Thursday, January 31, 2019

Around the World and I, I, I

Italy and the promise of spring and true love all together should suffice to make the gloomiest person happy. 
~ with apologies to Bertrand Russell

Maybe it was all the talk about Italy at my Dad's birthday party. Maybe it was as simple as wanting a well-paired meal on a chilly night.

And while neither of us was particularly gloomy (if you don't count the cold weather), Acacia's mini- Italian wine dinner seemed like just the thing on a Wednesday evening.

But only after Mr. Wright had again dazzled me with another heretofore unknown skill set, this time, yo-yo tricks.

Handing him the WVCW yo-yo I'd gotten at yesterday's rooftop Beatles serenade, he proceeded to do things with it that I'd never seen before. My only complaint was that this was a 21st century yo-yo chosen by a college radio staff, so it lit up red and flashing with each movement. Because apparently, a time-tested toy like the yo-yo needed to have more bells and whistles in order to hold a millennial's attention.

Don't get me started.

And while he couldn't demonstrate an Around the World - my small living room couldn't accommodate the arc - it was no problem to show me a Forward Toss, Rock the Baby or Walk the Dog. Multiple times, I might add, because I laughed so hard the first time.

Of all the ways you expect a man to court you, this one was new to me.

Wine dinners, on the other hand, I could do with my eyes closed, although why would I want to when I had such fabulous company and such artfully appetizing food?

We joined a lively dining room full of other wine dinner devotees, a lot of them couples like us, although history has proven that we generally outlast the masses. And we did.

As I'd hoped, it took only the first bite of a stellar first course salad of arugula, thinly sliced pear and prosciutto in a honey-pecan vinaigrette and paired with a light, lemony Alcesti Zibibbo from Sicily to feel transported to warmer climes and outdoor afternoon sipping.

Or perhaps that's just first course wishful thinking.

Our plates and glasses had barely been cleared when an older couple sitting behind me finished dinner and got up to leave. Neither looked especially happy or even a tad loopy, but what amazed me was that they could possibly be finished already. All I could think of was that they'd arrived the moment Acacia opened and bolted their food, but Mr. Wright clarified the situation because they'd been in his full view.

Apparently they'd endured the entire meal in silence, stoically eating but without talking. Is it unkind of me to say kill me now if I ever get to the point that I can sit through a four course meal with wine without some lively conversation?

Don't answer that.

Next up was deep purple beet ravioli stuffed with scallop mousse, which needed a more assertive wine, and Casale del Griglio Bellone Bianco had just the right kind of roundness, plus a long finish, to stand up to the depth of flavor in the ravioli. That it was from Rome, according to our soft-spoken wine rep, only added to its charms.

Can't say I recall the last time I drank wine from the eternal city.

We used the leisurely pacing of the meal - something I adore about Acacia's wine dinners - to discuss next year's winter vacation and where it should be. Me, I'm always going to vote for a beach, but at the very least, Mr. Wright and I concur on temperature. Minimal clothing and constantly open windows, that's our mantra.

As a long-time fan of the Nebbiolo grape, I couldn't have been happier to be poured Eredi Lodali Bric Sant'Ambrogio Nebbiolo d'Alba, with its delicately floral nose and full mouthfeel. An ideal wine for a ridiculously cold night.

The chef had outdone himself pairing it with a rich Parmesan-crusted flounder in a lemon caper sauce - Mr. Wright claimed that the look on my face after my first bite was akin to rapturous - and made even more indulgent by being served over saffron risotto with a flurry of crispy leeks sprinkled everywhere.

We decided (okay, this chocolate-lover made a case for) on ending our meal with date cake drizzled with balsamic caramel and - wait for it - brown butter Guinness ice cream riding shotgun. Partly it was a nod to the Italian meal - the only chocolate I had during two weeks in Italy was the bits of it in stracciatella gelato - and partly it was how wildly appealing that combination sounded.

Nailed it, and Nebbiolo didn't hurt any, either.

Much as I swooned over the understated richness of the cake under the downright obscene caramel, it was the softening gelato mixed with the rest that spoke loudest to me. Like a childhood memory, it called to mind ice cream cake rolls where the ice cream almost becomes part of the cake, infusing it with additional flavor.

Or maybe that's just the multiple Italian wines talking.

Like the Spanish, we're devoted practitioners of sobremesa, so we lingered at the table talking until it became clear that closing time was nigh.

When we left, our bellies were full of Italian food and wine, spring was a few hours closer and we were the least gloomy couple you could meet. As that sage Sheryl Crow sings, "If it makes you happy, it can't be that bad."

If it makes you happy, it can also be incredibly good. Haven't you heard? Dates are the new chocolate.

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