Tuesday, May 22, 2012

#277 - Michael Symon Chicken, Salsa Verde & Fava-Corn-Avocado Salad With '08 Viñátigo Verdello

We spent four days in Portland/Willamette Valley last week.

Here are some highlights:
  • No sales tax! 
  • The Portland airport smells like wet dog. 
  • Firehouse Restaurant has good food that needs more depth but a great wine list. 
  • The new Nissan Sentra has fantastic get-up-and-go but it's a little too slopey. 
  • No sales tax! 
  • Owen Roe winery is a warehouse with a road sign and gravel road leading to it that makes you think you might be bound, gagged and thrown in the basement. But by golly! Great private tasting! 
  • Nick's Italian Café in McMinnville pumps out delicious, old-school vittles with a huge nod to the new and a great, cheap, Oregon-focused wine list picked to match the food. 
  • Expected the Willamette Valley to be more...bucolic.
  • The beautiful grounds at Ponzi match their beautiful wines. 
  • At Voodoo Donut, simple is better.
  • Stumptown Cold Brew gets us closer in finding the best bottled coffee 
  • I thought I'd found the Holy Grail of Viet/Thai food while eating at Pok Pok but it didn't resonate as much as I thought it would (and then it did. I really did). 
  • No sales tax! 
  • No self-service gas stations, which was a touch odd. 
  • Potato Champion's worth it for the curry ketchup and anchovy-tarragon mayo alone. 
  • Olympic Provisions has a top-notch ham sandwich and bratwurst. 
  • Flagship Powell's Books made me miss bookstores. 
  • Andina's Peruvian grub hit a big place in both of us. 
  • No sales tax! 
  • Four days of sun and mid-70s...in Portland, continuing our vacation streak of great weather (knock-knock).  

Maybe should have went skydiving. Maybe should have seen the coast. But nice little getaway overall. We both thought that if we worked for a corporation and were told we were getting transferred, with the myriad of just terrible possible options, if we were told we were going to Portland...for two years...we'd both say, "Oh...okay...we can do that." It's a nice place with nice people and tons to do.

On the food. We like home food and we like Chicago food just a bit more. In our small sample size, we missed the depth and maybe the surprise.

Speaking of home food, this is why we Like it:

Food: Michael Symon chicken, salsa verde & fava-corn-avocado salad with Pugliese bread and butter  

New, new, new and new. Four new flavors together here that sung so beautifully. Probably best meal in weeks and it was just chicken, salsa verde and fava-corn-avocado salad with a Canary Islands white.

Whole roasted chicken is a favorite in this house but Mrs. Ney has found a concoction with this preparation that combines the best of our evolutionary, whole roasted chicken experience. Crank up the oven to a ridiculous 450 degrees (from Thomas Keller), put the cast-iron in the oven before and get it sizzling hot (from Cook's Illustrated), and (now) stuff it full with lemon peel and bay leaf up its butt and under the skin (this recipe from Michael Symon and his Symon's Suppers series on Cooking Channel). More greatness from Mr. Symon.

It's chicken loaded with bay and lemon flavors while always letting the chicken shine first.

The second 'new' came in the salsa verde from the same recipe. It's salsa verde in a different form, loaded with dirty delicious anchovy-caper flavor that's cleaned up in such a new, lifty way by the parsley-mint-olive oil driver.

And the third 'new' in the food business came in the whipped-up, ad-hoc, fava-corn-avocado salad, combining those three ingredients with one tomato, a bit of onion, some dried lemon thyme and a touch of the salsa verde tossed in. Two pounds fava, three ears corn, one perfect avocado and five tons of deliciousness. Best 'salad' I can remember right now.

Big and bold that ultimately became refreshing and light. This meal straddled that line like some sort of crazy genius at work.

The fourth 'new' came in the wine.

Wine:  2008 Viñátigo Verdello Canary Islands ($24 - Spanish Table)

100% verdello, from the grape that brings you Madeira and not to be confused with verdejo (thank God), this comes across as crazy pants stuff here.

Smells like motor oil, tastes like menthol cigarettes with a wild fruit expression of peach and citrus peel buttressing it up from the bottom and cleaning up the finish. Hints at being viscous but never gets there. Mimics an oxidized style of wine (and is made in that style) but never fully shows that.

Totally unique stuff that was slappy-happy great.

Want more.  It's like Heredia, Jura, vermentino, malvasia and a pack of menthol cigarettes had a baby.

Opened a 2009 Quinta do Crasto Branco to see if its Portugueseness would do different things with the salad and it informed us as to exactly why the Viñátigo is so uniquely great. The Crasto couldn't stand up to the hodgepodge of flavors in the way the verdello did.

Pairing:  93  New, new, new and new. Take that any day.

From a technical standpoint, the pairing didn't necessarily create new and wondrous heights of flavor together. This was about the weight of the wine and the flavors in the wine weaving itself into the weight of the food so beautifully.

It was about match-up. The wine's menthol-motor oil quality was freshened up by its fruit. A similar thing was going on in the salsa verde with the dirty anchovy-caper freshened up by the parsley, mint and olive oil. A lot of similar dance steps going on in the food and the wine. Mint and menthol, dirty then clean, bold then refreshing. They were singing much of the same song.

Loved it.

A Quick Note: Came home Friday to mahi mahi tacos and an oddly great stone fruit-based sangria made from peaches, nectarines, apricots, lemons, sauvignon blanc, ginger liqueur and elderflower liqueur.  Home flavors, we Like coming home to you.

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