Perfect Picnic Pair: Grilled Lamb & Wine
But I also like to break the rules. So my picnics usually stretch beyond fried chicken confines. Because there are a lot of great choices that are perfectly suited to eating outdoors, slouched up against a tree with both hands held in front of your face, inhaling the experience of really good food served in a simple manner.
But picnics are more and more rare in my life. Maybe it’s the big city where I live, maybe it’s my age or our big city schedule. Maybe the ground is just further away than it used to be, but I don’t eat outdoors nearly as much as I should.
It seems half my childhood meals were enjoyed on a blanket, even if that blanket was haphazardly strewn across the lawn behind our suburban Michigan house. Could these memories stem from the simple fact that air-conditioning was a luxury not yet enjoyed by our family? Could that be the reason I associate summer with outdoor dining?
Well whatever the reason, the weather is perfect and I have decided to take this meal outdoors. I’m presenting picnic food today– my kind of picnic food. Which means lamb chops grilled with peppercorns and served next to a savory mint dipping sauce. But this picnic is not really a meal. It’s a chance to discuss a wine pairing. Capezzana Barco Reale di Carmignano 2008.
I think lamb chops make great picnic food, especially when paired with wine. Like a good old-fashioned drumstick they are perfect hand-held and devoured with or without utensils. Lamb bones are just as fun to gnaw on as chicken bones and lamb is equally good cold or hot. The ultimate choice for a category of food I like to call Tid Bits & Noshy Things.
Lamb’s complex flavor also makes it a great candidate for a sauce. Mint is a classic choice. But I’ll tell you the truth. I hate the Day-Glo green glob that often accompanies lamb. Too sweet. Too green. Too much! So my sauce is super savory. I am using spearmint, which is very herbal in flavor and contains none of the menthol that gives peppermint its cool mouth sensation. My sauce also has a lot of garlic in it too, and is made slightly sour with the tangy bite of malt vinegar.
As with many of my favorite Tid Bits & Noshy Things this picnic does not even need plates. So pass the lamb and dip away. The weather is perfect, the earth smells sweet and the stars promise us a lovely show in the sky this night.
But now. On to the wine. With a surprising price point of about $15 this Tuscan Sangiovese-based wine is a marvelous value. It is deep purple in color, and opens with sweet red fruits, leather, oak and spice on the nose. Typically Tuscan on the palate, with flavors of sour cherry, darker fruits, licorice and a hint of prune. This wine is bigger than a lot of Tuscan reds however, and is quite comfortable when paired with lamb. Its sweet but firm tannins, ample acidity, and oaky finish are softened by the richness of the lamb, and the wine’s surprising slight saltiness complements the lambs peppery crust. GREG