Posted by: tomciocco | January 2, 2012


I don’t know about any of you, but all of the indulgences of the holidays, be they self-imposed, reluctantly accepted or whatever, usually call for a sort of grounding, balancing, and perhaps even slightly purgative meal or or two, so for tonight’s I went to North Africa, or rather I attempted to conjure a bit of it in the old kitchen…

The culinary fresco that runs from Morocco, across Algeria, and into Tunisia is one that reaches back to ancient Carthage, and more recently includes Arabic and European influences embedded into a deep, indiginous Berber impasto, as well as a notable lack of Ottoman influence, which ultimately makes this area a pretty peculiar and still underexplored corner of the food world.

That said, I’m but an acolyte in the foodways of the Maghreb, so I prepared what I knew that I could handle without devoting a couple of days to research and preparation (the first time I attempt a pigeon pastilla, you’ll be the last ot know…): a simple and fresh grated carrot and orange salad with cilantro as an appetizer and then a root vegetable – ‘taters, radishes, parsnips – stew with olives, dried tomatoes, chick peas, etc. with a bevy of Moroccan spices and fresh herbs. I also made some couscous that in the end was pretty good, though I still had wished better things for it somehow…I fear that my improvised couscoussiere (saucepan with lid, steamer insert, and perforated parchment paper) might have been part of the problem (?)

The wine was a blend of 60% Syrah, 30% Merlot, and 1o% Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the Tebourba region of Tunisia. It presented a delicious and uniquely darkly shaded glass of wine that is worth noting had the most viscous, glycerined mouthfeel, look, and even sound (think about how oil makes almost no splashing noises when it’s poured) I have ever come across…Jen INSISTED that it had a distinct smell of feta cheese, by the way, though I didn’t get it…









Les Celliers de Montfleury “La Vieille Cave” Coteaux de Tebourba Rouge, Tunisia

Slightly browned, just barely translucent crimson/garnet color. The wine pours with a visible and even audible (!) viscosity and presents a deep and dark but defined nose of black cherry, black currant, licorice, nori seaweed, dill and resinous wood smoke. The wine is rich in glycerin, making it very smooth, almosy oily in texture, but without any sort of heavy density. It’s beefy, sweet, and round, but with lightness at its core and a lively, peppery tannic structure, and big blackberry fruit with additional flavors of blueberry, black tea, juniper berries and olive tapenade. Finishes long with a dry minerality and a flavors of prune. 


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