When dining out at a Japanese/Sushi restaurant, ordering “Omakase” is the way to get the best experience possible: entrust yourself to the Chef. Put yourself at the Chef’s mercy, and the results will be a culinary epiphany that will enrich your life. It is very likely that you will try something you have never had before, ingredients and/or combinations thereof. Unfortunately, applying this technique to other styles of cuisine is not as reliable, despite the trend of most high-end restaurants inviting this option with degustation menus. While many mistakes can be made with the food itself in these tasting menus, there is no mistake more common or egregious than the epic epicurian failure of poor wine pairings. I’m not going to single out a particular restaurant or particular degustation/wine-pairing menu therefrom, because I don’t want to get sued; I will instead presume the guilt of all restaurants with such menus, and make this desperate plea to their sommeliers: STOP PAIRING SWEET ALSATIONS WITH ASIAN FOOD — FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. Whoever started this trend should be impaled on a giant satay skewer and waterboarded in a vat of Trockenbeerenauslese. What grows together goes together, and you can’t get much further apart than Southeast Asia and Northern Europe. The cloying sweetness of tropical and stone-fruit flavors in that late harvest Gewurz doesn’t complement the heat of that Thai curry at all; it clashes like blue and orange, like fire and ice, like Metallica and frickin’ Joan Baez. Just cut it out — seriously — or I’m never setting foot in your restaurant again…yes you.
Stuttgart is an excellent example of a modern city that hasn’t lost its old world charm; it is a clean, efficient city with all the amenities of the present day, yet with character and traditions from ages past prevalent everywhere. One such tradition is a wine known as Trollinger. When my wife and I arrived at Hotel am Schlossgarten, we were greeted with a gift of a bottle of Trollinger. Being a collector of wine who is unafraid of the esoteric and obscure, I found it curious that I had never heard of Trollinger, and inquired of the concierge. He became visibly nervous, stuttering something in a mix of German and English about it being a humble country red wine of limited production, found only in the area of Wurttemburg; he concluded by very distinctly and emphatically observing that “this wine…it is *not* exported”. Folks, there is a reason it is not exported: it is ass. Do not drink this wine. Trollinger is to blame for the fact that I find myself dry-heaving as I write this, and on any occasion when I reminisce about an otherwise delightful vacation. Perhaps some traditions are better left in the past…
Had a couple of friends over for the big game Sunday night. The frozen pizzas were flying out of the oven every 35 – 40 minutes and were piping hot. Given that we were eating Totino’s Sausage and Red Onion, the best pairing I had on hand was the recent release from Mondovi and Rothchildern – 2006. The fresh berries popped out from the small verdot that was so prominent on my pallet. The crowd agreed – so much so that we ran out of the cheese dip and egg rolls much sooner than normal. I can only thank the fresh taste of the supreme Opus for helping wash the feast down.
Of note, the ice helped given how hot the pizza was – this vino truly was heaven in a glass so I have to shout out to my man Rick for the suggestion. (Crushed ice cooled the wine fastest and was like having a wine slushy so after the third bottle we had our system down pat: Every two new pizzas was put down for every one bottle of the wine -great day!)
I’d always wanted to try Chateau D’Yquem, based on all the rave reviews. I had a chance to try a 1999 while dining at Maison de Ble in Lyon. It had an enticing brilliant canary yellow color, and the flavor was an explosion of stone-fruit and honey. I detest stone-fruit. The flustered Sommelier de Ble brought us a bottle with more age on it, but it had clearly gone bad as you can see from the brown color. Disgusting. The bottle broke when we were trying to get the cork back in — no big loss — it’s not like it was drinkable.
The last bottle in the cellar of Il Buco di Monstro, an ancient trattoria in the hills above Verona, and a bargain at €5000. Pétrus’s flavor profile typically features aromas of ripe mulberry, black currant and spicy vanilla oak; in this bottle, the funk of wet animal fur overpowered all else. We left half the bottle for the busboy, and stiffed the waiter.