Tuesday, August 25, 2015

365 Days Of Food And Wine: Week #7

Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher, was house favorite over the last couple of weeks. Breezy, hilarious read, particularly for anybody who spent WAY too much time in a college town.

The rest of the year will be me reading books I never finished. This week, White Noise by Don Delillo. It's rather refreshing to read post-modern literature after reading the pile of suck that is post-post-post-modern literature.

And I've never looked less forward to football season than this year, college and pro. It all seems so freakin' exhausting. Go...Browns?

Total food and wine cost for the week: $90 for food and $98 for wine = $188

Sunday: Free Chicken, White BBQ sauce, kumatoes, herb salad, basil and rolls with NV Grifone Bianco Sicily

Food Details: Free chicken! (no price tag on it at work), roasted. White BBQ sauce, basil, herb salad from Trader Joe's, and rolls. Rip and top. Eat. But the big key here was the magic that happened with the white BBQ sauce and tons of basil together. Make sauce, buy basil, compile ripped piece of roll + chicken + sauce + TONS of basil. It equals dinner MAGIC!

Did We Like It? YEP-YEP-YEP! Everything around the sauce-basil was background. This sauce and lots of basil made for an explosive new flavor that would probably be on a tasting menu from a Sean Brock-Michael Symon "special food night." Dances James Brown-like in your mouth! And the wine helped.

How Was The Wine? It's cheap moscato-riesling from Sicily. Trader Joe's. $5. Loves food, particularly big flavors from chicken pick-n-choose. Usually a nice fruity refresher with this meal, here with sauce-basil, it turned into a cross between moss-covered oceanside rock and water from a flower vase, with tiny hits of smoked fruit peel. And we weirdly loved it.

And The Pairing? See above. This wasn't right in a traditional pairing sense, but was oh-so right in a life sense. Piggybacked on the utter uniqueness of the sauce-basil flavor and created a second unique deliciousness in such a welcome way. Great meal right before vacation.

Cost: $7 for food, $5 for wine = $12

Saturday: Indian Carrot Salad with Goat Curry, Naan and Raita with 2014 Earthstone Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County

Source: Jamie Oliver recipe here.

Food Details: Took goat curry from the freezer, cooked it down to evaporate most of the liquid. A salad of carrot, onion, cilantro, mint and sesame seeds. Dressing of lemon, ginger, olive oil, cumin and mustard seeds, s/p. Mixed with salad. Plate of arugula, carrot salad on top, goat on top of that. Raita and naan on the side.

Did We Like It? Big thumbs up! Way up! And two more items came out of the freezer. It's rarely been so empty. I should clean it. Or maybe not. The goat curry turned into spicy Asian goat BBQ and it was delicious. But this meal, always, is a big spread of Indian-influenced food that satisfies every jones you'd ever have. Spicy, fresh, meaty, vegetable-y, dip, dunk, eat, cleanse. I love it so much. I like it more than I like most people.

How Was The Wine? We stayed cheap. The Earthstone Sauvignon Blanc has taken over for the Trader Joe's Growers Reserve, mainly because it offers cool, breezy acid and fruit restraint that went missing from the latter lately. It's nothing special, and wasn't here, but it hits some guzzle-worthy place when drunk during a busy and annoying work week, as it was here.

And The Pairing? See above. Missed on a goat curry bite, but the acid liked the carrots, cilantro and arugula. Fine "refreshing beverage" with this meal.

Cost: $7 for food, $10 for wine = $17   

Friday: Ham and Cheese on Pretzel Buns with 2014 La Granja 360 Tempranillo Cariñena

Food Details: That's it. You read it above. Cheap ham and cheap cheese on pretzel buns. We're saving for vacation, so poof! ham-cheese-pretzel.

Did We Like It? We're saving for vacation, so poof! ham-cheese-pretzel. Did I mention that?

How Was The Wine? Chilled tempranillo was put in a glass so I could keep up this 365 business.

And The Pairing? Wine. Food.

Cost: $9 for food, $4 for wine = $13

Thursday: Mexican Rice with 2014 La Granja 360 Verdejo-Viura Castilla y León

Food Details: Freezer-garbage Mexican rice dinner consisting of Mexican rice, kielbasa from Wednesday, freezer salsa, freezer peas and non-pooped-on cilantro. Sour cream on top.

Did We Like It? Went above 'filling a hole.' We MUST empty the freezer. Nothing goes in and at least one thing comes out with each meal. So, strange food this week, according to Mrs. Ney. Here, we had carbs, protein, herbs and sour cream goop. A big bowl of Mexican-ish stuff in it. That'll do.

How Was The Wine? House white. Spanish verdejo-viura from Trader Joe's. It's $5 and suffices for meals like this. Its flavor tastes like a random Tuesday when we decided it was time for afternoon wine.

And The Pairing? No complaints. Food and wine in the basic sense, but I wasn't left wanting.

Cost: $7 for food, $5 for wine = $12

Wednesday: Tapas Spread with NV Albero Sparkling White Wine

Food Details: Trader Joe's Spanish meats sampler pack of saucisson, serrano and chorizo, Sardininan Brigante cheese, marcona almonds, arugula, garlic/parsley/olive oil baguette and kielbasa-stuffed dates in piquillo-tomato (?) sauce, which we barely touched and will probably be puréed and used for a meatball dinner.

Did We Like It? Yep. Tasted like our Spanish/Portuguese vacations, when we go to a supermarket and compile a cheap dinner with what we can find at El Corte Inglés or Pingo Doce. This $5 sampler pack isn't too shabby. The serrano isn't particularly distinctive, but the other two maintain a minimum quality in terms of flavor/freshness to be worthwhile. And it's the perfect amount for two. Solid Sardinian cheese, which is true for most Sardinian cheeses I've tasted. They like cheese in the way I like cheese - sheepy, creamy, grassy, nutty. Almonds, arugula, garlic, parsley, all the goods needed for a tapas spread and a leisurely two-hour dinner. What's not to like?

How Was The Wine? $6 cheap Trader Joe's Spanish sparkler made from viura, malvasia and airén, we believe. Fruity, fuzzy, frothy, focused, six dollars. Likes food. What's not to like? Not. Fancy. Just bargain bubbles with nice acid and fruit, and tastes like cheap house wine in Spain, which has a quality we enjoy.

And The Pairing? Tasted like thrown-together vacation food, where the pairing doesn't really matter, and there's enough elemental Spanish-ness all over the place to bring a smile to your face.

Cost: $15 for food, $12 for wine = $27

Tuesday: Melissa Clark Green Goddess Chicken, Zucchini-Tomato-Onion Salad and Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits with 2014 Matthiasson Tendu White California

Source: Two Melissa recipes: Green Goddess Chicken and Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

Food Details: "Use stuff up!" dinner. GGC recipe altered a bit, using chicken thighs and cooked under a brick in the cast-iron. Green Goddess sauce, using as many herbs in the crisper as possible (no chives, so dill), while using a whole serrano to bring more pep. Used freezer GG to marinate the chicken. Made a fresh one for dipping and dunking. Buttermilk biscuits, a bit charred, but served admirably as a carb component. Grilled zucchini mixed with leftover pickled onions, and tomatoes that needed to be used up. Make it, drag and dump GG sauce through everything, and you'll be a happy camper.

Did We Like It? Yes, yes and yes. We went through a big Green Goddess phase from mid-2013 through mid-2014, but haven't had it recently. It has everything you need in terms of greeny punch and broad, healthy zip. Wakes you up and goes quite deep. Your stomach wants herbs, veggies, acid and balance. Your head wants it to taste good. This has all of that.

How Was The Wine? We fell in love with the 2013 Tendu, a 100% vermentino in a one-liter bottle that gave lovely herbal, ocean, briny notes with plenty of snap and character. Simple, lovely, right and proper. We blew through 6-8 bottles last year. The 2013 started to lose its snap and energy by the winter of this year, so we waited for the 2014s to show up in Chicago. Then it didn't, until Pastoral had it on their restaurant wine list and they were kind enough to sell me three through their shop. The 2014 is mostly vermentino with French colombard and chardonnay thrown in due to the fact that the vermentino this year didn't have the acidity needed to make Tendu, Tendu. At first, we loved it, thinking it might be better than the 2013, but the chardonnay showed up a little too much for us, losing the personality, grizzle and verve that we loved so much in the 2013. It's still Tendu. We like it, and will buy every release. It's wine that likes food that we like. This year just won't be "We need a case! Now!"

And The Pairing? This is where the Tendu wasn't the Tendu we love. The GG gobbled up the vermentino and shoved it into the background, allowing the chardonnay to come forth from the shadows. We like chardonnay but don't crave it, except with very specific food. And this was nice chardonnay, lean and mean. But this food wants vermentino to give everything that vermentino is, a wine that tastes like a stiff ocean breeze blowing over a sandy, grassy bank. Stupid California drought and heat.

Cost: $11 for food, $29 for wine = $40  

Monday: Sean Brock Steak, Potatoes and Steak Sauce with 2003 Chateau Fombrauge St.-Emilion

Source: Heritage, by Sean Brock: herb-marinated hanger steak with onion gratin and steak sauce (pg. 135; sauce page 240). Here's the recipe from someone on the internets.

Food Details: Hanger steak marinated tarragon, parsley, chervil, chives, s/p and olive oil. Let sit. Seared medium-rare. Onion gratin. You don't have to slice onion paper-thin. It's going in the blender. You do have to slice the potatoes paper-thin, because, like potato tart, the texture it gives is essential. For the gratin, the recipe says 8-inch round baking dish. No way three pounds of potatoes fits in there. Adjust. Steak sauce made from about 15 different ingredients, simmered, blended (used dried apricots instead of golden raisins).

Did We Like It? Here's steak and potatoes, with a steak sauce that tastes like a hybrid of Heinz 57 and A-1, but it's so much more than mere steak and potatoes with steak sauce. In fact, the entire meal was a hybrid of steak and potatoes many of us grew up with, while elevating everything enough that anybody could get into the nostalgia trip without thinking it's a gimmick. Make it. It's Sean Brock. He makes things that come from a good and honest place. Everything will taste like a better version of every steak and potatoes with steak sauce meal you've ever had.

How Was The Wine? Gotta. Drink. All. This. Bordeaux. So this meal seemed like a good opportunity. Huge, pretty nose. Real presence. Very alive wine, with round blackberry/cherry that gives way quickly to an earthy mid-palate and a subtle vanilla oak/blue Sweet Tart finish. Sounds like a generic Right Banker, but it's very nice, medium-bodied, properly aged, value-driven stuff.

And The Pairing? Delicious with the gratin, giving everything it could give, and creating that thing that nice Bordeaux and food creates. Less so with the hanger and steak sauce, as the vinegar in the sauce interrupted the linear progression of the wine, chopping it up a bit. But happy stuff overall here.

Cost: $34 for food, $33 for wine = $67

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