Here's a $58 meal that surpassed (by a HUGE margin) a recent $300 meal out in the world.
Chicken = $11
Hummus from Semiramis = $10
Kumatoes = $4
Pea shoots and Pomegrante = $4
Wine = $29
The entire meal last night, beginning to end, wine and all, cost the same as the bottle of the decent little albariño drank last week at a restaurant that I could have bought at Binny's for $22.
Far be it for me to discourage dining out at the new and hip. I work in the industry. But doing the math on occasion and taking the time to research food with wine pairings makes it hardly an argument.
Also, with Joe Bastianich now telling us that the proper restaurant business model demands a wine mark-up of FOUR TIMES, the "fabulous" tax on dining out continues to go up.
Food: Thomas Keller Chicken, Hummus and Pita and a Kumato-Pea Shoot Salad
Thomas Keller chicken. Taken out a little earlier than usual to experiment with resting temps and levels of juiciness. Worked. Only ate the leg and thigh and left the breast for lunch sandwiches due to the ton of food on the (coffee) table. Great skin again and moist meat ("giggity"). There's chicken. There's wine can chicken. And then there's TK chicken.
Two orders of hummus from Semiramis because their hummus and the wine drank with this meal in April was Devin Hester on kick returns. "You are ridiculous!" The rest of the pairing in April at Semiramis was much like the rest of the Bears (ugh - but I'm a Browns fan so...) but the hummus and Saumur pairing shocked us. It's great hummus.
Kumatoes (brown tomato hybrid) dressed with olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. It's a new tomato creation with a higher sugar content that taste almost meaty, plummy and like a drizzle of balsamic was slapped on them. Still the great tomato acid but darker and magically delicious. Can't recommend them more highly. Great stuff.
Pea shoot and pomegranate seeds with the kumatoes.
The meal had everything for about $15 a person. Hate to beat a dead horse here, but that got us about six bites of food each last week.
Wine: 2007 Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Blanc ($29 - Red & White)
Tough one to find on a consistent basis. Red & White usually has it. Cellar Rat as well, IIRC. Flickinger Wines in the South Loop has many of the single-vineyard offerings from Domaine Guiberteau. Flickinger does a spectacular job. Get to know it. Scored a 2005 Sanguis Bossman there last year for $50 (rare then and now and no cheaper than $70 elsewhere).
Dried honey and chalk on the nose. Half-stewed pears on the palate with a load of beeswax-honey surrounding it on the palate. Medium depth on the finish with something that resembled plum (?) on the way down with a graceful acidity. Little spikes of apple, citrus and nuts here and there that may not have been consistent or focused but lovely in the way Chenin Blanc can surprise.
And I guess that's the rub. Chenin Blanc continues to be the white grape that defines elegant for us. It's just so gorgeous in nearly every form. Get out of the bargain offerings that tend to be inconsistent and unremarkable, spent just a few dollars more (mediocre movie), and you consistently wander into the realm of silk freakin' magic.
Domaine Guiberteau practices natural wine-making in all its glory, letting much of their wine rest of its lees and...heck...just go here because WickerParker was there.
Pairing: 94 Fit like a glove
Medium depth all over the place. In the food and in the wine as both, instead of offering little jumps of goodness in that medium depth range, exploring every nook and cranny of what a medium depth meal can bring. Tasted purposeful.
Best with just a bite of pita, but the hummus and pita followed right behind. The wine turned the hummus into something much more than its previous self, becoming hummus with a (pea)nutty tone and drawing out more of the nuttiness in the wine.
Salty skin on the chicken turned the wine into a minerally-yeasty pear-honey wonder and played beautifully with the darker meat.
Held up admirably with the kumatoes but lost its way with the pea shoots, bringing out too much unwelcome lime and a short finish.
The entire meal hopped and jumped, changed and surprised, all within an entirely beautiful tight box ("giggity"). Everything become more heightened and vivid versions of themselves, seeming made for each other with flavors stacked upon flavors stacked upon flavors.
$58. Beat that at even a low-cost, quality restaurant and you win my undying affection.