Best morning read: Terry Theise on Charlie Trotter.
Excerpting the below quote isn't fair to the piece because this is not what it's about, but I loved that somebody said this, particularly the "95%" part:
"I sometimes was bemused by Trotter's wine list, thrilled though I was to contribute to it. Let's say, it was very large, and also that it seemed to have a lot of wines designed to attract and reassure a certain kind of "well-heeled clientele" without particularly referring to the food. But this is an abiding complaint of mine; restaurants with massive capital tied up in red-wine inventory when 95 percent of their food is white-wine food. And yes, I've heard all the protestations that "people expect it," but if someone "expects" a 16-ounce T-Bone steak he isn't going to Trotter's to find it. Why should he "expect" to drink Silver Oak Cab with his quince soup?"It's a problem and has always been a problem. Many restaurants Mr. Theise is talking about do indeed also have thoughtful white wine selections, catered to their menu in a broad sense, with a few intriguing, rare, off-the-beaten path numbers that prick up your ears. But it could be more than a few if these places didn't think a 15 vintage vertical of Silver Oak and every first-growth Bordeaux was somehow necessary.
I get it. That's the moneymaker. The filthy rich/expense-account class fund these restaurants in many ways. But when the vast majority of the menu/tasting menu at these places would be just awful with such a burly cabernet/blend, it frustrates. A small quibble but a quibble nonetheless.
Food: Thai skirt steak and papaya salad with rice
Recipe here. Last eaten here in a more together, balanced form, though all the Thai flavors wanted in this version were present.
Skirt steak rare to medium-rare. Marinated for a couple hours in seven cloves of garlic, manzano pepper (didn't have Thai bird this time - manzano served as a sub quite well here), soy sauce, lime juice, honey, grape seed oil (ran out of peanut oil) and peanuts (because we ran out of peanut oil). Shredded papaya and carrot salad with watercress, topped with peanuts and cilantro. Dressing of manzano pepper, shallots, mint, rice vinegar, sugar and fish sauce, drizzled on the salad and beef. Rice on the side.
We missed the lemongrass a bit in the rice, the manzano offered more direct heat but cut off at just the right point, peanuts could have been roasted a bit more, hanger is better than skirt here (and always, really), papaya was a touch less ripe than preferred (went with a small one - go big), Red Boat fish sauce is more delicate so use more, and use less sugar than recipe calls for (we did, it works).
Not as "Holy sh&*!" as last time but some happy, clean Thai flavors last night.
Wine: 2009 Hélène d'Orléans Vouvray Brut Millésimé ($17 - Vin Chicago) & 2006 Királyudvar Tokaji Sec ($8 - Vin Chicago)
No idea why the Hélène d'Orléans Vouvray Brut was marked down from $32 but it was. Age and perception of that with Vouvray Brut was probably the culprit. More for us. And in the mid-teens? Hell, yeah. Tastes like someone forgot to put sugar in a ginger snap, with enough lift and broadness to more than satisfy at this price. A pleasing Vouvray Brut style, not eager to please, but more apt to try to ingratiate itself to whatever is on the plate and whomever is drinking. Missed the cut, sharp turns, minerals and angles good Vouvray Brut gives, but...
We like the very specific, individualistic style which some Vouvray Bruts reach/aspire. But they can sometimes put themselves in a box with food, like a professor that walks into a party and immediately launches into a diatribe on string theory. It's interesting, but a little presumptuous. This Vouvray Brut surveys the crowd and adjusts to the room. Happy stuff, and pretty damn cheap to boot.
When Wine Discount Center threw the 2006 Királyudvar Sec into the bargain bin for $8 a bottle, I bought a case, thinking it was the steal of the year. That resulted in a lot of pretty crap-ass bottles over the last couple of years, drinking so flat and boring so quick it was almost admirable. Like when you don't see a friend for five years and then you do, and they turned into the Crypt Keeper. Here, though, it drank as nearly good fermented apple cider. Oddly...liked...it.
Pairing: Good. Enough.
Refreshment and relief from the heat in this meal was offered by the wine. Just enough. Missed to cleansing lift that more acid offers, but with the Vouvray Brut still giving all it had to offer with this amount of heat, I say kudos.
Persistent flavors over technical pairing interweaving here, but pleased enough with that.