November 24, 2007

Leave the Big Bag at home

We're back.

We just rolled (literally, think elephant seals) back into the house after another one of our gluttonous holiday trips to the South to spend time with E's friends and family.

If there's one thing we learned this trip, it's this: don't use the huge over-sized luggage that allows you to pack 3 bottles of wine plus clothes for two for a week. It'll just cost you in the end. As in, hand over a surprise $50 (okay, not so surprise if you've paid it once before, but still) if your bag is over 50 lb. We were a healthy 64 lbs.

There was nothing we could do, so we paid $50 in over-weight fees after requiring the gate agent to confirm that yes, if we packed two bags, both would have been well under the 50 lb. limit but the plane would be heavier due to the additional luggage. The confirmation didn't provide much comfort.

On our return flight, we were lighter thanks to the consumption and enjoyment of the Ariston Fils and 2 bottles of Per Bacco Chardonnay. But, to be safe, we put about 10 lbs into a throw-away piece of luggage from E's parents that hadn't been used since the 80s. Both the duck-taped throw-away and the large luggage will be going to Good Will very soon.

In other not-so-news, we ate and drank too well.

The first evening (after E's mom's homemade lunch of open-faced prosciuttto, gorgonzola, violet, and honey sandwiches) we started the true debauchery with cheese and a Cotes du Rhone that was a favorite of E's dad. From there, we crashed E's sister and her man's dinner plans and enjoyed a fabulous dinner for six at Food Studio. Predictably, E, the reason we were subscribed to the bacon of the month club, started this culinary trip to the South with a dinner of pork belly, while I enjoyed my parsnip soup and salmon. With our appetizers, we laughed and caught up over a bottle of Roederer Estate. And, with dinner, we enjoyed a botttle of 2002 Bien Nacido Pinot Noir from Testarossa, a gift we'd given to E's dad several years ago. It had aged to perfection -- cherry notes but the fruit had mellowed to a warm, comfortable, light acid, and the oak contributed a long finish without excess vanilla, which was wonderful to enjoy with family, over good food. And, of course, like almost every meal this trip, although we were full, we all opted in to dessert.

This general theme of overindulgence continued for the next few days with interruptions only for important events such as a three-extended-family Thanksgiving extravaganza (which was so much more than simple overindulgence) and a trip to waffle house (which was required).

One meal of note: we were lucky enough to return to Bacchanalia with E's best man and wife for our second perfectly executed meal there. The food was just as sublime as I recalled from our last visit, with excellent combinations and contrasts of seasonal and local flavors as well as innovative palate cleansers (watermellon smoothie!).

If possible, the service was even better than last time. The cheese plate execution had improved (a feat I would have thought impossible) with the addition of a slice of a tree as a plate, which has been pre-loaded with artisanal honey, olives, marmalade, and bread. This allows you to focus on selecting your four cheeses from the tray (which, after the wine pairing and sensory overload of the grougeres, and two full courses with palate cleansers, is a difficult enough decision on its own). At $72 for four courses ($10 supplement for cheese, $115 with wine pairing), this restaurant easily competes with and outdoes many well-recognized and michelin-stared San Francisco restaurants, some of which charge double. In short, it is an amazing value for well-executed, prix-fixe, haute cuisine and I encourage you to visit before the market economy does its thing.

Oh, and they had a course with pork belly (although the portion was significantly smaller and more reasonable than food studio), so E smiled his way through pork belly meal number two on our fourth day.

It's good to be home. I look forward to a week of vegetarian healthful meals, yoga, and mellow taper runs before the marathon next weekend.

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