Today. Big glistening birds. Crimson cranberry sauce. Mashed sweet potato with a crusty marshmallow top. Green bean casseroles. Gravies. The all-American classic holiday dinner table that every grocery store has a picture of on their website. Once upon a time I was enticed by such beauty, much like how I engulfed a chunk of ham the first time I saw real ham after years of seeing ham in old American cartoons (Tom and Jerry I think?). To be fair, save for the turkey, I do like the marshmallow sweet potato, the green bean casserole, and sometimes the stuffing if the gravies’ done right. But the turkey… I don’t get it. In a bird, the best part is the brown meat: legs, thighs, wings, that’s all. (Ah yes, I love the offals too, but today I’ll speak from the American perspective for a change.) Yet, the turkey leg is a monstrosity of toughness that my weak 20-some-year-old bone-gnawing cartilage-grinding gizzard-and-heart-loving teeth have trouble handling. Were all the turkeys I sunk into Olympic weightlifters or something? Well they have to lift their 30lb+ body every minute anyway, so no wonder. Conclusion: I don’t like turkey(*).
I like duck.
And you know what drink duck goes well with? I can’t speak for Pinot Noir, Merlot or Rosé, but some oolong teas make great companies! The long awaited double duck dinner at Bay Wolf arrived (2 months ago) before I could really get in tune with this semester, but I still remember how the Tung Ting made the duck dumpling soup and duck gizzard bloom.
Although I started out drinking tea for the sole purpose of matching tea with food, most of my pairing experiments were at home with more sweet than savory stuff. I blame the busy schedule but in reality I just don’t buy the thermal bottles to store hot water nor do I grab anything but my wallet and camera when I go fooding. (I used to forget my wallet.) My friend Nancy Togami, on the other hand, pursues her hobbies with much more heart than I. When we embark on a tea date, she brings teapots, hot water, teas and a thermostat to check the water temperature. I love her.
Duck liver flan, rillettes, gizzards and grapes. The liver flan (basically, pâté): paired with Tung Ting for a light and floral whisper in the mouth, paired with High Mountain for depth. Neither Tung Ting nor High Mountain did anything good to the rillettes. Tung Ting with gizzards and grapes was better than High Mountain with gizzards and grapes, as the grapes amplified the floral note of the Tung Ting.
Head-to-feet duck soup with savory duck dumplings. Again, the Tung Ting is a good match, it brightened but not intensified the tomato in the broth. (Surprisingly, the only tea that doesn’t go well with any of these courses was the Royal Courtesan: a little plumy, a little sour, even after we steeped it for 2 minutes, it refused to give an impression on the food.)
Duck tagine with spiced couscous, preserved lemon, olives and coriander. Tung Ting and High Mountain with duck tagine and steak: all 4 pairings are good. With High Mountain, although the fatty part of the steak does not go too well, the duck fat sauce shines through. The Tung Ting and the duck tagine is best with the lemon sauce in the tagine, otherwise the meat dried out and became too fibrous.
Grilled rib eye steak with duck fat fried and Béarnaise sauce. Nancy also had an excellent pairing of a Merlot with the steak and the duck. The Merlot smells tangier but tastes softer (more berry-like) than the Pinot Noir, it also has a smooth finish that made the steak more “unctuous”, and several times she went from meat to merlot and finish with High Mountain, which seemed to make things really shine.
Duck egg mocha pot de crème. Both Phoenix Honey and Tieguanyin Medium Roast go exceedingly nicely with this dessert: the Phoenix adds a lychee flavor to it, the Tieguanyin complimented the mocha flavor and at the same time makes it more perfumy. Both lightens an otherwise too rich ending.
So for this Thanksgiving (and maybe the next), ditch the turkey. Dish the duck. With some tea. 😉
(*) I love the living turkeys as much as I love any other animals. 😉 Since their meat doesn’t taste that great, why don’t we make them pets like dogs and cats, and give turkey-eaters “the look“?(**)
(**) In case you’re wondering: No. I don’t eat dogs and cats. I also don’t eat ham. For different reasons, though…
P.S.: First time I was at Bay Wolf.