I don't know what to say.
I've sat here at the computer for the better part of an hour trying to come up with a way to accurately describe the joy of tonight's meal without falling back into the superlative game this blog has become known for.
We eat well. That's the crux. And it seems food, wine and food and wine together hit a pleasure zone for us not particularly present, loved or exercised by most in our world.
I try. I try to get people more excited about it, hoping the innate pleasure experienced by us could be translated into their world.
It's mostly a sad and unsuccessful flailing, but at times, very rare, it gets through. Thomas Keller Chicken has been a winner for a couple of people in our lives as a joy that has gotten through and understood as being something to know and love. To know it's no ordinary chicken and to love it as something better than most red meat preparations.
Tonight's Christmas meal isn't something that can be translated by simply handing over a recipe and saying, "Run with it." It came in the preparation, came in the details, came in the moment, the pauses, the wine and the understanding that it was the best food and wine I've had together since...I don't know.
Maybe the first Moto trip? Ad Hoc? I don't know.
And that's why I'll never be a food critic. This bloggy thing made me understand one thing. Describing the experience of great food and great food and great wine together doesn't translate to the page (or screen). It merely describes. It doesn't translate.
I wish I could describe tonight's meal (and I'll certainly describe) but imparting the experience would involve a 48-page digression that would ultimately involve the elucidation of some dark, empty hollowness enhanced by some depressive moment when I was 25.
Cuz I'm a morbid MFer that loves what good food means to me.
So I won't.
Food: Duck, farro and Brussels sprouts
Medium rare duck slathered in herbs de Provence. Speaking of superlatives, let them fly. It's the best duck I've ever had. Beats French Laundry duck. Beats every preparation in our house and I don't know why.
Mrs. Ney said it might have had something to do with the finishing sauce of the duck juices poured over the top at the end and the scoring being a tad more shallow. The duck fat remained fastened to the duck meat and rendered off in a beautiful, seamless way. Delicate hit of herbs de Provence that was playful with the fat and enhanced the duckiness of the meat with finely crushed pink peppercorns over the top that kept everything just bright and lifty.
Alternating flavors that kept going on and on, much like the taste of Iberico ham in its length, change and soul-fulfilling beauty. A balsamic vinegar/cranberry reduction on the side that wasn't really used. We weren't screwing with this duck.
Farro cooked with shallots, chestnuts and thyme, all done up in duck stock. Ain't no lie, it was the best farro preparation we've ever had and it had to do with the duck stock. Normally done in chicken stock, the duck stock brought the farro into another realm. It was nutty, shalloty, ducky wondrousness that added another level of depth to farro I've never experienced. And we love the stuff. Have it all the time.
Brussels sprouts seared in pancetta fat, finished with parmesan, pancetta, orange zest
pomegranate seeds and pink peppercorns. Might have been better than Avec Brussels sprouts from two summers ago, a taste that made me a convert to Brussels sprouts.
Three elements on the plate that rested in the same level of stupid good and probably the best food I've had in a year (at least) all together with the wine. I've strained the usage and effectiveness of words like "beautiful" and "perfect" here but this was something perfectly beautiful in every way. Like a freakin' Utah sunset in Dead Horse for me.
Wine: NV Larmandier-Bernier Rosé de Saignée Premier Cru Extra Brüt Champagne ($70 - Howard's)
It's going to be equally through the roof with the description of the wine.
First, this isn't sparkling rosé. This is something else, something greater, something more.
This is a rosé that drinks like a freaking beautiful pinot noir. This is Love in a glass.
From Wine Advocate:
"96 points Parker's WA: "Larmandier-Bernier's NV Extra Brut Rose de Saignee is one of the most profound wines I encountered in my tastings. The color resembles the tonality of blood orange juice. This is a powerful wine that flows onto the palate with an expression of bright red fruit that recalls the wines of Chambolle in its luxuriousness, but is backed up with serious structure. This compelling, totally seductive wine possesses awesome richness and vibrancy, with layers of aromas and flavors that continue to develop in the glass all the way through to the long, intensely satisfying finish. The wine could be served alongside any dish that might be served with grand cru Burgundy, but like all of the world's great wines, this is a bottle that creates its own occasion. Larmandier-Bernier completely redefines what Rose can be all about with this monumental effort. The estate's rose is 100% Pinot Noir from Vertus vinified on the skins (saignee) and bottled with 3 grams of dosage. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2016."
What we got - We don't have experience drinking quality red Burgundy but have plenty in the Oregon pinot vein so I'll go off that. Nearly every secondary flavors inherent in the gloriousness of great, quality Oregon pinot was present, all in a perfect structure and progression.
Blood orange defined its core (and defined its color) with an occasional grapefruit hit. All the "waters" popped up, vacillating in and out with a cranberry/raspberry shot at the right times. Rose water, orange blossom water, hibiscius tea, even some wet leaf, at times something like tomato water, everything that makes a quality Oregon pinot distinct and wonderful. Great tannins (!) and dry, dry, dry. Medium-to-long earthy, mossy finish wrapped in cream. 100% pinot noir.
Probably one of the twenty-best wines we've ever had. Not top 15 but certainly in the top 20 and made that way because of how it rested with the food.
Pairing: 97 Because It's Good, indeed!
It's why we eat and drink wine.
Not too much ridiculous enhancement in the wine or the food, more like four great baseball players demonstrating, for a brief moment, the purity and joy of the symmetry and grace of the game.
We eat and drink wine to chase meals like this.
It's what we Like.
A quick lunch note: Trader Joe's Spinach Pie with 2009 Sigalas Assyrtiko Santorini. Always good for lunch and always better with Greek white, this one came off more like a Muscadet than Greek. Delicate lemon, paper, apple and light herbs. Delicate and balanced. Solid stuff. Reminded me of the Do Ferreiro Albariño in ways not related to the flavor profile but in its finesse, grace and subtle presence, something that I didn't particularly want at the time but came to respect, even crave, after having it. Maybe missed the mouthwatering acidic bite of the Skouras but not too shabby at all.