Tuesday, November 30, 2010

#134 - Pistachio-Crusted Lamb Rack And Saffron Risotto With '08 Ponzi Pinot Noir

On a night when Mrs. Ney, due to a cold, could only taste about 40% of the flavors on the plate, it was unfortunate that we had on said plate the best lamb I've ever had.

And I've checked, thought about it and consulted the lamb gods.

I don't even think it's close.

Ferran Adria recipes will do that.

Food: Pistachio-crusted rack of lamb wrapped in pancetta with saffron risotto and mâche salad with mustard vinaigrette

Rare-to-medium-rare rack of lamb that looked pretty friggin' gorgeous.

But what made this lamb different from other pistachio/pancetta lamb was that the pistachio and pancetta fat actually dripped deep into the meat during the roasting process. Very deep.

So deep that a bite of lamb took on a pistachio-dripped succulence and ended with a unctuous pancetta fat pan drippings finish. All lamb at its core but the three flavors - along with rosemary, thyme and black pepper in the pistachio paste - vacillated back and forth, each alternately taking the stage but never overpowering any of the other flavors. Kaleidoscope-y is the best way to describe it and I've never had anything like it. In a different way, it reminded me of the first time I ate the sous-vide antelope at Schwa. Entirely new and entirely memorable. Might be the best bite of food I've had this year.

Coupled perfectly with saffron-pistachio risotto, a side dish that we've only had with Heredia white over the last year. Very al dente but the starch bled into the pistachio beautifully, picking up a nutty goopy quality that marched right in line with the pistachio lamb paste. Not too matchy-matchy in the least, different enough to serve as an advantage rather than dulling down the plate.

Mâche salad with mustard vinaigrette to finish.

Sucked balls that Mrs. Ney couldn't get the whole effect, especially as these flavors are very dear to her heart. Instead, we were left with me getting all orgasmic and proclamation-y and Mrs. Ney having to settle with the knowledge that it looked gorgeous and the 40% she could taste certainly satisfied.

Wine: 2008 Ponzi Pinot Noir Willamette Valley ($30 - Binny's)

Ponzi's estate bottling, just released in Chicago, from a spectacular vintage (WS - 95-100), culled from various Ponzi plots and generally serves as our default pinot noir. We love it. I remember visiting San Francisco a few years ago where Mrs. Ney had a glass of Ponzi at the Ferry Building. I took a sip and was in love with the glorious leafy quality wrapped in cherries from it. Never had anything like it. Personally, I've been chasing that first sip whenever we have Ponzi, which is my issue not Ponzi's, but it's always, every time, deliciousness in the glass.

The 2008 isn't ready. No decant. All cherry Dr. Pepper. All of it. Tasted like a cherry Dr. Pepper without the sappy sweetness. Cola, a bit of tea and cherry Dr. Pepper extract.

Reticent fruit showing much darker fruit than in the past, more blueberry, mulberry and blackberry dancing together with a large, darkish cherry note desperately wanting to take the stage.

Big core that's not showing any definition or delineation right now, no expression outside of an inkling that it's going to be a mammoth one compared to other recent Ponzi estate bottlings. A black tea quality wants to peak out as well but I only got a precursor of it.

Mostly, what did show was the beautifully bright and vibrant acid that's typical of Ponzi pinot noir. Gonna have to wait to see where it goes. We've only drank 2008 Oregon pinots on the lower-end of the quality scale to mixed results but the bottlings of the bigger names look like it's going to take a few years to see how they are.

People on the internets have had success with decanting. We'll probably be drinking a case of the 2008 Ponzi's so I started with no decant as a baseline and we'll go from there.

Pairing: 94 Just for the food! ... and having wine that didn't get in the way

I don't even know if our favorite Oregon pinot, the Angela, would have lived up to the lamb. Certainly would have most likely been great but this was stupid-good lamb. I don't know.

But the Ponzi showed best with the lamb, less so with the risotto and hollow and weird with the greens.

Mostly, the Ponzi didn't stop me from wanting wine after a bite. It complimented the food mostly by letting the lamb and risotto continue to be so darn good. It stayed out of the way while offering a little something extra with its pretty acidity.

Hold the '08 Ponzi for a year or decant the hell out of it. Even after being open for about two hours, it barely budged.

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