Tuesday's lamb was probably better.
But last night's meal has a place. And what a place it was!
Much of the comparison came down to seasoning. The lamb was beautifully seasoned with hints of the marinade subtly popping up here and there. The bison and mushroom tart was aggressively well-seasoned, with sometimes so many flavors going on that we both gave up trying to figure out what exactly was going on and just loving the bites. Nothing was overdone, just...a lot!
Also, after last night's bison, it will be, for the most part, replacing ostrich is the lean meat-type substance category. It's cheaper and maybe even a bit more versatile with some of the bigger wines in our collection that we've ignored of late. Australian shiraz, I'm looking squarely at you.
Food: Bison flank steak with mushroom tart and Swiss chard
Whole Foods bison flank steak from the Whole Foods at Halsted, a store with some of the most helpful people on Earth. Seriously. Marinade of crushed fennel seeds, juniper, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil, roasted garlic, glop of honey and a splash of balsamic vinegar. A Chris Cosentino marinade for bison. We'll be visiting Mr. Cosentino's Ferry Building establishment in San Francisco, Boccalone, in a month during a "we gotta get the hell out of here" three-day trip to the West Coast.
Cooked medium-rare, there was a pause after the first bite. Crap, it was good! Juicy, tons of juniper and fennel seed coming through with a touch of ever-so-subtle sweetness from the honey and acid from the balsamic. In pure meaty deliciousness that shocked me with how good it was, rivaling the onion skirt steak and Asian beef filet. This is great stuff, cheap-ish, lean as heck and takes on even the most aggressive seasoning and marinade with great effect.
Farmer's Market cremini mushroom and bulb onion tart. There's a difference. There just is. Compared to Whole Foods produce, which are good, our experiences with the Farmer's Market in Lincoln Square recently has been just the tops. Great. Product. Rosemary in the crust of the tart (along with the juniper) was the star supporting actor of the night.
Farmer's Market sautéed Swiss chard done up with gaeta black olives and orange zest. The olives and orange zest didn't really add much but the chard itself was a much more subdued version of chard compared to what we've had in the past - less bitterness, more grace. I won't be bullying any conversation by going into raptures about the Farmer's Market but we've really loved it.
With the entire meal, it was in the combinations of bites. The mushroom with the bison. The onion with the bison. The mushroom and crust with the bison. Great every time. Really, a veritable smorgasbord of flavors in front of us to pick and choose as we please and so much going on.
Wine: 2006 Chateau des Tours Réserve Côte-Du-Rhône ($27 - WDC)
Grape: Grenache (65%), Syrah (20%), Cinsault (15%)
Vintage (WS): 93 Ripe, pure and balanced reds, with fresh flavors and bright finishes. In the mold of 2004/1999 but slightly more concentrated; whites superb
Chateau des Tours is the third estate of Emmanuel Reynaud, the owner of the renowned Châteauneuf-du-Pape estate, Chateau Rayas. He took over all three estates after his uncle, Jacques Reynaud, the man that made Chateau Rayas what it is, had a heart attack in 1997 but he ran Chateau des Tours for years before running the entire show.
Chateau Des Tours also has a second wine, Domaine Des Tours, a wine that we've had a few times before and, while hit or miss with food, consistently loved (outstanding with fig tart).
Darker ruby in the glass, raspberry, alcohol and brush on the nose, and elegant, if a little subdued on the palate. More elegance here than the Domaine des Tours, showing more integrated raspberry and fainter spice than the cherry and bolder spice that I remember from the DdT. Some alcohol initially that blew off quickly and settled into an almost elegant, if not terribly exciting red that was nice to have around.
Sometimes, lik here, wines never get out of the "Hey, that's really nice!" category. That's not to say there was anything wrong with it, just that nothing really jumped out of the glass. Both of us don't really prefer dominant raspberry fruit notes. More simple grenache-based wine tends to be that. While the Domaine des Tours can be a bit more bumpy and rough, we might prefer the rough edges in comparison. The Chateau des Tours is a better technical wine, but at roughly $12 more, the Domaine might offer more excitement and unpredictability. But with more craft involved in this wine, it probably would be more consistent with food and last night's pairing was certainly "consistent."
Pairing: 89 Rhônes and pepper, Rhônes and pepper, nothing better
The wine was a trooper with the aggressive seasoning, standing up to it and even offering some personality here and there.
And there were great bites and drinks. Like the food combos alone, mushroom and bison with wine and mushroom, crust and bison with wine were lovely, pleasant, welcome. Any pepper bite was great stuff like Rhônes tend to be.
My mind never really wandered to other possible wines during the meal but it did afterward. With the juniper, a better Australian shiraz might have been the play. Bigger fruit might have helped and brought much more. I don't know. It's a tough call. The entire meal may have strolled right into a ridiculous kaleidoscope of flavors offering way too much. But tons of credit should be given to the pairing for its gracefulness, proper weight and welcoming nature.
In the end, no complaints and we liked much of it, almost all of it. Nothing paired badly here and it was tasty.
I just wonder what a shiraz with some polished blackberry would have done with the juniper and bison. Just curious.