It would be a grave understatement to say I was in over my head the other day while dining with coworkers at Empire State South for lunch. They have all been major oenophiles and foodies for decades and it showed.
We ordered a spread. And I was reminded that I have quite far to go in my food journey. There were things on the plates, methods and creations that I had either never heard of or simply just didn’t get.
One such creation was called Duck Terrine. I still don’t know what that is. I know it’s fatty and has meat wrapped around it, maybe bacon.
This was my absolute favorite dish.
It’s referred to as the Farm Egg and comes with crispy carolina gold rice, onion puree, cheddarwurst, shiitake mushrooms and the tops of vidalia onions. They boil the rice until all the starch is removed, spread it out on a baking sheet and bake it at a low temperature until it is completely dry. Next they coat the rice in tapioca flour and fry it, making it the perfect complement to the runny egg on top. I could eat buckets of this. It was THAT good.
There was the Super-Food, which consists of medium rare hanger steak, lettuce, radish, sesame seed coated carrots, a beet dyed farm egg and beets, turnips and pimentos, english peas and mint, vidalia onions, strawberries, blueberries and sorghum sweet potatoes. Hangar steak can be so chewy but this was not the case. It was perfectly cooked, tender and moist. And I’m a huge fan of english peas. They serve similar peas at Taqueria del Sol with steak but the steak is usually overcooked. I eat it anyway. I’m not sure what the white sauce is but I assume it involves mayo.
There was Smoked Trout Mousse mixed with dill. It was a simple topping. The best part is the bread. Empire State South has the best bread! Looks like they char it on the grill.
It was my first time tasting octopus. This dish is the Charred Octopus, it’s served with frisee, my favorite lettuce of all time, fennel, greens, and peanuts. It was all coated in this tangy hot chili sauce that my boss suggested might be to cover up the taste of the octopus. She does not like octopus. To me it has the texture of tofu and frankly I like charred tofu. But in all fairness, it’s not something to be consumed regularly or made by someone who doesn’t treat it with care because I could see how they could easily become chewy and flavorless.
We also ate an Oyster Po-Boy, I knew what that was…I’m from New Orleans. Rice Grits with Kimchee and Wheatberries. The butter sauce for the wheatberries was a great “dipping sauce” for the bread.
After a flavorful but somewhat confusing lunch, we went inside for the Montrachet in May tasting of the 2011 Burgundies. I read a vintage report and it doesn’t sound like these wines are going to be age worthy. A few notable producers, like Domaine Paul Pernot, were able to extract fruit and acid from the grapes and offer up some fairly well integrated white Burgundies. Other wines were overly extracted and so fruit bomby you had to wonder what were they trying to cover up. There was a Premier Cru Volnay “Brouillards” from Domaine Montille that had aromas of white pepper, so much so it almost smelled like incense. It was brilliant.
After Empire State South we headed to the downtown Ritz Carlton, where the Henri Giraud Champagne tasting was held. I’d never been but it’s so much cooler than the Buckhead location. Better design, or so it appears with all the gold gilded furniture and antique pieces lining the halls.
We currently sell the Fut de Chene, which at that point I thought was one of the finest Champagnes I’d ever tasted. It retails for $179. We also sell the Hommage, for $69. They are not my favorite but absolutely in my Top 3. I bought my favorite (Duval Leroy Femme 1996) and will be drinking it for my 30th birthday. It’s yeasty magic!
This tasting was to showcase the wine above, a vintage Champagne from Giraud called Argonne, vintage 2002.
Vintage simply refers to the year the grapes were harvested. Most Champagnes blend vintages (years), meaning a bottle of Veuve may be composed of grapes harvested in 2007, 2009 and 2010 etc. When a Champagne house makes a vintage Champagne, that means the grapes were particularly wonderful that year.
Argonne retails for $459/btl. Yes, I know. We jokingly said they should bolster its presence in strip clubs. It’s much better than Dom and pricier and sealed with a 14kt? gold staple. The wine is highly concentrated and rich, very very rich but not yeasty. The nose is bigger and brighter than the Fut de Chene and it leaves the most wonderful caramel scent in the glass after you’ve finished, almost like bourbon.
While I won’t be buying any, I felt so honored to sip it. It’s a pretty rarity.