Wednesday, May 11, 2011

#186 - Gnocchi, Ramps & Speck With '06 Capiaux Widdoes Vineyard

When ordering takeout from a restaurant that has two locations, check to make sure you ordered from the one you intended to drive to.

That's this week's nugget of wisdom.

Nugget #2 - Many times, Food & Wine recipes taste like exactly that - a recipe that photographs well and that's pretty much it.  A tomato, pickled walnut and blue cheese salad for lunch (a Richard Blais recipe from this month's mag) left one impression - it was pretty.

Nugget #3 - If some recipes call for an entire stick of butter, you probably don't need that much.  But if you use less, give the dish a little time to cool down in order to let the amount of butter used to work its magic, get all congealed and become all saucy.  Reserve judgment.

Because once last night's meal cooled down a bit, we came to love gnocchi, ramps and speck.

Food:  Gnocchi, ramps and La Quercia speck with lemon thyme

Here's the recipe, reprinted in last week's edition of The Week, with a few tweaks:  deglazed the pan with Muscadet, added lemon thyme and used 87.5% less butter than the recipe called for, allowing us to eat only a pat of butter per serving instead of 1/3 of a stick(!).

Once it cooled down and the butter served as a glue to the ingredients instead of a thin, heated, barely present sauce, everything became quite delicious, full of herby, oniony-leeky goodness with hints of smoky meat and big doughy pillows of potato gnocchi.

Not particularly cheap, though.  $10 for ramps (WF - justified), $18 for speck (WF - could have gone with one packet instead of two) and $4 for gnocchi (TJ's - come see our kitchen - ain't makin' gnocchi again in that crackerbox.  It makes for an angry wife.) and $3 for lemon thyme = $35, or about $12 a plate with leftovers.

Toss in the wine at $35 and we spent $70 last night for dinner.  When put in those terms and including the relative failure of the pairing...we've had so many better meals for much less.

Lesson with the pairing - A viognier or Italian white with the lemon thyme probably would have been prudent.  The thought process was trying to match the presumed aggressiveness of the speck, an aggressiveness that didn't show up in the finished product.  This meal came off light and settled beautifully.  We thought it would be a touch bigger and darker, going with red, even forgoing a lighter Oregon pinot for a bigger California version.  A white or rosé was the play here.

Wine:  2006 Capiaux Pinot Noir Widdoes Vineyard Russian River ($35 - Binny's)

Another wine that's been sitting around in the house for a long time, begging to be drunk.

Smelled like a tool shed upon first pop.  Rusty tools, potting soil and a garbage bag of old, pulled weeds in the corner.  Decanted for a half-hour and needed more.

A bigger pinot with a ton of finesse once it got going.  Concentrated with Shasta black cherry cola, earth, oodles of mint and perfumy in the best sense of the word.  Reticent fruit due to the short decant but once they peeked through (and peaked), a ripe and darker berry blend dominated with hints of something like sassafras.

Great length, good structure, longish life ahead with solid acid and proper tannins present, a bit too big and a touch obvious for our taste but tons to like and respect here.  Tasted like the land but maybe too much, as if too much effort was put in to get it to a place that tasted "authentic" and "single-vineyardy," like tasting the nap that was required after the laboriousness required to get there.

But in the end, we liked so much of it, even to the point of wanting more.  Not much California-ish overextraction but once the food was done and a little wine was left, that perfumy goodness turned to so much cheap Target-brand lipstick.

Pairing:  82  Came off like setting up two of your good friends with the hope that sparks fly and they just don't

Probably needed a white or rosé.  Or a light Oregon pinot.  Or simply something else.

The food and wine acted like proper social beings but refused to laugh at each other's jokes or even feign interest in each other's stories.

Good food, good wine, just not good food and wine.

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