Monday, March 14, 2016

No Angora Underwear Ever

You go to a wine pairing dinner to learn about new wines, sure, but if you play your cards right, you pick up so much more.

The key is inviting the right crowd to fill out your table and the half dozen friends who joined me for an Italian dinner at Camden's more than qualified, from the humorist wearing a PETA - as in "People Eating Tasty Animals" - t-shirt, to the techie expert on call all night in case of an IT emergency ("I forgot how to Snapchat!"), to the guy who met a first date at Millie's only to discover she smelled like a grandmother (i.e., mothballs and lavender) and talked about her cats all evening.

A perfectly cast evening, in other words.

Early on, a stylish friend right down to her coordinating jewelry looked at me and suggested I remove my blazer to reveal my dress, amending, "Or is part of your ensemble?" Rarely has my attire been so flattered. I could only aspire to ensemble.

Jim Hutton of Vias Imports, a fount of information, was our genial host and took top ensemble honors doing it in his snazzy blue checked blazer, starting us off with Castelvero Cortese, an easy-drinking sipper we slurped happily with chicken liver mousse slathered on toasted bread adorned with red onion and arugula.

The upshot? A fabulous beginning all but guaranteeing that everyone had stinky breath from the get-go.

Naturally given the setting and this crowd, the topic of overindulging came up.

"If I slept with my clothes on, I was probably drunk," Young Blood shares, remembering her first date with her favorite man, a master of the cocktail. Pru recalls waking up with pajamas on and earrings off and no memory of either happening.

Holmes, ever the expert on such things, adds, "You did it yourself. No guy would bother taking off the earrings."

You can't argue with that kind of male logic.

Things started to get rowdy when the Stefanini Selse Soave was poured, as everyone at the table agreed that it was the kind of warm weather sipper that could keep a woman happy all summer. With it, we noshed on marinated white anchovy and roasted red pepper salad, although not everyone was the fan of tiny fish that some of us were.

Appropriately given Saturday night's time change, the subject of variations in sunsets/sunrises in different locales was discussed - how Nova Scotia would prefer not to be on EST given their location, how much later West Coast sunsets are than here and how difficult it would be to deal with Scandanavia's extensive darkness.

Amazingly (or not given the high octane evening) we had enough experts at the table to confirm that Iceland has the highest alcoholism rate and the highest reading rate (no surprise, either one), but somehow got off on a tangent about Icelandic angora sweaters.

"You can never wear Icelandic angora underwear ever," Pru shared with all the  authority of Joan Collins on the subject of wire hangers. "Your parts will be on fire."

Word to the wise there.

Next arrived the ideal Springtime red wine, Fuedo Santa Tresa Cerasuolo di Vittoria, a blend of Nero d'Avola and Frappato that was made for the seared sea scallops swimming in a tomato and olive ragout, a sop-worthy dish of the highest order, especially given the chef's terrific focaccia.

Before each course, Jim gave us the savvy lowdown on the upcoming wine, rife with location and terroir details, grape history and winery specifics, but the moment he finished, it was always Holmes who chimed in with his favorite stat, using his best commercial announcer voice. "And, it's 13.5% alcohol!"

Seared duck breast with toothsome lentils, bitter greens and blackberry jus paired magnificently with Pecchino San Luigi Dogliani and the retelling of the worst first date ever.

Seems her date was so drunk she wound up having to pay for dinner and drive him home, where she discovered he still lived with his Dad, who opened the door. Said date proceeded to give her a consolation prize of a Glamour Shot of himself just as his girlfriend pulls up.

But, wait, here's the kicker: Dad invites her in for a drink with him. We were awestruck. None of us could top this story and we all had far more years of bad dating experience to pull from.

Officially, the meal concluded with Tenuta Pederzana Gibe Lambrusco, because what great Italian party doesn't end with red bubbles?

It was a huge hit with my group as we tucked into cannolis stuffed with chocolate mousse and a puddle of berry compote and bantered about renting a beach house ("You don't have to wear pajamas if you share a bed with me," one friend promised mischievously ) with this crew for the ultimate party week.

We shared more dating horror stories - "I didn't date for three years, then I tried a year of art, yoga and dating. The art went well..." - and far too many bubbles, the time change decidedly working in our favor because none of us were feeling the actual time, despite the reality of early mornings facing us all. Yes, even me.

But, alas, eventually we set glasses aside and our Italian party began breaking up.

And while I can't speak for the other six miscreants, I, for one, did not sleep in my ensemble.

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