Mrs. Ney threw down the gauntlet a few months ago and demanded that the world "Beat THAT!" when we had the best tuna preparation we've ever had.
Last night's meal, a dinner with a co-worker, actually came close.
Same Moroccan-inflected tuna. It didn't beat the previous one but this meal's joy came from everything else we had with it, how all of it complimented each other and how it built to the tuna.
In the end, the tuna became just one of three elements that we'll be revisiting again and soon.
Pre-meal opening: Spicy carrot purée with Seeduction bread, Kerrygold butter and rose petal jam
Wine: NV René Geoffroy Rosé de Saignée Champagne ($60 - WDC)
Same bread and accoutrements as the last tuna meal. Best bread ever. All raw dark grains without being too raw. Creamy, rich butter and floral-as-all-get-out jam.
But the love came from the Moroccan-spiced carrot purée. Cumin, ginger, cinnamon and harissa blended into puréed carrots. Tasted creamy without any cream added. Silky and more delicious with each subsequent bite. We fell in love quickly using the Seeduction bread to dip.
The René Geoffroy is 100% pinot noir (disgorged July, 2010) somewhat disappointed. Only the second rosé de saignée we've had with the Christmas Larmandier-Bernier being the first. That might have been some of the problem. Having only two and the first being that, a comparison inevitably came into play. Nice, small, fine bubbles. Light roses and strawberries notes dominated with a solid red berry core supporting everything but it came off a touch flat, missing an acid lift. Didn't wow us with its depth and concentration like the Larmandier-Bernier did.
And with the Love in the Bowl that was the carrot purée, it became an afterthought.
Appetizer: Scallops with a pea purée and pancetta
Wine: NV Gruet Brut Rosé ($15 - Binny's)
The dinner guest has a partner that doesn't eat seafood of any kind so we seafooded him up. Two scallops, seared beautifully with a nice touch of sweetness to them that sang with the subtle, spring-like greenness of the pea purée. Great hit of dark, charred meatiness from the pancetta without being too smoky. If someone ever asked what was the most balanced bite of food I've had recently, this might be it. Came off purposeful, thoughtful and nuanced following the carrot purée as the meal felt like it was building properly. More of a darker carrot purée lifted up and cleansed by an intense freshness with the pancetta serving as a bridge.
The Gruet Brut Rosé, compared with the Geoffroy, showed more liveliness with a crisp and bright core. Not a technically better wine, tasting more like a very pretty $15 brut rosé, but more wanted, more playful. Cherry and citrus notes with a bit of cream dancing around and propped up by some great acid. More bright notes that played into the scallop preparation more effectively than the Geoffroy and the carrot purée did.
Entrée: Moroccan-inflected tuna with blood oranges and black olives with an arugula and pomegranate salad
Wine: 2008 Ponzi Pinot Noir Willamette Valley
Some differences with the January tuna (recipe there). This one had less of a pink and Szechuan peppercorn presence due to the fact that we didn't know the level of peppercorn tolerance our guest had. Still utterly present, just not at the level we like. Medium-rare tuna that Mrs. Ney thought could have come up to room temperature a little more before searing, but nonetheless mimicked almost identically what happened in January. Hits of peppercorn, cardamom and coriander mingling beautifully with the blood oranges and black olives. The joy comes in the fact that one bite brings 20 different tastes that vacillate between dark and bright, deep and light while all of it coming off entirely clean. Still the best tuna ever.
Served, like in January, with the 2008 Ponzi Pinot Noir. Started to get a little bit of palate fatigue but still picked up similar notes as last time. Not quite fully open for business yet but still had that signature Ponzi floral, leaves and black tea notes backed up by cherry and plum fruit. Forest floor moss and tobacco interlaced throughout with the acid allowed everything to come through in a pure way. Even pleasantly gnarly at times.
Pause-worthy again with the tuna. A match made in heaven. It was a new food and wine pairing place for us last time and brought all of the same joy this time.
Finished the meal with dessert brought by our guest. Poached pears done in apple cider, orange and lemon zest with mascarpone and orange zest on the side. Served with Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur, a spirit that's been sitting in the pantry that we forgot about. Delicious stuff and a great finish.
Pairing: 94 The food was the focus but the wine, especially finishing with the Ponzi, played a welcome role
In fact, when it came to the food and wine goodness, it was mostly the Ponzi with the tuna.
We liked what the Gruet offered, bringing a different, more red-fruit freshness to the scallops, but as a technical pairing, it wasn't the enhancement we necessarily wanted. More nice to have around than great match.
And the Geoffroy just didn't stand a chance with the loveliness that was the carrot purée.
Nothing new in terms of a pairing presented itself but that Ponzi and tuna, oh that Ponzi and tuna. Always, everyday and often. It saved the food and wine night.
In the end, with this much completeness and complimentary flavors in the food, we didn't really care that the first two wine selections didn't live up.
We ate too well to care.