Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Feeding A Thirsty Heart

“I’m sorry, and you must forgive me this shit eating grin but, I haven’t had my heart roll over in my chest like that in, hell, has to be at least 10 years” his hand like a spindly paw resting right in that concaved dip between my neck and my shoulders. I felt my face go hot in that way that makes me sort of wish I had one of those filters that could run a quick scan and keep me from spilling every last ounce of my guts before any poor soul that happens along my path, and in a way that lets me know that if I didn’t share all my junk, that I wouldn’t have these little stolen….shared moments of honesty with a face and heart that is vibrating, and pinging a little bit of brightness I brought him right back onto me.

He has been coming in for a few years. His group of amateur gourmands converging upon our store, and me in particular, to help them pair wines with their often grandiose and complicated dishes. A group that meets once every few months or so, for years now and one that has pleasingly, for me, chosen me to be their wine steward for their shared and slaved over meals. Used to be one cat that came in and challenged me to pick wines to pair with whichever multi-layered dish he’d been charged with bringing, but after a year or two it became pretty clear that I’d not jacked things up too terribly and now the rest of the group were coming in, printed menus clinched in their hands asking for assistance. Always so much fun thinking about all the dishes, each wine we’d settled on and having this next list of flavors to play with and bounce off the wines we already had in place. Dig these folks and their fever for fine food and wine and I feel pretty damn lucky to be involved with their meals and this whole, “Who’s pairing is better?” thing. This one gentleman however, he just makes it that much more fun. 

Tall, lean frame, warmly toned skin with deep slashes of life proudly worn on his face. He smiles a ton and those deep grooves assure me, he always has. Most often walking through the door with that welcoming smile, squinty eyes trying to blot out the sun behind him as he scans the store looking for his wine pro, (that would be moi) white t-shirt lying flat and crisp against his chest, barely colored cargo shorts, scrunched white socks, headful of age bleached hair proudly combed tight on the sides and with a James Dean like swoop in the front. This man is 70 if he is a day and every goddamn time he comes in with is list of ingredients, that smile and willingness, well he makes me puddle and want to please him. 

Our last exchange was me picking wines to pair with a colonial type meal, roasted game birds, cherries, root veggies and such. I stood there with his list in my head, his tall frame bending toward me as it does, and our playful banter feeling something like sparks jumping from stones that have been stricken together. Smoldering, but sweetly. He craves my palate, I crave his charm and readiness to let me drive. I picked his wines, we laughed and talked about the other dishes that were to be at the table and the wines I’d picked to go with them, his grin sturdy and gaze just enough to inspire me, “You know, I just hope that my husband stays as fired up and stimulating as you are. You sir, you give me lots and lots of hope. Things to come look so much better when I can see, all this here, on your face.” As the words fell from my lips I could feel the atmosphere around us change.

Long pause, my whole body starting to bead with sweat, my head kicking the shit out of my, well, out of my head as I wondered what the bloody hell I was thinking. I didn’t move. Wouldn’t crack. He was/is a wonderfully compelling man that makes me challenge myself, feeds my inner geek, makes me feel talented and appreciated in a way that flips all sorts of buttons in me and I told him about it. Now if I could just hit fast forward on those agonizing 15 seconds where I waited to see if I jacked it all up. 

Those deeply folded smile lines. The glow from those eyes that were fixated on mine, and wearing the kind of new confidence, because of my adoration, that made me squirm about beneath my flesh and shift my girth from one unsteady side to the other. The sound of my own breath blaring in my ears as that thin, long fingered hand reached for me….my feet seemingly rooted to the floor, both in the belief of what I had shared, and the hope that he was about to break that seal of separation and actually touch me. A new swath of skin landing on mine, the swelling of my shoulders as my lungs sucked in all the air around us. My body’s attempt, I suspect, to catalog that moment and affix an aromatic tag to it. Me standing there, falling into a second of falling that was perfectly harmless and just as perfectly invigorating, for the both of us. Fuck. I love, miss and need more of those.

I find myself holding tightly to a handful of fears. The kind that are terrifying enough to keep me from taking, “Those”  next steps, falling, floating, screaming, crying, begging and stomping my feet as I dust off my thick ass because I stumbled and fell, but for the most part I try, sometimes desperately, to live in each and every second. Living for me means feeling all those beats, the ones that sting and the ones that thump away enough at my aging heart to keep me wanting…needing that next hit. I sometimes fall victim to holding so tightly to the things I’m too afraid to let go of to grab the next bar and swing myself forward, heart racing, hair flying, mouth bending my face into a set of deeply lived smile lines, and I hate it. Sure it’s easy to plunk yourself into each day of regular or unruffled, walk into work and do the same routine, come home and drop forkfuls of normal and comfortable into your face, crawl into bed and make love, politely, with the lights off before rolling over and getting in a solid eight hours of sleep….just to wake up, hit repeat and secretly wish there were a pause, or ejector button. My exchange with that handsome, stately, lived in and willing man, it reminded me. 

I’m older but far from dead, so laying still, well that shit I’ve had enough of. I want prickly forkfuls of awkward, long slow tugging sips of “up too late”, and “damn, that feels so fucking good” to spread my tight throat wide open. Tear at me until I am raw, exposed and leaking with experience. It’s time to fall in like, love, lust, want, whatever, come back for more. Time to slip my thumbs along the waistband of those comfy pants, wriggle and peel the saturation of complacency away and drop them on the floor with the rest of my unwashed goodies and let myself feel the deep swish of naked swing me forward. Let myself pickle in the marinade of things that braise and brine me….

Things that have recently left, teeth marks

Mark Twain
Been devouring all that I can get my hands on from this iconic and brilliant man. Had one night where I randomly snagged shit from the grocery store, the Vons even, where I ended up with Lay’s Sour Cream and Onion chips, a clam shell package of bologna and a squishy loaf of store brand white bread, I grabbed a copy of Time magazine that was devoted to the slightly dangerous mind of Samuel Clemens, have not been the same since. I’ve pretty much fallen madly in love, he’s way too smart for me but that makes him even sexier. The wit, the bite, the willingness to speak his beliefs politically…much of which could be said now and still be relevant. Damn…

Fish Sauce
Obsessed is way too insignificant a word. Started with a trip to a local Vietnamese restaurant. One with spring rolls that were tight, chewy, stuffed with roasted duck and firm spears of asparagus. The rolls that required me to pull them apart from one another, like unwashed bits of sweaty skin, dunk in a shallow pool of duck sauce and then take a deep splash into the other bowl, the one with tiny flecks of red pepper. The one that apparently unlocks the aromatic seal once disrupted and unleashes a hedonistic, gamey, feral, erotically filthy smell and flavor that makes me scratch at myself like a junkie just thinking about it. Have no fewer than 3 different bottles open at my house right now and I find myself dreaming up menus just so we can meet again. Whore. I am a whore for the stuff and when paired with brown sugar and lime juice and tossed over grilled veggies and tender bits of white flesh, well I’m reduced to an animal with nails dug deeply into raw, ready flesh…lapping away and taking seconds. 

Yeah, I know, not a new set of teeth but ones that are locked on me and not letting go. Recently ran through the lineup from Brocard and the 2013 Vieilles Vignes, (less than $30 by the way) ripped away at me so fantastically that I couldn’t wriggle out of my comfy pants fast enough. From sixty year old organic, (and biodynamic if it matters. Sometimes does, sometimes does not for me) vines this Chablis is wearing all the appellation has to offer, but concentrated in the most crave inducing way. Broken white stones, salty seashells, un-cooked bread dough and flirty snips of grilled citrus. Broad, expansive and still regal with a finish that is unremitting. Thank gawd.

Jasper Hill Farms Harbison
Took little more than one crusty breaded swipe at this oozy and decadent domestic cheese for me to groan and swear at it. Firm, brie-like rind wrapped in a thick band of herbal sage bark, interior that spills out upon the plate like gloriously savory pudding. Fork in me, I’m done. Been saying that domestic cheeses are rivaling those of the old world and this ridiculously perfect cheese is far better than many, like lots and lots, I’ve had from “the old country”. Oily, redolent with green olive, craving to spread itself on you. Not terribly easy to get but when you see it, grab it. Chill down something sexy and white, make brown the surface of some yeasty bread and just give in. 

2011 Enrico Morando Ruche de Castagnole Monterrato
When you taste as much wine as I do, like all day nearly every day, when a wine can lift my eyebrow, tilt my head and have my diving back for a second and third sniff, well that is a wine worth getting all flirty with. I admittedly taste mostly French wines all day, behind that domestic as our buyer likes to call me over to taste things with him…I suspect to watch my face more often than not, but every once in a while Brian, (our Italian and Spanish wine buyer) will call something to my attention. My current fantasies are studded with this sexy, light, fruity and like no other wine. One sniff of the bright red, crunchy red fruit and rose petals and my mouth began watering, searching for a thick slab of salty, fatty salami to let the snap of fresh fruit land upon. Hard roll of splintery dough, smear of mayonnaise or herbal rich pesto, ribbons of cured salami and a slightly chilled glass, (bottle) of this here playful red from Italy, (did I mention it is less than $20?!) and this seasoned wine vet is primed to dance barefoot in the cool wet grass….I mean, I think I would be, should it ever (ahem) come up.

2014 Roses
Dude. I have been on a royal bitch fest of a rant about the fact that importers are rushing roses to market sooner and sooner with each vintage, not taking that back but holy hell, are the 2014s fucking eye-blinkingly gorgeous! I did my yearly piss-and-moan session on Facebook, in January mind you, about the fact that I was inundated with suppliers begging for appointments to taste me on their roses. I appreciate that we are “The Store” when it comes to rose and every rep/importer wants to have their wines showcased in our Wall of Rose but dammit people, I can’t taste them all and why the fury to get here first?! Anyone with any sense will tell you that us tasting unfinished wines isn’t going to inspire more sales. Well that is unless we are talking about a vintage like 2014, dang it. Talk about your wasted vitriolic stomping. 2014 has me seeing the most thrilling pink wines from domestic producers I’ve ever seen, and a vintage from the France showing me wines, even this young, that have me more fired up than I have been since the 2008s. Starting to seem like you would have to be twice left handed to fuck up your 2014s in France and seeing as the dollar is strong, these nearly perfect roses are not taking price increases and in some cases, they are even less than in previous vintages. I’ve tasted over 100 roses so far this year and for the first time, maybe ever, I’m finding it way harder to pick which wines not to stock. Oh hells yes, bring it summer, our pinks are rolling in and we are ready for you. 

The Wines of Marcel Deiss
Alsace. My first love in all of wine. A region that has let me down more than pleased me in the past, oh I don’t know, fifteen years? Wines once geared for food, expansive but level headed, cherished for their sensibility opted to paint their faces and get their slut on for a handful of wine critics. I was fine with letting them go. I harbor no anger for lovers that leave me, mostly because I know they will either find a better match elsewhere, or one day see that they fucked up, hugely, and try and make amends.  Not sure Deiss fits into either of those categories but somehow we found each other and I could not be more excited to meet up and retouch those aromatics, textures and flavors that first spun my head and made wine the thing I knew I wanted to savor, discover, peel apart and share with anyone willing to listen. The wines from Marcel Deiss speak to me exactly like people do, wear their personality on the air you are reeling in after they leave. Terroir driven wines that don’t have to read you their insides to let you see, smell, taste and feel them. Unashamed wines of place….I not only crave them, I aspire to be like them. 

My Baby Sister Becoming a Mommy
Coming in October…..just typing that makes my heart leap and face fold into a smile that will probably permanently wear itself on my mug. Thinking of that sweet woman, the man that cherishes and loves her above all others, their sharing all that with a wee person they made together? Well it fills this craving heart and I cannot wait to meet the him or her that I’ve already cleared a path for in my heart. In love already and looking so forward to the first touch of those tiny hands and being able to whisper in that petite ear, “Do you have any idea just how special you are?”

Ready to reach for that next rung and swing forward.


Thomas said...

Once again, not only your prose but your choices make me smile, especially the Ruche...a region and wine that my store was among the scant few in the Big Apple to sell.

A few years ago, I visited Piemonte and Monferrato was one of my prized destinations.

Samantha Dugan said...

Kinda floors me how much you and I have in common.

The Passionate Palate said...

I admit it, I am jealous of your writing talent. I am also in awe of it. I just wrote a piece that was in a similar vein, and when I read yours I said, "Fuck! That is the way I wanted to say it!" You have a sublime way to capture the tiniest moment between heartbeats that speaks volumes.

We must break bread, dive into that cheese and pop a bottle or three of Ruche', Rose' or Pinot Blanc together soon while we share stories about moments are hearts flipped over. As I said on fb, I consider this one of your best. Thank you beautiful!

Samantha Dugan said...

Oh lady, not sure I have much by way of talent as much as an often over detailed mind that can't seem to stop trying to be a story teller. You humble me with such praise, and support, so thank you so much for both. You and I, we get each other lady and I'm grateful for that. Yes to getting together, drinking, pouring over the pages of our stories. Can't wait.

Just curious, have you ever had the Deiss wines? I would love to share some of those with you. Wicked cool stuff....

Thomas said...

No Sam, never have had Deiss wines. I, too, miss the old school Alsatian products--don't see many of either style in this retail market.

As for having much in common, yeah it is interesting, but the only time a customer touched my neck or shoulder was in an attempt to kill me...

Samantha Dugan said...

Well we might have to change that. I don't think the wines I want, (and they aren't the Grand Cru. I mean I want those but doubt I have a market for them( aren't coming until Summer but I may have to send you one. Marcel, well now it's Mathieu, farms everything together, co-ferments and doesn't varietal label, so basically he's a retailers nightmare. In fact, he doesn't even list what varieties are in each blend....wanna see a domestic wine lover's head explode?! My domestic buyer got his panties all in a wad because of that, which whatever, not sure why he thinks he NEEDS to know that. The Deiss philosophy is that they want to make wines that give a flavor snapshot of the villages they are from, which is very old world but not very Alsatian. The wines are simply mind bending. They really are....damn, now I'm all flustered again. I must send you one.

As far as the neck toucher, it was so harmless. He was very noticeably flattered, and maybe a little tuned on....which I thought was so sweet, and so very, honestly, human. Way better than the guys that lean back when I'm pouring wines from behind them at my classes, you know, so my boobs touch their back. Ugh. Started warning them, "Hey dude, you can do that but I'm going to have to charge you extra"....one cat pulled out his wallet. Cracked me up!

Winey The Elder said...

This thirsty heart drinks deeply from this offering. The aversion to the routine, the rut, the complacency my constant vigilance. And though we may be world's apart, decades apart, I crave what I believe is a kindred spirit and you deliver almost every time. Your honesty and vulnerability: breathtaking and humbling...how do you do it so effortlessly? At the alter of Samantha I worship, can I get an amen?

Have danced the Deiss for a long time. Hate the tastings where these are poured, as they compel me to exceed my self-imposed purchase limit and I've never regretted it. A crystalline purity rarely equaled.

I don't know; maybe blog posts are like wine: some resonate more than others. This one will reverberate for a long time, a long satisfying finish, if you will.

Thanks for not hanging it up. For awhile, I thought you might.

Brightest blessings.

Samantha Dugan said...

Sweet Winey,
Fuck, to hear such compassion and absolute understanding from a relative stranger makes me feel....well, it makes me feel less strange every time. You sir are a tender and kindred soul and finding you here, through the
opening of my skin, well this has been quite the extraordinary gift to me. I humbly offer you my gratitude and wholehearted adoration. I get to be me
and there are a handful of you that love me, in spite or because of that. Love is the only word I have for such a rare and tender gift.

Romes said...

How did I miss this post? I must have seen it on FB and thought I would come back to it and never did... This, this is just what I need to kick my butt into gear and face my own fears of being my authentic self. You inspire me Sam and I love that and so many other things about you.

Samantha Dugan said...

Well isn't that the sweetest comment?! I adore you lady and I can't wait to see what else you have to show me.