Wednesday, November 28, 2012

#309: TWIB: A Potpourri of Pairings

We're in slowdown mode here at FWW but let's whip out some food & wine pairings had over the course of this busy holiday week in the tradition of "Boom! Roasted!"

Things we learned during this Thanksgiving blur: Leave Amarone Classico on the shelf. Spend $4 more for the good albariño. Kermit Lynch could release a Night Train-based beverage and we'd buy it. The 2007 Vale Meão STILL isn't ready. Rubber, plastic and petrol tastes terrible in wine form (or any form, really). Cheap Crasto doesn't taste cheap. And food is good.

I also learned that Krzysztof Kieślowski's The Decalogue will utterly destroy the hearts and minds of anyone with a heart and mind. This is ten hours of real and honest filmmaking with some spectacular acting that makes you mad when you realize it has to end, as you want to stay in that world so completely. Can't recommend it more highly.

Let's do some cataloguing:

Sunday Gravy with 2007 Monte del Fra Amarone Classico Tenuta Lena di Mezzo ($55 - Binny's)

Recipe here. Last had by us in write-up form here. Lamb, pork, veal and Idiazabal cheese meatballs with Italian sausages this time, eliminating the ribs (a bit of a mistake as the rib juice bleeds into the gravy deliciously but it's more work and work wasn't on the agenda this week). Sunday Gravy is a meaty-stewy wonder. Good one here. The Amarone Classico suffered from its early drinking and Classico-ness. Strong echoes of what makes Amarone good, showing cola, cherry, licorice and a faint raisiny element, but missing the richness, depth and length wanted and needed to make this meal The Truth. $55? Nope. But enough delight to keep pace with Sunday Gravy and all its groove.  Pairing Score: 87 

Pasta al Limone with 2010 Regis Minet Pouilly Fumé Vieilles Vignes ($21 - Binny's) & 2010 Legado de Conte Albariño ($16 - Binny's)

Food made utterly better by its simplicity. Recipe here. Last had by us here (golly, that La Spinetta Vermentino that time was A Beast!). Linguine, lemon, parmigano-reggiano, pecorino, garlic, olive oil, thyme and tons of parsley. I am shocked, I tell you, that I haven't done a write-up on this Kermit Lynch-imported Pouilly Fumé because we drink it fairly regularly. It's sauvignon blanc with guts and grace wrapped in a $20 package. And all Frenchy. All cat pee and hay, like the cat had a bladder issue in the barn, but in the best sense. The Albariño, if it were $12, would be a frequent purchase, taking the jones for an albariño but not wanting to drop a twenty-spot (most good ones start there) into the world of cheap and satisfying. $16? Nah. Guava-jackfruit-lemon hybrid in the fruit realm with solid enough acid and touch of cream. Missed the pause brought by good albariño but not too shabby. This food screams for a complexity to take it to a place of fancy. Almost got that with the albariño. Got it enough with the Pouilly Fumé. Didn't touch the complexity brought on by the flowers and minerals of the La Spinetta. Pairing Score: 89

Soft linguiça, potato-kale cake and marinated Idiazabal cheese with 2007 Quinta do Vale Meão Douro ($75 - Shoppers Wines - NJ)

House favorite. Portugese-Spanish mishmash with Portuguese wine. Last saw the stupid greatness of this meal here, served with Vallado's cheap 2007 tinto, which completely changed my opinion on the heights that wine can reach.

Same food experience this time. Paulina soft linguiça (soft is like meat, hard is like salami), usual potato-kale cake goodness and Idiazabal cheese marinated in olive oil, chili pepper and bay leaf. It's café patio tapas-y food, pick and choose your bite at your own leisurely pace and drink something that sings the same song.

Strike two on drinking the 2007 Vale Meão at its most talky point. Last had it here. Reticent but delicious then, same now. I was wrong on the "one to two years" bit. Usually am. But the interesting part of this showing was its Rhône-ness. Like it was made by some crazy-mad producer in CDP who says, "Screw your fruit. I'm going to show you why French brush and dirt is awesome." Two-hour decant and barely budged. Accessible now but not recommended with the tannins still shortening the overall experience. Just not broad enough yet to have a chance to reveal all its secrets. The food had a crowbar handy, using it liberally to pry open a window to the potential of this wine. We saw its goods often. We just never got to touch and play with it as often as we'd had liked. Overspent here big time given the near-perfection Vallado offered in the same vintage at $20 (even had a really cheap 2007 Mural Douro last week and saw the same thing. You see 2007 Douro, you buy that). Lesson learned. Pairing Score: 89

Jerk chicken, grilled pineapple, biscuits and mâche with 2011 Ameztoi Txakolina ($21 - Binny's)  

Another house fav. Spicy chicken thighs, juicy, charred pineapple, some sort of fancy biscuits (Dorie Greenspan here), salad to finish and clean it up, serve it with a wine that counters the spice and you got yourself a winner, winner, Jamaican jerk chicken dinner.

Failure in the wine realm. Wanted to try the 2010 Ponzi Riesling ($20 - Winery) and got a bad bottle offering a unique and terrible mélange of plastic, rubber and petrol that I can still conjure up in my mouth. Only chilled option in the house was Txakolina, the vacation-evoking Ameztoi. Fine enough as the chicken wasn't as heavily spiced as in the past but nothing to see here. Move along. Pairing Score: 80

Ropa minus the vieja with 2008 Quinta do Crasto Flor de Crasto Douro ($12 - WDC)

Medium-rare skirt steak put over the top of a stew consisting of green and red peppers, half-can of San Marzano tomatoes, chicken stock, red wine, roasted garlic, cumin, smoked paprika, cloves, oregano, bay leaves. It's ropa without the vieja, as the meat wasn't integrated into the stew. We've come to like it better this way. More fresh and weirdly more wine-friendly. Balsamic-roasted pearl onions, arugula/parsley salad and sweet potato fries to round things out.

Ropa vieja meals have become Super Bowl dinners the last two years, both with Villa Creek Mas de Maha (oxtail with 2008 this year, this prep and flank with 2006 two years ago). It's fancy Cuban pot roast love.

Mas de Maha has a competitor with this meal now at a third of the price. Quinta do Crasto's youngest child is growing up. All cinnamon and Mounds bar last time (near the bottom of write-up) with maccorone pasta after having to abort a bad bottle of aglianico. That was over two years ago. Read that again. This one is $12. Good upon release. Great two years later, showing a perfectly integrated blend of spendy dark chocolate, cinnamon, balsamic-rubbed then grilled plums and river mud made all the better by a proper structure, shocking length and a bright, refreshing finish. This one continues to taste like $25 in a $12 wrapper. Pairing Score: 90

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