It's "Try New Things" and "Drink Portuguese Wine" summer!
For lunch, sandwiches from Bari's. Oddly had never been. Best old-school, pizza parlor-ish subs on the planet. Just spectacular stuff.
For dinner, we rid ourselves of a wine we were sick of looking at and a wine that the critics slovenly gushed over two years ago, especially Wine Spectator when they put it at #3 on their top 100 list of 2008.
We were less impressed when we first had it. Liked it enough but it paled in comparison to the quality of Quinta do Vale Meao. In fact, we bought last night's wine for the first time three years ago because the Quinta do Vale Meao suddenly began to dry up around town.
The first time around, it was pleasant enough, just not particularly interesting and certainly not one of the best wines on any list. Last night showed that it may have just needed a little more time in the bottle.
Food: Leftover skirt steak, pumpkin seed potatoes, spinach and a roasted corn and bacon relish
It was clean out the freezer night for more urgent reasons than simply making a little space. The fridge teetered on the verge of "fritz" Friday, leaving oodles of items on the scary side of safely eatable.
So...it was rustic Californian with Spanish flecks! Or "let's see what can be made from what can be eaten."
Leftover skirt steak (in the safe freezer) from three weeks ago (served then with Jiménez-Landi). Onion/parsley marinade, cooked medium rare and turned out nearly as good as the previous one, which might have been the one of the best skirt steak preparations I've ever had.
Pumpkin seed potatoes made with "picada" of pepitas, baguette crumbs, parsley, garlic and saffron. An alteration of almond potatoes last served two months ago, also with skirt steak and the Torres Celeste. I didn't know it wasn't almonds instead of pumpkin seeds until Mrs. Ney told me. Par for the course, really. One of our favorite potato preparations, mainly because of the delicious garlic/parsley/saffron goopiness slathered all over them.
Relish-y type garnish consisting of roasted corn, sautéed onion and pepper, bacon, thyme
spinach and basil. I hate corn. Grew up in Iowa and I hate corn. I also become an Angels fan in the heart of Cub country. And a Browns fan in the heart of Bears country. As a child, I had a compulsive need to be different. As I grew older, I reexamined many of my prejudices, coming to tolerate the Cubs, accept that the Bears had a right to exist, even didn't wretch when I saw a Maid-Rite. But screw you, corn. Creamed corn = the most disgusting concoction on the planet. Corn niblets is a close second. But oddly, roasted corn has a begrudging, if ever so marginal place. Even corn on the cob isn't really that terrible when drenched in butter from a piece of Wonder bread (which would be a flashback of historic proportions!).
Roasted corn mixed with bacon, onion and garlic is quite good and mixed in with baby spinach and basil, it made for a side that transformed the meal a bit. It lightened everything up and brought some freshness.
Surprisingly good, even kinda great meal as Mrs. Ney had zero expectations. Broken fridges will do that.
Wine: 2005 Quinta do Crasto Reserva Old Vines ($38 - WDC)
Grape: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and up to 30 others
Vinification: Foot-crushed and aged in a blend of French and American oak for 18 months
Vintage (WS): 94 Warm weather, with even ripening during harvest, made balanced and powerful reds
Speaking of expectations, we had none. As I said, the last time we had this one, we didn't love much about it, but it was much more open this time.
Reddish-purple in the glass, Asian spice nose. Gobs of plum on the palate with some wild dark berry mixed in. Explodes about halfway down with hugely expanding fruit and starting to show some dark cherry that subsequently retreated. A very small amount of Asian spice was present, not as much as some great Portuguese reds, but present nonetheless. Hints of very dark bitter chocolate that was welcome on the finish with not the most refined tannins but were nice enough.
Mostly, it was a quality Portuguese red, a little simple but balanced enough to make it feel like opening it was a good choice given our preconceptions going in.
Pairing: 89 Nice to have it there, agreeable with everything
Sometimes, you find cheap meals that work well with cheap wines (Roulades and Nero d'Avola). Sometimes, you find fancy meals that work well with fancy wine (Dry-aged filet and Heredia).
And sometimes, you find a meal and a wine that falls right in the middle. We have done pretty well in this range in the last two years or so. Gettin' better at this.
This meal was one of those. Quite good with leftover skirt steak, probably the best with the potatoes and entirely acceptable, even good with the relish. Great with the basil and the surprise of the night.
All the different flavors in the food and in the wine melded together for something that went above what was on the plate and in the glass.
Happy and full. Happy...and...full.