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Wednesday, 25 January 2012

No Fuss, No Fussball

Just Tailgating a la française

By Don Merlot
[Writers Clearinghouse News Service]
New Orleans
The hardest process in developing a wine taste is to follow your own instinct. And differ with the experts if you dare.
     You want to keep learning, but you have to become independent in what you like and what is available when you buy and entertain, you do not want people to cut you off because you become a wine snob. Deciding what you like and what your rules are going to be. This in no way is a standard to judge one who wants to stake out his claim as to what wine to drink with what food and or what wine is in the premier tier and which one is not.
     My rule No. 1 is to look for the differences and disregard the similarities. The hardest thing to do is order the wine at a restaurant when there are too many independent wine tastes at my table. But rather than pleasing someone another’s tastebuds, make the choice your choice.
     To me one of the most epicurean food and wine events was going to a football game and tailgating with a group of 10 to 12 people. Every time we went, I was in charge of the gastronomic repast.
     Being near to Chicago, at the time, this afforded me a chance to buy a variety of wines from Europe and California. One of my favourite stops was visiting The House of Glunz. The senior Mr. Glunz was probably 70 years old, and he let us in and showed us the different wines he imported. He taught us about Sherry, from Manzanilla, Fino, and Amontillado to Oloroso.
     We then would go to Bragnos and buy magnums of Beaujolais Village wines, my choice of wine with rib eye roast. We also purchased a white Sancerre to go with the appetizer, a New Orleans shrimp rémoulade.
     This country fare was a real treat, and we felt that our meal rivaled as any other tailgate feast. I favoured the Sancerre (Sauvignon Blanc) with the spicy/lemony rémoulade shrimp. Dry Sherry was an option too -- Tio Pepe Fino sherry became the No.1 option. We had loaves of baguettes to go with the slow roasted beef and the Beaujolais was just right for the pre-game lunch. We would make espresso laced with Armagnac and offer a Harvey Bristol cream before marching off to the game. (Great for autumn games as weather cooled off)
     I learned in France that serving a wine with a pedigree was not necessary every time you had a great meal. The French felt that Englishmen and Americans get too wrapped up with famous labels and do not look for the Terroire of the region The Terroire is a major French factor that dominates the French appreciation of wine.
     In all of my globetrotting, I've learned that the two cultures that focus most on food and taste are the French and the Chinese. In food and wine pursuits they are quite separate and different, but the culture establishes the order of dining process.
     When it comes to white wine the less alcohol, the less sweet and younger is first consumed and the progression goes on until the colour is almost amber and golden liquid becomes sweeter. Red also goes from young to old, light in colour to dark, and from young and dry to full bodied and silky tannin. Some think a port is the ultimate end of the process.
     In all the French meals I savoured, a beef roast went -- instead of a full Bordeaux or full Burgundy -– with pride from the French with a Beaujolais: I found the favourite was a good Beaujolais Village.
     My favourite starter in New Orleans is a shrimp rémoulade. I have it everywhere they served it, but my wife’s grandmother, a Louisiana Spanish Creole from St. Bernard Parish, made the best. It matched perfectly with a Sancerre. We served it as a New Orleans dinner as a starter all the time.
     The rib eye roast was laced with garlic and slow roasted the way a the French taught me: Rub olive oil and crushed garlic prepared at room temperature -- a raw roast. Under a broiler char the outside of roast. Bring down to the lowest oven temperature setting and let it sit in the oven 4 hours. I always timed it to start at 10 pm. Finished the prep and charring by mid night and time to over to stop at 0400. We would wrap the roast by 0700 and take off to the game. By 1030 – 1100 we would pull into the parking for the tail gate and set the table up. By 1130 we were eating a feast. By 1230 we walked to the game and took our seats. As the French say, what super souvenirs.
     The desserts were found in a Swiss pastry shop and were phenomenal: Italian rainbow cake, cannolis, Napoleons, éclairs
     The wine never failed me. And even today we have this combination, and, yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is a great sophisticated tailgating experience with a gourmet meal.

(Don Merlot, AKA Ron Alonzo, is writing a book about his escapades in food and wine). 

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