We've always liked Pastoral. While the Broadway store hasn't been an "only stop" kind of destination, mainly due to the distance and us not being cheese people, their wine selection was always right in line with where our tastes were going. Even with a markup of $4-7 more per bottle than around town or on the internet, they've always has a couple of things you simply can't find in Chicago.
Their new location has 2-3 times the selection of Broadway and you can tell the people that stock it like their wine. It's a few blocks away and on my weekly errand route. We'll be regulars.
Total food and wine cost for the week: $80 for food and $126 for wine = $206
Sunday: Lamb Salami, Feta spread, Arugula and Ciabattini Buns with 2014 João Portugal Ramos "Lima" Loureiro Vinho Verde
Did We Like It? Jebus! Yes. Yes we did. Best weeknight meal this week. It's right up there with sausage, zucchini, tomato and cream cheese surprise in the world of taking bread, topping it with creamy-spicy goodness, and repeating it about 40 times. Kick back and relax for about an hour with food that's your friend.
How Was The Wine? Lightly fruity, lightly floral, lightly acidic. It's $8 loureiro.
And The Pairing? As Mary Berry would say, "That's scrummy." The Lima gives the impression of having lighter acid, but there's a strong backbone underlying everything with this one, which was perfect here, as it wasn't going to be pushed around by the spiciness in the food. Great meal. Might have it for Christmas lunch.
Cost: $10 for food, $8 for wine = $18
Saturday: Ottolenghi Pumpkin Soup and Portuguese Corn Bread with 2015 Viñas Chileans Reserva Rosé Valle Central
here (at the bottom), David Leite's Portuguese Corn Bread here.
Food Details: Pumpkin soup of canned pumpkin, chickpeas, harissa paste, shallots, garlic, cardamom, cumin, dried apricots, preserved lemon, rose water, etc., topped with yogurt and cilantro. Portuguese corn bread made with fine-ground cornmeal, flour, yeast, salt and water, formed into loaves and baked.
Did We Like It? Probably a one-off. But fine and good soup that became rather fancy with the wine. Peasant-style, mountain-type bread that looked great but was a bit dense due to me working it too much. I'm not a soup eater. But this was good soup and made better by $4 Chilean rosé.
How Was The Wine? Cabernet-syrah blend done up rosé style. $4. Trader Joe's. 2015. Incredibly fresh; big, upfront swirl of bright cherries and strawberries, beautifully bouncy acid, fuller body, delicious in every freakin' respect. Big surprise. We thought this was a bad rosé year, but the end of the year has brought some pretty gosh-darn good ones.
And The Pairing? If this wine wasn't present, this meal might have been 30% worse. It's what a happy wine can do to food: Make. It. Immensely. Better.
Cost: $6 for food, $4 for wine = $10
Friday: Orecchiette, Sausage and Rapini with 2012 Trader Joe's Barbera Lot #88 Mendocino County
Did We Like It? 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. A Big Bowl of Good.
How Was The Wine? Juicy, darker red fruits, a lil underbrush, spicy finish. Medium body that grows fuller, punchy acid for a red, something barbera done well. It's become a case-a-year type thing.
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: $7 for food, $10 for wine = $17
Thursday: Potato-Chicken-Serrano Naan Pizzas and Arugula with 2013 Charles Smith VINO Pinot Grigio Columbia Valley
Did We Like It? It made 10 of them! For five extra dollars! No flavor dominated. They became a nice mélange of subtle flavors that elevated itself to something much more than "leftover food put on a bread-like platform." Yes. We liked this. A very fine weeknight meal.
How Was The Wine? This is the last of the 2013 VINO. Just bought six of the 2014, because this is "house white" in the best sense. Fruity, persistent, juicy, silky, peppy and clean. Has the 15% more attention to detail that takes this wine out of the "oh, pinot grigio...sure...why not" realm. $10 right now at Binny's.
And The Pairing? Nothing that made us think about the delicious nooks and crannies here with the grub and juice dance. Just nice food, wine we like, and nothing that turned pear-shaped.
Cost: $5 for food, $11 for wine = $16
Wednesday: Tuna Niçoise with 2014 Jolie-Laide Trousseau Gris Fanucchi-Wood Road Vineyard Russian River Valley
Did We Like It? We think this night's Niçoise, a meal we've eaten dozens of times, might have been the best yet. Everything was so perfectly seasoned! And something about leaving the lemon juice out made everything else pick up the slack here, turning it into a meal playing in the lower, more earthy levels of flavor, letting each element show off their punch. Something about that let the tarragon pop. And the lavender. And textures took center stage. This was wonderful. But this wine is the best wine we've had this year.
How Was The Wine? We first had it at Chez Panisse Café in September and were blown away (read about the wine here). "Such prettiness and purity. Shimmered and sang a beautiful song. Dirt, flowers and stars." A tough to find wine, but we found it. I'm not telling where until I get over there and buy more. I could use 12,000 superlatives that describe the loveliness of this wine, but why spend the time? It's simply The Best. Utterly complete, beautifully floral, perfect acid...tastes like your favorite author's prose.
And The Pairing?A close second to Ottolenghi fish and cocount-peanut salad with 2013 Darting Muskateller as the pairing of the year. It tasted like watching a dog dig a huge pile in the yard and watching how much fun they're having doing it. "She's gettin' down there! Going' deep! God, she's having a blast." This wine dug into this food so perfectly that we did a lot of swearing while eating it. Wow! Terrific with the food, and frankly stupid-perfect with the baguette and butter.
Cost: $18 for food, $37 for wine = $55
Tuesday: Greek-ish Chicken, Ottolenghi Corn Cakes and Celery Root-Apple Salad with 2014 Quinta do Porrais Branco Douro and 2014 Trader Joe's Cuvée Azan Picpoul de Pinet Languedoc
Source: Ottolenghi corn cakes and salad here (at the bottom) using celery root instead of beetroot for the salad.
Corn cakes - that were more like corn soufflés - flavored with tarragon, celery seed, fennel seed, cumin, etc. (see recipe), with a nugget of feta in the middle of each.
Celery root, apple, celery leaf salad with a dressing of yogurt, celery-fennel seed, sherry vinegar and lemon juice.
More dressing on the side to dip and dunk (great with the chicken).
Did We Like It? Mrs. Ney thought the chicken might be more of a meat side, but this was quality chicken; juicy and bright. The corn cake-soufflés were little corny pillows of deliciousness. Very soft, but never gooey. Like bread pudding and a soufflé had a baby. Freaking great salad, with an earthy celery root hit and tons of crunchy goodness. Very good meal.
How Was The Wine? We love the Quinta do Porrais Branco, Vale Meão's entry into white wine. It's the best Douro white we've had. Cool climate gaseousness and acid. Plenty of space offered to enjoy its subtle hints of flowers and spiced pears at your leisure, with only of hint of honeydew and talc, things that typically take Douro whites to a rather basic, boring place. This isn't a fancy white. It's just all the Douro white parts in all the right places. But here, with this food, while it was quite pleasant, even delicious in spots, it couldn't hold a candle to the complete pairing loveliness that the Trader Joe's picpoul brought.
And The Pairing? We liked the Porrais here, but it got clipped by a few bites, and had its legs swept out from underneath itself on others. We would have been fine and happy if we stayed with it, but one sip of the picpoul with this meal confirmed that something was missing with the Porrais. Fireworks with each bite and a sip of picpoul, with each element exploding into the fullest version of itself. That Trader Joe's picpoul...man...it's one of the best values out there. At it's $8!
Cost: $14 for food, $22 for wine = $36
Monday: Serrano-topped Endive, Red Pepper-Manchego Crostini and Pea Shoot-Persimmon Salad with 1999 Domaine Aux Moines Savennières Roche aux Moines
here (eliminating sugar and subbing pecorino for parmesan).
Food Details: Endive, seared in cast iron, topped with a blend of breadcrumbs, pecorino, thyme, cream, salt and pepper. Topped with serrano ham, baked.
Baguette slices, brushed with rabbit oil, topped with fresno/red pepper relish from Sunday Sandwich Day and manchego, toasted into crostini.
Salad of pea shoots, persimmons, charred scallions, parsley, candied walnuts and pomegranate seeds.
Mint, blanched, puréed with olive oil, strained; drizzled over everything.
Did We Like It? Yeah. Kind of a lot. When trying something new, there's always an initial debate going on in our heads over whether we'd have it again. It's a "Hey, this is quite good! But would we have it again?" Halfway through, it was an unqualified yes. It's light, but never too light, and feels like 50 different flavors that all get along very well. The endive-serrano was the star, tasting like little pillows of lightly-caramelized clouds with serrano adding just the right meaty substance. Good crostini with a touch of manchego sheepy-ness and surprising heat. Fantastic, persimmon-led salad that tastes very Ottolenghi, even though the recipe didn't come from him. Matched up with the Ottolenghi endive-serrano perfectly in weight, texture, and Ottolenghi-ness. We REALLY liked this.
How Was The Wine? $27 for a 16 year-old Saviennières, so not too shabby. Plenty here to be of interest. Very alive, even youngish for its age. Nice pear and honey, olive oil and salt. Moderately intense, good acid. But...
And The Pairing? Finicky little bugger with food, as Saviennières can be. Flat with the endive-serrano, BRU-TAL with the salad, but very complete, jumpy, and layered with the crostini, so we stuck with those and the wine. Opened a Trader Joe's Albero Cava Brut to matchy-match with the elemental Spanishness of the manchego and serrano, and it led to a more happy, less persnickety pairing.
Cost: $20 for food, $34 for wine = $54