Wednesday, August 3, 2011

#212 - TWIB Notes: This Week In Bottles

New feature here at FWW.

It's TWIB notes, a roundup of food and wine from weeknight meals, BYOs, lunches, leftovers and anything else that might have happened that involved food with wine.  Just hum the theme to This Week In Baseball while reading and it becomes interactive.

Let's get right to it.

Sunday Dinner:  Leftover Daniel Boulud Fennel Balls With a 2007 Rhône tasting

Boulud fennel risotto balls leftover from June, when they exploded to great effect with a cheap 2009 Schild Estate GMS.

Mrs. Ney made 50 balls then, we ate 18 in June, another 18 Sunday and brought some to co-workers to sample...and there's STILL MORE!

Original recipe here. Switched up the pepper in the coulis the first time, using sweet picanté peppadew and it was one of many things we adored about that meal.  Back to the original recipe this time, using piquillo peppers and blending in some leftover carrot purée.  Not as good but still tasty.  The fennel balls as well suffered from not being freshy-fresh but it turned into gussied-up Fancy Frozen Food Sunday in delicious ways.  Pomegranate seeds drizzled over the entire plate again with an arugula salad with lemon thyme to finish.

Two 2007 Rhône blends to A) mimic the success of the first pairing, B) drink one wine that's been sitting around for a bit and C) match with the licorice notes from the fennel.

Started with the 2007 Domaine Grand Veneur Clos de Sixte Lirac ($20 - WDC), a blend of 50% grenache, 35% syrah, and 15% mourvèdre.  The mourvèdre was key to the concept of the pairing in Mrs. Ney's eyes as the darker, floral, herby essence that the grape brings would slide right into the food.

Cracked a half-hour before drinking to see where it was and it was in a good place.  Started out rather uninspired but opened up to reveal a much thinner body than expected, showing a bundle of blackberries, stems and all, a Cinnamon Toast Crunch note, dried violets, some dirt, a touch of sage and little perks of alcohol that were actually welcome.  Fond memories of this one three days after having it.  Reviews talked about how big it was but we didn't get that at all.  Very medium-bodied for a Rhône in a hot year, tasting almost like a hybrid between Old School and New School with its upfront fruit that transitioned quickly to more soil-driven notes.

I wasn't sure about the pairing initially so I opened a 2007 Domiane Les Pallières "Les Racines" Gigondas ($38 - Knightsbridge) to compare.  Go here to see other tastings of this bottle.  Funny to try this more grenache-driven wine (grenache, syrah, cinsault and clairette) next to something where grenache is playing equally with other players and the mourvèdre is pronouncing itself.  Still a big, honking basket of red berry fruit and red licorice and still showing much the same way it has in the past.  Something about the core of this wine makes me salivate.  So round, so supple, so pretty, with a touch of herbs and turning somewhat darker as it finishes the journey.

We thought the pairing wouldn't be close.  The Clos de Sixte just didn't excite us in the beginning but it found its legs in great ways as the meal progressed, especially with how the caraway in the sauce danced with the herbs and violets in the wine.  The Les Racines was more straight-forward, offering something bigger and more directing with the food but each brought a different deliciousness to the meal.  I thought the Les Racines would be the keeper hands-down but the Clos de Sixte's more brooding, light and subtle demeanor made a surprising comeback over the course of the meal.  Pairing Score:  88

Monday Dinner:  Hema's Kitchen On Devon

If we both had to choose one place that defines soul-satisfying in Chicago, it's Hema's Kitchen.  Soul-satisfying and our favorite.  Beats Blackbird, something I never thought I'd say.  Blackbird is more of a kaleidoscope of flavors working on your senses but sort of stays on the surface.  Hema's food gets into your guts with ancient flavors that feel like an experience rather than simply putting food in your mouth.

Menu:  Vegetable and kheema samosas, haryali chicken, lamb vindaloo, three types of naan and a raita.

Wine:  2010 Crios Torrontés ($12 - Binny's) and 2007 Raventos i Blanc Rosé Cava de Nit ($18 - Binny's)

Typically great Hema's meal.  We found the perfect match for this place in two wines, a Crios and a cheap Trader Joe's Albero Cava.  Switched up this time with a Raventos i Blanc Rosé Cava in the bubbles realm.  Two different experiences between us with Mrs. Ney finding delicious spicy radish and spiced earth notes and me picking up a bit too much wood.  Fine, abundant bubbles and a refreshing aspect to the wine for both of us, though.  Probably wouldn't do/buy it again with its fading fruit leaving a small window left on this one but it had its moments.

We were skeptical of the 2010 Crios after loving the 2009 so much and finding the 2010 a touch watery at its core in the past.  That's no longer the case as this one now has a fluidity from beginning to end with tons of white, perfumy flowers jumping all over the place backed by pear fruit notes.  For a "drink now" wine, this one seems to have shown as uncharacteristic arc to its development in the bottle.  Great stuff.

And great stuff with the Indian food explosion.  The floral notes in the Crios were needed with the spicy heat and jumble of spices in the food while the bubbles in the Raventos served a different, more quenching purpose.  When we found the Hema's/Crios/Bubbly combo, it signaled a discovery of near-perfection in our world and this played in nearly the same realm, though the Albero Cava's big, raw, edgy fruit to cut through the heat was missed a bit.   Pairing Score:  94    

Tuesday Dinner:  Grilled cod with pancetta and pea mash and a 2007 Thomas-Labaille Sancerre Chavignol Les Monts Damnés

A Jamie Oliver recipe, a guy whose show on the Cooking Channel is appointment viewing in our house (unfortunately, I think we've seen every episode now).  It's one of the very few food shows that actually deliver on the idea of food as connection instead of just giving lip-service to it.

This one just didn't come together for us, though.  The cod and pancetta play was nominally interesting, though nothing that we'd ever want again.  The pancetta offered a Country Kitchen-esque bacon quality - that fatty, salty, yet light goodness craved in your childhood - that seemed like it wanted to cozy up to the cod but never got there.  Frozen cod that was boring cod.  Pea mash was good, tasting like a tried-and-true recipe that satisfies on a visceral, child-like level and seemed made for a fish deal but everything came off more like forgettable meal.

The wine made valiant efforts to help, a 2007 single-vineyard Sancerre that showed its age but was still offering pretty nooks and crannies to taste and enjoy.  Pretty, aging grapefruit and gooseberry notes backed by an herbal core with a wee touch of dried honey and flowers.  A bit of lemon peel/oil as it warmed up along with some grassy notes hiding in the background.  Nice acid that has transitioned well into a maturing acidity that's done its part to keep everything in line quite nicely.  Still a few interesting years left here, I would say.  Surprised us with its nice balance and eventual crispness.

While the wine tried to lift things up in the food and held up its end, the wine and the pea mash turned out to be the best thing going with this meal.  Pairing Score:  84

No comments:

Post a Comment