The Big 40

Not having recovered from the previous day’s Unico luncheon with the Grand Crew, I was up and early in the ‘Burg dropping off the special ingredients slated for the dinner that would include the ladies.  I designed an evening around a return to civilization, and tried to control the basic elements of a good time, eating, drinking, and dancing.

My good friend Chef Diego Gonzalez took up the cooking challenge, and his lovely wife Aisha and her sister hosted the event at their charming Williamsburg restaurant, Barberry.
Diego is a Galician chef with Mediterranean sensibility.  His food is honest, Italian in spirit, and delicious.  Barberry has the look of an old charming parlour, with rustic wood beams and classic tin tiled walls, open and cozy.

For proper cocktails, I set up a table at Hotel Delmano, a cocktail bar that has mastered the balance between precision bartending and hipster chic, decorated with lovely old world details and furnishings.  After perfect Sidecars, Manhattans, Juleps and specialties such as Smoking Flowers and French 75, our appetite was whetted for the first course at the bar, oysters and champagne.

I designed the menu around foods I love to eat the most, delicacies that I would command for my last supper, narrowing the choices to five, cutting out some perennials for me like fried chicken.  The oysters came from the Lobster Place, Hama Hama and Beausoleil, not to create and East Coast vs. West Coast rivalry, but rather to have salty and sweet.  The champagne was from a grower producer, Larmandier-Bernier.  The vintage 2005, Terre de Vertus blancs de blancs, 100% chardonnay with no dosage.  My play list was a harkening back to great voices and big bands, a mix of Ella, Billie, Patsy, Glenn Miller, The Andrew Sisters, Cole Porter, Louis Armstrong, Sinatra and the like.  Everyone was dressed to thrill, suits and ties, kerchiefs, dresses and lots of flesh revealed.

After champagne and oyster hour, we sat down to magnums of 2008 Domaine Pepiere Clisson Muscadet, creamy with Atlantic minerality.  Diego crafted an amuse-bouche of king crab with a carrot ginger citrus dressing. Excitement sufficiently stirred, a pork liver pate from Dickson’s Farmstand was spread on crusty baguettes.  Onto a Galician treat, pulpo a la Gallega, tender octopus with scalloped potatoes and pimenton, cooked to perfection.  This dish caused a frenzy.  It was difficult to imagine other courses ahead.

Then a lesser known riesling, 2008 Lauer Aylerkupp from the Saar, which stood up to the richness of a Hudson Valley foie gras and fruit compote, flecked with Maldon sea salt.  The tunes were now Roy Orbison and Dinah Washington, Ray Charles and Nina Simone, prompting swooning and embraces, enough lead time for a paella of arroz negro, unctuous squid ink with ideal soccarat, paired with an indigenous 2008 Maranones Albillo from Spain, whose sherry like qualities accentuated the luxury of the rice, both heavenly mates.

Out carted the baby roast suckling pig, a twenty pounder, with crisped skin and spice rub, served with an arugula citrus salad, as if any one had room for such a main course.  There were plenty of leftovers for Sunday brunch to go around, save for Jay who insisted on carrying his second piece with him King George style for the rest of the party.  For wine I poured contrasting styles, a 2007 Volnay from Lafarge, and a 1995 Mastroberardino  Taurasi Radici, stylistically different approaches which had subtle effects to each porky mouthful.

Sade and Prince took their turns, D’Angelo and Barry White, and of course Marvin Gaye, for the chocolate soufflé, decadence on our minds, erupting molten chocolate putting an end to the savory onslaught during the past four hours. All that remained was a small bottle of 1996 Royal Tokaji 6 Puttonyos, a developing dessert wine that was very complex and satisfying on a brisk wintry night.

At 40, you take stock of your accomplishments, health and direction.  On this night, I noted all of my long term relationships, friends who have been with me on my life’s journey, friends who have become family and whose lives are indelibly interwoven with mine.

A special thanks to my dear friends who have inspired me to live, learn, and love.