A Week Of "Meh"

A Week Of "Meh"

Somebody says "meh" and the conversation is usually ends there. Everything has been said. "Meh" has a connotation that ends things. Everybody knows and understands "meh." It tells you that nothing else has to be said.

But "meh" has various colors, sides, hues and even lessons. It tells us things that shouldn't immediately end things. We can learn from "meh." It can tell us how to adjust and how to change our maneuvers in the future. So don't crap on "meh." Listen to it. It just might teach you something and save you a little money to boot.

Four meals, two meh pairings:

Screen Shot 2013-02-02 at 1.21.46 PMLinguiça, kale and garbanzo beans with potato croquettes with 2006 Twisted Oak Parcel 17 ($18 - Lush)

Recipe here, using linguiça instead of chorizo. One could eat a huge bowl of just this and it would be delicious and satisfying and lovely and then you'd be in the bathroom for months because kale and garbanzo beans together...yeah...does that. So be judicious, enjoy its deliciousness and just keep saying, "Clean you out!" Tasty potato croquettes from a MasterChef New Zealand recipe with a spicy tomato sauce. Spanish tapas with a nod to Portugal. Good food here.

"Decent" is sorta damning with faint praise. People talk about Parcel 17 being a better value than The Spaniard in the Twisted Oak line of wines. Sure, true, fine, whatever. I'm all for value and talk about it all the time, but it's a silly way to judge wines. Yes. This one is $18 and The Spaniard is something like $55. So...what...The Spaniard has to be much more than 3X better to surpass Parcel 17 in value? Or the Parcel 17 has to be more than a third good to be better than The Spaniard? This isn't WAR value in baseball. This is subjective enjoyment of liquid pleasure. The same people that decry 100-point wine scores use this crappy language all the time and that includes me. Can't we just say the Parcel 17 is more in the range of what people are willing to spend on wine and The Spaniard isn't? That's fine. Find good wines under $20. Drink them. Enjoy them. Praise them. Most of the wines we drink are in that range. But The Spaniard, especially with Romanian skirt steak, spring onions and scallion sauce, is a wine infinitely better than Parcel 17 in my book. Just is. (rant over)

The Parcel 17 is decent. A blend of 46% mourvèdre, 36% carianne and 18% graciano. A bit tired, on the downslope for sure, but the acid is still doing some good things. Mostly cherry and herbs with the graciano being more talky right now. A little blunt, like a guy that thinks being honest about everything is somehow a good way to live. Nice enough. Not enough niceness. Same in the pairing realm. Kept looking for more.

Screen Shot 2013-02-02 at 1.22.07 PMLamb slathered in peanut-arbol sauce and black bean ravioli with 2008 Gramercy Cellars The Third Man Columbia Valley ($40 - Binny's) & 2009 Trader Joe’s Pinot Noir Grand Reserve Carneros ($12 - Trader Joe's) 

Mexican lamb! Medium-rare lamb rack with a keeper marinade of extra virgin olive oil, onion, soy sauce, balsamic, cumin and fennel seed and star anise, set over a peanut-arbol sauce, from this recipe. The sauce was the star, offering smooth peanut goodness with a perfect touch of heat (used 75% of the árbol chiles than the recipe called for). Black bean ravioli from West Side Market in Cleveland. This was new and good food, liking so much of what it brought.

The first wine fell into the realm of merely decent once again. Washington GSM blend (50% Grenache, 28% Syrah, 22% Mourvedre) from Gramercy Cellars, a winery whose Inigo Montoya tempranillo-based bottling we very much liked last July. This one, while interesting (but a little tight and loud), brought little to the pairing table, suffering from what New World GSM blends typically suffer from - a lack of real coherence, grace and fun. Everything is there with many New World GSMs with good structure, acid, a swirl of fruit interlaced with spices, maybe something surprising like a bacon hit or a smoky waft. But they're just so big and rich. Like a hammer to the face. This one wasn't so much that but had echoes of that. Not clunky, just too obvious. Opened a good value (so what I did) Trader Joe's Pinot Noir and found some solid juice giving a pinot noir subtlety for the lamb and a California fruit texture to stand up to the heat of the peanut sauce.

Screen Shot 2013-02-02 at 1.22.32 PMFideos with shrimp and 2011 Raventos i Blanc Perfum de vi Blanc Penedès ($15 - Whole Foods) 

Fideos, a precursor to paella, tastes like exactly that. Or, we could have put capers and black olives in this dish and it would have been puttanesca easily (without the saffron). From this recipe (and last Saturday's WTTW episode) with the addition of saffron, it's a recipe that nails the cooking of the shrimp and brings the Spanishy-Spanish. Good. Nice. Easy. Tasty. Probably wouldn't do it again.

The Raventos i Blanc Perfum de vi Blanc is a house favorite going back a few years. Whole Foods seems to be the only place that's carrying the 2011 right now (exclusive deal?), not having seen it at other places recently (but I'm probably wrong). A muscat and macabeo blend, it's exactly what the name says - perfumy with floral notes galore. Perfect with floral and spicy foods, picking up those notes in the food, adjusting itself and becoming something more than what it is by itself. Same here. A tart edge by itself went away with the food, turning into a refreshing and floral number that made for a pairing that was more than decent.

Screen Shot 2013-02-02 at 1.22.52 PMCurried-up green beans and potatoes with coconut rice and Cuvée Michel Leon Gewürtztraminer Alsace ($7 - Trader Joe's) 

Weeknight food. But better. Recipe here, using vadouvan (that sweet Indian spice wonder with echoes of French) instead of curry powder. Deep, floral (again) and probably the most satisfying food of this here bunch, mostly because Indian food has burrowed into my bones of late. Just fantastic stuff. And while the Cuvée Michel Leon Gewürtztraminer is rather...terrible on its own coming off too cloying and flat but with food, the sugary notes latch onto the spice in food and it transforms into something that offers a humongous other element that completes food like this. Big recommendation and cheap...therefore a good value (I'm working on it).

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    Christo P. Ney

    Love wine. Love it more with food. Having food without wine is like eating in black and white compared to vivid colors. Done right, it takes a meal out of the realm of mere consumption to a place of memory. Wine is made to be drunk with food so let's do it - one pairing at a time. "A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine" - Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

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