Last night I went out by my lonesome to taste wine and cheese in the big city at Murray’s. On the train somewhere under the East River I realized I had no pen, no notebook, no hair tamer, and the wrong boots. I walked up the stairs at Times Square cussing and took the number 1 train downtown to Christopher street. I have lived in the Village, and on the corner of West 4th and 7th Avenue I had no clue where Bleeker street was. Bleeker Street always does this to me. I asked a doorman for directions and sure enough, there it was half a block away. I get so nervous when I have to do something completely new and for the first time. It never stops me but it does feel like I am carrying a sleeping horse on the way there. I have tasted wine for hours at the mouth of a cave in France and from bottles made from a single grape that grows up and around the fence posts in Umbria, but I have never taken A Class.
I looked through the window of the cheese shop–on the same corner for 143 years–and figured what are the odds this will be what takes me down? You would think since I teach, learning wouldn’t be a problem, and I know. I agree. But I worry that I don’t know enough to learn in a class. Carl Henry had the same condition actually. He had to study for years before he let himself go to Italy, because he didn’t feel worthy of gracing the streets of Florence without a fluency of it’s history since the day Florence was officially Florence and even a little before that, just in case. I made it to my seat and took a look at the 7 glasses so beautifully arranged for each of us. The one furthest to the right had water in it. Who wants to start with water. You must start from the left. 6 beautiful cheeses were laid out on a piece of slate; I lifted the slate to my nose to smell them. It was a field of earth and grass, a neck of French perfume.
And then I didn’t care anymore what was right and what was wrong. What I loved was there in front of me in all it’s splendor and flavor and toil of the ones who made it and the passion of the ones who were talking about it. All I had to do was drink and taste and savor and drink and taste and savor again.
It’s like wondering if you can promise yourself to the one who makes you happy; there is nothing else to do when they are standing there. You wrap your arms around them and love them as you ache to.
I cannot imagine a more perfect match.
My hands down favorite of the evening: Favray Pouilly Fume 2009 with Valencay. Until I met the Lambert Chinon “les Terrasses” 2010 Rouge and had a gulp of that with the Tomme du Bosquet. And such a lovely touch–a plate of dried cherries, apricots, Marcona almonds and walnuts. Had some of those as well.
I learned things like the Valencay was a full out pyramid until little Napolean, still fuming from losing a battle in Egypt erupted at the sight of it and lopped of its top, demanding that was the way it would always be. I am just going to lob this all together–I learned that 12% of us in America drink 90% of the wine and that the creaminess from cheese is due to the evaporation of the water in the cheese and the breaking down of the proteins, nothing to do with the fat. How about that! Goats came to France with the Moors over hill and dale in the 700’s and when they lost their own battle the story goes that they had to leave their wives or goats. Hm. I learned to taste cheese with an open mouth and never but never hold the belly of the glass which I so beautifully made a clear example of how not to do it. It’s an effort not to cradle your wine glass.