Thursday, May 5, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #43

Between our dog having a heart attack every time it thunders and the year-long road construction outside our house, sleep has been a precious commodity of late.

So I declare The Summer of Sleep!

...particularly since nothing political is worth consuming until November. Gonna be a rough summer for the republic, everyone.

Drinking higher-end, well-crafted wines can help you understand what lower-end, mass-produced wines get right. When one of them gets it right, one of those cheapy-cheap wines gets the balance between fruit, herbs, acid and refreshment perfect relative to what you paid, your surprise level is sometimes higher than when you have a pedigreed wine higher up the dollars scale. With that, this house recommends the Lila Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough in the can. Four-pack of 250mls for $10.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $108 for food and $76 for wine = $184

Sunday: Charred Onions, Arugula and Ancient Grains Bread with 2014 Amancay Torrontés La Rioja

Food Details: (recipe). Charred onions and shallots over yogurt. Arugula and Ancient Grains bread. Lemon-thyme vinaigrette for the onions and arugula. Rip bread, top with stuff, eat.

Did We Like It? A Mother's Day double for me left me clueless as to what Mrs. Ney made for dinner. To come home to charred onions and yogurt is like coming home to a Technicolor version of Home. De-licious!

How Was The Wine? Lightly fruity, lightly floral. It's $7 Trader Joe's torrontés.

And The Pairing? I enjoyed a well water note in the wine this time. Overall quite acceptable. It loved the vinaigrette.

Cost: $10 for food, $7 for wine = $17

Saturday: Piri-Piri Chicken and Feta Potatoes with Lila Canned Wines

Food Details: Mr. Oliver's piri piri sauce dumped on top of [seared-to-seal] boneless chicken breasts and sauteed red, orange, and yellow "ancient chiles", baked in 400-degree oven for 15 minutes; boiled (old! sprouty!) potatoes mashed with leftover feta, dill, cilantro, and evoo.

Did We Like It? Chicken, spice, peppers, potatoes, feta. Who doesn't want any of that. And it's better together.

How Was The Wine? More Lila cans. I don't know how long our mild fascination will last with these little numbers, but for now they're juicy, poppy and fun. I got a cherry Now-n-Later note in the rosé this time. The sauvignon blanc is the undisputed winner between these two.

And The Pairing? Acceptable.

Cost: $12 for food, $5 for wine = $17    

Friday: Zucchini Babaganoush Pick-n-Choose with 2015 Innovacíon Rosé Mendoza

Food Details: Recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, by Claudia Roden (page 65), using roasted zucchini instead of eggplant, with tahini, cumin, lemon juice and olive oil. Kumatoes, arugula and pita. Compile a bite using all the goods and eat.

Did We Like It? Delicious babaganoush that kept adjusting to all the other elements and changing its personality. Sometimes a big hit of lemon, other times a hit of cumin, tahini pop on occasion. Every bite was deliciously different, with planty arugula and oddly solid pita from Middle Eastern Grocery (usually don't love it). Zero diminishing returns or eating fatigue. That rarely happens with Mrs. Ney's pick-n-choose, because she brings a bevy of spices, acid, veggies, herbs and greens to the plate that...if you get tired of something like that, well, you have no tongue. A great meal all around.

How Was The Wine? One-liter rosé, malbec and syrah, $7.50 at Whole Foods (on sale with 6-bottle discount). Our first 2015. Tastes like dirt and iron, backed up by dark cherry and plum. At this price for a liter, we're tickled pink (oof).

And The Pairing? No complaints whatsoever. Iron Earth!

Cost: $9 for food, $8 for wine = $17

Thursday: Rotisserie Chicken Pick-n-Choose with 2015 Barbadillo Palomino Fino Cádiz

Food Details: Harvesttime dinner! Rotisserie chicken and a new bread made in-house there, 99¢ braided sesame loaves from that crazy-cheap grocery store. With that, herb salad blend from Trader Joe's, leftover homemade za'atar mixed with olive oil. Rip a piece of bread, slather with za'atar, top with chicken and greens. Eat.

Did We Like It? It's pick-n-choose. Of course we did. Solid new bread option here and cheap as heck.  Za'atar brought all the background complexity needed, eschewing tomatoes for the simplicity and deliciousness it brought without them. And it worked better with the wine.

How Was the Wine? I'll plagiarize myself from the last time we had it: Trader Joe's palomino in not-sherry form. We love how the label says it's "fruity." Nope. This is categorically not fruity. This is dry, clean, savory as hell, light, refreshing, dry, and dry. It's a blank slate. Add food that likes it and things happen. It gets into the food and tastes like standing in a dried-up wheat field in a hot, late-summer day. And it tastes like something an old Spanish man has been drinking at the exact same time everyday for 60 years. In a world of superlatives, this is not something to call some superlative. It's a nice, quiet, evocative drink. A teeny-tiny small moment in the glass. It simply makes you smile.

And The Pairing? Like a nice, meandering walk through a quiet city on a hot day.

Cost: $11 for food, $6 for wine = $17

Wednesday: CHEESE!

Food Details: Dog storm anxiety, zero sleep because it, and the resulting aborted trip to Milwaukee to watch the Angels led to Bill's Drive-In for lunch and Jimmy's Pizza Cafe for dinner. CHEESE! Oof.

Cost: $40  

Tuesday: Halloumi, Heirloom Tomatoes and Garlic Bread with 2014 Santo Assyritiko Santorini

Food Details: Fried halloumi; heirloom tomatoes, (Ottolenghi) slow-roasted yellow tomatoes, roasted lemon slices, red onion, pomegranate seeds, fresh oregano, evoo, white balsamic; pea shoot salad with mint; garlic bread

Did We Like It? For some reason, we didn't eat "tomatoes as meat" last year, not spotlighting them as much as we had in the past. Good to have them back. And good to have the first, real, spring "GARDEN! on the plate" meal of the year. Tons of freshness, bite, planty deliciousness everywhere. The fried halloumi with bread is always great, but the star here was everything else: heirlooms, spectacular roasted lemon slices and yellow tomatoes with its roasty-ness contrasting with the freshness of the pea shoot salad, mint and fresh tomato chunks. It's the kind of meal everyone should eat once a week. Resets the body. Except don't follow it up with more cheese the next day, like we did.

How Was The Wine? Sigalas Assyritiko has been the undisputed assyritiko winner in our house for years. But finding an assyritiko that's cheaper than the $23 price tag on the Sigalas would be nice. So here's a $15 alternative that plays above the price difference between the two. Salt, fruit, minerals and zip in a cheaper, slightly more subdued package than Sigalas. It's nice, I might buy it again, but can't fully commit. And BUT, as mentioned above, the Lila Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough in 250-ml cans showed that uber-cheap canned wine has come a long way of late. From the company that makes 90+ Cellars wine, we didn't love the rosé, but the sauvignon blanc brought lovely levels of grapefruit, mint and acid without bringing too much of any of it. It's refreshment in a can; nothing serious but it's not meant to be taken so. Huge surprise, particularly since New Zealand sauvignon blanc isn't something we love in the least. Typically it's too much muchness. Not here.  

And The Pairing? Greek whites have a specific food place in our house. This type of meal is one of those places, but it's also a meal that can go with a flurry of higher-acid, minerally whites. This meal was very pleasant with the Santo, offering everything we needed with the food to find completely acceptable, even lovely at times, pairing pleasure. But with the surprise of the can, and the mint-mint matchy-match in the food and wine, there was an odd level the can of sauvignon blanc that won the night. Who'd a thunk?

Cost: $15 for food, $20 for wine = $35    

Monday: Anne Burrell Chicken Milanese with 2015 Broc Cellars Picpoul Luna Matta Vineyard Paso Robles

Food Details: Anne Burrell chicken Milanese, pickled onions, shishito peppers and watercress salad, pecorino/hazelnuts/parsley/lemon zest crumble, and ciabattini buns.

Did We Like It? Mrs. Ney doesn't know why, but the crust on this version of Ms. Burrell Milanese was the best we've had since she started making this superlative meal four years ago, covering dozens of eatings. And probably the best version overall once we discounted the newness factor of the first few versions. The shishitos and watercress brought a raw-bitter element that drove right up to the "too much!" door but never entered. A Capital-G Great meal.

How Was The Wine? Disagreement. Both of us found goodness in the glass here. Mrs. Ney loved it, I found an ever-so tiny oxidized, maybe bottle shock (?) note that I couldn't fully get past. Tons of orange-fennel in many forms with this vintage it seems (which is only our second of this wine). Mrs. Ney loved its balance, tiny salt hit and acid integration, I found it the smallest bit tired, like it went into its shell and wasn't going to give all it had. We'll see how the other three bottles drink. Should be fairly soon.

And The Pairing? Same as above. Mrs. Ney found loveliness all around, I wanted more.

Cost: $13 for food, $30 for wine = $43        

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