Thursday, November 8, 2012

#307 - Vietnamese-Marinated Lamb Riblets With '09 Dandelion Shiraz-Reisling & Brandade With '09 San Clodio

Golly, election night was barrels of fun.

I never expected the Obama ground game to nail it so completely, so thoroughly as they did. Can't wait to see the final breakdowns, county-by-county, with real data showing demographic shifts. Thank you Republicans for continuing to hold onto a 1980s playbook for the 2012 world. You continue to warm the cockles of Democratic hearts with your ignorance as to how this country has changed.

Enough of that. Food and wine is party-neutral. With these two pairings, we found one that was technically fine but tremendously boring and one that took us right back to Portugal in the best possible sense.

Pairing #1: Vietnamese-marinated lamb riblets, jalapeño-cream cheese pierogis and soy-balsamic roasted pearl onions with 2009 Dandelion Vineyards Lion's Tooth of McLaren Vale Shiraz-Riesling ($20 - Binny's)

Election night food! We stayed away from a bacchanal on election night. Our nerves couldn't take it.

Recipe here and deliciousness all over the place. Lamb riblets taken to an utterly Vietnamese place, something I didn't expect to this extent. Marinade of shallots, garlic, fish sauce (touch less than the recipe called for), soy sauce, peanut oil, brown sugar, lime juice, ginger, coriander, chili sauce and salt. All of that? Yeah. All of that completely came through in flavor, brightness, lift and sense of Vietnamese flavor greatness, turning lamb into a red meat flavor with a beachy, tropical breeze. We'll be doing this again. Stunningly good.

Coupled nicely with Pierogi Palace (West Side Market - Cleveland) cream cheese and jalapeño pierogis  and soy-balsamic roasted pearl onions with a dipping sauce of fish sauce, lime juice, rice vinegar, cilantro, soy sauce, sugar and garlic. Everything on the plate was just brilliantly intertwined, playing off each other so well, leaving a feeling of completeness. Nothing should have been added and nothing should have been taken off of the plate. This was Great Stuff. This wine wasn't.

Thought process was shiraz linking up with the lamb, as shiraz can and does, and the riesling would offer the lift and brightness needed to link up with the lime, ginger and touch of heat, as riesling can and does with southeast Asian food, even if only 3% riesling was included in the blend.

What we got was bright black and red berries with mint and a touch of licorice with a respectable, slightly smoky, meaty finish. Felt too textbooky though, like the maker was chasing some of the flavor and style that Schild Estate or Peter Lehman Layers offers in the same price range but they came too close, leaving out its own distinctive expression in the process. Might not be fair to say but the comparison was immediate and continuous until the end. And the mid-palate felt like an afterthought, feeling like the initial aromas and first taste on the tongue just couldn't wait to get to the finish. We missed that pause, that rumination a good mid-palate offers here.

With the food, we got more of the same. Some nice technical interplay occurred but nothing of real interest, real originality. The wine kept its length and body, losing little in flavor but it wasn't a tale we were interested in hearing, really. Pairing Score: 82

Pairing #2: Brandade with baguette and mixed greens/herb salad with 2009 San Clodio Ribeiro ($16 - WDC) 

Winner, winner, fish and potato casserole dinner!

A Jacques Pépin Provençal recipe found here. Mrs. Ney's first crack at brandade. You can halve this recipe for two people cuz it's A LOT! No purée of the potatoes. More of a rough mash, turning the brandade into a deliciously more chunky version of brandade (look at the picture in the link. It looked like that). When you're making brandade for the first time at home, the possibility of turning it into a liquidy, goopy paste? No, no and more no. We'll start here and take baby steps.  Both of us have an occasional and very specific craving for brandade and this one met that to a tee. Pollock bacalao standing in for salt cod here (a typical and acceptable substitute), found at Devon Market on Devon, across the street from La Unica.

Some capers on top or a plate of lemons on the side would have been nice, but no loss of goodness here with the absence of that. Just different (and the acid slightly wanted came from the wine) with flavors reminiscent of our trip to Portugal, even though we didn't even have brandade while we were there (had a whole salt cod entrée, whiiiiiich was rather awful). Mix green/herb salad with sliced scallions, grape tomatoes, fresh oregano, mint, extra virgin olive oil and white balsamic vinegar, which brought a freshness and broadness to the meal outside of the fish casserole-and-bread carb explosion. Esplette-chili jam to round things out.

If we were served this brandade with bread and salad at some corner café in Lisbon or Peso da Régua, the impression of Portuguese food we got during that week in 2010 might have been very different. This was a perfect, rustic, seaside wonder. And the wine completed that mental journey.

A blend of 70% treixadura and 9% each of godello and loureira, 7% torrontes and 5% albarino. From Ribeiro, in Galicia, Spain, near Rías Baixas and just over the northern Portuguese border. And it tastes just like all of those mentioned locations. Portuguese fruit driven by Galician acid and abundance of minerals. Mouthwatering stuff with an orchard fruit medley, lemon peel and a touch of tropical fruits thrown in for good measure. Lemony herbs and flinty, gravelly minerals to finish. No loss of life here in the least with its age. Popping and jumping but with a judiciousness brought on by its maturity. In a great place right now and at a (slight) bargain price at Wine Discount Center on Elston.

A Provençal recipe that tasted like Portugal. A Spanish wine that tasted like that part of the world completely. These two were made for each other. Rustic, easy-breezy meal offering no frills but hit such a place. The only thing slightly missing in the brandade was an acid component. We got it in the wine. That's what great pairings do. They complete the meal. Perfect. Pairing Score: 93  

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