Thursday, February 24, 2011

#166 - Garlic, Serrano, Mint & Oregano Shrimp With Two Wines

Funny how a good meal makes you initially forget much of what recently came before.

Just three days ago, we had a great meal of TK chicken, English pea risotto and kumatoes with radishes served with a great Sancerre.

While eating last night, it took both of us a couple of seconds to recall that meal when trying to think of what we ate this past week.

Something about being engrossed in great food with shockingly interesting wine makes everything else, even some of the good stuff, wash away from your frontal cortex.

Food: Garlic, serrano, mint and oregano shrimp with baguette and an arugula, parsley and pomegranate seed salad

Gussied-up Trader Joe's frozen shrimp marinated and cooked in extra virgin olive oil, oregano, lemon zest, serrano peppers, mint and Garlic! Garlic! Garlic!

What surprised us most about the shrimp was how nothing took over in the pan. Nearly an entire head of garlic but it never tasted overly garlicky. Subtle heat from the serrano but always properly in the background. Lift from the mint but I never got a huge mint hit. Oregano more prominent than most of the ingredients but in a great way. Great balance here.

Baguette to sop up all the marinade. Panera baguette bought in a pinch. Meh (too bready), but served its purpose as a vehicle to get all the delicious sauce out of the pan.

Arugula and parsley salad with pomegranate seeds to finish. Oddly great arugula.

It was What We Wanted. Spring-like again. Fresh ripped from frozen.

An indicator of how much we loved it came from the time it took to eat it. Half the food as the night before but took twice as long to eat. We wanted to take our time.

And the wine most definitely played a role in that.

Wine: NV Cantina del Taburno Falanghina Extra-Brüt Spumante ($20 - Fine Wine Brokers) & 2009 Anselmo Mendes Alvarinho Vinho Verde Muros Antigos ($12 - Fine Wine Brokers)

Both wines from Fine Wine Brokers in Lincoln Square. An ownership switch happened recently and the guys over there are doing some great things that should be applauded.

Neighborhood wine shops can be sticky, driven nearly entirely by the taste of the owner. That's a good thing but mostly, over the years, that can devolve into what's selling and what's keeping them afloat. It's a razor-thin profit margin business. One indicator among other things that can tell you about the efforts being made by the owner (or owners in this case) is before looking around, find the Orin Swift The Prisoner because it's most likely going to be there. A fine enough wine that seemingly everyone loves, if you find The Prisoner prominently displayed and featured in the store, front page and center on their website, you're probably not going to find much of nuance or interest in the rest of the shop.

Of course, that's just one indicator. Dig into the selection but over the years, for me, that's proven itself to be true more than I ever want.

Fine Wine Brokers is doing some great things right now and, along with Howard's, has become one of the few small wine shops where I know I'm going to find something or multiple somethings that I don't know a thing about and infinitely intrigues me.

Last night's wines, both from FWB, were no exception.

The NV Cantina del Taburno 100% Falanghina Extra Brüt Spumante is a rare beast. Small production from a massive Southern Italian winery that pumps out wine by the ten of thousands of bottles. I've served nearly their entire line for years at my place of business. Never heard this one even existed. A sparkling falanghina.

Big jumble of entirely interesting flavors. Fuzzy peach skin, cinnamon oil, peach/apricot pit, watermelon Bubblicious, pear flesh, touch of almond, bit of straw, something herby and ever-so-slightly creamy, all supported by refreshing and vibrant bubbles and zippy acid. And so much more that we couldn't pin down. Loved everything about it and probably the best $20 sparkler that we can remember.

We never loved Vinho Verde. Liked wine made close to the Vinho Verde region, like the Auratus, but never were particularly drawn to Vinho Verde wine itself. Too much lime salt on the low end and that never made us want to explore the higher end with more interesting stuff being done just across the border with essentially the same grape in Rías Baixas.

Count this one as another example where my prejudices were wrong.

Lemongrass and pear are upfront with something maybe ginger-like on the finish. Beautiful watery center that showcases the nice minerals. Slight hint of something nutty and a subtle lemon-lime peel on occasion. Great balance and tasty as all get-out. $12. Vinho Verde? Start here.

Pairing: 91 Enough enhancement to keep wanting more and more

Much like the food, we found ourselves taking smaller sips of wine so it didn't run out too quickly, wanting to keep everything going. Always a good sign.

Solid enhancements here and there but the impression we took away was how the wine seemed to be like a couple that seems quite happy to be with each other. They may not get married, they may break up next week, but at the time, they seem entirely happy to be in each other's space.

Both wines slid right in the shrimp and never got weird with the greens. Never got weird, period, just kept on bringing the delicious.

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