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Lamb shank with rosemary and garlic, served over papardelle to sop up the delicious juices.

Red russian kale, steamed/sautéed with garlic.

This isn't an explicitly Tuscan recipe, but this is a Tuscan style of preparing lamb.  (They wouldn't serve it over paparedelle; they'd use their awful Tuscan bread to sop up the delicious juices.)  So, although it chaffs my ass that you can have wine with Cabernet Sauvignon in it and call it "Chianti Classico", I chose a wine that is mostly Sangiovese with a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon:  a theoretically perfect pairing for lamb prepared this way.

2005 Querciabella Chianti Classico

And so it was.

This is a modern Chianti, with all the rusticity vinified out of it.  I hate that in principle.

But with a dish it goes with, it's a nice thing to drink.

Very dark cherries.  Only a hint of Chianti dust.  The Cabernet Sauvignon supplied some tobacco at the finish -- but, surprisingly, no eucalyptus (which would have been nice with the lamb).  It would be nice if this were more complex, but that's not the kind of wine it is.

Mostly, what's good here is that the wine's smoothness is accentuated by its age.  So you get that old-wine feeling that there really aren't separate flavor elements, but rather a multiplicity of elements working together as a single entity.  (Yeah, it's hard to write about this -- but that's kind of what these old wines are like.)

When this was young, I'll bet it seemed pretentious.  Now it just seems . . . nice.

This is another wine that isn't on the verge of getting bad or anything, but pretty clearly doesn't have any room to get better.  So if you have any, drink it freely.

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Pork ribeye with garlic and sage.

Collard greens.

Black trumpets sautéed with Jerusalem artichokes.

Pretty obvious pairing.

2022 Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Blac Réserve

I am not clear on how a 2022 wine I am drinking in 2023 could be a Réserve.  But I'm not clear about a lot of things.

Familie Perrin makes these mainstream Southern Côtes du Rhone that have the reputation of delivering a lot for less than $20.  I've only had their red up to now (although I've a A LOT of it).  And yes, it's very good, very solid for a <$20 red.  But it isn't miraculous.  It isn't, here's a $25 or $30 wine for $16.  It's more like, this is very good for $16.

Their white wine is held in at least as good repute as their red.  But I'm not seeing it.  It's pissy, not in a good Natural way, but in a bad Failed Mainstream way.  The sage accents that I expect from a white Southern Rhône haven't come out (yet?).  It's just kind of unpleasant.

It tastes like maybe I'm drinking this too young.  But you see a screwcap, you figure you should twist it off and drink.

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The day I realized I could make Patty Melts was probably one of the worst days of my life int terms of my personal health.  But for me as the person who eats what I cook it was red-letter.

A picture perfect one.  One the side, Syracuse Salt Potatoes.  And Marcella Hazan's Venetian Smothered Cabbage.  Because work, as it has a a way of doing, took longer than I thought it would, the cabbage cooked to a deeper hue than the golden brown you aim for.  You know what?  It might be better this way.

It turns out there IS a perfect wine pairing for a Patty Melt.

2021 Anders Frederik Steen & Anne Bruun Blauert Bad lighting, Call you later

This is made entirely from Merlot grapes that Steen, who lives in the Northern Rhône, got from somewhere.

This is not a Natural wine for people who don't like Natural wines.

It isn't really recognizable as Merlot.  It's very light:  not a rosé, but the kind of brick color that ancient Barolos are.  Merlots aren't like that.

It doesn't particularly taste like Merlot (although it goes with Swiss cheese the way Merlots do in legend).  It tastes like a particulrly tasty Natural wine.

So what's the fruit?  Cherries steeped in bubble gum?  It'll have to do.

Then what comes after?  Sour tang.  No, I should capitalize:  sour Tang.  Because this sour finish has sweet fruit accents of its own.

No fizz, but a very very thin texture, and lots of acid.  Pretty perfect for a sandwich of beef patty, onions, cheese, and bread cooked in butter.

There isn't much of this wine left in the world, much less in my storage units.  I'll be sorry to have to drink something else with my next Patty Melt.

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Halibut with anchovies, cream, and rosemary.  The original recipe called for brill, but I don't see any of that in these parts.  (I mean, the halibut came from far away -- but at least they sell it here.)

The British chef whose recipe this is (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall protegé Gill Meller) wrote, "It’s difficult to explain just how brilliant the combination in this sauce is. . . . When you eat it, it is as if the ingredients were invented only for this dish."  Um yeah.  It's dead easy, too.  (And in my case, except for the fish used only stuff I had laying around.)

If you make this -- and you should -- be sure to have a good rustic bread to sop up that sauce:  you won't want to miss a drop.

On the side, miner's lettuce (and a scallion) dressed with a lemon vinaigrette.  Interestingly, the part of my plate where the lemon vinaigrette leached into anchovy/rosemary cream sauce provided the best sopping:  an idea for a further iteration of this fish dish.

I had a good idea what I wanted to drink with this.

Château Turcaud Entre-Deux-Mers

I talked a couple of days ago about a wine that was a good <$20 wine, but wasn't an <$20 that was as good as wine you'd pay in the $30s for.  Well, this is a $15 wine that's as good as wines twice its price.  It never ceases to amaze me.

The cépage is 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 45% Semillon, and 5% Muscadelle (pretty much the Entre-Deux-Mers standard).  It sees no wood, so it has more Sauvignon Blanc crispness than Semillon roundness.   But the Semillon is there.

What always knocks me out about this wine is its complexity.  There's a lot more going on than you'd expect in a wine that cost just $15.  A bunch of different (Sauvignon Blanc) fruits (citrus, gooseberry, lychee) at the outset (each detectable separately).  Then slate, and some sharp herbs.  And all these flavors last extremely long.

It's quite different from a 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire.  It's rounder.

Best of all, this is one of those wines (there are so many, actually) where this junior cuvée is preferable to its elder sibling.  Château Turcaud's senior white cuvée always strikes me as pretentious and overdone.  Whereas this entry-level wine . . . well, I can't think of a way in which it could be better.  By that I don't mean this wine is as good as the best white Bordeaux (you know:  Pavillon Blanc, Domaine de Chavalier).  I just mean that it does more than everything it sets out to do -- and does it beautifully.  As I said, you'd pay in the $30s for a wine this good.

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For Somebody Else's Holiday, The Feast Of The One Fish.

I did have a separate pasta course, though (it helped that I didn't make it).

Lasagna Bianco con Agnello (good job Un Posto Italiano!)

Spigola a Strisce alla Fiorentina (good job me!).

Sautéed/braised kale with garlic (vegetable).

Chianti goes with lamb the almost proverbial way Rioja and Bordeaux do.  So the pasta course was an easy pairing.

And I know for a fact that in Tuscany they'd drink a light-bodied Chianti with fish in tomato sauce.

I had just the bottle, waiting for an opportunity to be opened.

2006 Felsina Barardenga Chianti Classico

This is 100% Sangiovese.  But unlike what that cépage would lead you to expect, this is light-bodied (nothing like a Brunello).  So although what I really wanted with this dinner was something along the lines of an OG Baron Ricasoli blend, with some white blended in -- my nearby bottles of which are nowhere near ready -- this wine, noted for its lightness -- indeed touted by many as perfectly complementing dishes of fish cooked in tomato sauce -- seemed the thing.

2006 was a fabulous vintage in Chianti, and this is a fabulous wine.

Its typical lightness has moved over the years into ethereality.  So you have a wine that's light but full.  You get the full Chianti black cherries with dust at the start.  And then -- now, at this point in the wine's development -- instead of leading to a bunch of other flavors, they linger and fade, very slowly.  I'm not sure I've ever had anything like it:  the flavors have integrated to the point where they just subsist -- and for a good long time.  This is fascinating:  complexity coming across as simplicity (like late Brahms piano music, if I may say).

I don't see this wine as being at any kind of crisis point.  But I don't see it improving any, either.  If you have a bottle, drink it now and compliment yourself on your perspicaciousness at holding it this long.

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For dessert, Christmas Pudding (made by Tiptree, not me).

I decided to put on my big boy pants and flame it, no matter how terrified I was at the prospect.

I DID it, without setting what will soon be somebody else's apartment on fire.

NV Famiile Vallein Tercinier Cognac Brut de Fût Petite Champagne "Lot 70"

Of course, if I was opening the bottle to pour out a couple of tablespoons to set on fire, I was going to drink some, too.

This is just great stuff.

Thanks @mongo!

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Funny-I had a crab cake from Jimmy's tonight too. They are good. I'd prefer a good Gulf crab cake. But, those are hard to come by. I had a 2021 Alban Vineyards Roussanne with mine. And will have the half I ddin't eat tonight tomorrow. On avocado toast for breakfast-so no wine 🙃

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Roast pheasant with all-Chanterelle-family duxelles and roasted vegetables.  Sautéed mustard greens with lemon and garlic.  Parker House rolls!  (The last not made by me, but reheated by me.)

The pheasant required something I've never been able to get right before:  shoving some ingredient under the skin of a bird's breast prior to roasting.  Maybe because duxelles are more pliant than other things I've tried this with (you know:  nails, pieces of glass), this time it finally worked.

Nevertheless, when the pheasant (and vegs) came out of the oven, I was a little disheartened.  It looked burnt.  But no!  It was EXACTLY the way I like it:  the skin ranging from charred to merely crisp, the meat moist and juicy.  I credit that moist juiciness to the almost insane amount of butter I put into the duxelles, which of course serve as a barding agent here.

This dish called out for one particular kind of wine:  a grand aged Burgundy.

1999 Angerville Volnay "Fremiet"

This wine has the reputation of being a little short on fruit and very long on mushrooms, which seemed like a good thing for that pheasant dish.

But it didn't quite live up to its reputation:  the cherry/cranberry/rhubarb fruit is very much there; surprisingly so, I'd say.  It's just recessed -- as you'd expect in a nearly 25-year-old wine.  I'd speculate once again that the people making such comments maybe don't have much of an understanding of aged wines.

The mushrooms definitely follow upon that fruit, though.  And while the mushroom accent is distinct, then comes the whole forest floor.  Very good acid kick at the end (it almost tastes like balsamic) (which all the butter that had dripped out of the duxelles -- not to mention all that had been slathered on the rolls -- definitely appreciated).  A delicious and fascinating drink:  very much a wine to contemplate.

(I'm tasting that fruit and thinking, what are people talking about?)

My only complaint is that this wine could be more persistent.  But given its many wonderful good points, I'll take it.

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One of those retread/reheat dinners that becomes exciting only because I knew there'd be like a PERFECT wine pairing.

The rest of Un Posto Italiano's Christmas Lasagna Bianco con Agnello.

Sautéed/braised kale with garlic.  I drizzled some balsamic over it in an attempt to fend off Brassica Fatigue.

But the wine!

2004 Paolo Bea Rosso di Montefalco "San Valentino"

One of the Beas -- probably this one -- was the first Italian natural wine I ever had.  It made an impression.

I'm told Bea isn't held in high regard by the Kool Kidz any more.  Of course this nearly 20-year-old bottle doesn't tell you anything about what's going on at Bea NOW.  But I'm finding it pretty exciting.

This is another wine that separates the manly lovers of aged wines from the boys who want in-your-facitude. Everything about this wine is recessed.  But that doesn't mean it's dead.  It means it's mellowed.

Not as much fruit up front as that Felsina from a couple of nights ago still had.  But although this is mainly Sangiovese (I'll get to that later), it's a very different wine from the Felsina.  Beas, even young, never overwhelm you with fresh fruit.

Anyway, there's some fruit at the start:  black cherries and plums, I'd say.  Then we go into the Natural Wine Murk.  But -- here's the beauty part -- nearly two decades have made the Murk silky.  This is elegant Murk.  You could serve this Murky wine to Audrey Hepburn if she weren't long dead.

Oh, and minerals:  let's not forget the minerals.  Lotta stone in this wine.  No longer so sharp, though.

As for the cépage, this is 70% Sangiovese, with the rest split about equally between Montepulciano and Sagrantino.  That suggests an affinity for this lamb lasagna (the Sagrantino component is why you don't miss the presence of tomatoes), and so it was.  Especially at this late hyper-refined date.

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I will soon be living in Cold Cuts Heaven.

But the cold cuts on hand will not include Rolled Beef, that's for sure.  So I've got to overdo it while I still can.

On German sauerkraut rye (German baked goods won't be a problem for Future Me) with whole-grain mustard.

Collard greens with smoked ham hocks (smoked ham hocks also not a future problem).  Fried potatoes (a Designer Potato er hybrid especially good for frying).

A wine that was practically made for food like this.

2021 Milan Nastarec Youngster Red

This is supposed to be a Nouveau.   But as far as I can tell, the 2021 was released in October of this year.  So it isn't that Nouveaux.

It's from the oldest wine-making district in the Czech Republic, in Moravia.  The cépage comprises Blaufrankisch, Cabernet Franc, and Dornfelder:  a dream team for flavorful charcuterie piled high (and I mean Sarge's-level high) on bread.

Nastarec makes an A-line of wines that are Serious.  But most of his output aims for Fun.  And achieves it!

This is a Nouveau in that it's very grapey.  Which is fine with a sandwich!  It almost tastes like black cherry syrup to be used in making soda.  That's a good thing!

No complexity whatsoever.  You could almost chug this!  But not one-note boring.

Interesting:  it's a quaffer, like a Summer porchpounder.  But it's heavy, a wine you'd drink in Winter.

Like, now.

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Braised boar shank (well really it's feral pig, right -- but at least it isn't farmed) in a Tuscanish tomato mushroom sage gravy, over pappardelle.   Braised/sautéed kale on the side.

Rather obvious pairing.

2006 Ferrero Rosso di Montalcino

2006 was a fabulous vintage in Tuscany.  But this wine is Too Old.  The problem isn't that it has faded -- Ferrero makes New Worldy wines that can stand to fade -- but that it's developing these offputting Intro To Vinegar notes.

Good thing I used a lot of it in the gravy.

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For some reason I woke up this morning with an overwhelming desire to eat bacalhau.  @Wilfrid's posts about his method for quck-soaking salt cod have gone to the same happy farm as all the other old MFF posts, so I opted for pre-soaked, so I could have it tonight.  My fishmonger tried to conceal his contempt.

My initial plan was to make Bacalhau a Lagareiro, the harvest bacalhau of the olive plantation workers -- with some Portuguese Christmas Eve cabbage (they really go all-out on the merriment in Portugal) on the side. But then I stumbled upon Portugal's National Christmas Eve Dinner, variously called Bacalhau da Consoada and Bacalhau com Todos:  bacalhau, marinated in olive oil and garlic, with potatoes, onion, cabbage, and carrot boiled in the same water you had previously boiled the salt cod in, all served with a sauce consisting of the heated-to-boiling marinade mixed with some vinegar.  You might point out that it's a little late for Christmas Eve Dinner.  But I'd point out in response that I'm not only not Christian, but I'm not even Portuguese.  I'm a free agent here.

This is not as good as Bacalhau a Lagareiro.  It's the Portuguese National Christmas Eve Dinner because it's easy to make, and a lot of it is or can be done ahead.  But the Bonne Femme in me couldn't get over the idea of boiling all the sides in the water in which you'd previously boiled the main.  ("Bonne Femme" is French for "lazy cheapskate".)

Don't get me wrong, though:  this may not be as good as Bacalhau a Lagareiro -- but it's plenty good.

One thing we've all got to come to terms with when eating bacalhau:  in Portugal, they drink red wine with it.  Seems odd -- but they just do.  I'm not gonna tell the Portuguese what to drink with bacalhau.

In Lisbon, there's a clear favorite.

2005 Adega Regional de Colares Arenæ Ramisco

Colares is made from Ramisco grapes improbably grown on beaches just outside Sintra.  The wine business there had almost disappeared.  Although the trend toward little-known local grapes has helped revive it, there is obviously a lot of residential development pressure on the plots now used as vineyards.

This label is made by the appellation's cooperative.  Until recently, there were few individual winemakers operating there.

Colares wines are very long lived.  This 2005 would be considered to be in its youth.

This wine is fabulous.  It's light-textured -- thin -- but packed with flavor.  Moreover, packed with the right flavors.

Lots of dark berry/rich plum fruit.  Then, a range of minerals that last and last while changing around on your tongue.  Your mind would provide a saline finish for this wine grown on the shore of the Atlantic even if it weren't there.  But I'm ready to swear it is.

This wine is great -- just gorgeous -- but I could see its getting better.

If you have a chance to try some Colares (only miniscule quantities are produced), don't pass it up.

Have it with bacalhau.

Merry Christmas.

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