We ate and drank fine enough this week, but thoughts on food, wine and their pairings were gobbled up by this comically terrible winter. If this shifting jet stream business has any validity, that this TYPE of winter is here to stay...we might have to live someplace else. In Chicago, it's going to be cold, it's going to be gray, and it's going to last you the rest of your life.
Monday Lunch: Bocadillos with arugula salad, served with 2012 Crios Rosé of Malbec Mendoza ($12 - Whole Foods) and Trader Joe's rosé of Zinfandel Mendocino ($8 - TJ's)
Grilled, pressed sandwiches (from Pintxos) of LaQuercia prosciutto, petit Basque cheese, kumatoes and mustard on Pugliese. Good. I like manchego and serrano here better, but these satisfied. Wanted to drink Charles & Charles rosé with this meal because it's "The Special," but it was out of stock everywhere. The Crios's impression was "It's okay...fine...whatever...well, it has a solid minimum goodness with this meal." The TJ's rosé even bursted out of its white Zin-ness to be almost interesting. Wouldn't do this pairing again. Felt like we were lucky enough to avoid "I'm gettin' nothin'" and that's really it.
Monday Dinner: Basque shrimp and piperade with crostini and arugula, served with 2004 Dominio do Bibei La Pola Ribeira Sacra ($48 - Spanish Table)
More Pintxos food. Basque shrimp with garlic chips, piment d'Esplette, confit of lemon and parsley. Piperade (red/yellow pepper, onions, garlic, tomatoes) stewed up to put on crostini. (More) arugula salad. Shrimp overdone a touch, but still shrimpy without being rubbery. Piperade a touch overdone. This was "food" in a basic sense, with enough flavors to feel like dinner. But it was missing something with every bite to take it over the edge into "good." Confit of lemon didn't pop. I missed salt and pepper at a critical stage somewhere. Something.
And I can't say the 2004 Dominio do Bibei La Pola, a godello-forward wine with a little dona blanca, torrontés and loureiro, is worth the $48 price tag to get it to our house at this stage of its development, but it WAS unique and it WAS all butternut squash and menthol cigarettes, in a good way. Just enough acid. Minerals. Bright at times, even. Glad we had it. Intriguing pairing play but nothing I'll remember. Ribeira Sacra just might be a thing in our house, though. There's an aspiration to be Galicia-fancy and seems like it succeeds in that.
Tuesday Lunch: Chicken-sprout sandwiches and sea salt potato chips, served with NV Paul Bara Champagne Bouzy Grand Cru ($48 - Vin Chicago)
When you want Champagne, you drink Champagne. Any food will (mostly) do.
Chicken, sprouts, avocado, kumatoes, mayo. On bread. Sea salt chips. Champagne.
This (Kermit Lynch - natch) Champagne is defined by what it isn't more than what it is. Sometimes, that kind of thing is more welcome. Great purity here. No pink or greenish hue. Brilliant shimmer to its light gold color. Rocky refreshment in the glass, giving a pinot noir character most times, then coming back to its chardonnay-ness for a perk and lemony lift. This isn't complicated and it tastes like that's the point, while offering a finish that kept drilling that point home. It was paced, persistent, and pleasurable at every turn.
Tuesday Dinner: Lemon-dill hanger steak, artichokes, asparagus and sweet potato latkes, served with 2009 Owen Roe Cabernet Franc Slide Mountain Yakima Valley ($72 - Winery)
Lemon-dill marinade on hanger steak (Saveur) and artichokes, with the asparagus getting some of it as well with the addition of dry mustard. Sweet potato latkes (LA Times). Very good one-off here. Happy beef, deeply flavored artichokes. Sweet potato latkes that tasted new and good. A big ol' plate of flavors.
With a single-vineyard cab franc from Owen Roe. Two-hour decant. A ripe, even sometimes slutty wine, at a surprisingly low 13% alcohol (didn't know that while drinking it). Very complete. Plum core with a dark red fruit exterior. Wet tobacco, even grilled Cheez-its at times. Typical Washington red - New World freshness, Old World mystery. I loved this one most 2/3 of the way down. It got all swirly and bursting with everything at once, and kept getting more interesting over the course of the meal. Check back in five years. Should be even more ridiculous.
In the pairing world, the dill allowed us to fawn over its cab franc nature most happily.
Wednesday Dinner: Sun-Wah Beijing duck and fish balls, served with NV Fattoria Moretto Lambrusco Secco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Monovitigno Emilia-Romagna ($28 - Zachy's)
Sun-Wah. Beijing duck. And all that comes with it. Duck fat rice, bao buns, carrots and scallions, hoisin, winter melon soup. Fish balls because fish balls rule.
Another solid one-off. We probably won't be doing the Beijing duck again at Sun-Wah. This is twice for me and it falls under the "had it, don't crave it" category. Still delicious, but it was nicer to just get the hell out of the house.
We didn't want reisling. Beaujolais and Chinese duck can be a thing. The duck isn't spicy by itself. Not even particularly sticky. Why not Lambrusco? Here's a good Lambrusco (another Kermit Lynch import - natch, part due), dry, tangy and Italian farmy in the best way. With this meal, we needed more fruit to tame some of the spicier flavors in the sauces on the table that I couldn't keep my hand off. We got the essence of what it was, with this one informing our Lambrusco world more, something that's basically limited to Cleto Chiarli. Liked it. One more bottle left. With a meal more catered to its profile, a better informed opinion should emerge.
Oh, and that one-degree, 40-mph wind that hit us while leaving Sun-Wah?