Thursday, January 30, 2014

French-Spanish-American With French-Spanish-American, Plus Other Stuff

Jolly good food week.

We had wine and food that matched up with their countries, something somewhat rare for a string of three meals in our house.

Usually, there's some crossover or playing around, just to keep it frisky.

#1 Chicken thighs, fennel and olives with crispy potato roast, served with 2010 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe La Crau Blanc ($58 - Saratoga)

French and French. Thomas Keller recipe. Last had here with the exact same wine and vintage.

It's $8 food with spendy wine. Two changes to the recipe. Tarragon added and thighs marinated in leftover Michael Symon salsa verde (from meal below).  It is what the name of the recipe says it is, except when it comes together, it tastes like food that's been eaten and refined over the course of 200 years. That's what Thomas Keller recipes taste like. He makes food that proportion. Everything serves a purpose at just the right level. That's what we found here again. Cheap food. Fairly easy food (that's saying something for Keller recipes). Utterly delicious food. This wine with this meal can't get better. Just can't. It's slap-to-the-face good.

Not cheap wine. Found it at Binny's inexplicably marked down to $40 a year ago and should have bought so much more. It's a blend of 40% Clairette, 30% Grenache Blanc and 15% each of Roussanne and Bourboulenc. That's why we didn't buy more. CdP whites don't thrill us. Dropping hard money on such things REALLY doesn't thrill us. Then we drank this one and were once again proved wrong about a wine prejudice. Best Southern Rhône white we've ever had and it's not even close. Balanced but not "Gimme more of that!" by itself. With food, it blossoms into a happy wonder of subtle pears, apples and orange blossom with almonds and cheese. Shiny minerals all over. Happy perks of acid at just the right places. Just soooo happy.

Stupid-great food, same for the wine, and a pairing that feels like they were made for each other.

#2 Rabbit meatball, chorizo and chickpea stew with kale, served with 2006 Dominio de Atauta Ribera del Duero ($30 - Zachy's)  

Spanish and Spanish. From chickpea stew recipe in The New Spanish Table (page 311), swapping out pork for rabbit meat in the meatballs and adding rosemary, while cooking the chickpeas in rabbit stock and water. I keep saying we've barely touched this cookbook, even though Mrs. Ney has made a decent amount of recipes from it. But it is meals like this one that makes it feel like it might be the best cookbook ever. Ate like a hearty stew while simultaneously coming off perfectly light. I've never tasted anything like this before, eating like comfort food from people I've never met and now want/need to. Would have been good with pork but it was the rabbit that made this sorta ridiculous. Side note: Pastoral on Broadway is carrying Olympic Provisions (Portland, Oregon) salumi. It's fantastic salumi, $12.

First 2006 of the Dominio de Atauta for us (2005 here). Very nice first showing, with less of a smoky background than I expected from a Ribera. Fresher fruit, more gentle dark red fruit, with a nice evolution throughout the meal. Chewy upon opening, yet we didn't decant until we got to the (coffee) table. Risky choice but worked. This wasn't perfect with this food but happy enough to like what was offered, letting all the flavors in the meal shine through, while having enough of a personality and quality to serve as a solid compliment. Great with a rosemary bite. Medium weight, medium finish, very Ribera without ever being a bully. Dominio de Atauta is a lifelong follow.

#3 Hanger steak, onion rings and arugula, served with 2010 Villa Creek Willow Creek Cuvée Paso Robles ($40 - Winery)

American and American. Whole Foods hanger steak, seared an aggregate medium-ish (two oblong pieces, bulbous in some places, thin in others, led to rare, medium-rare, medium, medium-well bites). Post-grill marinade (minus sugar), which is the only way we really do beef anymore, because it's Good. Leftover marinade put in ramekins to dip and dunk. It's like Asian-ish dipping sauce for your meat. Who doesn't want that? Homemade buttermilk onion rings and grilled kumato aioli from Bobby Flay. Arugula salad to finish.

Meat, Asian-ish meat dipping sauce, onion rings, mayo dipping sauce and greens. Simple, delicious stuff.

And we were shocked how much we loved this Villa Creek number. 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 20% Mourvèdre. We didn't love the 2006 Willow Creek Cuvée a few years ago. Liked the 2009 much more with ropa vieja and tostones nearly two years ago. The 2010 is the best we've had of the Willow Creeks. Enormous quality in the glass here, so much more packed with a fully-formed personality. It's like the Louis C.K. of wine, knowing when and how to say things, and knowing when to leave things up for interpretation. Opened 90 minutes before eating and liked it where it would be by the time we started eating. Tons of blueberry with subtle touches of licorice. Perfectly round, ripe but never turning rich and sappy, straddling that fine line beautifully, always staying in the savory realm. Bigger wine, of course, but never big. We gotta get to Paso Robles. That stuff is getting really good.

With this food, the wine completed the journey to an all-American feast. Slid right in and frolicked around to great effect.          

Some Notes from Last Week

For Record-keeping:

Monday:  Seared hanger steak (salt and pepper), pan deglazed with red wine, dumped over cooked beef.  Rick Bayless salsa negra and corn cakes (Williams-Sonoma recipe), served with 2011 Rock Wall Zinfandel Jesse's Vineyard Contra Costa County ($17 - Binny's)

We liked this meal, quality Mexican-California hybrid. Big hopes for the wine, as Rock Wall makes quality juice. It just didn't get out of the gate like we'd hoped, missing the guts we wanted to steer this food to a place of great heights.

Tuesday:  Roast chicken with Michael Symon salsa verde. Kumatoes. Arugula. Seeduction bread and butter, served with Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rosé North Coast ($20 - Vin Chicago). If there's a house meal not influenced by the season, this is probably it. Always wanted. Always delicious. The Brut Rosé, a $20 bargain, isn't anything spectacular. It's simply welcome stuff. Basic fruit, standard lift, normal brut rosé flavors. All of it comes together into something where you don't feel like it was $20 ill-spent. Worked with the food in just good enough ways.

Wednesday:  Age-old sepia pasta bought at Fox & Obel.  Sauteed fennel + pistachios + preserved meyer lemon + lemon thyme, pan deglazed with Muscadet; lobster stock added, reduced; lobster stock added, reduced; lobster stock added, reduced.  Kumato puree + tarragon, warmed with crab, grilled asparagus, scallion. Parsley and basil. A flurry of seafood flavors in a combination we've never had and entirely wanted once we got into it. It was sort of a "What the hell is this? Oh, wait a minute, it's delicious!"

Served with a bottle of 2010 San Clodio Ribeiro ($15 - Binny's). 70% Treixadura and the rest small amounts of Godello, Loureira, Torrontes and Albarino. Even with the gray hairs on this wine, its maturity became part of its attraction. A settling-in of its fruit allowed all the secondary flavors of herbs and fruit oils to come through. We love this one young and love it old (-er). Older here, with nonetheless enough acid to keep everything in line. Dry, floral, Chenin-like in ways, with a background grip of minerally sea spritz and lemons. Nice with the food. What Galician white wine isn't delicious? I could drink them forever.  

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