Sunday, August 22, 2010

#109 - Thomas Keller Chicken & Two Cheeses With '05 Fichet Auxey Duresses

Birthday Chicken!

We had a birthday in the Ney house yesterday. Now, usually going out for birthdays is right and proper. But both of us couldn't think of anything more awful than going out to enjoy ourselves and celebrate something than doing it on a Saturday night.

The horror!

So...home dinner. We like that best. We like our home food best, especially given the prospect of navigating Saturday night crowds, traffic and just the general weekend annoyance. Kinda food snobby but we're okay with that.

And Thomas Keller Chicken has become our meatloaf. This is the seventh time we've had it since early June. Because...especially with white Burgundy...I just can't think of something more delicious. I start to ruminate about the best bites of food with wine I've ever had when trying to think of comparisons. Just bites of food, certain elements of dishes that worked beautifully with wine. This is the whole enchilada. The entire meal that sits right up against those best bites.

It's worthy of a birthday dinner.

Food: Thomas Keller chicken, Brillat-Savarin & Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk Cheese with baguette and a mâche and lemon balm salad

Typically great chicken. Beautiful salt level that was playful and just aggressive enough with the crispy skin. A touch more herby this time, or at least the herbs showed up more in individual bites.

Delice de bourgogne has been the standard-bearer for this meal in the past. Its creaminess with just enough funk lends an elegance and Frenchiness to the meal that's just the tops. With good baguette and TK chicken, it equals my current favorite meal.

So...variations on the delice de bourgogne style has been the thought du jour lately. Gave Port Salud a go with Pinot Blanc in mid-July. Meh. Good enough. Worked with the wine in an otherwise forgettable pairing. Staying within the cow's milk, soft to semi-soft and a touch of funk theme, we went with a Brillat-Savarin from Normandy and a Red Hawk cheese from Cowgirl Creamery in Sonoma, California.

The Brillat-Savarin won the night in the cheese category. Very soft, light on its feet, complex yet focused with an almost palate cleansing salty effect on the finish. Flashes of subtle funk that went in and out - the kind of easily accessible, welcome funk that resembled the whiff of a horse pen in a good way, the kind of smell that's carried by the wind on a farm, hits your nose and then goes on its merry way.

The Red Hawk never got out of the realm of curiosity for us. A much denser cheese here with a funk that resembled a yogurt-drenched wash cloth that fell between the washer and dryer and wasn't found for weeks afterward. Something certainly biological going on here. Not really our bag but enjoyed the first few bites as something interesting and even good at times.

A mâche and lemon balm salad with a white wine vinaigrette to finish.

Wine: 2005 Jean-Philippe Fichet Auxey Duresses ($35 - Binny's)

Grape: 100% Chardonnay
Appellation: Auxey Duresses, just west of Meursault and seemingly carved out of the Hautes-Côtes de Beaune hillside
Vintage (WS): 93 Charming, fleshy whites with juicy acidity and ripe fruit flavors; many are enjoyable now, but the best will age. More variable in Chablis

Just a month ago, we had TK chicken with a 2006 Jean-Philippe Fichet Auxey Duresses. You can read all about him and the wine there.

We promised to follow Mr. Fichet and last night, we kept our promise.

Two different wines for sure. Where the 2006 showed a core of pear/baked apple and a mid-palate beaming with a ultra-fine minerality, last night's 2005 was all pineapple cream with a rough-crushed stone minerality that also dominated the mid-palate. Wonderful depth with the 2005, more so than the 2006 in some ways as there was a more rough-and-tumble complexity that constantly changed, revealing different tropical fruit layers and a touch of vanilla on a long finish. Sits beautifully long after taking a sip with a fine gaseous residue that flutters so nicely.

Loved, loved, loved it. Comparing the years, the 2006 might have my heart with its more subtle beauty but the 2005 has a burly charm to it that can't be denied. If I had to choose which one on a particular night if both were under our roof, it would come down to mood.

I'm already looking forward to the 2007. Great wines in a great price range. We were indoctrinated to white Burgundy by the right winemakers and are quickly falling completely head over heels for them.

Pairing: 93 Just below the 2006 pairing but nonetheless spectacular

The finesse of the 2006 compared to the last night's 2005 probably wins by a hair as both of us.
We enjoyed the chicken a wee bit more last month with the 2006 as its subtlety allowed the chicken's inherent deliciousness to come through, or at least didn't stand in the way. It played nicer, gently wrapping itself around the chicken instead of having two big personalities in the room that got along swimmingly but still left a feeling that the bond came about in a rather clumsy manner.
And the simplicity (or maybe familiarity) of the meal with the 2006 allowed us to sit back and enjoy the nuances more.

A lot going on last night. Various levels of cheesy funk along with the burliness of the 2005 made for a large playing field that had to be digested and figured out.

That said, the wine with the Brillat-Savarin was gorgeous and the lemon balm at the end with the wine couldn't have been a better capper.

A great birthday meal without the Saturday night, dining-out stupidity.

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