The other day I had one of the greatest meals of my life. A dinner marked by profundity of flavour in food and wine. If I may, I will enlighten you about the three core ingredients that made it such a downright enjoyable experience. Of their type, there’s little better easily available.
I start with fruit, and I designate tomatoes as such partly to be correct but also because I’m buggered if I’m going to say anything positive about vegetables. Tomatoes from the Isle of Wight are easily the most attractive and generally scrumptious things to have hailed from that isle. They are easily available at Hampshire Farmers’ Markets which they attend as The Tomato Stall and branches of the Southern Co-Op for those of you with the good fortune to live in the south of England. If you are beyond the reaches of civilisation perhaps you can contact them via Twitter to find a local supplier. You want to find a supplier!
Why? Because Isle of Wight tomatoes have a near perfect balance between sweetness and acidity. Of course, for me balanced acidity means approaching one hell of a lot of it, but when that is combined with vigorous fruit, as in a good German Riesling or in these tomatoes, the joy of that harmony commands you to indulge ever more no matter how much your stomach screams. To be honest, I think the ‘stomach screaming’-thing is just limited to me and others who take esomeprazole, even moderate acidity hurts. These are not ultimately acidic compared to most English tomatoes if one started getting out pH meters. The vitality and energy these tomatoes exude is a match for that of the JJ Prum 2007 Spatlese I had yesterday, they pulse with joyous life making eating them an act of rejuvenation. I feel the thrill of life when I eat these little marvels.
The orb of choice is the baby plum tomato, this has the most sweet and succulent flavour. Ideally you’d just cut them in half and sprinkle some sea salt granules on the revealed livid flesh; that’ll make your pupils dilate with pleasure, if you can be arsed to share the toms with your pupils, that is. For this spell-binding dinner The Editor and I had cocktail vine tomatoes, split, salted, splashed with serious olive oil and seasoned with a small snipping of coriander. Beware coriander! You only need a little sprinkling otherwise it can alter the flavour of your wine and even dull the taste of your toms.
The next part of this meal of magnificence was beef. Beef! Beef! Wondrous beef! Mr Greg the plastic surgeon was sniffy about the merits of beef when he visited recently – a taste of what we noshed on would have corked his cake-hole.
Long time readers may not be surprised to learn the Hampshire beef that so inflamed our urges came from Woodlands Jersey Beef, I’ve sung their praises on innumerable occasions before and once again they delivered in fresh, genotyped, ready-to-implant human organ-grade style. However, before we get to the important business of pleasuring ourselves, there is the prime business; slagging off people who don’t enjoy good things.
I admit we were not first at the Woodlands Jersey Beef stand at our market; we didn’t have the widest choice of steaks. However, the sirloin and ribeyes we purchased were so small we didn’t see them for a moment as a gnat had landed on the stall table. This is not the fault of Jersey steers for being deliciously petite beasts. Nor is it, directly, the butchers fault. Blame for the miniscule steak crime can be solely laid at the feet of the tightwad consumer who is disinterested in sampling food at its best. The bastards!
There are several qualities one needs in steak in order for it to be supremely pleasure-peddling – thickness is undoubtedly one of them. If you are not seeking, demanding and buying steak of the thickness of a pound coin’s diameter you may as well go and eat some form of pre-formed, pre-seasoned, pre-chewed meat grill. Thin steak is not only inordinately irksome to prepare correctly but also delivers only a fraction of the potential pleasure of a properly girthy piece of meat. People who choose thin steak because they think it spares them expense simply spare themselves so much delight they are down on the deal value-wise. Don’t buy thin steak and if you see it on offer then spurn it favour of a satisfyingly proportioned hunk of flesh.
So The Editor and my sirloin and ribeye steaks were woefully small. Fortunately, the extremely excellent Editor is a grilling genius and managed, with his big, frighteningly hot implement, to extract the very most from our miserably measured meat morsels. The sirloin had a tender consistency and a healthy taste of complex, grassy, seductive meat. Truly excellent. The ribeyes showed why Woodlands Jersey price them as their most treasured articles. It possessed a fabulous texture where the meat melted onto our palates delivering richly fat-infused glories of supremely complex beefy flavours that ranged the expressive spectrum from intricate and involving to profound and manly. This was not a choice example, but when we’ve had properly dimensioned Woodlands ribeyes they thrash Ginger Pig steak and could hold their heaviest ends up even in the company of Pedro’s ox chops from Casa Nicolas in Tolosa. Quite possibly the best beef there is.
Finally, we needed wine with these Hampshire-sent delights and we thought we may as well have the best wine from a top Burgundy village: Freddie Mugnier’s Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru Clos de la Marechale 2009-flavour. I say ‘best’ whilst recognising the existence of things such as Cathiard Nuits Premier Cru, but then go on to discount them as even they wouldn’t be worth my last kidney in the sense that my allocation of Freddie M’s wine could well be. Mugnier’s interpretation of that Nuits vineyard, and its application to broader Nuits terroir, is at the stylistic and, god damn it, quality pinnacle of the village’s wines.
2009 is clearly a great vintage and those who rushed to damn them early on for their richness and ‘excessive fruit’ will be kicking themselves in the rude bits that they didn’t buy more when examples like this confidently structured Nuits are fully mature. It’s certainly very fruity, but that is allied to power in structure, acidity and overall presence. At this stage in its development it is a stunningly stentorian seraph that commands you be in awe of its profound personality or it’ll open a can of whoop-ass on your sorry hide. Yeah, right now you take notice or else.
Pleasingly all its elements are in impressive harmony and where there’s ripe fruit there is energetic acidity, where there are confident tannins there is an ultimately supple structure. The dreary amongst you may comment that I’m advocating something I normally seem to decry, but I feel my position is always to drink wines when they are maximally pleasure-giving. With most wines that is when they are relatively young, Clos de la Marechale 2009 needs time in a good cellar. It will age to the epitome of a beautiful, poised but deep and involving Nuits-Saint-George – the future is engorged with excitement for this wine and I will be keeping the few bottles I can afford to cellar for ten years or more (if I can keep my eager, lustful hands away from such sophisticated satisfaction for so straining a separation). I’ve got to sell some bottles though, as I’m broke. Sob! That hurts.
And so with fruit, meat and wine elucidated we can crumple the napkin of this meal and toss it to the floor for the servants to tidy. We’ve enjoyed the good stuff, nothing more to see here, but you’d be welcome to join The Editor and I for an experiential puff on the e-cigarette we have, probably foolishly, obtained for meditative moments like this when we really wish there was just a smidgen of that Nuits left. And maybe half a tomato as well…