Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sweet, Salty, Bitter, Spicy, and Sparkling at Grain

I was back at Grain last night, bringing with me two bottles to enjoy with the minimalist, eclectic menu. The Golden Star White Jasmine Sparkling Tea was a hit. Even Richard Ju, Grain's chef, enjoyed it, though he looked like he can use a stiffer drink as he was slammed this night.

Three simple, natural ingredients in this sparkling tea--organically-farmed silver needle jasmine tea, organic raw sugarcane juice, and carbon-filtered California Sierra mountain water--brewed and fermented together result in that elusive umami flavor. Pale and slightly frothy, its scent is intensely fragrant as brewed jasmine tea with a dollop of honey. Effervescent, light on the palate, and slightly sweet. Though no fruit was used in the blend, it shows not just complex tea flavors, but tart pear and apple as well! What a terrific drink with the biting, crunchy appetizers that Richard laid out.

Charred brussels sprouts in a sweet, citrusy fish sauce vinaigrette

Crisp oyster crepe in coconut sauce, topped with baby oysters, bean sprouts and sriracha

Chicken in turmeric and curry with pickled cucumber and onion

Baby back ribs with braised cabbage and fried potatoes

With the baby back ribs I drank the magnificent 2007 François Chidaine Vouvray Clos Baudoin, made from over seventy-year-old Chenin Blanc vines in the historic Prince Poniatowski estate. During Poniatowski's time he crafted this either in sec, demi-sec or moelleux, depending on the vintage. Since Chidaine I've only seen it dry.

Drier and purer than the 2005, and showing no trace of the exotic or of botrytis, this 2007 Vouvray exuded scents of white fruits, straw, and ginger candy. Bright, austere, very persistent flavors that highlight the wine's elegance and minerality. Its very vibrancy swallowed every bite of the ribs without resistance, making me reach for the glass with increasing frequency. A surprise pairing!

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