Sunday, January 4, 2015

Hoppin' John, Flap Meat, And Lamb Niçoise With Three Favorite Winemakers

I haven't heard much carping, mostly because I haven't been out in the world much over the last two weeks. But let us remember how this winter's weather has been so far.

When it's minus-7 this week, and a foot of snow rests under every step, how about we just shut up about it? There has been no literal 'winter of our discontent.' It's been boss. And pitchers and catchers report in six weeks.

Three meals, three wines.

#1  New Year's Day Hoppin' John, pea gravy, buttermilk biscuits and Iberico ham, served with 2011 Luis Pato Ferñao Pires Beira Atlântico ($28 - Lush)

Hoppin' John is thought to bring good luck if eaten on New Year's Day. Black-eyed peas, same. Pork, ditto. So, black-eyed pea Hoppin' John, using Sean Brock's red pea Hoppin' John recipe, from Heritage. Trader Joe's Iberico ham, because I was too lazy to go find country ham, and Thomas Keller fatty-delicious buttermilk biscuits, from Ad Hoc At Home, because they're fatty-delicious.

The Hoppin' John came off Southern-ish with a Frenchy background, and earthy, but brightened up by the apple cider vinegar in the delicious pea gravy. The Iberico ham on top of buttermilk  biscuits brought the all the fat that the Hoppin' John didn't have and a surprising, almost bright contrast.

Good meal. Two elements that offered different food basics/needs: earthy and lean against fatty, bright, lip-smacking. That doesn't always play well, as it can still come up a bit flat, but it did here. Got New Year's lucky (see what I did there?).

Served with a house favorite, a bottle of Luis Pato Ferñao Pires. It's a blend of 94% fernão pires and 6% baga. So...94% is the white grape, ferñao pires, and 6% is the red grape, baga. Last had with goat rending. Less floral this time, but perfectly medium-to-light body, dirt-covered red berries, with a bit of tobacco and fruit skin. Great acid lift, nice three-part story. Always good. And quite good here, particularly with any pea gravy-based bite, steering the wine to its best self and confirming that this is one of our favorite, and most food-friendly, under $30 wines of the year.

#2  Flap meat and homemade sweet potato fries, served with 2010 Yalumba Hand-Picked Shiraz-Viognier Barossa ($26 - Binny's). 

A riff on a house fallback meal of hanger steak and bagged fries, typically served with a zinfandel-based wine. It's easy, happy food and wine that always satisfies. Tastes like backyard summer picnic.

Flap meat freshly cut off the cow at Paulina Meat Market. It was beautiful. This one marinated in evoo, balsamic, soy sauce; onion, garlic, rosemary; smoked paprika, brown sugar, black pepper, seared medium-rare.

Homemade sweet potato fries, which effectively destroyed the "easy" part of this meal preparation. And running out of corn starch and substituting potato starch made for a gloopy slurry. But the end result was fries that tasted homemade in a good way, better than Alexia bagged, staying crisp and were wonderfully creamy on the inside. Success.

Beef and fries, but better. Always.

The Hand-Picked Shiraz-Viognier in the Yalumba line of wines is our favorite and it's not even close, but they've been absent from the Chicago market for a couple of years. We snagged six of the 2010s a few months ago. This is our second. Similar showing here as the first; a wine that's perfectly delicious now, giving all the forward blackberry/raspberry love, but straddles the line beautifully between ripe, yet savory, and it just so broad! The viognier's grapefruit/tangerine riff never gets lost either, providing an ever-present lift and a perky bounciness. This is why we like this wine. It's everything we like about Australian wine with none of the one-note, fruit bomb that deflates too quickly. This one is long, complex and thoughtful, with its savory notes stealing the show. Delicious pairing. Exactly what we want from this meal.

#3  Lamb Niçoise, served with Paul Bara Champagne Bouzy Brut Rosé ($55 - Binny's).

Leftover leg of lamb (from Christmas, a nice meal that had a big Barolo fail), potatoes, favas, tomatoes, charred scallions, gaeta olives and capers on mâche. Parsley and dill all over the top.

Lamb (?) Niçoise? I didn't even know that was a thing. But it's A Thing. A rather good thing and great vehicle for leftover lamb. Instead of emphasizing freshness first, this is freshness played in the middle realms of of the brightness and earth spectrum. Instead of the olives and capers providing a briny cut, they play into the lamb and show their fleshy, dusky side, complementing the lamb in great ways. Same with the potatoes. But skip the tomatoes in this prep. Their bright acid is a distraction to everything else going on. Lovely expansion of flavors contained within a tight range, like it got into every nook and cranny of a particular flavor set. Such goodness.

And the Paul Bara, a Kermit Lynch-imported Champagne house, is slowly becoming our default Champagne in the lower price range. It delivers everything we want from Champagne when we don't want to spend a lot and put pressure on the food preparation because we spent a lot. It's the under-$50 Champagne that plays above its price tag just enough to say, "That's lovely!" and just broad enough to catch more food flavors than the Ayalas, Chiquets, Peterses and Hebrarts of the world. We love those wines, but they can be more specific in expression, more singular, and somewhat more finicky with food at times. We have to crave each of those specifically and gear the food towards it. With Paul Bara, he says, "Here's Champagne that gives ALL the Champagne happiness without me messing too much with that." And we like that. It has a great place.

This is a rosé Champagne bubbles, hence a touch more expensive. Always is. Pretty raspberry cream here that says wispy, light and fancy. This doesn't get dark and brooding, it remains in the upper world of fruity with happy hints of roses, and a nice, round shimmer to its lift. It's complete, and completely joyful stuff.

And perfect with this food, casting a wide net for all the food combinations going on here. This meal had that 'it' factor when it comes to a pairing, slowing things down, forcing a pause, making us appreciate everything more.

Great stuff.

No comments:

Post a Comment