Thursday, January 27, 2011

#157 - Thomas Keller Chicken, Rapini & Risotto With '09 Kermit Lynch Vaucluse

Last night was probably the first time in a long time when the food and the wine didn't necessarily go together but somehow, in the process of everything, with freakin' fantastic food on the plate and a gosh darn good wine in the glass that didn't conflict in a technical sense with the food, the pairing became better than the sum of its parts.

In other words, things didn't necessarily mesh in that pretty matchy pairing way but we loved every second of it.

And we found a delicious Rhône white for under $15.

And I found out that there's no substitute for Ricard Pastis. There is that and there's everything else.

And we found out that Retsina, that strange Greek white wine concoction infused with pine resin, tastes like Pine-Sol...but not really in a bad way. I can completely see the allure of the stuff.

And we're feeling all of that drinking today.

And baseball season has to get here soon because this time of year is an absolute barren wasteland of sports entertainment.

Food: Thomas Keller chicken with rapini and risotto

A return to TK chicken after the brutality that occurred a couple weeks ago. That was a bad chicken from the start. Got a bad bird. THIS was NOT a bad bird. In fact, it was a delicious bird. Moist and juicy with great salty, peppery skin also done up with thyme. Anytime you're roasting a bird at 450 degrees, it's a tightrope act making sure the breasts stay moist. Usually, it's never the recipe or the preparation. It's making sure you have a good, bigger bird. This was that.

Continuing our recent "Italian-inspired" jag, risotto with onion, sundried tomatoes, chicken and veg. stock, pine nuts, sheep's milk ricotta, parsley and lemon zest. Great starch bleed-off with this one but not too much. Sometimes, the "perfect" risotto served in restaurants makes for some great first bites only to turn into a somewhat goopy, bland mess a half-hour into eating. This one had great starchy moisture to start and retained it after an hour on the plate.

But the star was oddly the rapini made with Aleppo pepper, garlic and extra virgin olive oil and blanched. Just so bright with monstrous depth and graceful bitterness.

It hit us during the meal. Just a great "weekend" of food. Hema's Kitchen (Indian - $88 - BYO - Crios Torrontés and Albero sparkling) for lunch and Icosium (Algerian - $57 - BYO - Domaine des Tours Vaucluse) for dinner on Monday, veal chops ($50) on Tuesday and this ($30) for Wednesday.

Added up, that's $225 for four great meals including the five bottles of wine. Felt like vacation instead of simply not working. And we've spent $225 on some spectacularly mediocre meals out in the non-BYO restaurant world.

Wine: 2009 Vaucluse Blanc Selected by Kermit Lynch ($13 - Binny's)

The 2008 was 50% chardonnay and 50% viognier. I'm going to assume the blend was the same for 2009. Can't find any definitive confirmation of that and certainly tasted like it.

Shiny pale yellow in the glass with a greenish edge. On the palate, it offered everything we like in Rhône whites while softening the raw edges that Rhône whites tend to offer when really young. Completely different blend than typical Rhône whites but was nonetheless entirely reminiscent. Honeysuckle and green apple, all light, open and pleasing. But instead of the huge hit of acid, this one is mitigated about a quarter of the way down by a ginger-pear crème brulée note that smoothes everything out, finishing with a subtle licorice hit at the end. Not fruit-forward, emphasizing all the secondary flavors first with more of a fruit presence throughout as a baseline.

Can't recommend more highly for $13. Great cheap white that we'd drink on its own and love it. Insanely food-friendly in the sense of staying out of the way more than fitting more traditionally into the food. Would serve to lighten and brighten the food while offering a ginger-spiked creaminess to the meal.

Which is exactly what it did for us.

Pairing: 89 Not technically matchy-matchy, but some great stuff here

Tough to describe. The food was higher than that score. The wine by itself was higher than that as well. Together, not traditionally what you want in terms of food-wine enhancement.

But together, it was one of those times when each element was so gosh darn good with nothing clashing, turning harsh or thin. More about what it wasn't instead of what it was.

Reminded me of times we've gone to Blackbird and didn't have particularly great pairings but everything was done at such a high level, it becomes something that transcends the pairing scrutiny.

We'd do this exact meal again in a heartbeat.

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