Monday, August 22, 2016

Moaning and Needing

The young handsome friend put it best: "You had me at Loire."

Admitting that his top three wine regions are Loire, Rhone and Piemonte, he was one of six who said yes to joining me at Camden's for a Loire wine dinner with echoes of my summer vacation there just last month.

Man, a lot's happened since then.

Oysters Chenonceau - fried local oysters over corn cakes with housemade ham and sage aioli - kicked things off with Grenadiere Muuscadet 2014, but in my  mind, I was back at Chenonceau looking out a castle window to see a stand-up paddleboarder working his way down the river toward me.

I was happy to hear Holmes let slip that while combing the stacks of his vinyl collection recently, "Valley of the Dolls" fell out of the stack. That's the kind of unexpected treasure he doesn't want us to know he has, but will no doubt launch our next record-listening party.

The prize for the freshest-tasting course went to Cherrier Menetou Salon paired with house-cured (not smoked) salmon with a killer gremolata that made the wine and fish sing and Gruyere crisps.

For entertainment value between courses and knowing full well I'd shock the table, I shared my day spent deep in the bowels of the West End at Bugstock, leading to a discussion of how un-developed the East End is despite its proximity to downtown.

Holmes knew why. "I tried living in Varina and there was absolutely nothing to do. Nothing," he informed us, although that was 1974, so surely it was even less desirable then. Still, I gave him points for trying to be a pioneer.

The next wine - Pierne Prieur Sancerre Rose - was deemed the holy grail, partially because two of my female friends had never had a Sancerre Rose (Beloved was actually moaning while the Lovely One summed it up with, "I need more Roses like this").

Don't we all?

We lapped it up happily with a charcuterie plate heavy with housemade country pate, local prosciutto, housemade pastrami and pork confit, leading to spirited conversation about mustard's place at the pinnacle of the condiment pyramid. I even overheard whispering about a mustard museum.

The chef instructed our table sotto voice not to eat all our food with the Rose because we were being treated to a bonus secret wine he had received in error from a trip to Chateau de Miniere.

Bulles de Miniere Rouge was a gloriously fruity dry, dark red sparkling wine that immediately enraptured the handsome one, especially with the confit, and turned off Pru who generally loves anything French. Go figure.

Vacations were a big topic between courses, so we heard about an upcoming Las Vegas adventure (Penn & Teller and rock climbing), a Northern Neck getaway to replace one abruptly canceled (two meals already planned) and the trip that had me pea green with envy (not that I wouldn't have loved either of the others as well): four weeks in South Africa over the winter holidays.


Plates of roasted lamb lollipops atop fingerling sweet potatoes (a new obsession for me) with a salty tapenade to complete the sweet/salty dynamic accompanied by St. Nicolas de Bourgueil l'Elegante 2012 and my plate was notable because I had an extra pop to make up for being inadvertently shorted on the charcuterie.

And, really, can a girl ever have too many lamb lollipops?

The wine, made with 25-year old vines, got us reminiscing about how when Beau had joined our group, he'd been a California Cabernet Sauvignon kind of a drinker. "But I learned the error of my ways," he admitted bravely, but with a grin.

Holmes shocked everyone by pulling out his pocket antique collection, namely his flip phone, and sharing that it was a hand-me-down. "Why would anyone give you that phone?" Pru wanted to know, but some questions have no answers.

Others, such as, "Are you buying the Sancerre Rose?" were immediately answered with, "A lot!"

The final course - very French - was a cheese plate with herbed chevre, French 60% cream Brie, housemade farmer's cheese and the ideal sweet note, a housemade almond cookie, With those delights we sipped Domaine du Clos de L'Epinay Sparkling Vouvray, reminding me of several meals that began with these stellar Loire bubbles.

"Brie with wine and figs doesn't suck," the handsome one noted in the evening's funniest understatement.

As usual, some of the best lines of the night came courtesy of Holmes late in the wine drinking meal, as in, "Was Funky Joe ever even in a closet?" I'd like to say I recall the answer, but it may have been swallowed up by the table's laughter.

Which is exactly why I usually have my friends at "wine dinner." Loire was just icing on the cake.

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