Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Anniversary dinner with E -the evil twin

Life is a patchwork of countless moments. Most of these moments are fleeting, perhaps brilliant in passing, but soon fade into oblivion and are never thought of again. Other moments may not arrive with fireworks, but are cherished time and again for they become defining threads of unique embroideries, which, in the end, differentiate one patchwork from another.

In the stream of my life, a moment of the later kind came to pass last year this month. After 25 years of striving to be the best loner that I could possibly be, I was blessed with a long-lost twin who looked nothing like me, but knows my evil thoughts as if she lived in my head. Partners in crime, we’ve taken the city, or more like the world by storm. Forks at the ready, we’ve eaten our way up and down the eastern seaboard, across both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, and along the south China sea in a mere 365 days. With such an impressive record, it seemed only fitting that on the one year anniversary of our fateful meeting, we memorialize that moment by exercising our taste buds at one of the finest establishments that Atlanta has to offer.

We arrived at Quinones at Bacchanalia early in the evening. The cozy dinning room tucked away in a secluded courtyard was quietly bathed in the early evening sun. Near the window, an old couple, dressed as if at church were quietly conversing with a pair of teenagers, who looked less than ready for the eight courses that are about to come their way. We took our seats at a table a few yards away from the foursome and gladly accepted champagne and a bite of foie gras mousse to start the evening’s feasting.

The day’s menu had a few expected treats typical of early summer with a couple of surprises obviously flown in from afar. We selected the wine pairings and then went on to laugh our heads off in our usual fashion about something that I am no longer able to recall.

The first to arrive is a crudo of Hawaiian Ahi Tuna with cucumbers and coriander. The freshness of the tuna came forward immediately and found resonance in the crunchiness of the cucumber. It was paired with a glass of 2004 Domaine Zind Humbrecht Riesling from Alsace. The Riesling had the lively aromatics typical of an Alsacean Riesling and its bright acidity married well with the citrusy tuna marinade. E was so impressed, she declared it the best pairing of the evening.

The next course was hand cut pappardelle with chanterelles, morels, cepes and Italian summer truffles. E and I are both huge fans of truffles and its heady, earthy aroma was unmistakable in this dish. The pasta was beautifully presented and the mushrooms had that almost meaty chewiness that I loved so much. The only draw back was the deepness of the bowl, which made it awkward to leverage the pasta without making a splash. This reminded me of a comment that I had read in Mimi Sheration’s book “Eating My Words,” which criticized modern restaurants for elevating artistic expression above ease during the dinning experience. The pasta course was paired with a Clos de la Vierge Sec, Barrere 2004, from Jurancon. I sensed that the intention was for the wine to echo the earthiness of the mushrooms and truffles. While the wine had a pleasant woodsy nose, on the palate it bloomed into a forest, which left me momentarily unable to taste much else. Since E didn’t have the same reaction, I had to attribute my perception to my recent and very unpleasant affair with a bottle of antibiotics, which gave me splinters from anything oak-aged.

The fish course was the ultimate surprise. We were offered what looked like perfectly lined up little toasties next to a small artful puddle of local patty pan squash with flowers. From presentation to taste, this was by far the winner of the evening. The sturgeon had the texture of very tender pork. The proscuitto imparted just the right amount of savoriness and was slightly crunchy from being lightly pan fried. The squash, oh my god the squash, was insanely tender and creamy from bathing in the subtle butter sauce. Perhaps because I was too taken by the perfect union of sturgeon and squash or perhaps I was still recovering from licking hardwood floor from the previous Barrere, the pairing of Vouvray, Domaine de Clos Nadin, Foreau 2001, from the Loire Valley didn’t leave much of an impression.

The meat course was the predictable treat of spring lamb for this time of year. The lamb was braised with spring onions, sweet peas and pork belly. I, for one, love anything with pork belly, so the dish hit all the right spots and was just hearty enough to satisfy all my desire for savories. The best part of this dish and, for me, the entire evening, was the pairing of the lamb with a Chateauneuf-du-pape, Domaine Usseglio 2003, from the Rhone Valley. The nose had ripe berries and a hit of earth. On the palate the berries were very pronounced with almost a bit of stewed fruit quality. The part that went so well with the lamb was the hint of mint, which is as classic as one can get with lamb.

The dessert courses followed. While they were pretty and delightfully light, they didn’t add too much more to the culinary enjoyment. They did, however, prolong our session at dinner, which as always, involved more laughing than sometimes I think I am able to handle. All I can say is that if I am lucky enough to keep my twin around, and if it’s true what they say about the effects of wine drinking and laughter on longevity, E and I will be a force to reckon with for a long long time to come.

1 comment: said...

How nice to read your detailed review of Quinones - I am about to celebrate my Bday there this week and it helped us decide to skip the wine pairings and bring our own red and white we have been saving for a special occasion and pair them as we deem appropriate - I myself also think of food a LOT and my partner makes fun of me -
Tonight we are in Bham and will go to Frank Stitt's restaurant Bottega - hope its good the prices are jacked up!
Happy dining foodies!