Thursday, August 15, 2013

"Put A Bunch Of Fresh Stuff On It."

In the tradition of "put a bird on it," with vacation coming, it's "clean out the fridge and freezer and put fresh stuff on it" month.

That typically makes for interesting dinners, but never sub-par dinners. Throw a bunch of fresh stuff on a meal and it's rare that stocked-up, wrapped-up, Ziploc'ed meat and vittles thrown into the freezer a couple of months ago tastes like such.

Simply make fresh marinades and "put a bunch of fresh stuff on it" and it's winner, winner, freezer-food lunch and dinner!

Meal #1

Trader Joe's French pizzas gussied up with finely chopped green beans and walnuts added. Dill-spiked salad blend to finish. A quality TJ's product made better by the addition of "stuff." Served with a bottle of 2011 Ponzi Arneis Willamette Valley ($25 - Winery). I got a little silly on the phone with Ponzi last year, ordering way too much arneis when I heard they were almost out. In our experience since that time, Ponzi's pinot gris has been the play for the 2011 vintage, as the arneis has seen better days.

But a similar showing happened with the arneis as in the past, tasting like frozen Five-Alive concentrate (do they still make that? I ask again) by itself and then becoming longer, lighter and stretched out with food. Same here, but tasting like the frozen concentrate has been sitting on the counter for a few hours. More like serviceable than delicious but we liked it here for its transformation. Wine Enthusiast just profiled Oregon's pinot gris with Ponzi's effort in the mix. We just had it last month with tuna and Thai-style watermelon and radish salad, loving every second of that meal and pairing. $16 at Binny's right now.

Pairing here with the arneis? More of an 86.

Meal #2

Post-grill marinade freezer hanger steak with West Side Market potato, jalapeño, and corn pierogis, thankfully brought home by a co-worker who went to Cleveland, served with 2010 Neyers Sage Canyon Napa Valley ($12 - Binny's). Beef marinades, at times, miss the freshness that the marinade itself seems to promise, becoming a bit TOO integrated. This solves that. This has become this summer's house flavor. Whip up the marinade, let it sit on the counter at room temp, smoked paprika-sugar your meat (pfft!), grill it up, dump the marinade over the meat, let it sit for 10 minutes, slice and go to town. Insanely fresh protein goodness that allows you to taste every flavor you put into it. Freezer hanger made better. Throw a bunch of cilantro on it. Toss some roasted poblanos and put it on the meat. Dump crème fraiche and leftover salsa together and dip and dunk away. With fancy Cleveland pierogis, this was a southwestern food hug.

A bottle of 2007 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel had been on our rack forever, collecting house air, daring us to drink it. Thinking it was rather ripe and big, we've avoided it. It wasn't that. But it was also corked, if ever so slightly. So we opened the Neyers Sage Canyon Red, a bottle usually sold in the low-20s but marked down at Binny's to $12 recently for some inexplicable reason. Grenache, syrah, mourvèdre and carignane. The first vintage for Neyers using this blend and kudos to them! Happy herbs and earth wrapped around the dryish, but young red fruit with this one. Medium length with red licorice touches going down. Popped with a vibrancy right after opening and that kept up for most of the meal, fading a bit towards the end, but we enjoyed all it had to offer. Worth its original $20 price. A steal at $12. Its youth worked with the food, offering a backbone that played with the soy and dijon in admirable ways. Pairing Score: 89      

Meal #3

Filipino grilled chicken, yuca fries and green gazpacho, served with 2011 Guy Saget Marie de Beauregard Vouvray ($15 - WDC) and 2012 Terre Nere Etna Rosato Sicilia ($18 - WDC).

To keep the MIL from again asking "have you tried it yet?":  fresh, spicy and delicious green gazpacho to start. Both of us saw Filipino chicken on the cover of this month's F&W and wanted that. And you should, too. It's adobo, basically, with its garlic, soy and vinegar base. Mrs. Ney used coconut vinegar. That, combined with the lemon juice and fish sauce took this to a place of great back-and-forth between freshy fresh and deep and dirty, even almost grassy. Parsley dumped on all of it. Yuca fries with a mayo and Peruvian yellow pepper purée concoction to dip. This was more than just a one-off Filipino chicken experience. Might be a rotation chicken dinner. Because there's a lot of coconut vinegar left.

The wines weren't anything of note, but the both happily played with the Peruvian yellow pepper, with the Vouvray going from "well...that's boring Vouvray" to "that's...less...boring." We reached for the Terre Nere Etna Rosato more, a wine that gave a sun-baked, red fruit freshness to a undercurrent of earth. For its price...nah. But nice...enough. Pairing Score: 84

Meal #4

Weeknight dinner that was the best pairing of the week and it's not even close. Clean-out-the-crisper-of-herbs pesto with farro spaghetti and roasted tomatoes, served with 2012 Trader Joe's label Saint-Bris Sauvignon Blanc ($10 - Trader Joe's).

Dill, tarragon, parsley, mint, oregano, pine nuts, pecorino and olive oil, mashed together all pesto-style. Tossed in farro spaghetti and way-past-their-prime slow-roasted lemon-thyme tomatoes. Whole grain pasta adds the dirty goods:  herby, gardeny, delicious.

With the best wine buy of 2013. Saint-Bris, a region of Burgundy that exclusively grows sauvignon blanc and gris, was unknown to us until this wine. If this bottle is any indication, we're on board. It's different sauvignon blanc, with the lightest creamy edge that plays with its gray minerals and proper touch of red and white flesh tropical fruit basket notes in delicate and kinda fancy ways. We like this and you should as well. If you don't, you're dead to me.

Pairing Score: 93

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