Tuesday, February 2, 2010

#32 - Scallops With Rice Cakes & Kim Crawford/Spanish Viognier

Has the world gone topsy-turvy?

Last night's meal should have been a perfect pairing with one of our favorite value sauvignon blancs. It wasn't, but a cheap, close-out Spanish viognier, a wine I thought might have been bad upon first sip, turned out to be freaking sublime.

Food: Whole Foods sea scallops with bee pollen in a tomatillo-coconut milk sauce, rice cakes and pea shoots

Large, quality sea scallops rubbed in bee pollen and seared in butter, salt and pepper. Frontera tomatillo salsa mixed with coconut milk and lime zest. Trader Joe's rice cakes, pea shoot salad and pickled ginger and ponzu sauce on the side.

The progression of opinion of the meal from beginning to end: This is pretty good; this is actually very good; I think I love this meal; Crap, this is freakin' great!

And gloriously clean to boot.

The tomatillo-coconut milk sauce is an alteration of a recipe by Rick Bayless when he appeared on Simply Ming. The addition of bee pollen, something we'll be adding to more recipes in the future, offered a nice subtle earthiness to balance out the lime zest and acidity of the sauce.

Rice cakes doused with ponzu has become a new favorite after having them with Asian beef filet a week ago. The pea shoot salad at the end of the meal, mixing in the leftover sauce and drizzling some ponzu over the top made for a great cap to the meal. Stupid European influence. I used to get annoyed when people finished off a meal at the restaurant I work at because the pizza was already light and breezy while never being something you wanted to cleanse from your palate. I'm beginning to see the value after every kind of meal.

Wine: 2008 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc ($15 WDC) & 2007 La Casa De La Ermita Viognier Jumilla ($10? - WDC)

Kim Crawford was covered here when we used it in purple corn sangria. It's a good value wine that everyone on the planet thought would sell like crazy but didn't. Now it's down in the $13 range everywhere. The last time we had this one it showed a more balanced fruit profile with grapefruit, lime and some passion fruit with the typical New World grassy sauvignon blanc notes and a bright zippiness. Still good this time but the fruit was a bit one-dimensional with mostly grapefruit, grapefruit and more grapefruit. The 2009s just came out. We'll give it a roll.

The 2007 La Casa De La Ermita Viognier comes from the Jumilla wine region in southeastern Spain and was bought in the early days of the great "Sam's was sold to Binny's" closeout sale down at the Lincoln Park location. $12.

An odd wine upon first sip. To me, it was either slightly bad or was attempting to replicate the oddness that comes with a Savennieres. First time we had that, it was weird as well, but after a few sips we got into it and came to love what it was doing. Different grapes, of course, but the same sort of musty strangeness right out of the gate. Savennieres typically comes off like a mineral, musty nuts (ha!), acid and dry adventure before getting to the understated fruit. Tough to describe, but that's the joy in it. They're elusive and coy.

This viognier is the same but it's different (a favorite saying of my 8th grade math teacher). Musty basement initially turns quickly to a fermented honey quality. Dried flowers and dry overall with subdued fruit and a balanced acidity. Fennel and a disinfectant note are in the description. Sure, why not? For $12, it's a huge bargain. NOT AT ALL what I expected from this wine.

Pairing: Each worked nearly perfectly with different aspects of the meal

The Kim Crawford should have matched up perfectly with so much of this meal. It fell short, mostly due to dominating grapefruit in the wine. Fine enough but nothing was particularly enhanced. With the pea shoot salad, though, it was perfect. Great top-off to the meal. The acidity in the wine lifted the salad and played with the ponzu in great ways.

The star, though, was the viognier. Its fermented honey quality played off the bee pollen while bringing everything in the sauce down a level, making it even more delicious and earthy than it already was. Compared to the Kim Crawford, the meal became something entirely different and kinda great.

For a meal that cost, all together, around $60, it was better than most anything we could have had at a restaurant last night.

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