Wrong Place, Wrong Time -- Or, Just Not Meant to Be Together

I know a few folks who -- while I enjoy their company for any number of reasons -- must never be in the same room at the same time. This is my own personal decision; these people don't even know each other, which is how I'm going to keep it, because whenever I imagine them meeting, the vision of the inevitably ensuing battle is enough to cause a hearty shudder and temporary loss of appetite. But paired with just about anyone else, these particular friends are all kinds of fun!  

With that, let me start by saying each part of this week's secret food-and-wine pairing was a perfectly nice individual component. I liked them both very much. They just didn't like each other. At all. It was never going to work out. So without further ado, I bring you the story of Bad Double-Double-Blind Pairing Part Deux.

Ah, Old Bordeaux, What to Do With You?

It wasn't a fishy fish mess this time, but it did, once again, involve old Bordeaux. Jody selected the wine this week; we've both now fallen prey to the lure of Bordeaux vieux, with which I now am convinced I know exactly what to pair. (Hint: Not a meal with multiple ingredients; many spices; and/or fruity sweetness.)

1998 Chateau Moine Lalande, Lalande de Pomerol. 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc. 12% alc. (Um, yeah, right. A good 14% if you ask me.)

Tasting the wine blind, I thought of some of the older California wines we've tasted lately; beautiful Ridge blends from the '90s, and a fantastically alive, amazingly textured 1975 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon that dear friend, Luminesce winemaker Kevin Law, generously shared last weekend. (Quick aside: The TTB finally granted Kevin permission to sell his wines; you can buy them now, and you should - check out the site!)

My mind was in California, and I didn't guess Bordeaux. I did think it was a blend with some Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose was full of faded rose petals and minerals, and had a slight metallic tinge that came and went. On the palate: licorice, dust, lavender; and super-soft tannins.

"Tastings Notes" ... Good old French bottle translations. "'Plumy' Merlot fruit," too. (The Linguistics Faerie forgives all translation errors. She finds them rather charming.)

Chiles That Make Children Cry

I was in charge of the secret dinner menu, which turned out deliciously, and was all wrong for this wine. The main dish? A riff on Bobby Flay's recipe for chile-spice-rub pork tenderloin with ancho-mustard sauce. Four different kinds of chiles were involved. Spicy business!

For the veg, I made a mixed baby-greens salad with fresh strawberries, goat cheese and strawberry-balsamic dressing.

Looks spicy, doesn't it? Oh, it was. Elijah, 6, nearly cried when he tasted a dip of the sauce, and Talia, 10 -- refused to even try it. Jody turned it into mole the next day; we ate it with chicken, rice, beans & tortillas, and drank margaritas, which was a much better pairing.

The salad was sweet and tasty, and a good partner for the spicy pork. We've got nice, ripe local strawberries in season right now. I wanted to sprinkle toasted pepitas on top, but didn't have any in the house. 

Talia loved the salad, at least, which was nice, as it was all she had for dinner. Here's a dirty little secret: Many times, these grandly executed double-blind-pairing family meals end with one or another of the children eating a bowl of cereal before bed. Their palates are hugely disparate from one another. And often, from ours. (At least everyone loves cereal. Sigh.)

Maybe in a Parallel Universe

Together, these two charming individuals -- the wine and the food -- just weren't any good for each other. The meal had way too much spice and rich flavor for the soft, pleasantly faded, honestly interesting Bordeaux. A sip of this mature, gently nuanced wine after a bite of booyah! left my mouth with a flat, metallic taste, and honestly left me feeling somewhat forlorn.

(This feeling may have had something to do with my broader mental state at the time, but it seemed there was a deeper symbolism here than just a completely lame random pairing of food and wine.)

I ended up writing a three-page synopsis, from which I'll spare you, wonderful readers, except to note the highlights(?): that the meal needed something more like itself; well made, certainly, but also bold, unabashed, spicy, with rounded fruit flavors and pepper to spare. (Who has suggestions? Leave a comment!) The wine, too, deserved a worthy companion -- a sparring partner who wouldn't hit quite so hard; who would complement and flesh out the wine's inward nature, without fighting it for the spotlight.

To make these kinds of pairings, sometimes, you simply have to choose with blindfold off and eyes wide open.

Until next week!