Thursday, April 21, 2011

#181 - Tuna, Cannellini Beans, Arugula & Tomatoes With Two Non-Italian Whites

That's what the meal needed.

An Italian white.

But nope.  I had to try to get creative and see what else would work.

Thought process:  Cannellini beans in cassoulet has worked well in the past with rosé.  Tuna niçoise, the same.  Too miserable of a day for rosé.  We like rosé any time of the year except on days that straddle the time between damp and freakin' damp and miserable.

Basil, lemon juice and shallots were in play.  Albariño.  Rocky rocks would have been great.  Minerals always good.  Oddly didn't trip our trigger at the time.  

Sancerre, New Zealand or California sauvignon blanc is the typical recommendation for dishes such as this.  Just had a Sancerre and I just didn't want it.  A California one would probably have been lovely.

Prager riesling is a bit of a force-fit for the meal but we had a bit of a jones.  I liked the Croatian Malvasia three weeks ago with monkfish and veggies and just bought two more.  I didn't heed my own notes.  "Light package."  This meal needed more white wine guts, a wine made for the warmer weather food on the plate, a wine with more mouth-watering acid to take everything to a better place.

That didn't happen but we ended up fine.  The food was so good we ended up not caring.

Food:  Tuna and cannellini beans with arugula, grape tomatoes and Seeduction bread

Whole Foods tuna cooked rare.  Simple salt and pepper seasoning.  Beautiful slab of tuna for $13 taking what we learned from previous tuna meals and buying a smaller piece.  Sometimes, too much tuna is TOO MUCH TUNA!

Built on a bed of arugula and basil with a pile of cannellini beans in the center cooked from dry beans (key) and tuna on top.  Grape tomatoes sprinkled around and a vinaigrette of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, white balsamic vinegar, oregano, parsley, shallot and mustard drizzled over everything.

Cannellini beans were the star, tasting at times like the essence peppered mashed potatoes without the mush.

But the surprise came in the acid level.  Acid galore in the preparation but the acid was so well integrated it never overtook one bite.  Little, proper spikes everywhere.

Whole Foods Seeduction bread - best bread in the world - to munch on.

A fresh and clean meal with substance.  In other words, beautifully balanced food that felt needed after mac and cheese pizza.

Wine:  2009 Matosevic Alba Malvazjia Istarska ($15 - WDC) & 2007 Prager Riesling Steinriegl Federspiel ($33 - Binny's)

Three weeks ago, we adored the Matosevic Alba Croatian Malvasia.  Pretty herbs and citrus with a herb water core all wrapped in a light package.  This time, not so much.  A baby aspirin and gauze quality dominated while overall coming off a bit clunky.  Tasted like we were drinking a glass of wine that had been left open in a hospital supply closet for too long.  Not terrible, just not interesting in the least.  Some bottle variation here.

While the Prager should have been saved, we had no real attachment to it after reading the early reports on this one.  What resulted was that this one could probably have used a decant as it became infinitely more interesting as it warmed and opened up an hour into the meal.  Started out with a boring blend of limestone, lime and choppy acid but settled into something more friendly.  Became more graceful and subdued showing a transition from lime to a more delicate lemon and pear fruit core with the minerals becoming more fine and a floral note popping up.  Light, almost pretty sugar but the alcohol separated itself out throughout the meal, becoming less so as it opened up and settled down but still there.  Almost dry, more off-dry.  Overall though, it felt like a wine that went through a brutal workout to get to the bottle.  Never elegant, which is something Prager excels at.  Nice, just never pretty.  I'm still trying to figure out if federspiel is even my bag.  My limited experience so far says the bigger smaragd style is more my speed.

But it worked best with the food.

Pairing:  84  No clashy but no matchy

We were fine.  Italian white was the way to go, though.  Should have picked up a Greco when I thought of it.  A Friulano or even a Soave would probably have worked beautifully as well.  Or jumping into a California sauvignon blanc might have been at least interesting.

Became one of those pairings though that emphasized what it was not.  No clash.  The wine satisfied the basic definition of being there and being welcome.

Nothing exciting but the food made up for it in spades.

Simple, delicious, well-prepared food can do that.

After waiting tables in Italian restaurants for nine (gasp!) years, I had given up on Italian food as something I wanted to eat.  Got sick of the whole concept of the style after serving it so much.  Too familiar and wanted flavors not associated with work.  That's changed dramatically in the last year.

If you told me I'd be craving Italian food with Italian wine a year ago, I'd have thought you were a crazy person.  Last night again reaffirmed its newfound goodness, even when both elements weren't present.

Or should I say, because both elements weren't present.

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