25 October 2010

riesling & rice vinegar: alsace-japon dinner

My friends M and H and I were even to the very end unable to decide on a catchy name for the Alsace-Japanese-themed dinner we hosted at my landlady's place the other night. The idea was to serve my friend M's stunning Japanese / Chinese home-cooking with a range of interesting Alsatian bottles, whatever we could turn up on a week's notice. The theory being that these are the type and quality of wines that I wish were available in great Asian restaurants, but which very rarely are.

I suggested we call it the "Axis Powers Dinner," but the idea was rejected on the grounds that Alsace isn't really Germany, Italy wasn't involved in our dinner at all, and then, of course, general tastelessness.

But I'm proud to say that even without a good title, we managed to stay admirably on-theme throughout the night's drinking, with the exception of a tremendous 1997 Georges Vernay Condrieu that my friend J brought, for which we had no choice but to, er, forgive him. Due to recent interruptions in Paris wine deliveries caused by a late Alsace harvest this year, it had actually been surprisingly difficult to find anything particularly special from the region - so after numerous slender just-pleasant base bottlings from Stentz-Buecher, Binner, Kreydenweiss, etc., the persistent, savory-honey, beeswaxy Condrieu hit with all the force of a A-Bomb. (Sorry.)

M's amazing hand-drawn menu sketch after the jump.

For something to munch on beforehand, the Native Companion and I made tartes flambées. By lucky chance her Alsatian aunt had come to Paris from Strasbourg the night before, and obliged us by bringing special tarte flambée dough, which the NC insists is absolutely critical to proper tartes flambées, despite its hilarious similarity to Jewish matzoh bread. 

M's meal, in the traditional Asian family style, consisted of about a zillion different finely spiced little things, including these superb marinated aubergines. 

Later, the black sesame ribs were astoundingly popular, and stood up well to the somewhat lumpen richness of a quite-a-ways-off-dry 2007 Baron de Hoen Pinot Gris we had moved onto by then.

Of the Rieslings we drank first, the most complex was probably a 2001 "Kanzlerberg" by Domaine Sylvie Spielmann. A lot of mid-palate marzipan, but I'll stop the spiel there (man). I preferred Christian et Audrey Binner's keener, brisker 2008 Riesling "Vignoble de Katzenthal," a wintry little wine I'd be happy to pair with just about anything on any occasion. 

As seems proper, the idea of pairing was totally put to rest by the time dessert arrived.* Sesame balls in ginger soup. I had a lot of fun with those. 

*Even (or especially) after years spent working in the restaurant industry, I'm convinced that pairing dessert wines with any dessert more composed than, say, a biscotti, is pure commercial fantasy. They tell you these things so you'll buy more tiny pours of thick wines that, considering their general unpopularity, are wincingly expensive to produce, and therefore expensive to drink.  

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  1. good writing and nice pictures. can not wait to try out M's cooking...

  2. thanks! the pics always come out better when someone else happens to have a camera, and takes them. in this case it was my friend d.

  3. Alsatian Japanese? You sir made me very happy.