Thursday, January 20, 2011

#155 - Moroccan-Inflected Tuna With Two '08 Oregon Pinots

"Beat THAT!" Mrs. Ney says to her future self.

"Not likely!" says me.

Best tuna we've ever had.

If this tuna showed up on a 20-course tasting menu, it would the one course I'd remember three years later. Except we each had six full ounces of the stuff sitting in front of us.

As an overall meal, with both wines to go back and forth, this meal easily sits in the top two or three in the few years.

And, for everything, on the plate and in the glass, it cost a grand freakin' total of about $80.

Don't need a Groupon for that!

Food: Moroccan-inflected tuna with blood oranges and gaeta olives, arugula and pomegranate salad and Seeduction bread, Kerrygold butter and rose petal jam

The recipe:

Tuna: 12 oz piece: crusted with:
(1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
3/4 tsp pink peppercorns
3/4 tsp szechuan peppercorns
seeds from 5 cardamom pods
1/2 tsp fleur de sel
4 thin slices peeled ginger,
mashed all together in mortar & pestle - from Around My French Table)
Blood orange suprèmes and gaeta olives (shallot, thyme, cumin seeds, walnut oil)
Arugula, parsley & pomegranate seeds salad (walnut oil, salt, black pepper)
Seeduction bread, Kerrygold butter, French rose petal jam

Tuna seared rare and placed on top of the blood orange and olive salad. The first bite was one of the purest taste experiences (don't care how pretentious that sounds) I've ever had. Every flavor on the tuna and under it came through so balanced, so beautifully seasoned, so pause-worthy that words aren't gonna do it. Right away, the cardamom and peppercorn hit freshened, brightened and lightened by the blood orange juice, cleaned by the ginger and then brought back to a savory, darker depth of deliciousness by the gaeta olives. Seemed like 12 levels of flavor in every bite without being murky or muddled and nothing obscuring the tuna in the least. Great acid, pretty floral notes from the spices. Can't say anything more.

Best. Tuna. Ever.

Accompanied by Seeduction bread from Whole Foods. Played an important role with its rustic, dark bread edge, leveling out the entire meal with country, sort of unrefined presence brought to something more refined by quality Kerrygold butter. But the rose petal jam, adding yet another floral component, seemed integral, enforcing again what we want: bright, clean food with a strong acid backbone, the protein strongly driven by herbs and spices that serve as the primary lifter and the supporting cast being different levels of diversion and cut while tying into everything else.

Who doesn't? That's textbook. But in the details, this meal is the First example in our food world.

Arugula, parsley and pomegranate seed salad to finish.

Wine: 2008 Ponzi Willamette Valley ($33 - Binny's) and 2008 Ken Wright Shea Vineyard 375ml ($22 - Binny's)

Two of the best noses on wines I've smelled in a couple years at least. The complexity on both of these wines coming out of the! Both felt like the first real experience we've had with the 2008 Oregon vintage and, if these wines are any indication, all the hype is warranted.

A return to the 2008 Ponzi after having it two months ago with ridiculously good lamb and saffron risotto. Didn't show particularly well then but it's showing much better now. Popped and poured then. Opened about 30 minutes before dinner this time.

Plum, roses, forest floor, a touch of tobacco and lipstick on the nose. On the palate, the plum transitioned to a more muted black cherry with a touch of blueberry juice. Very muted, actually. All secondary flavors right now, showing a big rose petal component with everything going right into the mid-palate. Tea and cola notes to finish. Bitter tea leaves, actually, that weren't unwelcome. Flat-ish cola after about two hours open, which may mitigate a long decant in the future.

Again, and consistent with we utterly love about Ponzi, a ton of roses and the very distinct, bright, lithe and lifting acid that only comes from Ponzi. We'll know Ponzi acid blind until the day we die. It's why we capital-L love it.

Great wine and it's only going to get better. Much better.

But the Ken Wright beat it from a technical sense, helped along by its half-bottleness. Massive wet tobacco nose intermingled with an spiced orange peel, loam-potting soil, piles of rose petals and fuzzy blackberry. All of that followed on the palate and all of that danced around beautifully, all in a streamlined and seamless structure, finishing with the tobacco again going right into a graceful touch of a flower bundle. Softer acid than the Ponzi. Dark with brighter flecks on occasion. Just so well-made and gorgeous. Starts out big but goes right into a perfect medium-bodied weight halfway down. Pretty. Changed. Flowers everywhere. And I've always love tobacco notes but I can't think of a time when I enjoyed it this much.

Odd that this was the first red Ken Wright we've had since the start of this blog. This will be changing soon.

In the end, what jumped out though, were the floral notes and acid in both wines and how they fit so perfectly with the food.

Pairing: 99 Made me think about life changes, like needing an apartment with a patio

Because if this meal were eaten on a late July day, at dusk as a searing day heat gave way to a surprisingly calm, cooling night, outside with friends, I might have wet my pants a little.

The cumin in the blood orange-gaeta olive blend under the tuna fit like a glove with the Ken Wright and the coriander in the crust blew up with the Ponzi. Each, all and everything showing so much purity and love in the glass and on the plate.

That's it. Everything tasted like so much Warm Huggy Love.

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