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stirring the lees with james molesworth

The Moment of Truth

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Nov 4, 2006 9:42am ET

I guess you could call it a journey of self discovery, even though it only took less than two hours.

It was the end of a long day, and I was sitting alone in the dining room. The object was to have a quick bite and finally get some rest for a change, as opposed to the five or six hours of very restless sleep a night I’ve been getting on this trip.

The décor? A little heavy handed on the floral print/burgundy color motif. The menu? Probably hasn’t changed in a decade. I was also the youngest diner in the room by at least 20 years, and mine was the only table that wasn’t a couple.

I chose the mille feuilles de boeuf, knowing I might have gone a little over the top. But I didn’t expect the tower of sliced filet layered with round disks of baked puff pastry and ceps to be quite so high. The preparation was perfect. The service totally professional.

I ate every bite.

Of course, a bottle of 1999 Côte-Rôtie from Michel & Stéphane Ogier didn’t hurt. 1999 is a glorious vintage for Côte-Rôtie, and one that has never shut down. This version was layered with black currant, coffee and mineral notes that spun circles around my food.

So, yes, I admitted it to myself. I’m a Francophile. I’d resisted it as long as I could. Go ahead and blame my parents if you will. They brought me here for the first time when I was eight. I thought I would be bored beyond belief, and I went home after a few months wanting to be Paul Bocuse. (That obviously didn’t work out.)

But then I ignored my junior high school French teacher from day one. Conjugation of verbs in the past or future tense is now a struggle, and I’ve only myself to blame for not paying better attention back when.

Today I find myself working my way through a few dozen appointments with winemakers, getting lost on the way to an appointment at least once a day, and eating things that would make a cardiologist cringe (heck, I had ris de veau for lunch the other day!). I get back to my hotel room at night, and instead of falling asleep (thanks to a mind racing with ideas and a palate tingling with over-stimulation) I work on my laptop only to suddenly wonder how 1 a.m. came so quickly.

Côte-Rôtie. Heavy food. Round-abouts. Restaurants that allow dogs to sit at the table with their owners while they eat.

It’s taken me 36 years to admit it, but for two weeks every November, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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