My Annual Indulgence: Dude’s Dinner
For the last eight years, either the day before or the day after Thanksgiving, some of my oldest friends and I get together for a nice dinner at famed local restaurant Chez Panisse. This is usually one of the great indulgences of my year. Unlike many people, for whatever reasons, the friendships I made in high school remain, for the most part, my closest ones. Because of other obligations, it’s rare that all nine of us get together for one of these, but this year was going to be one such year until a good friend got the stomach flu at the last minute and didn’t make his flight up from LA. I’m hopeful that next year attendance will be complete.
In any case, one thing I noticed while processing the pictures I took that night is that we look like a bunch of old dudes in glasses. But more importantly than the ‘illusion’ (we are, in fact, quite young) of age reflected in these pictures, was the extraordinary food eaten and wine drunk that night.
The menu this night was delicious. For the last three of four years (we’ve gone on the Friday after Thanksgiving) the menu has been pretty similar: some mixture of Dungeness crab and mushrooms in the first two courses, roasted lamb, Fuyu persimmons and Barhi dates as a palette cleanser before a dessert often featuring a fall fruit of some sort.
This year, since we went on a Wednesday, we had a delicious steak with marrow butter for the entree, and a quince souffle for dessert. Most other selections remained seasonally similar—a salad with smoked cod and Dungeness crab (this was maybe my favorite dish), and a light broth featuring Jerusalem artichokes and corn.
Our server, as usual, recommended some delicious wines to pair with all the dishes. We always have the obligatory Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose featured in the toasting pic, but this year brought some new wines I’ve not had before, including an incredibly light, crisp, and refreshing Alsatian Sylvaner from Albert Boxler that complemented the crab and smoked cod better than perhaps any food and wine pairing I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. Next, for the soup, we had a bianco secco from Giuseppe Quintarelli, and for the beef we had a Bandol red blend from Domaine Terrebrune (both of these tasted better to me on their own than following a bite of food). Another phenomenal pairing was a Francois Chidaine Les Argiles Vouvray with the cheese course, which finished in the mouth like a pure honey—minus the viscosity—when paired with all three of the cheeses.
I’m not often certain that wine isn’t just better when drunk by itself while in the company of friends, with the pairing of it with food as a secondary consideration. But a couple of the pairings this time really made me appreciate how a food and wine together can sometimes be greater than the sum of its parts. For everyday life, however, I’m still happiest uncorking a bottle that suits my mood and pairs best with the fellowship of friends.