Week before last, Cooper and I did something uncharacteristic: we went out, even though it was Thursday. And raining.
We started the night down at Roy's, for the wine club's presentation on the aroma wheel. Our friends Matt, Amy and R (who is a doctor and, I think, not interested in internet fame) joined the wine club a few months ago and they've been after us to go with them ever since. I'm glad we could finally make it - it was great.
Apparently last night's talk was a little more involved than usual, but we learned a lot. The speaker, Sharon Chama, trains restaurant staffs in wine tasting and pairing. She gave each of us a copy of the aroma wheel developed by Ann Noble back in 1990, during her time at UC Davis. I like the wheel, partly because it's useful, partly because it's pretty, and partly because it obviously came about via qualitative research (and qual always warms my heart):
We then sniffed six different wines - three white, three red. The base wines were the same - just a regular red and a regular white - but Sharon had doctored each with essential oils to demonstrate certain smells. Our job - and it was a competition - was to identify the smell, with the help of the wheel.
Since I can't smell anything, I thought I was going to do miserably, but that Cooper was going to tear it up. As it turns out, I got two of the six right, and was somewhat close on two of the others (but totally off on the last two). Cooper and Matt each got four right - the same four - and interestingly enough, the one they both got way wrong, they got way wrong in the same way. Apparently green apple smells like pine to them.
After the lecture part of the night, we each had four wines to taste (two whites and two reds), and Roy's sous chef paired each with a small plate. The first wine, a Sauvignon Blanc, was matched with a spicy salmon roll garnished with a mandarin orange salad and yuzu vinaigrette. The second, a buttery white blend that was a little fruity for me, was paired with a fantastic blackened shrimp served with corn polenta. The third, a Pinot Noir, was matched with a ridiculously well-cooked diver scallop in Korean black-eyed peas (that pair was amazing) and the fourth - an oaky blend of nine varietals - was matched with a gorgeous piece of medium rare lamb served over sauteed oyster mushrooms.
I gravitate towards red wines, especially in the fall and winter, so it's not surprising that the two reds were my favorite (though the last one was oakier than I usually like). All around, it was a super fun night and we're looking forward to going back when the club starts back up in 2010.
(Also, as a side note, that wine club would be a great way to meet someone if you were dating.)
Of course, four small (and I mean small) plates aren't exactly filling (for us, at least), so on the way home, we dropped by the bar at Crush for some snacks. I ordered the French dip and Cooper got the tenderloin salad -nothing fancy - but neither of us could finish because we got greedy and ordered the truffle fries as an appetizer, not realizing that they come in a bowl that's bigger than our heads.
I think Crush does a lot of things well and I'm really happy to have them as a neighbor. The truffle fries, though, might be their biggest accomplishment. I'm often disappointed by anything "truffled," because they're usually so under-truffled that I can barely taste the flavor. Not these fries, though. They smell outrageous and taste just as good. In fact, last night, the ladies at the next table asked us if the fries tasted as good as they smelled. Yes, yes they do.
Overall, good night. Especially for a rainy Thursday!