Wednesday, October 7, 2015

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #13

Seasons change. Baseball's regular season has ended.

It's a sad day in many ways. The day-to-day workings of my life alter slightly. No more coming home from work, turning on the Angels, scanning through boxscores, watching highlights, calculating possibilities, creating a vague picture of how this week, month, year will play out. It's a process that means nothing, constantly changes and ultimately useless. And I could have taken the 350 hours a year I put into watching baseball and learned about five languages by now.

We all need processes, methods, well-understood flows and familiarities to get through the day-to-day and year-to-year. Baseball is mine. 184 days until Opening Day.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $170 for food and $365 for wine = $535

Sunday: Salmon, cream cheese, bagels, kumatoes, pickled onions and herb salad with 2014 Matthiasson Tendu White California

Food Details: Trader Joe's smoked salmon, cream cheese (tarragon, cilantro, chive, serrano, garlic, cream cheese), sesame seed bagels, sliced kumatoes, herb salad dressed with white vinegar and olive oil, and pickled onions. It's more pick-n-choose, because it's delicious. bagel+cream cheese+salmon+kumato+salad+onion, then eat.

Did We Like It? Always. This batch took on the ridiculous amount of coriander/mustard seed I put in the pickled onions quite nicely. Flavors flying all over the place!

How Was The Wine? We didn't love the 2014 version of the Tendu White last time we had it, feeling like the chardonnay toned down the spritely bounce that the 2013 offered. Mr. Matthiasson said the vermentino - which is the vast majority of the three-grape makeup here, along with French colombard - didn't have the requisite acidity to go 100% vermentino in 2014. But this drinking showed better. While still not getting as much distinction as the 2013 had, nice acid-vague fruit back-and-forth to be happy enough. Two bottles left.

And The Pairing? With the flurry of flavors in the pick-n-choose, the wine offered a nice acid-slight mineral refreshment and cleanse. We liked this pairing, even if it didn't reach higher than mere like.

Cost: $17 for food, $30 for wine = $47  

Saturday: Croque Monsieur-Champagne Lunch & Steak Frites-Syrah Dinner

Food Details: Croques Monsieur (recipe) lunch, with chicken and abondance cheese, using almond milk for the béchamel. Olive oil chips. Steak frites from Bistro Campagne for dinner. It was a Day of Celebration that turned bistro-style French.

Did We Like It? Golly this was a Good food day for Anniversary-type celebrations. Easy croques monsieur that weren't traditional but have all the goods that make good croquet monsieur good. Steak frites from Bistro Campagne. At $27 each, with the quality of the hanger here and the huge handful of fries that accompany it, and $15 corkage, it makes for one of the best quality-to-price ratios in our neighborhood. When we break down the cost of making steak frites at home, food is going to be in the mid-$30s with the hanger, potatoes, all the marinating ingredients, arugula, and probably something extra to make it different than other preps (like Sean Brock steak sauce). We'd drink a wine that isn't everyday cheap, probably between $25-40. So we'd already be in the $55-70 range for the both of us. Our bill at Bistro Campagne was $100 before tip (tip on the wine you bring, people). No dishes, no frying or frying-oil hassle and mess for the fries, and we get out of the house and go to an utterly pleasant restaurant space that has neighborhood charm. Big winner. And given how good their steak frites are, it's a bargain. A big one. PLUS! We have a glut of wines in our cellar that were bought with good intentions and former interest years ago that simply don't excite us like when we first bought them (I'm looking at you, 40 bottles of Right Bank Bordeaux). With $15 corkage, this is a perfectly productive way to shed these wines with food that goes with it. Might become a once-a-month thing.

How Was The Wine? The 2004 Gaston Chiquet Special Club Brut Millesime for lunch was nothing like Mr. Chiquet's other bottlings. Very loose, with tons of space. It wasn't vanilla. It was like the juice in the tank was NEAR vanilla. Or peach skin and cream. It was like the juice in the tank was NEAR peach skin and cream. Nice mousse and happy lift, with a minty undertone. Tasted like a unexpected yet welcome chilly breeze. We Loved it. We have no idea why we stopped drinking Champagne about a year ago. That'll be changing.

The 2007 Jonata "La Sangre de Jonata" Santa Ynez Valley Syrah, brought to Bistro Campagne and decanted there, needed a few more years and more air. Lovely violet, licorice, plum, tobacco, everything expected from this big-boy syrah (with 2% viognier), but with nice pauses and real elegance. Initially did feel very northern Rhône, but turned more Californian as the night went on, which wasn't unwelcome, but few surprises here underneath its alcohol and richness. We liked it. It was nice. And now we don't have it in the cellar, which is mostly fine with us. It was heady, and would still be a few years on, something we've mostly moved away from.

And The Pairing? The Gaston Chiquet was flat-out lovely with croques monsieur and chips. Just the best. And it kept changing; towards the end it felt like it was losing steam just a touch. The Jonata, though shortened a bit by a garlic bite, had real a presence and complete expression. Though again, maybe not an expression we love anymore. Like it, but paying $70-80 more for 10-15% more joy than, say, a Marietta Cellars or Owen Roe Ex Umbris...doesn't feel wise and certainly isn't in the budget. Also, some of these big boys can be surprisingly finicky with food. Since we don't drink red wine by itself...

Cost: $72 for food, $224 for wine = $296

Friday: Fenugreek-perfumed Black-Eyed Pea Curry, Naan and Raita with 2013 Recuerdo Torrontés La Rioja, Argentina

Source: From 660 Curries, page 321, "Fenugreek-Perfumed Black-Eyed Peas"

Food Details: Black-eyed peas, onion, garlic, ginger (added), peppers, tomatoes, dried fenugreek leaves, turmeric. Make the day before. It's better. Raita and naan, to dip, dunk and cool.

Did We Like It? It's now our favorite curry. This one helps on this day, because it's vegetarian and we have a large slab of meat on deck for tonight's meal. Lovely altering curry depth and lift, moving back-and-forth, up-and-down so nicely. Then the same back-and-forth, up-and-down with the altering curry-then-raita-on-naan bites. It's the best.

How Was The Wine? Fine enough torrontés. A higher floor for this torrontés in the cheap torrontés world, but nothing special. A little bit of Earthstone Sauvignon Blanc as well, just for funnsies.

And The Pairing? The floral notes in the torrontés brought a peek into the world of what good torrontés can be in the vindaloo/curry realm, but it never brought more than a peek. Even given that, this food was so good, with said peek, we were both quite tickled.

Cost: $9 for food, $12 for both wines = $21      

Thursday: Rotisserie Chicken with basil, tomatoes, arugula, pickled onions and ciabatta with NV Grifone Bianco Sicily

Food Details: After a chicken fail, have more chicken. Because who doesn't like chicken? Mariano's rotisserie chicken, ripped up into pieces, sliced tomatoes, pickled onions, arugula and mini-ciabatta buns. Build your own open-faced mini-sandwiches. It's pick-n-choose your own combination for each bite.

Did We Like It? Always. Easy and delicious. The basil and the stupid glaze Mariano's puts on their chicken was key. Both sets off this $5 riesling-moscato blend from Sicily in ways that's just strange. It's store-bought chicken and $5 wine...and it's perfect (also great with white BBQ sauce).

How Was The Wine? Fruity, bright, bouncy, and floral. For $5, this wine has a disproportionate amount of balanced refreshment.

And The Pairing? We wouldn't drink this wine by itself. It'd taste like $5. But with this meal, particularly this exact meal of Mariano's glazed chicken, tomatoes and basil (it needs all of those together), it turns into a great example of lightly floral, minerally refreshment with great snap. For me, it even offered more chicken skin notes in a different form. Oddly more savory than it's ever tasted, especially given that this is a riesling and moscato blend. We L-O-V-E this.

Cost: $13 for food, $5 for wine = $18
Wednesday: Let's Not Talk About It with 2012 Birichino Malvasia Bianca Monterey

Food Details: Failed chicken in mustard sauce. Weird texture on the chicken so we dumped it and had salami and dill havarti cheese with homemade Pugliese bread, which turned out quite nice. Mustard green salad with tomatoes and pickled onions. Filled a hole.

Did We Like It? See above.

How Was The Wine? Last bottle of Birichino Malvasia. Pretty elderflower and lime leaf. Happy stuff, but the failure of this meal clouded its loveliness.

And The Pairing? I can't believe I'm still writing words about this meal!

Cost: $5 for food, $28 for wine = $33

Tuesday: Lamb Chops, Charred Shallots, Yogurt, Tomato Vinaigrette and Pita with 2014 Broc Cellars Valdiguié Solano County and 2014 Charles & Charles Rosé Columbia Valley

Source: Melissa Clark shallot recipe, via NYT Cooking

Food Details: Trader Joe's lamb chops marinated in garlic, rosemary, evoo, soy and balsamic, seared medium-rare. Shallots, roasted in oven, placed over Middle Eastern yogurt, topped with parsley, mint and pomegranate seeds. Pita charred on the flat-top. Tomato vinaigrette to round out the meal.

Did We Like It? Mother F%7k! There was a lot of moaning, and strange sounds, and cursing. Here's a meal with flavors we have ALL the time, just in different proportions. It's Middle Eastern food, which is our favorite food, but this wasn't Middle Eastern food we've ever had before. The glut of yogurt coupled with the char of the shallots, the addition of herbs, all of that put on top of pita...again, all flavors we know well...but this was utterly different and stupidly delicious. It all came in the small adjustments to well-known goodness. This will be placed in the rotation and eaten once a month henceforth. Omit the meat (which also was so simple, yet so lovely here), substitute arugula and we'd be Just Fine for an easy weeknight meal that would completely satisfy every corner of our being (and serve it with any minerally, snappy white you like). The tomato vinaigrette was its usual goodness here, but superfluous. Not needed in the least.

How Was The Wine? The Broc Valdiguié was its typical loveliness. A well-made, light-bodied wine giving nice lilting notes of cherry, herbs and dried rose petals. A mismatch with this food though. We could have stayed with it and it would have been fine, but the Charles & Charles Rosé came off freshy French and jumped out of the glass with this food. Best this wine has shown for this vintage.

And The Pairing? The tomato vinaigrette and pita liked the valdiguié but shied away from the best part of this meal, the shallot-yogurt-pita bite. The Charles & Charles rosé didn't in the least. It loved every bite, turning gutsy and punchy in the best sense. This meal was so ridiculously great, words aren't gonna do it. Just make it, but skip the tomato vinaigrette until another day, when it can be the star of the show.

Cost: $29 for food, $39 for wine = $68

Monday: Asian Short Ribs with Star Anise and Tangerine, Kabocha Squash and Amaranth-Basil with 2010 Abacela Syrah Umpqua Valley 

Source: David Tanis recipe, via NYT Cooking

Food Details: Bison short ribs from Whole Foods (not always there, so buy them when they're there). Short ribs marinated with five-spice, tangerine zest and juice, ginger, garlic, etc., two-hour slow roast.  Roasted kabocha squash, wilted amaranth and basil, salad of tangerine-radish-scallions. Pan juice drizzled over bison and squash.

Did We Like It? There was a boatload to like here, though short ribs have a lower ceiling than many of our food loves. Juicy short ribs that went well with a multitude of different food bites. The amaranth-basil-meat combo was a big winner, but the kabocha squash and meat bite came in a close second. Nice with radish, solid with tangerine, this was a good meal. Mrs. Ney just wouldn't make it again.

How Was The Wine? With tangerine and five-spice, a tough match, but we found a wine that performed better than what most anything else would. The Abacela Syrah Estate is co-fermented with
1% viognier and includes 4% tempranillo, and each of them showed up to the party. Black fruits and plum, black and white pepper, cinnamon and smoke. Medium-bodied, trending more savory. But this was defined by its citrus-like acid that kept everything bouncy and buoyant, which helped immensely with the food.

And The Pairing? The wine changed with each bite, showing about ten different expressions with each chew-and-sip, all of them rather nice. Good wine guts here. Liked it muchly.

Cost: $25 for food, $27 for wine = $52  

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