Thursday, March 10, 2011

#170 - Beef & Pork Arancini & Arugula Salad With '08 Owen Roe Abbot's Table

We're on our way to diving headfirst into Washington red wine.

Many have been bought, few have been drunk, but that should change quite soon as spring arrives and we go against type and crave red much more than white.

Tons of various bottlings of Owen Roe are in the hopper and we're intrigued.

That intrigue was brought on by a delicious glass of Washington GSM had at Girl & The Goat a few months ago. Just a delicious glass of wine and probably the highlight in an otherwise rather forgettable meal.

On that, with our recent Coco Pazzo experience, Girl & The Goat and The Bristol in the last year, mid-level restaurants have only brought on scorn and derision in this house.

In fact, outside of Blackbird and Purple Pig, it's been BYO places like Hema's Kitchen, Semiramis, Indie Café and Urban Belly that have tickled our fancy more than anything in the last year out in the world - places offering aggressive, confident flavors not trying to please too many people at once, places that put out food that say, "Eat it! It's good! Don't like it? Not my problem."

Or cook at home where you can whip up something new to you and drink something new to you.

For us, last night, homemade arancini was new to us. The Owen Roe Abbot's Table was new to us.

And the entire meal cost about $40 with $10 alone coming from the piquillo peppers.

Food: Saffron rice arancini with a beef and pork ragù and an arugula, basil, parsley, mint and onion salad with piquillo peppers

Arancini is the quintessential Sicilian street food. Never been to Sicily but I've certainly listened to Italians talk about it for months at my place of employment when we have them on special.

Deep-fried rice balls made saffron rice and stuffed with a beef and pork ragù blended with leftover patatas bravas sauce made from cherry tomatoes, garlic, copious amounts of white wine, onion, chili flakes, salt, pepper, etc. Saffron rice half-cooked hours before and finished off in the frying process, making for rice balls that are substantial but still light. Coating made with leftover baguette from the night before and parmesan. The end result was rice balls that came off meaty but never heavy while being balanced and quite freakin' lovely. Six balls per plate and it was more than enough as a main dish, which shocked us. Recipe from this March's issue of Saveur (pg. 62). Use it, know it, love it.

Arugula salad topped with basil, parsley and mint, mixed with onions and piquillo peppers put on the side with a dressing of sherry vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

Sicilian origins. Spanish touches everywhere. With Coco Pazzo on Monday and a failed organic/sustainable Thomas Keller chicken on Tuesday, the goodness of this meal felt needed.

Wine: 2008 Owen Roe Abbot's Table Columbia Valley Red Blend ($23 - Binny's)

Grapes: 24% Zinfandel, 22% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Syrah, 10% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Blaufrankish, 4% Malbec
Vintage (WS): 95-100 Cool summer and warm autumn; many great wines

Plums, other purple-type fruits and a touch of herbs on the nose that follows right through on the palate. A simplish, forward wine that gains a bit of complexity with the right food bite. Smooth, round and even supple on occasion that's friendly and generous with enough acid to keep things brightish, a bit lifty and balanced.

A wine that's a bit of a puzzle. I would love to say that it's a fantastic table wine, a bottle that would be an excellent fallback chugger but at $23 and so many other wines out there at half (or less than half) the price that perform as well by itself and are more food-friendly in our experience, it's tough to recommend it on those grounds. The Schild GSM, Trentatre and Chariot Gypsy come to mind.

But outside of that, it's a tasty little number that went down easy and was warm and friendly stuff. Finished it quick-like.

Pairing: 83 Should have went Spanish-Spanish

Started with a 2006 Nashwauk Tempranillo in an effort to go Spanish without going Spanish. All earth and leather with dead-tired fruit. So we cracked the Abbot's Table thinking that the garbage blend would be a sort of catch-all for the food in enough ways to satisfy, especially with sangiovese playing a big part in the blend and tomatoes serving as a backbone to the arancini.

Didn't come off that way. The tomato in the arancini weren't as prominent as expected and the sangiovese hasn't gotten out of the gate yet with the wine.

The result ended up being a generic description of food with wine that didn't detract. At times, especially with bigger bites involving the beef and pork, an herbal kick showed up but never enough to feel like the food and wine were attempting to make sweaty pairing love.

We were just happy, in the end, that it wasn't Coco Pazzo or a bad bird bastardizing our beloved Thomas Keller chicken.

And felt like we got back on the good food horse.

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