I look forward to Easter every year. Not just for all of the proper religious reasons, but also because of our annual Easter celebration, shindig, hootenanny–I could even say bacchanalia without going too far. There have been various iterations through the years, but at the core it is a reunion of dear, old friends.
Allyson and Tobin host the annual party, which, especially since Summer and Jeremy now live so far away, has developed into a multi-day extravaganza, culminating in a long, slow, decadent, multicourse Easter meal, lots of wine, and non-stop conversation, catching up, reconnecting.
For the last several years, I have enjoyed supplying the wine with the assistance of my wine guru Larry, of the North City Bistro and Wine Shop.
The arrival of this email last Monday kicked off this year’s Easter festivities:
Here’s our yummy, yummy Easter dinner menu! The theme this year is citrus!
Soup–Garlic Soup with Tortillas, Avocado and Lime
Salad–Bibb Lettuce and Radish Salad with Creme Fraiche Citronette
Vegetables–Roasted Asparagus with Garlic, Baby Artichokes with Lemon Vinaigrette
Protein–Buttermilk Strata with Portobello Mushrooms and Leeks
Dessert–Lemon Cake and Coconut Sorbet
Give Larry a challenge, because even though I know white wine is often paired with citrus, we are mostly red wine lovers…
And then a flurry of emails went back and forth about how to handle food pairing when we have one wine drinker who swings both ways, one with a sulfite allergy, one red wine hater, one skeptic, one white-wine-curious-red-lover, one who was silent on this issue, and a menu that BEGS for white wine. The consensus was that Larry would be able to do something that would satisfy all of us.
Accordingly, on Tuesday evening I pulled into the nondescript strip mall that houses the North City Bistro, and walked through the curtain into the wine bar. Entering the wine shop is like stepping another world. Warm and dim, the room is lined with shelves of wine and dotted with small tables where patrons eat small plates, sip glasses of wine, and listen to live music in the evenings.
I presented Larry with this year’s Easter menu, and as he perused it, I explained. “I know this is a white wine menu, and I do want some whites. But we have a few white wine haters in the group. Can we do reds with this menu? Or whites for red haters?”
“You’d really want white wines with all of these foods,” he said, frowning in concentration. “Especially with the citrus.”
“I know,” I said.
He found his way into the menu with the Buttermilk Strata with Portobello Mushrooms and Leeks, and started scanning the shelves, then pulling bottles and placing them on a table. “This Neyers Zinfandel will knock your socks off,” he said.
We worked our way down the menu, and around the room. More bottles joined the Zinfandel on the table. For the vegetable course it was decided that we must have a white wine, and he selected a Viognier, saying that red wine drinkers often liked it.
He threw in a few strategic bottles of sparkling whites, as a happy compromise— a Domaine Rosier Sparkling Wine for the salad course, and a Cascina del Santuario Moscato D’Asti for dessert. “Sparkling wine goes with everything,” he said. “Who doesn’t like sparkling wine?” I agreed.
Somewhere during this process he poured out a few generous tastes, along with some instructions on which wines to decant, which needed to be opened a few days in advance, and which could be given a shorter breathing time. I scribbled notes along the margins of the menu.
A Le Chant de Marjolaine for the garlic soup, a pre-dinner Santa Barbara Pinot Noir, and a bottle of Rosemount Estate Shiraz Grenache just for good measure. We selected a few extra reds for the lasagna Michael and I planned to make for Easter Saturday.
We made a final sort through the rows of bottles he had pulled–including, discarding, noting which could be drunk alone, and which went with which food.
Our business complete, he packed the bottles into a box, hefted it on to his shoulder, and followed me through the curtain, out the front door, and to my car. “Have a happy Easter!” he said as he placed the box in my trunk.
I reported back to Summer and Allyson via email the next day:
Wine buying accomplished, and a very difficult job it was…