Thursday, February 23, 2012

#253 - Bison With El Jefe & Lamb Curry With Tavola

Sandwiched between these two meals was a drunken trip to Bar Toma and the Gambero Rosso wine tasting at Union Station.

We're glad we went to Bar Toma.  It's a beautiful space offering an interesting, pan-Italian collection of vittles (revolving around Rome and broadening out) with a nod to something a touch more Mediterranean.  Didn't love it.  Some salting and temperature issues (really across the board on temp) kept it firmly in the world of Like while never sniffing Love.

But the sandwich bread, these two meals along with Shrimp Lunch, brought enough goodness to keep the food weekend (Monday thru Wednesday) in the camp of "That's a break from the workweek and that's the point!"

And I think we wrote off the Ponzi Tavola way too soon a few years ago.

Meal #1:  Bison flank steak with chimichurri and yuca fries with smoked paprika mayo

Bison flank steak marinated in extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, cumin and garlic, cooked medium rare.  It's been seven months since bison flank steak, that time with the 2007 Duorum Reserva (one of my favorites) and that time yogurted up with the marinade.  Tons of opportunity for diversity with bison flank steak while getting an insanely lean protein.  Takes marinade oh-so beautifully.  The bison becomes a platform for the marinade maybe more than any other cut of meat and it was no different here.  Every bit of the marinade can be tasted in delicious ways.

Served with a red pepper and onion chimichurri that complemented the meat perfectly.  Something about the onion in the chimichurri tasting like a missing component in the bison marinade.  Linked up in ways that transformed it.

Yuca fries with a smoked paprika mayo.  Best mayo yet.

Served with the 2008 K Vintners "El Jefe" En Chamberlin Vineyard Walla Walla ($33 - Binny's).  80% tempranillo and 20% cabernet, we got a wine that tasted like the blend was reversed in many ways.  Tons of cabernet accents with its plum, truffle and graphite notes.  Smelled like tempranillo, entered like tempranillo but seemed to give way pretty early to the cabernet.

Popped an hour before the meal and found it open and ready but this one changed throughout the meal with a nice vacillation between a heaping handful of intriguing flavors.  Stayed pretty firmly in the red fruit territory, offering tons of ripe-ish plum and cherry with a touch of currant.  Big truffle edge and a respectable mineral core but this one left an impression of being a bit too fat-bottomed, offering too much of itself to finish the party.  Somewhat overbearing stuff that didn't know how to leave on a high note.  Medium-bodied stuff with typical, carefully crafted Washington body that failed itself on the finish.  We got a deal on this one as it's currently selling in the mid-60s on the web.  Glad we did.

We wanted something swirling, alive and jumpy with the meal.  This wine almost had it.  The bison brought out a thinned-out truffle water and a dark chocolate touch in the wine.  Nice.  The smoked paprika mayo and yuca brought a modicum of balance - at least we could taste efforts being made - but overall, that clunky fat-bottomedness reared its head to a point that we couldn't help thinking about other pairing choices for the meal.  Pairing Score:  85

Meal #2:  Lamb curry, carrot raita, naan and rice

Here's a recipe that seems foolproof enough to allow even a novice cooker like myself an opportunity to cook something and not really screw it up.  The result was a lamb curry that came off more like a lamb stew with Indian accents.  More than edible though so...happy enough with the results.

A tip from my experience.  Use a shallow pan to brown the lamb.  Using a dutch oven, the walls were too high to get a good brown before the simmer.

The carrot raita won the night in the food category.  Pretty great raita that made me ruminate about getting into different yogurts to make it even better.  Served with Hema's naan because they're the tops.

But while the food was nice enough, the 2009 Ponzi Tavola Willamette Valley ($22 - wine shop in Oregon bought by a friend and brought back) was something special.  Big Ponzi fans in this house.  We just joined their wine club so more Ponzi drinkings are forthcoming this summer.  The last Tavola we had, the cheapest pinot noir offering from Ponzi, was written off by us after having the 2006 (I believe).  Since we loved the higher-end, non-reserve Ponzi pinot noir bottling so much, we didn't think the Tavola delivered the distinction and balance we loved.  Why not spend $10 extra and get the goods?  The 2009 Tavola debunks that notion.  Tons of distinction in the world bargain pinot here, blowing away other Oregon pinot noirs in this price range by a mile.  Great balance with bright and vivid cherries and cola to open that give way to some great background cinnamon, earth and a touch of vanilla wood. Finishes with a perfect touch of fruity acid that turns the fruit darker and more savory, bringing on an unexpected, delicious encore.  They nailed this one.

We liked the food but the wine just sizzled.  Lamb and pinot noir goodness kept everything in a nice realm but oddly, with the raita, a creamy cherry-cinnamon wonder perked up beautifully.  Pairing Score:  88  

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