Thursday, November 10, 2011

#233 - Flank Steak, Cuban Beans & Sweet Potato Fries With '09 Ex Umbris

Freezer food!

And delicious freezer food it was, geared toward drinking a New World syrah, which was once again wanted and craved by both of us.

Funky that after drinking wine pretty seriously for years that an entirely new craving and joy can come from a style of wine already explored and somewhat dismissed.

Like many things in life, keeping an open mind and returning to explore the foundations of previously firm opinions just to see if they continue to be just is not only important but necessary.  It keeps one young, allowing intellectual curiosity to continue to be a driving force.

Tying such a thing to wine seems to be a bit much but in a small way, I have been surprised by our new embrace of California/Washington syrah.  Sure, we loved Australian shiraz in the past, even some California syrah, and still do but moved away from them in favor of lower alcohol, more idiosyncratic and many times terroir-driven wines, as many people do (and don't shut up about) as they progress up the chain of wine love.

Our recent dalliance/return in/to the bigger style feels like something that, in some form, will stay.

Here's why.

Food:  Flank steak, Cuban black beans and chipotle sweet potato fries

Freezer food.  Even a bagged freezer product.  We're poor right now, necessitating such a thing but nothing, I repeat, nothing was missed last night.  Flavors everywhere that meshed together in ways reminiscent of a winter California/West Coast/Latin-inspired feast.  Rugged but oddly refined.

Flank steak marinated in evoo, orange juice and zest, cumin, oregano; seared in bacon fat.  Freezer meat.  The tenderness of the flank held up well with the marinade sliding into the other flavors in the food oh, so nicely.

Black beans tossed with leftover chimichurri and pickled onions (from a week or two ago) and bacon.  Served as an accompaniment more than anything to tie into the surprise of the night - Alexa chipotle sweet potato fries.  Sure, they're coated in sugar and, along with the orange in the marinade, we had a level of sugar in the food we typically don't touch.  But a big taste punch that has to be recognized in these fries.  Maybe the fries had a perfect platform to shine - mingled with spices/bacon/herbs in the other food - but we devoured them with gusto.

Basil over everything on the plate.  Gussied-up freezer food and we loved every bite.

Speaking of perfect platforms, the food served as one for a great bargain wine.

Wine:  2009 Owen Roe Ex Umbris Columbia Valley ($25 - Binny's)    

Tasted exactly worth the price tag.  In the $25 wine price range, that's a rarity.  Outside of Loire and white Burgundy, the $25 range rarely consistently excels/delivers.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch was the description of the night.  Not necessarily sweet but an echo of sweetness that only followed through on the palate in small ways.  This one is defined more by its nice acid and fancy tannins integrated in such an impressive way.  Confident wine, here.  Plum and blackberry blend (in that order) serve as an opening act that transitions to the main event, its Cinnamon Toast Crunch core with a touch of iron and a drop of dried blood.  More lean than the sweet nose promises.  Long-ish finish that tails off with grace and beauty.

For $25 ($22.99 + tax), both of us were in love and will be buying more.  Great gift wine for those on the cusp of working out of the $12-15 wine world but aren't ready to get into Old World wine.  Gateway wine in many ways.

A quick note:  I believe I pronounced the 2003 Pirramimma Shiraz dead two years ago only to be surprised by the life left in it a year ago with lamb stew.  Cracked one last night to see where it was and it Was...Delicious!  The tannins are resolved but the acid left keeps everything in balance, allowing a kaleidoscope of flavors to keep pumping on and on.  It's been a long time since I tasted so many flavors in a wine.  Huge herbal nose.  Iron and blood here as well.  Plum, like unsweetened plum jam spread on toast.  Big wet cigar notes after being open an hour.  Some blackberry left.  Dried mint.  Wet leather.  Rained-on fertile earth.  Just so much of a lot of everything everywhere.  Portuguese nose, mature shiraz body, still going crazy after all these years.

Pairing:  93  One of those meals that displays the distinction between a 92 and 93 pairing score

Pairing scores are, by and large, ineffective, weird and borderline stupid but I still find use in them as a personal reference.  Context is key and understanding how my own perception of a meal operates in a time and place is essential.  When I see a score and its explanation from two years ago, I know why it was we liked and the score helps in understanding the context.

A 92 is a meal that worked, we very much liked and is usually an example of a catch-all wine and food meal that excelled in capturing mostly everything, becoming more because of the addition of mostly everything.  A 92, though, probably didn't have that 'it' factor.  That factor that makes us want it again...tomorrow.

This meal had that.  And it was freezer food!  No 'mostly everything' here.  It was everything singing together in a bargain budget sort of way.

Had few expectations but the marriage of cumin, orange juice, chipotle, pickled onions, chimichurri, bacon, sweet potatoes and black beans played in a range together like they were from a Caribbean island home to Cuban and Argentinean refugees that made shore two hundred years ago, resulting in a hidden cuisine nobody's discovered and some California chef took it and tweaked it a bit.

That also may be a bit much for freezer food but it's apt.  The wine's sweet cinnamon and iron notes became the missing element, the Rosetta Stone to 93 pairing score goodness and becoming a more complete meal.

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