We have eaten well this week. Very well, actually.
And since baseballs are the only thing juggling in my brain, I offer an analogy.
Our wine pairing slumps in the last year or so have been shorter, more productive. As we get into the finer points that inform us as to what ultimately works best, we know when and how to shorten our swing and wait for our pitch instead of trying to swing our way out of it.
In short, when we miss, we mostly know why and understand not to do it again. We also know that there are things in life that are time-tested and shouldn't be screwed with.
Like last night's meal. Italian food preparations will most likely work best with Italian-style wine. And when you're making vitello tonnato for the first time, see what other people that know stuff about it think works best.
Food: Vitello tonnato on arugula with puff pepper swirls
Poached Paulina Market veal cutlets.
Sauce: oil-packed tuna, anchovies, mayo, lemon juice, capers, evoo, white pepper
Glop sauce over meat, top with parsley and refrigerate as long as possible. Serve with hard-boiled eggs for me, not for Mrs. Ney.
After having a vitello tonnato at The Bristol last month that we wished had more tuna taste, Mrs. Ney wanted to give it a try. Typically, vitello tonnato is refrigerated overnight and sometimes as long as a week after putting sauce to veal. This one had an afternoon's worth of "flavor marrying."
In our view, it didn't suffer from its short humping time. A nice and subtle veal taste came through, the tuna and anchovies also came through. Together, everything found a place that was something greater and that probably had to do with the deft hand in seasoning.
Everything really worked, making it a pretty great dish. We kinda loved it, something just a few hours before wasn't a certainty as Mrs. Ney warned during the preparation that we might be going out.
A semi-homemade starch with puréed jarred Macedonian peppers stuffed with feta and dill added, then wrapped with store-bought puff pastry. It was a "let's see how this goes" attempt at avoiding a trip to buy some potatoes and they succeeded. Butter and spice with a bright and light heat that contrasted beautifully with the cold vitello tonnato.
Arugula dressed with extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Eating the pile of arugula at the end of the meal with the rest of the tuna/anchovy sauce clinging to it was just great stuff.
We were just shocked how much we loved everything and this will be made again very soon.
Wine: 2007 Enotria Arneis ($17 - In Fine Spirits)
Grape: 96% Arneis, 6% Tocai Friulano, 2% Pinot Blanc (most likely. Blend used in 2001)
Region: Mendocino County, Ukiah Valley vineyards
Enotria specializes in growing Italian grapes from Piedmont. Located well north of Napa Valley and just north of the Russian River valley, the cooler climate is similar to Piedmont in northern Italy in many ways, allowing them to grow grapes such as arneis, barbera, dolcetto, nebbiolo and moscato.
In our world, trying to find reasonably priced wine from California from grapes not typically grown (or at least promoted) in California has been difficult. They tend to go the small production, organically-grown route and haven't been around long enough to justify lower prices with higher economies of scale still in effect. Sure, we applaud such efforts but many we've tried start at $30 and we haven't been blown away by the quality.
This one was $17, more than reasonable and justifiable if you want to mess around at length with grapes grown in regions not usually seen in those regions just to see the difference and compare.
Shimmering yellow in the glass. The palate reminded both of us of viura in its essence but with higher alcohol and brighter acidity. Honey, a bit of fruit showing pear and apple and some of that ever-so-slight dusty quality that comes with viura. Wee hints of cream and sugar. This is a dry wine but the high alcohol and good acidity probably made me think of the sugar (just learning about that technical interplay and its details).
Everything still came off medium-bodied and almost pretty. Nothing over-the-top spectacular but a pretty great wine for $17.
And it lined up well with the food.
Pairing: 92 Italian food + Italian wine = Goodness
And I might even be tempted to go higher after trying a more dry, lower alcohol and lower acid wine that we very much like (Skouras Moschofilero) just to see the difference. It...wasn't good.
The wine offered flavors sufficiently different but still in the same ballpark to make everything in the meal shine. Bigger, brighter acidity lifted everything that really didn't need any lifting but still made for a great compliment. Deeper flavors in the food welcomed a bigger white that nonetheless didn't make any attempt to bully anything around. A true-blue flavor intensity balance.
Played nice with the spice in the puff pepper swirls and was entirely welcome with the arugula-tuna glop.
Having a collective seven years now working in Italian restaurants, I still don't eat much in the way of Italian food when not at work. Just never gravitated toward it, something that probably has something to do with being around it so much. But when the Italians get it right, they Get It Right.
Last night was right and proper.