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An agonizing Albariño holiday with surprise happy ending

January 2, 2011


My introduction to the seductive joys of Albariño  had an element of triage attached. A pair of dear pals in New York had shipped me a couple of bottles of  Adegas Gran Vinum ‘Mar de Viñas’ Albariño (the Negress is pretty sure it was NV). As some time passed, I had encountered some other wines with this varietal, and my initial conclusion was this was a task-oriented white, crying out for food pairing in the same way as one of my faves, the  2009 Bonny Doon Ca’ del Solo Monterey Muscat does.

Well, unlike baseball and much like John Boehner, there is crying in wine. The Negress plopped a cut-up whole chicken in the slow cooker and decided to try out the jerk spice she bought at a local market. The 10 ounce jar looked like it would be the right amount so it went into the cooker with some chicken broth. Eight hours later, the chicken was ready. The Negress was not. The fiery explosion that occurred in my face was tasty but devastating. Also, since the food budget has been downsized as the Negress was, there was no way the incendiary bird could be consigned to the ranks of inedible. I made some brown rice, rather a lot of brown rice to help stanch the heat. (Note to other amateur cooks: the recommended dose of jerk spice for a whole chicken is 1-2 teaspoons PER POUND. This particular bird was maybe three pounds tops.)

The Albarinos at the scene of the jerk chicken crime

A delicious way to salvage an incendiary chicken

Clearly, some kind of a solution was called for. Perhaps an aromatic, somewhat fruity white wine with a touch of minerality and a hint of residual sugar? Could it be….Albariño?

It could indeed. The out-of-town bottle was the first to go and the wine made the chicken infinitely more palatable during the two meals it took to consume the bottle. The Negress also ate some vegetable samosas with all the Albariños and they also fit nicely with the wine. So she explored the local Whole Paycheck and Binny’s for some more options. The 2008 Paco and Lola Albariño from Rias Baixas had a little more fruit than the  Mar de Vinas but also danced well with the spice that was holding the chicken hostage. The 2008 La Cana Albariño also melded fruit, stone and a tinge of sweet in a pleasing fashion. The Negress actually began to look for to those heated encounters with the overjerked chicken since the wine went so nicely with the disaster she had wrought.

During a period of about three weeks, she finished the chicken intermingled with leftover chicken and sides from Thanksgiving. Much sausage was featured and a fair amount of the case of the Bonny Doon Muscat was quaffed.

While overdosing on the various gospels of bird, the Negress knew that being out of full-time work for more than two years had to stop, even if it meant a hair net and unpleasant grease stains on polyester. So she renewed her work search with more online postings of cover letters, resumes and the usual drill. To say the process is dispiriting is an understatement. It feels like shouting your accomplishments into a windstorm and expecting an answer. But the recession is over, right?

Happily, for the Negress, her personal employment drought ended when she accepted a sales position with an insurance company founded by a guy who helps fund the decidedly progressive Texas Observer (the late Molly Ivins worked there for a bit).  Her training starts on Monday and she’s pretty fracking excited (that one is for the Caprica fans). She spent a quite New Year’s Eve watching Bette Midler (who is now the second most famous haole Hawaiian in the world) and toasting her good fortune with 2002 Schramsberg Reserve sparkling fabulousness. The New Year brought hoppin’ John accessorized with smoked bacon, cumin, paprika, curry powder, a touch of molasses (after the jerk incident, the Negress quickly got over her fear of condiments in jars), onion, garlic and peppers. She had some more of peas and  rice tonight with some of the 2005 Gann Family Cellars Petite Sirah from the folks at Cellars of Sonoma. That joyously full-bodied but nicely tailored red made her think one thing — next time add some hot sauce to the peas. In moderation of course.

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