Wednesday, August 12, 2015

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #5

Nice piece by Eric Asimov about domestic chenin blanc in the New York Times a few days ago.

And Julia Edelman pretty much nails The Food Blog in the New Yorker this week.

But we're immune to such criticism here. We're more of a food journal (see what I did there). With terrible pictures. One might even say we're the ANTI-food blog, because this is wildly disorganized and has only been of interest to us for years. Which is the way we like it.

And let me save you a few hours of your life: don't read 10:04, A Novel, by Ben Lerner. Just...don't. Unless you enjoy 78 segues akin to "you know... everything is just one big organism, you know..."

Total food and wine cost for the week: $138 for food and $123 for wine = $261

Sunday: Salmon, Bagels, Cream Cheese, Arugula, Kumatoes and Pickled Onion-Manzano with 2014 Berger Grüner Veltliner Kremstal

Food Details: Simple stuff. Smoked salmon from Trader Joe's, bagels, herbed-up cream cheese, arugula, kumatoes and pickled onion-manzano from Friday. Build. Eat. Drink. Enjoy.

Did We Like It? Best meal of the week, me thinks. Right there with Pizza Art and chicken with fennel panzanella. The workweek's been long and it's freakin' hot. This Sunday staple Wipes. That. Right Out of the Mind. This is always delicious, but typically has avocado. Weren't ripe yet. But the absence of it here made this meal better. Avocado creaminess would have taken away from a sharpness and cut in each bite that we like/d. Tastes more balanced, rather than some sort of embarrassment of food riches that doesn't always add up to great. Plus, adding avocado to all the other stuff makes for a tall-ass bagel, with neck cranes that make me feel like I'm in a competitive eating contest or something.

How Was The Wine? Perfect. Fresh Berger, our first of the year. We had the 2013 in week #1 of this 365 experiment and it was ever-so subtly losing its zip and verve. Not here. All of Berger's freshness here on full display. Stony, peppy, lively, proper hits and hints of greeny-citrusy fruit, a smart and smooth conversationalist with great flow.

And The Pairing? Perfect times two! Without the avocado, each salmon-bagel bite had a more properly pared-down interplay between the ingredients, allowing us to taste everything and how they played with each other. The wine picked that up, snuggled its way in, gave even more to the pithy conversation, and then refreshed. Per. Fect.

Cost: $19 for food, $15 for wine = $34

Saturday: Pasta With Meatballs, Rapini & Amaranth with 2014 Innovacíon Rosé Mendoza

Food Details: Greek creste pasta with TJ's meatballs, rapini, amaranth greens, pecorino, garlic, onions, olive oil, and herbs.

Did We Like It? Big bowl of food. Mrs. Ney found it disappointing. After working a patio shift in 90-degree heat, I found it to be welcome meat and carbs with greens.

How Was The Wine? One-liter rosé, malbec and syrah, $7.50 at Whole Foods (on sale with 6-bottle discount). It's been our workhorse rosé this summer. Here, it tasted like cherry Life Savers

And The Pairing? Meh. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Cost: $10 for food, $8 for wine = $18

Friday: Zucchini Baba Ganoush, Pickled Onion-Dill-Serrano, Kumatoes, Arugula and Pita with 2014 Nortico Alvarinho Vinho Verde

Source: Recipe here, from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, by Claudia Roden (page 65)

Food Details: Zucchini instead of eggplant in baba ganoush, skipped the cumin. Generous amount of olive oil and za'atar dumped on top of baba ganoush. Onion-dill-serrano pepper quick-pickled, mixed with arugula. Sliced kumatoes. Pita to stuff, top, and/or dip. It's Lebanese-Eygptian pick and choose.

Did We Like It? Good Lord, Yes. Creamy, herby, spicy, bitter, pickle, tomato. All that crap. It's the polar opposite of the casserole food we ate growing up. That's probably why we love Middle Eastern food so much. First, it's freakin' great, then we compare it to the meatloaf-lasagna dinners we ate when we were 12, back when lemon-pepper chicken was for Special.

How Was The Wine? Here's an example of a wine that tastes so much better when there isn't a Luis Pato Branco sitting next to it to compare. Firmly in the realm of 'like' that time, this time, with this food, it was perfect. Loads of energy and verve, with seaside air, gas and snap. Such firm, yet forgiving acid. For $11 at Whole Foods, after having it with this food, this wine went from a nice alternative to "buy that, you'll like it. A lot!"

And The Pairing? See above. Something about the char on the vegetables and the umami of the tahini played perfectly against its brightness. You put this meal in front of me on vacation at some cheap café on the coast with this wine...I'd remember it for years.

Cost: $10 for food, $11 for wine = $21    

Thursday: Chicken Enchiladas with 2014 La Granja Blanco Castilla y León

Source: Enchiladas (here) from Cook's Illustrated's Cover And Bake, rice from Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday.

Food Details: Leftover chicken from Tuesday, corn tortillas, onion, tomato sauce, cilantro, cheese - it's all in the recipe linked above. Mexican rice with tomatillos, onion, herbs and peas.

Did We Like It? If there's one weekday meal that we've eaten throughout our 12+ years in Chicago, it's probably enchiladas in some form, these enchiladas for the last eight or so. It's a Mexican "clean out the fridge!" dinner in a form we always like. Tastes like Home.

How Was The Wine? Tastes like vacation on the cheap. White Spanish wine, a verdejo and viura blend, with crispness, dryness and creaminess; lightly floral, lightly citrusy...$5 wine done well. Guzzle-able.

And The Pairing? It works. Cleans everything up nicely while offering some stone fruit pit to finish. We're always happy to drink this wine, because it's just so likable.

Cost: $8 for food, $5 for wine = $13

Wednesday: Pizza Art Café with Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco

Food Details: Greek salad to start, margherita, diavola and Pugliese pizzas. It's our standard order at this wildly underrated pizza place in Albany Park. Solid margherita, best diavola yet, and the Pugliese with smoked beef added is crazy-pants, smoky-cheesy good. "Why are we not there more often?"

Did We Like It? See above. Big thumbs up. Beautiful night to boot. Napa-style clear air. Felt like it'd been months since a night like that, or any beautiful kind, showed up in Chicago.

How Was The Wine? After some experimentation, Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco is the one and only wine to take to Pizza Art for us. Captures everything in a wide net while maintaining its tart, frothy, energetic strut, while its $12 price tag at Vin Chicago keeps everything budget-y. Brought a bottle of 2013 Efeste Feral Sauvignon Blanc for the Pugliese, a surprisingly good individual pairing.

And The Pairing? See above. If you're going to Pizza Art, Cleto Chiarli is the choice.

Cost: $50 for food, $32 for wine = $82

Tuesday: Roasted Chicken and Fennel Panzanella with 2014 Broc Cellars Picpoul Blanc Luna Matta Vineyard Paso Robles

Food Details: Chicken rubbed with white pepper and fennel pollen, bay and lemon shoved under the skin; roasted. A roasted fennel panzanella salad which, and you can see to the right, was enough to feed a small army. And yet both of us pretty much finished our plates (with a good chunk of the bread taken out), because it was delicious. Salad of roasted fennel, lemon, onion; the rest of the celery/fennel mostarda from last Monday, multi-colored baby tomatoes, arugula, dill, tarragon, oil and vinegar. Apart from dumping in the mostarda, this was exactly the recipe from New Year's Eve.

Did We Like It? First of all, great chicken. Moist, fantastic white pepper-fennel pollen chicken skin, just a terrific bird. But this was panzanella with a side of chicken. A wacko amount of flavors we love all together in Big Salad form. With a wine this was nuts.

How Was The Wine? We joined the Broc wine club because it included wines like this (still available, btw). Picpoul, a wine we dismissed for years but have come to sort of love recently due to a Trader Joe's cheap-o French one, is all fennel bite, creamy citrus, wee bit of salt and acid. It doesn't crave your love. It's just itself. This Broc offering from Paso Robles is more delicate than the French ones we've had, offering a sunny-foggy acid, lilty fruit presence, and delicious gaseous finish. Just when you think it might be too ethereal, it asserts its presence. We loved the snot out of it. Loved, loved, loved it. Particularly with food catered to it.

And The Pairing? The food brought everything out in the wine, especially with a roasted lemon bite and fennel, becoming a broader, more friendly, complete wine. This isn't a drink-on-its-own wine, as it barely reaches even pleasant by itself. It's too simple and muted. With food, it's "HELLO! Look what I can do!"

Cost: $24 for food, $32 for wine = $56     

Monday: Indian Spread with 2012 Luis Pato Vinho Espumante Bruto Baga Rosé Bairrada

Source: 660 Curries, by Raghavan Iyer

Food Details: Goat curry, substituting goat for lamb in the recipe for lamb curry in a sweet onion-tomato sauce (pg. 190). Coriander, cumin, sweet paprika, cayenne, turmeric, ginger, garlic, cardamom pods, bay, tomato sauce, fried onion, ground goat, stewed. Topped with cilantro. It's Indian Goat Chili!

Amaranth leaves recipe (pg. 461) mixing amaranth leaves and beet greens with peanuts, black and yellow mustard seeds, cumin, turmeric and cayenne. Didn't have asafetida. We'll be picking it up on the next trip to Devon, as Mrs. Ney is curious. Beet raita (adding beets to David Tanis's raita recipe - it's a good one). Trader Joe's naan - entirely acceptable naan on the cheap, done well.

Did We Like It? We did. Didn't love it by any stretch but we got our Indian fix with plenty of spices and a proper triangulation of Indian dip-dunk-cool-repeat. The Goat curry was nice, but maybe a bit too chili-ish. Big winner was these freakin' amaranth leaves. Greeny-planty-earthy loveliness with every bite. Beet raita served its purpose quite well. We liked this. All of it.

How Was The Wine? It's Luis Pato. Enough said. This is sparkling baga with a bit of maria gomes. Called a rosé but it's more of a sparkling red, with a cherry-currant punch, touch of spice and earth, and lovely froth. The maria gomes, with its characteristic wooly quality, offers a lacy structural help and something that turns into a red apple-watermelon background refreshment. We love it. And it loves food.

And The Pairing? Helped immensely. Became the tie that bound all the flavors together. Nice elevation and brightening of flavors with this pairing, taking the Indian spread to a place that was quite happy. Luis Pato loves food. You can tell by the wine he makes.

Cost: $17 for food, $20 for wine = $37

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