Bottom of the Bottle
This morning I am beat. Tired. Exhausted. I am not alone in this, Bryan and Chef Jim both espoused similar feelings this morning when we came into the Bistro. Coffee my hand, we regrouped and begin discussing what went well last night and what we can improve upon. But damn it, the caffeine is not doing the trick yet. We were all here past 11:00 last night, finishing 14 plus hour shifts, at least chef and mine were 14 hours, Bryan’s was likely much longer. All of the adrenaline from the night before has vacated our systems. The post work high we had upon ending the night strong has disappeared much like the remaining drops of wine in the glasses of our guests.
In case you were not here last night or didn’t catch the explosion of social media posts via Instagram or Facebook, which coincided with the evening’s activities, we held a wine dinner; a dinner with the amazingly talented and world renowned winemaker, Silvia Puig. We showcased eight of her wines, some past vintages and some were the first to be opened and tasted in this hemisphere. They were, and are, stunning. As vibrant and lively as the wines were we are still dragging. How did we get so tired, you ask? Let’s rewind the time back to the beginning so you can get a sense of what this kind of event entails.
It starts, quite simply, with an idea. It festers and builds until it crescendos and it too much to contain within one’s own mind. This idea was actually five years in the making, but it all came to a tipping point last summer on Bryan’s most recent trip to Spain. Bryan was meeting with Silvia. Conversation turned to the matter of traveling and that Silvia had not been back to the United States in half a decade. Too long, at least for us. Eventually there was a verbal agreement, perhaps after opening few bottles of wine and strong Belgian ales, and everything could be shelved for a few months.
Fast forwarding six months. Ideas have been percolating in the minds of Bryan and Jonas. Ultimately a few dates were floated until a week was nailed down and travel arrangements were made. Next came the fun bit. Planning and debate, and it is endless or it seems so, but it is always moving forward, if only at a grinding pace. We debate the menu, time for the dinner, which day of the week, and then we debate the menu again. And again. And again. As the days are ticked off things are slowly set in stone, ok maybe not stone as that is a bit too permanent for our liking and ever changing minds. As we were discussing the menus, yes menus, plural, because there will be more than one dinner with Silvia this week, we did set the times and dates. Then we release the information to you, our friends and regulars. Seats for such events do not have a long shelf life, and more often or not they are gobbled up faster than the food we serve at the dinner. This particular night was sold out in a matter of hours, instead of the usual few days.
Once the event is announced and the seats are sold or are being sold the buildup begins. We test the menu items, adjust the sauces, discuss which bottles and vintages to pair with which course. No this one is showing better now. Yes that wine will be best for this sauce, and so on. In the case discussions were had with the menu in mind, then Chef, Bryan, and Jonas set to work. Building a menu as exquisite as the wines that Silvia creates, using some Spanish ingredients and a Mediterranean flare, (and oh is there flare) is no easy task: Gnocchi and mussels in a saffron cream sauce, sweetbreads atop a salad of baby arugula, green and white asparagus with a trio of roasted lamb chops and fingerling potatoes, filet of beef topped with a decadent foie gras sauce, finished up with fresh berries and little bits of raw sheep’s milk cheese, To. Die. For.
Then comes the little touches that can make or break a night, the seating chart, now who remembers which of our guests is left handed, didn’t someone have surgery last week on their foot? We better rearrange the seating. What music should we be playing to accompany the meal? It can’t be too heavy but it has to have substance, we settled on a playlist featuring Nina Simone, Miles, John Coltrane, and Sly and the Family Stone, fun, soulful, and artistic. Oh, did I mention the Jamón? How could I forget to mention the Jamón? A leg of Jamón Ibérico sitting on the pass like it belongs there. Because is f@#King does. Bryan is hand slicing that thing of beauty for each attendee as they arrive.
Finally there is the plating and timing. Making sure that everything going out is in the right and proper manner. Dinners like this will ebb and flow but if things are on point it is seamless. Running like, well like a well-oiled machine, no hitches. Wednesday night we were running, and this was with a skeleton crew in the kitchen. Just Chef and Bryan running the show, they made everything. At the front of house our crew did the rest. Jeff masterfully pulling the strings so well that the diners, Silvia and Jonas included, had no idea that we were short in the kitchen. As the evening wound down, and our patrons and friends left, we were on a high.
We crushed it.
But we knew that the next morning we would be dragging. Still we cannot complain too much, Silvia is running around all over the place with Jonas and she is doing it on Barcelona time, with the jet-lag. Besides, who would listen to us anyway? We do love this, which is a good thing because we are doing it again, tomorrow night.
Written Thursday Morning, May 10, after a few hours or sleep and far too much coffee.