Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Hitting My Sweet Spot
Okay so those of you that have been reading this silly blog for any length of time are fully aware of my somewhat odd aversion to almost everything sweet. I drown my fruit in lemon juice and salt, I avoid dessert and dessert wines like I owe them money and I am one of those freaks that has absolutely zero love for chocolate. I was once kind of challenged by a friend’s wife when I mentioned that I hated chocolate. She seemed perplexed and even more so when I mentioned that maybe once or twice a year I would get a craving for peanut butter and chocolate ice cream….something I threw out in order to keep from looking like a total freak. “But chocolate tastes its best at palate temperature. When it melts in your mouth” she explained and as I sat there trying not to look like an ass I thought, “Exactly. It gets more intense, creamier and in my opinion more flaccid when it’s warm which is why the only way I can and do crave it is in its chilled and rigid form” it’s not that I don’t get it, I just don’t like it…flaccid and palate coating sweetness just doesn’t do for me.
I prefer Madeira to port and cream sherry, finding that bit of savory almost beef broth like and citrus thing in a Bual Madeira far more enticing and craveable than berries, cassis and caramel. I will happily trade you my dessert for your cheese plate, I find many new world wines a little too sweet upfront (Charlie, I said many and that in no way implies all) and the only cookie I really dug as a kid was Gingersnaps…but with a little pile of sharp cheddar cheese to wash down each bite. Just a freaky quirk I’ve had for I don’t know….the past thirty something years. That being said I am a wine buyer and wine specialist so there are times when I do have to suck up my preferences, like when I was taken to Spain with a group to learn about and taste (like a million) Sherries and where each estate fed us not one but two desserts at each meal….dude, you would think I was working the New York Stock Exchange with the amount of trading I did there. But like I said, I have to forget for a moment what I like personally to taste things I’m either presented to bring in the shop or to educate myself on the things we already have. Part of the job and it’s not like I have to drink them.
This past Saturday night found the husband and I invited to a dinner party at the home of a couple that we have hung out with, casually, a couple times and enjoyed so much that we didn't think twice about accepting the invitation from. I somehow knew their home would be one of those magazine ones in all its perfectness. I'm cool with that and I rather like feeling the extra heavy clunk of my uncivilized heels as I walk, invited, though a home like that. I was looking forward to it the entire afternoon at work but there was one itchy bit that made me slightly uncomfortable....I had offered to pick the wines for dinner.
Normally this would be a non issue. I'm not so much with the cocky but I am pretty confident when it comes to food and wine pairings, thing was, I only had a rough draft of the menu, which in of itself can be unnerving but there was to be not one, but two guys at this dinner party that have been deeply immersed in the studying for and taking of sommelier exams. Fuck. Me. This is not the same as just picking wines for dinner, even my own dinner. Picking wines, to pair with food, for these guys that have had their noses, brain and palates so twisted around the studying of wine, as a supposed wine specialist?! Yeah, unnerving doesn't even begin to cover it. Saturday morning I walked the aisles of the shop for thirty minutes before we opened. Just quietly walked through the rows, my eyes falling upon this bottle and that, stopping when I wanted to consider or hover over a wine just a little longer. I ran flavor profiles through my aging mental Rolodex and quicker than I thought, I had wines chilling in the back fridge.
I was all set and feeling mildly smug until I thought of the one course I had offered to bring, the cheese course. Dammit. Again this would be, in any other situation, an easy one for me. Cheese is my longest passion and wine and cheese is easy when I get to pick and don't have to try and beat the fuck out of a round peg and try to cram it into a preconceived square hole. There were no rules or boundaries to my course and selections and that kind of freedom, for the well learned and recently saturated palate...too much freedom and too many thrilling options as it turns out. Grabbed a luxuriously gooey round of La Tur, (Italian cow, sheep and goat milk blend), Fiscalini Cheddar, (rocking domestic cow's milk cheddar that makes me swoon) Pilota, (with all its sexy, salty, creamy sheep's milk salinity) and St Agur, (quite frankly the best blue cheese, ever) shoved them into the fridge with the preselected dinner wines but now, what wine...of all the hundreds we have to offer, to serve with cheese? Or, did we need wine at all?
It was while running cheeses to my son to prepare for the store's Saturday tasting that I stopped in the liquor department and remembered a wicked cool, sweet but hauntingly seductive liqueur...
My first encounter with the thick, luscious and shiver inducing liquid rattled me. Shook my bones, the Louis Roque Liqueur de Chataigne, (Chestnut Liqueur, $25.99) stunned me with it complexity and shook my....well all my bits. There was something so alluring about the aromas.....sure there was clearly a nutty thing but it wasn’t the dominate aroma. The nose was loaded with wild honey, cinnamon, clove and allspice, reminded me of the incense my stoner friends would burn as to not alert their parents they were smoking pot…wicked smart those stoners. I remembered taking the glass to my lips and recalled finding myself a little impatient with the speed at which the thickish stuff moved up the glass and into my mouth but fuck, once it got there all was forgiven. No doubt the stuff is sweet but just for a brief second really as all that clove, sandalwood, cinnamon and allspice, this massive middle of warm cooking spice becomes not only the middle of the liqueur but the center of attention, you can feel it coating the inside of your mouth and creeping up into the nasal passages. Never had a wine or spirit do that, not so intensely anyway and to call the finish haunting is an almost criminal understatement. As unique, alluring and sexy liqueur as I have ever had the pleasure to taste. Sort of sick actually...and just what I needed.
Left the party with every bottle, including the rare liqueur, emptied. Felt kind of successful and stuff.