Un sabato da leoni (Big Saturday)

Does anyone remember the film Big Wednesday? Arguably, one of the greatest surf movies ever made. In Italian the title was translated as Un mercoledì da leoni, literally, a Wednesday for lions.

This weekend I had a Saturday for lions of sorts: I was invited to take part in a birthday celebration for a friend, an Angeleno wine collector.

Here’s a little photo essay and some notes and highlights: a window into a rarefied world of raw hamachi flown in from Tokyo, served as sashimi and tartare, dressed with colatura di alici (the juice of white anchovy), and paired with R.D. 1975 Dom Perignon and 1982 Krug; Nova Scotia lobster soufflé paired with Grand Cru white Burgundy; and creamy risotto and semolina gnocchi topped with shaved white truffles from Piedmont and old Nebbiolo — 13 dishes in all and a flight of 20 wines.

The celebrant’s mother, who lives in New York, hand-polished the family silver and had it sent it to him for the occasion.

In Los Angeles, it’s even harder than in NYC to get great truffles. These were among the best I’ve ever had, with aromatics comparable to those I’ve eaten in situ. Look at the size of that sucka!

Not every course was as photogenic as the garganelli but each dish (and only one serving was allowed per Bacchanalian) inspired orgasmic oohs and aahs among the all-male crowd. Chef Angelo Auriana’s ragù was ethereal and the pasta sublimely light yet firm and rich (my camera didn’t do justice to its egg-yolk color). But the risotto mantecato alla fonduta di cipolla bianca (onion fondue risotto) topped with shaved white truffles was my personal favorite.

My top wines (but, then again, I’m pretty predictable) were: Krug 1982, Lafon 1989 Mersault-Charmes, Giovannini Moresco 1979 Barbaresco, Robert Arnoux 1993 Romanée-Saint Vivant, Giacosa 1989 Santo Stefano Riserva, Giuseppe Rinaldi 1989 Barolo Riserva (magnum).

Some found this 1979 Barbaresco by Giovannini Moresco tired but I thought it was drinking great. The vineyard where the fruit for this wine was grown now belongs to another winemaker who blends Nebbiolo from this famed growing site with Merlot and Cabernet. Quel dommage! (If you don’t get the joke, click here.) This was the wine that intrigued me the most.

I was blown away by the youth and power of this 1989 Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Riserva. Barbaresco at its best — and this was one of the greatest expressions I’ve ever tasted — combines grace and strength. Diana never pleased her lover more…*

At the end of the night, I felt like Rubens’ Bacchus. It’s kinda like the old joke about the Rabbi, the Priest, and the ham sandwich: the 1992 Krug was one of the greatest wines I’ve ever tasted but I don’t need to drink it — well, at least not every day!

Click the image to read a label on the painting, which resides at the Hermitage. Note the color of the wine — white not red.

* Petrarch, RVF, madrigal 52 (translation by Mark Musa)

Diana never pleased her lover more,
when just by chance all of her naked body
he saw bathing within the chilly waters,

than did the simple mountain shepherdess
please me, the while she bathed the pretty veil
that holds her lovely blonde hair in the breeze.

So that even now in the hot sunlight she makes me
tremble all over with the chill of love.