February 11, 2010

Simple food, simple wines

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A bunch of us celebrated a friend's birthday tonight.  We had initially planned a smaller gathering for yesterday, but somehow this got moved and became a birthday dinner of sorts.

Papa Gio' is a casual Italian place run by the affable Giorgio.  One of my friends declared that he can no longer sit through multi-course fancy French meals, so nowadays Italian food suits him better.  So here we are...

I arrived late to find some carpaccio di manzo con grana on the table.  It's pretty nice but perhaps the sprinkle of salt was a tad heavy.  Classic and simple.

There was also some carpaccio di branzino, with black and red lumpfish caviar.  Not bad at all.

The vongole al vino was alright.  Some of my friends scooped the soup into little bowls to drink, while others used bread to soak it all up.

One friend who arrived late brought in a pack of jamon iberico which he bought in Hong Kong.  Not bad at all, but I dunno why the restaurant needed to pour olive oil on top.  The fat of the ham alone should be enough...

Next came a series of pastas... Gio gave us a pasta sampler, putting risotto ai porcini, penne arrabbiata and gnocchi verdi al Gorgonzola all on the same plate.  The risotto was pretty decent, and the gnocchi was interesting thanks to the spinach lending the dumplings that hue of green.  Gio said he was going to serve the gnocchi with "Italian stinky tofu (意大利臭豆腐)", which was what he called Gorgonzola.  But in the end it wasn't too heavy after all...and I wish he had used more Gorgonzola.  The penne was cooked al dente and the spice was definitely there.

We also requested two other types of pasta, the first being lobster pasta with a spicy tomato sauce (not quite arrabbiata) which came in the form of spaghetti (was supposed to be fettucine).  This tasted pretty good despite the mix-up in terms of the type of noodles used.

The second was a wonderful plate of fettucine pesto.  I must say that the pesto sauce here was very rich and nice, made from proper sweet basil instead of the local varietal.  Some hair-thin strands of dried peppers were added on top.

I was pretty full, but we still had the grilled T-bone steak to share.  I took only one slice of it, which was still rare in the middle.  Nicely done.  This was a Porterhouse-sized hunk of meat.

Finally we had the pizza della casa Papa Gio, which had lots of ingredients like black olives, anchovies, ham, artichoke and spicy salami.  Pretty nice but a tad salty thanks to the anchovies.

A couple of people were not happy with the lobster pasta, so they ordered another one with a wide fettucine and as aglio olio.  I couldn't eat anymore, though...

I did share an order of tiramisu, which was pretty large and very, very good.  This might be my favorite tiramisu in Taipei...

OK... this group would never get together without drinking some wine, especially when we are celebrating a birthday!

2000 Haut-Bages Averous - on top of the classic claret nose of smoke comes the distinct notes of caramelized sugar, just like a cotton candy.  Very sweet nose from a ripe vintage.

L'Interdit de Badon - once again I explained the story behind this wine to a group of people baffled by the label, with neither a vintage (2000), the appellation (Saint Emilion) nor the name of the château (Clos Badon).  I've always loved this wine, especially given how little I paid for it en primeur.  Nose of mint, smoke, soy sauce and grilled meats.

1962 Haut-Brion - I had brought two bottles of this wine to deliver to their owner, but as we were running out of wine, we decided to open the bottle with the lower level (mid-shoulder).  The stock originally came from Mähler-Besse, but bottle variation is to be expected for a wine this old.  Add to this the fact that the bottle had been knocked around in a suitcase on my flight yesterday... it wouldn't have had recovered from bottle shock for sure. Our expectations were low, and there wasn't much surprise on the upside.  Nose of smoke, earth, and some cooked fruit with oxidation.  All the tannins have been shed so the wine was very smooth on the palate, with a good acidity balance.

1964 Noval Colheita - I brought this in honor of the birthday girl since my other 64s just wouldn't travel well.  Tawny ports - like Madeiras - are almost indestructible.  I opened this during dinner and served it after all the food has been consumed.  Nose was still a little sharp at the beginning thanks to the alcohol, and very sweet as expected, with nutty and concentrated grape aromas.

We had a pretty good time over some simple food and a few simple bottles of wine.  Pretty good for a low-key birthday do...

1 comment:

Michelle Chin said...

Man, you're very good with wine!


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