Tuesday, September 22, 2015

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #11

If some vine disease hit cabernet and malbec (and touriga nacional for me), our wine lives wouldn't be upset one bit. Like people, it's a personality thing. The personality expressed by those grapes don't offer the grace and quiet we want. It's not that they don't possess very own particular grace and quiet, just not the type we want.

With a somewhat limited wine budget, the flurry of fascinating grapes/blends/expressions out there today, and the fact that we don't eat beef five times a week, those grapes don't need to have a place in our wine life. We aren't left wanting in the least without them. 

But, at times, in order to challenge our preconceived notions so we don't become aging, grumpy, uncompromising curmudgeons, we have to drink cab and malbec on occasion so we don't become the people we hate. So we did. 

But you can go to hell, touriga nacional! You go to hell! You're great in a blend, but yourself, you go to hell!

Total food and wine cost for the week: $102 for food and $81 for wine = $183

Sunday: Meatballs in Date Sauce and Kale-Smoked Almond Salad with 2014 La Paca Garnacha Calatayud

Food Details: We're still sick, but getting better. Freezer date-kielbasa-tomato sauce. What do you do with that? It's sweet. It's sweet sauce. We don't want that! But this worked. Pork meatballs in date sauce, kale salad with smoked almonds and pecorino. A ton of parsley dumped over both the meatballs and salad. Mini-ciabatta buns. Rip a bun in half, top with meatball and kale salad. Eat.

Did We Like It? Kind of a lot! Tasted like a fall Italian mountain meal in a basic sense. Not sweet. Mrs. Ney toned down the sweetness to a point that the taste of date without a ton of date sweetness came through, and the kale provided a cut and lift quite nicely. No diminishing of results as we ate either. This was a big surprise.  

How Was The Wine? $7 Trader Joe's Spanish grenache. Bright cherries and plums. Ripe. A bit of smoked meat and tobacco. Low tannins. Medium-to-light. Easy-breezy Spanish drinker. Friendly for $7.

And The Pairing? The low-level sweetness from the dates and ripeness of the fruit in the wine matched up and cancelled each other for the most part, allowing all the other flavors in the food and the wine to shine. We found a bevy of fluctuating flavors in each bite and sip. With both of us ill, this seemed like a perfect time to get rid of the date sauce we didn't particularly want. But this turned into a meal that was more than just "food to fill a hole." It tasted intentional, like people somewhere in the Italian mountains eat this in the fall and someone passed along the recipe to a cookbook as a meal indicative of the region. We liked this.    

Cost: $7 for food, $7 for wine = $14

Saturday: Pan Bagnat with Leftover Wine

Ours was less bursting with ingredients than this
Source: Recipe here, via Mr. Bittman in NYT Cooking

Food Details: Now I'm sick. Mrs. Ney recovering well, I take her place. More easy food. Pan bagnat, essentially tuna Niçoise in picnicky sandwich form. Ciabatta loaf filled with kumatoes, red peppers, marinated artichokes, capers, Greek olives, onions, basil and As do Mar jarred tuna. Drizzled with red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Entire loaf smushed flat.

Did We Like It? Yes. One note: don't skimp on ingredients. Load that baby up! I put on a simple layer of all of the ingredients. This needed an overflowing layer of each. Tasted like French street food from a park food cart that isn't going to be generous with everything. But we'll be making this again. We usually have most of these ingredients on hand.

How Was The Wine? Leftover fridge wine from the last two days.

And The Pairing? The malbec rosé served merely as basic "wine" matcher, but the picpoul was quite nice, tasting like regional food and wine dancing like they typically dance. Sad we only had one glass left.

Cost: $10 for food, $0 for wine = $10

Friday: Arroz con Pollo with 2014 Innovacíon Rosé Mendoza

Source: Recipe here, Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday

Food Details: Mrs. Ney still can't taste anything, so easy food that has texture, something she can taste. Mexican rice, black beans, chicken, onions, chile, garlic, cilantro, chicken broth...click on the recipe. It's a good one. Sour cream on top for me. No dairy for Mrs. Ney. Hot sauce. 

Did We Like It? Fine. Rice and chicken went a little over. Big bowl of Mexican goop. Served us well enough.

How Was The Wine? Wine. A Whole Foods liter bottle of malbec-syrah rosé that we've loved this summer for its cheapness and liter-ness. This bottle had a church wine quality. Not...the...best.

And The Pairing? Barely registered.

Cost: $8 for food, $8 for wine = $16

Thursday: Pick-n-Choose with 2014 Trader Joe's Cuvée Azan Picpoul et Pinet Languedoc

Food Details: Harvesttime Roasted Chicken, Tomatoes, Pepper salad, Ciabatta and Mayo.

Did We Like It? Mrs. Ney is still sick. And there's gonna be a lot of "Let's just buy a chicken and bread and use up tomatoes and greens" meals on Thursday through the end of the year. Mrs. Ney's job and the upcoming holidays associated with that job demand it. Buy a chicken, char up some bread, use up tomatoes and greens in the house, open up some mayo, go to town. It's open-faced mini-sandwiches that has everything you need. We ditched the herb butter made for the bread rather quickly and moved on to something we love more than most people: mayonnaise.

How Was The Wine? Trader Joe's picpoul, another house love. Has the nose of pit fruit, the dryness of rosemary, the tart, puckering crispness of Muscadet, and the minerality of basic albariño. There's a minimum quality here that's always welcome for $8.

And The Pairing? This bottle showed more of its alcohol than it usually does. Wasn't unpleasant, but didn't show as well as it has.

Cost: $14 for food, $8 for wine = $22

Wednesday: Southern Biscuits and Gravy with NV Trader Joe's Reserve Brut Sparkling North Coast

Source: Alton Brown. Biscuits here. Gravy here.

Food Details: I'm a sucker for novelty food products created by multinational conglomerates. To the letter, they're terrible, though Lay's jamon chips have a vacation taste. When Lay's came out with their gyro/reuben/biscuits and gravy-flavored chips, my sucker impulse kicked in. Finally found the gyro and reuben, but not the biscuits and gravy. So with Mrs. Ney sick and no dinner joneses after the past few days of ridiculously great food, we had biscuits and gravy.

Mariano's breakfast sausage. Rice milk with a little flour subbed for milk in gravy.

Did We Like It? It was just fine. Satisfied the jones of biscuits and gravy, a food I think I've had only three times in my life. I've never been a breakfast person and this has ALWAYS the third choice in my world growing up so it simply never made it onto my plate.

How Was The Wine? Trader Joe's, $10, fresh bubbles done well.

And The Pairing? This TJ's sparkler isn't fancy, but it has an fresh breeze quality, herbs and fuzzy fruit, and accommodating structure that goes well with food, particularly buttermilk or biscuits or buttermilk biscuits. It's our default, cheap, house bubbles.    

Cost: $10 for food, $10 for wine = $20

Tuesday: Ottolenghi Fish, Cocount-Peanut Salad and Rice with 2013 Darting Muskateller Kabinett Trocken

Source: Yotam Ottolenghi recipe from The Guardian

Food Details: Whole Foods whitefish (substitute - we don't love mackerel), salt-pepper-seared. Salad of fresh coconut, peanuts, manzano pepper, scallion, mint, cilantro. Dressing of mirin, rice vinegar, coconut sugar, ginger. Rice. Charred lime spritzed on top of everything. Go to the recipe and buy all the specific ingredients. Don't get creative. Don't get lazy and say, "Oh, it doesn't need mirin." Just make it to the letter. Your fish substitute isn't a big deal. Fish is background here. This is Mr. Ottolenghi. You DON'T screw with it. He knows.

Did We Like It? This meal is a statement piece. This is Armani worn well. This is the first spring breeze. This is perfect food.

This is the best meal AND pairing we've had in a LONG TIME.

How Was The Wine? The color of the wine with this meal ALONE! Smelled like gewürztraminer, tasted like gewürztraminer and Muscadet had a baby. We've had Darting's muskateller before and liked it, even sort of loved it. Here, after having this - along with picpoul and Gavi - it's all I want. Grapefruit, peach, floral, herbal, medium-light, dry. Sparkled. A second bottle of 2014 Selbach Incline - cheap, well-made, representative German riesling - only told the story of how perfect the muskateller was with this food.

And The Pairing? As pretty, classy, and jumping out of the glass as I've had in, again, a LONG time. This was very nice on its own, but with this food, utterly complete. This wasn't just a pairing. This was perfect food with a wine perfectly tailored to this food. We can't think of a pairing we've had where that was more true.

Cost: $15 for food, $18 for wine = $33

Monday: Argentinian Skirt Steak and Shishito Pepper, Inland Cress and Frisée Salad with 2012 Luca Malbec Uco Valley

Source: A David Beran recipe in this month's Food & Wine, a publication we have a love-hate relationship with, but a recipe like this pops up once an issue, and the $12/year seems worth it. 

Food Details: Whole Foods skirt steak (very pretty beef), marinated overnight in rosemary, thyme, garlic, shallots, peppercorns and grapeseed oil, seared medium-rare. Salad of blistered shishito peppers, inland cress, frisée, mint, celery and leaves, and Rogue Creamery Flora Nelle Blue Cheese crumbled on top. Dressing of charred lemon and evoo. Using the apple peeler, potatoes run through, creating thin, long, narrow potato crisps, fried. Garlic-parsley mayo for dipping. 

Did We Like It? There was a lot of swearing. Perfect meat with a marinade that was so gosh darn delicious. A salad that ran right up against the wall of the high-end of bitter, even breaking through at times, that we nonetheless loved, mostly because it was flavors we like and enjoy while being entirely new. Potato crisps and mayo dip that offered a carb to the meal while coming off light. If we saw this meal listed on a restaurant menu, we'd blow right by it, dismissing it outright. Skirt steak-shishito pepper-watercress salad? It'd probably be $32 and not conger up anything resembling "I gotta have that!" But this was freakin' stupid-great.

How Was The Wine? Malbec. We're not friends. But with food you like, like here, you can offer an enjoyable conversation, especially when you're made by Luca, a great house. Classy fruit. Very classy. So polished and spit-shined; never overripe, heavy or burdensome. Always buoyant and on the right side of the savory-sweet line. Two-hour decant and it helped. becoming a wine of medium length but proper presents parsed out at a pretty pace. Black cherry/berry and plum, smoky meat, cola and a wee hint of roses. A very nice wine. Does it change our mind about malbec? 3%. We're 3% more open. 

And The Pairing? That's where the 3% comes from. It felt like this food and this wine were made for each other/belonged together, making for a stellar two-hour meal. The wine loved-loved-loved the crisps and a bite of beef and blue cheese. Less so with the salad but never obstinate. A very good meal.  

Cost: $38 for food, $30 for wine = $68

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