If we went to a nondescript "Italian-inspired" restaurant on a stretch of road known more for a jumble of cheap food options from other parts of the world smashed next to a Pier 1 and a multitude of Coin Laundries and had this meal...
...I would have thought, "How'd we miss this place!?"
Mostly, it would be in the surprise. A good quality meal, nothing extravagant, over-the-top or jaw-droppingly great. Just an across-the-board deliciousness, cooked well, nicely seasoned and fitting well with a bargain wine.
Dining out, this would have been a $120 meal. We did it for $50.
Food: Veal chops, roasted onions and polenta and mushrooms with arugula
Trader Joe's veal chops (new product) cooked medium-rare with rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage. Quality char on both sides. The draw to veal is its brightness and lightness compared to beef and how well it takes on an herb extravaganza. This had it with a more meaty, beefy angle brought on by the char and copious amounts of herbs. Made for a great balance to "beef" up the juicy, light meat. Substantial. But light.
Honey-glazed roasted whole onions cooked in thyme. Tasty and essential to the balance of the overall plate of food. Brought a subtle sweetness.
Rosemary polenta with mushrooms in a chicken stock and Metaxa reduction. Just boxed polenta mix but gussied up with a more fancy mushroom preparation. Might have been the best bite of food. The Metaxa came through, bringing a huge depth to the mushrooms.
As the meat juice bled into the arugula, they became something stupid delicious.
Nothing was heavy. Nothing was too delicate. And everything played right into the wine.
Wine: 2007 Columbia Crest H3 Merlot ($13 - WDC)
#43 on the 2010 Wine Spectator Top 100. A $13 bottle of wine that most critics say is only now hitting the beginning of its drinking window four years out.
Though it could use another year or two, not a bad little merlot and much better than the price tag would have you believe.
Still a mixed bag of undistinguished, dark-ish fruits right now. Precursor of dark cherry and blackberry, I guess. Pleasing, gritty, complex earth was most prominent with a cocoa edge. Fresh. Very medium-bodied. Only the smallest hint of vanilla but a decent shot of grilled, herbed meat on occasion. Quality structure here, showing a three-act play with nice segues. Smooth and pretty graceful and should only get better once the fruit becomes more distinctive.
Probably one of the better QPR wines we've had in the last year or two and was certainly helped along by the food.
Pairing: 87 No hiccups at all and liked everything for exactly what it was
Tasted wintry - something we haven't really had this winter.
Can't think of one thing I didn't like on the plate, in the glass or as a pairing. This was nice stuff. We didn't necessarily love anything but there was a certain, high, minimum quality that we respected and enjoyed.
Sweetness from the honey onions, light, juicy, light beefiness from the veal, earthiness from the alcohol-infused mushrooms and herbs to be had everywhere coupled with a quality cheap wine that possessed a little of all that.
Tons of efforts were made to make sure the food played right into the wine and it worked.