Happy St. Patty's Day to everyone.
We're celebrating with fish tacos and purple corn sangria. You know, for all the Irish-Mexican-Peruvians in the world. I feel like they're under-celebrated and should also get a tip of the glass.
It's funny to think that a frozen product from Trader Joe's introduced us to Greek wine. For a good stretch in 2010, it was our Monday default lunch that kicked off our weekend. Quick, easy, delicious and great with Greek white in many forms. All apples and creamy lemons, a pinch of salt and great acid with creamy spinach-phyllo goodness. A $20 lunch that utterly satisfies.
But a trip to Purple Pig and two wines we had there made us more intrigued about Greek reds, especially the Alpha Estate Axia, a 50/50 split of Syrah and Xinomavro.
Greek food in general recently has hit a pleasure zone in us similar to Spanish food five years ago, Moroccan accents two years ago, home-cooked Portuguese in the last year and simple Italian preparations very recently with the use of Italian and southern French basics pretty much always.
In short, Mediterranean cuisine has always always our food love and constant strand, picked and prodded here and there, but it happened incrementally and built. Greek was the next, natural step and it's quickly turning into our next love.
We like hot climate food. You can taste why it's made and consumed. Like much good wine, it tastes of a place.
And the great thing about last night's meal was it was mostly freezer food.
Food: Greek-influenced flank steak, skordaliá and pearl onions and rapini
Medium-rare flank steak marinated in onion, parsley, evoo and lemon juice. Still tender and melty with charred herb hits. Great meat but it wasn't the star.
Became a side dish because of the stellar skordaliá, a blend of potatoes, ground toasted almonds, roasted garlic and extra virgin olive oil with bits of oregano and a splash of red wine vinegar. Dipping heaven with pita. Perfect, balanced shots of every ingredient.
But the real star of the meal came from the pearl onion and rapini combination made with sundried tomatoes rehydrated in white wine, dill (oregano & mint, to a much lesser extent), lemon zest and pecorino romano (standing in for feta). Complex stuff with everything in balance. The rapini with sheep's milk cheese brought an unexpected, deeeeeep depth to the entire plate of food with dill serving as a bridge to the onions, lemon zest and the parsley that was spread over everything.
This was a spectacular meal with a flurry of flavors all playing nicely together. And it was that way because of diligent attention paid to keeping it Greek. They've been around for centuries and know what they're doing.
Like most pairing attempts, if you make a meal that pays heed to cultural traditions, those cultures usually make wine that goes with their food.
Wine: 2007 Boutari Naoussa Xinomavro ($15 - Cardinal Wine)
Our first 100% xinomavro, an indigenous, fickle grape grown mostly in Macedonia. Go here for a great write-up on xinomavro.
Herbed-up stewed tomatoes and meat on the nose. Tough to explain the palate. Like a blend of cabernet franc and carmenère that's aged beautifully, maybe. Fruit isn't the game here. It's fresh, stewed tomatoes and herbs with fruit of cherry and a touch of blueberries (?) only serving as the supporting cast, rounding out things. Nice, light hit of sweet oak and pleasing acid. Vacillated between being a bit brawny and graceful but always a great medium-bodied weight overall. In the end, the wine was defined by its constantly changing tomato and small olive notes, like a spicy tomato stew that came off fresh and light. Original.
By the end of the bottle, it was a winner. Completely interesting and worth every bit of the $15 price tag. I wouldn't have felt ripped off if it were $25-30. Good stuff.
Pairing: 91 A couple of extra points for its Greekiness
Only an occasional isolation of the tannins in the wine with the flank steak was our only criticism of the pairing.
Overall, the wine served admirably as a catch-all, playing up the herbs while the tomato and tiny olive quality in the wine slid right in with all the other flavors in the meal.
Greek food and Greek wine. We are just getting into it whole hog but this was the kind of meal that is only going to bring about oodles more of such things.