it was crisp in the richmond, the early twilight left the half moon lying on it's back in the early night sky. light shone through the front windows of chapeau!'s tiny storefront, a beacon to the eight of us, weary of work and the haste of the day. we stragled in like the black cat out of the alleyway, glad for the promise of companionship and libation. and to our unsurpressed glee libation abounded with the promise of 10 bottles of burgundy to carry these pilgrims through the night.
the weight of these treasures were not lost upon the adoring phillipe who silently produced, as would a master, a small table upon which the corked could rest away from the rattle of the perfect glasses which lie waiting before us.
the first of these to be released had come from the caves of randy salenfriend, domaine darnat monople "clos richemont", mersault 1er cru "le cras". how he procured this phenolic treasure, one bottle of only 500 cases produced left us wondering who's palm he'd greased.
(he slyly mentioned to us that he'd seen it recently on gary danko's list at $176, tho he had paid a paltry $45.)
with this quickly appreciated and the next bottle opened and one seat left empty our minds turned to the menus before us. Melanie provided a 1992, m. voarick corton-charlemagne grand cru which showed more mineral and age than the prior bottle, being clearly more mature than the first. with an original price of $70 we were all desiring the perfect food match.
we whet our appetites with an amuse bouche of salmon tartare with potato gaufrette. a simple presentation of just a teaspoon of finely minced salmon, shallot, italian parsley and a drop of oil to hold it together.
as the waitstaff made to do over us and our glasses our first courses began to arrive: a double order of venison carpaccio, ruby red, perfect concentric circles with a salad of apples and celery root; mussels swimming in a heavenly broth piled high with pommes frittes with a brilliant yellow aioli on the side and perhaps the favorite and most perfect match with the wine, seared scallops on a bed of creamy risotto with lobster sauce.
the next two bottles were opened with all the ceremony of the first, melanie and rob alternating the honors of the first taste. to begin the reds we started with the unfiltered wine fatemeh had found at amphora, domain calot morgon reserve, cuvee unizue vieilles vignes.
our fourth wine cheryl brought through randy (what are his connections? could they be hats off? the wine shop owned and operated by none other than phillipe?), a 1998 christian clerget chambolle-musigny.
we throughly enjoyed these as we savored the second of what was now becoming a series of truly decadent taste sensations; salade gourmande- lettuces in a black truffle vin topped with cured duck breast sliced paper thin with the flavor of duck proscuitto and two baguette toasts topped with foie gras terrine, foie gras ballentine with generous toast points and stewed prunes, and seared foie gras with "teenie greens" (perslane among them) and mini creamed and herbed potato cakes nestled among the greens.
melanie-ever the taskmaster had vino on the mind and fearing we'd run out of food before wine, blessed the opening of the volnays.
the first, a 1998 domaine monthelie-douhairet, "en champans", 1er cru was again through randy's connection. the next, and my favorite of the evening was the tarter, more acidic, raspberry and radiccihio flavored, 1993 domaine michel lafarge, "Vendanges selectionnees" from melanie's stellar cellar.
as the starters diminished and entrees were nearing bottles #7 and 8 took front and center, as did again the impecably clean new pinot glasses, a mean feat for a house that seats probably 45, with between 16 and 32 pinot glasses on our table at one time.
the menu is made for wine. any choice would've been the perfect one.
the majority of the table opted for the the braised breast of veal filet with soft polenta quinelle scented with truffle oil, carrot and
salsify fricasse with veal jus. vince and kathleen were the envied traditionalists with cannellini bean cassolet with toulouse sausage, braised lamb shoulder and duck confit. celery enjoyed the pistachio crusted atlantic salmon with organic bloomsdale spinach and pomegranate beurre blanc. foie gras showed up again in another of the salade gourmande that we had started with.
with our entrees we opened a total of 4 bottles. the first and second of these being a 1998 domaine heresztyn, gevrey-chambertin, "les corbeaux" 1er cru of randy's which showed as very meaty, reminicent of a reading room's lounge chair, knarly and leathery, hickory smoked with much earthy maturity.
the next, from melanie, a 1993 bernard dugat-py, gevrey-chambertin, vieilles bignes. this showed a little younger than than the '98, tho still showing very well, it was simple and short on the palate and went very well with the veal.
nearly out of food but happily long on wine we opened the last two bottles of the night, rob's 1993 domaine g. roumier, morey-saint-denis, "clos de la bussierer", 1er cru, monopole and the very sadly, but just evidently corked bottle of 1993 reene engel, vosne-romanee, "les brulees" 1er cru that melanie had brought.
phillipe, our gracious host, had quietly tasted all of our wines as we opened them to insure quality and just as demurely steered us away from drinking what would have been a less than beautiful experience with this wine. we all dutifully sniffed and swirled to be able to tuck away this experience should it be a purchased bottled rather than our own next time we had the occassion to experience this.
the night had grown long and merriment abounded on all sides. the restaurant was cleared of all but us and our clocks rang nigh to the witching hour, yet dessert was still to be had. what would it be?
the house was generous with many joys for the table. after clapping my hands in glee at the thot of tete de moine, irregardless of what else was on the plate they sent a taste out to each of us, many not having the pleasure of tasting the monks hood cheese before.
they also sent profiteroles, classic little puff balls, chilly and rich, and a second chocolate cake with evil dulce de leche carmel and praline ice cream.
celery ordered and shared the sorbets; coconut, cherry with cabernet and pear, several others had vanilla bean creme brulee, with tiny seeds abounding, and i, well what else would I get?
i had the cheese plate and another glass of the volnay.
my apologies for my spelling, tho my name is french, i, sadly, am not.
and all kind, laughing out loud thanks to kathleen for the inspiration.