Last night's dinner was good, great actually.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams is quite good and should probably be seen in 3-D, just make sure to go in with knowledge of Werner Herzog's penchant for meandering through the material in a way that can only be seen through his eyes. Do that and you'll love it. And the postscript absolutely has a place.
I cannot recommend Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, an 800 page manufactured drama of the most inconsequential inconsequentialness. If you're interested in the behind-the-scenes fights over how the ESPYs made it to air, then this is for you. For me, it's like listening to other people's stories about their children. Keep it. The Pale King, DFW's unfinished novel, was bought for summer reading but instead I chose to finish this pile of poo. And it's 800 pages! Did I mention that?
But back to the good.
Ever eaten high quality soil? We have, last night, on the plate and in the glass and it was delicious.
Food: Harissa-marinated hanger steak, spicy carrot purée and sherry onions with pita for dipping
Medium-rare hanger steak marinated in garlic, sherry vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and harissa, that delicious Tunisian (Viva la revolucion!) chili paste made with various chilies, garlic, coriander and caraway, making the hanger taste deliciously dirty, emphasizing the 'dirt' part. Good dirt, quality dirt, nitrogen-rich soil. And as a spice paste, it couldn't ingratiate itself more to cheaper, dirt-based wines in our experience, rounding out the rough edges and making them obtain a singular, welcome focus.
Beautifully toned down onions cooked in olive oil with sherry vinegar, lemon thyme and cumin seeds with parsley added at the end. Much like the hanger steak, a delicious earthiness that alternately came off sort of bright with the proper sherry vinegar acid lift and psych-out lemon thyme that gave an odd feeling of citrus that wasn't really there.
A tinkered spicy carrot purée recipe compared to the wonder that was last April. Said then to be un-improvable with flavors that tasted ancient, Mrs. Ney said "Piffle!" and give it a shot using a trick.
Warming ras el hanout (instead of cumin seeds and harissa only) in the olive oil to let the flavor bloom, adding it to boiled carrots, roasted garlic and lemon juice and then puréeing, the result was a smoother, more integrated flavor compared to the spicy, raw spiced, creaminess last time. Deep and more high falutin with a flavor again that tasted old and long-established. Pita for dipping.
Earth on the plate with proper lifts at every turn. This meal danced and frolicked in the darker world of food play, almost like it was trying to explore every type of soil and high quality dirt there is to find, but never came off heavy or dull with its deft and copious usage of herbs, tongue-tingling spice and vinegar.
We loved it and the wine gyrated to the same beat.
Wine: 2008 Mas Carlot Costières-de-Nîmes Les Enfants Terribles ($12 - WDC)
A Southern Rhône cheapie, right out of the bottle it came off almost ordinary with edges of interesting and a feeling like it had some food potential.
Both of us wanted Mourvèdre and this was the closest we had.
Equal parts Syrah and Mourvèdre, subtle dark berry blend pervaded with touches of leather and hints of herbs. Medium length, softer finish, pleasing all around without begging for it and the signature Mourvèdre components we were looking for. But both of us continue to be bewildered why anyone would want to chug a wine such as this and red wine in general by itself, a feeling that was reinforced for the 12,000th time after having it with the food.
Everything came together with the North African-spiced grub, polishing out the edges, offering a longer length and bringing more complexity to the herbs and spices playing in the background. Dark berry fruit turned to a pop of well-defined blackberry, the hint of herbs transformed into a delicious and creamy cinnamon punch and, most importantly, at the core of the wine was an utterly distinctive nitrogen-rich soil and minerals that screamed much higher-priced, single vineyard southern Rhône.
With the right food, and this was the right food, $30-35 would have been entirely reasonable for this one.
Pairing: 94 Soily surprise on the plate and in the glass
A bit of cinnamon was in the ras el hanout blend but a cinnamon number blow up in the wine with the spicy carrot purée and especially with the sherried onions, becoming a delicious combination.
Tons of great soil everywhere when any bite was combined but this was a meal where a sip of wine followed by a bite of food played even better than the other way around. Often, how wine changes with a bite of food and then taking a drink is the focus simply because of how dramatic the transformation is when it's with proper food done well.
This meal was in the good, right and proper place of delicious food and wine pairing wonders, that place where the wine tastes like it's part of the food on the plate, that place where both elements taste made for each other and need each other to succeed.
Great pairings always do that and when we have great ones, that's the first, middle and last requirement to being great, as it is with anybody.
This meal was pretty great.