Tuesday, December 13, 2011

#235 - Still Alive!

Geesh!  It's been a month (?).

An annoyingly lingering month-long cold and the lack of greenbacks in the wallet lately has led to the absence of good food and wine in our house.  No point spending money on stuff we can't taste.

But things seem to be back to normal for the most part so two easy favorites were right and proper to jump back on the tasting horse.

Lunch:  Marinated mozzarella, tomatoes and basil with baguette and two sparklers

I extolled the virtues of Trader Joe's pre-packaged marinated mozzarella in olive oil and herbs a few weeks ago as a near-perfect quick and easy lunch option.  Marinating your own seemed to be an exercise in willingly wasting your time when something that good came so easy and fresh.  Mrs. Ney gave it a shot anyway...just to know.  The result was something just as good, but work.  Better mozzarella but not by much.  Better olive oil but not by much.  She gussied up the TJ's version with fresh tomatoes/kumatoes in the past so a freshness was still present and wanted, even needed.  In the end, part of the joy in this type of meal is the spontaneity.  No thinking about it the day before and prepping.  It's probably the best buy and eat lunch in our world right now.  Grab a baguette and bubbles and there's little that creates a break from a workweek quicker than this.

So we still endorse the TJ's version of marinated mozzarella and herbs while adding fresh tomatoes and basil.  It's easier and gets you where you want to go.  Good baguette helps.

And sparkling wine is the name of the game here.  Ups the fancy.

We're big fans of the 375ml of NV Gaston Chiquet Brút Tradition.  Grower-producer goodness for $25 and an example of how you have to spend a few bucks on Champagne to get the finesse.  There's a linear correlation between price and quality in Champagne, more than virtually any other region, at least in our fledgling experience.  The bargain bin in Champagne be a wee thin.  The $25 half-bottle of Gaston Chiquet always pleased with its bursting and alive yeasty notes wrapped elegantly in green apple and lemon peel.  Delicious, fairly tradtional stuff with pretty edges.  The $25 (WDC) half-bottle of the NV Ayala Brut Majeur served with this lunch plays in a different realm, showing more tangerine/orange notes, baked Christmas cake and baking spice notes.  Tasted a bit like Panettone, even raisiny at times.  And delicious stuff at every turn, changing subtly but significantly throughout the meal, ending with an intensely dark final chapter in the best way.  Two different half-bottles delights, both $25 and both readily available.  Finished with a bottle of Mumm Napa Cuvée M ($14 - Target).  Yep, Target.  And there's very little wrong with the offering.  Enough bubbles, enough joy, enough everything to reach of place of 'happy enough.'  Its essence is a cashew-heavy Planters mixed nuts can, creamy with an almond edge but not too shabby.  Good party starter.  Sufficient vibrancy to please a huge array of palates.  Don't know if we'd buy it again but in a pinch...and at Target...why not?  Pairing Score for both:  90

Dinner:  Tuna Niçoise with Seeduction bread and butter

A's Do Mar oil-cured tuna from Portugal served over the traditional Niçoise, grape tomatoes, potatoes, onions, green beans, gaeta olives, capers and two hard-boiled eggs for me with a dressing of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, shallot, anchovies, basil, lemon thyme and dijon, all over baby arugula.  Favorite meal.  Democracy in action.  Pick and choose one of a hundred flavor combinations with each bite.  So fresh, so clean, so good.

Served with a 2010 Domaine de la Mordorée La Dame Rousse Tavel Rosé ($15 - WDC).  40% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 15% Cinsault, 10% Carignan, 5% Counoise.  Gotta clear out the old rosés to make room for the new.  Typical character of the Mordorée as we've seen in the past.  All Rhône with a big head and loud presence but smart enough to shut up when it's supposed to.  Big with a warmed up, unsweetened, macerated currant and strawberry mixture being prepared for a tart-like recipe.  Medium dry.  Big alcohol but well integrated, big body but smoothed out beautifully by food, especially anything briny.  But the biggest surprise were the floral notes of wilting roses and violets that still carried with it a graceful depth and concentration, bringing a needed (almost) elegance.  A bit brawny but with Niçoise it's a great complement, catching all of the flavors combos thrown its way.  Pairing Score:  92        

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