Sleepy day in the Ney house after the bucketful of wine last night.
Had a friend and his dog over for a Cuban feast.
Cuban in our world has one partner. It's Villa Creek Mas De Maha. Nothing else compares.
The friend we had over also hadn't had a good viura. With that, there's Heredia and then there's everything else.
What resulted was a meal chockablock with big flavors, something we got at The Girl & The Goat the night before (see below), but with this meal, we weren't left wanting.
Food: Black bean cake-hash, tostones, ropa vieja and key lime pie
Spicy, bold black bean cake-hash (they fell apart) filled with the Cubany goodness of sweet potatoes, smoked paprika, onions, and shishito peppers left over from The Girl And The Goat. Tostones fried up with garlic and salt. Both served as an appetizer spread with sliced avocados and a cilantro-mint yogurt sauce to drizzle over everything. Eaten with the Heredia white.
Roja vieja as the entrée. It's Cuban pot roast. Slowly simmered freakin' delicous Whole Foods skirt steak with onions, garlic, red and green peppers, beef broth, cinnamon, parsley, oregano, cloves and various other ingredients I'm not privy to at the moment due to the sleepiness of the house. Served over brown rice flavored with cumin seeds and orange zest. Succulent and medium-deep. We've had heavily seasoned ropa vieja a ton of times and, while delicious and has a place, it tends to make me feel sticky, dirty and in need of a nap. This was a somewhat lighter version that allowed us to actually taste each ingredient while still tasting everything as a dish in and of itself elevated to a greater plain. Great balance. Eaten with the Villa Creek Mas De Maha and half of a bottle of the Tablas Creek Côtes De Tablas.
Key lime pie without the "key". Still that bright tartness that comes with key lime pie without the puckery dimension. Eaten with leftover La Playa Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc and a failed experiment of ice cream made with the same wine. I now know the result of eight egg yolks and two cups heavy cream in the ice cream-making process. Brutal Richness.
Flavor and flavor with a side of freakin' flavor!
Wine: 2006 Villa Creek Mas De Maha ($25 - Binny's), 2007 Tablas Creek Côtes De Tablas ($22 - WDC) and 1999 López de Heredia Gravonia Blanco ($25 - Binny's)
Nothing new here.
Villa Creek Mas De Maha (60% tempranillo, 20% each of grenache and mourvèdre) is a favorite. This time showing some graying around the edges. Largely showed as it has in the past with a hint of muddling starting to happen to the fruit. Still deep and delicious but a touch of that sparkling brightness and verve is beginning to fade. Tons of bright cherry notes and the tempranillo still shines in this different take on a Rhône blend, staying light yet with a full mouthfeel and pretty finish.
The 1999 Heredia Gravonia (100% viura) was an odd bird. Food hit the table quick and we didn't get it out of the fridge in time to let it come up in temperature. So I threw it into a decanter. A hint of a watery core showed more than a wine with flavors fully and completely integrated. Pineapple and honeycomb notes dominated with a dried honey finish. The mid-palate came off flat to me. Missed a smoky olive oil note and that edge of nuttiness that comes with Heredia whites. The acid was there and we were all more than happy that it was in our glass but I'm beginning to wonder if the '99 might end up having a shorter life than the '96 or '98. Wanted more.
The 2007 Tablas Creek Côtes De Tablas, the bargain wine by Tablas Creek, is 50% grenache and 25% each of syrah and counoise. Gamey notes with pepper and licorice lead the charge with this one but, unfortunately, the promising entry got overwhelmed by the sticky, sappy, syrupy fruit that just isn't our bag. More toned down than some we've had but still coated the mouth with something that wasn't welcome. For the style, better than most in the price range, but...meh.
Pairing: 89 Just missed getting into the realm of talking about the finer points of greatness
We probably could have stuck with two bottles of Mas De Maha for everything and would have loved the meal even more.
And that's because the Mas De Maha really shined with the black bean cake-hash and the tostones. Big, raw, Cuban flavors and Mas De Maha again. Solid with the ropa vieja but exploded with the fried plantain-garlic-pepper black bean cake-hash tastiness.
The Heredia showed its true nature for the most part with the appetizer spread but hollowed out a bit with a big bite of garlic or pepper (something previous vintages never did with big punches of flavor).
The Côtes De Tablas didn't offer much outside of "wine at the table".
No complaints, though. We had the flavors we were chasing the previous two days.
Anniversary dinner, number six, 8:30 reservation, packed restaurant even up until when we left at 11pm, informed and accommodating staff, pretty space - large, a touch loud, dark-ish, somewhat odd lighting but festive and warm.
Food: Peter Piper bread, shishito peppers, chickpea fritters, hiramisa crudo, scallops, pig face and short ribs
Wine: Two glasses of Gran Sarao Cava Rosado to start, bottle of Pazo Senorans Albariño with the first four plates and two glasses of Girl & The Goat GSM with the pig face and short ribs.
Great use of acid overall. A temperature issue with the chickpea fritters as they came out lukewarm but were still tasty. The hiramasa crudo and scallops, while solid, lacked some punch and weren't worth the $14 and $16 respectively. The pig face, served with tamarind sauce, cilantro and a fried egg, while also tasty, lacked a bold personality that I expected to come with the dish. The short ribs with edamame bordered on bad. Mostly flavorless short ribs with a enormous pile of edamame on top that weren't de-spined, making them awkward to chew. A mess of a plate for the most part. But the bread was delicious, the shishito peppers with parmesan were an humongous mound of awesomeness, I liked the chickpea fritters even with the temperature issue but the scallops and the crudo with crisp pork belly served more as filler than adding a different delicious dimension to the meal.
Solid wine list, mostly the usual suspects with a few interesting choices off the beaten path. Markup at about 2 3/4 retail, something that's mildly annoying given most of the list is readily available in stores all over town.
The restaurant is part of the Boka Group and you can feel it. Feels...a touch overly planned but with some semblance of an individual personality coming through. Good flavors overall but I don't think I can call them memorable flavors. Tons of variation in styles of cooking but I can't help but recall the old-fashioned mantra. When you put on everything you're going to wear for the night, look in the mirror and take one thing off. With Girl & The Goat, it felt like they accidentally took two things off, leaving a hole in the cohesiveness of it all. We missed the oscillation of flavors, that back and forth. Everything seemed to stay in an "safely inventive" place offering little in surprise. Didn't taste...risky. Or ballsy.
Mostly, I kept thinking it's in the same stratosphere of Graham Eliot but then we kept thinking about all the things Graham Eliot does better (right down to the $10 "4 cup" french press that was utterly forgettable).
And as always, it comes down to what you get for the price. In the world of $300 meals, it sits squarely in the bottom tier for us over the last three years. Good time, interesting enough food but if we would have spent $200 or even $250, higher points might have been given.
Just didn't touch even the mediocre experiences we've had at Avec just down the street for $100 less. We enjoyed ourselves but a few days after, the impression left was one of a "Restaurant Group" experience and that's rarely a great time. Good maybe, but never great.
But kudos on the Girl & The Goat GSM, blended by Stephanie Izard herself. That's one tasty food wine. All liquid figs.