta buns and butter. Top bread with any combination of the above ingredients you like and eat. It's pick-n-choose.

Did We Like It? Utterly new and so golly-gosh-damn-darn delicious. Flavors galore! New is good. Flavors are good. New and tons of flavor is Great. I loved the combination of pickled walnut, celery and radish sprouts. Never had anything like it and now I want so much more of that. Golly, I loved this.

How Was The Wine? New Trader Joe's offering, a blend of 25% each of sauvignon blanc, muscat, verdejo and chardonnay, with a tiny wisp of Spanish air to it. It's mediocre at best. Nothing great. Changed often throughout the meal, though, giving what blends can give with food - versatility. Can't say we'd buy it again.

And The Pairing? See above, though the verdejo showed up a little too much for my taste. Verdejo can go to hell.

Cost: $24 for food, $6 for wine = $30  

Friday: Work Party

Work party at the Museum of Science & Industry.

Thursday: Minty Brown Rice and Wilted Greens and 2014 João Portugal Ramos "Lima" Loureiro Vinho Verde

Food Details: More Ottolenghi doing what Ottolenghi does so well - make simple food freakin' delicious. (Recipe - halfway down), using only mustard greens. Feta, mint, garlic, olive oil and mustard greens over brown rice. Threw in smoked sundried tomatoes because they were in the cupboard.

Did We Like It? Mrs. Ney wanted a huge bowl of mac-n-cheese, not 'this healthy stuff!' Then she ate it and we loved it and it was the usual Ottolenghi food joy.

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

And The Pairing? Great length to the wine. Real delineation of flavors and a slow revealing of said flavors. With this food, you have a few basic ingredients mingling together with copious amounts of mint. That gives this lightly floral and fruity wine a chance to get in there and play around. Nothing obstructive, nothing bullying. Just pairing love.

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

Wednesday: Picadillo with 2013 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles Paso Robles

Food Details: Sam Sifton picadillo, subbing fresh chorizo for dried, leftover pork shoulder for beef, currants instead of raisins, adding roasted poblanos, over white rice.

Did We Like It? It's beefy, tomatoey, spicy-sweet bouncy, olivey. It's Cuban stew over rice and it's quite good. This was probably the best version of this we've had.

How Was The Wine? Cheap, chilled, Trader Joe's Rhône red blend. A glass for each of us.

And The Pairing? Its blendy-ness and chill here made for a surprising friendliness. This wine is NOTHING special, but...very friendly here.

Cost: $6 for food, $5 for wine = $11

Tuesday: Moroccan Lamb Shoulder and Mint Dressing with 2011 Domaine de la Mordorée Tavel

Food Details: NYT recipe. Slow-roasted lamb shoulder (from World Fresh Market on Devon), with cumin, coriander, harissa, garlic, etc; roughly shredded. Mint dressing altered, using basil, cilantro, lemon balm, and mint. Corn on the cob slathered with harissa butter. Arugula salad with pomegranate seeds to finish.

Did We Like It? Delicious lamb, brought on sale.Wonderful integrity of lamb flavor. Coupled with the dressing that tasted really earthy and balmy in the best possible sense, this dinner came off perfectly simple and perfectly delicious.

How Was The Wine? This one's been sitting in the house for four years, waiting for it to mature. The biggest impression we got was, "This rosé has its big-boy pants on." We've been drinking a lot of rosé quaffers lately, cheap stuff that brings joy, compared to anything more serious. This is serious. We didn't even love it, but its earth and balance and pace reminded us that we should probably be buying more quality Rhône rosés again. We took a break. This reminded us that we should get back on that horse.

And The Pairing? Happiness. Very nice. Loved the lamb, dressing and wine together.

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

Monday: Spacca Napoli

Food Details: Margherita, Diavola and a focaccia with anchovy, arugula, oregano and garlic.

Did We Like It? If not for a certain employment situation, we'd be here twice a month. On the patio.

How Was The Wine? A bottle of 16 Marzo Falanghina and an assortment of glasses: a fiano, biancalella, Lettere and Nepente. Satisfying back-and-forth, trying each with each pizza.

And The Pairing? Good enough. Patio + sunny day + great food + nice wine = a delicious, lazy, VERY satisfying dinner.

Cost: $110

Friday, June 10, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #48

Taking a trip to Tuscany in a few months. Six days in the countryside, two days in Florence. Wine, good food, quiet, pool, and a villa that has only three other rooms, so that's our speed.

Should be quite good.

And I don't know how, but we nabbed two tickets for $650 each! Went up to $1150 two days later. Big score.

We've hit a bit of a cheap wine wall lately. So taking a wine break with weekday meals that aren't going to be food-wine Good has been the play.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $137 for food and $64 for wine = $201

Total food and wine cost for the month: $385 for food and $394 for wine = $779

Sunday: Anne Burrell Chicken Milanese with 2015 Bokisch Verdelho Vista Luna Vineyard Lodi and 2015 La Val Albariño Rías Baixas

Food Details: The usual Anne Burrell chicken Milanese. Harvesttime chicken breasts, breaded and fried. Michael Symon pickled red onions, nut-pecorino-parsley blend. Arugula and pomegranate seed salad. Top the chicken breast with all the other goodness and eat.

Did We Like It? We liked all the other goodness, but the chicken breasts didn't make the cut. A bit rubbery. Cheap chicken runs that risk. Damn fine meal though, when we only ate the really thin parts of the chicken.

How Was The Wine? Toughie. The La Val...I know the Orballo label from La Val is their international label, but wasn't sure if this La Val label is merely the same thing in its original label for $4 less. It's not. It misses on the salinity and confident acid that's offered by the Orballo. A fine albariño, but it doesn't offer the confidence, sparkle and presence the Orballo does. We wavered back and forth on the Bokisch, initially liking its red grapefruit-like acid and flavor, then wondering if it should be giving more than it was, finally ending on liking its versatility enough with the food for only $14. More levels and changes than the La Val, which was simply a lemon-lime spritz with a few salty sea notes thrown in at the end.

And The Pairing? I'm glad I didn't buy the case of the La Val like I initially wanted to. It never ingratiated itself to the food. No pivot or adjustment. The Bokisch did, giving a nutty note at times with the food, turning more quiet and subtle in others. It always was making an effort. When we order another case from Bokisch, which will happen, this one may be a thrown-in at the end to round out the case.

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

Saturday: Orecchiette, Sausage and Rapini with 2015 Rosa dell'Olmo Gavi Piedmont

Food Details: The standard orecchiette with sausage and rapini business. It's a house classic.

Did We Like It? Great sausage-flavor mingle here. The spices in the sausage bounced around, looking for something to pick up on and run with. It did, often. Good batch. 

How Was The Wine? Dry, crisp, lightly floral, peaches, medium-bodied, a lil nutty. The first 2015 of this Trader Joe's gavi for us. A little less broad as when this wine has showed best, but we'll be happy with it, as we'll be having it with this food another five times through the end of the year. It's a classic as well.

And The Pairing? As I said, a little less broad and a little less perky than previous drinkings, but it had enough to offer with the food to find the fundamental coziness that these two have with each other. 

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

Friday: Chicken and Rice with 2015 Barbadillo Palomino Fino Cádiz

Food Details: Leftover chicken from Jeremiah Tower chicken on Sunday. Zucchini, celery, carrots, onions cooked up in the cast-iron; pan deglazed with fino sherry; parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme; white rice.

Did We Like It? The sherry with the chicken was resplendent! Real barn burner. Basic bowl of food that turned into a Big Bowl of Happy. Not one complaint. 

How Was The Wine? Trader Joe's palomino in not-sherry form. We love how the label says it's "fruity." Nope. This is categorically not fruity. This is dry, clean, savory as hell, light, refreshing, dry, and dry. It's a blank slate. Add food that likes it and things happen.

And The Pairing? Sherry grape with sherry in the food. That helped it along big time. No complaints here either. 

Cost: $3 for food, $6 for wine = $9

Thursday: Mango Curry, Raita and Naan with 2015 Lila Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough

Food Details: Mango curry, from 660 Curries, adding ginger, using ataulfo mangoes. Black mustard seed raita. Naan.

Did We Like It? Solid curry dinner! More than moderate depth, perfect heat hit, round and balanced all-around. We were happy with this.

How Was The Wine? It was delicious with haloumi and heirloom tomatoes, and excelled with piri-piri chicken as well five weeks ago. Since then, not so much. Different batch? The grapefruit-mint-acid balance has disappeared.

And The Pairing? Here, it was dull, with a faint tinge of dumpster juice.

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

Wednesday: BBQ Chicken Sandwiches and Potato Salad

Food Details: Quick and easy dinner. Baked BBQ chicken breasts. Easy-peasy. Mayo. Arugula. On rolls. Potato salad on the side.

Did We Like It? Fine and good sandwiches. More than just "it fed a hole." Potato salad upset our stomaches. No idea why.

No wine.

Good place to take a break.

Cost: $10

Tuesday: Jeremiah Tower Chicken and Watercress Salad with 2013 Domaine des Herbauges Val de Loire Grolleau Gris

Food Details: (recipe) No washing, and no sauce made with pan juice. Pan juice is too dippin' delicious by itself with bread. Added Vidalia onions and sage this time. Watercress and arugula salad with walnut oil. More beautifully ripe heirloom tomatoes. Whole Foods ciabatta buns.

Did We Like It? This is our third time eating this chicken and every time, we say we'd eat this damn thing twice a week. It's Frenchy, yet firmly planted in the Chez Panisse world with its subtle, unique pop and taste-length. Each version has been slightly different and each one has been perfect.

How Was The Wine? Less oily and more fruity this time. Smoky-fruity. Lighter. A breeziness to it. Flinty, almost.

And The Pairing? This is the second time we've had this wine with this chicken. Very different expression this time and very delicious. Whole Foods has been doing some nice things with a few select wines lately. This is right at the top. Grolleau gris grape, which was new to us, and it's the ideal wine with this chicken. Tastes like Leisure. Might be one of the pairings of the year.

Cost: $26 for food, $14 for wine = $40          

Monday: Dinner With The Fam

Food Details: Ottolenghi sage-lemon almonds to start. Trader Joe's dolmas with a yogurt and Fustini's pomegranate balsamic dip. Lamb-beef kofta with roasted cauliflower, arugula and pomegranate seeds as the entrée with an heirloom tomato and Vidalia onion salad. Pita. Gluten-free nut-poppyseed chocolate cake for dessert, with the gluten-free-ness for Mrs. Fam.

Did We Like It? The kofta went a little over. So did the cauliflower, but this might have been one of the best versions yet of this fairly new house favorite. All the spice and cream and acid and juice and pop came together, forming into something quite elevated. Beautiful heirloom tomatoes. And the Fam loved it, which helped, because we weren't sure that was going to be the case.

Cost: $65

Thursday, June 2, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #47

Over on the right, just below the Twitter feed, one could click on the '365' image and see every meal we've had over the last 46 weeks as we lead up to the end of this experiment. I don't know why someone would want to read what two strangers ate over the course of almost a year, but you could do that. It's the Internet. Tons of useless information out there! But it works for us.

The Night Manager, AMC's six-part miniseries adaptation of the John le Carré novel, offers very pretty aesthetics and that's about it. Even with solid acting and a sufficiently complex story arc, it's plodding and bumpy, leading up to a finish that left me very much wanting so much more.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $88 for food and $80 for wine = $168

Sunday: Scaccia with 2014 Lambrusco Secco Fattoria Moretto

Food Details: Our new favorite thing - pizza babka/lasagna bread, first had here. Saveur recipe. Semolina dough, San Marzano tomatoes, sharp provolone and smoked mozzarella standing in for caciocavallo, basil and garlic. Arugula salad to finish.

Did We Like It? Yep, Yep, Yep! Tastes like someone fancified Italian-American food I grew up on. The bridge between fancy and 80's fancy Italian restaurant in Iowa is definitely present, but the freshness of the basil and the brightness of the San Marzanos bring it to a better place, while the semolina dough is a perfect vehicle to maximize the flavor and interaction of those things while never getting in the way. Delicious.

How Was The Wine? Bitter in a good way; juicy black fruits; Old World loveliness; frothy but isn't over-frothed. A nice $20 alternative to our favorite Lambrusco, the Chiarli del Fontadore, and we can get this wine in our neighborhood in a pinch.

And The Pairing? No love here, but a fair amount of like.

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

Saturday: Rick Bayless Mexican Red Rice with 2014 La Granja Blanco Rioja

Food Details: Rick Bayless recipe here, using jalapeño chicken sausages. Sour cream and cilantro on top.

Did We Like It? It's a staple. An easy staple. A happy staple. Coming home to this always makes me think, "That'll most definitely do!" There's chicken sausages, peas, onions, spice, sour cream, tomatoes... All of it comes together into something that tastes like weekday Mexican comfort food.

How Was The Wine? It's been awhile since we last had this former house favorite. It's a $5 Trader Joe's verdejo-viura blend. Fine-and-good snap and Riojaness with this drinking.

And The Pairing? No complaints. Not one. The low-level spice brought out more tropical notes in the wine, oddly, something that this bargain wine usually keeps under wraps.

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

Friday: Zucchini Goop with 2015 Charles & Charles Rosé Columbia Valley

Food Details: Based on a recipe from Mexican, by Jane Milton (page 186), using leftover pork from Cubano sandwiches instead of the usual green chorizo. Pugliese as bread vehicle.

Did We Like It? It's become a once-every-six-weeks type thing, because it's a veggie explosion with a hit of meat, heat and cream. Has garlic, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, all the goods. This batch was one of the best.

How Was The Wine? 63% syrah, 12% mourvedre, 10% grenache, 7% cab, 7% cinsault, 3% counoise from Columbia Valley. $8 at Target. Eight. Dollars. Perky and playful, if not as good as a couple of vintages ago.

And The Pairing? A tiny bit clipped, but worked for us in terms of offering something a bit more than just "wine" with the food.

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

Thursday: Minty Brown Rice and Wilted Greens with 2014 Amancay Torrontés La Rioja

Food Details: More Ottolenghi doing what Ottolenghi does so well - make simple food freakin' delicious. (Recipe - halfway down), using only mustard greens. Feta, mint, garlic, olive oil and mustard greens over brown rice.

Did We Like It? A perfect example of a few simple ingredients mixing together to create something more than the sum of its parts. More ingredients or more complexity would have diminished the beauty of the mint, feta and mustard greens bouncing off each other. We'll be having this again.

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

And The Pairing? The mustard greens loved the floral notes in the torrontés. Nothing mind-blowing, but this meal brought out more in this weekday wine than it's given recently.

Cost: $4 for food, $7 for wine = $11

Wednesday: Cubano Sandwiches with No Wine

Food Details: Cubano sandwiches of roasted pork, ham, swiss, pickles, mayo and mustard on brioche. Made six sandwiches, plus leftover pork for days! Olive oil chips.

Did We Like It? Everything everybody would ever want from a Cuban sandwich. Great balance and proportion.

How Was The Wine? Mrs. Ney tried the Dark Horse Rosé with it and immediately said, "BAH! NO!" I followed said recommendation. We had water. And we were fine with that.

Cost: $19 for food

Tuesday: Malaysian Barramundi Curry with NV Evolution Sparkling White

Food Details: (recipe) Ottolenghi Malaysian fish and pineapple curry, using barramundi. Pineapple, green beans, rice, coconut milk. Recipe followed, except using 1/2 of the amount of sugar.

Did We Like It? We didn't. Didn't love the barramundi texture nor did we love the sweetness overall, even with taking the sugar level down.

How Was The Wine? Nine grapes done up Champagne-style. Muscat, gewürztraminer, pinot gris, white riesling, chardonnay, pinot blanc, sylvaner, muller-thurgau and semillon. You read that list, particularly since it leads with muscat and gewürztraminer, and you'd think this would be sweet-ish. At least highly fruity. It's not. It's quite dry, with some very pleasing bitterness and herb stem notes. More pinot blanc and muller-thurgau than anything else. Quite nice, and we'll be buying it again.

And The Pairing? Nothing to report. The wine was nice, the food wasn't loved.

Cost: $12 for food, $14 for wine = $26

Monday: Churrasco-Marinated Skirt Steak and Onion Rings with 2010 Abacela Tannat Umpqua Valley

Food Details: Freezer-churrasco-marinated skirt steak; Belgian endive charred on meat flat-top, chopped, tossed with freezer chimichurri and parsley. Endive on bottom, then meat, topped with avocado. NYT (recipe) southern-style onion rings. Chimichurri mayo for dipping.

Did We Like It? We loved it. Huge plate of onion rings with a side of meat, and an appropriate meal after the veggie explosion on Sunday. Meat went a little over but didn't detract at all, particularly with the chimichurri slather and a bite of avocado. Had a carne asada quality. Delicious onion rings with mayo dip. An all-around happy meal.

How Was The Wine? Good use of this tannat. Oregon tannat, pronounced "tun-Uh" that had the rawness, very dark dirt and grizzle of a Portuguese red from Alentejo. Very nice concentrated dark cherry swirl and roundness, dark, sun-baked dirt in the middle, and an appropriately grippy finish that didn't hold on too tight. We liked it muchly.

And The Pairing? A good use for this wine. We were too lazy to go fetch a La Posta Malbec or something else Argentinean-y. It liked the meat char and avocado and did well enough with the onion rings. Satisfied.

Cost: $22 for food, $26 for wine = $48

Thursday, May 26, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #46

Two New Yorker stories this week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday: Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef and Noodle Salad with Leftover Wine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday: Au Cheval

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

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

Cost: $0

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 19, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #45

Three-day consumption of fiber:

Monday: Beet greens and barley...

Tuesday: Yellow beets and curly endive...

Wednesday: Cauliflower and arugula...!

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

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

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

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

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

And The Pairing? Fine.

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

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

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

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

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

And The Pairing? See above.

Cost: $8 for food, $0 for wine = $8  

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

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

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

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

And The Pairing? Meh.

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

Thursday: Chimichurri Chicken over Brown Rice

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

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

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

Cost: $6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 14, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #44

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday: Green Chorizo Tortas with NV Evolution Sparkling White

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

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

How Was The Wine? Nine grapes done up Champagne-style. Muscat, gewürztraminer, pinot gris, white riesling, chardonnay, pinot blanc, sylvaner, muller-thurgau and semillon. You read that list, particularly since it leads with muscat and gewürztraminer, and you'd think this would be sweet-ish. At least highly fruity. It's not. It's quite dry, with some very pleasing bitterness and herb stem notes. More pinot blanc and muller-thurgau than anything else. Quite nice, and we'll be buying it again.

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

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

Wednesday: Scaccia with 2012 Paringa Sparkling Shiraz Barossa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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