Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Anniversary Dinner

8 years! Its hard to believe that Kelly & I have been together for 8 years. I know its a cliche but time really does whiz by. This year alone feels as if it never even happened.

We made reservations at Chez Philippe in Downtown Memphis' Peabody Hotel. We were going to celebrate with our very close friends Marlinee & Max since it also happened to be Marlinee's 29th birthday. They've been to Chez quite a bit but neither Kelly nor I have dined there. I was really excited because this restaurant is supposed to be the best in town. I knew I wanted to start with some Champagne & I had been holding on to the perfect bottle.

This beautiful Champagne has been resting peacefully in my wine fridge for over 3 years. Its hard to believe how patient I have been with it because I could always drink bubbles! I think if we all drank Champagne more often we would all be happier. Gosset Grand Reserve Brut is produced in the Ay district of Champagne & is comprised of almost half chardonnay with the other half being pinot noir & pinot meunier. This gorgeous, sexy wine poured golden in the glass with barely noticeable bubbles. At first I was concerned that something was off given the lack of bubbles but on the palate it was a different story. Creamy, succulent, round, rich, toasty, apricot marmalade but really it wasn't about flavor it was more about texture & emotion. It sent ripples through my body that unraveled downward & then rippled back up into my head. It was like being touched by someone I was achingly attracted to for the first time.

After sitting down at our table I perused the wine list & selected a Alsatian riesling for us to begin with. I was craving acidity & brightness & this bottle, I felt, was going to give it to me. Unfortunately, the majority of the list was simply overpriced wines that weren't very exciting. The food menu seems sleek & modern while the wine list just felt stodgy & boring. There was a little glimmer of hope so we stuck to that.

They didn't set the tone right at first when the amuse bouche of beef tartar was brought to all of us including the vegetarian at the table. He called twice the week prior to inform the restaurant that he was a vegetarian so the fact that they didn't have a veg-friendly amuse bouche ready for him was inexcusable. A restaurant of that caliber should never have set that down in front of him. He is paying just as much as everyone else at that table! I was concerned of course because I obviously wanted him to enjoy this just as much as me.

Domaine Schlumberger "Les Princes Abbes" Riesling 2006. Tautly wound at first but after a while it woke up & electrified my palate with bright acidity. I loved the classic note of petrol on the nose. That to me is what a good riesling should always have. Some people might not care for it but I CRAVE it. It paired perfectly with my first course of Salmon "Pastrami on Rye" which was perfectly cured wild salmon with dill, caviar & rye toasts (sorry for the lack of a pic). I wanted more. The next course was a Hearts of Palm & Roquefort Casserole. Which looked very pretty in its simplicity. However, the flavors were a little disjointed. The palm was bright & tart & the roquefort was rich & pungent. Unfortunately, the casserole itself was watery & the crumbs on top were almost not even connected to the dish itself. They just fell off as I tried to eat it.

Marlinee's course was rich, creamy, unctuous & oh so very delicious. Foie gras is god's gift to us all.

Max & Mar brought along a truly amazing wine for us all to enjoy. Marlinee isn't necessarily one of the most wine obsessed people I know. Honestly, she just wants something that tastes good but doesn't really want to dwell on it. On her recent trip to Denver a friend of hers poured her a wine that she absolutely fell in love with. I have never heard her talk about a wine this much as long as I've known her. Luckily we had some from that same producer at Joe's Wines. Behold the wine of the night (not counting the Champagne of course!):

Over 150 year old nerello mascalese vines are the source for this earthy, elegant, sensually spiced, velvet textured wine. I kept wanting to smell it over & over again! Honestly, if I would have blind tasted this I would have immediately hypothesized that it was Burgundy....sorry Sam.

When I first tasted this wine almost 2 years ago I remember being astonished at how exotic & expressive it was but in a way that was comforting & almost homey in its rusticity. Wow, wow wow. We have one & a half cases left at the store & I am going to stash 6 for myself so whoever wants it better get there soon!

My next course, Florida Keys Yellowtail with Periwinkles & Saffron Brown Butter was a very pretty course.

The fish was nice & crisp & the skin had a near perfect texture. I couldn't really taste the saffron in the sauce but the butter gave nice richness. The periwinkles were.....odd. The texture was interesting but they tasted as if they'd been marinated in algae. Very strange. I devoured my fish though.

Next course was a Duo of Neola Farms beef that was beautifully plated & had wonderful earthy, grassy beefiness. It was a perfect foil to the rich & bold Terrebianca Campaccio 2001. This SuperTuscan was almost too big, surprising given its 8 years of age. I loved the struggle between its acidity & tannin.

My apologies for the "crime scene" nature of this photo but by the time I realized I hadn't photographed my was too late.


Benito said...

Congratulations on another trip around the sun, gentlemen, and the dinner looks delicious despite the hiccups. :)

Michael Hughes said...

Thanks Ben!

Unknown said...

I love your very quotable comment that if we all drank more champagne, we would be happier. Here's to that! Cheers.

Michael Hughes said...

Becca-thanks. True bubble believers unite!