Dear Friends of Flatiron,
Every time I move I make meatballs. It’s just something I have to do. Maybe it’s an aromatherapy thing, like homey-fumigating. My Mom taught me to make them when I was kid. The changing smells while I cook remind me of the stories my Mom would tell me about how her Dad would have her try pieces of the raw meat mixture before cooking to see if it needed anything. A little gross, but I sort of get it also.
But that got me thinking: what types of wines would work with such a unpretentious, yet emotionally charged type of home cooking? It needs to be something enjoyable on its own. Something affordable and not overly demanding of your attention. Something that works symbiotically with each of the ingredients and the “whole” so the entire experience is unified.
For my nostalgic meal of “Balls and Sauce”, as I’ve come to call it, our Italian wine specialist, Flori, recommended I grab a bottle of Dolcetto d’Alba. We just got in a bunch of Cascina delle Rose’s fantastic 2016 Dolcetto d’Alba “A Elizabeth”. Cascina delle Rose is a B&B as well as a winery and Flori has been lucky enough to stay numerous times. The wine tastes as I imagine the place smells. A mixture of dried and fresh roses along with piney herbs and juicy Morello cherries. A perfect companion to the dense savoriness of the homemade marinara and meatballs.
But, as so often happens when I make my own childhood comfort foods, my wife starts feeling nostalgic as well and wants her turn in the kitchen. She’s half Taiwanese and what gets her feeling settled is a savory pile of soy-glazed and ginger-packed Sanbeiji, or “3-Cup Chicken”* as we more typically call it.
She always laughs telling me how her non-Taiwanese mom would frantically follow her grandmother around the kitchen, scribbling notes as fast as she could and pelting the old lady with questions she would never answer let alone even acknowledge. Like my “Balls and Sauce”, Grandma’s “3-Cup Chicken” is more of process that needs to be physically and sensually trained into muscle memory, not a recipe that can be written down. The amount of garlic and ginger is never the same simply because of the natural variation of the ingredients themselves as is the timing of when to add the other ingredients. It needs to be smelled, tasted and intuited to be perfected.
Usually a beer is our default for Chinese food, but I was feeling like trying a beverage pairing that would heighten the flavors more. When I pair with Asian foods I usually look to Southern Rhone whites. For me, the exotic spiciness of ginger and the umami-rich notes from soy work especially well with the floral richness of Marsanne, Roussane and Viognier. I chose Herve Souhaut’s delicious side-project white Michel Savel Les Marecos Blanc 2016, a Roussane/Marsanne blend from Collines Rhodaniennes. I was introduced to Herve’s wines by his daughter, Ludevine, who worked at Flatiron a few years ago. Juicy flavors of honeydew and pear offset the saltiness and ginger of the chicken dish, much like how melon and prosciutto team up to make a legendary duo.
Happy, warm and full we’ve finally been able to make our apartment feel like our new home. With familiar smells and great bottles of wine to match, we both feel like our roots are sinking deeper than they’ve been able to in a long time. Cooking up a pot of comfort, whatever that may be, is arguably the most essential part of unpacking.
* As I mentioned, both dishes are really not about following recipes to the letter, but rather getting the “feel” for them. That being said, I took the liberty of providing links to recipes that are similar to my own for both “Balls and Sauce” as well as “3-Cup Chicken” in case you need a place to start. Enjoy!