Sometimes I go back into the archives and pull up a post to refresh it. Perhaps the hours have changed, they’ve moved, or something else prompted me to tweak the entry. But a lot has happened since I first wrote about Ô Chateau wine tasting programs. First off, since I wrote about them, they’ve moved – twice.
Recently in Wine-ing category
If you’re one of those people who’ve been trying to get one of the coveted places at Hidden Kitchen, the supper club in Paris, liberté and egalité have arrived in the form of a wine bar and restaurant called Verjus.
After running their successful dinners, they’ve decided to take the plunge and create a warm space where they could welcome any and all guests, whether they want a glass of wine in their cave, or a full meal in the upstairs dining room. The restaurant is now open (and it sounds like they have enough stories about the problems they’ve had starting it up to write a book), the wine is flowing in the cave beneath it, and both are wonderful.
When I moved to France, one of the first things a friend said to me was “David, you need to get a good tire-bouchon.” Seeing as an unusually large about of wine bottles were being opened on a regular basis all around me (and seeing the recycling bin on my street was constantly overflowing), it seemed he was right: one does need a decent tire-bouchon (cork-puller) if one is going to live in France.
The problem is that there are a whole bunch to choose from, from super-fancy ones that cost hundreds of euros, to those you simply twist-and-yank, which means that you have to ungracefully put the bottle of wine between your knees and pull with all your might. And for men, a particularly stubborn cork can mean a sudden and swift heel-of-the-hand blow to les bijoux de famille.
I always think that maybe I’m kind of a loser because I don’t go out and eat as much as people think I do. Ever since I left the restaurant business – where I worked every single night of every single weekend of my life, surrounded by other cooks (which probably explains why I am a social misfit when I have to mingle with “normal” people), the idea of calling ahead to reserve a table at a busy place and making plans in advance is still pretty much a foreign concept to me.
After a recent stint making tacos with the crew at Candelaria, I realized that I missed the camaraderie of cranking out food at a rapid pace with other cooks, all working smoothly – with good humor and care, in a hectic environment. Although I have to admit that at my age that I’m not sure how many more of those kind of nights I have left in me. (The two cocktails, one Mexican beer, and two Mezcal shots probably didn’t help either.)
Some time last year, I pretty much stopped buying red wine. France was always la France, feminine, and I find white wines much more nuanced and interesting, like women. Whereas (depending upon where you live) men are tough and brutal. And in my own special way of reasoning the unreasonable, the longer I lived here the more I found myself gravitating toward the lighter, cleaner flavors of the vins blancs of la France. I also realized that I felt better when I woke up the next day if I stuck to whites. And since I have to wake at least once a day, that’s a reasonable consideration.
There’s the old adage about “if it grows together it goes together” and keeping in line with the French concept of terroir (roughly: shared territory), something like a Selles-sur-Cher, a tangy, yet delicate goat cheese from the Loire goes quite nicely with brisk Sancerre, Muscadet, or a Sauvignon blanc. Which, by no coincidence, come from the same region. Slightly pungent Langres from Burgundy partners well with bracing Chablis or unoaked French chardonnay. The milky-creamy cheese is rich enough; no need to blast your palate with a full-on red. (Although I’m wondering if my argument reached its first hole since some people are more concerned with the wine rather than the cheese. So I guess I’m not one of them.)
After my recent lament about the state of bistros in Paris, where I noted that the wine bars in Paris often had the best food, when my friend Rochelle who owns Chefwear was in town this week, I wanted to go somewhere casual, where we’d be assured of good, honest food.
So we agreed to meet at Le Garde Robe, one of my favorite wine bars in Paris, which serves mostly natural wines. Another plus are the charcuterie and cheeses they serve by the plate (€12 for a platter of each, or you can get one mixed), which make a great accompaniment to the wines. Each wooden board arrives in front of you resplendent, and is a great way to sample some of the top-quality meats and fromages from France, and beyond.
Another thing about Le Garde Robe is that the fun spills into the street. I’ve spent a few late evenings perched on a stool outside with friends, laughing and drinking until way past my bedtime. And the staff often becomes ‘creative’ when using parked cars and trucks to help them out. (Can you imagine the driver’s reaction in America if they came out and saw a board leaning against their car?)
They say that you know you’re holding a glass of wine from Cahors if you can’t see your fingers on the other side of the glass through the wine. Which is why the malbec wine from Cahors is nicknamed “black wine”.
Peer into a glass of it, and it’s easy to see (or should I say ‘not see’) why.
I didn’t know much about the wine, or the region, before my recent visit. I just knew there were allegedly a lot of truffles, foie gras, and duck dishes cooked up in the Lot. So when I was asked by some folks who were shooting a film about the regional specialties if I wanted to tag along with them, I happily accepted.
(In addition to shooting the grapes, and getting a truffle or two ready for its close up, we made a video of me, too. Which, if I don’t come off as too much of a dork, you’ll see on the site when it’s finished.)
When folks ask me what the French do for Thanksgiving, I don’t think the word they’re expecting to hear are “Um, nothing.” And why should they? It’s not as though America shuts down for le 14 juillet.
Still, a few places around here do get into the spirit and you’ll see a few bags of cranberries at the market, a few more sweet potatoes piled up, and smart volaillers stocking whole turkeys, normally a rare site in France.
Since it’s pretty much life-as-usual around here on the fourth Thursday of November, when a message from Olivier Magny of O-Château popped up in my Inbox earlier in the week, asking if I’d like to go to a wine-tasting, at 30,000 feet that day, I said, “Sure!”
So there I was, stepping out of my apartment, at 7:15 am Thanksgiving morning, heading to Orly airport to meet up with Olivier and his team of sommeliers.