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52 dates and the Boozy Beggar - #1, Bar Pastoral

Last year, an acquaintance, Justin Breen, along with Sarah Breen, his wife, took on the challenge of doing 52 dates in 52 weeks, as a New Year's Resolution. Google the idea, and you'll see all kinds of promotional materials from all avenues of the web, pushing this as something to do - to rekindle your marriage, to try the out of the ordinary, to reconnect with friends, and so on. Throughout the year I followed along as Justin and Sarah tried new restaurants, and Justin posted a photo, usually of Sarah. It was heartwarming and it was something I thought really admirable. Then I was home in Florida doing the annual "Pam Pack" with my wife Pamela, and realized something. I needed to blog again. And I needed some things to keep me plugging away at it. #goals, as they say. So, yes, there will be more Pam Packs with blog posts. There will be more recipes, some even tested by friends and family. And, there will be 52 posts about restaurants in Chicago, and the things I sip while I visit them. Here's number 1, an evening at Bar Pastoral, below.

I do a really weird thing when I sit down at a restaurant these days. I try to figure out my appetizer AND my first drink at the same time. Years ago, I'd order a drink, and it would coax me through the menu, pushing me toward some dishes and likely away from others, as the flavors of the beverage sated certain flavor desires and opened up new ones. Now, I obnoxiously flip or peer back and forth, from appetizer to beverage list, and back, trying to line up something interesting with something else interesting, as an experiment and as way to enjoy the start of a meal differently. This is another thing that drove me to this little weekly project idea. Walking into Bar Pastoral on Broadway, just blocks from the new location of Pamela's Altruistic Esthetics, is like walking into a friend's home. I've done it in so many roles in the beverage industry, and so many times as a patron in need of wine and cheese. Now it's a more casual and less frequent thing, but always a delicious experience. This week's "small" dinner was rich and hearty, and I focused on wine as my pairings, usually my weakness in terms of knowledge, flavors, pairings, etc.

Chicken Liver Mousse w/ Whiskey Pickles paired with

2015 Amizade Godello

To cut the richness of the mousse, I wanted to go for something a little brighter and more acidic, while still having some herbal compliments. The description of this wine fit what I thought were the needs of the food: "bone dry with lively aromas of wild herbs." That was followed up by some zesty citrus notes. It really cute the rich and mild mousse super well, while complimenting the herbs and complimenting the pickles (the cauliflower and the small pearl-like onions our favorites).

This wine is very...Boozy Beggar friendly. Dry, herbal, savory. Very different from the whites I encounter on an everyday basis. I had no idea there was a hidden gem like this, and found out it grows in Northwestern Spain, in the Galicia area, and that there's a Portuguese variety called Gouveio that might be a similar grape. Some confusion seems to occur around this grape though, as it shares its name with a french grape used in Chenin Blanc. I'll have to turn to a better wine expert soon to look into that.

Pork Meatballs, curry tomato sauce, pickled onions, shaved Chandoka (cow/sheep, WI)

paired with

2015 Tikal Malbec/Bonarda

Taking a rich appetizer like meatballs and sauce and turning it into dish I don't share at all (hey, Pamela's vegetarian) is a staple Boozy Beggar move. I also knew, besides the cliche of red wine and meatballs/red sauce, that I wanted to change to a wine that fit the season. Windy and chilly days fit deep full-bodied reds really well, and those deep flavors would compliment the complexity of pork meatballs, spiced tomato sauce, and a salt and flavorful cheese. Bartending at a place where wine dominates the sales, and red wine in this current season, has made me see Malbec as a sort of staple "big" wine. Bonarda meant nothing to me, but I now understand it is an italian grape called Douce Noir, grown heavily in Argentina, and making more and more of an appearance in Argentinian wines. Spice notes in the wine complimented the curry notes some, while big fruity notes of berries and darker fruits even, sweetened up the savory elements of the meatballs.

I can't really pick a favorite pairing out of the two, as I thought both did a good job of complimenting the food and elevating it, but it made me really glad to undertake this little project and above all, document it!

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