Why it took us so long to get to this beautiful place is a mystery to me, particularly when it's about eight blocks away and you can buy ten sandwiches that have the diameter of a softball for about $12.
Ham and cheese, curry chicken, curry beef, chicken pot pie, bbq pork for this order.
Buy them, make a salad, pop a sparkler (Luis Pato this time), and poof! Great Monday Lunch.
Total food and wine cost for the week: $97 for food and $197 for wine = $294
Sunday: Cornbread Panzanella with 2014 Trader Joe's Petit Reserve Pinot Grigio Monterey County
Food Details: Crouton-ed up the cornbread, toasted them off. Mixed together black beans, onions, avocado, heirloom tomato, croutons, huge handful of arugula, and the dressing. Put it on the table, pop your wine, take your time, sit back, relax, and enjoy.
Did We Like It? We thought it was going to be taco salad panzanella, but this turned into more of a California-style panzanella. And we loved it. Bright, herby, filling, end-of-week flavors. Big fans.
How Was The Wine? We don't hate this pinot grigio. Light, breezy, lightly creamy, peachy. Not too shabby at all on its own. Not with this food.
And The Pairing? A creamy element in the wine matched up with the buttermilk, but there wasn't enough bouncy acid to cut through the bevy of flavors on the plate. It was merely present and didn't turn ugly at any point. Best that can be said. Mrs. Ney switched up to the Espiral Vinho Verde and at least found the acid I didn't have.
Cost: $13 for food, $7 for wine = $20
Saturday: Kielbasa, Lentils and Frisée with 2013 Schloss Gobelsburg "Gobelsburger" Grüner Veltliner Kamptal
here, via Epicurious.
Food Details: Lentils cooked up with carrots and celery, fennel sweated tender-crisp, kielbasa sliced and warmed up with lentils and fennel. Dill rat-a-tat-tatted and mixed in. Warm mustard-fennel seed dressing tossed with all of that. A big pile of frisée thrown on top of ALL that. Mini-ciabatta, buttered.
Did We Like It? Felt like it's been a couple of years since we've had this. Used to be rather prominent in the food rotation. The kielbasa and lentils are always good, but it's the mustard and fennel for me that makes this meal stand out. We probably eat fennel once every 6-8 weeks. That break between consumption allows fennel to taste fresh and new every time. With the kielbasa and lentils backing it up, warm mustard floating around, and the frisée cut bringing a superlative degree of 'RAW,' it tastes New-School Bavarian/Austrian in a great sense (I barely know Bavarian-Austrian, but...).
How Was The Wine? One of the better $14 wines out there. It's entry-level grüner veltliner that gives much more than most entry-level wines in their respective categories. Nice fruit, energy, roundness and edge. Less of the distinctive grüner flavors that you get from higher-level, single-vineyard stuff - like some that say "LENTILS! - but this offers a simplicity and refreshment along with some of that, particularly on the gaseous finish.
And The Pairing? Very nice. That'll do. A basic happiness was there. The Schwarzbock or Berger might offer more here (and their one-liter-ness is appealing). Schwarzbock, with its oodles of minerals and grassy-green notes, is quite good. And the Berger brings a guzzle quality that's always welcome. But this worked.
Cost: $10 for food, $14 for wine = $24
Friday: Savory Potato Tart and Salad with 2008 Domaine Sylvain Langoureau St.-Aubin
here, from David Tanis at NYT Cooking.
Food Details: Make a pie crust, sauté up some leeks in chicken stock (addition to the recipe), use the fancy mandolin to cut the potatoes into paper-thin slices, assemble your pie and bake it off. Make a simple salad. Put pie slice on the plate, salad next to it, done. It's Paris bistro lunch food at its freakin' best.
Did We Like It? It made us swear, we loved it so much. I challenge anyone to eat this and not think, "I should be paying a lot more for this! It's delicious!" The addition of leeks offers a French country garden note and chicken stock brings the slightest hint of a background meaty lilt (tried bacon fat with this once. Weighs it down a touch). Slicing the potatoes this thin is key, making for a restaurant-quality texture to the entire pie. It's next-level stuff. Herb salad blend to mix and match in between bites of pie. Don't finish with the salad. Mix this one in. It brings more of The Joy, especially when a wine of this quality is at the table.
How Was The Wine? It's been sitting in the house for over four years, bought at Wine Discount Center when it was still Wine Discount Center. Probably recommended to us by Amy or Sean, and probably bought as a sort of inventory wine with little more thought behind it. I sorta forgot it was even here. We also burned ourselves out on white Burgundy a couple of years ago and took a break. Then, almost by accident, we ran into a wine of this caliber. Lordy! $25, made in the same way as the more spendy white Burgundies, and it's all sorts of lovely. Typical pear-apple fruit, but the love came in the oh-so pretty use of oak on the mid-palate here. Like a delicate, bouncy balloon on a breezy spring day. Simply sparkled. Like Auxey-Duresses and Viré Clessé, in Saint-Aubin, you find $25 white Burgundy that tastes like wine at twice the price. Loved. It.
And The Pairing? Nearly perfect, particularly when we take into account that this was a weekday meal for us (we're not Mon-Fri people). Coming home to this washed away all my workplace $&#^@.
Cost: $8 for food, $25 for wine = $33
Thursday: Chicken, Tzatziki, Kumatoes, Arugula and pita with 2014 João Portugal Ramos Lima Loureiro Vinho Verde
Did We Like It? Yes. It's pick-n-choose with a Greek bent. Well, not so much pick-n-choose. We used everything for each bite. More of an easy-peasy dinner. No cooking. Just whip up a tzatziki, slice some sort of tomatoes, dress some arugula, put it all on a plate and eat it. Feast. Good batch. Harvesttime chicken was lacking in skin-glaze goodness, though.
How Was The Wine? It's $7 at Binny's. Lightly fruity, lightly floral, happy acid, cheap as hell. Loureiro is delicious. We like it. We've had some fancy ones, but this is the loureiro we drink the most...by far. Mostly because it has all the loureiro goods for $7.
And The Pairing? Good enough. All the basic elements were there. Lift, nuance, snap, pause. Nothing superlative. Just nice.
Cost: $11 for food, $7 for wine = $18
Wednesday: Moroccan Goat Meatballs, Farro And Barley with 2013 Broc Cellars Carignan Alexander Valley
Food Details: See above and see the picture to the right. Arugula salad to finish.
Did We Like It? Mrs. Ney didn't want it/didn't want to make it. And it turned into such a pretty, bright, spicy, slow North African dinner with flavors we love bouncing around all over the place. This capped off a pretty great food and wine weekend (see below). On the wine...
How Was The Wine? Broc being Broc. We want everything they make. And are working to make that happen. They make nero d'Avola? Sparkling cabernet franc? Valdiguié in multiple forms? I. Want. All of it. Loved the 2012. The 2013 is less floral, more concentrated red fruit - smoked dark raspberries here - with a beautifully angled slender body, great lift and a spicy finish. All with a background feeling of walking through a garden set right on the ocean. Clean, herby, and cool. Vacillates so nicely between being svelte/tender and showing an attitude/having a chip on its shoulder. Tailed off a touch after 1.5 hours, but it's delicious. We need more very soon.
And The Pairing? LOVES. GOAT. It's perfect. Goat and this wine play in the same weight region, with both able to pick up what's happening around it and take everything to a better place. And I'm beginning to think Broc just makes their reds to like Middle Eastern-inflected goat. The valdiguié loved goat-stuffed artichokes last November. Their style and light Middle Eastern flavors... Gee whiz, that's good. Big surprise dinner here with a wine that really loved the food.
Cost: $12 for food, $29 for wine = $41
Tuesday: Tuna Niçoise with NV Pommery Rosé "Brut Aganage" Champagne
A's do Mar oil-cured tuna, grape tomatoes, baby potatoes, onions, green beans, Niçoise olives, capers and one hard-boiled egg for me with a dressing of tarragon, dijon, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, white balsamic, salt and pepper, all over arugula. It's a heaping mound of healthy, delicious goodness. Whole Foods ancient grains bread with butter to round it out.
Did We Like It? Oh, my, yes. Not the greatest version of Niçoise we've had, but that's like saying that playoff win wasn't the best playoff win your favorite team has won. Still a playoff win. Who cares? It's a win in the playoffs. And using this oil-cured tuna instead of cooking up some rare tuna from Whole Foods cuts the cost of this meal by about $18, with virtually no loss in quality, because we just want the vegetable bounty anyway. We'll get our rare tuna experience from Szechuan peppercorn-crusted tuna at some point. It's better.
How Was The Wine? Champagne Rosé, nearly half-off at Binny's (down to $50 from $90), and quite good. Plums, blood orange, figs, dry as all get-out, rolly bubbles, nice gas. A damn good Champagne rosé that was clean and moderately complex. Never would have guessed this was 60% chardonnay. Red grapes at the fore, with pinot noir serving as the guider and meunier bringing the interesting weirdness. Nothing wildly extravagant or great here, just Champagne rosé done well. And nice to have it again. Been awhile for us. And we want it by the bucket now.
And The Pairing? Niçoise and rosé, in any form, brings the love. No exception here. Wasn't "slap-my-face" great together, with flavors bouncing off the walls, but we had zero complaints.
Cost: $25 for food, $50 for wine = $75
Monday: Marinated Hanger Steak, Cold Sesame Noodles and Cucumber Salad with 2000 Clos Fourtet Saint-Émilion
Food Details: Hanger steak marinated in olive oil and homemade yakitori sauce from the freezer, basted in the same sauce. Cold sesame noodles from SPC (page 79), using 1/4 of the mayo the recipe calls for. Nobody needs two cups of mayo in their noodles. Cucumber salad with Asian flavors, from NYT Cooking, placed on top of the noodles. Carrot-garlic-ginger topping for the steak, from SPGTC (page 275). The result tasted like a well-done time warp back to 2002, then back to 1978. We loved it. Made us think, "Okay, they weren't stupid eaters back in 1978. They made good food, representative of a region, with what was available." Growing up in Iowa, eating a lot of meatloaf and pot roast, sometimes I forget that might have been true for the rest of the country.
How Was The Wine? Stupid-great, silly-good! We have a boatload of Bordeaux that has to be drunk quite soon. This begins that journey. One-hour decant. We were surprised how Old-Old World it was, and French specifically. No compromises here, very Frenchy-French from a great year in Bordeaux. Blackberry liqueur on the nose to start, turning into something like walking through a well-kept old house. We could smell the years. Not dusty, really. Just old. As if you can smell the attic. Nice flowers. Ripe-ish fruit, full-bodied, but never a bully. A bit of Jack Daniels at times. Happy length, fine tannin perking up on the finish, nice acid. This was big, and texturally a touch more flamboyant than we typically drink, but golly, we loved it. Had those pauses and breaks that allowed us to think about it for a bit instead of being bombarded with a bombastic, bellicose, belligerent nature that comes from so many aggressive fruit bombs. A 15-year-old Right Banker, from the house that originally got us into Bordeaux, and it's simply great right now. Could have waited on this one, didn't, and loved it. Real presence.
And The Pairing? That's probably what made us love the wine even more. Slipped right into this food that came off Asian only in a Silver Palate sense ("Apparently cilantro didn't exist in the 70's"). Held its ground beautifully. Different with each bite while maintaining its core goodness so nicely. Big winner here.
Cost: $18 for food, $65 for wine = $83