Black-eyed peas and Champagne for New Year’s day

On New Year’s day, Tracie P cooked up some black-eyed peas with the ham bone reserved from the spiral ham Mrs. B had served on Christmas day. Her buttermilk cornbread (baked in her grandmother’s cast-iron skillet) was unbelievably delicious, especially when used to sop up the bean liquor (as it is called in the south, i.e., the beans’s cooking liquid). Neapolitan-style cabbage braised with onions gave the combined flavors just the right twang of sweet and sour.

And the perfect pairing for those creamy beans? Henriot NV Blanc Souverain, 100% Chardonnay. Ubi major, minor cessat: I am always one to agree with Ed McCarthy when notes that Chardonnay finds one of its greatest expressions in Champagne. This wine was an ideal pairing for the flavors of our New Year’s day meal: its acidity and white stone fruit flavors combined with its elegant fizziness were wonderfully refreshing against the richness of the cornbread, the dolce amaro of the cabbage, and the texture of the legumes.

Black-eyed peas for New Year’s is now a three-year-old tradition at our house and de rigueur in the south. I loved Jessica Harris’s NY Times op-ed on its origins as a New Year’s dish.

What did ya’ll eat on New Year’s day?

1970 Latour and Arkansas cornbread

From the “life could be worse” department…

les forts

On what many (myself included) consider one of the greatest recordings of the last century, the great American lyricist Snoop Dogg sanguinely informs the listener: “I, somehow, some way, Keep comin up with funky ass shit like every single day.”

I felt a little like Snoop yesterday: as an average (and frankly gray) workday traveling and hawking wine (the first of the new year) evolved into intriguing flavors and aromas, I couldn’t help but wonder why it is that there always seems to be something interesting to taste around the corner these days.

Yesterday, my friends D’Lynn Proctor (below) and company at Grailey’s, a wonderful not-to-miss tasting room in Dallas, poured me a glass of Latour 1970 Les Forts.

grailey's

A lot of folks like to “taste me” on their old Italian wines, but I rarely get to taste old French wine and I was thrilled to put my nose in this glass. Does anyone remember Baudelaire’s macadam? That’s what this wine smelled like: tar, pitch, goudron, asphalt… I’m not one for blind tasting but this is one of those wines, we all agreed, that you would pick out as Bordeaux from the nose alone. The wine was bright in the mouth, with nervy acidity that took me surprise and a balanced medley of spice and fruit. (Mazel tov, btw, to D’Lynn on his upcoming wedding AND his invitation to take the Master Sommelier’s exam in August!)

And as if a noble wine French wine from 1970 weren’t enough to call it an extraordinarily sensorially satisfying day, the real treat came over dinner in the home of my friend and colleague Sam and his delightful betterhalf Belinda (originally from Arkansas), whose cornbread — there’s no other way to say it — was sinfully good.

arkansas cornbread

Belinda wouldn’t reveal all of the secrets to her magical Arkansas cornbread but she did explain that she makes it by dropping dollops of the cornbread dough (as it were) into a hot iron skillet (greased with cooking oil). She then turns the small loaves and transfers to hot oven. As the loaves settle, they fill out the skillet in a nearly perfectly shaped pattern (making for ideal serving portions).

arkansas cornbread

She then slices each loaf lengthwise and dresses with butter. Crispy on the outside with an ever-softer and moist center as you bite through to the middle.

The best part? Bellinda wrapped up some leftovers for me to much on as I make my way from Dallas to Houston today.

As long as I don’t get stuck in the mire of the macadam, who can say what delights await? Stay tuned…