As if last night weren’t enough, I was back at the Beard House again this evening. I had been invited by Québec's New York delegation, whose chef-in-residence, Benoit Poliquin, was cooking.
I like the Québecois. I like their food, I like their surprisingly European look — dazzlingly chic if they’re from Montréal, charmingly peasantlike if they’re from the countryside — I like their distinctive culture. I like how many of them really don’t speak English. This evening I particularly liked their grain-fed veal.
I didn’t especially like sitting at the same table as the wine supplier.
Some wine writers get on my nerves. They can be overly intense and humorless, unlike most food writers who, unless they get on a high horse about sustainable cuisine or endangered sealife, generally are pretty mellow.
Most sommeliers and wine distributors are cool, but this evening I was cursed with a snob, who was disinclined to answer my questions about the wine of Graves (pronounced "grav").
I’ve learned a lot about wine at the Beard House, such as which grapes are from Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc and some others) and which are from Burgundy (basically Pinot Noir and Chardonnay). But I’m no wine expert, have no particular interest in becoming one, and certainly don’t pretend that I am. So when the second of two Graves we were drinking (Graves is a section of Bordeaux), had a spiciness I usually acquainted with certain New World Pinot Noirs, I asked about it. Maybe the guy was hard of hearing — he was a native English speaker so language wasn’t an issue — but all he said was, "certainly it’s a better wine” than the first Graves we drank.
The whole notion that one wine is objectively better than another annoys me. More expensive, maybe, of more prestigious pedigree, perhaps, but the best wine is the one you like.
Over the course of two hours I did manage to coax out of the guy information that the gravelly soil of Graves (hence the name) does give it a characteristically spicy quality. I also learned that the only non-gravelly part of Bordeaux is Pomerol, where the soil is mostly clay.
Isn’t that interesting? Not interesting enough for a whole evening, but at least it was something.
I also learned that the Québecois delegation in New York has something like 34 members, which sounds like a lot (and in fact, it is a lot; Ontario has a delegation of 1), but New York is one of Québec’s largest trading partners, with annual sales in agriculture foodstuffs alone at around $10 billion.
And of course, there was plenty to eat. To wit:
Roasted sea scallops with warm artichoke and asparagus salad, barigoule vinaigrette, and Champagne-truffle tabayon
Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve Personnelle 2000
Québec fresh foie gras torchon with Calvados and apple trilogy: Golden Delicious and pecan candy, Macintosh and rosemary jam, and Empire and pomegranate coulis
Québec Apple Icewine
Ground cherry granité with Amour en Cage liqueur
Québec grain-fed veal two ways — butter-roasted filet and four hour–braised shank with butternut squash and bitter chocolate ravioli, sautéed shiitakes, sage and veal consommé
Château Bahans Haut-Brion 2001
Château La Mission Haut-Brion 2006
Almond and herb–crusted Fromagerie Chaput Vacherin with creamy organic leeks and port caramel
Château Trotanoy 1998
Tournevent goat cheese and blueberry cheesecake with blueberry five-spice chutney and blueberry sorbet
Trimbach Vendange Tardive Pinot Gris 2000