WPCNR White Plains Culinary Comics:The Epicurean Adventures of Les Chocons Qui Vole: For the last weekend of September, WPCNR brings back our feature for those who enjoy food with their wine featuring another hedonistic adventure of nine area residents who are members of a secret wine society, Les Cochons Qui Vole.
This weekend we take you back to a simpler time to their dinner of September 28, 1996, themed “A Bistro in Alsace” featuring the wines of Alsace-Lorraine province. To bring back that meeting, we turn to the painstaking notes prepared by the obsessive Wine Steward and Founder of the club, Michael. Join us now for a hearty warming feast of the senses bringing back the tastes and vintages tasted on that evening on the cool of an autumn afternoon
A Bistro in Alsace
The Wines in Order of Appearance
1990 Trimbach Riesling Clos St. Hune $59.99
1994 Weinback Riesling Clos Theo $22.49
1990 Trimbach Gewurztraminer Clos Ribeaupierre Seigneurs $20.99
1993 Albert Boxler Riesling $17.99
1993 Albert Boxler Riesling Brand $23.99
1993 Albert Boxler Riesling Sommerberg $29.99
1991 Meo-Camuzet Clos Vougeot $39.99
The evening began slightly on the late side as Les Amis of Les Cochons Qui Vole gathered at Freeport by the Sea on Long Island at the home of Ron and Pinnie. The cell phones were humming, with John and Janet calling to report traffic (although we heard John’s light foot played some part in the delay), and Sonny and Shelley calling to report a late start.
Michael’s stomach had been on the fritz since the last meeting (possibly a victim of his own scallops), and was feeling none too good on the way out to dinner and wondering about the wisdom of more wine.
What followed was an absolutely marvelous, relaxed and delicious affair.
Given Ron’s decision to make a bistro-type pork dish and Michael’s late morning inspiration to make an onion tart, Alsatian wines seemed like a good choice for the dinner. Although there was not universal approval, and the gewürztraminer produced some heartfelt, if wholly unjustified caviling, overall it was an interesting opportunity to compare a number of wine producers and styles.
Wine One: Clos St. Hune: Worth Every Yankee Dollar
While we waited for John and Janet and Sonny and Shelley to arrive from points North, we slowly sipped the Clos St. Hune, a wine from the minuscule Trimback vineyard which Parker (the wine critic, Robert Parker) notes has been called by many “the greatest wine in Alsace” – and priced to match!
It was certainly the driest and most elegant Riesling we drank all evening, very buttery, viscous, and rich, with a hint of pineapples and a long warm finish. Drinking it without food allowed us to savor it without distractions.
The First Course from Andre Soltner: The Onion Tart
The first course – the Cantwell’s execution of Andre Soltner’s aunt’s recipe of Alsatian onion tart was, if memory serves me well, the equal of that served at Lutece and a smashing opening to an evening that went from strength to strength.
Cassandra’s pie crust (Michael’s spouse) was one of her finest – light, flaky, and sweet – and the filling – two pounds of slowly cooked onions, a cup of cream, and two eggs – was as delicious as it was simple.
Bravo! Andre! (Incidentally, the rest of the Lutece Cookbook looks absolutely marvelous and is highly recommended).
Wine Two: 1994 Weinback Riesling Clos Theo
Although not as dry as the St. Hune, the Weinbach Riesling Cuvee Theo was a nice accompaniment to the onion tart, with a nose of apricots and flowers, a hint of carbonation on the tongue (a la Zind Humbrect), and an undercurrent of minerals.
Wine Three: 1990 Trimbach Gewurztraminer Clos Ribeaupierre Seigneurs Forget About It! But the Soup’s a Keeper!
Sadly, dissension erupted with the second course, although it had nothing to do with Sonny and Shelley’s knockout Curried Vegetable Soup, a rich, creamy affair with a decent kick, a candidate for one of the best soups in Chochons history (or is it Heaven?). Ingredients included butternut squash and Granny Smith apples. There was even some talk of ring kissing, although it did not get very far.
The Trimbach Gewurztraminer was another matter altogether.
Even though John and Bina are normally on the opposite side of the burning issues of the day, they united on the question of the gewürztraminer, declaring it undrinkable (and worse).
True, it was perfumed and flowery, with a nose of lichee nuts, and very viscous and cloying on the tongue, but it was not only an interesting wine, but an ideal match for the spicy soup (a dissenting opinion).
Although Bina evolved on more than one wine occasion during the evening, she would have no truck with this wine, and John, having already achieved that rarified state from which further improvement is simply not possible, clearly had no interest in shall we say, growing into the wine. Yet to at least one taster’s tongue, this was one of the best gewurzes (if you like that sort of thing), and probably worth a few bottles in one’s cellar as an accompaniment to spicy food.
Enter the Rieslings and the Entrée
The main course was another tour de force from Ron, a perfectly grilled pork with apples, accompanied by a risotto with chicken stock and a mushroom pie. Perfect bistro food, as good as that served Michael and Cassandra at Maison Kammerzell a month previously.
The wines were two grand cru Rieslings from the cellar of Albert Boxler, whom Parker characterizes as one of the finest of all the Alsatian winemakers. They were both lighter and more elegant than the Weinback, although falling short of the Clos St. Hune. Both were lemony, slightly sweet, and a nice marriage with the pork and its fruits. Unfortunately, the palate was overbooked by that point, making further comparisons impossible.
The Cheese Course
The cheese course as some say in Alsace ausgeseichnicht ( “outstanding,” literally “out of sight”), a young chevre, an aged chevre with peppercorns, a gouda made from goat milk, a St.Andre and a Roquefort.
The salad was crisp and light and refreshing, with a piquant dressing.
Finally, the Clos Vougeot was indeed, as a latetwentysomething consumer suggested to us, a “rocking good” bottle of wine, with hints of chocolate and licorice and a marvelous value for a grand cru burgundy.
The dessert was another masterpiece from Janet, a cake of the queen mother – light, rich chocolate with a wonderful crème anglais.
There being no further business, Les Chocons adjourned until the first of the year.
Les Chochons Qui Vole were founded by a former publishing editor, Michael, and his wife, Cassandra in 1986, inviting Cassandra’s daughter, Bina, and her husband, a doctor, another friend of theirs, Sonny and his wife at the time, and an old school friend Ron and his wife, Pinnie, and yours truly, the CitizeNetReporter and our Janet.
Financial resources were pooled to stock a wine cellar and for the last sixteen years the group has met approximately five times a year to drink and sample the great wines of the planet, create the great culinary experiences from all nations, and to ruminate on the issues of the day.
Eighty gatherings of this iconoclastic conclave have been held. The objective to sample wines expensive and economical, compare vintages and drink good wine at affordable prices while preparing feasts better than any restaurant. During this nearly quarter of a century, four of the original twelve “Dining Disciples” have departed the group, others have changed professions and retired, but Les Chochons continue to meet and remain forever young and “forever wine.”