Monday, December 13, 2010

#139 - Szechuan Tuna, Olive/Pepper Salsa & Saffron Risotto With '07 Evening Land

Check out the new (work in progress) drop-down menu.

It's pretty, turned out oodles better than I thought and I don't want to stare at HTML code ever again.

Now to today's offering as I brace for another Angels baseball season without a lineup that realistically competes with the Yankees and Red Sox. Oh, and watching the Iowa football team fall apart. That's been fun, too.

I must admit, I've always loved tuna with rosé so darn much that taking a swipe at tuna with pinot noir never entered my brain. It's what my brain does. It gets stuck on things.

But beef up the tuna with some szechuan peppercorns, add some green olive and shallot business and why not?

Especially when this Oregon bottle brought the twiggy mud.

Food: Szechuan peppercorn-crusted tuna with a olive-pepper salsa, saffron risotto and paprika mayoed asparagus

Beautiful dry low heat with a background bright, almost sweetness brought by the Szechuan peppercorns to the great rare tuna. Szechuan peppercorns tingle the tongue in a similar way to when you put your tongue to a nine-volt battery (we had a whole one as a parting shot at Bonsoirée a few years ago - wild stuff, a gimmick but fun). Mrs. Ney got that same sensation this time. I missed it, instead getting it in much lower doses.

A salsa/relish to accompany the tuna consisting of tangerine-marinated cerignola green olives (Puglia, Italy), peppadew (sweet picanté peppers), shallots and parsley made into a relish/salsa with lemon juice added (recipe from The New Spanish Table). Mingled nicely with the tuna, bringing a creamy nuttiness from the olives with a hint of sweetness from the peppers with an herbal note. Flavors jumped around in welcome ways.

Smoky glazed asparagus slathered with paprika and mayo with cumin, garlic, salt, olive oil and lemon juice. From a Nate Appleman (A16, SPQR in San Francisco) recipe in Food & Wine. Surprisingly tasty and might be better than mustardized asparagus.

Saffron-pistachio risotto to round things out. We had Five Guys for lunch so a starch seems superfluous. Always good (saffron risotto that is, but Five Guys, too) and this one was but after all the freshness packed with big flavors on the plate, the goopy comfort that comes from saffron risotto seemed almost out of place.

This was Great Food, surprising food, food layered and wonderful in so many ways.

Tuna and pinot noir? Yes, please. Doin' this again real soon.

Wine: 2007 Evening Land Pinot Noir Seven Springs Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills ($33 - WDC)

Opened 20 minutes before pouring, which turned out to be a good thing as the tannins showed up in bunches about an hour and a half into the meal.

A pure, translucent medium red in the glass, mossy on the nose. On the palate, huge elements of earth and twigs, like a tree branch dragged through soupy mud. Didn't taste like it was from Oregon with less forward dark red fruits - mostly dark raspberry - or that distinctive rose petal/leafy quality we love in some Oregon labels. Tasted like Burgundy (at least in my limited experience with red Burgundy) with a good core of minerals and fine grains of earth in a medium body with a pleasing backbone of acid. Almost haunting and brooding. Almost. But distinctive and tasted like a specific place/plot/terroir-y type wine of significance for the price (which we got for dirt cheap at the time).

2007 vintage reports for Oregon initially reported disaster but we've had some good experiences with the 2007's. Lighter, yes, but still complex enough. This was no exception.

And it stood up to the food in solid and surprising ways.

Pairing: 89 Creamy earth explosion with the tuna

Like if you made a mud, twigs and raspberry creamsicle and drizzled it with a dusting of dried, crushed flower roots. Seemed like the pinot noir and tuna were made for each other.

The surprise of the night, though, probably came from how the asparagus matched up with it. The cumin and paprika jumped out with the wine. Both of us didn't expect the asparagus to do anything but pinot noir and cumin can do amazing things together and it did.

Dud with the saffron risotto (really awful stuff, actually - tasted like eating dirt with rust shavings in it) so I cracked a 2009 Crios Rosé of Malbec just to see if it performed better. Fine enough but didn't come close to what the Evening Land was doing with the tuna and asparagus.

Went into the meal with some level of trepidation over the wine and proved to be quite luscious and unique.

A quick note: A Sunday night meal of jerk chicken, plantain-sweet potato mash and mint snap peas as I gave away my shift due to the apocalyptic weather reports in Chicago. Served with NV Frey-Sohler Cremant d'Alsace Riesling Brüt ($16 - WDC), a cheapie from a label we've liked in the past for its price point. Nothing too spectacular here. Mostly fruit of lime peel/pith with respectable bubbles and a refreshing angle that made it merely tasty without ever breaking out of that box (read: forgettable). Could do worse in the sparkling category for $16 but could do better as well. Food on the plate = yummy and finger-lickin' jerk goodness but the wine didn't help things along or offer anything in the way of "wow" (pairing score: 84).

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