Last night, I had the great fortune to be invited to speak at Tony’s in Houston, the namesake and flagship restaurant of my good friend and client Tony Vallone.
He had billed the event as the “dinner of dinners” for 2012 and he didn’t disappoint.
After the welcome wine, we paired 2001 Barolo by Bartolo Mascarello with Alba truffles over tagliarini, my first truffles in this year of drought-impacted foraging.
The 2001 Bartolo Mascarello is simply one of the greatest wines I’ve ever tasted and has many, many brilliant years ahead of it. It had been opened a few hours prior and while it wasn’t entirely generous with its fruit, its elegance and balance are unrivaled.
But the wine that really wowed me was the 1998 Brunello di Montalcino by Poggio di Sotto. I’d been very lucky to taste this wine many times in the past and I was surprised when I saw Antonio Galloni’s tasting note in which he advised that it was in decline. (Antonio’s my favorite Italian wine writer, btw, and while his word is not sacrosanct, I do find his palate to align nearly perfectly with mine when it comes to traditional-style wines.)
This wine had what the Italians call grinta, real grit and spunk… Beautiful acidity and the vibrant dark fruit that you expect from classic expressions of the Castelnuovo dell’Abate subzone of Montalcino.
Tony and his general manager Scott Sulma paired with this medley of guinea hen and Taleggio-stuffed tortellini in brodo.
And wow, I just feel like I need to add a chorus of dayenu as I recount this epic meal. As if the previous two dishes weren’t enough to make his guests swoon, Tony thrilled the room (which reacted with a unanimous gasp as the beef enter the room) with a platter of nearly two-month-aged prime rib.
Dessert — sweet zeppoli stuffed with torchon de foie gras (how’s that for fusion!) paired with 1990 Recioto della Valpolicella by Quintarelli…
I like to joke that Tony’s is an oil moguls commissary. On any given night, you’ll a handful of billionaires in his restaurant — at the very least.
How I ever found my way to a seat at that table, I still don’t really know.
As I sit this afternoon, on the outskirts of Houston in a Starbucks using the free wi-fi and listening to Christmas music as I type and type and type at the keyboard for my clients, I can’t help but take a deep breath and contemplate the extraordinary counterpoints of life.
It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
How I ever got here, I’ll never really know. But I sure am thankful for the many gifts life has given me…