Thursday, March 8, 2012

#259 - Flatiron, Romesco & Manchego Artichokes With '01 Beronia Gran Reserva

A buffet of Spanish and Spanish with a side of Spanish.

In our world, that's Happy Food!

And it felt like it's been years.

Some of that absence comes from the fact that we beat that drum rather heartily from 2007 to 2010, utilizing The New Spanish Table to its fullest extent.  Some of that comes from an expansion out from Spanish into more pan-Mediterranean flavors, finding nooks and crannies in that world, mixing and matching, finding its joys and what we like.

Some of that also comes from the stake that Ad Hoc's Spanish night nearly drove into our Spanish heart.

But mostly, in reality, it's not true. We've eaten Spanish over the last year, just maybe not Spanish, Spanish, Happy Food, Spanish...

...or the kind of Spanish that leaves no doubts that it was Spanish - food, wine and all.

And the kind of Spanish food one might get from a decades-old neighborhoody restaurant on a hidden, cloistered, beautifully lit plaza late in the evening in Madrid that patently refuses to change with the times yet opens to long lines every night.

Cuz it's Happy Food.

Food:  Garlic flatiron steak, romesco, manchego artichokes, parsley oil, arugula salad and baguette

Flatiron steak rubbed with garlic and piment d'esplette, seared medium-rare in the cast-iron skillet.  Bright and meaty flatiron that did what it does well - serve as a vehicle for a rub more than announce its specific meatiness like hanger does.  Both are favorites but flatiron served better here in letting the rub play with the other flavors in the meal.  Wonderful garlic hit.

Romesco made with one jar of piquillo peppers, hazelnuts, bread crumbs and a big glop of leftover chimichurri.  Less loose than other romescos but with the parsley oil, that turned out to be a good thing.  Different levels of texture to play with and a delicious, enormously present nuttiness came through in the romesco.  With the parsley oil (simply parsley blending down with extra virgin olive oil), it felt like what some tasting menus shoot for with simplistic, one-word descriptions (i.e. - duck - foie gras - cherry).

This meal was Flatiron - Garlic - Hazelnut - Parsley.

And then the manchego artichokes were thrown in, putting it over the top.  Artichoke hearts 'gratin' sautéed up and thrown in a hot oven in a mini cast-iron with manchego.  Stupid good stuff that seemed key to getting to that place of Spanish, Spanish, Happy Food, Spanish.

Arugula salad with pomegranate seeds, parsley, mint, sherry vinegar and parsley oil to finish.  Baguette to dip in parsley oil, top with romesco and serve as a fork for the manchego artichokes.

This was What We Like for years and this meal felt like a 50th year class reunion where everyone shows up and no one annoys you in the least.

Felt like a great time.

And the wine brought the music and party favors in great ways.

Wine:  2001 Bodegas Beronia Rioja Gran Reserva ($25 - Spanish Table)

Opened an hour before the meal to see where it was.  Good place, no decant, left it open and that served us well.

Spicy as all get-out right away, swirling around with dark cherry, cedar and dusty orange peel in a great way.  Both of us were struck by an "oh crap, Rioja is so...gooood" feeling.  Nice coconut from the oak, delicious old-style-Rioja delicate, yet resolute structure with darker, smoky notes picking up on a finish that extended and stretched out quite beautifully.

A perfect example of old(er)-style Rioja from a Great vintage, gran reserva'd and ON THE CHEAP.  If we paid $50 for this one, that would have been fine, it's that good.

Had a teeny-tiny flat period and started to slow down a bit at the end of the two-hour meal but big recommendation here for delivering so thoroughly above its price tag and bringing nearly all the Rioja goods.

Pairing:  93 A bump in score for its Spanish-Spanishness

We didn't have many moments of "did you taste _____ with ______ and then take a drink?"  This meal was more in the world of tasting a place, feeling the breeze, smelling the smells and hearing the noises.

No clashes, no real obvious enhancements.  Just good Spanish food with good Spanish wine.

It's a distinct place and that place We very much Love.

Two Quick Notes:  More for cataloguing purposes, a nice enough dinner that found following the anise-flavored volatile compound lunch a few days ago.  Lavender-rosemary lamb with tea-soaked dried figs and potatoes and green beans served with a 2007 Te Awa Syrah Hawkes Bay ($30 - Binnys).  Beautiful lamb with nice accompaniments.  The impetus of the meal, the tea-soaked figs, didn't jump out but we got some great medium-rare lamb with perfect hits of lavender and rosemary.

Wanted syrah and built around it.  We got a good meal but a meal we wouldn't necessarily do again.  We got a nice wine but a wine we would necessarily buy again at $30.  The price tag is justified.  There's some quality goods here with the 2007 Te Awa Syrah.  Very medium-bodied, opening with a red fruit swirl led by cumin-rubbed cherry and steered by a nice clove base.  Touches of wet newspaper in a not unpleasant way and a white pepper finish.  Wanted more length.  Odd, good bird.  Not jumping to get more but distinctive, leaving me more open to exploring the world of New Zealand syrah.  Most struck by nothing being too loud with a sufficient balance and complexity to jump and jive with the food.  Worked but didn't leave a big impression.  Pairing Score:  88

A trip to Anteprima in Andersonville.  Bumpy ride.  Hit and miss with Mrs. Ney getting the brunt of the miss.  Still delicious, if a touch heat-lamped octopus, great grilled calamari, rather boring burrata, bland stuffed cabbage, cream and shrimp = keep it...always, vongole riff overwhelmed by pancetta, rather great chicken liver crostini, ever-so slightly undercooked but nice cannellini beans.  Our last (first) time there, it was magical stuff.  This time, not so much.  But 2010 Tamellini Soave for $30 a bottle.  Peach, lemon rind, wax and herbs with proper, medium acid and a refreshing mineral finish.  Don't need much more for $30 at a restaurant.  That ups this place more than anything and the fact that this delicious guzzle-worthy offering matches up so well with many of the offerings (particularly anything touched with parsley) and direction of the menu.  Sometimes, an average-ish meal gets bigger points with a wine that approaches match-matchy with a wide array of plates and a bill that doesn't break the bank in the least.

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