It seems to me that most people go out to eat with family, friends and business associates. People they know and like, or hope to know, or hope like them. It would seem to me that conversation would be an important part of the meal, maybe even as important as what's on the plate or in the glass.
And yet, so many restaurants are so loud you can't hear yourself think, much less catch what the people across the table are trying to tell you.
It was the thyme sorbet that sent me wandering down memory lane.
I suppose it's true in any world: once you've been around the block a few times, you start to see the same people along the way. Recently, I had dinner at Colicchio & Sons in Manhattan's Meatpacking district, and it seemed as though the room was thick with the past.
I completely misjudged a wine in a blind tasting recently. I'm blaming my mistake on the temperature.
I was visiting friends, and we were eating outside on a lovely summer evening. The host, who has an enviable cellar, brought out a red wine in a decanter and, telling me nothing at all about the bottle, asked for my opinion.
Incidentally, I find this kind of casual blind tasting both fun and frustrating. Fun because it's a challenge to my sensory acuity and taste memories and an opportunity to be a hero, even if I just get close. But frustrating too, because wines are so complex that without some kind of context, it's really hard to make sense of those indistinct sensory inputs.
Have you ever opened a restaurant wine list to find that the vintages were missing?
That happened to me while I was on vacation in South Carolina. Edisto is a remote and rustic island south of Charleston, and its virtues do not include sophisticated nightlife. But there is one fine restaurant, called the Old Post Office, and I went there with a group of friends. The 40-selection wine list offered some good producers, but no vintages were listed at all.
I suddenly felt strangely lost. Many people feel equally lost encountering a list when they aren't familiar with the wines or regions. That's when a good vintage chart can improve your wine selections.