An unlikely match



We are 8 days into a 10-day stay by house guests from London.  Now it is easy to figure out what to do with guests visiting for a couple of days:  French Quarter tour, Uptown, riverboat, cocktails at The Columns, lunch at Galatoire's, Rebirth on Tuesday, Kermit on Thursday...  but when friends stay for 10 days you go beyond the touristy bits and they begin to observe life in New Orleans on an everyday basis.

It was with that and the David Thompson Thai Food cookbook in mind that we embarked on one of my favorite, VERY local, outings - a trip to New Orleans East to the Vietnamese grocery stores in Versailles.  Now I have taken cooking classes in Thailand and Vietnam and Thai cooking classes in London and New Orleans and so I am cursed with the desire to select ever more obscure (but highly regarded) recipes, find ever more  obscure (but highly regarded) ingredients and spend an afternoon creating.  Fortunately our guests were up to the challenge.

David Thompson is a transient Australian chef, London restaurateur and Thai cookbook author who has adopted both Thailand  and London as bases.  He has a beautiful book called Aharn Thai or Thai Food.  The UK version has a beautiful magenta Thai silk cover (shown) and though the one one available thru (or by order from your local bookseller)has a marginally less attractive cover,  it is full of the same wonderful essays, explanations and photographs inside. The recipes are gorgeous and it was the inspiration of the red curry made with pork ribs that we ventured out to Chef Menteur and Alcee Fortier Blvds to the Vietnamese community for the ingredients.

If you have have an inkling for Asian food and you have not been to Versailles - or if you have not been lately - give it a shot!  The stores are slightly different, but they are still stocked full of "exotic" Asian ingredients (and some surprising staples) and they will happily help you locate ingredients if you ask.

We made Thompson's Red Thai Curry with only a few differences - including pork tenderloin instead of ribs and a few cooking technique changes.   The flavor was...well it was quite literally amazing.  Red chilis ground with shallots, toasted coriander seeds, lime zest, white pepper, palm sugar... It was time consuming, complex, sweet, spicy, sour, rich and refreshing.   The real challenge was what wine to pair with it.    We opened both a Riesling and a Gewurztraminer (both can be great pairings with spicy Thai food) but neither worked.  They were too syrupy, too sticky and sweet.  We needed a drastic plan B:  A rich, deep red, Justin Isosceles 2005.  It was fantastic!

Justin Isosceles 2005 is 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc and 7% Merlot.  It is spicy and rich with ripe black and red berry fruits, tobacco, black cherry and chocolate.  It is smooth and complex and pairs incredibly well with rich, complex foods.  It runs about $60 in retail stores (I purchased a bottle at Wine Seller, but have seen it also at W.I.N.O. as well) and runs about $100 in restaurants.  It is not, then, a wine you might have every day - but it will come to your rescue when you have the right meal for it.


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