Thursday, May 23, 2013

Not Dead Yet

Leave it to a fellow Gemini to give me the best birthday eve celebration ever.

Because, as we all know, the first rule of a birthday eve is to tease the imminent holiday, but not overshadow it with too much celebration, lest it eclipse the main event.

Only a fellow Gemini can walk that fine line.

First she picks me up, tells me how nice I look and then she takes me to Enoteca Sogno.

The restaurant is not too busy, the owner greets us at the door and we decide to sit at the bar when he says he will be our server.

Because we got a late start, we have already missed out on the soft-shelled crab appetizer, but not the other specials.

"We're going to eat until we die," my friend announces, apropos of nothing.

Can do.

There are two Roses on the menu and in appropriate birthday eve-fashion, we ask for one of each.

My favorite is the Argiolas Serra Lori, tasting of berries and herbs, although the other Rose (made from Nebbiolo) is a close second, especially once food arrives.

Friend engages the owner in talk of Italy and it is a discussion that continues unabated throughout the night.

I have made only one visit to Italy, my friend has made two and our host boasts of sixteen, a number we cannot begin to compete with.

He mentions friends about to embark on their first trip to Italy, planning to spend three days each in Florence, Rome and Venice.

I've only been to Italy once and even I know what a bad idea that is.

Three days in Florence?  Three days?

I spent a week and it wasn't close to enough, so how could any human being be satisfied with a mere three days?

Our host seems to think they just want to be able to check off three Italian cities off their bucket list.


But it's not our problem, so we move on to more pressing issues, like food.

She starts with a beet and orange salad while I jump straight to meat with a plate of Olli salumeria, letting the kitchen choose my three varieties.

I end up with three Italians: Toscano (notes of fennel), Napoli (smoked) and Molisano (pepper and garlic), all with just enough fat to make the wine come alive.

As we eat the salami, we hear that Olli is planning to sell their products in B.J.'s and a little piece of our souls die when we hear this.

Really, Olli, the sublime meats to be found in high-end restaurants all over the country is now available in a discount store?

This is not good birthday eve news.

For distraction from this tragedy, the chef comes out and we discuss the Lebanese Food Festival, an event he attended that left him in a food coma.

Now we want our own.

For our next course, she chooses rockfish with a side of asparagus with butter and Parmesan and another of spaghetti while I ask for scallops with a balsamic reduction.

I switch to the other Rose while she continues to sip her first glass, good girl that she is.

My scallops are meaty and sweet, the ideal complement to my Rose.

Even though most of the dinner crowd is leaving, we are soon joined by a group of wine geeks spouting wine talk in that way that makes mere mortals wonder what they're talking about.

On the other hand, they are guys and we are women and they are ordering very nice wines and are soon offering to pour us some of what they're drinking.

My friend demurs while I happily avail myself of their generosity.

2006 Voliero Brunello is the first thing they offer me and the nose alone is worth whatever conversation they want in return.

It has a gorgeous, flowery nose and a long finish and when I am offered a second taste, I happily accept.

Generous wine geeks are the best.

Friend and I were feeling uncomfortably full (possibly near death, the stated goal for the evening) but I reminded her that there's a always a corner for dessert.

Especially on a person's birthday eve.

That came in the form of sea salt and caramel boudino with nut brittle.

As the soon-to-be birthday girl, I was expected to finish more than half, which turned out to be more challenging than you (or I) might think.

But, trooper that I am, I persevered, along with some help from a 2006 Casanova di Neri Brunello, which the wine geeks said would be even more stellar by 2018.

The thing is, birthday eves are all about the here and now, so I had no interest in waiting until 2018 for wine or anything else.

It's enough I have to wait till tomorrow to begin the serious celebration.

Okay, not so serious. I am, after all, a Gemini.

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