Tuesday, June 21, 2011

#199 - Monday Grub To Wash The Workweek Away

Tough workweek for both of us with Mrs. Ney's a bit tougher than mine.

But there's something about a great Monday - which is our Friday - lunch that goes a long way in wiping out all the residual psychological trauma that comes with the end of a rough week of work.

It allows for a clean break, clap-clap, in a way most welcome and needed on certain weeks and this was certainly one.

We just wanted sparkling wine and to use up the Champagne cheese in the fridge that was three weeks past its expiration.  What we got was a level of deliciousness and joy that hasn't been seen in weeks for Monday lunch.

So simple, so unadulterated, yet oh so freaky good.

Food:  Lincet Chaource Champagne cheese, baguette, mâche salad and a peach

Whole Foods Chaource cheese from Champagne, three weeks past expiration, as I so recently said.  Semi-semi-soft, cow's milk cheese using a similar recipe to that of brie.  Probably much more creamy and soft when young, but the length of time in the fridge made for a firmer texture and concentration of flavors, most likely.

I've extolled the virtues of Thomas Keller Chicken no less than 40 times in the two years of this here webbysite (#200 coming up tonight!  A recreation of the very first post, Wine Can Chicken and '99 Prager Steinreigl, is on the docket.)  The Chaource cheese tasted almost exactly like the chicken skin-chicken juice combo that makes TK Chicken the best chicken on Earth.  An intense chicken essence intermingled with grassy-herbaceous and nutty almond notes, making for a cheese that both of us thought might just be the best cheese we've ever had.  Deliciously salty at times and wonderful all around.

A mâche salad dressed with olive oil and white balsamic vinegar that was lovely and deliciously simple, playing right into the simplicity everywhere else.

A sliced peach that was also delicious.

Have I mentioned that things were delicious?  Cuz it was Great Stuff.  I tend to give an eye-roll whenever people blather on about the goodness brought on by the simplicity of food because it's a basic tenet of food flavor and typically people screaming about such things merely want to use it as a form of braggadocio or a statement of their bona-fides.  It's about them, not the food.

But this reminded us yet again why such things are a basic tenet of food goodness.

We know this and people that like food know this, but a reminder every now and then, especially with the level of success of this simplicity, made it all taste new once again.

It would have been successful with a mediocre wine but the wine we drank with it made it that much better.

Wine:  NV Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs Brüt  ($35 - Trader Joe's)

90% pinot noir and 10% chardonnay, from Carneros and Anderson Valley, California

Vibrant and plentiful bubbles.  Grapey by itself, but with food, any food, it jumped right into our sparkling wheelhouse with more hidden fruit and showing more chalk, aspartame and fresh yeast with a very light pear fruit note.  Very well-structured, a tremendous length that constantly refreshed and a finish that cleansed beautifully.  Rich but never cloying and heavy.  Big-boy sparkler that mimicked a Champagne to great effect while keeping that fresh and sunny Napa essence that keeps California wine always in the conversation.

It's the goods and worth every penny.

Pairing:  97  Gangbusters!

The chicken essence and touch of salt in the cheese couldn't have been better with the vibrancy and sunny quality of the sparkling wine.  Toss in the yeasty-bready tastiness from the baguette and we had perfection.

Even great with the simple mâche salad, allowing the integrity of the flavors in each come through and never become muddled.

A great lunch that tasted special.

Tougher call with dinner from a pairing point of view but one that we felt came off just fine, fulfilling enough and leaving us full.

Except for the use of cheap lamb shoulder.  Tasty meat once we got to it, but more fat and cartilage to make us give up rather quickly once the requisite amount of lamb was consumed to fill the jones.

Food:  Bill Kim-marinated lamb shoulder with David Chang Momofuku soba noodles

Korean fest from two of the best Korean-American chefs in the country.

Bill Kim we've had in various forms, from Urban Belly and Belly Shack as well as the now-closed Le Lan, really the first restaurant in Chicago that we fell in love with.  He came later to Le Lan when the writing was probably on the wall but we'll never forget the scallop in tomato water and we adore Urban Belly.  We haven't had David Chang in restaurant form yet - Mâ Péche is on the list - but his Momofuku soba noodles blew me away in March.

A bevy of Bill Kim marinades in this month's Food & Wine.  We used this one, a chinese black bean and brandy lamb marinade.  Deep, Asiany stuff that tasted exactly like his #2 lamb dumplings at Urban Belly.  Nothing changed from the recipe with delicious flavor not only accompanying the lamb but getting in there down deep.  Dark, hoisiny and black beany.  Made for a great char from the sear as well.  If only the lamb was a better cut.  Select bites were lamb-great but the fattiness and cartilage made for too much work most of the time.

Same Momofuku soba noodles as in March with a added large glop of tamarind purée.  I heart them so much.  A Korean buckwheat pile of awesome.

Good enough meal but not worthy of popping something in the higher end of the pinot scale.

Wine:  2005 Ken Wright Elton Vineyard Willamette ($50 - Howard's)

Bought on a trip to Howard's mostly because I hadn't heard of the Elton Vineyard line in the Ken Wright catalogue.  Had to try it but had few feelings about it.

Pop and pour, developing over the course of the night, showing mostly a pleasing cherry cough drop, core of earth and a enormous acid that tasted like it's been tamed a bit with time.  Can't imagine how huge the acid was three or four years ago.

A nice enough wine with a fine structure, but a tad forward and upfront with more mysterious, lingering spices and herbs ever so slightly popping up on the back-end but wanted more.  Tons of candied cherries mixed with orange peel and a barrel of acid with not enough else.  Felt like it wanted to be much more and time in a decanter may have helped, but the flavor profile right away didn't make us get up and run for the decanter.

Pairing:  85  Middle of the road in every way

Lamb and pinot in its basic form, making for merely a general goodness.  The surprise came in the toasted sesame seeds sprinkled over everything.  Worked quite well with them, bringing more interesting depth to the wine with a bigger bite coated with sesame.  If not for that, the pairing would have possibly wandered into the realm of dull and boring.

Food and wine for our weekends, though, allow us to not think about our customer service jobs.  When it's good, it's a break.  When it's great, we forget our jobs even exist.  Yesterday, especially with the clean break made with lunch, made for something great.  For all the food and wine on the day, the total cost was $110 ($85 in wine).  No freakin' way we could have gotten this much delicious and varied food pleasure out in the world for that price.

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