Ok, so how many 9 year olds do you know who have had the privilege of tasting a Grand Cru Classé, nevermind a Haut-Brion 1981?! Such was the generosity of our host David, thus setting the mood for our long gastronomic week-end in Paris that will take us to Chateau Chantilly for a delicious hot chocolate with an unhealthy dollop of Chantilly cream, 3C (formerly Chateau Cash & Carry) to buy some good drinking wine, L’Oxyd cocktail bar and restaurant serving great North African grub, Nation market, Melac’s bistro, Bastille market, L’As du Falafel in the Rue des Rosiers in the Marais, Le Palais des Thés and finally to the Salon les Vins de Terroir in the Parc Floral. Phew … now that I’ve listed the foodie venues, I should also add that we managed to punctuate periods of non-eating with visits to Senlis, the Dali museum in Montmartre and Victor Hugo’s house on the Place des Vosges.
Now, back to the Haut-Brion … well, David would not let us off with anything less than a blind tasting, and against a bottle of Clos Forquet that was unfortunately bouchoné. Nevertheless, my first guess was a cru classé from St Estèphe … based on the paler colour and that unmistakable old earthiness that for me typifies the area. The nose developed from black fruits, then to prunes and then orange flowers, then vanilla and in the final draw of air, a sulphurous hint of that smell a match makes when it has just been struck. I guessed again: “It’s not a Graves, is it”? “Is it not?”, came the reply. My heart started pounding … the long cedar finish on the palate, after that initial explosion of chocolate covered fruit was indeed typical but … where is that characteristic flintiness? I guessed again, “Well, there aren’t that many Grand Cru Classés in Graves [Ed: suicidal statement for a wine bluffer] … so it’s got to be …” “Chateau Haut-Brion!”, David interjected as he ran into the kitchen to return with the empty bottle … the rest of the afternoon was spent in sensual nostalgia as we recounted stories from our previous adventures in the wine regions of France. David is right: when wines get that good, you can only describe them in terms of emotions such as happiness and euphoria … and that afternoon in David’s flat, we were truly ecstatic! I should also mention that when our appetites finally returned (even with great food on the table, none of us felt hungry whilst there was a beautiful glass of Haut-Brion in our hands!), we also enjoyed some tasty comestibles from the market in Nation – the porcelet (roast suckling pig), Picholine and Lucques olives (only from Minervois), AOC Roquefort from Baragnaudes, an unusual Maroiles (from Lille) affiné au cafe instead of beer and a rather rare bottle of Passion de Closiot 1996 Sauternes (there are only 900 bottles made, and it is actually from Barsac) to accompany the lovely foie gras and fig bread.
Ok, I hadn’t meant for this post to read like an advertisement for food and wine producers, but such is the norm when one visits David. I will however add a few plugs for blogs that I regularly visit … for his sake … as a gesture of mutual appreciation of the finer things in life. So in exchange for the rather delicious Avongrove 1st Flush ’06 Darjeeling (SFTGFOPI), I propose Stephane’s blog called Tea-Masters http://teamasters.blogspot.com/ – one wine geek to another tea geek, and a couple of food blogs – Chez Pim http://chezpim.typepad.com/ who regularly visits France and has eaten in many of the world’s best restos; and Chocolate and Zucchini http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ with mouth-watering recipes from a 27-year-old Parisian woman who lives in Montmartre.
Why is it that the best things in life have French connections? And no, you don’t need to send me a postcard with an answer to that question …
Sooooo, I’ll return to food blogging soon … with a couple of new recipes for the time-challenged cook. Unlike Vatel (the Chantilly cream man) who killed himself because the fish he was going to cook was late, this wait is not suicide-worthy 😉