Thursday, December 15, 2011

#236 - Hanger, Latkes & Rapini With '08 Owen Roe Yakima Red + Anteprima

Champagne and Washington expect to get a lot of play in our house over the next few months.  They're our current jones, it seems.

Washington wines, in our limited experience of 10-15 bottles or so over the last few years, seem to be less about the winemaker, like so many California wines (and even Oregon wines to an extent), and more about the land.  An Old World sensibility really does come through with an inevitable New World freshness merely outlining the body.

More restraint and hands-off construction and less chasing of that one-note, unibody flavor so loved by so many.  Less easily identifiable flavors and more mystery brought on by not screwing with it so much.

Our nascent exposure to Washington wines has been a good one, something that seems to have opened a floodgate of sorts.  We're on board.

I've sort of jumped off the Bordeaux train lately due to expense, its food limitations and, on a certain level, boredom.  It's such a niche wine not exactly lined up with the food we typically eat.  But Washington, a wine region that pays homage left and right to Bordeaux blends and tradition, seems to be broadening that a bit with wines offering a wider food basket its wines can match up with.  They're less...rigid.

Food:  Soy-marinated hanger steak, potato latkes and rapini

Paulina Meat Market medium-rare hanger steak marinated in soy sauce, lemon juice, olive oil, rosemary and garlic; the other half of the hanger steak was served here.  It was huge, tender and delicious then.  Not really different last night and helped along beautifully by its shallot accompaniment.

Shallots:  sweat in butter/olive oil; add two dried ground mushrooms, horseradish, rosemary, bay leaves; dump in one cup beef stock, let reduce; deglaze with cherry balsamic vinegar; lots of black pepper.

The result was a happy-slappy pile of meat and shallots, enjoying most the ability to taste so many of the ingredients used in the creation of the shallots.  A little cherry balsamic hit here, a touch of horseradish there, a bit of butter at times, all coming off subtle and elegant with tender meat to pair right up with it.

Trader Joe's latkes, sprinkled with stravecchio parmesan (prodotto d'Wisconsin!).  Maybe a year-end list of the top ten Trader Joe's products will happen this year here at FWW.  This one will be on the list.  Has a deli quality.  Dense but not too dense.  Soft at the right times.  Good onion-garlic hit.  Chewy but never too chewy, falling apart in your mouth when it's warranted.  It's a winner.  Mayo for dipping.

Rapini blanched and finished in the beef pan with aleppo.

Mrs. Ney said the entire meal tasted like what she wanted it to taste like in the best sense.  Great back-and-forth between flavors.  Good protein, good starch, good greens, all amplified by how they were made with everything playing together in a realm that tasted intentional.  Tasty plate of food, by cracky!

The wine brought the same level of quality with flavor elements and its weight playing well enough and into the food to achieve a level of "Hey!  This is damn good!"  Bordeaux-driven flavors in the food with echoes of other things we like.  The wine achieved the same result.

Wine:  2008 Owen Roe Yakima Valley Red ($38 - Binny's)

36% cabernet sauvignon, 33% merlot and 31% cabernet franc but this wine, according to the winemaker, was crafted to highlight the merlot and cab franc.  The merlot was certainly front and center, the cab franc we got more in its lighter, more lithe body than in its taste.

Popped an hour before dinner to see where it was.  Good for us, no decant.  Struck mostly by the balance and ping-pong vanilla, dark (not black) cherry and plum on the palate with a long finish of toast with plum jam.  Not sweet.  A medium-dry wine where the merlot was showcased with every sip.  Cabernet sauvignon brought the structure, cab franc between a spryness and agility and the merlot brought the goods.  The wine announced its presence but never wandered into a screaming of its importance.  Nicely integrated alcohol and softer tannins that nonetheless had a confidence to think it could drink well for years.  

We couldn't remember the price tag while drinking it.  At $38, it's worth the price.  Steal if $25, not worth $50.  But with so many other Washington wines to explore, we lean towards trying others more than thinking this vintage is a must-have and something to follow.  That said, total surprise and delicious.  Would be a spectacular gift wine for someone just getting into wine and can't seem to wean themselves off California while being terrified of Bordeaux.  Could be a gateway.

Pairing:  91  Took the meal from mere 'consumption' to 'slow and relaxed' in a great way.  

Slowed things down beautifully, forcing a contemplation and enjoyment because the elements were so delicious separate and together.

Best with the latkes.  The starch rounded out the flavors in the wine and brought on the best, full, roundness and longer finish.  The shallots perked up an Old World Bordeaux sensibility, drawing out a more earthy, subdued presence.  The rapini followed by the wine killed the drink but the other way around enhanced the bitterness and Aleppo pepper in a great way.

After being sick and poor for the better part of the last month, this meal felt like that storm is passing in a sense.  Back on the horse and tasting like a winter meal without eight feet of snow and bone-chilling coldness.  "Chicago will have the worst winter in the nation," my butt (knock-knock).

Quick note:  After being open almost five years in the neighborhood, a visit to Anteprima in Andersonville finally happened.  Shame on us for waiting so long.

Something about the menu never drew us in over the years but the inclusion of a cornucopia of bitter greens, littered throughout the menu, intrigued me.

Quartinos helped as well, allowing us to get more matchy-matchy with each course.

Two prix-fixe meals of appetizer, half-pasta and entrée.

Appetizers of baccala and octopus, half-pastas of orrechiette/lamb sausage/rapini and strozzapretti/guanciale/garlic/tomato and entrées of quail and chicken.

Baccala of salt cod that tasted beautifully of actual salt cod instead of mostly filler potato.  Octopus (potatoes, red onion, chilis, parsley, lemon, olive oil) so tender and so abundant that I'd eat it once a week.  Strozzapretti with guanciale, garlic, tomato and onion that was so wonderfully garliced, so confident.  Orrechiette that simply hit a place of food love.  Both of us could do without the entrées (quail fine enough, chicken dry) but the $29 prix-fixe from Sunday through Thursday brought that on.  Next time, apps and full-portion pastas will be the way to go.  But both of us were left with an impression of confidence in the food and loved the aggressiveness of the seasoning and balls to litter the menu with bitter greens and say, "Eat it.  They're good."

Six quartinos of wine for $65 helped.  Great bargain here.

The great:  Tamellini Soave
The very good:  Saladini Pilastri Pecorino and Terradora Aglianico
The good and good enough:  Tenuta Caparzo Sangiovese and Bellanotte Cabernet Franc
The brutal:  La Valentina Montepulciano

Great stuff happening here.  Highly recommended and shame on us for not going sooner.  We love Avec but the next time we crave Avec, with what this place offers in flavor, being seven blocks from home and, I gotta say, more interesting's in the discussion as an completely viable alternative.

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