Thursday, July 29, 2010

One of these things is not like the other

I can feel the sweat trickling down my spine. I would love to take my vest off, but I'm afraid of any dark spots that might be showing underneath. A part of it is from the heat, but another part is the spotlight my boyfriend, Kelly, keeps shining on me. He tells another story to the crowd in front of him, waits for the polite laughs to fade out before using me as another example in his wine talk.

I usually wouldn't mind, but the people around me are in a whole other social scene. Food writers, editors, critics, and the like all turn to me each time Kelly says "my boyfriend". They're wearing designer dresses and suits. Their jewelry shines in the overhead lighting and reflects against the sterling silver merchandise of the boutique we're borrowing. I am doing all I can not to sweat through my clearance rack dress shirt, pinstripe slacks, and vest (which is too damn hot for the summer, but is cooler than a blazer). Their conversations all surround the latest food trends and whether or not it was a good soft-shell crab season. Do I know if kumquats are a making a comeback? I would be hard-pressed to tell you what a kumquat tastes like...

The food editor running the tasting with Kel asks about pairing. He pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose, smiles, and tells the crowd that you don't have to match reds with red meat and whites with white meat (it's apparently an outdated trend from the '60s...who knew?). Someone else asks why the sparkling wasn't served in a champagne flute. "It's all about finding what you like. It doesn't matter what the vintage is or what glasses you use...Your job when you go to the restaurant is to remember the last wine that you liked. Mine is to find something else like it you'll enjoy."

I mingle with the crowd while Kelly pours. By "mingle", I mean I hide along the wall and make small talk while wedged between a sterling silver table display and a decorative column. I pick at the delicious cheese platters and the skewers of olive, prosciutto, and pickle. I answer the same questions from all the industry people. "Yes, he is great. Four months. No, we don't. No, I'm a technical editor." I spare them the details of my work, but punctuate my ignorance of wine with the same joke. "Sometimes, when he gets really geeky, all I hear is muh-na-mo-na." I sing like a Muppet to the food editor of a prestigious magazine.

Out of nowhere, a woman approaches me. She's dressed up like the others, but she's a little tipsy and has a rougher edge to her voice. "So I hear you're the boyfriend? That's great. I get dragged to all of my girlfriend's office events, too." She slurs a quick history of being at the event with a few friends (one her ex-girlfriend) and says it's great that the gays are getting more visible. I swallow the rest of my white and nod innocuously. The ex is a WASP with wounded doe eyes, watching carefully for the tipsy lesbian to make the transition to drunk and scene-causing. She gives me a hug and disappears with her friends to another event, only to be replaced by a man in a polo, khaki shorts, and same slippery speech. He tells me what a wonderful time he's having, mistaken that I either had a hand in planning the tasting or that Kelly and I could pass praise to each other through osmosis.

As he left to find his buddies (he'd return for a handshake and an odd hug), I began to feel more comfortable. I had the same number of glasses as they did, but I was vertical, clear-headed, and the redness in my face could have easily been from the heat and sunshine. For all their gusto and vocabulary (One day, I'll ask Kelly to explain the importance of the cru to me), they were really there for the same reason I get a little slippery and meet some interesting people. In the last 15-20 minutes of the tasting, I was told the same story twice by the woman I Muppeted, hugged again by the man in the polo, and invited to New York by one of the boutique's Manhattan representatives.

(Usually, the tastings provide you with a list of all the featured wines, but Kelly said that it was too formal for this particular event...and since I don't speak French and couldn't discern what was the vineyard and what was the grape, I have my assessment of the night's wines in a numbered list. I'll bother Kel for their names later...).

French #1 - Sparkling (not champagne); sharp and dry with a clean taste
French #2 - White; sharp and sweet with a hint of peaches in the background
French #3 - Rose; softer and almost savory with a mineral aftertaste
French #4 - Red (Beaujolais); earthy and peppery with a basil-like taste
French #5 - Red (Beaujolais); sweeter with a slightly floral taste (but only in the sense that you hear "oh it has floral undertones" and think "well, I guess that's what that is...")

Note: #4 and #5 were chosen specifically by Kelly because they were in the same region and only two years apart to show the variety of Beaujolais.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A start

This whole experiment is because of one man's obsession with wine and food. Not mine, although I have a deeply rooted sweet tooth that I can blame my mother for, but rather my boyfriend's. We have similar tastes in music, TV, movies (to an extent), but our jobs couldn't be further apart. At the moment, I am the technical editor for a market research and technology consulting firm. My beau is the sommelier for a restaurant in the city.

Sommelier. That's pronounced som-me-eh. I have told my family and friends his title for months now and I still think I say it wrong. My basic understanding of his job is that he runs the restaurant's extensive wine cellar and bar, as well as makes suggestions to patrons on what to have with their roasted artichoke hearts or duck a l'orange. Where my job involves thousands of pages about digital camera parts that have names straight from sci-fi novels (XLR-550 anyone?), he gets to go to wine tastings and lunches to see if he should be adding white wine A or such-and-such gin to the collection at the "resto".

After telling my co-workers about our nights out at this bistro to eat god-knows-what with some wine I can't pronounce for the life of me, I started playing with the idea of keeping a diary of sorts about being my beau's "plus one" to industry events and tastings. He, of course, was thrilled with the idea, but the man also ordered bone marrow and fries one night out so his tastes are a little suspect.

Along the way, I plan to try and learn as much as I can and hopefully give a little insight and knowledge for anyone else interested. Who knows? We might actually be able to order a glass of wine without wondering afterwards if its called Cha-bliss or sha-Blee.

Bon appetit!