Wednesday, February 16, 2011

#163 - Blood Orange-Black Olive Duck & Farro With Two Pinots

About a month ago, a Moroccan-inflected tuna preparation blew us away.

It had Everything along with Everything we Love.

With blood orange season quickly coming to a close, it seemed right and proper to find out how versatile the recipe is with other proteins.

Result: Tuna, tuna and only tuna.

It change yo' life.

Tried lamb a couple of weeks ago (no write-up). Fell flat, never elevating itself with the combination of ingredients. Last night, somewhat similar results with duck, a bit better, but still made us contemplate bright and sunny tuna dreams.

Food: Blood orange and black olive duck, chestnut farro and mâche with pomegranate seeds

Duck rubbed with coriander, szechuan peppercorns, pink peppercorns, cardamom and ginger, seared medium-rare. A salad of blood oranges, gaeta olives, onion, parsley and walnut oil placed on top. Virtually identical to the tuna prep.

Quality duck. We liked it. But there was little melding of flavors. Not necessarily fighting flavors, more like flavors simply placed next to each other. Some things worked. Black olives and duck. Interesting. Onion slathered in blood orange juice with duck. Nice. Walnut oil presence tasted like it wanted to be there, unlike most of the ingredients.

But little jumped out and the peppercorn presence, something that exploded with the tuna and wine, was muted, missing that possible bridge between the brighter blood orange/briny black olive that could have ingratiated itself to the duck.

Farro cooked in chestnuts, duck stock and thyme. Always delicious and always with duck. Made better with a little duck fat/juice run-off bleeding into the bottom of the pile. Silly good.

Mâche salad with pomegranate seeds and a dressing of walnut oil and juice from the blood orange/black olive/onion salad. Spectacular stuff. Peppery with a walnut oil hit, all brightened up by the juice. Complex.

This was good food. If we didn't know duck and this was our first duck we would have been more interested in duck. But we know duck and love duck, particularly herbes de Provence duck which the best duck in the duck world and this duck was not that duck. Good duck, just not That Duck.

With the tuna, we did two Oregon pinot noirs and it was stupid awesome with a side of wow. Last night wasn't that but our opinion of one of the wines dramatically changed over the course of the evening as the wine changed.

Wine: 2005 J.K. Carriere Pinot Noir ($40 - Binny's) & 2005 Domaine Daniel Rion et Fils Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Beaux Monts - 375ml ($38 - Knightsbridge)

Let's start with the Vosne-Romanée. Very little experience with quality, Big Boy red Burgundies. This was an attempt at finding a starting point with such things. Vosne-Romanée, home of the Richebourgs, Romanée-Conti and La Tâches of the world at the Grand Cru level. This is one of the 13 Premier Cru wines designated by climat (Les Beaux Monts).

Cloudy nose that smelled a bit like English muffins with dark cherry juice spritzed over it. And you stuck your nose into the glass while standing in a barn. One-dimensional medium-red-with-a-darkish-edge cherries on the palate with an unfocused (yet softish) acidity that seemed to not know what to tackle first. Bit of oak floating around, taking on a charred toast edge on occasion, like toast that's been dropped in a bowl of herbs and a touch of cinnnamon. Overall, came off cloudy. Serviceable but barely. I wonder if the half-bottle format is forcing things along at a pace this wine doesn't naturally want.

The J.K. Carriere was a different beast. Dark cherries with a forest floor quality on the nose that followed right through to the palate. Touch of herbs, bit of game. Like the Vosne-Romanée, we were initially struck by how UN-struck we were with the wine. No signature notes or unique announcements of their presence occurred. Both came off somewhat...boring.

With no experience with either wine, five years on each and a half-bottle format for one, no decant, just opened 20 minutes before drinking. Over two hours and with the half-bottleness, the Vosne-Romanée didn't budge and my conventional wisdom thinks it should have. The J.K. Carriere most certainly did.

It started to show up about an hour in and exploded from there out. All beef juice and gamey notes took over, becoming a Big Beefy Joy. Dark cherries receded but hung around in the background with this rather pretty beef juice presence supported by game, all rolled in herbs and forest floor/tree moss blending into a something quite good. Truly tasted like someone cooked up beef and quail medium-rare in herbs, put them on the plate, let it sit for a time and then drained off all the juices on the plate and put it in a glass.

Didn't think much of it at first and then it turned into something that might have a place in our Oregon wine world, just took a bit to find out where they were going with it.

Pairing: 80 Felt like a singles mixer that never gets off the ground

Neither of the wines seemed to want to mix and mingle with the food. Like they were too shy to get in there and get talkin'.

We loved what the peppercorns did on the tuna and with the Ponzi and Ken Wright. The peppercorns left the party five minutes in, went to another bar, never to return. That was probably our biggest lament.

Mild spikes of interesting at times but nothing jumped. The J.K. Carriere, when it became Big Boy Beefy was entirely more intriguing by itself (the first red wine in a long time that we wanted to down alone, without food) and the Vosne-Romanée never felt like it wanted to be there at all.

Both were best with the mâche salad. Never a good sign.

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