Saturday, August 10, 2013

TWIB Notes: This Week In Bottles

Four meals, four wines.

Beef, smoked mackerel, chicken and tuna. Rioja, Sancerre, torrontés and pinot gris. Spanish, veggie explosion, Mexican, Thai.

Squeezed into these four meals were 32 vegetables and 28 herbs, spices, wines and juices.



After seeing a Provençal beef stew recipe in Food & Wine that utilized white wine in the base to summer-fy it - and almost making it - Spanishing it up sounded better to us. So, made-up beef stew with onions, roasted red peppers, viura wine (Antaño is in the bargain bin at Binny's right now. It's $6. And ridiculous for $6. It's been our summer 2013 house flavor), roasted San Marzano tomatoes (prodotto del Texas), paprika, smoked paprika, rosemary and garlic. Slow simmer, stewed up.

Tomato vinaigrette from The New Spanish Table. Can't find a link so here's Mrs. Ney's description:
I generally avoid peeling tomatoes, but this is important food that will change your summer:  Blanch, ice, and peel one pound of tomatoes.  Dump them in food processor:  pulse until small-chunks--not puréed.  Dump into bowl, add 6 tbsp of your best evoo and 2 tbsp of your best vinegar.  Toast 1 tsp cumin seeds.  In a mortar and pestle, grind them up with two garlic cloves and a big pinch of your best salt.  Dump that into tomatoes.  Chop up some mint, add it to tomatoes, and let sit on your counter for two hours.  Eat, and realize that life is better, now. 
Fustini's 18-year balsamic and the addition of lavender this time. Ever go to a hole-in-the-wall Asian restaurant and see a condiment on the table with a spoon in it, leaving you sort of afraid to test the waters, as it's been, well, sitting on the table for who knows how long and dipped into by who knows who in who knows what way? Then you work up the courage, stick it in your mouth and a small window of stupid-deliciousness is opened up to you? That's tomato vinaigrette in Spanish form. Breakfast staple in Spain in our experience and a bit of a food life changer. You make that. Top off your made-up stew with it. Drag bread through it. Just eat it.

Baguette for dipping, dunking and diving.

Great dinner. Tasted like every aspect of a deliciously ripe tomato had been deconstructed, turned into a dish of its own and then all that was jammed together into one dish in the best way. The flavors of Rioja with the lavender really popping. Going back there in mere weeks.

Served with a bottle of 2001 La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva Especial ($30 - WDC), our third drinking of this vintage. Similar showing as the second link. Liqueur-soaked cherries, licorice and leaves. Somewhat sappy, odd phase right now, but still great life and length. Once this sheds that mid-life sappiness, which I think it will, this could turn into something beautifully old-style-Rioja mature. We'll see. Tough to definitively know where this is heading.

But happy-slappy stuff with Rioja-inspired stew, weaving in there, splashing around, frolicking away with good-enough Spanish delight. Happy. Pairing Score: 89  


Want sauvignon blanc but don't know what to have? a secret. Sauvignon blanc is one of the most food-versatile wines on the planet. Just drink it, particularly if you got a hankering for veggies. Take those veggies and toss in some caraway and cumin and good sauvignon blanc will reward you with a pairing hug. Like this one.

Tuesday Lincoln Square Farmers' Market and Harvesttime bounty. Roasted yellow beets, San Marzano tomatoes (prodotto del Texas), raw corn, scallions, green beans, wilted beet greens, yellow pepper, avocado, red (hot) Farmers' Market unidentified pepper, gooseberries.

All of that above tossed together with parsley and tarragon dumped over everything and standard house dressing of shallot/anchovy/mustard vinaigrette. Don't buy dressing. Make it. Takes like two minutes and costs less. So much less.

Caraway-laced Limpa bread from the Swedish bakery in Andersonville. Cream cheese with raw grated horseradish, dill and lemon juice stirred in.

Smoked mackerel from Harvestime. $12/lb (we had $7.80 worth). Great product.

Veggie explosion that stayed in the Taste Buds & Molecules realm, something that does strange things in terms of food and wine pairing. There's linkage in food and wine and then there's LINKAGE! This one fell in between linkage and LINKAGE with a bottle of 2012 Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre Blanc ($24 - Binny's). A Kermit Lynch import. See that, buy that. Because it will be capital-G Good.

This is one of those, a wine that defines the specific difference in definition between delicacy and grace. Here's a sauvignon blanc that isn't delicate, yet achieves completely the ideal of grace in wine. Chive and lemons, flinty with a farmland breeze whiff. Acid that keeps the changes coming. Tastes like an old Frenchman. Gruff, with ideals that you need a key to hear. Find that key and it makes you want to pull up a chair and take in all he has to offer and is willing to give.

Like Chilean sea bass and braised endive-leek-tomato stew-salad with this same wine, this meal takes the flavor of vegetables and makes it taste like you JUST ripped them out of the ground, particularly the gooseberries here. It's a house favorite, this wine, particularly with food of this ilk, cleaning everything up while still maintaining all of its personality. Can't ask for more. Pairing Score: 93

Quick note: Trader Joe's is currently carrying a sauvignon blanc from Burgundy (yep) under the village label, Saint-Bris. It's $10, utterly delicious and worth twice its price. Tastes like thoughtful sauvignon blanc, even with an emphasis on a rocky creaminess, but with an intriguing red fruit number underneath.    


Got a crockpot? Got 10-15 minutes to chop crap up?

From Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday, a chicken, tomatillo, potato, onion, pickled serrano crock-pot wonder. Go to this website to get the recipe and read about it. She nails it. A four year-old could make this. It's about the silly great Mexican comfort food flavors. It's about the stupid great broth. It's about the ease of making it. Cilantro-ed up rice as a base for us. Mexican chicken stew dumped on top. Arugula salad to finish. Weeknight. Weekend. Doesn't matter. Tastes fancy.

Served with 2012 Domingo Molina Hermanos Torrontés Salta ($12 on sale - Binny's). There's Crios Torrontés and then there's every other torrontés in our world. No other one measured up in terms of getting the floral notes, fruit and delicate touch of salt right. Here's one that measures up in a different form. Salted stone fruit with the right amount of lime spritz followed by a dried white flower finish that's ethereal yet substantial.

The wine picked up on the serranos and ran with it, giving so much more than the wine had on its own, with a happy order of flavors and an extension of the food deliciousness long after swallowing. Pairing Score: 92

Meal From A Month Ago That Warrants Mentioning

Missed this one during our hiatus. Tom Colicchio's Thai-style watermelon and radish salad from Food & Wine. Fish sauce, sambal oelek, lime juice, ginger, scallions, red chile, mint and basil. Watermelon and radishes, all tossed together. Topped with Whole Foods tuna crusted with pink peppercorns, white peppercorns, sichuan peppercorns, coriander, cardamom, ginger, sel gris. Wilted beet greens on the side.

Doesn't get more fresh. Just doesn't. Perfect radish vehicle. Just perfect. And tuna prep that makes tuna so much better than just tuna. It's the only tuna for us now.

Served with 2011 Ponzi Pinot Gris Willamette ($17 - Winery). Same price at Binny's right now. It's rare that Ponzi whites make it to Chicago in any real way. They're nice people at Ponzi and their new tasting room looks flat-out lovely. Pinot gris always trumps my rather lazy impression of it. With the typical Ponzi acid in play, it becomes a hybrid of a crisp white with the acid backbone of hefty German woman with tree trunk legs, dark tropical fruit brooding below and a natural, happy, sprite-like sweetness that comes with that. You think it's sweet, but then the acid shoots right through it and turns it into a fruity-floral twister with an ease that belies its initially perceived weight.

That made it perfect with the freshness in this meal, a freshness with a ton of spices and sauces to jostle it back and forth between the worlds of fresh and an Asian-inspired gnarly depth. The wine played that jostle as well in lockstep with the food, and playing in a joyfully similar flavor world. Frankly perfect stuff for a wine we thought needed to be drunk ASAP. Pairing Score: 95

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