Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tales of the "V" Table

Take six chefs, six pig parts, six women and seven wines. Mix well and spread generously over four hours.

Yield: a sWine dinner and the kind of conversation the best writers couldn't write.

Secco was hosting a six-course wine dinner with swine and had bought in additional chefs and tables to handle the crowd.

I was lucky enough to be seated with five other solo diners, all female, at a big table in front where there are usually two couches.

We took advantage of our prime position to check out passers-by and dish on everything from second dates to port and tequila ice cream to younger men.

The festivities kicked off with a reception where we sipped Le Nouveau Nez, admiring its bubbles and seeing how many in the room we knew (not many; my total was only three).

An amuse bouche of pork liver mousse with fennel flower and sea salt brought raves from all but one of us who wasn't a liver fan.

Course #1 was head cheese with three sauces from Secco's Tim Bereika, served with Musar "Jeune" 2009 Blanc.

The savory pig head parts mixed with pistachio and fresh parsley found fans of all three sauces, the savory tomato-berbere jam, the watermelon rind mustard and the mayo-like sauce gribiche.

Two of the people at my table didn't think they liked head cheese (we considered banishing them), only to be proven wrong upon tasting Tim's version.

But we all agreed that we were off to a fine porcine start.

Enoteca's Lee Baedke prepared the second dish, squid-stuffed with ground pork shoulder with garlic, oregano, Pecorino Romano, tomato and Pancetta.

His girlfriend was at our table and told us about how she'd helped stuff the squid (she had a tendency to over-stuff according to her beloved), but we didn't let that influence us.

It was beautifully done and well paired with Bisson 2009 Bianchetta Genovese.

The next course came from The Roosevelt's Lee Gregory, so naturally it had a Southern twist.

It consisted of a roasted scallop, braised pig tails, a lima bean succotash that had the whole table enthralled and pork jus, served with Naranjuez 2009 Sauvignon Blanc (reeking of cat piss and pleasing some of the wine geeks at the table no end).

Lee told us that he'd  paired the scallop with the tails, "So hopefully we can slow your heart down a little." Goodness knows we needed it at that point.

After four wine courses, my table mates and I were as good as old friends. We heard boyfriend/husband stories, we shared first date stories and everyone knew who had power and who didn't.

Jason Alley of Comfort (and the soon-to-come Pasture) did a deconstructed pig's foot Wellington with a mushroom mousse and white toast.

We enjoyed that with a Chapelle des Bois 2009 Fleurie, as young tasting as a Beaujolais and just perfect with Jason's dish.

This wine was a big hit at our table, but maybe we were just ready for a red.

We switched to pink for the next course by Michael Braune of Secco, specifically the Cuilleron 2010 "Sybel" Rose de Syrah.

Michael's course was a braised pork belly complemented by a host of local veggies, including squash, leeks (okay, so they weren't local), padron pepper tapenade, fresh oregano and yellow tomato sauce.

Now that pork belly is everywhere, I have tasted differences in quality, but this one was outstanding.

The pig was sourced from Babes in the Woods, a Dillwyn farm that allows their pigs free range to forage for nuts and berries, giving the pigs a rich flavor.

Pork belly and pink wine pretty much finished us off. We were full by that time.

Not too full to talk, of course, or crack ourselves up (server Matt said, "I knew this table would be trouble") and knowing that dessert was next, we began a discussion of dessert versus additional wine and who had a preference for what.

I like to think that I'm entitled to both, but perhaps that's delusion on my part.

And while not delusional, there was definitely an oblivious quality to the people who continued to come through Secco's front door despite a bright green sign saying they were closed for a private event.

Some stood there like deer  in headlights, some were informed by our table of their error and, when we were mid-story or laughing raucously, some had to be escorted out by staff.

At long last we reached the final course, which was both sweet and savory and created by Rachel DiSylvester of Secco.

Her pork rind biscuit with black raspberry compote had whipped honey and crystallized ginger for a finale (Julia: "Finale,not dessert") lifted from a 70s cookbook.

It was divine, especially with La Stoppa 2009 Malvasia Dolce, slightly sweet and lightly sparkling, the ideal wine for a pork rind biscuit, should I ever be lucky enough to have another.

And if not, I can grow old and become one of those people who sits around and talks about the glory days, back when I ate six courses of pig and lived to tell about it.

Assuming, of course, that my heart doesn't shut down trying to process so much pig tonight.

In which case, I'll just be part of the legend of the "V" table.

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