Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thanksgiving Week

The week leading up to Thanksgiving, and a good time after, means easy meals in this house. One of the worst work weeks of the year and an impending family visit makes that necessary for sanity and general well-being. So, a round-up of such.

#1 Red-wine-rosemary hanger steak (Martha Stewart recipe) and potato pancakes with crème fraiche for slapping on top, served with 2004 Chateau Faugères St.-Emilion Grand Cru ($22 - Binny's)

Baller meat. Just the best. One of those rosemary meat preps where the rosemary gets into the medium-rare meat and juice so perfectly. Trader Joe's potato pancakes (ideal starch for such a week) with a whipped-up horseradish/blue cheese crème fraiche to slather. Very good meal.

Bordeaux is in the house. Gotta drink it. We stated that this may be the winter we gulp down a good amount of all the Bordeaux sitting on the shelves. After this one, like so many in the past, we may have to backtrack a bit on that statement. This bargain St.-Emilion brought an earth-first joy, with a medium body, happy textural presence, everything one would want in this price range. Unfortunately, it was schizophrenic with the food. Mildly interesting at times; tinny, backwards, limp at others. Sometimes, it was super concentrated but short. Other times, it was almost quite good. But it was too all over the map to find that place of pairing enjoyment. We never knew what food step to take in order to find its happy place.  

#2  Roast chicken and green bean-arugula salad, served with 2012 Charles Smith Vino Pinot Grigio ($10 - Binny's) and 2013 Laurent Miquel Albariño ($20 - Lush)

Top-five roast chicken we've had. Buy fennel pollen and use it. It's the tops. White pepper and fennel pollen smother. Whole Foods chicken. It's great chicken. Don't fight it. Just spend the extra bones. Moist, flavorful breast, great skin. Fantastic. Green bean-yellow beet-arugula-dill salad. Can't remember the details. A Monday chicken dinner that brought the goods.

Loved this Laurent Miquel French albariño in July. Less so here. It lost just a WEE touch of its vitality and swirl of deliciousness. Still nice, but missed that thing where I want to buy two cases and drink it for the next year. The Charles Smith Vino Pinot Grigio picked up the slack. It's $10, juicy, silky, peppy, fresh and clean. Keep it cold. Shows best when more chilly. This is a wine that feels like it will be showing up 2-3 a month as a weeknight, default white. And it feels like they called it pinot grigio out of spite. It's steely and clean, first and foremost. Calling it pinot gris would be a misnomer (and miss a market at this price range). Another winner from Charles Smith and a nice match here. The albariño was more quiet, but the pinot grigio was a simple, clean, broad, playful delight.

#3 Smoked duck, six-year white cheddar, pickled mustard/fennel seeds, bread and orange suprème-gaeta-arugula-parsley salad, served with 2007 La Fiacre du Pape Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($20 - Trader Joe's)

A charcuterie-ish spread of pre-cooked Whole Foods smoked duck breasts, Trader Joe's six-year white cheddar, homemade pickled mustard/fennel seeds, bread, salad. A simple meal that lived up to the expectations that come with Tuesday dinner. That was made possible by quality smoked duck, a white cheddar that brought a depth and elegance without being so cheddary, and one of the most spectacular pickled seed concoctions I've ever had. Bread + duck + pickled seeds = Yep! And Bread + cheese + pickled seeds made for one of the most delicious, original tastes I've had in a good long while.

Started with a bottle of 2011 Peter Lehmann Layers, a grenache-tempranillo-shiraz-mourvèdre blend. Where it brings a smooth simplicity and Australian-ness to the party, it was a little too smooth and simple for what the food offered. Thought process was the oranges would work with the tempranillo and it might have if this wine brought anything in the way of structure. Mrs. Ney blinded me with a Trader Joe's Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Didn't guess it, wasn't close. Delicious plummy fruit with background brush. Smooth, integrated, seamless in admirable ways for what it was. Tasted like the ripeness of 2007 and where a wine in this price range would be now, but with that thing that says, "This was really well-made for a $20, seven-year-old wine!" Worked just fine with a great spread of food.  

#4 Pizza Art, served with 2013 Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco di Sorbara Fondatore ($19 - Perman)

Margherita, Pugliese with smoked beef added, and Pizza D'inferno. Not much to say about the pizza. I work at a pizza place. This is the pizza I want when I'm not at my pizza place.

It's worth mentioning for the Lambrusco. This isn't the Cleto Chiarli Vecchia Modena. It's a fancier version. And it's gosh-darn perfect Lambrusco-y stuff. Floral, raspberry-rosemary accents, really great structure and integrity. So interesting and exactly what we wanted. Tasted like love for under $20. Bought at Perman Wine downtown. If you don't know about Perman, you should. They're Portuguese fanatics, with other thoughtfully-picked goodies that people who like wine will love. Sort of a Candyland for such a small shop.

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