Wednesday, November 2, 2011

#232 - Spanish Niçoise-y Salad, Greek Feta & Carrot Purée With '09 Síria

Fancy stuff, in the food and in the wine.

The fancy came from the purity and abundance of flavors and the ability to taste every one of them in any given bite.

The tastes:  carrots, anchovies, parsley, honey, mint, harissa, thyme-infused olive oil, pickled onions, sesame seeded Syrian bread, feta, kumatoes, Greek black olives, caraway seeds, pink peppercorns, garlic, lemon juice, dill.

So Greeky, kinda Spanishy, bit of North African, all comprising a tapas-y type feel, a little dip here, a bite there and loving every bit of it.

Served with a wine made from a grape new to us as a 100% bottling and possessing a balance, vitality and Portuguese weirdness that slid right into the food in delicious and new ways.

Food:  Spanish-y Niçoise salad, greek feta in honey and pink peppercorns, carrot purée, thyme-infused olive oil and Syrian bread 

A Niçoise salad interpreted through Spanish eyes.  Green beans as the salad base with kumatoes, pickled onions, Greek black olives, parsley, mint and dill, tossed in lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil, with anchovies standing in for the tuna.  Clean.  Delicious.

Carrot purée, a house favorite, made with carrots, extra virgin olive oil, harissa, garlc, red wine vinegar and caraway seeds.  Clean.  Delicious.  And all about the carrots.  Real purity of flavor here.  Popped.

Thyme-infused olive oil in a bowl, giving a smoky, herby counter to the brightness of everything else surrounding it.  Delicious.

Sheep's milk feta sitting in raw honey from India (a new Trader Joe's product) with pink peppercorns sprinkled liberally on top.  We've had this before and loved it.  The new honey on this one is all raw, yet delicate honey loveliness and cheap to boot.

Sesame seed-studded Syrian bread for dipping and spreading.

A true flavor explosion.  Nothing missing, everything satisfying.  We loved this meal.

The wine, especially through its wonderful balance, captured all of these flavors, making for something very much enjoyable and new.

Wine:  2009 Quinta do Cardo Síria Beira Interior ($12 - Spanish Table in Berkeley)

$12!  Portuguese white weirdness for $12!  Non-Douro Portuguese white weirdness that wasn't freakin' Vinho Verde for $12!  That's a winner.

Described by Joe at Spanish Table as "wooly" and that's what it was.


100% Síria (Roupeiro by another name) from the Beira Interior, south of the Douro Valley. A nose of a smoke-tinged fruit jumble but not much fruit explosion on the palate.  More a suggestion of fruit through the acid with the taste being more a vibrant, wooly smokiness with tons of fancy gravel, like the smallish gray gravel.  Great layers and nice transitions with some fruit skin notes on occasion, staying jumpy and alive from beginning to end with intriguing perks of almost indescribable flavors that comes with good Portuguese white wine, finishing with a brighter small hit of citrus on the finish.  Needed the food to show best but great stuff all around.  Want.  More.  And lots of it.

Pairing:  93  The success came from the balance in the wine and the contrast it offered with the brightness of the food  

A lot of bright, clean flavors in the meal.  The wine brought something darker but still bouncy to play as a foil to the food in a great way.  If this wine wasn't as balanced as it was, the pairing never would have been pulled off.  The balance brought its life, even a tip one way or the other in body or dominance of flavor in the wine would have diminished the pairing but it didn't.  Great confidence here, something good Portuguese white has.  It's like nothing else in the white wine world and when done well, it's its own wonderful beast.  This one had that.

A quick note:  Scaled-down cassoulet on Monday, paired with a Vaucluse that is hanging on for dear life.  Usually the decadent and somewhat expensive cassoulet feast, this one was not near the meat-feast of a cold December day two years ago, nor the more herby pork shoulder and weisswürst version from a year ago.  This one took all the cheap ingredients integral to good cassoulet and simply omitted the duck confit and huge collection of meats.  Only Paulina pork sausage and smoky Balkan pork shoulder used (and that even taken out after getting into the rest of the flavors)...and we were surprisingly fine with it.  Comes from how solid the Cook's Illustrated cassoulet recipe is.  The bones are in everything surrounding the meat, not necessarily the meat itself.

Eaten with a 2006 Domaine des Tours Vaucluse ($17 - WDC).  Big fans of this wine but the 2006 is hitting the end of the line.  Drinkable, just soft, bordering on mushy red fruits.  The grenache is still in play but the syrah and mourvèdre have their coats on, keys twirling on their fingers, feet tapping, utterly ready to leave the scene.  Still a little secondary play though.  A little tobacco, a little charcoal, just enough to keep it interesting with the food.  Cassoulet and Rhône reds like each other.  The pairing was mostly propped up by that fact but sometimes that's enough.  Pairing Score:  86  

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