Thursday, August 11, 2011

#215 - Borlotti Bean & Blue Cheese Fregola Risotto With 2003 Hobbs Gregor Shiraz

Grab Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman, we're jumpin' into the WABAC machine.

Last October, we had a top-three meal of 2010 consisting of lamb, fregola risotto and carrot purée with this wine and ruminated about not even needing the lamb.  It did little with the wine while the superlative stuff on the plate was the blue cheese fregola and what it did with the Hobbs Gregor.

Last night, we omitted the lamb, replaced it with borlotti beans and were all the better for it, resulting in a meal that was all of the "Yes!" and none of the "meh."

It was a whittling down, a honing in on what absolutely shined with one of our favorite wines, taking that relatively narrow flavor explosion from a side dish and expanding it out into a meal not driven by a protein but introducing elements that mimic what's good about a protein, like depth and char and meaty qualities.

And that's what happened.  We not only didn't miss the meat, we didn't want the meat because everything we want in meat was there in meatless form.

It became a meal that proves the notion that big-boy, burly and deep shiraz doesn't always need meat to tame it.  There are a ton of different avenues to pursue that makes for stupid-good stuff.

"After all, Sherman.  Isn't it important in life to avoid a Hobbesian choice?"

"Oh, Mr. Peabody."

Food:  Borlotti bean & blue cheese fregola risotto with arugula salad

Fregola "risotto" with carrots, [pre-cooked] borlotti beans, shallot, pine nuts, Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue. Pan initially deglazed (from onion roasting) with white port, veal and chicken stock, thyme and isot pepper. Onions roasted in pancetta-fat skillet with balsamic vinegar and topped/mixed with pancetta, parsley and basil.

The end product was a big plate of gooey, starchy, oozy mess of Love, much like back in October but with a overall less-meat edge.  Came off light but filling with meaty edges, brought on by the black char on the onions mimicking a meat sear, the balsamic bringing a dark depth, the beans bringing an 'expanding in the stomach' meat sensibility, broadening out the dish, the Blue Cheese richness and the meat stock bringing little flecks of a meat ghost in the background.

Both of us loved the exploration of the seemingly endless flavors and flavor combinations.  There just wasn't anything else needed/wanted/missed, much less the need for meat as some sort of perfunctory addition because it's 'supposed' to be there.

Arugula and mint salad with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to finish.

Last October was a top-three meal of 2010.  This one jettisoned itself into the running for the same award for this year.

Wine:  2003 Hobbs Gregor Shiraz Barossa ($125 - Hart Davis Hart)

Done in the Amarone style where the grapes are partially dried to intensify flavors.

Opened 45 minutes before the meal and tasted nearly perfect.  No decant.

It's been one of the top ten-ish best wines we've ever had in the past and this drinking was no different but it's certainly hit a different, glorious stage since last year.

Tons of really fancy, oil-cured, booze-soaked kalamata olives crusted in some intensely dark, weird Moroccan spice right out of the bottle with supporting blackberry and great tar, a graceful heat and still big acid.

Once the meal started the olives took a back seat to the emerging blackberry and deep dark cherry fruit, lifting and generous acid, a charred bacon quality and beautiful, silky transitions followed by a long finish.  Kept changing over the course of the meal with the fruit continuing to become brighter, more lifting and sparkly.  Shimmering by the second hour.  Herby notes were gone, replaced by the Moroccan spice edge that turned it into a deeply savory wine that every once and a while brought a hint of a slightly sweet blueberry powder deep in the background.  Tannins are still doing its proper job, turning every flavor and component front and center like a drill sergeant without being loud and obvious.

Tasted like what we expect a top-notch Amarone delivers at its perfect point of drinking and tasted like what the winemaker wanted from this wine when he made it.  At a perfect point right now and will just keep going.  You can't get this type of quality for less money.  It's a wine that plays in a different stratosphere.

Flawless in our book.  Utterly flawless.

Pairing:  96  So gosh darn sexy!

Much like the Oregonzola, Rogue Blue is the goods.  Tastes like New World cheese with a soul and seems like it was crafted with the Hobbs Gregor in mind.  Perfect.  Pairing.

But we kept going back and forth about the best part of the pairing.  The pine nuts with the fruit and liqueur-like intensity in the wine were superb.  The beans allowed the wine to go more subtle and explore the secondary, less obvious flavors in great ways.  An onion-balsamic-pancetta blend actually turned the wine into something more medium-bodied in weirdly delicious ways.

It was a fancy-pants wine so open, supple and generous that allowed itself to be steered by the food while never letting go of its stunningly vibrant and commanding personality.

It was a meal that brought a lot of pauses and a lot of looks at each other, saying, "Can you believe that this is in front of us right now?!"

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