May 20, 2011

Ten decades from 1900 to 1990

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A friend invited me to his birthday dinner tonight, which was celebrated in conjunction with one of his friends.  A small group of young 'uns - everyone was born in the 80s except moi - gathered at 8½ Otto e Mezzo over a few bottles of wine to celebrate the occasion.

We naturally started with some jamón ibérico and pan con tomate while waiting for everyone to arrive.  All the wines were opened, decanted and chilled during this time.

Warm scallop salad, garden vegetables and black olives, sweet peppers mayonnaise - scallop was perfectly done, as expected.  The vegetable rolls were filled with tapenade.

Trenette, red tuna belly, bottarga, rucola and hot peppers - this was yummy the last time, and even better this time around.  The little cubes of tuna belly were fatty and succulent, and I can never get enough of bottarga, especially thrown into this mix.  And yes, I looove pasta with bite.

Pumpkin risotto with braised beef cheek and Italian aromatic cheeses -  wow!  Risotto is pretty much always perfect here... and the pumpkin was delicious.  The beef cheek was sooooo soft and melt-in-your-mouth...

Colorado rack of lamb, artichoke purée, black olive and lamb jus - having just raved about this lamb and calling it "my favorite lamb", what else is left for me to say about this?  Danilo said they think it is the best lamb in the world.  Did I sound too much like a teenage groupie when I agreed with him?

We weren't quite ready for dessert, so we had a plate of cheese selection.

Crispy pear tart - this was huge!  I think we'd all be happy with 1/4 or 1/3 of it, but we all got a whole tart.  I even turned down the scoop of vanilla ice cream coz I knew I couldn't finish it.  Very delish, though... the flaky crust was irresistible and I inhaled the tart in no time.

We had a pretty good lineup of wines tonight.  Being all Burgundy-lovers, wines from the region took center stage.  The two birthday boys were born in 1980, so they brought a pair of reds from their birth vintage.  The rest of us tried to bring something appropriate to match.

1990 Marc Colin Montrachet - sweet, buttery, toasty oak, flint, a little nutty, fragrant and lovely nose.  Very well-balanced on the palate, which is what makes this such a great wine.  The palate might taste lighter or flatter compared to the Chevalier-Montrachet, but its smoothness makes it a better food wine... although I'd suggest not drinking it with tuna or bottarga...

1988 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet - sweeter and riper on the nose, but this was a little tight at first.  Nose of toasty oak, a little straw and slightly sharp.  Fairly well-balanced on the palate but a teeny bit more acidic compared to the Montrachet.  Another lovely wine.

1975 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut Rosé - loads of salty plum (話梅) which is something I love from old Champagne, especially rosés.  In fact, I think this smells like the result of dipping salty plum into Chinese Huadiao (花雕) wine, and my friends agreed with me.  Plenty of salty minerals, too.  Very nice.

1980 DRC La Tâche - lovely floral nose, roses, sweet fruit, a bit of leather, orange, a hint of herbal medicine.  A voluptuous and opulent wine.  Well, it IS La Tâche, after all!

1980 Ponsot Clos de la Roche Cuvée Vielles Vignes - initially pretty closed.  A bit oxidized and plummy, with smoked meats.  Smooth on the palate but more concentrated than the La Tâche.  Opened up later and softened, showing lovely raspberry notes.

1990 Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin - well, I remember telling George that his wine "smells like shit"... but if there ever were a wine that perennially smells of manure, Hommage would be it.  We were actually discussing whether it was horseshit or bullshit... In addition to that lovely fragrance, which can be described somewhat diplomatically as "barnyard", the nose was also a little medicinal with brett.  Pretty sharp and alcoholic.  There was plenty of sweet fruit underneath the cloak of barnyard, with herbs, pine needle and tobacco emerging gradually.

1900 D'Oliveiras Moscatel - I volunteered to bring something from the "dessert" category, and I thought I'd pull this one out of the cellar.  It's not often that I get to open an old Madeira, as you need people who would really appreciate it, and I thought it'd be a treat to open something from the start of the last century.  As it was being decanted before dinner, the fragrance of prunes and nuts traveled the distance to reach me and I reveled in it.  Some 3 hours later, I was hit by an initial dose of sharp alcohol - as expected - followed by notes of ripe rock melon, pine needle, potpourri, raisins, prunes, Medjool dates and nuts.  I think the rest of the crew found it interesting...

This was quite an evening, and I made some new friends who were a decade younger...

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