Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ab ovo usque ad mala

Driving in the rain, driving in a dust storm. So it goes in the selling season in the States. Texas is no different, except the distances can be longer. Slowly digesting the road as it disappears beneath my car. Hurry up, slow down, Stop, get in the car, start all over again. Ab ovo usque ad mala.

Narci-servitude – In many restaurants this time of the year, showing wine, spending money, pleading for our cause, fighting for my farmers. At week’s end, in a small place, just looking to eat and drink in peace. Liberal BYOB policy, we ordered a Picpoul to start with the appetizers. The server, who recited the complete menu to the table, might have understood the type and light grey color of the menu made it damn near impossible to read. Or perhaps it was his 15 minutes. As he poured the wine, all of it, into the 4 small glasses, I thought to myself how would he take care of the wine I had lovingly cared for the past 15 or so years. A Paulliac from 1990, first growth, thrown to the curb by Parker, who said it was dead and gone. I had a 1997 Brunello in the bag just in case. Didn’t need it. Server carried the bottle to the wine manager, who decanted and brought the wine into the last segment of its life on earth. The wine, a Mouton, was sharp and racy, not like its usual fleshy ripe chocolaty style I had experienced in other vintages. That is was lean and racy appealed to me, seeing as the food on the table skewed more towards lighter wine. But this wine wasn’t a lightweight as much as an agile dancer. Maybe this is the key, when Mr. Parker said “For a first-growth, this is an unqualified failure.” Ah, now I get it. It didn’t meet his expectations.

Odd, in that while I can understand there can be a sense of what should be, if the wine fails to deliver does that make the wine a failure? If you are used to driving a Ferrari and the valet hands you the keys to a VW Jetta, it might be jolting. A bruise to the ego? I don’t know.

What I do know, is that the wine in question didn’t disappoint the folks around the table. It was lovely, it had not yet peaked. It was edgy, and yes perhaps that is what Parker means when he said “this is a superficial, light Mouton”. Superficial is an odd word, in that it means different things to different people.

Perhaps the more appropriate thing to say, if one doesn’t care for a wine, is, “it doesn’t appeal to me.” Parker says, “Very disappointing,” which is his right. I wasn’t disappointed. I was surprised, but not unpleasantly. The wine was one of the best things about the meal.

The server never seemed to go away except when you needed him. The final straw from him for me was when I quoted an old line from a sit-com from the 1950’s and he corrected me. Sure, everyone has an off night. Were we disappointed? Yes, but not so much that the night was an “unqualified failure” because of it. No, that snake slithered by a few minutes later when we were only one of two tables left and the other table had a young lady who all at once started speaking very loudly, telling a story about her life and her experiences. Unfortunately her life wasn’t so very interesting, unless you like stories of shopping in New York with the requisite name dropping. Just part of a larger phenomenon we are seeing in the States, whereby the restaurant landscape is becoming like that of the movie house, a place for loud and obnoxious people who have no regard for other folks sense of space. The coarsening of America, complete with the occasional server-cum-narcissist as emcee. And people wonder why so many of us are choosing to watch movies at home with food we cook and wine we collect, to enjoy in a peaceful and soothing ambience?

From the soup to the nuts, from the ladle to the grave.

Ab ovo usque ad mala.

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