December 14, 2021

Hunting big game with big guns

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It's been an insanely long time since a few of us got together to worship some bottles made by the Krankls, and since we are now in game season, DaRC and I figured we should do this at Caprice.  It takes some big, massive wines to go up against those pretty rich dishes, and Sine Qua Non is perfect for that. The added bonus would be for Hairy Legs to taste the wines we would be bringing, as he had recently been impressed by a bottle of white wine I shared with him. And while Victor has seen plenty of wines more expensive than ours, I was willing to bet that they haven't seen a collection of bottles quite like these within these walls.

We started with the usual trio of amuses bouches:

Balik salmon with Kristal caviar

Pita with curry chicken mousse

Cromesqui with pig's feet - my second bite of the newest nibble. Very, very nice.

Tartare terre et mer, le bœuf wagyu Australien et l'huître Tarbouriech - this normally comes with some slices of black truffle, but tonight we've got both black and white truffle on top. And just look at the size of those slices!

This has been one of the signature dishes, and the addition of a little diced oyster really adds an extra dimension. Very nice.

Duck and game tarte belle Hèléne - soo.... while we originally came for another dish, this has turned out to be the pièce de résistance... which, strangely, came during the first half of our meal. I had asked Hairy Legs to serve us his pâté en croûte, which would usually include some game meats, but he chose to present this upgraded version of their duck tarte which looks like an amazing work of art.  Apparently this takes about 10 man-hours over 2 days to finish. Truly a labor of love.

At the very top is a layer of jelly glaze made with duck and truffle juice, covering the alternating slices of black truffle and poire belle Hélène. There's a ring of artichoke cream dotted with tiny bits of (shimeji?) mushrooms, herbs, black truffle cut into 6-point stars and, of course, the occasional bit of gold foil.

We each got a wedge that seemed a little too small, but in reality this was pretty filling. Served with some pickled pear and mushrooms.

The main ingredient is Challans duck from Maison Bergaud, foie gras, along with some venison trimmings and hare.  An absolutely stunning and delicious dish.  Of course, if only there were some more gold foil on top, things would have been perfect.

Hairy Legs told us that they are selectively making a few for takeaway during the holiday season, and a few of us immediately raised our hands. I know what I'm having for Christmas...

Soupe de lièvre de la Vallée de la Loire - there was some confusion about adding this to our menu tonight, but in the end a "tasting portion" was arranged, and it's actually perfect. As expected this was very, very rich, and we've got the usual mix of 3 vinegars - Jerez, raspberry, and quince. Perfect with some girolles, roasted hazelnuts, and shaved white truffle. Made even more beautiful with the addition of some 1931 Toro Albalá Don PX Convento Selección. Kinda reminds me of when Francky Semblat used to make the caramel sauce for our after-meal coffee with a few drops of Louis Treize...

Toast au bleu et purée de coing - since the size of the soup shrank, so did the toast on the side. As usual with this came with some Roquefort to accompany the foie gras royale from Maison Castaing.

Chevreuil de Touraine, purée de coing et mille-feuille d'artichaut - a very beautiful presentation, and it was important that we check off the venison box during game season. The millefeuille on the side was pretty nice.

Very lean and dense as expected, but love the chiffonade of black truffle as the flavors meshed very well.

Liévre à la royale - BABY, THIS IS WHAT YOU CAME FOR! YASS!! After waiting a whole year, it was finally time to have this classic dish again. I'm glad we came tonight because the season is ending soon. I just love the way that sauce - full of blood and guts - reflected the light in all its darkness and richness. I think we would need the acidity from many more blackberries to balance things out...

No surprise that this was way, waaay too heavy for me to finish. Sleepy Fergie and I briefly contemplated sharing one portion between us so that the other portion could be taken home, but in all honestly it just wouldn't taste the same once it's been reheated. I tried to power through, but ultimately failed.

The celeriac purée with bits of truffle on the side was nice.


Baked Mont d'Or with truffle
- after having a dose of the baked Mont d'Or with white (and black) truffle on my last visit, it was now time for the all black version.

The cheese was pre-stuffed with shallots, mushrooms, and marinated with vin jaune before baking.

We all chose to skip dessert, but I couldn't resist being the only one who asked for the pre-dessert.

Brown butter cake with kiwi, mango, and passion fruit - always very refreshing thanks to the mélange of tropical fruits.

We did have the mignardises, and as usual I saved my banana bread for the Baller's son.

Lemon tart

Chocolate with hazelnut and liquid chocolate caramel

Pistachio and apricot profiterole

Chocolates

Tarte au pommes

Not to dis the awesome food from Hairy Leg's team, but the main focus tonight was always gonna be on a lineup of magical Californian cult wines we all love.

2013 Sine Qua Non Résisté - 45% roussanne, 26% chardonnay, 13.5% petit manseng, 10.5% viognier, 5% marsanne.  This was much more rounded and riper than expected.  Nose was nice and caramelized, and there was sooo much depth on the palate.

2003 Sine Qua Non Omega - 100% pinot noir.  Opened 45 minutes before serving.  Sweet and fruity, definitely ripe but not quite jammy.  A little smoky with some grilled meats.  One hour and 45 minutes after opening this was soooo beautiful and alluring.  Wow!

2007 Sine Qua Non Dangerous Birds Grenache - 88% grenache, 10% syrah, 2% viognier.  Served 3½ hours after opening.  Minty nose and not too in-your-face.  After 4 hours this was more open and aromatic.

2009 Sine Qua Non Turn the Whole Thing Upside Down - 84% grenache, 11% syrah, 5% mourvedre.  Opened about 3 hours and 15 minutes before serving.  More minty and certainly more open, with good concentration.  Seemingly a more "simple" wine compared to Dangerous Birds.

2009 Sine Qua Non The Thrill of Stamp Collecting - 93% syrah, 4.5% grenache, 2.5% viognier. Opened almost 4 hours before serving.  Much more metallic compared to the other two syrahs as it's much younger, a little more sharp on the nose.  More concentrated and very sweet on the palate.

2001 Sine Qua Non Midnight Oil - 96% syrah, 2.5% grenache, 1.5% viognier.  Opened 3 hours before serving.  Much more jammy, smoky, minty, with toasty oak.  Soooo smooth around 4 hours after opening.

1998 Sine Qua Non E-raised - "predominantly syrah, with a spritz of viognier and a dash of grenache".  Opened almost 4 hours before serving.  Notes of leather, smoke, and a little game meats.  This was soooo nice, very smooth and drinking so well.


2000 Sine Qua Non Suey, bottle No. 254, in half bottle - 100% roussanne.  Pop and poured.  Soooo fucking awesome with lots of honeydew melon and honey.  Amazing palate, rich with such depth.

What a fantastic evening! The team at Caprice has, once again, outdone themselves. Wintery game dishes is something that must be done at least once a year, and I'm glad we came and brought the big guns with us. Looking forward to our next meeting.

We're all a little surprised that a certain someone managed to last through dinner without falling asleep. Let's hope he stays away tomorrow night, too, when he's back here on a date...

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