Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Port in a Storm

The Chicagoans who braved the maelstrom last night were rewarded with a smorgasbord of delights from those crafty Lula chefs once again. Jason, Nicole, Duncan, and Melissa hit another one out of the park with no particular aim in mind other than to present beautifully prepared farm-to-table cooking, and so they did. Utilizing more of this summer's bounty, Farm Dinner was an exercise in classic dishes with slight tweaks to keep us all up-to-date and on-our-toes.

Course 1: 60-minute egg with tomato-leek fonduta, guanciale, and parsley pastina

Preliminary Pairings: NV Joseph Perrier Champagne, 2007 Rudolph Muller Riesling Kabinett

Here's an SAT-style analogy for you: Champagne::poached egg as riesling::BLANK? Tomatoes. Course 1 had both, and I wanted to show each off to its best advantage. Here's another SAT-style analogy: Champagne::Miriam's Farm Dinner Pairings as riesling::What Miriam Could Be Pairing Each Week With Farm Dinner If She Didn't Like Champagne So Much. Get the picture? So choosing between Champagne and riesling as the favorite for Course 1 is like choosing between my Chanel Rouge Allure lipstick in Lover and my Nars Allover Bronzer Duo in South Beach--each is equally flattering but for very different reasons.

Cherry tomatoes were slowly cooked with leeks, resulting in a melty (is that a word?), brothy concoction. Parsley pastina (house-made baby pasta) added mouthy texture while a balsamic vinegar-olive oil sous vide Living Temple Farm egg and guanciale (jowl bacon, yo!) lent fat and smoky flavors. Nice. As indicated above, if I'm eating a poached egg I like Champagne, and riesling with tomatoes is usually a fool-proof combo (acid loves acid). As usual, my staff were divided about favorites, although with none of the zealousness of last Monday. JP Champagne, with all of its clean mineral and citrus cut through the fat of the egg and bacon, and stood up to the juicy acid in the tomato-leek combo. Muller Kabinett (off-dry) riesling provided a complement to the tomatoes with its slightly juicier mouthfeel, and stony minerality melded nicely with the smokier aspects of the dish.

Some of you out there might think I'm reaching here, but I might say that the Nars South Beach bronzer::JP Champagne as Chanel Lover Rouge Allure::Muller Riesling . . . the first pair are glittery and luminous, designed to complement the warm, sultry tones in both face and dish, while the second pair bring out the juicier, just-bitten aspects (not kidding. Ladies, if you don't own Lover go buy it immediately--your lips instantly achieve that "I just bit into a strawberry" pout we all desire). Anyway, I'm digressing . . .

Favorites: Both!

Course 2: Summer bean cassoulet with duck confit, meatballs, and potato chips

Preliminary Pairings: 2007 Merlin Cherrier Sancerre, 2007 Jean-Luc Colombo Cotes du Rhone Blanc, 2006 Domaine d'Aupilhac Coteaux du Languedoc

Nichols Farm romano and yellow beans and haricot verts were the stars of the dish, replacing white beans in a traditional cassoulet. A rich, yet delicate broth of chicken stock and cavolo nero supported the beans, duck confit and lightly spiced pork meatballs dotted throughout, and all was bread-crumb topped and served in a bowl with a side of a lightly-Champagne vinaigrette dressed salad studded with to-order potato chips. Yowza. In a way, Course 2 was easier to pair, with so many flavors and textures amalgamated together I just pulled some French faves (cassoulet, after all) and had a go. One item of note: the Aupilhac Coteaux du Languedoc comes from the Southern Rhone, where wines are imbued with that always-evasive yet ever-present flavor profile aspect of (Lula Staff: all-together, now) GARRIGUE. And what is garrigue? The word for the earthy notes in the Southern Rhone and Provence reflecting the brambly, shrubby, herbal terroir of those areas. Naturally, Duncan had used at least one of the herbs du Provence in his cassoulet, so the dark-fruited-yet-lightly-herbaceous-and-velvety-tannined D'Aupilhac was the clear winner.

Cherrier Sancerre, with its pristine mineral and light citrus fruit, came in second and provided a reasonable counterpart to cassoulet without being intrusive, and Colombo was too fruity, so:

Favorite: Coteaux du Languedoc

Course 3: White peach tart tatin with creamy caramel and white peach and creme fraiche ice cream

Preliminary Pairings: 2008 Saracco Moscato, Maculan Dinarello, Alvear Solera Cream Sherry

Peaches, caramel, puff pastry: a trifecta of happy flavors, and each dessert wine brought its own game. Saracco was a natural, with the bubbles cutting through fat as they are supposed to do and fruit and acid complementing as usual. Maculan Dinarello did the same as the Saracco but was a still alternative, and Solera Cream Sherry (you all know how I feel about it) brought out the dark, buttery nature of the caramel.

Favorites: Maculan, Alvear

Ok, I love you all, but it is late and (in honor of having just seen Julie and Julia, which everyone must do) Andrew made Lyonnaise salad and pan-seared pork chops, and I've (naturally) got Provencal Rose chilling, so I truly must dash . . .

but come in and taste the amazing wines we've opened. You know the drill.

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