Stephanie Zubiri-Crespi | Dec 9, 2010
I have to be honest and say that there are days that I have no inspiration and I’m truly just trying to find the energy to churn out an article. However, there are also these brilliant moments when I am ever so grateful and feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
This is one of those moments. Moments that I cherish, not only do I get to wine and dine, to experience something completely extraordinary, to meet amazing and utterly interesting people, to feast on overwhelmingly buttery, delicious concoctions, take home a prized souvenir … and to top it all off, I get paid to write about it. Heck, I would have paid to be there!
I’ve only heard rumors, fantastic tales and stories of these types of events. I’d be at a generic wine tasting and overhear someone so completely low-key talk with such passion to another very low-key colleague: “How was that tasting the other night? Wasn’t the Chateau Lafite impeccable?”
“Oh, yes, and the food was paired perfectly. By the way, when are we doing our Domaine Romanée-Conti dinner?”
Gentlemen of the evening: Romy Sia, owner of Wine Story, Hubert Bouard de la Forest, winemaker and owner of Chateau Angelus, and Chef Cyril Soenen of Cicou
In all the wine and foodie events I’ve been to there are two kinds of people: those who are invited because they make good company (and good PR photos!) and enjoy life’s little pleasures as much as everyone else. Then, there are those in the know. Those who, perhaps, you’ve barely crossed, nor seen in high-profile social circles, but these are the “Big Leaguers.” These are the diehard food and wine connoisseurs who can talk about tannins and actually explain what “undergrowth” smells like. These are the people who go on tours around the world, hopping from San Sebastian to Tokyo chasing all the little, pretty Michelin stars. These were the people I wanted to brush elbows with, learn from and hopefully one day … become myself.
Dec. 4, Saturday. It was a rather uneventful night, the weather was neither beautiful nor dreary, all the world turned in its hustle and bustle, while for me, it slowed down, minutes moving in slow motion like an overly dramatic French film. It was rather dark outside and a large “closed” sign blocked the entrance. No secret password, no invitation nor guest list, it was all about facial recognition for this extremely intimate affair. A brightly lit, sophisticated place, pristine white and shiny, beautiful bottles glistened in their glass cases. Champagne flutes clinked and chimed, conversations and introductions were made, everything was a happy blur at Wine Story. I had been looking forward to this all month. I was happy to see that I knew so few … and yet recognized some faces from an exclusive Ben Cab exhibit I once catered. I was in the realm of the Big Leagues.
I was thrilled to learn that chef Cyril Soenen created the pairing menu. His Restaurant Ciçou is such a delightful place, serving food with such richness and sincerity. We started off with a delicately poached egg, purée of cauliflower, garlic croutons and a sauce I haven’t seen in such a long time — one of the greatest French classics — Sauce Grand Veneur. The creaminess of the egg was perfectly cut by two young wines of different appellations, Fleur de Bouard 2005 and Bellevue 2008. To be quite honest I remember that the wines were rather impressive, but one stuck with me in particular: the Angelus 2009, so young that it was somewhat considered a barrel tasting. We tried it exclusively before these two wines, and it was surprisingly well-rounded and pleasant. It was far more enjoyable than many of the young or even more mature random new-world wines you find in the market. Imagine, a young gun that already has such potential? I whispered to my delightful seatmate, Hubert de Bouard de la Forest, the winemaker and owner of Chateau Angelus, “It’s really all about the basic product.”
Good grapes produce good wine, and bad grapes … well, no amount of mumbo jumbo can truly transform it.
Drink up: The very amazing array of bottles we consumed...
Duck-liver ravioli in a truffled mushroom cream broth followed. Not particularly new flavors, but always appreciated. It was paired with a Chateau Angelus 2003 and Chateau Angelus 2000.
Funny anecdote: they mixed up the little colored stickers on the glasses, and switched up the wines. We had all conferred that 2003 was surprisingly the one we all preferred. Smoother and more velvety on the palate, it was, quite frankly put, just delightful. Even M. Bouard said that normally he would have bet on the 2000, but was a little in awe to admit that 2003 was much nicer to drink that evening. Ten minutes later we were all informed of the mix-up and laughed. It was nice to know that these people were truly being honest about their preferred taste and not basing their judgment on preconceived notions. You see, year 2000 was considered one of the best years Bordeaux has had in centuries.
Then followed roasted tuna belly wrapped in lard with braised lentils, which reminded me of a more sophisticated version of a simple home staple, French petit salé. I take my hat off to chef Cyril because it is not easy to pair red wine with fish and I was so intrigued by the dish and how he successfully removed the fishy taste and kept that impeccable texture that I forgot to pay much attention to the Chateau Angelus 1995. I do remember it being pretty damn good because I finally finished my glass! At these tastings I’ve learned that the best way to avoid drunkenness and hyperacidity is to choose your battles. Which glasses are the ones that should be finished and which to be put aside? I kept my year 2000 and saved it to be drunk pleasurably at the end.
The pièce de résistance: veal brisket so tender that all those soft pockets of fat were like flavor explosions in my mouth. The Chateau Angelus 1990 was nothing like I’ve ever tasted before — almost surreally impeccable. I could say that hands down so far, it was the best nectar from sweet, innocent grapes that I’ve ever tried. It was like Dionysius himself came to bestow upon us his presence, pouring the wine lovingly for my pleasure. The nose was exquisite, verbena-perfumed fields of pepper and spice. If I could capture just that scent I would ditch my beloved Chanel Chance in the dumpster and bathe myself in this extraordinary, fleeting thing of beauty and perfection. Fork by fork, sip by sip, I could feel the old grandfather clock of the world tick slower and slower, making every delightful moment count.
We finished the meal with Koing Aman, which is probably one of the most heavenly desserts I’ve ever encountered. Just think of a flaky pastry with such flavor that you know there is butter, and more butter, and then some more butter … a genius salted caramel ice cream washed down with a fresh, sweet glass of Jurançon, a sweet wine that legend says was the first thing King Henri IV drank as he was born in his tortoise-shell bed in the beautiful castle of Pau. I felt like Henri IV. So young and naïve in this world of fine wine, so much to learn and yet enveloped in such exquisite fineness. I definitely don’t consider myself in the Big Leagues just yet, but I am utterly grateful to have a tiny glimpse of it all. For now I have my dedicated double-magnum bottle of Angelus 2000, which I occasionally sniff lovingly to be reminded of the experience.
P.S. Chef Cyril, please make me that dessert again? Will start running two hours every day for a month to train for it.
Wine Story is located in Serendra and Shangri-La Plaza Mall. To learn more, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.