Saturday, September 12, 2015

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #9

The end of our week-long California trip, low-lighted by a delayed flight, crabby flight passengers, and getting home at 2am.

California, you're nice. We like you in doses and in specific spots. Your food and food culture are wonderful, but only in doses. Getting back home to Home Food, as I seem to write every time I do a vacation recap on this here bloggy-blog, is What We Want.


Total food and wine cost for the week: $277 for food and $281 for wine = $558

Sunday: Ham, Cheese, Onion and Pickled Jalapeño Flatbread with 2014 Innovacíon Rosé Mendoza

Food Details: "What's in the house?" naan pizzas. Cheap ham, cheap cheese, onions and pickled jalapeños, baked.

Did We Like It? Fine, good, food, done.

How Was The Wine? Great rosé for $8. Weeknight workhorse. On its own here, I loved the snot out of it. All bright, sparkly and refreshing.

And The Pairing? Jalapeños killed it, turning it into a rather boring drinker. A bite without jalapeño was much better, but never got out of the realm of run-of-the-mill rosé.

Cost: $10 for food, $8 for wine - $18

Saturday: Beet-marinated Chicken Curry with 2014 João Portugal Ramos LIMA Loureiro Vinho Verde

Source: Weeknight riff on chakundari chicken tikka, from Mark Bittman at NYT. Mr. Bittman is retiring from the mothership, by the way. Sad face.

Food Details: Beet-marinated chicken (beet marinade from freezer), cilantro, peas, onions over rice. Chicken, un-skewered; onions sauteed in fond, deglazed with stock; lemon juice spritz.

Did We Like It? Big bowl o' food! Great smells while cooking, but something got lost in translation. Never rose above vaguely curry-ish, beety chicken and rice.

How Was The Wine? Lightly fruity, lightly floral, lightly acidic. It's $8 loureiro.

And The Pairing? A miss here as well. The food stripped out LIMA's lilting appeal. Fine enough, but boring. Better on its own.

Cost: $6 for food, $8 for wine = $14

Friday: "What's in the House?" Quiche and Arugula Salad with 2014 Caves de Charmelieu Saint-Bris Sauvignon Blanc

Food Details: Onions, tomatoes, leftover peppers, parsley, thyme. Gruyère cheese. All in quiche form. Arugula salad on the side. It's bistro lunch food.

Did We Like It? We always like it. It's once-a-month quiche that's we haven't had once-a-month in a while. Not fancy, just everything you need. Quiche, with salad on the side. Done. Eat.

How Was The Wine? It's Trader Joe's sauvignon blanc from Saint-Bris in Burgundy. Didn't think Burgundy made sauvignon blanc? They do. There's a creamy-pasture note with nice snap that makes this one a good sauvignon blanc alternative on the cheap. Last year's vintage was better, but it showed well here.

And The Pairing? It showed well because of the gruyère cheese, which likes sauvignon blanc. Best this vintage has drunk.

Cost: $6 for food, $10 for wine = $16

Thursday: Duck Meatballs, Amaranth Seed Polenta Cakes and Borlotti Bean Gravy with 2012 Raul Péréz Ultreia Mencia Bierzo and 2009 Domaine des Tours Vaucluse Rouge

Source: Gravy and andouille-spiced meatballs [Mrs. Ney was not stuffing sausage casings] in Sean Brock's Heritage cookbook. Amaranth polenta cakes from this recipe, from Bob's Red Mill.

Food Details:  Ground duck meatballs, amaranth seed polenta cakes, borlotti bean gravy (using borlotti instead of lady pea gravy in the cookbook), red, yellow and green peppers, leftover amaranth greens, and parsley on top.

Did We Like It? Yes. Wouldn't make it again, as everything was very subtle in pop and punch, but some very good flavors here. And very complete in flavor play. The bean gravy created a subtle, peppery-bean, underlying flavor to everything that was quite nice. Everything was done well, ate well, very much liked and enjoyed. It was simply more quiet than we like. But amaranth seed polenta cakes are A Thing. Like the amaranth leaves with the goat kofta above, they offer an earthy, expanding, country breeze note that broadens things out and integrates into savory, planty, veggie-centric flavors quite well.

How Was The Wine? We figured the Raul Péréz mencia would match the weight of the food and like the duck. It didn't. Not even a lil bit. Came off flat, tired and saggy. No lift or liveliness. So we opened a Vaucluse that's been sitting around, was past its prime and HAD to be consumed. It tasted like it.

And The Pairing? The duck helped make the wine taste like its former self, if only a little bit. Enough resemblance of a proper wine flow to not open a third bottle.

Cost: $25 for food, $47 for wine = $72 (oof!)

Wednesday: Goat Kofta, Cauliflower, Amaranth Leaves, Tahini and Pita with 2006 Two Hands Beautiful Stranger Barossa

Source: Goat kofta from Yotam Ottolenghi (do a book search here). Cauliflower, hazelnut, pomegranate salad based on this recipe, from NYT, and Ottolenghi's as well.

Food Details: Goat kofta made with allspice, cinnamon, etc. (similar flavors used in the salad). The only real difference in this meal to the last time we had it was using amaranth leaves as the greens. Roasted cauliflower-hazelnut-pomegranate salad. Celery, parsley, onions, mint, serrano. Tahini and pita.

Did We Like It? "This is what all other food wants to be!" Spicy, nutty, crunchy, fresh, bright, slightly sweet, every flavor and food sensation, all put together on a plate. There is absolutely nothing missing here. You don't like this, you don't like food. It's perfect, perfectly balanced, makes your tongue go, "Wow!" and was a much needed meal after simple California food. We had arrived Home when we ate this.

How Was The Wine? Shiraz done in the Amarone style. Our second 2006. 2004 was one of our favorite wines of last year. Very pretty nose of smoldering fire and berries. A bit alcoholic, nice fruit, quite round, bit of ash, burning wood. Nice wine, didn't work here.

And The Pairing? Too big for this meal. Didn't work, but we didn't really care. This food is surprisingly light in overall impression. The cauliflower creates a gap that allows the spices to take a break, sucking up its possibly larger punchy blitz on "spices!" That creates bouncy, broad, deliciously balanced food, but it needs a wine that matches those gaps. This one is too brawny and in your face to allow that. The mint helped a bit, as it does with shiraz, which was nice.

Cost: $15 for food, $75 for wine = $90 

Tuesday: Bocadillos and Gioia Pizzeria 

Notes: Two lunches in San Francisco we wanted to hit before leaving, and our only trip into the city, oddly. Just didn't want anything from the city after sitting on the bay. Bocadillos, Gerald Hirigoyen's sister restaurant to Piperade, feels like a San Sebastian interpretation for the corporate lunch crowd during the day and young tech-types for nosh and drinks at night. It's done well for that realm. Pretty space, solid food. Bocadillos of salmon, lamb and BLT. Patatas bravas and empanadas. Cheap pink Cava to drink. A pleasant lunch.

Gioia Pizzeria's San Francisco outpost inevitably drew comparisons to the original Berkeley spot. A bistro-style feel inside that San Francisco does very well, but our hearts lie in Berkeley. Something was a tad amiss in flavor. Same dough deliciousness, less overall greatness. Two acciughe and two summer squash slices. Two glasses of Zibibbo to drink, which is fun to say.

Airport early to see if we could catch an earlier flight. Nope. Our flight delayed, then not, then delayed, then a new plane, it was hot in the terminal, hot in the plane, people were crabby, got home at 2am. Annoyed. Could have been worse. Vacation done.

Cost: $85 for food, $60 for wine =  $145

Monday: Fish in Sausalito and Harmony Chinese in Mill Valley

Notes: This is exhibit A of the above. We could have gone out into the world for another spendy California meal. It would have been fresh. It would have been good. It would have had $300. So cheap eats.

Fish in the Sausalito Harbor is a "form a line before they open" kind of thing, because it's fresh fish boated right up to the Sausalito Harbor, 50 feet away. was fresh and it was good. Since the freshness of the fish is the star, nothing too complex is added. The fish and chips were quite great, the fish tacos less so. Crab roll, lacking a bit. Bottle of house Vinho Verde to wash things down. We'd go back for the fish and chips with house tartar. That's good fish and chips.

Harmony Chinese for dinner, because it was right around the corner and a take-home Chinese spread before flying out the next day, sitting outside on the bay, sounded perfect. Kung pao chicken, house beef, green beans, pot stickers, egg rolls, rice, all the Chinese goods. Once again, fresh and good. No complaints. Had to drink the wine we bought during the trip, so two bottles: 2014 Broc Cellars Picpoul Blanc Luna Matta Vineyard Paso Robles and 2014 Field Recordings Camp 4 Carignan. Loved both wines. The Picpoul we knew, and love. It's domestic picpoul with a Muscadet edge. The carignan (25% cinsault) was a surprise. Better than when we tasted it at Field Recordings, all flowers and bright, round red fruits with a touch of fancy dirt. Big fans.    

Cost: $130 for food, $73 for wine = $203

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