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ADVERTISING: Advertorial — GEORGE BALLING: Wine and food

| May 13, 2020 1:00 AM

We are facing one more week of closed restaurants but as we have called around to make reservations, we have found that some of our friends in the restaurant business are extending their closures a bit beyond that. Mary and I really enjoy a meal out regularly, but most times we go to lunch, not dinner. We are usually satisfied to eat dinner at home after being at the shop all day. I cook most nights, but what has been interesting about this period of being shut out of our favorite restaurants is that even we are getting tired of my cooking. Even though we don’t have many dinners out, we have found ourselves seeking new ideas for our nightly meals.

Just recently we tried to new Barberas also. Both are from the Piedmont region of northern Italy, one from Asti and one from Alba. The two appellations are close to each other, but at the same time, are very different. Asti is the larger of the two, while Alba is a much warmer site, resulting in a bit richer wines. With both bottlings though, we get the classic, fruit-forward profiles derived from Barbera, which is known as the “Pinot Noir of Italy.” Since we discovered two great new wines, and we are guessing folks are looking for meal inspiration, our column this week will be recommendations of these two wines and food pairings to go with them.

The 2017 Barbera d’Asti from Pico Macario ($20, Wine Club Price $18) is currently featured in our wine club. When Mary and I first tried this wine we knew it was destined for our club; it is flat out delicious. The wine shows the classic Barbera aromas of coffee and dried-herb savory notes. The palate is ripe and fruit-forward, with cherry fruit flavors throughout. The finish is dry, but not tannic at all, and shows good length in its silkiness. We recommend pairing this wine with chicken scarpariello. I make a not-very-spicy version of this dish, as heavy spice tends to really be hard on the subtleness of wine, especially Barbera.

For the recipe, cut two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs into two-inch chunks. Season them well with salt and pepper and sauté in olive oil until lightly browned. Remove them to a plate and then add to the same pan: one cup of diced onion, half a cup of diced celery and half a cup of diced red bell pepper. Sauté the vegetables until soft, but not browned. Add a smashed garlic clove, a 28 ounce can of diced Italian plum tomatoes and one cup of chicken broth. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce by about a third, then add in the chicken and cook until done — about 30 minutes. Finish the sauce with two tablespoons of butter and serve over your favorite pasta. It goes great with the Pico Macario Barbera.

The 2016 Pertinace Barbera d’Alba ($16, Wine Club Price $14.40), while similar to the Pico Macario, is a bit bigger and richer from the warmth in the Alba appellation. The nose on the Pertinace similarly shows lovely, savory aromatics with the signature coffee notes. The palate on this wine is blackberry and plum focused, leading to a long and elegant finish. Like the Pico Macario, the mouthfeel on the Pertinace is silky smooth with near-perfect weight. We recommend having this wine with crispy chicken cutlets with cherry tomato Panzanella.

For this recipe pickle about a quarter cup of very thinly sliced red onion in cider vinegar and a pinch of salt for about an hour. Place two cups of roughly torn country-style French bread in a pan with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and cook until brown and crisp, remove to a large mixing bowl. Cut the bones from four skin-on chicken thighs. Place each piece of chicken between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound to about a quarter-inch thickness with a meat malate. Remove from the plastic and season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a thin layer of olive oil and sauté the chicken, skin side down, until brown; about four minutes. Turn the chicken over and sauté until cooked through, about four more minutes, then remove to a platter and keep warm. While the chicken is cooking, cut about 15 cherry tomatoes in half, and leave another 15 of them whole. Wipe out the same pan you cooked the chicken in with a paper towel, then warm another thin layer of olive oil and add the whole tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and sauté until blistered and starting to burst open. Toss in a pinch of sugar and one tablespoon of cider vinegar. Add to the same bowl with the croutons. Add to the bowl the pickled onions the halved tomatoes and two tablespoons of olive oil. Toss well and serve each chicken cutlet with some of the Panzanella on top.

Stop by the shop for some of the Barbera and have fun with these tasty and hopefully new recipes!

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George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party, a wine and gift shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The dinner party has won the award for best wine shop in North Idaho twice, including for 2018. George is also published in several other publications around the country.

After working in wineries in California and judging many wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop. You can also follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/#!/dinnerpartyshop.