Tuesday, March 13, 2012

#260 - Shrimp With Riesling & Barolo-Braised Beef With Nebbiolo

Sometime this summer, we'll hit post #300 here at Food With Wine.

When that happens, we'll also come in at around 300,000 words, give or take.

Or well over half of War & Peace.

(...Pause...reflect...throw up a little in my mouth...)

Let's just move on.  Putting it in that context is troublesome.

Shrimp Lunch!  Always an exclamation point with shrimp lunch (!) because it feels fancy pants.  Good lunches are important.  Makes the day feel long.

Lunch:  Rosemary, pineapple, red bell pepper, jalapeño shrimp with baguette and mâche salad

Top notch, top notch!  And we probably won't be doing this preparation again.  Something about the pineapple makes me think it's never going to hit the food-wine zone that we love so much.  It's too upfront, too obvious, too pushy, too...pineappley.

But great balance in the shrimp here.  Inspired by one of the volatile compound charts in Taste Buds & Molecules, it's a breezy recipe.  Copious amounts of rosemary sautéed up with pineapple, red pepper and jalapeño.  Add the shrimp, get 'em cooked and done.  Rosemary pervaded every bite in a beautiful way with the entire dish having an underlying heat that wasn't too powerful in the least.  Perfect hit.  Juice in the bottom of the mini cast-iron was drinkable.  Shrimp were delicious with rosemary getting in there, down deep.  Just a nice balance overall that hit a place.  Played in a realm of flavor we hadn't had before and liked it.  As a recipe, it was something to build off and remember.  Rosemary and pineapple is delicious.

The wines were interesting enough with one stand-out.  Started with a 2007 Rudi Pichler Riesling Federspiel ($15 - WDC), another Wine Discount Center deep markdown riesling after it peaked in drinking window reviews.  This was one of the few deep markdown rieslings that warranted such things.  A lot of dusty litter box cat pee remnants mixing with lime peel and not in an unpleasant way.  Not really pleasant or graceful or interesting or wanted, but not unpleasant.  An example of a wine with an acid that was fading and was not going to go gently into that good night.  Oh, it will leave the party but not before breaking a few things and urinating in the sink first.  It lost its graceful expression, its swagger, its marching notes.  Not discombobulated but it came off like a clunky panel discussion where nobody takes the lead.  Nice chalky, stony notes here and there with a length on the finish that showed hints of its former self (smoked pears?) but it's a surly bugger right now going through an awkward acid phase with not enough at its core to follow.  Tasted like an old riesling in a mood.  And compared to the 2006, it missed any sort of high-toned expression (white raspberry and salted alfalfa sprouts in that one).  Unfortunately, that one was killed by Shrimp On Fire.

The 2010 Selbach Incline Riesling Mosel ($10 - WDC) is a different beast.  Dr. L is the exemplar in many ways at this price point and it beats it down rather harshly.  Where the Dr. L becomes a better wine when you see the price tag ("It's good...it's $12?  It's great!"), the Selbach Incline has the guts of a much more spendy riesling wrapped in a $10 bill ("This is great...it's $10?  This is awesome!").  The entry is standard stuff, offering a basket of citrus fruit, all sparkly and bright with an awakening pop of acid.  From the mid-palate to the finish though is where it shines, where it gets all pause-worthy.  All Mosel, all stretchy, all slaty, defined and chiseled.  Beautiful stuff wrapped in a bargain basement package.

Nothing special in the pairing but some nice highlights.  The red pepper made strong efforts to get the Rudi Pichler in line and largely succeeded.  Good stuff.  The cat pee quality mixed and mingled in a unique, if not especially wanted way with a big bite of rosemary and pineapple but something respectable here.  The Selbach, though, with its freshy-fresh entry and shimmering length stepped to the plate with the shrimp, skillet juice, heat and rosemaryness of the meal in fancier ways.  Tasted like both were more willing to talk to each other and get along.  Pairing Score:  87 

Dinner:  Barolo-braised beef and root vegetable purée with 2007 Palmina Nebbiolo Santa Barbara County ($14 - Binny's)

Yeah...$14.  Half-off.  Why?  No.  Idea.  The Palmina Barbera was the same, served with a modified sausage and rapini, and it was delicious.  In an effort to save money this year on wine, I've opted to take a more focused approach, joining wine clubs from some of our favorite wineries.  I'm about to toss Palmina on the list, taking the total this year up to four and counting.  My new approach is quickly showing itself to be a failure in the money-saving department.  This nebbiolo only confirms some crazy genius at work at Palmina.

Barolo-braised beef (chuck) based on a recipe in The Best International Recipe, from the gents at Cook's Illustrated.  The standard prep for braised beef for the most part.  Carrots, onion (leftover French onion soup used as a stand-in), celery, flour, pancetta, basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, garlic and a bottle of Barolo ($17 - TJ's).  Quality braised beef here.  We liked it.  Not an insane amount of work and some great braisey flavor with meat just starting to fall apart.  Parsnip, celery root and potato mash as a base.  Freaky Good stuff.  We feared the beautiful weather would cloud (see what I did there...) our desire for braised meat but it wasn't the case.  This came off light.  We ate well.

The wine was a wonder in itself.  The Palmina Nebbiolo (about an hour decant) opened with roses, blackberry-cherry juice and truffle all over the place and finished with a solid hit of vanilla (maybe too much but didn't get in the way).  Some people in my restaurant world ask for a Barolo, thinking they're asking for a massive, big, dry wine but nebbiolo really isn't that.  And this Palmina has much of the stuffing that quality Barolo offers.  It's an earlier-drinking, more fruity version but in the earlier-drinking, more fruit-driven Barolo world (and the war that accompanies such talk), I'll take this stuff any day of the week.  Because it's not trying to be a Barolo.  It's nebbiolo from California without being so obviously from California.  Tasted blind, I'd be a confused ape.  Nebbiolo, sure, but from where?  Pretty, pretty, pretty fruit showing a juicy-fresh dark fruit quality mixing with licorice, a hit of truffle dust and vanilla with roses showing up everywhere.  On the top-end of medium-bodied.  Nice tannins just starting to integrate, showing plenty of life ahead, and just a friendly wine all around from a grape we simply don't drink often.  Tons of distinction.  Sorta loved it.

With cheap Barolo in the braise and nebbiolo in the glass, our pairing was happy-slappy with both of us rather surprised how light everything was; bringing a seamlessness and streamlining that served to lift the pairing up and keep it there.  Pairing Score:  91 

Toss another 1,200 words on the pile.  I believe at this point, Napoleon is marching towards Moscow.  Ugh.

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