Saturday, January 8, 2011

#152 - Leftover Lamb Stew And Fregola With '05 Meandro

Along with passing along pairings here at FWW, I'd like to perform a second function. Time and anguish saving.

Don't read Vertical, the follow-up to Sideways. There. I just saved you 20 or so hours of unmitigated reading hell. At one point, if the words 'alacrity' or 'enervated' popped up one more GD time, I was going to whip the Kindle across the room. The admittedly decent last 100 pages couldn't be saved by the first 300 of terribly written soft-core porn intermingled with ads for the "trusty" iPhone (entire paragraphs describing the navigation of it) and Viagra with buttloads of laugh jags entirely inappropriate to the set-up ("These people are havin' such a wild time! You're nuts!"). Shooting for a "wacky romp that ups the stakes," it comes off as a badly edited, perfunctory churn-out to get a movie deal. I did not embrace it with alacrity. It only left me feeling enervated.


I never loved the Meandro line from Quinta do Vale Meão.

Always came off as a touch limp and clunky to me. Respected it for what it was but it never thrilled me and I certainly never looked forward to it.

Last night was a little different.

Food: Leftover lamb stew with fregola

From #140 a month ago:

"A New Spanish Table recipe once again. Lamb stew with dried and fresh red peppers is the title (pages 248-249) but the beauty came from the use of San Marzano tomatoes in all their brightness and pearl onions bringing a perfect level of depth. Red bell peppers and ancho peppers with garlic, chicken stock, white wine, red wine vinegar and various stew-ish essentials with a pronounced black pepper presence."

Came off somewhat similar a month later, this time with a more pronounced ancho and red pepper hit. Deep but not sticky with lamb that pretty much tasted fresh. Loved what it offered but it was second to the fregola.

A textbook way to freshen up leftovers. Add a freshly-made, ridiculously good risotto-type goopiness to bleed into the stew flavors and fill the holes. Tasted made for each other.

Fregola done in a risotto style, the Sardinian pasta balls similar in appearance to Israeli couscous but made from semolina, creates a silky, rich, creamy starchy bleed-off just like standard risotto but accents its rustic semolina quality. Italian peasanty in a fancy way.

Blended with onion, chicken stock, manchego and a squeeze of lemon juice with everything topped with parsley and mint.

Much like the last time we had the lamb stew, Mrs. Ney didn't expect much but it turned out damn tasty.

I was sad when it was done.

Fregola was an integral part of one of the best meals we had last year with lamb and the 2003 Hobbs Gregor Shiraz.

With the low-rent, leftover impression we expected before the meal, a low-rent bottle of wine that we'd become entirely sick of looking at and should be drunk seemed prudent.

Like the meal's result, the wine played well above all expectations.

Wine: 2005 Meandro do Vale Meão ($22 - Binny's)

Loam and stewy black fruits on the nose. Blackberry, cassis and a hint of stewed meat right away on the palate with a bone dry finish. The tannins settled down quickly and everything fell into place.

Vacillated back and forth between a sweet blackberry and licorice liqueur and a jumble of sweetish dark red fruits with an earthy note throughout. A bit herbal, tasting like grilled sage or something. Overall, softish with a bit of a creamy edge that came and went and a welcoming hotness kicking up about 3/4 of the way down.

Unlike previous times we've drank this, no chocolate or coffee to be found. Maybe that was it. I never loved the bitter old coffee or the cheap chocolate notes before but the soft, liqueur-like fruit and fine earth is the star right now. Something about the simplicity of how it's showing now compared to how it did before made it more appealing. Less fancified. It's a $20 bottle and it always seemed like Vale Meão, an estate that produces wines on the higher end that taste like Love to us every year, tried to retrofit a Lexus body onto an Aveo engine with the Meandro line.

But five years out, this was good stuff. Maybe it just needed some time or the right food with it.

Pairing: 89 Tasted like a surprisingly well-played pick-up game at the Y

We fell ass-backwards into the pairing but all the pieces fit perfectly.

The creamy nuttiness from the manchego fit with the earth and liqueur notes in the wine and the rich, starchy bleed-off from the fregola filled in the missing gaps in the wine, making it taste like a wine that was two levels better than it was by itself.

A dried, crushed pepper quality that was so prevalent in the sauce flirted beautifully with the hotness in the wine, creating a two act play on the plate - spicy hit that brought out more guts in the wine contrasting with the creaminess from the fregola/manchego that settled it down into a subtle blackberry-licorice place.

Probably 12 different flavor combinations to play with in the meal, taking a leftover meal into a place that didn't taste like it in the least.

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