I opened this bottle the night I proposed marriage to my girlfriend now wife. I had made a special meal for her because she was flying out to Bogota to visit her family the following morning. She’d be away for a week or so and this was our last night together. It was time and I had my plan of attack ready. I wanted to propose in the comfort of our home. No getting on my knee at Tavern On The Green. No Yankee Stadium Kiss Cam. I was in my socks and we we’re listening to Depeche Mode. It was simple and beautiful. She had no idea it was coming.
I don’t like to cook. Actually, let me rephrase that: I don’t like cooking in my apartment. I have no counter space and the oven is 3 feet from the toilet. My sink has a holding capacity of a coffee cup and a spoon before it hits maximum density. When I do decide to cook I have to commandeer the top of my trash can as cutting board. In spite of all of this, I wanted to cook a meal for this big night in my life. I had it all planned out, 3 courses. Salad, pasta, fish. For the salad I wanted to keep it down home. Arugula and Parmigiano Reggiano. As simple and perfect as salads get. Next would be the pasta. Here I was beginning to get out of my element and had enlist the help of Damian the head chef at Bar Boulud. That day he had made allla chitarra pasta and skimmed off a few strands for me. He dusted them with flour and wrapped them lengthwise in wax paper for me to carry home. I didn’t want to make sauce for the pasta and I also didn’t want to cheese out and buy a jar of Ragu so I asked Damian to call his dealer, erm, supplier of white truffles to pay a visit. He made it over to Bar Boulud within the hour. All 3 of us of went into the office and he laid out his wares for us to examine. I chose a gum ball sized one that stunk more than the others. “Good choice” he said. I gave him his $100 and he left speaking on his cellphone en route to the next appointment.
Next was securing a fish for the main course. I’ve always loved the way the chefs here would prepare a whole fish in a salt crust. It is the most beautiful presentation. You whip a bunch of egg whites, fold in Kosher salt and cover the fish in this sand like concoction. It hardens up in the oven and creates a airtight shell which steams the fish perfectly. Then you take the fish out of the oven and present it to the table and crack the shell with a spoon. The steam rises out and everyone smiles. This was my plan to do at home. I bought a beautiful 2 pound Dorade from Chef Damian. He also gave me some string to tie the fish, some sprigs of rosemary to stuff in its mouth and some written instructions to help with execution. I was ready.
I finished service that evening around 10:30. I grabbed my fish, my pasta and wrapped the white truffle in a paper towel and put it in my pocket. I grabbed the A train at Columbus Circle and made my way home. On the train ride I was thinking of which wine I should choose to pair with everything. Aged white Burgundy seemed to be the logical choice. I had just bought a few bottles of ‘89 Meursault Luchets, Roulot from my friend G. I have been a fan of the wines of Roulot since my first taste of white Burgundy 12 years ago. The wines are laser precise and clean with a stony quality that make them really a refreshing drink. As they age they get richer in texture and take on hazelnut/white truffle flavors. It was all coming together.
I walked though the door, kissed my girlfriend, changed clothes and immediately started cooking. Within minutes my apartment looked like a condemned toxic waste spill. Pots, pans, plates, fish gills, flour, egg shells were everywhere. My girlfriend started to freak. “What the hell are you doing?? You’re making such a mess!!” I had to soothe her and tell her not to worry and promised that I’d clean it up when I was finished. She had no idea I was going to propose. She just thought—as usual—that I was crazy. Things seemed to be ready. I plated the Arugula salad and served it to Norma. Since our apartment size doesn’t allow us the luxury of a conventional dinner table we were saddled up at the coffee table and sitting Indian-style. We smiled at one another as we munched on the salad and washed it down with the ‘89 Roulot. Delicious. I got up to clear the plates as my boiling water for the pasta was ready. I dropped in the pasta and waited for a minute or so as Damian’s instructions told me. It was ready. I poured the pasta and boiling water into a colander and watched it drip dry. I then scooped them onto a plate and began shaving the mini white truffle extra see-thru thin. Their kinky aromas started to fill the whole apartment. I also added some fleur de sel for good measure. I grabbed the plates and did a sock slide on the hardwood floor to the coffee table to serve. I sat down and we smiled at each other. We began eating this delectable pasta and took sips of the Meursault. It was so delicious. We both let out groans of joy while we ate it. There’s something primal about the flavors of white truffle that make them so appealing. The aged flavors of the Meursault mirrored the truffle flavor perfectly.
“Ding!!” Was the sound that came from the timer telling me the fish was ready. It reminded me of the sound to announce the start of the final round of a boxing match. This was my final round as well. The final round of the dinner and as well as my bachelorhood. I was going to propose to Norma as soon as I served her the fish. I pulled it from the oven to let it sit and ran into the bedroom. I found my one of my cats and grabbed her collar and slid the ring over it and fastened it to her neck. My idea was to have one of our cats approach my girlfriend with the engagement ring around her neck. I wanted to catch her totally off guard and make it a huge surprise. Of my two cats I decided to choose Lola, all she wants to do is eat and I figured as soon as she smelled the fish we were eating, she’d head for Norma like a heat seeking missile. I closed the bedroom door with Lola in there. She was locked and loaded. The fish was ready. I presented it to Norma and ceremoniously began cracking the golden and hardened egg white shell with the back of a table spoon. Steam rose up from the fractures and the fish appeared to be perfectly cooked. I returned to the kitchen and filleted that sucker. They looked beautiful. I had a little white truffle left and shaved the remains over top of the fillets. This was it. The bell was tolling. I gave Norma her plate and ran to the bedroom to open the door. Lola darted out and ran to Norma guided by the powerful aroma of the Dorade. Norma started to laugh as Lola began having a conniption trying to get to her fish. The cat usually doesn’t wear a collar and Norma noticed immediately that she was wearing one but unfortunately she didn’t see the ring. I had to think fast before Norma swatted her away and started to eat. Ding! It came to me. “Check her collar, I think I put it on too tight” I said. With that, Norma held Lola and turned her to get to the fasten of her collar. She saw the ring. She looked directly at me and began to cry. I went over and hugged her. Then she started to laugh. Then we both started laughing. Her answer was yes.
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