On a nondescript evening, on a nondescript Saturday, I was touching the necks of every wine bottle that was sticking out of each of the four wooden wine racks I owned. Each hold 44 bottles and the fat Syrah, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir bottles don’t fit. The magnums and doubles lay across the guest bedroom on the floor. I was looking for a specific bottle. I didn’t know which bottle, but one that was above average, not that inexpensive; but more or less impressive. Earlier in the week, A friend of mine, asked myself and another friend if we wanted to come to his place for dinner. He wanted to buy a few truffles and have truffle risotto and Barolo. A classic pairing. He would throw in some Kobe strip steaks as a deal sweetener. All of which, he was purchasing. Of course we were both going to attend, that was a no brainer. When someone offers this kind of meal, you happily oblige, but you also feel obligated to bring something nice. As I checked my collection I settled on a bottle of the 96 point 2004 Vall Llach, from Priorat, Spain. I had been carrying it around for a while and figured it was time. The meal offer came with one catch; that I make the truffle risotto, and we had to cook a piece of fish for my friend’s wife. No big deal.
I arrived at my friends around happy hour. Shortly after, our other friend arrived. At this time, the first surprise was revealed. My host friend slipped into a story about how he bought the truffles off an unassuming, untrained employee at the grocery store, whom didn’t use the proper scale for the truffles. The kid used the normal vegetable scale available for the public’s use, to weigh the truffles. One truffle is so light that it doesn’t even register on this scale. Nor does two, or three. When they laid the fourth truffle on the scale, it jumped to around $12. At $799 per pound, four just slightly smaller than golf ball size truffles for $12 was a major coup. I was expecting only one, maybe two, and was going to just shave the whole thing on top of our risotto as I plated the dishes. Then the parade of wines we each brought to the table made their appearance.
As we are all Champagne lovers, our host felt it necessary to break out of bottle of N/V Krug Champagne. They already knew what I brought as it sat on the table, but then he revealed his Barolo to pair with the truffle risotto, a bottle of 2000 Icardi. I had never had an Icardi anything before and was pretty excited for this. It made my Vall Llach look like a high school driving his father’s BMW to school. It was a nice car, but we know it’s your dads. Then it was our other friend’s turn, who had walked in the house with a small bag in hand only a few minutes prior. The lady of the house was unwrapping cheese and salami in another corner of the kitchen, but loved champagne and good wine as well, she just didn’t geek out like we did. He sat in a stool at the counter top and reached down into his little knapsack and pulled out a bottle of 1994 Dominus from the Napa Valley. I was floored, I was pretty sure this was a 100 point wine. We geeked out for a few minutes as we sipped on our Krug. He wasn’t done. Up next out of the magic bag of bottled grape juice was a bottle I instantly recognized; a bottle of 1988 Chateau Margaux. An average vintage in the region, but who cares. I’ve always had an affinity for the Margaux appellation thanks to my father’s love for it. The lineup was set, but not without a bottle of Vintage of Croft Port from the 90s to finish off the line up. The hardest part was determining the drinking order of the wines book ended but the Krug and Croft.
The night slipped away without the slightest goodbye. Before we knew it, the bottles were empty, our bellies filled with Kobe beef and truffles, and our cheeks were flush with highly rated juice. The caloric intake was not worth trying to count. I had sent a text message to my father at some point during the night with a picture of the Margaux label. I didn’t see his response until I was getting into my car to head home many hours later, too late to respond. The next morning, I was up early with a headache. Sleeping in is not something I am able to do. My father knew that and rang my phone sometime just around 8am. He asked what the picture was for, and I began to tell him about the incredible line up, Kobe steaks, and truffles. He didn’t interrupt me during my marathon description, just a murmur here, and a grumble there. Finally I finished, and all he would say was, “You suck.” It was that moment I had an idea and I asked him to come down to Virginia to visit sans my mother for a boy’s weekend and we could cook and eat like the night I had prior. He agreed, and said, “Tell the boys to show up with the best, and I will cook.” They knew he was a Culinary Institute of America trained chef and were more than excited to impress my father. The stage was set for another throw down a handful of months later.
To Be Continued….