Sunday, March 11, 2018

Goin' Down, Down, Down

The basement called with Bordeaux.

As many times as I've been to Bistro Bobette, I'd never been to their subterranean event space, so getting an email about their French wine dinner meant they were all but putting me on notice to correct that wrong. That I knew Pru and Beau would jump on board with me only hastened my acceptance.

Arriving before they did, the server at Bobette greeted me by saying, "One for dinner?" This might not sound extraordinary to you, but as someone who resents being asked, "Just one tonight?" when I arrive solo, it was a welcome kindness. I am more than just one.

He showed me how to get downstairs and a gaggle of women followed me into the elevator. Like me, they'd never been to one of Bobette's basement wine dinners, but unlike me, they said they buy most of their wine at Costco.

Luckily, vintage soul music was playing on the sound system loudly enough to drown out most of the rest of their conversation as I found a seat several chairs away.

It wasn't long before Pru and Beau arrived and we were introduced to Jules, a stylish Frenchman working in Chicago for the wine distributor. Jules had a lovely accent, red socks and the most un-French peccadillo imaginable: he didn't like cheese.

I mean, I don't want to say we judged him for his failure lacking, but how does he keep his French card if he doesn't like fromage? Quelle horreur!

We had no choice but to overlook that since he'd brought such wonderful (and well-priced) wines to share with the long table of wine lovers tonight. To my right was the wine rep from the local distributor, a young NOVA escapee, and he provided delightful color to the conversation, not to mention a whole lot of Snapchatting.

First wine out of the gate was a white Bordeaux, Chateau la Freynelle, and given Pru's love of Sauvignon Blanc, Beau and I both knew he'd be taking some of that home with them. Paired with it were shrimp and soba noodles in an Asian dressing, a lovely complement to the balanced wine with the juicy finish.

Between courses, we discussed how both Beau and Pru had forgotten about tonight's dinner, despite having made the reservation only days ago. When Pru and I were messaging earlier this afternoon, I mentioned seeing her in a few hours and that was her first inkling that tonight was the night. Beau, meanwhile, had made plans with his oldest friend, completely oblivious to the reservation he'd made.

Clearly it's my job to remind everyone what plans they agree to with me. Just call me your private social secretary. Oh, and if you do, I want a raise.

Our next course featured Chateau Haut Colombier, a blend with 90% Merlot which Jules promised us was "well-balanced, not big," a solid assessment. We sipped it with plates of stuffed baby veggies, miniature foods that warmed the cockles of Pru's hors d'oeuvres-driven heart. It was the kind of thing I'd love to see (as would vegetarians, I'm sure) on a restaurant's regular menu for the sheer variety of flavor profiles on one plate.

The foursome next to us, two couples, were the first to decide that they needed a bottle of wine to tide them over between courses and a bottle of that Merlot soon showed up. The three of us looked at each other and Beau wasted no time in ordering us a bottle of the white Bordeaux to sip in the interim.

At one point, our server came by - we've known each other since his days at La Parisienne - to refill water glasses, pointing to my metal straw and grinning. "You still have your straw," he said.  Using the white paper over the tablecloth, I drew a quick sketch of a sea turtle with a plastic straw up his nose for reference in case anyone wondered why I never leave home without my straw.

Not to sound too groovy '70s, but I want to be part of the solution, not the problem.

By then, the quartet next to us was feeling their Merlot - they were already tilting to the obnoxious side before that bottle was ever opened - so we focused our attention in the other direction, chatting with young Ryan about his time in Richmond and why Charlottesville had been too small town for him.

"You walk down the Mall and everyone knows everyone's business," he said with a shudder.

Because Chateau du Caillau was 100% Malbec, it led to a lively discussion of how most people's opinions of Malbec are based on South American makers and not more the more round and mellow French expression of the grape. Pru still took issue with its mature tanins, but it made for a fine pairing with bistro steak with bleu cheese sauce and whipped potatoes.

One of the funnier moments happened when Beau screwed up his visage and announced, "That's my Dr. Evil face!" Raising an eyebrow, Pru asked, "You have a Dr. Evil face?" in a tone that said she clearly didn't think he could pull it off.

That was the end of Dr. Evil.

During a lull in the chatter, I shared that I'd gotten asked out and Beau's first question wasn't whether I'd said yes or who'd asked, but whether or not that meant the blog would go live again. That's what friends are for, right? To make sure I'm documenting their lives any time I'm with them.

Besides, I didn't say I was going, I said I was asked.

Glancing at the menu, Beau wrinkled his nose when he saw that the next wine was a Sauternes, saying he was no fan. I politely reminded him that he should taste the pairing before pronouncing judgement on the wine while Pru, a devoted Sauternes lover, rolled her eyes.

It was about then that we noticed that not only had the music faded to nothingness, but the inebriation level in the room had risen so that it sounded like a party and poor Jules had to fight to get everyone's attention to brag about his wines.

Which is just what he wanted to do about the Chateau Laribotte Sauternes, reminding the boisterous crowd that, "It's always a great year for Sauternes" before leaving us to the sublime pairing with orange blossom sabayon adorned with bits of fruit.

Looking across the table what seemed like moments longer, I noticed that Beau, the Sauternes hater, had drained his glass. Looking sheepish, he admitted that his perception of Sauternes was that of cloying sweetness and that perhaps he'd spoken too soon. Again.

Pru's eyes did a lot of rolling tonight. Beau did a lot of wine ordering tonight. A Frenchman who doesn't like cheese did a lot of explaining tonight. Me, I had some very interesting conversations. Just don't get me started on what.

I believe the rule is that what happens in the basement stays in the basement.

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