Turkish nut sauce! Toss your salad in Turkish nut sauce! Put it between the pita folds! We had a lot of fun with Turkish nut sauce.
Nothing of superior pairing pleasure this week, with takeout pizza and a Portuguese favorite red taking the week's crown (though Loire bubbles with crab cakes was nice). Four pairings here, mostly for record-keeping, but much was learned this week, especially understanding that, on the journey to cook authentic Indian at home, taking small steps forward is important.
Crab Cakes and Mâche Salad, Baguette and Butter with De Chanceny Crémant de Loire Brut ($17 - Whole Foods)
Whipped-up, standard recipe crab cakes that hit a great balance. Mâche salad with pomegranate seeds, white wine vinegar and olive oil. Baguette and butter. A simple lunch, a happy lunch, a lunch that brought tons of flavor and a lunch that left room for the Indian feast scheduled five hours later.
Under $20 sparkling wine has taken a huge leap forward in the last five years, it seems, particularly in the French Crémant world. This one is no exception, even putting itself in the upper-half of under a Jackson. 70% chenin blanc, 15% chardonnay and 15 cabernet franc. Jumpy yet almost precious. Lively bubbles with rocks and happy acid. A sort of creamy, smoked pear at its core but all around, just a really nicely balanced and distinctive sparkler that tasted like someone was messing around with combinations and got it right.
Sturdy with a soft and delicate side. And broad enough to be very food-friendly in the best, general sense. Might become a go-to sparkling house wine when the food doesn't warrant anything special but the week demands happiness in the glass. And happy stuff with the food. Can't ask for much more.
Lamb Vindaloo with 2009 Darting Pinot Meunier Trocken ($22 - Binny's) & 2012 Crios Torrontés ($12 - Binny's)
Two great meals this week. Here's one. Big step forward in Mrs. Ney's attempt to make real Indian food. Recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking. Modified. Tons more Thai green chiles used. Tomatoes added but wouldn't do that again. The step forward came in nailing the billowing swirl of spices in great vindaloo coming together as one and the addition of fried onion paste which was sort of a eureka! moment. Devon Market bagged pea fritters (baked instead of fried) on the side. Bagged frozen food here that respects the Indian level of spice. No holding back with this product. Chapatis to wrap, dip and dunk. Raita from what we had on hand in the fridge that turned out freakin' delicious. Spectacular Indian feast. Every flavor we could ever want from home Indian and the best yet.
The wine was lacking. After seeing a great scotch-and-cherries note in the Darting Pinot Meunier with rabbit and celery root purée a month ago (best meal this year, hands down), we thought it might have the guts to stand up to the lamb vindaloo. It didn't, shirking from the challenge overall, though with a less spicy bite, it found a modicum of earth and depth to offer enough to moderately satisfy. We turned to the tried-and-true Crios torrontés with Indian, a wine with oodles of floral explosiveness to plow through the spiciest of spice and give all it has to give. Better than the Darting but still boring with this meal. We've seen it before when we've ordered lamb...anything...at Hema's Kitchen. It seems to be a small pairing box when it comes to wine and we haven't found the happy Indian lamb, wine place yet.
Greek Chicken Thighs, Walnut-Pistachio Nut Sauce, Zucchini Salad and Beet Salad with 2009 Quinta do Crasto Branco Douro ($15 - Binny's)
Spectacularicious #2. And we didn't need the chicken in the least. This meal was about the accoutrements that was more than enough. Greeked-up oregano-lemon-olive oil chicken thighs. Good. Fine. But this zucchini salad, especially with the Turkish nut sauce and wrapped in pita. This. You make that. Because it's What's Good. Zucchini salad that was so fresh but meaty and substantial. Turkish nut sauce (giggity!), from The Best International Recipe by Cook's Illustrated, made with walnuts and pistachios. If given a food item to compete with in a food-eating competition, 100 of these zucchini, nut sauce and pita combos would be easy pickings for me. Line em up! Golden beet salad with feta and mint. Good. Liked it. Hello, beets. Good to see you. Been awhile. Greek goodness all over the place.
Missed on the wine. Should have drunk a Sigalas Assyrtiko we had on hand. With what Portuguese white and Greek food has done in the past, there was a good chance this was going to work, even with it being a 2009. In the end, the 2009-ness, along with the need for a touch of lemon and herbs in the wine to link up in a basic sense with the food, was the play. So...the Sigalas. Quiet wine, showing basic Portuguese white flavors of orchard fruit mixed with sunshine and earth, but not enough acid left to "git in there, git it!" Oddly, an acid showed up later, though small, but by that time the food took the stage and wasn't going to relinquish it. Great food, dull wine. This was the last chance to drink the Crasto within (the smallest of) reason and it missed.
Pizza Art Café with 2007 Quinta do Vallado Tinto Douro ($11 - Binny's)
Pugliese with smoked meat added, Diavola and Rucola. Pizza Art Café deserves tons of press. It's pretty great pizza with a charming room and BYO to boot. Bring a Lambrusco, maybe a Frappato. This is good stuff with a crust that tastes like seawater is in there somewhere. Had it probably ten times and it never disappoints. Takeout this time with a favorite wine from a great Portugese vintage (I'll say it again. If you're looking for vacation ideas, may I recommend Quinta do Vallado?) A $20 wine that was strangely $10 at Binny's a few months ago.
This one, especially this vintage, tastes like a $40 wine, easily. With the wide swath of flavors in the pizza, this wine didn't miss a step, constantly changing, constantly bringing all the goods in a different form and showing the versatility of this wine in spades. Earthy with the Pugliese with bright bursts of dark fruit. EARTHY with the Diavola. More thin, yet still deliciously thin and spicy with the Rucola.
We're going to beat my head against the wall for years trying to get people to drink Portuguese wine and we expect to largely fail. But if one person finds the joy, the love, the happy-slappy wonder that is such a thing, we'll consider that a success. This dinner went from "let's just get pizza" to a place of high-toned satisfaction.
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