Wednesday, October 6, 2010

#121 - Dry-Aged Filet & Mushroom Tart With Two Clos Fourtets

Right Bank Bordeaux can be fairly limiting with food.

Staying away from spicy heat is prudent.

And experimenting with the joys of contrasting elements on the plate that work together aren't in Right Bank Bordeaux's wheelhouse.

It's right and proper to keep the food in a similar, more mild, earthy vein with protein simply prepared in order to let the sometimes finicky, moody nature of merlot shine.

So...stripped-down, Old School, simple French food.

That can suck sometimes, coming off dull and boring, a meal that feels and tastes like the very essence of mundane.

It has to be done right in order to transcend its limitations.

It's not like good Thai or Mexican or even contemporary American, cuisines that seem to be able to make up for its sometimes sloppy preparation with its broader range of flavors, textures and surprises. More room for error.

With Old School French, the joy comes in the quality of the preparation and ingredients. Get it wrong and it's utterly forgettable. Get it right and it reminds you why the French have known what they're doing for centuries.

And you can't beat using dry-aged beef filet with a Michael Chiarello mushroom tart recipe for getting a head-start on getting it right.

Turned into a pleasant night with a neighbor over for dinner.

Food: 21-day, dry-aged beef filet with mushroom tart, mâche and cheese plate

Say you want beef filet. To buy good filet, you're already in for about $35 or so for two people. It's of course good, tasty and dripping with beefy goodness. You're going to like it. It's beef filet. Spend $15 more for the same amount of meat and you get something that you'll remember for weeks. Very similar to '64 Heredia Tondonia pairing in February.

Cut into two 3 oz.-ish medallions and rubbed with salt, pepper and oil - roasted then seared, they turned into something extraordinary. Better than the NY strip. Better than the ribeye. While the strip sprinted directly for the beefy butter realm and the ribeye comes off as a little too rich, the filet brought a perfect balance of meaty butter and beefy structural integrity.

It's the pinnacle of beef.

A red wine and mushroom reduction on the side. We were worried that it might overwhelm the beef but it didn't. Complimented beautifully when kept to the side and dragged through.

Served with a mushroom tart. Creamy yet distinguished flavors. Lightly herbal with a good parsley hit. Great crust that never went mushy or dominant, as tarts can sometimes do. Great recipe and great preparation.

Topped off with a lightly dressed mâche salad with baguette and Irish butter.

A cheese course to top things off. After some research to find cheeses that went well with Right Bank Bordeaux, three names came up. Camembert (didn't want it), Cantal (couldn't find it) and Pont L'eveque (found and bought it). We're ambivalent to stinky cheese and lean towards not liking much of it but we're open to trying. Smelled like a corpse rotting in a dumpster and the smell enveloped the entire apartment. Nice to try, much milder on the tongue, full-bodied and intensely creamy, but we don't need it again.

Aged cheddar, leftover Delice de Bourgogne and Roquefort rounded out the platter. Aside from the Roquefort having a dirty sock behind the dryer taste, good stuff all around, varied and interesting enough. Cheese is good. We're just not "I can eat entire block of cheese!" people.

We've steered away from French-style food lately for a ton of reasons. Freakin' great to return precisely because it stays balanced and almost...light.

Wine: 2003 Clos Fourtet ($60 - WDC), 2002 Clos Fourtet ($35 - Brown Derby) & 2005 Royal Tokaji Wine Co. Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos ($35 - WDC)

The 2003 Clos Fourtet was the wine that got us into Bordeaux with a half-bottle four years ago at Schwa.

This was the first time we've had it since. Plum, truffle and grilled meat on the nose, the fruit was a tad closed at first on the palate but opened up quickly to show round, bright-ish plum and raspberry notes with a touch of spice and mid-palate core of fine earth and mushroom. Somewhat creamy in texture but not thick. Tons of tannin still but integrated nicely and quite drinkable now. Showing some age. Rich and straight-forward from a great vintage. Maybe missing some of that spicy edge-earth blend I remember from the half-bottle but big and balanced nonetheless. Long life for this one, I assume. Lovely.

The intention for the night was to do a mini-vertical with Clos Fourtets from 2002-2004. Didn't happen. The 2004 wasn't touched. That's a lot of wine. So we had the 2003 with the main course and drank the 2002 with everything else.

I was dubious about the 2002. Not much info on it and a mediocre vintage. But it turned out to be something to recommend. Tons of dirt, dirt and more dirt with juicy dark red fruits and a slightly thin texture that nonetheless held on to something resembling Right Bank Bordeaux...ish. Even somewhat leafy at times. Not much personality or commanding presence and the backbone isn't long for this world but for $35, it's a fine little Right Bank drinker.

The Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttanyos served us well in place of dessert. Drank with Swedish ginger cookie-crackers, it's all orange peel, honey and marmalade, light but substantial, beautifully consistent texture from the lips to the stomach and great balance of dry and sweet. Delicious. I can't say I liked it enough to pick up another. Borderline but good price.

Pairing: 92 Frenchy Goodness

It's tough to talk about the details as there was much talking going on at the table not involving the wine. The details slipped through the cracks as other things were being discussed.

But the 2003 with the beef and mushroom tart, especially as it opened up, served us entirely well, staying true to itself, serving as a bridge between the beef and tart and offering a richness that couldn't be matched by the 2002.

The 2002 was good with the milder cheese (Delice de Bourgogne), mâche, baguette and butter and got swallowed up by the funkier ones.

The Hungarian dessert wine played better than any actual dessert could have offered. That just would have taken the meal from nicely balanced to stupid rich and heavy in many ways, I think.

Just a nice night.

Really nice.

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