Bolognese With '09 Abacela Dolcetto + Veggie Explosion With '09 Quinta do Cardo Síria

Bolognese With '09 Abacela Dolcetto + Veggie Explosion With '09 Quinta do Cardo Síria

When making both Bolognese and fresh pasta for the first time in your life, temper expectations. Shoot for "Solid. Fine. Solid," and aim for that feeling to come with no qualifications. Tasted like a non-Italian made an Italian dish but happy food all around.

And when you eat a dish consisting of six different types of meat, following it up with a vegetable explosion seems right, proper and needed. Gotta "right the system."

Dinner #1: Bolognese with pappardelle pasta and Zen blend salad with 2009 Abacela Dolcetto Umpqua Valley ($19 - Winery) & 2003 Monte d'Oiro Reserva Lisboa ($20 - Binny's)

Bolognese recipe here. Six different meats. Ground beef, pork and veal, pancetta and mortadella, finished with puréed chicken livers. Skipped the gelatin, opting for bone marrow. Some things I'd change. Longer render than recipe called for. As my co-worker who cooks Bolognese all the time said when we talked about it, "Yeah, you gotta cook the sh*t out of the meat." A fond developed but did so later and less darker/deeper than I wanted. This had a deliciously mingled flavor, moderately gnarly as good Bolognese should be, it just didn't have that "hook" you would get when you make it a 100 times. But (small-g) good.

Fresh pasta. Recipe here. First time and much easier than I thought. Recommendation. Don't put salt in the dough. Accidentally did so in the first batch. Anybody want to make unicorn Christmas ornaments just for funnsies? For the proper batch, the four-hour wait time made for dough easily stretchable. Since I was making pappardelle (3/4 inch) and not tagliatelle (3/16 inch), I figured a ever-so-slightly thicker pasta was necessary during the rolling out portion. Not needed. This turned out just the wee bit doughy, which was nonetheless fine with bolognese. Amped up the coma-inducing edge to the meal. Dusted the noodles with semolina before cooking to experiment with the semolina burn. Felt like it helped in creating noodles that allowed the sauce to stick to the noodles even more, though an Italian grandmother probably would have whacked me with a wooden spoon. Everything topped with basil and more pepper.

Zen blend and parsley salad to finish with white balsamic, olive oil and pomegranate seeds.

Abacela makes spankin' albariño. This dolcetto, is also quite friendly, but maybe not much. It's a smooth and eager-to-please number not so much begging for approval but it certainly wants you to like it. Earth wrapped with bright, smooth and thicker blackberry and plum juice. Wee hit of undefined herbs, something like a charcoal soda touch, medium acid and a medium finish. Nice stuff, no complaints. It just seemed to lose its charm on the way to being affable and friendly liquid in the glass. With the food, it came off as "Solid. Fine. Solid," WITH qualifications. New World Italian varieties are a fav. We liked Ponzi's dolcetto from the same year a bit more. Together, the Bolognese and Abacela tasted like a nervous social encounter with a person you don't particularly "enjoy," that went so much better than expected but you'd still never call it a good time.

I cooked with the 2003 Monte d'Oiro (syrah-viognier) because it's been sitting on the counter for two weeks with a Wine Preserva disk in it. After trying it, we were shocked how well it held up, giving great structure and a balanced syrah-viognier deliciousness, with exploding black olive, rosemary and plum while still retaining a pretty lift. Two weeks open. Wow! People say that you should cook with wine you like. With this one, we decided to drink the wine we cooked with. Big success compared to the Abacela. The meatiness in the sauce became a MEATINESS! At least tons more than we got with the Abacela. So much more perk and verve to the food with the Monte d'Oiro. Happy.


Dinner #2: Veggie explosion with 2009 Quinta do Cardo Síria Beira Interior ($12 - Spanish Table Berkeley)

Muscadet-braised leeks and fennel, with cherry tomatoes and curly endive; seasoned with bay leaves, thyme, preserved lemon, roasted garlic. Lebanese couscous (moghrabieh) done in a risotto style with caraway seeds and aleppo pepper in chicken stock. Lapsang souchong lentils.  Parsley and chives.

Veggies. Eat them. They're Good. This one came off sorta Jonathan Waxman-y, a guy who takes vegetables and soups them up to a place of something you crave on a random Tuesday halfway through a nap. Everything was just enough. Just enough carby goodness from the couscous. Just enough dark notes from the black lentils. Just enough greeny hits from the curly endive. Just enough juicy squirt (hah!) from the tomatoes. Just enough rooty deliciousness from the leeks and fennel. When eating vegetables, the fear is that you'll be hungry an hour later. We weren't. And this hit every note.

The Quinta do Cardo (100% Síria) is a favorite since having it here with a Spanish-Greek-North African tapas-y spread. Wooly then and wooly now. A three-year old cheap white from just south of the Douro that's lost none of its shake, rattle and roll. Subdued, smoky and sun-baked peach-grapefruit-lime blend drained through a wool sweater. Sturdy, graceful acid, nice gassy pauses, flat-out wonderful finish. Hasn't lost anything since our last drinking a year ago. Portuguese whites, when they're good, taste like you're standing next to an orchard garbage dumpster situated right next to the coast on a 95-degree day, feeling the wavy spritz and loving every minute of it. Magic stuff that will never get old. And further evidence that in the game of "if you could only have one region or country of wine for the rest of your life...," Portugal and the Loire will continue to duke it out in our world for that title. It makes me sick that Garrafeira Nacional sells Cardo's white blend for 2,90 Euro. If you're in Lisbon, you go to that wine shop. It's like a Portuguese wine lover's toy store.

While the pairing didn't reach the heights of the Spanish-Greek-North African tapas-y meal a year ago, it was only a small half-step behind, utterly completing the meal, wrapping itself around the veggies and offering minerals and citrus joy all over the place.

Hot damn. Good Stuff.

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