Tuesday, October 19, 2010

#125 - Lamb, Fregola and Carrot Purée With '03 Hobbs Gregor Shiraz


Fregola and carrot purée with a side of lamb.

And total up this meal ($185 - that's with wine shipping), add it to the TK chicken total from two days ago and we still haven't spent what we spent dining on a mediocre meal out in the world ten days ago.

I'm just gonna keep floggin' away. Feel free to join in if you like.

Today is a example of a meal nearly soul-satisfying (I'm working on my overuse of superlatives - full-on soul-satisfying probably should be reserved for something close to a religious experience, like the Browns making the playoffs, so we'll go with 'nearly').

And it made it to the realm of nearly soul-satisfying without the help of some beautiful and ridiculous protein. It came down to what the rest of the plate offered up to the wine.

And what a wine it was.

Food: Coffee-crusted lamb on carrot purée with a fregola "risotto"

Trader Joe's lamb rack with a crust consisting of coffee, cocoa powder, olive oil, soy sauce and rosemary, cooked medium-rare to medium. We probably like our lamb more rare to medium-rare ("Look at us!") but this was perfectly fine lamb, tasty and good, that was entirely out-shined by everything else surrounding it.

The Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner award went to:

Fregola "risotto". Fregola is a Sardinian semolina pasta that looks like toasted Israeli couscous and tastes like love (it's been mentioned everywhere in the last two months. I'm sure we won't hear a peep about two more months. That's how the foodie world works). Done in a risotto style using onion, pine nuts, fennel seed and chicken stock, then garnished with Rogue Creamery's "Smokey Blue" cheese and basil.

Freakin' gorgeous stuff right out of the pan and still utterly great an hour and a half later as it sat on the plate and congealed. Rich but never too rich. Substantial without being a gut-buster. Just the right amount of fancy blue cheese so it didn't become a blue cheese-infected glop of silliness. But that blue cheese was key.

Carrots roasted with olive oil and balsamic vinegar drizzle; puréed with water and roasted garlic then garnished with mint. A very good purée made better by the sweetness offered by the balsamic vinegar. And that balsamic was key.

This was delicious food. If we would have eaten it with decent northern Rhône, Californian syrah or anything else, we would have been happy and full.

But we didn't. We ate it with this:

Wine: 2003 Hobbs Gregor Shiraz ($158 - Endless Vine)

An Australian shiraz done in an Amarone-style where the grapes are partially dried to intensify the flavors.

Conflicting reports on the drinking window on the webby-webs with this one. Some who drank it recently talked about the alcohol showing up too much right now. Others found it too port-like.

Not us. We found it to be drinking so utterly beautiful right now, like if the Browns had made the playoffs or something (stop it!).

Popped one hour before the meal. No decant. Blackberries, olives and something like walnut oil on the nose. A round, generous, open and supple texture on the palate with blackberries quickly turning to blueberries, grilled bushy French herbs and some grilled meat. But the surprise was the fruit, texture and perfect acid. Not a hint of raisin that we've gotten from this wine before. More like super concentrated, lively, bursting fruit of blueberries with a baseline of black currants. The blueberries playing a huge role in a texture that tasted like a blueberry latte but without the obvious coffee element (so...like Starbucks and their coffee-flavored milk). Just massive depth, rich but not overextracted, big but balanced as heck, and never came off port-like while entirely hiding the 15.7% alcohol. Never disjointed in the least with such graceful acid and tasted like sunshine, lollipops and puppies rolling in a sun-drenched meadow (Crap! I'll work on the superlatives some other time).

Pretty great stuff on its own and probably one of the top 20 bottles of wine we've ever had but just stupid good with the food.

Pairing: 96 Sex in the bottle and on the plate

We both don't want blue cheese ever again without this wine. Something about the base nature of the blue cheese and the acid in the wine neutralizing each other out, allowing this weirdly beautiful kaleidoscope of flavors to burst forth in the most pure way. Everything was amplified times a thousand. Toss in this rustic semolina background with a starchy brown ooze coming off the pasta and it tasted like (even more) love.

The sweetness from the balsamic vinegar in the carrot purée came in second place in the race for the stupid good. It let the fruit in the wine take a step down from the spotlight and allowed all the secondary flavors shine. The wine became more herbal with a touch of vanilla from the French oak popping up, even a green vegetal note, like if grilled green veggies were sweetened, began to come through. Same texture and the fruit was present but the alternating tastes from the carrot purée and the fregola showed everything this wine had to offer in such glorious ways.

The lamb, while good, was just kinda "there". Nothing special with the wine, even shortening the finish. Bold flavors on the lamb were put there because of the assumption that this wine needed it. It didn't and even kinda killed some of it.

Can't describe how well this wine is showing right now. Bring in a touch of well-crafted, more refined blue cheese, offer up a little sweetness on the plate, maybe do a simple preparation of ostrich instead of lamb and you got yourself somethin' like the Browns making the playoffs.

And this was a happy accident. Mrs. Ney had no idea where things were going with this. Even the wine was chosen about two hours before dinner.

We fell ass-backwards into probably one of the top three best meals this year and another Australian wine that debunks the current trend of poo-pooing such things.

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