Friday, August 24, 2012

Deployment Special Edition: Surf and Turf Night at the FOB

These poor plastic knives never stood a chance against the toughness of this steak.
Final score:  Steak—2, Knives—0

In a break from MREs, let’s explore a unique food and wine pairing conundrum in the deployed environment, assuming wine was available.  In an effort to provide a reward at the end of the week, the Friday night dinner menu at the Forward Operating Base (FOB) is “surf and turf,” or steak and some form of seafood such as crab legs, fried shrimp, crab cake, etc.  Let me caveat my remaining comments by saying that the contractors at the dining facility work long and hard hours, and they do their best with the raw materials that they are given to feed the masses every day.

Back to the meal, the texture and “doneness” of the steak are such that the only appropriate thing to pair it with would be a hockey stick.  Should one attempt to then pair against the formerly frozen fried shrimp, where a Belgian blonde ale might be the clear winner?  I think the answer is not to seek a harmonious pairing, but instead to choose a big wine, nay a giant wine, that would utterly overwhelm this dish.  For the epicenter of giant wines with robust alcohol content that might be better sipped and contemplated on their own rather than with a meal, I turn to Napa Valley and its eminently successful cabernet sauvignon.  In this instance, pick anything that has received 98 or more points from a highly influential US critic, and you’ll be all set.  For an Old World approach to this same problem, I turn to the appassimento wines of Valpolicella in the Veneto.  Anchored by corvina, corvinone, and rondinella which dry on racks for a period of months and become ever more concentrated, Amarone is the version fermented to dryness, with a potential alcohol of 15% or more thanks to all those grape sugars.  Although good expressions of this wine are well-suited for rich and substantial foods, it can also be enjoyed by itself as a vino da meditazione.

Pairing #1:  Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (98+ RP/WA), California, USA
Try:  Schrader ‘Old Sparky’ Cabernet Sauvignon
[]  Given that your goal is to drink a sumptuous wine that will suppress or eliminate your memory of the faux-steak, this beauty that clocks in around an average of 14.5% or better in alcohol and is only available in magnum format will help.  Sourced from the famed Beckstoffer To-Kalon vineyard in Oakville and selected from the finest barrels of each vintage, enjoying this would be a singular experience for most of us, with the meal merely an annoyance along the way.

Pairing #2:  Amarone della Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy
Try:  Tommaso Bussola Amarone della Valpolicella TB ‘Vigneto Alto’
[]  This masterpiece will serve you well in your desire to overwhelm the meat dish with its intensity of fruit, including maraschino cherry accents, and a never ending finish.  After a long fermentation, the corvina and company from this cru rest for more than two years in a mixture of new wood composed of large Slavonian oak casks and small French oak barrels.