So for my actual birthday, much less fanfare. I did benefit though from both a little planning ahead and from the high-quality leftovers already lurking in the fridge. Mid-afternoon I came in from cleaning the studio and floured and seared some short ribs, then removed them and added a bag of our frozen magic mirepoix plus some garlic to caramelize in the fat. After that, the remnants of some weird sour BC cabernet that John brought to try, and about a quart of smoked chicken broth. Then I put it in a 200˚ oven until dinner time.
About an hour before eating, I pulled out the meat, strained the broth, and put the meat back in the oven with just a little of the liquid to continue cooking. The rest of the liquid I combined with some of the mushroom soup from Saturday and let it reduce until nice and saucy. Meanwhile I also steam-resuscitated some of the polenta, and crisped up leeks in olive oil because they’re delicious and Milo LOVES them. He was actually disappointed when he saw the meat simmering on the stove after I took it out of the oven, because initially he thought they were marrow bones and got very excited because he loves them so much. I reassured him that we have marrow bones in the freezer and that this dinner would be yummy too.
And that was it: polenta, meat, mushroom jus/gravy, and crispy leeks, with a perfect salad of all the ornery and impervious greens still thriving in the garden. One of the signs that I’ve lived up here in the sticks for a while is that I can tell when it will frost at night just by the feel and smell of the air in the late afternoon when I’m out picking things for dinner, so I know whether to cover the beds or not without listening to the weather. That, and I make my own meth.
I swerved back and forth like a broken toy all day long about whether or not to pop something special to go with dinner, since we’ve had our share of celebratory bottles lately between the election night Krug and the ’68 Rioja on Saturday. But hell, I figured- why not; one only turns 40 once, and I had brought a 1982 Gruaud Larose back from Vermont for the express purpose of celebrating the fact that my future is now roughly as long as my past. So I decanted it, and began enjoying its awakening after 26 years of slumber. The first time I ever had this wine was in the early 90’s at La Grenouille in Manhattan. I was invited there by my cousin and her husband, and we were all the guests of a colleague of theirs. I remember knowing even back then that the ’88 Gruaud he ordered was way too young, and not a particularly great vintage at that, but since he paid I said nothing while I gagged on the opaque tannins. Seriously, it might as well have been Drano. DRANO! I say.
This was a whole different animal. 1982 is legendary, and enough time has elapsed so that this wine has reached that exalted place where it’s impossible to tease apart the scintillating skein of flavors. The fruit, the cedar, the leather, the minerals- they’re all intertwined and fused into that most beautiful of holographic silken fabrics: a beautiful old wine with a story to tell. And it’s only 12% alcohol, like the Rioja, which is as it should be; there’s a lightness to it, an elegant, effortless grace that reveals the essence of what one pays for when one pays for great wine.
Here’s what I got to open this morning, just after I ordered a pile of exotic culinary chemistry to geek about with in the coming weeks, and after getting the amazing Japanese culinary pornocopia on Saturday: