Wednesday, June 16, 2010

#85 - Thomas Keller Chicken & Market Veggies With Two Whites

I tend to recoil from the preachers of the Church of Local, Organic & Sustainable.

It's not that I don't support all of that. It's just that the bulk of the congregation doesn't ever shut the hell up about it. It's the proselytizing and the manner in which it's done.

A few years ago, we took a trip to San Francisco, got to our hotel and realized the coffee maker was too small for our needs. So, in what's become a tradition on our vacations, we drop $30 on a big coffee maker. At the nearby Trader Joe's, while picking up some other supplies, we asked the cashier if there was a place near that sold coffee makers. A woman piped up behind us, saying, "You know, french press is the best coffee." Even though we didn't drink much french press at that time, it wouldn't have mattered as the hotel didn't have a stove or a hot plate to boil water anyway. Mostly, it was the way she said it. It had nothing to do with helping us or directing us to the CVS just down the street. She just wanted the world to know that she drank quality french press coffee and she wasn't going to miss an opportunity to tell the world.

The members of the Church of LOS work in a similar vein. It's never a conversation offering real information or tips. It's an opportunity to express their bona-fides using as many superlatives as possible. It's never a real human interaction. It's a pitch and the product being pitched is themselves.

All that being said...last night's radishes and English peas from the Lincoln Square Farmer's Market were, by far, the best I've ever tasted. There. I'm one of you, if only for a brief time.

Food: Thomas Keller chicken with radishes and English peas

"Amish" Indiana chicken from Whole Foods using the new, better, easier chicken recipe from Thomas Keller on a bed of tarragon. Great chicken again.

Farmer's Market steamed English peas ($5) done in butter, mint, white pepper and salt. Never had peas like these (sing it! testify!). And I never particularly loved peas. These peas be the bee's knees. Tasted like it had a hint of great toasted breadcrumbs mixed in with the mint playing around with a natural and great mellow, subtle pea flavor beautifully. I'm a convert. When's the baptism?

Farmer's Market radishes ($1.50 per bunch!!!!) with dill in a lemon/shallot vinaigrette. Never been a huge lover of radishes either. Always liked them enough but never really sought them out. These were spicy with a deep flavor that went on forever. In fact, I was still tasting them hours later, if you get my drift. And that was welcome.

Labriola baguette and "French Pyrenees cheese" from Whole Foods ($7.99/lb!). With the Byzantine laws surrounding French food and their classifications, seeing a cheese that simply said "French Pyrenees cheese" is akin to seeing a bottle of Bordeaux wine that is labeled "French Bordeaux wine." Don't expect much. But it was cheap and actually quite nice. Very creamy, a bit like havarti with even more creaminess. Made from cow's milk which is a bit more rare in the Pyrenees where goat's milk cheese tends to dominate, from what we've read.

A fancy Midwestern meal with a southern (?) French bent. Lovely stuff.

Wine: 2006 Chateau de Maimbray Sancerre ($22 - WDC) & 2007 Chateau La Nerthe Blanc ($28 - WDC)

The Chateau de Maimbray Sancerre (100% Sauvignon Blanc) has been a favorite of mine for a couple years now. I'm under no illusions about its quality. It's a bit straight-forward and simple, more raw and obvious than better Sancerres even in the same price range. But something about its obviousness appeals to me. It misses some of that subtle minerality and grace that better Sancerres have but with food, it offers a big net and hasn't really ever disappointed.

Very pale yellow in the glass, very little nose offering lemon rind and wet stones, subtle mixture of lime, lemon and grass on the palate with some small touches of minerals (and pine tree?) mixed in. Medium finish, simple and forward. Welcome. Nice. Not really a bargain but I like what it offers. Didn't realize it was a 2006 until halfway through dinner, thinking it was an '07 the entire time. Still going strong and might be better than previous bottles drank younger.

The Chateau La Nerthe is another wine that's been sitting around, begging to be drunk just to get it out of my face. Initially, I thought this was going to be the best wine of the night but it turned into something that didn't offer much. More deep yellow in the glass with a honey and mineral nose. All dried white flowers and honey bark on the palate with maybe some star fruit (read: no fruit) mixed in. Lower acid than the Sancerre. The fruit was gone with this one, turning it into something that wasn't necessarily flabby or undrinkable, just something that sat there, offering little.

Pairing: 87 The Sancerre was the fun one at the party, playing the right tunes and making the funniest jokes

I would have thought a Châteauneuf-du-Pape white would have performed better with a simply cooked chicken but it fell a bit flat compared to the Sancerre. Drinkable but not interesting.

The Sancerre, on the other hand, did what I like about it. It cast a wide net and caught everything. The obviousness and relative rawness of this one is its strength in some ways with it being able to take its basic flavors and meld well with the radishes, peas and chicken quite nicely. Everything had a similar weight on the palate but just enough differences in flavor. Spectacular with the peas, tasty with the radishes, nice with the chicken, playful with the tarragon. Brighter, grassy wine with brighter earthy veggies picked the day before. Good stuff.

The La Nerthe was best with the cheese though. But at a $40 release price, bought at $28 and drinking like $12, we wouldn't do it again.

The Sancerre at $22, even with others in the same price range being a bit more complex, offers an appealing rawness. It's like a friend that's never had his life together but he's funny and you always have a good time when he's around.

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