Thursday, July 29, 2010

#104 - Grilled Chicken Thigh & Skordalia With A Ribera Cava

An excursion to Wine Discount Center that was supposed to be a "we're not buying a ton of wine!" trip turned into the exact opposite.

We went to get the wine chronicled today but we couldn't turn down the 2006 Királyudvar reduced to $7 (!). Finding the big brother of Domaine des Pallières "Les Racines" didn't hurt either along with one of Jean-Phillipe Fichet's wines just sitting there, begging to be bought.

It was like reviewing and expanding on wines we very recently drunk and loved. Good trip. Not cheap...but good trip.

Food: Marinated and grilled boneless chicken thighs, skordalia, mâche salad with pomegranate seeds and baguette

Boneless chicken thighs marinated in lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, oregano, dry white wine, garlic, onion and black pepper, then grilled.

Eerily good. It was just chicken thighs but a great and plentiful char mixed with a generous garlic/onion juiciness made it a "why is this so good?" protein night.

The skordalia was just as good. Lighter than we thought it would be when thinking about what is essentially a potato purée. 1/2 lb. of potatoes, boiled and peeled and blended with almonds, breadcrumbs, garlic, lemon, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Great Greek-style Goodness.

A mâche and parsley salad undressed with pomegranate seeds to clean and lighten things up.

I would have thought this might have ended up feeling like a heavier meal but it wasn't even close. We wiped everything up - all the plentifully prepared chicken and skordalia - and still felt clean and good after the meal. Some of it might have had to do the lemon juice in both main components along with the pomegranate seeds bringing some acid to give everything some lift.

And some of it have to do with bringing some bubbles to the table.

Wine: NV Peñalba López Finca Torremilanos Cava Brut Nature ($14 - WDC)

Grape: Blend of Viura and white Tempranillo
Region: Ribera Del Duero

I've never heard of a Ribera Cava, you? And we couldn't turn down our curiosity for $14.

Straw-colored in the glass, huge green apple peel on the nose that followed through on the palate but mixed beautifully with a pleasing yeasty character that didn't stand up and pronounce its presence like some sparklers. A very distinctive note of peach pit or unsalted sunflower seeds played in the background in a great way and something that made us kind of love it. Very dry and crisp with a short finish, which was our only complaint, making us feel like it was 3/4 of the way from being something that could have contended with a good Champagne. It's $14. Not as good as the Raventós i Blanc "L'Hereu Reserva" Brut Cava for $18 but it's a crowd pleaser on the cheap from a region not known for sparklers at all.

And infinitely better than some of the off-region Italian sparklers we've tried recently. Just much better composed.

Pairing: 92 An example of the wine playing an integral role in balancing the meal

We had a Muscadet in the fridge ready to go. A Muscadet isn't something thought of as a wine that makes a meal heavier in the least, but that could have been the case with this meal if we drank that instead.

It needed the bubbles.

With a potato purée and copious amounts of chicken pieces, the Ribera Cava took everything on the plate and made sure it accented all the brighter notes in the preparation and minimize any heaviness present in the food.

I just don't think a still wine, even a Muscadet, could have done that.

Probably best with the chicken, providing a nice balance with the garlic-onion-lemon juice marinade, making it taste light and savory. It lifted the skordalia, taking a potato purée and making it taste like a light brandade without the fish. Oddly, it was freakin' delicious with the pomegranate seeds, causing the wine to taste like a Blanc de Noirs in many ways and opening up an unexpected and great flavor component towards the end of the meal.

Mostly though, about halfway through the meal, it was when we paused during the meal and took a break for a minute of two and realize the wonderful taste that was marinating in our mouth and throat. It was light but substantial, chockablock with flavors going everywhere but still, and oddly, beautifully balanced.

And the entire meal probably cost $25.

A quick note on another meal. We had a "clean out the fridge" stew-type concoction of leftover chicken, linguiça, tomatoes, garlic, onions, figs, pistachios, paprika, olives and some other refrigerator components served with dipping bread that turned out delicious and tasted like a fancy sloppy Joe. Eaten with a 2005 Alonso del Yerro Ribera Del Duero ($25 (?) - WDC). Showed tons of blackberry, dark cherry and grilled meat notes with a stewed fruit element from the age of the wine. Had to drink it because it was at the closing of its drinking window. Some nice moments, perfectly fine with the food and seemed to get a bit better with some time open, turning into something very representative of what's good about Ribera with some nice wild dark berry fruit but not anything special.

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