Georgia P wore her new flower-power headband for her first Valentine’s Day at Jaynes Gastropub last night in San Diego.
Seven-and-a-half-month-old Romy, Jayne and Jon’s daughter, showed her the ropes of her new favorite restaurant.
How adorable is that?
Mommies and daddies enjoyed a SUPERB bottle of 2008 Volnay 1er Cru Caillerets by Pousse d’Or (Landanger), still very tight, but rich with savory and fruit flavor and bright, bright acidity, delicious with the bacon-wrapped filet mignon.
The rain just didn’t want to stop falling as Étienne, John, and I made our way from Austin to Dallas yesterday for business meetings and a tasting of Étienne’s family’s wines. My friends and family know that I am a very cautious, prudent driver, even to the point that some will tease me. It was one of those bad Texas rain storms, a “white-knuckle” tempest as some would say, and so I maintained a pretty steady 60 mph as we headed north on I-35. It wasn’t long after my habitual pit-stop at Italy, Texas, about 30 minutes outside of Dallas, that a gold Mercedes spun out of control about 150 yards ahead of us, bouncing off the median divider and sliding lengthwise across the highway directly in our path. I swear, and John, who was in the front passenger seat, told me that he had the same experience: everything seemed to appear in slow motion, despite the celerity with which events unfolded. I didn’t want to break too hard because the road was wet. We were in the middle of three lanes. My instinct told me to swerve right to avoid the oncoming car but I glanced in my right-side mirror and saw there was an 18-wheeler behind me in the far-right lane. It seemed that we were going to collide with the Mercedes head-on.
In that moment, I thought I was going to die.
But then a miracle happened: the Mercedes seemed to bounce off of the front bumper of my Hyundai, like a billiard ball, and it kept moving, colliding with the truck that had passed me on the right. It then flew back across the freeway in front of us and finally stopped moving when it hit the median divider. By this point, I had managed to stop my car.
We were lucky to be alive. The driver of the Mercedes was alive and conscious and the emergency team arrived swiftly and took him away.
The right side of my bumper had been dislodged but a tap put it back into place. There’s barely a scratch on my car. A miracle.
Beyond the adrenaline rush, Étienne, John, and I were 100% fine.
Later, that night, following long meetings and a tasting, Alfonso hosted us all for dinner at his house. We paired his chipotle-chili-marinated, grill-fired pork and baked potatoes with the Étienne’s Domaine de Montille 2006 Volnay 1er cru Les Mitans and a Produttori del Barbaresco 2001 Barbaresco Pora. Étienne told me with a big smile, “you can write on your blog that I love Barbaresco!”
We were lucky to be alive.
We got back to our hotel around 10 p.m. and retired and I was finally able to call Tracie B, who shared the wonderful news that her childhood friend Jennifer had posted our engagement photos onher blog. (Click the photo above to see them all, if you like.)
I don’t know that everything happens for a reason, and even though I believe in God, I’m not sure there is a divine plan. I do know that I love Tracie B with all my heart and all my soul and the joy that she has brought into my life is the greatest miracle anyone could wish for. To imagine my life without her is to imagine a life without meaning, direction, or purpose. I can’t say that “my life passed before my eyes” in the moment of the crash. All I could think about was how I’ve finally arrived at this moment after a life that has certainly been interesting but never entirely fulfilled: I have the love of the sweetest, most beautiful woman I’ve ever known, I have my health and my mind, both of our families are with us and healthy and soon will share the joy of our union. And there was even one of Tracie B’s savory oatmeal cookies left in my wine bag for breakfast this morning…
Above: La Tour d’Argent’s signature dish, duck breast in civet. The duck bones are crushed in a press and their juices are used to make a civet (sauce). Civet is an ancient recipe. In my translation of the 15th-century Ars Culinaria by Maestro Martino (UC Press, 2005), you’ll find an excellent recipe for venison civet, for example.
In all honesty, I’m a little embarrassed by the extravagance of a lunch Tracie B and I enjoyed in Paris a few weeks ago while we were in town for the NN+ tourette France 2009.
Above: We drank a 1991 Volnay Les Champans 1er Cru with the main course. Lunch wasn’t cheap but the list was jam-packed with very reasonably priced “outer borough” Burgundy. I was looking at 1989 Marsannay but the excellent sommelier pointed out that 1991 is drinking better in general and that Marsannay would have been too tannic with our duck. His choice was superb and he kept me well under my price point. Note the dust on the bottle: this is a sign that it has been well cellared in situ and has rested peacefully. (Check out Eric’s cool article on “Those Other Burgundies.”)
Especially in these tough times (and believe me, I am so relieved and fortunate to be busy with work these days, when so many of my peers are having trouble), I couldn’t help but be more than a little self-conscious.
Above: Watching the wine service at La Tour was a thrill. Our sommelier was so friendly and helpful. Frankly, it’s intimidating to approach a wine list like that (check out this pic that Tracie B snapped of me). I knew that I wanted to drink old Burgundy and I told our steward my price point, my preference in style (traditional), and we discussed our menu. The 91 Volnay was fantastic and you’d be surprised at how little I paid for it: because La Tour buys so much wine on release, the prices are actually surprisingly affordable (as long as you stay clear of the heavy hitters).
But, hey, you only live twice: I can’t imagine that Tracie B and I will be back in Paris any time soon and a lunch like this is something you do once in your life (And since we were on tour, we ate mostly ham sandwiches while we were there! And so this was our one extravagant repast. Believe it or not, I actually lost weight.)
Above: For every course, the mise en place was a work of art. I loved how they trimmed the lettuce leaves to match the size of these delicately sliced, raw scallops. We paired this first course with a 4-year-old Savennières.
I’ve read a lot of food and wine bloggers talking about how they are cutting back on and reeling in their wine budgets, these days (and so are we here in Austin). That’s perfectly understandable as well as indispensable in this new “age of responsibility.”
Above: A picture really isn’t worth a thousand stinky flavors and aromas! The cheese course was phenomenal. We paired with an equally stinky vin jaune.
But it is equally important to go out and spend money on wine and in restaurants and support local businesses and merchants. Remember: every time you buy a bottle of wine (even if you’re spending less on wine these days), you are supporting a whole chain of people in the industry — producer, importer, broker/vendor, distributor, and restaurateur/retailer (including the shippers, drivers, delivery people, etc.).
Not that La Tour d’Argent needs any help from me and Tracie B: a pair of bankers sitting next to us ordered two bottles of old Mersault and I can only imagine what they paid (probably in the thousands, gauging from my perusal of the list).
Above: I have no idea what we ate for dessert but it was delicious.
Lunch is certainly more affordable at La Tour than dinner and Tracie B and I stuck to the fixed price menu. You would be surprised at how little we actually spent, considering the venue.
All I can say is that the experience was worth every penny. Tracie B was simply stunning that day, the sunlight reflecting off the Seine and giving her a glow that I will never forget as long as I live.