Tuesday, May 31, 2011

#193 - Memorial Day Hodgepodge

We stayed in for the holiday due to the 90-degree heat.

We don't enjoy hot.  If northern California didn't have earthquakes, we'd probably be living there.  Since it does, we'll just visit.  Next trip in three months.

But that's not to say we don't enjoy a hot day with a dip in the pool followed by lounging around on the patio afterwards with a bottle of wine.  We thought we could take or leave that before experiencing such a glorious 'that' at Quinta do Vallado winery in the Douro Valley last September.

While basking in the afterglow of a pool dip in 90-degree heat there, we drank a bottle of white from the winery.  I wanted to get all nostalgic and recreate that on the first hot day in Chicago with the same wine.  Yesterday was that hot day.

So we did.

Lunch:  Tomato salad, mozzzarella di bufala and baguette

Tomato salad made with tomatoes, red onion, garlic, fresno and jalapeño peppers, basil, oregano, white balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.  Mediterranean and all get-out and delicious stuff.

A ball of sliced mozzarella di bufala drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and topped with a handful of fresh basil leaves.  Baguette to mix and match.

Silly good lunch that tasted like a lunch that needs to be eaten once a week.  It's the very core of What We Want.

Served with a 2009 Quinta do Vallado Branco estate white (5 euros - not available in the US).  A Rabigato, Viosinho, Arinto and Verdelho blend.  Showed some age as expected but still bursted with orchard citrus basket of fruit.  Sun-baked citrus with a few old fruits mixed in.  Older orange peel and dried lemon flesh didn't detract and stayed integrated into the fresher aspects of the wine while still adding that Portuguese white weirdness that makes Portuguese whites so wonderful.  They seem made for hot weather with tons of minerals and acid to make them mouth-watering and refreshing.  In my world, Portuguese whites along with Muscadet and Albariño can't be beat for hot weather and this bottle was no exception when it was cold.

Which led to a pairing paradox.  When cold, that Portuguese gnarly weirdness became obscured with the food, coming off rather run-of-the-mill.  But as it came up in temperature, it made beautiful efforts to blend with the grub and became nearly delicious as a pairing but missed some of the harder mineral edge and sharper acid that makes Portuguese whites so delicious.  Still quite nice but some of the essence that makes this wine so good became muted.  Even the very simple 2009 Casa de Vila Verde Vinho Verde ($8 - Whole Foods) showed a touch better with the food due to its larger acid presence to match the acid from the tomatoes.  Not more interesting, particularly, just more food-and-wine playful.  Pairing Score:  83

Dinner:  Greek chicken leg quarters with skordaliá and pita

Greek chicken leg quarters marinated in onion, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, parsley and extra virgin olive oil, then cooked under a brick, a Mark Bittman process that's served us quite well.  Good chicken that we nonetheless weren't really interested in due to the filling lunch we had.  But the chicken juice - Oh! The Chicken Juice - was like having the very soul of Greek-marinated chicken in liquid form.  So good I'd do shots of it.

A tomato salad with artichoke hearts, parsley and dill that we loved but barely touched as well (combined the leftover chicken and this salad for a pita pocket lunch).

The star of the meal was the skordaliá with pita for dipping.  Potatoes, almonds, roasted garlic, oregano, red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.  Gooey awesomeness and a Ney house favorite.

Had a bottle of G.P. Vissiliou Retsina de Attica sitting around, a more expensive ($15) and hopefully better-crafted bottle than the first cheap bottle we tried in January that was all Pine-Sol.  After one sip, I needed something else and cracked a bottle of Trader Joe's Albero Cava to mitigate a potential pairing disaster.

Wasn't needed.  Though the Albero, for the first time, was all pear skin and sort of one-dimesional, the Retsina, once we got our feet wet and waded deeper into its waters, showed much better with the food.  We've been told of the deliciousness of Retsina with Greek food but people say the Greece keeps the good stuff.  I believe we experienced a bit of what everybody talks about.  An underlying jumble of delicious green herbs only nominally led by pine resin popped with the chicken and skordaliá, becoming almost very wanted, with enough acid to keep things in line.  Not too shabby and we reached for the Retsina so much more than the Cava.  Probably a first in our world.  Pairing Score:  85 

Better food than wine for our Memorial Day but a relaxing and pokey holiday that didn't involve other people.  That's how we roll.

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