Summer Slowdown Mode

Summer Slowdown Mode

Happy Canada Day. We were at Colborne Lane in Toronto on Canada Day a few years ago. One of my favorite memories of that meal, aside from the nice dinner we had, was a man who came in to eat by himself and only wanted a big plate of mashed potatoes. And he got it.

As you can see, we've been a bit internet-absent of late. Summer does that. Mostly, I've spent the time refining my Twitter-speak and applying the words to my everyday life. So "I'm just killing life, letting the universe grace me with all its wonder." Soon, maybe later today, I plan to tweet an oil-slicked rain puddle and talk about its life beauty and how it was made by nature only for me. I'll get around to that so look for it. But I can't do it until the flow of the universe tells me to.

One of the best decisions in my recent years (on this wondrous big blue orb) has been giving up sports radio. Flowers smell better, air feels cleaner. In order to fill the gaps in my day with a different noise, it's been a podcast extravaganza, as WBEZ's morning effort reminds me of listening to public radio as I drive through western Kansas (which I've oddly done, like, five times). Cringe-worthy radio, guys. Third-largest radio market and it sounds like a car wreck. So it's podcasts. And going back into the archives of Filmspotting has made for some richly textured headphone and dishwashing days. It's some of the best stuff out there, anywhere. On car wrecks, in the arena of screeching, ear bleed-inducing sounds, another Chicago-based podcast that focuses on wine falls under the banner of "too wonderfully awful NOT to listen." More food on this planet than steak, gentleman. And saying that Didier Dagueneau Silex is impossible to pair with food made Muscadet come through my nose (no lie).

But June was more than just that. Good food month here and it should be documented for reference purposes, because any time I plan to shut down this strange little blog and take a break, we miss the write-ups for the purposes of reference.

Argentinian flap meat from Tango Sur's supermarket on Southport made for meat with a grizzly brightness that came off like flatiron and hanger had a baby, but, you know, better than what that would be. Into the beef rotation it goes. Onion-forward marinade on the beef, medium-rare, garlic-ed up potatoes and served with a wine bought on a whim with the idea of giving tannat another roll -  a 2010 Rock Wall Tannat The Palindrome ($22 - Binny’s). Dark and juicy with oodles of fancy coffee. Enters friendly and simple and then starts dropping hints here and there that it has a brain. Keeps building to a crescendo of full-blown electric conversation. Wonderful stuff, worth the dollars and the most memorable home wine of June.

Best home meal of June came from Iraqi chicken with scallion pancakes (link coming), served with a 2010 Darting Scheurebe Spätlese Dürkheimer Pfalz ($18 - WDC). Iraq and China with German wine. Odd room there but in the realm of food, this was a United Nations party in the mouth and everyone was invited. 18 or so spices on the chicken and worth every annoying step. Tasted like the fanciest dirt marinade lifted perfectly by the garlic paste juice. Big fat delicious scallion pancakes, so a pain in the ass to make but (moderately) worth it. Tasted like an onion patch in the bestest sense. Tons of spice and aggressive onion was herded so nicely by the scheurebe, countering with a delicate sweetness but more serving as a great cut-through with its 2010 German acid. Google that German acid. What was supposed to be a strange vintage has turned into some great food pairings for us. See 2010 German, buy it. And have it with food.

Overcooked greek chicken, heirloom tomato salad and the star of the dinner, grilled potato salad (<--- you make that!) was a nice Wednesday dinner with alcoholic lemonade, er, 2011 Roots Melon de Bourgogne ($20-ish - Avalon). We love wines from grapes not typically grown in a region and a melon de Bourgogne from Oregon? Yes, please. Got the citrus-minerals right, missed the paper and dryness. Touch of sweetness got in the way. Grilled potato salad, though. Fan-effin-tastic stuff.

Some other notes. The 2008 Twisted Oak River of Skulls Calaveras County ($42 - Lush), a mourvèdre-forward wine  for which we had high hopes disappointed a bit. Entered quiet and lacked a third act. The 2003 Barros Touriga Nacional ($35 - Fin WIne Brokers) proved once again the Wine Spectator's drinking windows aren't gospel. This one's still pumping along quite nicely, thank you very much. And the 2011 Minimus Copigmentation #2 ($25-ish - Avalon), served with a tomato-based Spanish marinade on lamb, blew us away with its swirling layers and tempranillo-based Oregon goodness. Best Oregon tempranillo and tempranillo-forward effort we've had in our small Oregon tempranillo world.

A recent D.C. mini-vacation deserves a bigger mention than it's going to get here. But it's ease of travel and delicious food was a big surprise to us. 20 years ago, D.C. was a mess. Today, it's so diverse, friendly, calm and clean! Dinner at Komi defined the trip. Top two or three meal of our lives with a spectacular staff and thoughtful, honest, Greek-influenced food led by the plop-down of an enormous mass of goat and various accoutrements 3/4 of the way through the tasting menu, taking gyro to patently absurd and delicious heights. 2 Amy's may not nail Neapolitan pizza but the owner's wines from California on tap would make us once-a-month customers for life if we lived near. Salty, refreshing albariño, sangiovese rosé that was all pretty rose petals, Hipster cuvée chilled, juicy, earthy, gnarly barbera. Syrah that was all farmland earth. THAT's a wine program!!! Straight from the airport to Jaleo and we couldn't have been happier with everything, including sitting next to The Big Guy as he got an earful of New-Age narcissistic bluster. Shake Shack (coming to Chicago, folks). Recommended. Better than Five Guys by a nose, if only because Five Guys makes me want to shower and take a nap afterwards. And Minibar...hmmm...25 course tasting menus...just don't do it for us anymore. It's too much time to think about the structure of the meal and this one, in the middle, screamed for some textural contrast. But oh, the staff! Some great people work there. They made it worth the price tag, if only for the one time we'll go. Now Komi, that's a different story. We'd fly back just for that meal.

Programming Note: At some point, this blog at Chicago Now will be no more. We're moving. In what incarnation, I don't know yet. It's been nice.

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