November 11, 2023

The French triangle day 2: once in a lifetime

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So here we are, the big night at Château d'Yquem. The invitation from the hosts describe this as a celebration of the 20 years that Hairy Legs has spent in Asia, and as Caprice is an ambassade for the château - where they have gone through 100 imperials of Château d'Yquem in about 3 years - a plan was hatched between the restaurant and the château for this special event. A small team from Caprice flew in from Hong Kong and spent a few days working with the kitchen team at the château helmed by Chef Olivier Brulard, who carries with him the title of Meilleur ouvrier de France. Five tables of guests were invited over two nights, and I was privileged to have been among them.

The man of the evening didn't look at all stressed before the guests arrived.

While we waited for everyone to arrive, canapés like petite tartelette aux champignons and saumon balik were served.

2018 Yquem - nose of apricot, orange blossom, honey, beeswax, saffron. So fresh, so energetic and lively. The wine is still too young to be unctuous on the palate, but it's already soft and supple. Very exotic. Very delicious.

Estate Manager Lorenzo Pasquini took us on a tour of the cellars, and as it was a rainy evening, this didn't work out so well for the ladies who clearly ignored the dress code of "casual chic" and came to dinner dressed in their silk evening gowns.

We returned to the dining room and found our places at the table. The guests tonight were mostly Hairy Legs' personal friends, and all the non-French guests who had flown in from Asia were present at my table.

St-Jacques et chou-fleur - at the bottom of the bowl we had cauliflower cream, with a layer of sliced scallops from Normandy garnished with Galician sea urchin and Kaviari Kristal caviar. While the cauliflower cream ws sweet, the occasional fleur de sel sprinkled on the scallops could prove to be somewhat salty in a mouthful.

2021 Ygrec - nose of muscat grapes, a little bit of flint and mineral. Good acidity, as it's there but not too sharp, with some ripeness to balance out everything. This was a good match with the scallops.

Cèpes et poires, sauce Roquefort - the Roquefort sauce was made with calamansi vinegar, which had just been delivered hours earlier.

2017 Yquem - just a year older than the 2018 but this was much more mature. Very supple and alluring, with nose of honey and apricot. Much sweeter on the palate but also comes with the bitterness on the finish. A bit more viscous in terms of texture. Chef says he smells durian in this wine, but I didn't think so. Maybe the creaminess but there's no stink here. Yquem and Roquefort is a classic pairing, as the high level of sweetness of this vintage balanced out the salinity of the blue cheese. The vintage represents the year Hairy Legs took over the kitchens at Caprice.

Le laksa au crabe royal et citron sudachi - I looooove this classic dish from Hairy Legs and always end up inhaling it. Tonight the fragrance of the laksa leaves showed really well, and the crunchy hazelnuts were also beautiful.

I decided to "pull a Margaret" by posting this picture of a bowl which has been scraped clean on social media. IYKYK...

2001 Yquem - so rich, soooo unctuous, and much more mature. Showing lots of marmalade and then the bitterness on the finish. Nose of honey, minerals, a little acetone, so much ripe honeydew melon, and sooooo sweet on the nose. This was such a stunning wine! The vintage represents the year Hairy Legs made his first trip to Asia when he landed in Singapore.

Péche ⟪petit bateau⟫ sauce au safran
- a dish I know very, very well. In fact, I've had it twice in the last 3 months. The rouget was slow-cooked at 60°C to deliver that very, very tender texture. Of course, the famous saffron sauce from the "king of sauce" was as amazing as ever. I suspect the cuttlefish "bolognese" was missing tonight because it wouldn't have worked well with the wine.

Some shavings of white truffle from Alba was certainly welcome. And those potatoes covered in the saffron sauce and topped with crispy buckwheat... oooooh yeah...

1990 Yquem - this was soooo smooth now, thinner on the body and definitely lighter. Nose of raisins, with a prominent, bitter finish. A wine from Victor's vintage.

Another classic combination is to put a slice or two of white truffle in a glass of Yquem, so I took some from my plate and dropped it in. Heaven in a glass.

Canard "Lur Saluces", carottes et sauce miel-epices - this was the third time I'm having this dish, and I'm finally enjoying it at Château d'Yquem. Tonight was certainly a step above the version I had just a month ago, as the duck came in thicker slices which retained the temperature better. In addition to the carrots there was also a mash made with the rind of clementines. The sauce was also more exotic tonight in terms of the fragrance and the spices. How lucky am I to be tasting a dish from my wedding at Caprice 3 years ago in the place it was meant to be served at?!

1970 Yquem - lots of alcohol and tons of acetone made this sharp on the nose. Lots of raisins on the nose, a little exotic, with some medjool dates, and this was actually more aged mandarin peel than the classic marmalade thanks to a bit of smokiness. Lots of depth on the palate, and the bitterness was there, but this was not viscous by any means. So happy to have tasted this bottle from my vintage at the château, as provenance doesn't get any better!

Fourme d'Ambert et banane - the banana worked very well with the blue cheese.

The wine that was paired with the cheese course was served to us blind, and came in crystal decanters custom made for the château by Baccarat, based on an old design during Imperial Russia. The decanters are engraved with the name of the château on one side, and both the imperial arms of the House of Romanov as well as the name of wine trading house К. Ф. ДЕПРЕ - established by Camille Philippe Despres, a French captain who chose to remain after Napoleon's invasion of Russia.

1934 Yquem - nose of honey, raisins, medjool dates, almost nutty. More sharp on the nose than expected. Later on also showing honeydew melon. Very elegant now. Not so sweet on the palate at this age, and not too bitter on the finish. After the cheese course, though, a little more of the bitterness came out. This was chosen as it is the vintage of the late Alexandre de Lur Saluces, who left us a few months ago.

This was quite a line up of wines!

Travail autour de la pomme - no apple here, but we've got chestnut mousse with rum and clementines.

Lorenzo then took us to the cellar where the oldest vintages were kept. I was happy to see that they still kept plenty of bottles from the Parental Units' vintages. I am, of course, fortunate to have tasted mom's vintage a decade ago, while the bottles from dad's vintage remains unopened in the UK. I really should get them shipped home ASAP.

Lorenzo also made mention of this bottle... and being the asshole that I am, I had to jokingly check with him that the bottle didn't come from Hardy Rodenstock.

Château d'Yquem has taken to using the hashtag #OnceInALifetime in its social media campaign, and I do have to say... this evening was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. I am ever grateful to Hairy Legs and Victor for inviting me despite lacking a voluptuous figure, and of course also grateful to the hosts Pierre, Lorenzo, Mathieu, and the kitchen teams of the château and the Caprice "away team".

A few of us stayed up pretty late over some cigars, and I was just glad I didn't have to go back out into the rainy night to get to my bed.

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