fava beans and bruleed pecorino toscano with aged balsamic

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This rather simple yet interesting dish entered rotation into our tasting menu. The dish is rather basic and I don’t really get why it is special enough to get a slot on our menu. The dish however, is interesting enough to think about with wine.

The plate consists of fava beans three way (pureed raw, blanched, then boiled), soppressata, a seasonal type of pecorino toscano that is bruleed with sugar and topped with aged balsamic, and then some interesting bitter greens to garnish of a type I can’t remember. Very little elaborate preparation happens here. The raw beans have a very fresh and green taste that darkens as they are cooked more while the texture gets softer as well. The bruleed cheese is pretty incredible. The sweetness and complexity of the caramel is beautiful contrasted with the acidity and balsamicness of the vinegar. The cheese adds awesome texture and you tastes it before the other parts diffuse through your mouth. The stacking of the flavors makes things linger for quite a while. I see how the acidity of the soppressata could contrast the richness and sweet elements of the cheese, but how do the fava beans fit in? I think that they may just be there because chef really likes favas. so many other delicious and seasonal things could be substituted and the favas just change the rules of what wine works for the whole dish. So many wines could work for certain elements but when you consider everything on the plate, things will be narrowed down.

The first wine i tasted with the dish was a really focused, dry reisling from clos de rochers in luxembourg. With the pureed favas, the beans seemed to lighten the wine and stretch the fava flavor on the tongue. Nothing special happened with the cheese. The interaction of the wine and soppressata was simple and harmonious. The dryness of the wine was refreshing. The best part of the pairing was the greens which showed the elegant flavor depth and sophistication of the bruleed sugar and balsamic.

The next wine was bridlewood’s viognier which has a very different structure and is rather low acid. The raw pureed fava pairing was nothing bad, but the greenness contrasted with the baked peach like fruit of the wine was weird. The bruleed cheese with the wine was really long lived in the mouth and created an experience where both were tasted in a continuous and pleasurable stream of sensations. The soppressatta on the other hand, made the wine taste flat perhaps because the soppressata has more acidity than the wine. Comparable acidity may be a requirement for success across the entire dish. Again, the greens with the balsamic was beautiful and quite long lived in the mouth with the wine.

Whitehaven’s intensely grapefruity new zealand sauvignon blanc enlivened the balsamic but was barely interesting anywhere else.

A lightly extracted Chinon rose of cabernet franc, which is rather dry and quite aromatic, seemed to overpower the favas. The wine was nothing special with the cheese and seemed to bring out a vanilla note that may have been from the caramel. Like the favas, the soppressata seemed to get lost in the intensity of the wine.

The last wine that I tried was Montinore estates very feminine style of pinot noir from the willemate valley. Even being considered light for a pinot noir, the wine was too full bodied for the favas and soppressata creating an inelegant vanilla flavor trap with the bruleed cheese.

Knowing that to have a successful pairing across the board you would need sufficient acidity, the wine I wish I could have tried with the dish would have been a vino verde from portugal like “joao pires”. joao pires is a muscat based wine and has a unique “greeness” of flavor that could perhaps be interesting with the favas themselves or perhaps provide the flavor contrasts the favas have while refreshing the palate with every sip. This worked similar to the signal that chefs give when they pair a fruit with a meat. If the chef feels that shade of fruit is a good contrast, a wine that captures that similar note will probably work wonderfully as well. Fava beans are not exactly fruit, but the greenness of a vino verde is not too outlandish a comparison. Some vino verde’s have a really peasanty, gritty finish, but I find joao pires to be the best of the few examples I’ve tasted. Another interesting wine of potential success would be a fruity dry vermouth like Martini & Rossi’s.

I never really pinned down the ideal wine but I know more about it than when I started and I think I have a better appreciation of the dish.

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