What was good, even great, was everything else.
A Jonathan Waxman recipe, the stew-salad tasted like a garden in the best possible way. Braised endive! Who knew?
Mrs. Ney gussied it up with preserved lemon, sunflower seeds and sprouts, lemon thyme and parsley leaves. While Mr. Waxman might guffaw at such piling on to his more simple, 3-4 ingredient approach to things, with the scallops so lacking in scallopy goodness, we both think the end result might have been better than if the recipe was followed to a tee.
That's because this wine drinks so freakin' well and I'd venture to say this pairing sits in the top 1% of pairing perfection in our world.
Food: Braised endive and tomato stew-salad with scallops
Here's the recipe with a few alterations. No lime or tarragon. Added preserved lemon, sunflower seeds and sprouts, lemon thyme and parsley leaves.
Whole Foods scallops on sale. Mrs. Ney had to tie them to keep them from falling apart. Not great scallops. Edible but simply not needed and tasted superfluous with everything else going on in the rest of the food.
That 'everything else' on the plate consisted of a copious amount of delicious braised endive that took over for the scallops by offering something utterly meaty in flavor, texture and presence, cherry tomatoes to offer a baseline darker acid component, onions to do what onions do, bit of lemon juice to brighten up the gardeny quality of everything and salt and pepper to taste.
The additional ingredients made it though. The sunflower seeds gave a nutty-earthy quality that broadened things out, the preserved lemon gave a darker, brooding citrus hit that's so original to preserved lemon, the sunflower sprouts added a salad topper element to garden things up even more and the parsley leaves, together with the preserved lemon, amped up a "sense of place" taste, bringing something almost Moroccan-Spanish.
And the liquid from everything pooled at the bottom of the plate was slurp-able.
Total surprise. Every ingredient just sung together, each lifting each other in the best way, just enough, with nothing bullying its way into the conversation too much.
Seeduction bread with butter and rose petal jam.
Tasted...intentional and tried and true.
For something that was supposed to support the scallops, we ended up with a meal that didn't need them one bit.
And the wine led the way.
Wine: 2002 Michel Brégeon Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie Reserve ($25 - SFWTC)
I'll just plagiarize myself because it showed in the same delicious way as last January. Last bottle, unfortunately. That may change:
"Probably the most balanced crisp white I've ever had. Light but substantial. Complex yet quick to transition. Stony as all get out but developed in the most pure way. If I were rich, THIS would be my ideal spring-summer drinker and I would never get sick of it. Just so pretty, graceful, welcoming and stupid good.
Typical Muscadet melon and citrus notes with bright fresh acid intermingled with a white grapefruit note, all of it light, graceful and sparkly. Wet stones in the middle with a subtle yeasty note and finished with the lightest spring rainwater coda that refreshed, cleansed the palate and left me wanting more...quickly.
Eight (now nine) years old and it tasted like it was made yesterday. Beautifully put together and, as I said, the best Muscadet I've ever had in my rather limited Muscadet life. I'll up it. It's the best light, crisp white I've ever had with only a couple of Heredias, a Hüet and maybe a Champagne or two beating it in the all-around white category."I had to watch the butter with the bread as it muted the joy of this wine, making me feel like a taste of wine after some butter would be destroying something beautiful in life.
Pairing: 97 Can't get more technically good than this. Just can't.
Seems almost impossible to describe why. It just was. The sunflower seeds created this nutty-seedy baseline to the food that the wine took a cue from and ran with while perking up the richness from the lees in the wine. Minerals in the food guided and followed the minerals in the wine. Something about the preserved lemon and lemon juice in the food created a deliciously more complex citrus play in the wine. The rainwater quality in the wine matched up beautifully with the gardeny quality of the food.
For a meal initially so scallop-driven, we found a meal that didn't want them. A seawater quality in the wine played well with the scallops but everything else was more than enough.
Happy surprise. Tasted like we found out a secret that we weren't supposed to know. If everyone knew how great this wine was with this food and how simply great the wine is by itself, Brégeon wouldn't be charging $25 for it.