Five Foods, and Wines, to Enjoy Before You Die
I've been tagged with a meme by Trish over at Vin Vini Vino. Actually, it's more of a chain letter. But in any event, bloggers have been asked to pile onto a post over at A Traveler's Lunchbox with their own lists of five foods that they would recommend others have before they die.
I don't do chain letters, but how can one resist a chance to talk about great food? But, since I'm a wine blogger, not a food blogger, I'm going to post about five foods AND wines I wish everyone could try once before they die. But I have to say right at the start -- man, this is hard. Just five?
1. The truffle dinner at Peppercorn's. This was an absolute eyeopener of a dinner. This Hartford restaurant came up with five different small dishes that each featured truffles in some different way. Each dish, from shaved truffles over pasta to truffle-crusted fowl, exploded with rich, forest aromas that bordered on sensory overload. I know there are more creative, nuanced restaurant dishes out there, but the point is everyone should get to experience the complexity and mystery of real truffles in the hands of someone who knows what they're doing.
2. Homard L'Orange at Chez Bernard in Montreal. I'm so tempted to list lobster in butter at any no-frills lobster pound on the coast of Maine. It belongs on the list. But this French preparation of lobster, about 15 years ago, absolutely blew me away. It was so incredibly rich and creamy without overwhelming the lobster. The citrusy notes provided perfect balance. Could have been gloppy, but it was perfect.
3. White clam pizza at Pepe's. This thin-crust pie is probably the best ambassador anywhere for the Neopolitan-style of pizza, and has been featured on the Food Network. All the pies are great here, but the clam pie is on another, stratospheric level. The clams are awash in a sea of garlic, olive oil, oregano and parm cheese. The secret is two-fold: always fresh clams (never minced from a can) and a crisp crust done perfectly in a coal-fired brick oven. It's the meal food writers Jane and Michael Stern said they would pick for their death-row last meal. I might agree, it's roll-your-eyes-back good. I've tried lots of clam pizzas and nothing else is close.
4. Turtle soup at Commander's Palace in New Orleans. I've had a lot of good soups in my time, and we had so many great foods in New Orleans, but I've never had a soup as unique as Commander's turtle soup. It's rich beyond belief without becoming a gummy stew. It's an amazing display of savory meatiness that could easily make an entire meal. I bought a CP cookbook and took it back home with me, but I found this soup impossible to duplicate. Some friends of mine who chatted up a waiter there learned the stock is made over a period of days -- I'm sure that has something to do with it.
5. Mom's French-Canadian meat pie. My mom made so many great dishes -- inspiring my love of cooking...and eating -- when she was alive, but this elaborate meat pie stands out in my memory as perhaps her most distinctive and original. She used three kinds of meats, carrots, potatoes and peas in an absolutely delicious, herb-laced sauce in a flakey crust. It was such delicious, rib-sticking comfort food. I wish all my friends could have tried it so they know exactly what I'm talking about.
Giacosa Barolo '89. This may be my favorite wine ever from my own cellar. To say its complex is like saying Venice is wet. I never before encountered such depth of earth, leather, truffles, moss and tar. An intense, intense wine.
Hermitage La Chapelle. The Jaboulet '96 I had was loaded with earth, mushroom and leather aromas. Recent vintages haved not been nearly as good, but the complexity of the '96 still amazes me.
Cristal Champagne '89. I don't think I've ever had a Champagne as intensely yeasty as this one. It was like burying your head in a bowl of bread dough.
Well-aged vintage port. I've had a lot of 20- to 25-year-old vintage ports, but nothing has ever compared to the Croft Vintage Port '63 I once had. It was almost 35 years old at the time, and I was rewarded with a velvety smooth mocha, blackberry, dark chocolate sensation. Vintage port is so great it's easy to look past the tannins and still enjoy it, even if a bit young. But if you can wait, oh man, is faith rewarded.
Burgundy Echezeaux. I feel bad about not picking any California here -- I've had so many great ones. But when it comes to my absolute favorites, Europe just happens to rule. California would make a top 10 list, however. As for Echezeaux, I've never had Romanee Conti, but the ones I have had are both fresh and complex. Intensely perfumed. Can't go wrong here, and, yes, I hope to have a Romanee Conti Echezeaux before I die.