I've always hated the taste of a can of pork and beans. Something dripping with sadness about it, tasting like the unsaid food a Raymond Carver character would be eating alone in a kitchen as he stares at the clock and contemplates a life unexpected, ineffectual and forgotten.
Fancy meat and beans is another matter. It throws up the flag and signals that winter is indeed here. Embrace it, wear thick socks, throw an extra blanket on the bed, find your place of warmth, watch dog videos, ignore thoughts of discontent and hug the season. Eat food that does the same.
Food: Boar shank and veal sausage cassoulet
More boar shank! Veal sausages from Paulina Meat Market. Recipe courtesy of Cook's Illustrated, with tweaks here and there, becoming more ours as it's evolved. Herbed-up duck stock reduced, boar shanks cooked in said stock, meat torn off, set aside, bones thrown back in duck stock, reduced with cloves and juniper, onions, garlic, all the recipe goodness; (soaked overnight) white beans added, boar meat thrown back in with veal sausages, topped with bread crumbs, tossed in the oven, all for a total of six hours of cooking. <---- That? It was largely inactive cooking time. Just a lot of dumping, watching and moving so...easy-peasy. Sorta. Certainly not as difficult as it seems.
Best batch yet. Boar brought a darker hue to the meat impression with all of it lifted by the surprising lightness of this good cassoulet recipe. Warms you up!
The wine was a mixed bag.
(1 1/2 hour decant - hit its stride 2 1/2 hours in) The Gourt de Mautens is mostly grenache with a bit of mourvèdre. Read about crazy cat Jérôme Bressy here. Not an inch of compromise in those bones. He makes his wines, releases them out into the world and says, "There you go. That's what I made. Don't like it? Toughies." This is the fourth time we've had the 2005 and it's shown an enormous arc over the last three years. Once buck-wild, this is now starting to settle in for the long haul. Unfortunately, with this drinking, I think we caught it in transition. A bit of a fat-bottomed small box right now. Delicious and dry, herbs, violets and licorice dominate with multiple swirls of teeny-tiny dark raspberry and cherry here and there, up and down, in a tight and focused package. Grilled meat fat touches. Moderately complex. Nice. But a small package of goods right in the middle with more ordinary edges and a bit sleepy. Backwards (in a good sense) has been the word people have used to describe this 2005. Feels more like we're taking about time here. Back in 2010, I liked its bucking phase, foretelling what was to come in flavor and joy. This time, we found it revealing more where its structure is going to go, which didn't (and typically doesn't) offer as much joy. Two more bottles. We'll see what happens.
We're not serious Châteauneuf-du-Pape people, enjoying more to chew around the Rhône edges of CDP at a third of the price. Lirac, Rasteau, Vaucluse, Tavel, Gigondas, Beaumes-de-Venise, with an occasional CDP thrown in on occasion. Heck, we'd probably be fine just tracking this CDP heavyweight for the rest of our lives and not feel like we're missing much. Vieux Télégraphe isn't cheap but its prices haven't risen in the same way other top-quality Rhône houses have. This 2007, in half-bottle form and a standard CDP GSM blend with a few extras thrown in, wears its modern chip on its shoulder proudly, showing sparkly, slightly sweet black fruits jumping everywhere, all perky and upfront, with textbook transitions to all the typical Rhône-ness in a higher quality package. Rosemary, meat and licorice with tons of extroverted grenache expression. Thick-ish right now, not much mystery, but its thoughts are well-formed and thought-provoking. Ordinary grenache is like a high school football player that embraces his jock-ness. Good grenache is the same that reads a book now and then. While this one is a blend, its personality is all grenache right now. When that's good, it's quite good. This was good. And will be great when the syrah and mourvèdre shows up to the party to offer more than just its fruit.
Pairing: Nice. Frenchy. Fine.
About 2 1/2 hours in, the Gourt de Mautens found a place of broadness and pause that gave a peek into its potential. With the food, especially the boar and clove-juniper juice, we found a place of above-average joy. But we couldn't help think that the wine wasn't offering a completeness to the food. Lots to like, but wanted 10% more. Just a wee bit of reticence. The Vieux Télégraphe was the opposite, bringing a touch more than I wanted but we couldn't help but love its more gregarious nature after wanting the Gourt de Mautens to be a bit more talky. Good stuff. Fine. And done, never to really think about it again. Except for the food. That was The Truth. Another Vieux Télégraphe partnership with Kermit Lynch, the Domaine Les Pallières Les Racines Gigondas, might have been the play here. Happy food, happy wine and no games being played would have been the result. Just eating, drinking and loving with no studying.
Two Meals For Record-Keeping Purposes
*** Lunch of anchovies, sautéed onions and oil-cured black olives on Syrian sesame bread with 2011 Villa Creek Rosé Paso Robles ($16 - Winery). Back on the anchovy horse in a big way and using a total of seven freakin' onions. Delicious balance and great southern French flavors here with a nod to Syria.
Essentially an anchovy, onion and black olive flatbread. Served with a grenache-mourvèdre-carignan rosé from our favorite Paso Robles winery. Didn't think this wine was going to get out of the gate but the food helped burst open the doors. Great interplay. Simple yet fancy lunch that tasted of a place. This wine gets damn close to the goods that good Rhône rosés offer. Big fan.
*** Shokran restaurant on Irving Park next to the Kennedy with 2011 Villa Creek White ($25 - Winery ) 2009 Trader Joe’s Pinot Noir Grand Reserve Carneros ($14 - Trader Joe's). Authentic Moroccan flavors galore at Shokran, placing it in the realm of a very solid Like, though maybe not huggy-bear Love. Having said that, we'll be returning to try more of the things we missed. Beautiful atmosphere, great service, spectacular harissa paste, good pita, nice hummus and the best mint tea meal finisher on the planet. Just a nice place to have a dinner. Chicken bastilla, shrimp, carrot salad, taktouka, hummus and kefta was the order. Bastilla and carrot salad were the standouts with the various dipping and dunking serving as a great supporting cast. Lucked out in the wine realm, as the quality of the wine brought a lot to the Moroccan table of food. We don't love Rhône white blends in the least. Fat and waxy define the bad ones and most of the rest in our book. The Villa Creek (70% grenache blanc and 30% roussanne), though, had some spectacular lift and delicateness that made us want more. Peach and lychee notes with a lilting herbal finish. Pretty stuff. The Trader Joe's Pinot Noir was an equal surprise. Mostly pinot noir with a bit of syrah and zinfandel, this one had a delicious and confident roundness, showing all the good that can come from bargain pinot noir with none of the bad. Tough bottle to find. Gets bought up quick at TJ's. Big winner.