Patrick Modiano's Occupation Trilogy, so far, captures all the moral ambiguity and farce that came with the manipulation of moral ambiguity under the Vichy regime during WWII. Bad, weak-willed people given their chance to do bad things. It's been a treat. An odd treat, but a treat nonetheless.
This week, we've had great boar, delicious Veracruz scallops, and we found our house pizza dough. So...success.
Total food and wine cost for the week: $88 for food and $114 for wine = $202
Sunday: Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Basil and Pugliese Bread with VinTJ's Arneis Russian River Valley
Did We Like It? Yeah. Easy as all get-out, filling, and satisfying.
How Was The Wine? Trader Joe's arneis from Russian River. We like the Italian varieties grown in California. We find that infinitely interesting. Here's a moody one. A bit watery in terms of distinctive arneis flavors, with apples and pears and anise and a leafy quality, but it was all there...except with the mozzarella.
And The Pairing? Fine stuff with a tomato-bread-herbs-oil bite, approaching that "just drink Italian wine with Italian food and be done with it, because it's good" quality. But with the mozzarella, it tasted like a dead ferret got into the tank.
Cost: $8 for food, $8 for wine = $16
Saturday: Fenugreek Blackeyed Pea Curry, Naan and Celery Raita with 2014 Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Valley
Fenugreek-Perfumed Black-Eyed Peas;" Celery raita here, via Bawarchi.com
Did We Like It? Tough call on whether the curry or the celery raita was better. When you have celery in the house, this raita is what you do with it. It's delicious. The curry (our new house curry) was blazingly hot the day before, but mellowed out so well. Perfect level of heat, happy cooling from the raita, tasty Trader Joe's naan, a product that I could make a case for being a top-five, all-time TJ's product (along with seafood sausages, dark chocolate gelato, Picpoul, Muscadet...). It's incredibly versatile, has great chew, acceptable depth, and not wildly expensive.
How Was The Wine? Chilean sauvignon blanc on the cheap. Tangerine and grapefruit and herbs with nice, punchy acidity. We've had a couple of vintages of this one. The 2014 might be the best. Everything was in balance, with every layer giving way to the next in graceful fashion, allowing it to play above its price tag.
And The Pairing? Happy. The acid did its cut-and-slash with the food, then the wine showed its herbal-fruity side and juicy finish. My Saturday work night was filled with nutters. Coming home to this...? Wiped away.
Cost: $9 for food, $10 for wine = $19
Friday: Mexican Red Rice with 2014 VinTJ's Vermentino Russian River Valley
Food Details: Bayless' Mexican red rice with jalapeño chicken sausages, leftover kale and leftover lentils. Sour cream and cilantro on top.
Did We Like It? It's a staple. An easy staple. A happy staple. This one with leftover rabbit oil-dripped kale and tea-smoked lentils from the week. Brought texture and depth to a meal that can sometimes get a little mushy in terms of texture.
How Was The Wine? Two new labels arrived at Trader Joe's: this vermentino and an arneis, both from Russian River Valley. The vermentino, with this meal, brought some lime notes with a wee touch of minerality and herbs. Simple vermentino, nothing special, but for $8, a decent little wine when you want/need a modicum of citrusy snap to perk up and weave into the food.
And The Pairing? I pretty much hated this wine by itself. Had that garbage dump waft to it. But with this food, a fine level of enjoyment merged; ironing its pants, straightening out the wine's ties and fluffing its coat. Misses on the second and third level of goodness, but it's $8. Not too shabby.
Cost: $7 for food, $8 for wine = $15
Thursday: Pick-n-Choose Chicken, Tomatoes and Herb Salad with NV NV Grifone Bianco Sicily
Did We Like It? Don't wanna cook? Buy all this stuff, cut that chicken in half, slice, salt and pepper your tomatoes, dress your salad, put it all on a plate and eat food that pushes the all the food buttons. Pro tip from people that do this regularly: Put the half-chicken under the broiler - it crisps up the skin and adds a delicious, crispy dimension.
How Was The Wine? Drank the rest of the Charles Smith Pinot Grigio, which didn't really add much here. The Grifone Bianco, a riesling-moscato blend, is the default wine for this meal. Meh on its own, with this food, it's long and complete. A touch less so here, but still nice. It likes kumatoes, but we didn't have any in the house.
And The Pairing? See above.
Cost: $11 for food, $16 for wine = $27
Wednesday: Potato-Rosemary Pizzas and Arugula with 2014 Tablas Creek Vermentino Paso Robles and 2014 Charles Smith VINO Pinot Grigio Columbia Valley
Pizza dough, via Lucky Peach. Learn it, know it, love it.
Food Details: Boiled potatoes, Boar's Head fresh mozzarella, rosemary and olive oil on top of the above-linked crust. Arugula on top. Two rectangular pizzas cooked on 18" x 13" pans, oiled. Five minutes lowest rack, 7-9 minutes middle rack. Preheated 500-degree oven. 48-hour proof on the dough in the fridge. Two balls.
Did We Like It? HUGE surprise. Perfect dough, at least what can be done with our oven. Thin and crispy, with oodles of flavor. Perfect amount of salt and yeasty depth. We have found our house pizza dough! This was potato pizza, but with the arugula and rosemary, the flavor and weight was so bouncy and light. We ate both pizzas and didn't feel like we just ate "POTATO PIZZA!" in the least. Big success, and impossibly easy to make.
How Was The Wine? Vermentino from California? Yes, please. A bit pricey at $25 retail but real vermentino deliciousness with this one. Punchy, scrummy entry of citrus, tangerine, herbs and salt; a somewhat quiet mid-palate, but that leads right to a more complex, broad finish of minerals, Asian herbs and Asian citrus leaf. Oh, for this to be $18. Put this in the La Val Orballo albariño price world and we'd be buying six a year. $27 with tax gives us pause, but it's rather delicious. But then there was Charles Smith being Charles Smith...
And The Pairing? We were quite happy with the vermentino and these pizzas. It loved the rosemary. But a couple of glasses of the Charles Smith VINO pinot grigio turned into all sparkly, twinkly stars with this food. It was perfect. We have found our pizza dough, and we've found the wine to go with it.
Cost: $7 for food, $27 for wine = $34
Tuesday: Wild Boar, Kale and Tea-smoked Lentils with 2008 Duorum Colheita Duoro
ork tenderloin with burnt brown sugar, orange confit, and thyme, via News OK, using wild boar from D'Artagnan.
Food Details: Boar brined overnight in lapsang souchong brine, braised in orange confit oil for three hours, coated with coconut sugar and thrown under the broiler, raw lacinato kale tossed with black lentils cooked in more lapsang souchong, pomegranate seeds, all drizzled with thyme and braising oil.
Did We Like It? This was very good boar, eating like brisket in a way, and every flavor coming through. Loved-loved-loved the orange confit oil. It defined the meal along with the tea smoke. This was melt-in-your-mouth meat with a big pile of meaty, smoky kale, and it was deep and dirty-delicious.
How Was The Wine? Opened a 2008 Avanthia, a mencia from Valdeorras in Spain and it was strike-two for the week in terms of 'first wine choice' boringness. Tasted tired and quiet. Moved on to the 2008 Duorum, a red Douro blend of touriga nacional, touriga franca and tinta roriz. Dry, savory, medium-bodied, medium acid, medium verve. A nice Douro red blend for under $20. Happy dirt. The 2007 Reserva was great, this one less so, but good guts here while simultaneously having an overall ethereal presence.
And The Pairing? We were just glad we found a wine that was good enough after opening a $40 Avanthia that brought nothing to the table. This was a tough pairing - a lot going on with the food - and the Duorum brought enough slice and dice for us to be moderately satisfied.
Cost: $24 for food, $19 for wine = $43
Monday: Veracruz-style Scallops, Rice and Kale with 2013 Noêlla Morantin Chez Charles Vin de France
Saveur, using scallops
Food Details: A house fav with sea bass, this time with scallops. A blend of tomatoes, capers, olives, garlic, onion, manzano peppers, said pepper juice, rosemary, parsley, bay, all the goods; placed over annatto yellow rice. Seared scallops on top of that. Baby kale salad with pomegranate seeds on the side.
Did We Like It? Happy-slappy Veracruz goodness. And good to have scallops again. Felt like it'd been years. Check the link above to the sea bass versions. This was the spiciest version yet. Not blazingly hot, but it certainly permeated every bite. This meal has all the stuff we like while maintaining an overall lightness and spunky punch.
How Was The Wine? In the link above, you'll see a white López de Heredia in some form or vintage, because it's stupid-perfect with this food. A bottle of 2004 LdH Gravonia Blanco couldn't keep up with the heat in this meal, even coming up a bit boring by itself: salty, too much pineapple-like fruit and smoked oil, something that lesser vintages of Heredia sometimes possess. We probably opened this too soon, as 2004 was considered a very good vintage in Rioja. Moved on to an already-chilled bottle of natural sauvignon blanc from Touraine, and it was freakin' lovely. Pure, clean sauvignon blanc that's much lighter than most SB while maintaining an intensity and expression all the way through. Bit of lime, some ginger, some Thai basil, perfect acid, but mostly a prettiness, lightness and integrity of flavor that we loved. Unique sauvignon blanc to us, and we'll be buying more, most likely.
And The Pairing? With the Heredia being such a dud here, the Chez Charles brought everything we wanted from a wine that wasn't going to bullied by the heat in the food. Nice lime linkup with the orange zest (addition) and good acid that provided just the right cut. But this meal was mostly about how much we liked this wine. Big fans.
Cost: $22 for food, $26 for wine = $48