Thursday, February 12, 2015

Two Meals With Four Wines

The month of February has zero redeeming qualities.


Two meals and four wines. Or. Two solid meals with four fair-to-middling wines that offered just enough to keep things in the realm of acceptable, with sprinkles of interesting.

#1 - Rabbit confit with sauerkraut buckwheat crêpe lasagna and shishito peppers, served with 2011 Kuentz-Bas Alsace Blanc ($15 - Whole Foods) and 2013 VinTJ's Gewürztraminer Mendocino County ($8 - Trader Joe's)

Delicious recipe for rabbit confit from David Leite (of The New Portuguese Table). Halved, spiced and herbed up, covered in oil and confit-ed in the oven for three hours, grilled (save that oil! It's awesome as a sauté oil for garlic in pasta). Rabbit from D'Artagnan. Two rabbit legs each. These were capital-G great rabbit legs, so pretty out of the package and perfect after cooking. Rabbit meat with the three-act play. Frenchy skin hit, clean rabbit-y meat, woodsy, herbal finish. Big winner. Sauerkraut (Paulina) crêpes, from this Saveur recipe, turned into sauerkraut crêpe lasagna, as the buckwheat and almond milk subs in the crêpes made them fall apart. Tossed a little (read: a lot) of sour cream on top and whole grain mustard on the side here and we were happy with the result. Sautéed shishito peppers (Trader Joe's is selling them now), done up Mr. Leite-style again. The hope was that these would add a cut and snap to this meal. Missed. But overall, this dinner gave us much of what we wanted, which was great rabbit with 'other stuff' to back it up.

The wines? ...Meh. The 2011 Kuentz-Bas Alsace Blanc, a sylvaner-muscat-auxerrois blend, is certainly clean, very precise, with wisps of an herby-spicy cleanse on the finish. Nice, light, focused fruit. But it came off too polished for this meal. Too much was buffed out to give much of an impression with the vittles, lacking a grizzly, stubborn, dynamic nature to announce itself much at all. This has a place, just not here, though it had moments with the rabbit. The Trader Joe's gewürztraminer offered more dimension with this food, particularly with the sauerkraut. Gewürztraminer can come up so gosh-darn heavy and leaden, and too finicky with food, even with food with which it should match up. The cool-climate-ness of Mendocino helped here, providing a pillowy lift to its gewürztraminer-ness. Winner of the night. Pretty fruit, nice zip, a cool breeze to finish.

Both weren't enough by themselves to make this meal a good match, but we got enough from both to feel satisfied...enough.

Same with meal #2.

#2 - Moroccan lamb meatballs, red pepper-persimmon salad and broiled feta, served with 2013 Three Wine Co. Carignane Rosé Contra Costa County ($12 - Independent Wine and Spirits) and 2012 Quinta do Ameal Loureiro Escolha Lima ($24 - Perman)

Moroccan-influenced feast. With a complete and delicious triangulation of flavors: meaty-salty, creamy-sweet, raw-fresh. We wanted/needed nothing more. Except arugula. It's funny when we go three days without arugula. By the end of the third day's meal, we WANT ARUGULA!

Ras el hanout lamb meatballs (chicken stock, harissa, pomegranate molasses reduction), mint and pomegranate seeds on top. Ras el hanout from a Moroccan work friend's family member, blended in Morocco. FAN-tastic stuff. Broiled Israeli sheep feta (creamier than other sheep feta), honey, pistachios, extra virgin olive oil. Roasted pepper and persimmon salad, with red onion, preserved lemon, roasted garlic, parsley; evoo, harissa, cumin (look at the pretty! --- >). Flurry of flavors here. With balance, breadth, and satisfaction.

The wines...sorta helped, after we found with one served best with each food element. The Three Wine Co. carignane rosé brought the typical carignane presence, dirt, and astringency that the grape brings, stuff we love. More ripe/sweet here, but refreshing with a grizzle and smack. For $12, not too shabby. Served up a nice counter to the spice, mint and pomegranate seed pop in the meatballs. The Quinta do Ameal loureiro, barrel-fermented and barrel-aged in French oak, has that feeling of someone taking a more simple, floral grape (that we like muchly) and seeing how high it can go. We drank this too early, as the oak washed out the more delicate floral notes. My mistake. And something I might correct by buying another and shoving it in the cellar. The quality of winemaking is utterly present, but now, it's just too quiet to offer a complete package. Too shy. But nice here with the broiled feta, awakening an acid and tiny floral note not present by itself.

Good meal. Good food week. Screw February. Now, we move on to four straight meals with arugula.          

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