Wed 10 Dec 2008
I got the idea for putting leaves of Brussels sprouts on pizza from a post on The Girl Who Ate Everything on Dec. 3. (This is a terrific and very funny site about eating in New York and environs with great photographs.) Anyway, last Saturday I fried some applewood smoked bacon, poured off most of the grease and used it to saute a couple of handfuls of Brussels sprouts leaves until they were caramelized. I also used some thin slices of yellow bell pepper, maybe eight quartered cherry tomatoes and shavings of roasted garlic. Fresh thyme and rosemary, a scattering of fresh mozzarella and grated Parmesan cheese completed the experiment. I let the pizza cook on its stone in the oven at 450 for 10 or 11 minutes, and then I took it outside and laid it on the grill where hardwood charcoal was barely smoldering. I closed the top of the grill so the smoke would permeate the pizza and the heat would char the bottom of the crust.
It was great!
We watched Wall-E, of which I thought the first half was brilliant and the second half was banal but watchable. I hate it when movies break in half that way.
But the wine, that’s the important part!
It was a decadent night in the FK/LL household. While I was preparing the pizza, I thought, “Oh, what the hell,” and opened a bottle of the Henriot Brut Millesime 1998. Lord have mercy, what a fine champagne! The color is mild but radiant gold; it sends a frothing stream of tiny glinting bubbles surging upward. Nothing frivolous here; this is serious, full-bodied, richly detailed champagne that pumps out aromas of biscuits and fresh bread, roasted lemons and pears, limestone and a hint of caramelized green apple. It delivers that wonderful paradox of champagne in which the vibrant acidity is crisp and lively, even taut, while the texture is lush and creamy. With its deeply spicy nature, like crystallized ginger mixed with cloves, this champagne is almost savory, though nothing impedes its imperial sense of purity and intensity. What a treat! Excellent. About $95 but seen on the Internet as low as $75.
With the pizza, we drank the Grgich Hills Estate Merlot 2005, Napa Valley. This venerable winery, founded in 1977, by Miljenko “Mike” Grgich and Austin Hills, makes wine completely from estate-grown grapes; the vineyards are run on organic and biodynamic principles, and the winery is solar powered.
The Grgich Hills Estate Merlot ’05 ages 18 months in a mixture of small and large French oak barrels, of which only 30 percent are new. While the alcohol level is a relatively high 14.7 percent — relative compared with, say, 15.5 percent — there’s no sense of alcoholic sweetness or over-ripeness; the wine is, instead, balanced and integrated and sleek. The emphasis is on a distinctive clean, loamy character that speaks of the wine’s origin in roots and vines, in strata of soil and rock. Black currant, black cherry and black raspberry flavors are permeated by smoke and tobacco, baking spice and lavender, touches of black olive, underbrush This is no wimp of a merlot; in tannic structure it’s strapping and vigorous and in flavor it’s forthright and bold. While it’s recognizably merlot (with 2 percent petit verdot), by not cleaving to a standard model, it bears the stamp of individuality and integrity. Drink now though 2013 to ’15. Excellent. About $42.