Monday, February 7, 2011

#160 - Ropa Without The Vieja With '06 Mas De Maha +1

Last year, for the Super Bowl, was duck confit and veal sausage cassoulet with a Loire Rosé.

That meal served us well as we watched Bud Light and Doritoes belch and vomit all over my TV viewing experience.

This year was Ben Roethlisberger's move towards "redemption" from being an ugly and deplorable human being...because throwing an oblong ball well in a big game washes away all our transgressions.

Same reaction as last year for me:

No Browns = Don't Care.

With a caveat. The NFL industrial complex - and that includes the deplorable NFL media that might be the biggest collection of meatballs I've ever seen over the last ten years - has become just a little too icky for me. I fear baseball with splashes of college football and basketball and sprinkles of even tennis are my games now. Football is a little for my world. And the impetus was probably the FOX dancing robot, a seemingly small concoction of awfulness that might have pushed me over the edge.

But like last year, good food went a long way in being able to stomach the spectacle.

Cuban pot roast without the roast coupled with a a wine we thought nearly done.

Food: Flank Steak with ropa vieja accoutrements and yuca fries with an arugula and pomegranate seed salad

Flank steak marinated in onion, parsley, worcestershire and olive oil, cooked medium rare and placed over a pile of traditional ropa vieja ingredients of onion, poblano, sweet red pepper, garlic, can o'cheap tomatoes [oregano, cumin seeds, pinch of cloves & cinnamon, bay leaves] reduced with veal stock and graciano, topped with parsley.

Instead of stewing the meat and ropa vieja-ness together, they were cooked separately. Became a sort of half-deconstructed deliciousness, allowing the typical bright and clean flavors of the flank steak to show through while still allowing the soul-satisfying Cuban flavors announce its presence. This was great meat with great accompanying flavors that allowed each distinctive flavor to show up at different times (cinnamon at time, cloves occasionally, big poblano presence, all alternating). Not ropa vieja. Ropa vieja's appeal is the sum of all the parts as it becomes something else. This was better, new and will be had again, probably soon. In our flank/hanger/skirt world...the best we've had in a long time.

Solid batch of yuca fries. Each batch is different. This one had that 'it' factor. Served with a Portuguese whiskey sauce-infused mayonnaise.

Arugula and pomegranate seed salad with balsamic and olive oil to finish.

With Cuban food, it begins and ends with Mas de Maha but the 2006 hasn't performed as well of late for us. The tempranillo in the blend lost some of its brightness and lift the last time we had it (no write-up) and the 2007s haven't shown up in Chicago yet.

Wine: 2006 Villa Creek Mas de Maha ($23 - Binny's)

Still good!

Might have just needed some big food flavors to pry open the door. With Mas de Maha, what we love about it is the addition of tempranillo, taking the typical cheaper California Rhône blend out of the world of that dominating flat syrupness and into the realm of distinction and balance.

All raspberries this time, big batch, seeds and all. Like unsweetened raspberry jam in the process of being made. Touch of cherry at times as the tempranillo tried to assert its fading presence but the grenache and mourvèdre is taking over in great ways. Solid phase right now and something we didn't expect in the least as we popped it because we figured we should blow through the last two we have while we still could. Secondary grilled meats and hint of tobacco with enough acid holding on. It's softened considerably since the first time we had it but still possesses a great balance and dark juiciness that hits some place in us that we absolutely love.

A quick wine note: the graciano in the reduction was the 2006 Bokisch Graciano ($8 - Sam's). Tried it before putting it in the pan. Shocked. All booze-soaked chocolate cherries with earth, spice and meat char. Deep. Delicious stuff...still! Tasted like some weird off-region monastrell or mourvèdre blend. All mud with the food when we gave it a go but might have been better than the Mas de Maha by itself, without food, simply because of how odd and weird and good it was. Got a steal with this one.

Pairing: 91 Super Bowl Delight

As with our past experiences with Mas de Maha and Cuban-style food, a melding of the food and wine together happened so gracefully and fully that it became something else, something more than what each offered separately.

The raspberry juiciness brought a brightness to the meal, for sure. But the food also seemed to grab the wine by the shirt collar a bit and throw everything into line. The clove/spice in the food and wine seemed to be the chain that united things but nothing else in the food, wine and food and wine hit a false note. And the pepper on the char with the big fruit in the wine exploded on over the place in stellar ways.

Seemed made for each other and just fit.

So much better than anything emanating from my television as well.

A Quick Pairing Note: Dak Bulgogi with Trader Joe's cheap label Vouvray, the 2009 Lacheteau Demi-Sec ($6). One of the better weeknight pairings we've had in months. Nothing special in the least with this wine on its own, the sweetness in the Vouvray picked up the spice in freakin' delicious Korean hot goodness, tamed it, threw it around like a rag doll and took it to places the dish wouldn't have been by itself. Textbook example of matching a touch of sweet with a touch of heat. Great food, something double-Great with this wine. Pairing Score: 93

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