This house can't recommend Dept. of Speculation more.
And I love John McPhee. His writing feels like the writing that first made me want to read writing.
Total food and wine cost for the week: $96 for food and $186 for wine = $282
Sunday: Sausage, Zucchini, Tomato and Cream Cheese Surprise with 2013 Charles Smith VINO Pinot Grigio Columbia Valley
Mexican, by Jane Milton (page 186)
Food Details: In a fairly hot pan, brown two sliced onions. Add garlic and four [previously salted and rinsed] sliced-into-sticks zucchini, sautée some more. Add diced pickled serranos to your taste, half-pint of halved cherry tomatoes; sautée briefly. Turn off burner, add half a block of cubed cream cheese to melt in residual heat. In a separate pan, brown 8 ounces of loose Italian sausage. When fully cooked, dump into zucchini pan, warm through. Fresh oregano and dill. Buy everything at Harvestime so total cost for all this is $5. Plus a $5 loaf of Whole Foods Ancient Grains bread. What more do you ask of life?
Did We Like It? In the category of "goop on bread," I think this might be the best "goop" I've ever eaten. "What the hell?!" were the unanimous words over this. And this was good before the sausage. Objectively RIDICULOUS after. We'll be having this again. On a Sunday. Probably soon. And definitely often.
How Was The Wine? Juicy, silky, peppy, fresh and clean. We'll be drinking this guzzler until Mr. Smith stops making it. When one talks value wines, if this isn't on the list, stop reading that list.
And The Pairing? Dreamy. It spit in the face of the relatively high heat from the pickled serranos and became a full, bright and lovely version of this pinot grigio that's become our house wine for veggie-centric meals. I thought it was starting to tail off eight weeks ago. Nope. Here, it was pumping along quite nicely, thank you very much. This dinner was as surprising as it gets.
Cost: $10 for food, $13 for wine = $23
Saturday: Savory Potato Tart and Salad with 2013 Jacques Bourguignon Chablis
recipe, from NYT Cooking.
Food Details: Mandolined potatoes, sliced very thin (creates a perfect potato goop), leeks, crème fraiche, garlic, thyme, other seasonings; all baked pie-style, this time using buckwheat flour. Spring green salad on the side.
Did We Like It? Paris bistro lunch. Nice one-off with the buckwheat flour. We probably like the traditional crust better, but this was nice.
How Was The Wine? Decent. All the basics of Chablis in Trader Joe's cheaper form. At $13, if it had a couple of deeper, distinctive nuggets to offer, this might be a solid bargain. But it doesn't. Tasted like a cloudy day where nothing much happens.
And The Pairing? Serviceable.
Cost: $9 for food, $13 for wine = $22
Friday: Orecchiete, Sausage and Rapini with 2014 Rosa dell'Olmo Gavi Piedmont
Did We Like It? It's a once or twice a month dinner. Has been for years, mostly because it's classic Italian that has what we want on a work-night: meat, bitter, carbs, a little heat and herbs. Odd we haven't had it during the 10 weeks of this here 365 experiment. Solid batch this time. Bitter rapini, which was wanted by me. It's a Big Bowl of Good.
How Was The Wine? Trader Joe's Gavi done well. Dry, crisp, lightly floral, peaches, medium-bodied. A dryness resembling the air of a freshly cut 2x4. Gavi and picpoul. It's all I want right now.
And The Pairing? Italian with Italian. It's always happy. If you're stumped on a pairing for Italian food, start with Italian wine and you're halfway there.
Cost: $6 for food, $8 for wine = $14
Thursday: Rotisserie Chicken, White BBQ Sauce, Herb Salad and Ciabatta with 2013 Pazo Señoras Albariño Rías Baixas
Did We Like It? We'll be having this probably once a week through the end of the year. Not this exact meal, but store-bought chicken with various accompaniments. Because it's no-cook, two-seconds-in-the-kitchen-on-a-weeknight Good. Mariano's has a soy-glazed chicken. Harvesttime, Greek. Rip a piece of bread, slather it with mayo, butter or some sort of leftover sauce from earlier in the week, add ripped chicken, top it with some tomatoes, or kumatoes, finish with some dressed greens. There's dozens of combinations and all of them delicious, just make sure to have some food acid involved. White BBQ sauce here, use tomatoes with mayo, etc. Each bite has everything you need for Sat-is-faction.
How Was The Wine? There's always some cheap white wine in our fridge, full bottle or leftover bottle, with some minimal level of refreshing, snappy acid. It's what we like. Like the albariño from below. Mrs. Ney experimented with this and the Earthstone Sauvignon Blanc. Albariño won. Both were nothing to get excited about, but the albariño let the food shine more.
And The Pairing? We wanted the food, while the wine didn't get in the way, even bringing some wee hints of food-wine nuzzle that made it acceptable.
Cost: $11 for food, $20 for wine = $31
Wednesday: Cacio e Pepe with 2013 Cos Frappato Sicilia
Food Details: Linguine, with paski sir (Croatia) and medoro (Sardinia) cheeses. Tellicherry pepper, oregano, olive oil. Arugula and pomegranate seed salad to finish.
Did We Like It? A miss. Something about the sheep cheese didn't pop like it usually does. Tasted like something it was missing. The dog Loved it though (see video).
How Was The Wine? A bottle of 2013 Pazo Señoras Albariño Rías Baixas REALLY missed, so we opened the Cos Frappato, which was better. But that's the best that can be said. Light, as frappato is, with notes of iron, strawberries and parsley that's just about to turn. Fine enough, a bit pricey at $26 for what it is, but pleasant overall (read: probably wouldn't buy it again).
And The Pairing? Meh.
Cost: $16 for food, $26 for wine (both wines included) = $42
Tuesday: Husk Cheeseburgers and waffle fries with NV Marietta Cellars Christo Lot 1 Sonoma-Mendocino
Food Details: Double stack burgers with American cheese, onions, mustard-pickle sauce, potato buns. Bagged waffle fries.
Did We Like It? Last had here. They were delicious then, but "The Bestest!" here. Best burger we've had in this house and rivals the very best out in the world. Mrs. Ney has no idea why this batch was so perfect. Juicy, cheesy, meaty. A perfect blend of all that with every bite. Our burger standard has been Kuma's for the most part. Maybe a little Five Guys thrown in when it's really good. Skyway and Husk Cheeseburgers has nudged its way in and it's here to stay.
How Was The Wine? Syrah, grenache, petite sirah and viognier. Fresh dirt, smoke, tar, blackberries, blueberries, lavender, grizzle. Savory. It's the perfect summertime red in our world. Came off lighter this time, but still retained its signature smoky entry followed by a bright, herby black/blue fruit bouncy middle and viognier "vooooop" finish. A bit of dark red cherries sneaking in on the finish this time.
And The Pairing? It's the opposite of the link to that stupid wine list in the introduction above. Good food, good wine, no pretension, no obfuscation. Loved it.
Cost: $15 for food, $16 for wine = $31
Monday: Thomas Keller Chicken, Fennel and Olives with 2012 Domaine de Vieux Télégraphe Blanc CDP (two 375mls) and 2014 A Tribute to Grace Grenache Rosé Santa Barbara Highlands
recipe, via the LA Times.
Food Details: Braised chicken thighs, onions, garlic and fennel, sweated. Pan deglazed with wine, Castelvetrano olives, pitted, added with red pepper flakes, lemon zest, thyme. Return chicken to the pan with everything. Oven for 20 minutes, broiler until skin crispy. Topped with sunflower sprouts and parsley. Separately, grape tomatoes braised in evoo, herbes de Provence, garlic and anchovies for a different spin on Provençal tomatoes (this will be popping up again in puréed form). Pugliese bread to butter, dip and drag.
Did We Like It? Hell, yes. Always. And it was completely different from any time we've previously had it. Funky, groovy depth. Came off more lean than before, with a late summer garden quality, similar to when everything in the garden starts to meld together in smell, probably due to the sunflower sprouts. No crispy potato roast this time, which is always good, but wasn't missed. A great meal.
How Was The Wine? Our default wine for this meal, a white Vieux Télégraphe, because it's perfect with this food. The prep was slightly different this time, but the wine remained the same well-made, utterly delicious, perfectly structured wine that revealed itself at its own pace. Big, bright macadamia nut and apple mixture this time, our first of this vintage. It's the best stuff, and ideal for TK chicken with fennel and olives in any form. Highly recommended pairing. A bottle of A Tribute to Grace Rosé as well, which surprised us with its more boisterous personality, something we haven't found in this winery's grenache reds. Butter-braised strawberries with touches of herbs. Quite bright and friendly. Very nice.
And The Pairing? See above. I really don't know if we've had the Télégraphe Blanc with anything else. And why would we?
Cost: $29 for food, $90 for wine = $119