Tuesday, October 2, 2012

#300 - Romanian Skirt Steak, Spring Onions & Scallion Sauce With '07 Twisted Oak The Spaniard

Hey...we made it to 300 pairings.

Or 300 posts with probably 450 pairings.

I guess, given the societal significance attached to numbers ending to double zeros, I should sum up what we've learned lo these last almost three years.

Learned...? Hmm. I guess that is the word here. Because we have learned, while it's always been a rather organic process dictated entirely by our own random curiosity.

In many ways, food with wine has become what we love, what we do, it's our hobby, the thing we find infinitely interesting and...fun. Finding that in our 30's was something unexpected and joyful.

We knew all that when I started this blog but it's become a little more entrenched, more of a love I would say, more essential and true when talking about what we like in life. Because it's good.

So good.

Like this.

Food:  Romanian skirt steak with spring onions in scallion sauce, roasted potatoes with mayo for dipping and arugula salad

Recipe here (subscription required). Skirt steak marinated in paprika, olive oil, rosemary and garlic overnight, seared in a medium rare with a spectacularly crunchy crust on the outside. It seemed like forever since we'd had beef and it has been, going back to early August. Tasted like it. This tasted new again. The spring onions sautéed up and placed over the top. Delicious complement. Needed.

Scallion sauce (scallions, garlic, parsley, lemon, olive oil) on the bottom. Not particularly delicious addition. Fine, but nothing that added any sort of superlative goodness. A bit separated as it didn't become more than the sum of its parts. Roasted potatoes with mayo (orange zest, roasted garlic, sherry vinegar) for dipping.

Arugula with mint, extra virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar to finish.

Here was a meal that should have been very oniony but wasn't. Nothing in it screamed "onions!" due to the integration and tempering brought on by the olive oil and herbs. The onions weren't the scene chewer, this was a broad and proper ensemble cast playing off each other instead of trying to play the one-up game.

Meat and potatoes that tasted much better than what that usually connotes.

Wine Spectator does an $8 & $20 feature. $8 for the food, $20 for the wine. This meal was $15 and $60. We typically excel at the $15 and $30 world, bringing a ton of great meals at home in under $50 that taste better than so much the Chicago restaurant world offers at three/four times the price. Oddly, wandering above that $50 line, usually with a more expensive wine number, can be a little hit and miss.

This was not one of the misses. Not even close.

Wine: 2007 Twisted Oak The Spaniard Calaveras County ($62 - Crush)

64% tempranillo, 20% graciano, 16% garnacha

Not cheap but had something we continue to think is boffo stuff - traditionally Old World grapes grown in the New World. We found that love with Mas de Maha and its juicy-fresh tempranillo goodness. It continues with so many others and it now includes this one.

Cherry and a bit of blackberry fruit but this wine was about the vibrant secondary flavors. Vivid and fresh mesquite bursted out of the glass. Juicy but the juiciness was led by roasting herbs. Creamy with a creaminess accented by toasted oats. Smoky like a welcoming smoke that hits you on a bike ride at dusk and the smell of burning leaves hit you in just the right way. Tannins and oak laying down the perfect bass chords right now. Smooth stuff but never too smooth. Transitions signaling at every turn that it was a confident wine revealing itself on its own terms.

We'll be following this one each vintage. Tons of fun in the bottle here.

Pairing:  93  A meal that reinforces the reason I've done this thing 300 freakin' times

Something about the spring onions with the crunchy, perfectly cooked skirt steak brought this food to a place of freshness, vitality and just gosh-darn food greatness. Tasted like backyard, wine country food on a lazy, sun-drenched day. Food made for a slowness.

For the wine, it was the same. Bites of beef with spring onion made the top-notch mesquiteness in the wine jump to the fore with a slow fade into herbs and oats and the fruit coming later. And that fruit weaved its way into the grooves of the crunchy, paprika-driven crust in ways so pretty.

Both of us were genuinely mad when the bottle ran out and it went quick as each bite felt like it needed the wine to participate, to make each bite reach its best place.

That's success and why we do this.

Happy 300 to us.

Quick Lunch Note:  Shrimp sauteed in extra virgin olive oil, Jamie Oliver's peri-peri sauce dumped in and served with Israeli feta with Indian wild, raw honey and pink peppercorns, baguette for dipping, dragging and topping with cheese and honey. Eaten with 2011 Ameztoi Txakolina ($17 - WDC).

Best peri-peri sauce batch we've had, I think. Oodles of complexity and depth. Bigger Trader Joe's shrimp than usual. Feta at the best place this feta has been for us.

Lunch plans went from leftovers to something quite fancy for a total of about $30. We consumed a decent amount of cheap Txakoli three weeks ago in Basque Country and Rioja. It became a signature flavor of the vacation along with viura-malsavia blends. This one was a little more expensive than the vacation spritz and the boost in quality followed the boost in price. Seawater notes and clam shells defined the wine with its lemon-lime notes properly staying in the background instead of getting all lime-ade Vinho Verde-ish. Refreshing stuff and we'd buy it again, mainly because it mixed and mingled admirably with the shrimp lunch. Basic pairing goodness here more than anything truly over-the-top great but sometimes that's all that's needed. This was one of those times. Just give me great shrimp and cheese and wash it down with a spritzy seawater delight. We're good.  Pairing Score: 89

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