A combined post because the pairings weren't much to recommend, though one wine, the 2000 Heredia, is worth mentioning.
Some surprisingly good food, both with slight twists put on food we like, that made for a pretty solid food week during the house arrest the Chicago snow has put us under but nothing really popped together.
Meal #1: Quiche with arugula salad, bread and butter
Quiche maraîchère from Around My French Table, same quiche as this quiche with a slight change that made it better. In the three times we've had this, it's been a clearinghouse for random herbs in the house. This time, fresh tarragon was used and it elevated things beautifully.
A darker, more present and substantial herb hit from the tarragon that bled into the vegetables (red pepper, leeks, celery, carrots, etc.) and changed them into something more connected, darker and bordering on meaty. Really changed things. Liked this quiche before with its lightly buttery notes and less-of-an-eggy egginess but this was better.
Arugula and parsley salad with bread and Irish butter to round things out. Seemingly light and delicious but I didn't feel hungry even five hours later. Surprised how much tarragon changed everything. The quiche became an entrée instead of almost being one.
Served with the NV Crémant du Jura Berthet-Bondet ($24 - WDC). A blend of chardonnay and savagnin grapes, not worth $24 but certainly a solid value in the mid-teens. Tough to think of what food this could go with. Fine and plentiful bubbles, bringing a great mouthfeel to the wine, which is its best asset. Something close to creamy almond skin or creamy peach pit (or both) dominates along with a cheap fruit juice blend without the sugar, the kind where three or four yellowish juices are blended together and it's odd how together you get so much less than if drank separately. Five-Alive without the citric acid. Different and nice by itself (its best use, really), offered very little with the food outside of good lifting bubbles. Pairing Score: 75
Meal #2: Pepita mahi mahi with white rice and snap peas
Pepita chicken used to be a weeknight staple for a bit in our house. A return from a long hiatus last night with mahi mahi instead of chicken.
Pepita (pumpkin seeds) with tomatillos, onion, chiles, cilantro, garlic, sea salt, corn oil and black peppercorns simmered and turned into a rustic, chunky green Mexican paste-sauce. Served with Trader Joe's mahi mahi and sided with white rice and snap peas with cilantro dumped over the whole plate and lime to spritz. The mahi mahi flavor wasn't really lost but in essence became a light vehicle for the pepita sauce, which was just the tops. It's a favorite. Somehow, the white rice was the best white rice I've ever had, a product, Mrs. Ney said, of a standard preparation but the toasting of the rice beforehand brought out this humongous nutty flavor. One of those meals where as Mrs. Ney was making it, she didn't want any part of it but, as typical, turned out magically delicious. All nutty, earthy and green, spectacular seasoning with the mahi mahi keeping everything light while letting the sauce star...because it's good. And about $13 total for both plates!
Served with 2000 López de Heredia Gravonia ($25 - Binny's). First time for the 2000. The 1996 has a fond place in my heart. The 1998 is fantastic (haven't had it recently - no write-up). The 1999 a bit less so (some bottle variation here). The 2000 is fresher than previous years. Lively. With lime spritzed on the food, an enormous banana note dominated. Pineapple, apple, maybe quince and something like lemon oil danced around as well. The freshness came from the acidity but the acid doesn't make its presence felt as much as some internet reviews say. Definitely Heredia but not as much iconoclastic Heredianess bursting out of the glass as previous vintages in our world. Less smoke, wax, gas, nuts and we couldn't taste the obvious and glorious age yet. Cleaner. Complex as per usual, precise and delicious. Big Boy White. Gonna need to see what another bottle and a little age does to this one to completely figure it out. Guess I missed the funk and commanding presence to declare it another Heredia winner right now but it's nonetheless a pretty great white, especially for $25.
I spritzed lime right away over all the food (bringing out the banana). Mrs. Ney did not. Both of us came to the same conclusion. Run-of-the-mill pairing with nothing jumping out. Nutty white rice and banana in the wine the best and overall, it was nice to have the wine there. Best that can be said. Pairing Score: 84