Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Broad Street al Fresco

I'm not ashamed to say that I got adopted at a tasting.

It had been months since I'd last gone to one of the Empress's Tuesday tastings and I definitely picked the right one to climb back on board.

Given the recent weeks' heat and humidity, the Empress had put their tastings on hiatus.

With today's beautiful weather, they'd bought red umbrellas, set out the blue glasses and opened up their new patio to the tasting crowd.

I arrived to a mostly full patio, but stopped to chat with Chef Carly before choosing a two-top and only occupying one seat.

Did you really think I could scrounge up a date?
Well, I hope you'd give me first shot.
Why? You're taken!
Yea, but I have a car and I still drive by the lots.

But I was lucky; before the tasting even got underway, the three women at the next table kindly invited me to join them for the evening's entertainment.

I'd heard one of them mention a beagle, so I knew they couldn't be all bad.

Like the other Tuesday tastings I'd attended at the Empress, this one showcased stellar wines and the most interesting food with a ridiculous price tag of $20.

We started with 2008 Inspiracion Pampano Rueda, a blend of Verdedjo and Viura paired with  a golden honeydew and white peach gazpacho.

The wine's acidity was pucker-worthy until we tasted it after the soup, at which point all the sharp edges smoothed out.

The ginger notes in the lovely gazpacho echoed the same in the wine.

Enjoying our first course, it was hard not to appreciate the lovely evening and the light breeze as we savored our food and wine al fresco.

My new friends were far from all bad; in fact, they were all theater people so I'd seen a lot of the productions they'd worked on.

I could actually participate in the conversation about recent plays. Score!

Our next course involved Martin Codax 2010 Albarino Rias Baixas, a peachy and citrusy wine that paired beautifully with a scallop ceviche with pear chips.

Stop the world, everybody needs to taste pear chips before they die.

Midway through our meal, one of the group asked me flat out if I was "I could go on and on."  A second woman seconded her thought.

How does this happen? How do people know? I never cease to be amazed when this happens.

We got a big buildup from owner Melissa about the next wine, a 2008 Las Rocas Garnacha, for its gorgeous nose and sumptuous long finish.

Melissa didn't lie. This wine did not even need food to appreciate how well crafted it was, but a dish of pink peppercorn and Thai basil frozen cream with raspberry coulis elicited sounds of satisfaction from the entire table.

While the concept of a savory ice cream may not be everyone's expectation for a pre-meat course, this combination of pepper and basil was to die for.

Several people asked the chef when this creamy delight would appear on the menu, but an answer wasn't immediately forthcoming.

And it was as pretty as it was delicious.

Our final wine course was the older woman to the previous wine's pretty young thing.

The 2008 Las Rocas Vinas Viejas Garnacha came from 80-year old vines versus 30-year old vines.

And while the last one had been wonderful, this one had a depth and structure that told you it had been around long enough to get the hang of things.

It was downright elegant.

Carly paired it with smoked filet Mignon with roasted cherries which matched the cherry flavor in the wine note for note.

As we savored our last course, the conversation turned to dating, ineffectual co-workers and the trials and tribulations of excessive use of Foursquare.

Not an issue for me. I will never be mayor of anywhere.

I found a kindred wine soul in one of the women (who runs 17 miles a day) who happily agreed to share a glass of the final magnificent wine with me.

It was impossible to let something so good go by at that point in the evening. Chances are, that's not a wine they'll be pouring again by the glass.

So we sat on the patio as it gradually cleared out, chatting and sipping as the traffic on Broad Street lessened.

If you're going to be adopted, expressive, hand-gesturing, well-spoken theater types are the way to go.

I may never be an actress, but I hope I have enough depth and structure and that I've been around long enough that I can stand in as one of their friends.

Actually, I'm shooting for downright elegant.

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