Thursday, August 21, 2014

Birthday Week

While half the customers in the place resemble a commercial, Tanta, a Peruvian vittles, wine and cocktails restaurant downtown, has the pleasant aspect of not feeling like anything in Chicago. The rooftop bar feels like Spain and the restaurant feels eerily Californian in scope, minimalism, pop and chatter. Get anything ceviche-related, don't get the beef cheeks. Get the cocktails, don't look at other customers  - they're looking around enough for both of you. Eat the plantain chips, make sure your servers and bussers don't take away things that aren't finished. We went to Mr. Gastón Arcía's restaurant in Madrid and liked it muchly. Very similar punch here. We'd go again, which is saying something in our restaurant visits of late. Best thing: the rooftop opens at 3pm, has a full drink menu and enough lil noshes to make it a meal. That's probably our next play, should we return.

This week's food:

Monday Lunch: Mariano's rotisserie chicken, ciabatta buns, kumatoes and Trader Joe's herb salad, served with NV Grifone Bianco Sicily ($5). Okay. This wine isn't ANYTHING special on its own or with most food. BUT it does something magical with whatever crap Mariano's puts on their slow-roasted chicken and kumatoes. Can't explain it and don't want to. It's just a thing. Build your own little open-faced sandwich of ripped chicken, kumatoes and salad on top of bread, eat it, then take a drink of this riesling-moscato blend from Sicily (!) and it's inherent sweetness and blah-ness turns into this wispy, ethereal, light-as-a-feather, refreshing quaffer that's perfect with THIS food. It's a 2014 favorite.

Monday Dinner: Paul Virant skirt steak with fennel panzanella, served with 2013 Matthiasson Tendu Red ($22 - Vin Chicago). Recipe from Saveur. Skirt steak with a perfect rare to medium-rare, yet a little chewy, because it was from the School Whole Foods and not the Halsted Whole Foods. Note that. It's the truth. For this and everything else each carries. Fine enough meat. Served its purpose. Fennel panzanella salad, with the addition of ricotta salata, scallions and sun-dried tomatoes, because we like that stuff. Marinade on the meat different, using Melissa Clark's NYT skirt steak marinade, reserving a bit of the marinade to make a vinaigrette for the panzanella. Happiness galore with this dinner. A great salad with "a lot of stuff in it" that played off each other so wonderfully. And the 2013 Matthiasson Tendu Red, an aglianico, montepulciano and barbera blend in a one-liter bottle, may not have been all match-matchy here, but it was all earthy-fruity-cleansing in a great way. I'm starting to Love this wine.

Tuesday Dinner: Jamie Oliver Greek chicken, beet salad, arugula, skordalia and pita chips, served with 2011 Palmina Malvasia Bianca SBC ($20 - Winery) & 2012 Orballo Albariño Rías Baixas ($18 - Binny's). Greek chicken recipe here. It's a face-slapper. Another 2014 favorite. Or starting to be. Palmina wine with Palmina beet salad. It's a yellow beet salad with a deliciously squishy gremolata-like business slathered all over it (grilled scallions added). Skordalia...Mrs. Ney took what was left from the enormous mound of fennel panzanella from above, threw it in the food processor, added a couple of potatoes and evoo, gave it a whaz, and poof! Skordalia. Wrong, but perfect. Had all the elements of skordalia  - potatoes, lemon, bread, garlic - but with a few "Surprise!"es along the way. This is perfect, easy-as-pie chicken. Put a lot of Greeky (or Greek-ish) stuff with it, and you can't ask for more, cuz it has everything. While the 2012 Orballo isn't the 2011 Orballo, and the 2011 Palmina Malvasia is getting a little creaky, we loved the pairing. The Palmina was INTENSELY floral with just enough acid to keep everything in place. Happy with the beets and chicken. The Orballo was great with the crazy skordalia but turned into this gutsy, minerally, complete albariño that showed echoes of the 2011, one of the best albariños we've ever had. A feast here in every respect.

Tanta was Wednesday. Fish tacos tonight. Should be good.  

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