Lamb-stuffed Artichokes, Garbanzos & Pistachio-Saffron Rice With 2009 Alain Graillot Syrah Syrocco

Lamb-stuffed Artichokes, Garbanzos & Pistachio-Saffron Rice With 2009 Alain Graillot Syrah Syrocco

I use the words 'surprising' and 'delicious' a lot here on this weird little blog. That's mostly because I default to the base descriptors in order to ward off the 'delicate pillows of ethereal miracles' word monsters. Food and wine, at their most elemental, are either good or bad with oodles of meh in between. While I don't subscribe to Eric Asimov's war on wine tasting notes in How To Love Wine (good book, btw), getting too fine, precious and detailed defeats the purpose of eating and drinking well. It's something to think about, source well and buy with a plan, but after that, and I mean RIGHT after that, just sit back, relax, strap it down and enjoy some good grub and juice. It's one of life's purest pleasures. That and baseball. Four days (keep breathing...).

In the juice realm, might I recommend Moroccan syrah made by a Northern Rhône genius? You should drink that. Because it's good. Who knew?

Food: Lamb-stuffed artichoke cups and garbanzo beans over pistachio-saffron rice 

Wine Spectator recipe (here) swapping out beef for lamb, peas for garbanzo beans, reduced with Muscadet and adding preserved lemon.

Ground lamb mixed with egg, allspice, cinnamon, mint, chive leaves, salt and pepper, then a scoop of the mixture placed in artichoke bottoms ($6 - Harvesttime), foured and briefly fried in hot oil. Lamb stock, Muscadet, preserved lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper simmered down. Wha-lah! (a bit more steps - follow the recipe). Lamb-stuffed cups placed over rice cooked up with saffron, pistachios and garlic. Rice on the plate, lamb-artichoke cups on top, garbanzo beans and dill sprinkled liberally throughout, with the rest of the chive leaves (warmed by tossing in with the pan as it simmered) on the side.

Vegetabley, but never over-the-top GREEN FOOD! Perfect touch of lamb. Never became a lamb dish with it merely complimenting everything else and sliding in, as lamb does, with other elements that are so friendly with lamb. Mint, cinnamon, pistachios, garlic, even preserved lemons and lamb....they're all buddies.

Mrs. Ney thought it would be a nice one-off meal and we ended up sorta flipping for it. Extreme Mediterranean flavors here with a nod to a more inland comfort.

Definitely doing this one again. Oh, and chive leaves taste like Golden Pacific Market on Broadway smells. Not a bad thing.

Wine: 2009 Alain Graillot Syrah Syrocco Zenata Morocco ($19 - Binny's)

Moroccan syrah made by Alain Graillot of Crozes-Hermitage fame in Northern Rhône. 100% syrah, no herbicides/pesticides, weeded by hand, Burgundian barrels, all that stuff. Graillot came across the winery, Domaine des Ouleb Thaleb, while bicycling along the Moroccan coast and struck up a relationship with the winery.

Meaty, spicy, bloody nose. Same in the mouth, starting with a pretty black raspberry/currant number that led right into a burst of North African spice blend, even a spice hit with a bit of heat to it. Not overripe at all. You can taste the Northern Rhône hands making it, properly poo-pooing plush, plump and poppy every step of the way. This is high-toned stuff that achieves such by leaving the steroid-Four Loko cocktail out of it. Pretty earth, great lift, medium-bodied with bursts of interestingness all over the place. Faded a touch after being open for three hours. Don't fuss with this one. Pop, let it breathe just a wee bit and drink away.

Mrs. Ney bought a Moroccan syrah just for funnsies and now we're much more inclined to experiment with such things. This was happy-slappy stuff.

Moroccan syrah is new to our world no more. Good to find yet another intriguing wine region. Wonder what their whites are like?

Pairing: Linkages galore!

Tasted natural together. This wasn't aggressive food with domineering flavors. This was about the end product tasting like something better than the collection of ingredients, all playing a part to create herbal, greeny, meaty food wonder with great textural contrast and pockets of food bite love.

The wine slid into the crevices, bringing some fruit, dirty earth and more spice, ending with a pairing that tasted sorta joyful, fun and lounge-y.

Surprising and delicious. Because that's what this was.

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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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