Tuesday, December 30, 2008

early dinns on a monday afternoon...


~ and so I haled Millman out of his urban burrow just about teatime, and we took off on the E is for Ethnic Eats train to the gustatory otherwhere of Jackson Heights...

—our destination was a Thai establishment on Roosevelt Boulevard called Zabb, which Bob had  suggested—himself having been there once with Josh Raynolds, my once-upon-a-time successor in the Schildknecht Department of the Washington DC wine world...


~ this being the borough of Queens, we came armed with the following:
1. a bottle of Pierre Peters Brut which came out of Geri Tashjean's bathtub on West 26th street.
2. a bottle of Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Alte Reben 2001 that I’d had dwelling in my basement for a number of years—
3. a bottle of Josef Högl Ried Schön GV Federspiel 06—I never go noplace without at least one screwcap anymore...
4. oldfashioned INAO glasses, which I still love.


~ and Zabb Queens proved downright zizzling...

1. we started with Tom Kha Kai—which was as beautifully balanced as I’ve ever had this soup, both very succulent and a bit on the spicy side, with the flavours flowing seamlessly into one another.

2. then followed a noodle dish with bits of pork and crab, finished with nuts and lime, harmless and pleasant. By this time we were enjoying the champagne more than somewhat.

3. third in the batting order came grilled squids with green chillies served over iceberg lettuce. It’s very gratifying to note how well the fresh crunch of iceberg fits into the Thai concept of flavour and texture. And, Yummm! This dish was as hot as ever I might’ve liked it to be, and afforded me the opportunity to illustrate to Bob that the only sure cure for a nearly terminal party inside your mouth is salt. Ask for the salt-shaker, throw a pinch of it in your trap, and be amazed at how steadily the discomfort recedes.

4. next on the list was duck Panang. With very crisp haricot-vert-ish greenbeans atop, just the right tinge of basil, and not too much heat. The duck skin retained its identity rather crisply amid the bath of sauce, with just a slight bit of fat underneath. Said sauce was wonderfully rich, possessed a presence on the palate which had nothing to do with weight, and everything with balance.

This dish was the point where we turned the corner from Champagne into the Kamptal, and were rudely awakened by the realisation that although some grüne veltliners go well with some spicy dishes, the younger ones are much better suited, providing refreshment-value as well as complementary flavours. Which dictated a detour in the direction of the Wachau... As insurance against the ever-present threat of a corker I had brought a younger screwcapped GV—a Federspiel 06 from Josef Högl in Spitz, a really vivid and frisky potation which I had sold loads of to Cookshop where it got poured by the glass until they just ran out of it—which showed significantly better than the older and grander Bründlmayer in this culinary context.

5. then came the crispy fish in the house sauce, which was more sweet and sour than it was anything else, with some fresh veg on top, nicely balanced and beautifully textured.

~ and very interesting to note the progression orchestrated from tingling to total fire receding to the calmer sweet panang to the sweeter and sour fish... my training in Ethnomusicology would lead me to describe it as a melodic arch-form...

6. an innocuous pumpkin custard concoction rounded it all out... or rather, preceded presentation of the modest bill, its approval and payment.

Dessert was indeed sort of an afterthought, but alltogether it gets me after thinking that the wonderful thing about Thai cookery is that it manages to be very aggressive and very delicate at the same time—like a mid-seventies reviewer once described The Who: chamber-music in the middle of a commando-raid...

the Bründlmayer GV Old Vines showed rather elegant and stately after it got rescued from the fiery chapters of the Thai spicebook which made it seem old and tired, and taken home to a more suburban setting. Lovely middle gold—and it's always interesting the way old grüne veltliners don’t show secondaries anything like the rieslings do. This is a wine that even young is not dominated by the trademark “Pfefferl” snap, so that the reminiscences of mature white burgundy weren't too far off base. Hazelnut and fig on parity with pear, and a bit of alcohol... The minerality shone on through to the better end, and the bottle held up well on the second day.

~ but the highlight of the show was the Pierre Peters NV Mesnil Grand Cru, disgorgement date 01 2007—rich and succulent, approaching a generosity of texture that usually either means pinot noir or residual sugar, but this wine was innocent of one and not guilty of the other: brioche and blossom, hay and honey... so much fruit that you had to chomp down to get the chalk... and both of us were please to note that it was capable of assimilating a rather extravagant number of Scoville units relatively unscathed.

Champagne has been a prominent food-wine on my table dating at the very least back to 1990, but it still presents me with new possibilities on a regular basis.

4 comments:

Nancy Deprez said...

Very nice choice of wines! I love the Pierre Peters Champagnes, vintage and non-vintage, as well.

What do you think of Billiot?

~ said...

I am indeed more of a pinot noir fan, and I think Billiot is quite scrumptious, particularly the pink one.

ellis.illus said...

wonder what you think of bouvet- ladubay bouvet brut? it's a chardonnay bubbly with a light green tone (i think, but i am NOT a specialist, i just like to gurgle with it *g*)

~ said...

Bouvet is certainly a tasty drink–and it's the chenin blanc blended with the chardonnay that renders it and other Loire valley sparkling wines distinctive, I believe. For years my favourite Saumur was Langlois-Château, which was connected with the favourite Champagne house Bollinger... we don't see those in America so much any more, our loss...

I think there's a lot of delicious fizz that doesn't come from Champagne. Some are unexpectdely so, like the Sekt from Schloss Gobelsburg in Austria. You look on the label and see "Grüner Veltliner and pinot noir"... together?!? how could he? but then pour a glass or two behind your belt, as the Teutons say, and you will observe that it has in no way offended the palate on its way past. The opposite, in fact...