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I'm a guy who likes to cook, eat, and drink, but not necessarily in that order. This blog is nothing fancy; just my random thoughts about anything that can be baked, roasted, or fried. Enjoy!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Something Fishy

“The only kind of seafood I trust is the fish stick, a totally featureless fish that doesn’t have eyeballs or fins.”

—Dave Barry



Recently during a business trip to Baltimore, Maryland, I found myself with a bit of spare time and pulled a Ferris Bueller. 

Two things I’ve always enjoyed: seafood and aquariums (the irony is not lost on me). So Baltimore was a good place to be.  It's home to the National Aquarium, and if you’ve never been and happen to be in Baltimore (or if you are actually taking a vacation to Baltimore), then I highly recommend a visit. It’s laid out well, and you can see aquatic life that ranges from the darkest reaches of the Amazon to the deepest depths of the Pacific. Of course Baltimore is well known for its seafood, especially crabs and oysters from the nearby Chesapeake Bay.

What’s not to like about seafood? It’s healthy. It tastes good. It can be prepared quickly and easily. It’s also about the only food source that the average bloke can catch and eat on his own. I don’t know about you, but I have no clue how to shoot a turkey and get it onto the dinner table. Seafood is also amazingly diverse and abundant. Almost all the word’s waterways have provided sustenance for our species for millennia. Almost every cuisine has at least one dish based on something that once lived in the water.

Because the National Aquarium is primarily an educational and research institution, the issue of “sustainability” of course had to rear its head, dispensing guilt like flakes of goldfish food. (Let’s not get started on the goldfish graveyard that sprouted in my backyard when I was a kid.) 

Now, a plate of oysters arrives with concerns of mercury; Asian-raised tilapia undermines American fishermen (fishing persons?); then there’s over fishing; Monterrey Bay Aquarium sustainability warnings; imported shrimp that comes with a Godzilla-sized carbon footprint.

What’s a seafood lover to do? 

Aquaculture is one solution, but that’s not without it’s drawbacks. Farmed fish simply don’t taste the same as the wild kind. At one restaurant where I had dinner in Baltimore, the oysters were farmed. They were good, but there was no there-there. That’s the whole point of oysters; they should have terroir. (See my post on oysters.) 

Another approach is what I call the “trash fish solution.” When one species of fish gets depleted, protect it and move on and find a new one to gobble up. Not enough cod? Then how about “Chilean Sea Bass”?! Speaking of which, there’s really no such thing as “Chilean Sea Bass.” It’s a made up name. The real name of this fish is Patagonian Toothfish. For many years, it was considered a “trash fish,” something thrown away by fisherman seeking more lucrative prey.
Some guy named Lee Lantz came up with the name "Chilean Seabass" in 1977. He was looking for a name that would make it attractive to the American market. 

It worked.

So back to the aquarium. At one tank, which focused on life in the Chesapeake Bay, I saw a large, healthy specimen called a “Stripped Bass,” also know as the Rockfish, the official state fish of Maryland. 

“Hey, I had one of those last night—it was pretty damn good!” I was quickly admonished by an employee of the aquarium: “We don’t like to talk about that around here.”

So much for a guilt-free trip to the aquarium. 


Monday, July 18, 2016

Pasta Salad for Summer

While this is a blog about food, I admit that I don't always post as many recipes as I should. There are recipes that one can easily find in a cookbook or online. But there are also recipes that exist only in the mind of the cook. Of course, that doesn’t do everyone else much good. So here’s a “recipe” for a pasta salad I made a recently for a summer dinner party. This is not the first dish I would have formalized into a written recipe, but it is the first one I had remembered to do so. 

N.B. This so-called recipe may be revised in the future. 


OK, I slipped in a little penne regate.
Mediterranean Pasta Salad (this is a made-up name!)

Serves 6-8


Ingredients


1 pint of grape or cherry tomatoes

1 lb. of fusilli pasta
5 oz. or little more than a cup of Kalamata olives 
(pitted--why do recipes always make this point?!)
½ Cup of good extra virgin olive oil (as opposed to crappy)
3½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon flat-leaf Italian parsley
6 oz. of feta cheese
2 garlic cloves
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation


Boil salted water (easiest part!)

Place pasta in boiling salted water

Whilst the water boils:


Slice the grape/cherry tomatoes into quarters

Slice the olives half-wise
Mince the garlic
Chop the parsley

To prepare the dressing, emulsify the olive oil and the vinegar, then add mustard, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper and whisk like hell until you get a good thick dressing


After the pasta has cooled, place in a big bowl and add the tomatoes, olives, feta, and dressing and mix.


Season to taste.


Place in the fridge and let the flavors meld for a good 2-3 hours.


Eat




Note: You may want to consider adding some fresh basil. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Traps for the Unwary

New Yorkers have a love-hate relationship with tourists. With 56  million visitors a year spending $41 billion, there’s certainly a lot to love. But as economists always say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. To tap into that $41 billion, New Yorkers have to deal with folks who don’t know how to hail a cab, or tip properly, or even cross the street without causing a major pile-up.
For New Yorkers, what really adds insult to injury is that, with all the wonderful restaurants in the five boroughs (approximately 24,000!), so many tourists end up in some pretty shitty restaurants—euphemistically called “tourist traps.” But we’ve all been tourists at some point, even New Yorkers—that’s what we call them when they come to Alabama. Are all tourist traps really that bad? Is there a good one out there?
©2016 Chris Terrell
A few weeks ago, I found myself in my room at the W in Times Square—tourist central. Laura was off to a black-tie affair that she mercifully let me out of. But this also meant dinner on my own. No reservations, and I wasn’t in the mood for traveling far, which meant that I would be confined to a five or six block radius of Times Square. Odds were good I’d end up in a “tourist trap.” 
I did have the good fortune of being pretty familiar with Midtown, enough to know where the good “traps” are located. I knew to avoid Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar, which has the dubious distinction of receiving the worst restaurant review in the New York Times. 
I headed off to Del Frisco’s on 6th Ave. (a/k/a “Avenue of the Americas”) for a martini and steak at the bar, but it was packed with young, self-conscious bankers and lawyers. I then decided to head over to Bar Americain. BA is something of my fall-back when I’m in mid-town. The service and the food are good, and I’ve always liked Bobby Flay’s approach. I planned on eating at the bar there as well, but it too was packed. However, I did get a small table in the center of the restaurant near the bar. Good vantage point.
©2016 Chris Terrell
There was a first date at table 9. She had light brown hair and wore a stylish green dress. He wore jeans and a light blue, baggy polo shirt. They were not into each other—Manhattan vs. Queens.
There was a business dinner at table 12. They probably cut some big deal based on the three bottles of expensive California cab on the table. One woman, with black-rimmed glasses and a low cut dress, kept leaning alluringly into the younger man next to her. She would be equal parts drunk and disappointed by night's end.
At some point, the local train came into the station: an Upper East side socialite, with considerable “work,” wanders in and wanders out. Perhaps she thought she was in the dining room at Bergdorf’s.  And then there was the hippie art maven wannabe chatting it up with the hedge fund wash-out. 
By this point, Mr. Polo Shirt is quickly handing over his credit card to pay the tab. Eyes wandering. Forced smiles all around. 
At this point, it’s time to head back to the hotel. 
On the way out, I ask the hostess what the make-up is, "mostly out-of-towners or locals?" She said that in the evenings, it is mostly tourists and business travelers, but during the day at lunch, almost all locals. “Good to know,” I think to myself.
Sometimes even New Yorkers are tourists in their own city.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

When a Man is Small...



M.F.K. Fisher, in her essay, When a Man is Small, wrote that “[w]hen a man is small, he loves and hates food with a ferocity that soon dims.” Later she writes, “[S]ome foods are utterly delicious, and he thinks of them and tastes them with a sensuous passion which too often disappears completely with the years.”

This essay got me thinking about the foods I once loved but haven’t eaten in years and, quite frankly, would find revolting if forced to eat them now, even on a deserted island with Kira Knightly. These were foods that I once gobbled up with a mindless intensity, blissfully ignorant of their blandness, chemical notes, or over-processed and over-salted construction. But damn did I love them at the time! While I would like to say that the following chronological list reveals some kind of culinary growth, each one is as banal as the one before it. Here they are: Vienna Sausages, T.V. Dinners, Hostess fried fruit pies, and Hot Pockets (don’t judge!).

OK, let’s start with the Vienna Sausage. That round, little, pale “sausage,” tightly packaged seven to a can. (This was actually a trivia question during trivia night at a local bar recently!). True story:  when my twin boys were just starting out on solid foods we gave them cans of what appeared to be Vienna sausages, but which were actually called “meat sticks.” I’m not kidding! I guess this was a marketing improvement?!  Well, I had to try one and, “oh my God!” I bleated, “these taste like shit!” Neither I nor my boys have had “meat sticks” since!

Moving up the culinary hierarchy, my next stop is an icon of Mad Men America: the T.V. Dinner! I’m talking about that aluminum, four-sectioned,  school-lunch-tray variety of the late 60s and 70s. Damn, did I love T.V. dinners. (When my Mom pulled one from the grocery sack, I got more excited that a senior citizen yelling “bingo!” at Shady Pines nursing home!) My favorite variety was fried chicken, perhaps because I grew up in the South; though this probably irked my Mom—though she didn’t show it—because she made damn good fried chicken. Of course, there was always that mystery desert at 12 O’clock. It was either some kind of chocolate or cherry concoction.

Speaking of cherry concoction, the next item on my list is the Hostess fried fruit pie. I must have eaten one of these every day for lunch for six or seven years. They came in various fruit flavors: cherry, blueberry, apple, and peach. As if the caloric count was not high enough, they also came in cream flavors, such as lemon, chocolate, and vanilla. My favorites, however, were the fruit ones, especially blueberry. Recently, I was in a handy mart getting some water and Gatorade for one of my son’s soccer games, when I spied one of these puppies. Out of curiosity, I flipped it over to take a gander at the calorie count. (We didn’t have these in 1981, or if did, we ignored them!). Holy shit! It was something life 4,235 calories. That’s enough to feed an entire village in the developing world! Hell, that’s enough to feed half of Hollywood!

So, let’s move onto high school and college. Now we’ve come to the Hot Pocket. I have no idea who came up with this concept. And hopefully the person who did has been convicted as a war criminal at The Hague. For those of you who are not familiar with the “Hot Pocket” concept, it is a pastry (almost like an empanada) filled with cheese and some kind of “meat product”—not to be confused with the aforementioned “meat stick”. The Hot Pocket is placed in some kind of sleeve (at least it was) and put in the microwave for a couple of minutes. What comes out is benign looking, but filled with a molten core hotter than Three Mile Island. How I got through 11th and 12th grade and 4 years of college eating these things I do not know. But damn I loved them at the time.  The last time I ate one was June 22, 1993, and it made me deathly ill. I’ve not eaten one since. If I’m going to get sick on food now, it better be locally sourced foie gras or P.E.I. oysters.

What I knew now, I didn’t know then. And what I truly enjoyed then, I find vile now. Nonetheless, that doesn’t diminish the apparent joy such food gave me then. Everything is relative. Going back to Fisher’s essay I mentioned above, she wisely, and more eloquently than my oscitant ramblings, captured how our taste in food changes and how food changes us over time:

But we must grow old, and we must eat. It seems far from unreasonable, once these facts are accepted, for a man to set himself the pleasant task of educating his palate so that he can do the former not grudgingly and in spite of the latter, but easily and agreeably because of it.

So the next time you go to the grocery store and take your buggy down those aisles of highly processed exemplars of American industrial acumen, say to yourself: “Wow, I thought the frat parties were bad enough…. !”

Monday, May 30, 2016

Summer Drinks: As Easy as One…Two…Three…

"I don't know what reception I'm at, but for God's sake give me a gin and tonic."
       —Denis Thatcher

Memorial Day, the traditional start of summer, has arrived! So break out the seersucker, the white shoes, and put away the brown water. In other words, it’s time for summer drinks. Let’s start with the big three: the gin & tonic, the margarita, and the daiquiri. 

Gin & Tonic

 The gin and tonic is the ultimate summer drink. (Though I was once told by an Englishman that a gin and tonic can be consumed in the winter as long as it is done during the weekend.) When it comes to the gin & tonic, your best bet is to go with a classic London dry gin (the ones that taste like Christmas trees), like Tanqueray, Beefeater, or Boodles. But as important as a good gin is to a good G&T, the tonic is just as important, if not more so. Nothing destroys a good G&T more than bad tonic—gin is a jealous mistress. Unfortunately, most store-bought tonic is atrocious. It is nothing more than carbonated sugar water.

But what is tonic water?

British officers stationed in India invented tonic water by mixing soda water with quinine. Quinine is an anti-malarial substance derived from the bark of the cinchona tree. (During a safari in Africa, our guide told me that, based on my quotidian intake of gin and tonics during happy hour, I had obviated the need for my anti-malarial pills!) Being good Englishmen, the officers countered quinine’s bitter flavor by adding gin, sugar, and lemon or lime. Thus, in the land of the Raj, the gin and tonic was born!  Eventually, the gin and tonic made its way back to England, yet another contribution made by the Pax Britannica.

Because Britain was the home of the Industrial Revolution, there should be no surprise that Schweppes, a London-based sparkling-water company, added "Indian" tonic water to its line of products in 1870 and began the mass production of tonic water. Canada Dry stepped in and began making tonic water around 1890. Since then, these two companies have produced most of the world’s tonic water. But it is a far cry from the original. Until now.

In recent years, several companies (e.g., Fever-Tree, Q Tonic, and Stirrings) have stepped in and halted the malaise, producing tonics that will certainly take one back to the glories of the British Empire. Of these new, artisanal tonics, my favorite is Fever-Tree, made with Rwandan quinine and cold-pressed orange oil from Tanzania.

One final note. It would be helpful to us gin and tonic drinkers if restaurants and bars would take note of this trend in artisan tonics. (In all fairness, some have; there are bars that even make their own tonic.) Please stop using that Barbarella soda gun machine-thingy! This is especially true for high-end restaurants charging me $12 for a gin and tonic.

Margarita
The modern, day-glo green concoction is a mere shadow of the original. Like many well-known cocktails, the origin of the Margarita is hazy. Those who have claimed the honor: a Texas socialite named Margarita Sames; the Kentucky Club in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; and the Tail o' the Cock in Los Angeles. One thing is certain, it was never frozen, and it was never made from a mix.
Much like a well-made G&T should avoid “the gun,” a respectable Margarita should avoid: (1) cheap tequila, and (2) pre-made mix. Like most classic cocktails, less is more, and better ingredients mean a better drink.
Let’s start with Tequila. For most Americans, Tequila means Jose Cuervo shots in a college bar on Cinco de Mayo. But there’s so much more than that. Good Tequila, in this author’s humble opinion, rivals the best Scotch when done right. And when I say “done right,” I mean made with 100% agave. I would recommend Herradura, Patrón, or Corzo. 
Tequila was first produced in the 16th century near the present-day city of Tequila, Mexico, though the Aztecs had made a fermented beverage from the agave plant long before the Spanish arrived. And so when the Spanish Conquistadors ran out of booze, they did what any respectful invader would do: go local! They distilled agave to produce what is perhaps the first indigenous North America distilled spirit. It was pure; it was good; it was natural. And then America stepped in and turned it all to crap.
So, to get back to where it all started, here’s a classic, simple, and pure, recipe for a Margarita.
Recipe for the Classic Margarita
Ingredients
2 limes, halved and juiced, rinds reserved
4 oz. premium tequila
1/2 oz. Cointreau or triple sec
Margarita salt or kosher salt
Preparation 
Fill two stemmed cocktail glasses with crushed ice and allow to chill. Meanwhile, fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add lime juice, tequila, and Cointreau. Shake well. Empty the ice from glasses, rub rims of glasses with the pulp side of one of the lime rinds, then dip moistened rims into a saucer of salt. Strain margaritas into salt-rimmed glasses and garnish with a slice of lime, if you like.
Daiquiri 
This drink has always reminded me of that crazy, hot mess ex-girlfriend who just…can’t…let…go. You know what I’m talking about. Drunken, late-night calls from some bar with a “Mc” or an “O’.” in the name. She’s with her girlfriends who obviously don’t have the common decency to take her phone away. Yeah, the modern-day daiquiri is a mess. But it wasn’t always so. In the distant past, she was a 1930s movie star, elegant and graceful. Maybe Olivia de Havilland; maybe Greta Garbo; and maybe, just maybe, Marelene Dietrich. 
The origins of the daiquiri are just as delitescent as the margarita, but one theory has the Daiquiri being invented by James Cox, an American mining engineer stuck in Cuba at the time of the Spanish–American War. Few folks outside of Cuba had even heard of the drink until Rear Admiral Lucius W. Johnson, a U.S. Navy medical officer, tried Cox's drink. Johnson later brought the drink back to the the Army and Navy Club in Washington, D.C., and within a few decades its popularity soared. Its fame was sealed when Ernest Hemingway and President John F. Kennedy made it one of their favorite cocktails. 
If I had to pick a provenance for the daiquiri, this story would be mine because it seems so American—the child of America’s spasmodic rise to world-power status in the early 20th Century. Perhaps it should have been named the “Teddy Roosevelt” or the “Rough Rider.”
Originally the drink was made with a teaspoon of sugar and the juice of one or two limes poured over crushed ice in a tall glass, all finished off with two or three ounces of white rum. It was then stirred with a long cocktail spoon until frosted.
I suggest you break-up with the hot-mess girlfriend version and move on.
Recipe for the Classic Daiquiri
Ingredients
2 oz. white rum (Cruzan Light Aged, Mount Gay Eclipse, or Flor de Caña 4-Year Extra Dry)
1 oz. fresh lime juice
2 bar spoons of sugar syrup
Preparation 
Pour all the ingredients into an ice-filled shaker. Stir vigorously with a cocktail spoon and strain into a chilled glass.
Hemingway Daiquiri
Ernest Hemingway was diabetic, so according to legend this particular version was devised for him using maraschino liqueur in lieu of sugar. How this made the drink better suited for a diabetic escapes me. One reason I call B.S. on this story, but here it is nonetheless.
Ingredients
3/4 oz. white rum* (Cruzan Light Aged, Mount Gay Eclipse, or Flor de Caña 4-Year Extra Dry)
1/2 oz. maraschino liqueur
2 bar spoons of grapefruit juice
2 bar spoons of fresh lime juice. 
Preparation 
Pour all the ingredients into an ice-filled shaker. Stir vigorously with a cocktail spoon and strain into a chilled glass.

Well, there you have three classic drinks to get you through the hot summer months. If these don’t work for you, then grab an ice cold beer.

*I seriously doubt that Mr. Hemingway, one of the most famous professional drinkers in American literary history, would drink a daiquiri with less rum than the standard version. I would up this to 1-2 oz.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Long and Low

We all get stuck in a rut from time to time. I know I do. After all, I try to write a new post about every seven to ten days and frequently I have a hard time coming up with something new to write about. Cooking is that way too. Life gets in the way. Between work, the daily schlep to school, homework, soccer practice, and everything else in between, it becomes harder and harder to avoid the temptation to pick up the phone and order a pizza. And when one does summon up the energy to cook dinner, it is very easy to throw a piece of chicken on the grill or open a box of Kraft mac-n-cheese—not that there’s anything wrong with Kraft mac-n-cheese!

But there’s a way of cooking that has been around a long time that results in a good meal and allows for a bit of relaxing. I’m talking about braising. Braising is a cooking method that uses a little liquid and barely simmers at a low temp on the top of the stove or in the oven. In other words, long and low. The great thing about braising is that it gives you time to help the kids with homework, grab a cocktail, or if you are sans kids, play a quick game of Assassins Creed.

Braising is a very old method of cooking that has changed over time. Originally, braising was carried out directly on the hearth, cooking food slowly in hot embers. Fortunately for your local fire department, braising no longer requires an open hearth. While braising was typically used for tough pieces of beef, it also works well with tender chicken or fish, especially turbot or halibut. Braising can occur on the stovetop or in the oven. I prefer the stovetop, but either way you should use a good heavy bottom pot. A Dutch oven (Staub or Le Crueset) is a must.

Going back to life getting in the way of a good meal…

I keep a Costco-sized bag of frozen chicken breasts in the freezer for quick night dinners. Now, I know that nothing is more banal in our modern, homogenized world than skinless, chicken breasts. But they are convenient. And here’s where the braising comes in handy. With this technique, you can transform that boring chicken breast into a pretty decent meal. Of course, skin-on chicken thighs or chicken legs are the bomb when it comes to braising! But in a pinch, at 7:00PM on a Monday night with fractions and spelling practice closing in, the chicken breast will have to do.

After I’ve thawed the chicken breasts in a bath of hot water for about 15 minutes, I pat them dry and season them with salt and pepper and lightly coat them with flour. Then it’s time for a good sear in the Dutch oven using about two tablespoons of olive oil. (Maybe if no one is watching, I will use a bit of butter! Like Julia Child, I love butter!) After browning the chicken breasts on both sides, I remove them from the Dutch oven and set them aside. I then add some onion, garlic and mushrooms, and sauté until browned. I’ll then de-glaze the  Dutch oven with some white wine, vermouth, or white port. (If you’ve never cooked with vermouth, you’re missing out!) At this point, I add chicken stock, fresh thyme, parsley, and maybe a bit more white wine or vermouth. The amount of liquid should cover half or 3/4th of the chicken. I braise on the stove top at very low heat for about an hour to an hour and a half. 

When finished, I remove the chicken and add some flour to thicken the sauce. Another approach is to strain the liquid and remove the excess fat and reduce if necessary. Beurre manié (roux) can also be added, but this seems to defeat the whole purpose. 

What do I call this concoction? French chicken, of course!  But you could just as easily think of it as your easy working day meal, simpler to prepare than you think and more rewarding than another pizza delivery.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Missing in Action, Part 3: Wine Tastings

© 2016 Chris Terrell
In Burgundy, wine cannot be ignored. Its physical presence is constant—every square foot of arable land is planted with vines. Over time, the rhythm of cool, warm, hot, and back to cool has annealed wine into the psyche of the people who live there—it’s visceral; it’s emotional. You cannot understand this unless you are Burgundian. But you can come close…and that’s still pretty damn good.

I must confess that wine wasn’t the sole reason I went to Burgundy. This was not intended to be a “wine tour.” In fact, I’ve always found the “wine tour”—at the least the Napa Valley version—to be hackneyed.  Don’t get me wrong, I love wine, and I love Pinot, but not in that crazy Miles-from-Sideways kind of way. When it comes to French wine (which I do love), my go-to regions have always been the Rhône and Bordeaux.

Yeah, I was due for an attitude adjustment.

When we drove into Burgundy for the first time, it was like one’s first trip to the Louvre: “wow, there’s a Renoir!”; “look at that, a Monet!”; “that’s a Picasso!” It was a struggle to focus on the road and not gawk at so many well-known places: Volnay, Pommard, Gevry-Chambertin, and Meursault. It was like walking into a bar in 1967 and finding The Who, the Rolling Stones,and the Doors all playing at the same time. But it’s even more than that because in Burgundy you can walk up to, and sometimes into, the vineyards and talk directly with the winemakers themselves. It’s like going into that bar and playing guitar with Pete Townsend.

During an afternoon drive from Beaune to Saisy, a bit groggy from lunch, I pulled off the main road into Pommard (Remember what I said about this not being a wine tour?) and found a co-op selling local wines. I was quickly greeted by a friendly and enthusiastic young woman (who says the French are rude!), who proudly gave me a mini-education about the wines of Pommard. 

She talked about how she wanted to visit America. I talked about my love of France. We both talked about our differences as a people—gregarious and optimistic Americans vs. the reserved and cynical French, although we both agreed that Texans are big and bombastic. An entente cordiale! 

Scooping up my wines, I energetically ran back to the Renault. I pulled onto the D973, heading back to Saisy. But wait! Is that a sign for Volnay? I thought. I couldn’t resist. After all, the first Burgundy I ever tasted in my life came from Volnay. How could I not stop?

I parked the Renault so I could better explore the village on foot. Laura promptly fell asleep in the car. (My enthusiasm for wine touring was waxing, and hers was clearly waning.) I walked around the village, past an old somnolent church on this random Wednesday—Volnay is a village of barely 300.
As I made my way back to the car, I noticed a vigneron’s shop, with a sign proudly displayed that read “open; tasting.” I walked into what looked like someone’s home, and it probably was. An older, slim, bald gentleman, who looked remarkably similar to Patrick Stewart, greeted me with a warm, yet formal, “Bonjour.” In my best halting restaurant French, I inquired about tasting his wine. His eyes lit up: “Mais oui!” We went down into the cellar where he let me try several of his wines: One from Pommard and two from Volnay. I bought all three. 

After Volnay, back on the D973 to Saisy. Then I saw the sign for Meursault, a village famous for its whites. Another tasting. Another two bottles of wine. And yet still it was not the last tasting; I was determined. 

This time—from Dijon to Saisy—we visited Gevry-Chambertin, one of the more famous villages in Burgundy. Two more tastings and four more bottles of wine. Here, one vigneron was a newbie, having only been in the business since the late 18th century. The second one was a bit more of a veteran. 

We walked into a parking lot situated between two buildings and a vineyard right to our left. Wine had been made here since the 17th century. We heard barking, both human and adult, and a young child’s giggles. Otherwise, the place was quiet. Suddenly a dog bounded up the stairs from the cellar, quickly followed by a boy around six or seven. Next, came his rather stern looking mother. 

As best I could, I told her that we would like to taste some of their family’s wines. With an efficient wave of her hand, she directed us to the tasting room.  We tasted several. This was damn good wine; even the young ones were good. We obviously saved the best for last. But it wasn’t just the wine that made this tasting so enjoyable. This was where a family had lived for generations making wine.

I helped the young boy with his English, teaching him to count from one to ten. (He was quite good.) Mom began to smile. We all got a good laugh when the dog Gaston—he had a name by this point—ate the crackers. As we left, the mom was insistent that Luc—he too had a name by this point—thank us and say goodbye in English, but he would have none of it. Chocolate was clearly denied as a result of this breach of manners, and he ran off, but when we walked back, I turned and saw him scamper back to the cellar with a piece of chocolate in his hand. Good to know that the infamous French parent may on occasion be soft as an American.

We arrived back to our cottage just as the sun was setting—just in time for dinner. Thankfully, I had the foresight to buy at least one bottle of wine that we could drink that night. As the lamb chops were braising, I opened the back door and looked out at the fields we would be leaving soon. I was both content and sad at the same time—that whole “parting is such sweet sorrow” thing. 

I thought to myself, “Damn I love this place.”