Wednesday, June 29, 2016

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #51

Movie reviews:

'Hail Caesar!' - a bit pointless.

'45 Years' - Great acting, but a little hollow. Wasn't enough there there.

'Trainwreck' - You know, for someone whose entire show/persona is taking on sacred cows, could you choose a more formulaic, sappy movie, Amy. I wanted to bang my hands on the desk like Jon Oliver, saying, “NO! NO! You can’t do that! You can’t be what you say you are and do that!”

'F for Fake' - Welles' last film, and if you allow yourself to be lured in, it's quite lovely.

Total food and wine cost for the week: $97 for food and $84 for wine = $181

Sunday: Fish Cakes, Pickled Potatoes and Beet-Avocado Salad with Two La Granjas

Food Details: Fish ball recipe (page 196) from Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, turned into cod fish cakes and using a dried lime variation at the bottom of the recipe (along with eggs, pepper, turmeric, cumin, garlic, breadcrumbs, cilantro). Michael Solomonov's fried pickled potatoes (recipe). Farmers' Market beets, beet greens and avocado salad with serranos, cilantro, lemon thyme and pomegranate seeds. Chermoula from the freezer mixed with mayo for dipping and dunking.

Did We Like It? As Mrs. Ney said, this wasn't even great, but it was so gosh darn good. The dried lime business in the fish cakes turned out to be a dud. Flat taste, with mostly a vague brown spice flavor coming through. But great pickled potatoes, as always. And this beet-avocado was boss. Beety, creamy, with a firework explosion of flavors bouncing everywhere. Good. Meal.

How Was The Wine? We opened a síria to start, but it came off too delicate for the flavors on the plate. Moved on to fridge wine, a Trader Joe's La Granja throwdown: one verdejo-viura blend and a Cava. Cheap Spanish wine that has served our house well over the years, because it does this with the food...

And The Pairing? The verdejo-viura blend was terrible with the pickled potatoes, neutral with the fish cakes, but jumped out of the glass with the beet-avocado salad. Wonderfully broad, aromatic and all-around delicious (we'd pay $20 instead of $5 for how it performed with this beet-avocado salad). The Cava served as a mop for everything else, liking the pickled potatoes best as it became frothy and sparkly, turning into a right and proper Cava with all its Spanish-style strut. Very happy how this turned out given the síria failure.

Cost: $12 for food, $12 for wine = $24    

Saturday: Caprese with 2014 Charles Smith VINO Pinot Grigio Columbia Valley

Food Details: Trader Joe's bocconcini balls of marinated mozzarella, Farmers' Market baby tomatoes, copious amounts of basil, and baguette.

Did We Like It? This used to be a Monday lunch staple. We loved it then, a few years ago, as it served as a long lunch that made a clean break from the after-burn and frustration of the workweek. Having it now reminds us of that. And we're glad we don't have it as often today. Good. Tasty. Fine.

How Was The Wine? We love Charles Smith's pinot grigio for its zip, fruit and cheapness. But it must be fresh. This 2014 showed as other 2014s have of late - getting a little tired and lacking chisel, cut and verve.

And The Pairing? Fine, basic, elemental matchup, just nothing to get all worked up about.

Cost: $10 for food, $11 for wine = $21

Friday: Lamb and Pickled Vegetables Salad with 2014 João Portugal Ramos "Lima" Loureiro Vinho Verde

Food Details: A riff on a house fav, Indian lamb-carrot salad, using Solomonov pickled vegetables (cauliflower, celery and carrots) from the fridge instead of carrots (Mrs. Ney needs the pickling liquid for upcoming Solomonov pickled potatoes). Ground lamb crisped up in the cast-iron with onion, ginger, garlic, black cardamom, coriander and black pepper. Arugula on a plate, pickled vegetables on top of that, then the lamb with pomegranate seeds and toasted sesame seeds on top of everything. Black mustard seed raita and naan on the side.

Did We Like It? I found it perfectly simple, perfectly spare, perfectly dressed and perfectly poppy. This riff on Indian carrot salad is missing nothing. Nothing at all. I'd go so far as to say that it had a cut and intensity that Indian carrot salad doesn't. Not better, just blissfully different.

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

And The Pairing? It was trying... Tons of wine-trying... But the LIMA has been missing its élan, its joie de vivre, its purpose and pep of late. Same here.

Cost: $14 for food, $8 for wine = $22    

Thursday: Roasted Carrot and Ricotta Sandwiches with 2015 Terrasse du Moulinas Blanc Elégance Languedoc-Roussillon

Food Details: Carrots from the Lincoln Square Farmers' Market, roasted; leftover ricotta/country ham mixture from Tuesday, with garlic and piquillo peppers added; tomato, onion, arugula, basil and marinated artichokes (for me), all on ciabatta. Olive oil chips on the side.

Did We Like It? What was essentially a "Use stuff up" sandwich dinner turned into "Who doesn't want roasted carrots, ricotta and tons of other matchy foodstuffs together?!" Messy and so damn good. I certainly didn't want a camera on me while eating it. I'd eat this once a month.

How Was The Wine? $10, one-liter, grenache blanc, vermentino, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc blend from the Languedoc. This was our house white for awhile. Less so lately. It's rather happy juice for $10. Mixed bag of orchard fruit with enough of an acid edge to like a lot of food that leans Mediterranean.

And The Pairing? Here, it was more of an accompaniment to the food than any sort of pairing wonder. I like this wine and it was nice to have it there.

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

Wednesday: Dirty Rice with 2014 Firelands Winery Gewürztraminer Ohio

Food Details: Susan Spicer's wild and dirty rice recipe, via Food and Wine, subbing tasso and country ham for ground pork, with beet greens and andouille sausage.

Did We Like It? Great balance to the spice in relation to all the other flavors with this batch. Cleaner, yet still dirty. Had a sparkle to it. Meaty, herby, Cajun bowl of Happy.

How Was The Wine? Huge Ohio Winner! June is Cleveland's month with the Cavs championship, and even the Indians have won 14 straight as of this writing (six away from the MLB record). Mrs. Ney is from Ohio. I'm a 30-year-plus Browns fan. This is an Ohio house (except for OSU - screw them). If we see something like an Ohio gewürztraminer for $14, we buy it. "Gotta support the team." This one is a straight-forward, well-made, rather delicious gewürztraminer, giving a perfect, baseline tension to its acid and fruit. Lychee and peach with real lift. Stick this in a lineup with Old World gewürztraminers and this house would put it right up there with all the others, particularly with food.

And The Pairing? This wine loved the dirty rice. Every bite and sip jolted us out of the run-of-the-mill drink and sip and made us pay attention. Can't ask for more.

Cost: $10 for food, $14 for wine = $24  

Tuesday: Carrot-top Pesto Ravioli with 2015 La Spinetta Vermentino Toscana

Food Details: Homemade ravioli, using 00 pasta flour, stuffed with a Whole Foods ricotta, country ham, nutmeg and black pepper blend. Carrot-top pesto with carrot tops from the Farmers' Market: garlic, olive oil, tarragon, dill, sage, lemon zest, pistachios, whatever was in the house. More Farmers' Market baby tomatoes mixed in with the ravioli and pesto, topped with pecorino, parsley and crushed pistachios. Arugula (not baby) salad with pomegranate seeds to finish.

Did We Like It? Big plate of Good. Plant-y. A little bit of everything and not much of one thing.

How Was The Wine? I liked the 2010 of this vermentino and remember enjoying the 2013 (no write-up). This vintage brought oodles of green apple and pear, but not enough minerality, acid or ocean breeze to give the grizzle and presence we want from vermentino. This is more quiet and, to us, less interesting.

And The Pairing? They didn't really want to be friends. Not unpleasant, just not particularly interesting. A few sips and bites were trying, but overall, nothing to see here. The plantiness and surprising subtlety in the food wanted the pecorino we had in the house.

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

Monday: Lamb and "Potato-Tomato!" with 2013 Bokisch Montastrell Belle Colline Vineyard Lodi

Food Details: Paulina Meat Market lamb rosettes (marinated in onion, garlic, oregano, evoo, white wine), seared in cast iron; Sam Sifton faux pommes frites; tomatoes with shallots, serrano, oregano, parsley, mint, evoo, white balsamic; arugula; Saveur olive-anchovy aioli.

Did We Like It? More nostalgic home food done better than when it was first consumed. We used to eat something akin to this meal once every couple of months a few years ago. It's been too long since we've had Paulina's lamb rosettes and that's gotta change. They're everything that's best about lamb. And the Lincoln Square Farmers' Market has tomatoes right now that are so perfectly ripe that it's turned into tomato week in our house. FUNKY aioli in the best sense for potato dipping. This was a spectacular meal.

How Was The Wine? We're members of two winery clubs: Broc Cellars in Berkeley and Bokisch in Lodi. We get a case from each twice a year (just joined Bokisch). One thing we've learned over the years of being members of other clubs is that one should pick a winery that a wide array of bottles from different and unusual grapes that are made with food in mind, bringing the requisite amount of acidity and balance. And you're not being given their showy wines at $50-80 a bottle. Join a wine club to have a bottle for those casual lunches or solid dinners. Don't go for the club that gives you the "look how rare this wine is" bottles (read: stuff they couldn't possibly sell on the open market). Join a wine club that wants you to drink their wine everyday. Like Bokisch. Our last shipment had two gracianos, four albariños, a verdejo, two verdelhos, garnacha blanca, a rosé and this montastrell (mourvèdre by another name), all for around $220. Spanish grapes with California sun.

9% graciano in this montastrell, it's earthy, with red fruits galore, figs, and a light floral background. Very mourvèdre with a clean edge. More medium-bodied than expected, but a touch of sappy fruit on the finish. Very long and very nice though, and a good example of getting something different from a wine club that satisfies. This one is not going to blow you away with its amazingness, but you're going to get a well-made wine that wants food from a producer you like and trust.

And The Pairing? Changed often with various bites, liking the lamb and the anchovy-olive aioli well enough to be happy overall with what it gave to the grub. Again, nothing amazing, and the pairing could have been better, but this one was clap-your-hands-together and say, "That was quite fine!"

Cost: $28 for food, $20 for wine = $48  

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