Friday, January 9, 2015

Cassoulet And Grenache, Potato Pie And Pinot Meunier

Hey, Bordeaux, you aren't all that.

For what seems like the hundredth time, another Bordeaux came off too uppity and obstinate to play nice with food like a simple savory pie consisting of really wine-fussy ingredients like potato, chicken stock, black pepper and leeks. How dare we try to force such things?

I can't remember the last time I saw a wine turtle like a bottle of 2003 Fombrauge did last night. Fine by itself. Whiny little baby with food.

Two pairings.

#1 Cassoulet with 2012 A Tribute To Grace Santa Barbara County ($35 - Vin Chicago)

Seems like every time some national (insert food) day happens, Mrs. Ney has, by coincidence, already planned it. Today is National Cassoulet Day. We had it Wednesday, at the outbreak of the nose hair-singeing cold here in Chicago. So, right and proper food.

No weisswurst, which is our favorite (previous cassoulets here). Shop was out. Duck sausages, pork shoulder and duck stock this time. Cook's Illustrated recipe. White beans, porky essence, crusty, juicy, lovely. Bone-warming stuff.

And quite nice with Angela Osborne's cheaper grenache, the gray label, a culled Santa Barbara County offering. The white label was so pure and clean. We liked it, but its delicate nature left us wondering if we could really love it enough to buy more. This one, the gray label, has more rawness and verve, less of a spit-shined veneer. Similar rose-y floral notes, but with grit and dirt. Harder-edged minerals, pretty bright red fruits with a darker berry undertone. More punch.

And that helped with the cassoulet. I wanted grenache, thought about a Les Pallìeres, and eventually settled on this. Solid play. Very friendly with the quality version of cassoulet. Similar weights in the food and wine made for satisfied bites and sips.

#2 Savory potato pie with 2010 Darting Pinot Meunier Trocken Pfalz ($16 - Binny's)

The OXO mandolin is a wonky device that's a pain in the ass to clean. But when you can slice paper-thin slices of potato with it and this savory pie turns out this good, you go through the trouble.

Recipe from NYT Cooking. Tastes like Paris bistro lunch at its best, a tart/pie that's so much better than the sum of its parts. Leeks cooked down with a cup of chicken stock, taking the stock down to nothing, putting all the chicken-y business deep into leeks. Touch of bacon fat added, I believe. Painfully thin potato slices, so thin you could see your finger through it, that became something quite special after cooking. They were the key here in turning this into something resembling a secret that chefs have, turning something simple into something utterly complex and delicious. Everything was just so...integrated and complete, mature and fancy-delicious. Arugula salad with pomegranate seeds on the side (has to be on the same plate to achieve that bistro goodness, we say). Fantastic dinner.

The aforementioned Fombrauge was quickly jettisoned, going with a wine we thought was pretty much over and done, the 2010 Darting Pinot Meunier. Last had here, previously loved many times, and once had at [restaurant name redacted]. And holy crap! This wasn't dead in the least. Settling in for a slow fade to oblivion, sure, but certainly not dead. Wilting, yet still jumpy floral notes that surrounded a core of quality dirt-tinged blackberries. Ever-present flower-mineral play that turned what could have been a fine, but rather ordinary bistro house wine into a wine that was quite good. This wine is freakin' different every gosh darn time. And more than just fine with the savory pie. It could have been the relief we had that it wasn't the crap-fest the Bordeaux was with the food, but this had a swirly roundness with the pie that we enjoyed immensely.    

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