Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Birthday Dinner at Je Suis Gourmand/Good Wines for Large Parties, Weddings, Etc.


When hosting large parties for, say, 40 people and up, serving good, or, at the very least, decent wine with dinner is always a problem. For mere mortals such as I, cost is, of course, a major consideration. If I were rich, hey, I'd serve 1855 classified growths to everyone; but, unless that happens (and I'm not holding my breath), more reasonably-priced fare is in order - but it has to be something I and my guests can drink and live to tell the tale. Thus, I am always on the look out for such wines.

The Setting:

Friday night, the 31st July 2009, I encountered some at Je Suis Gourmand during Jen Burroughes' *cough*th birthday dinner. It was quite a big party, around 60 guests or so, by my estimation. Robert took the entire restaurant over for the occasion.

The evening's celebrant/hosts

The Food & Wine (all wines available at Forth & Tay):

As I walked to the restaurant from the nearby parking lot, I saw a crowd of guests milling about the outdoor cocktail area, enjoying an endless stream of Piper Heidsieck Champagne Brut NV and canapés.

No wonder they were out of stock at Forth & Tay's Makati shop along Kalayaan when I sought to buy some last Tuesday (I've had this several times courtesy of J-Lab). Between Robert and J-Lab buying up the stocks, this very bright, lively and charming (and most reasonably-priced to boot) bubbly has seemingly become a rather scarce commodity. James du Vivier, however, reassured me later on that Forth & Tay still has a healthy stock of this great-QPR champagne in its warehouse.

James du Vivier with Mike & Shiela Whiting

I also bumped into Charles and Anton Palanca and Charles helped me locate the night's celebrant in the sea of humanity. Jen seemed very busy entertaining and being greeted by well-wishers, so I went in to say hi to Robert first and got to greet Jen after chatting with some good friends and IWFS stalwarts.

Bill Stone, David Beddow and Lawrie Martin

We were then eventually ushered in and seated for dinner.

Recalling Jerome's 6-hour wine lunch at Je Suis Gourmand just the day before (see the post immediately below), I opted for the relatively healthier Mixed Green Salad with Garlic and Anchovy Dressing, Parmesan Shavings and Parma Ham for my first course, enjoyed with the evening's white.

2006 Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Semillon - This is a very approachable, charming, straightforward wine that presents well-rounded, lowish acid, soft tropical and citrus fruit flavors with an easily noticeable touch of toasty oak. Very easy to drink and I'd expect many new to wine will find this quite pleasing. At a mere P675/bottle at retail (only P575 if one spends P6500 in total), it is ideal for large parties or as an everyday quaffer.

For my main course of Seared US Beef Onglet Steak with Peppercorn Sauce, Fries & Salad (yes, I know, I just had this for my main course for lunch the day before, but I enjoyed it so much I simply had to choose it again), we were served...

2005 Dourthe Nº1 Rouge - A red Bordeaux by Dourthe, a large negociant outfit, from assorted wine critics' current "vintage of the century". I must admit that I'd never had any of Dourthe's wine before and didn't really know what to expect. However, I was quite pleasantly surprised by it. A clearly modern and straightforward wine, but easily approachable and casually enjoyable with its virtually full-bodied, well-rounded and low-acid, soft, sweetishly-roasted-ripe plum, cherry, cassis, bit of vanilla/toffee/cinnamon to its mildly toasty oak. It stood well with the succulent gaminess of the beef onglet.

It drew quite a number of compliments from the surrounding diners, Leslie Stokes recalling that it was well-received at one of the Beefsteak & Burgundy Club events. At an astonishingly low price of P750/bottle (only P595 if one spends a total of P6500), one could/should back up the truck on this for large parties/functions/weddings.

Thereafter, everyone sang Jen a happy birthday and she blew out the candles of her cake...

...and we were served a dish of sinfully good Dark Chocolate & Almond Gâteau, Caramel Ice Cream and Mocha-filled Profiteroles & Sauces.

No dessert wine was served, but, I recalled the 2006 Nederburg Noble Late Harvest Robert had me try over lunch at Je Suis Gourmand on the 25th July 2008. My notes then were as follows:

2006 Nederburg Noble Late Harvest - Robert's bottle, the very first dessert wine from South Africa I have ever tried. Research shows that this is made up of chenin blanc (60%), riesling (27%) and muscat (13%). If there is one word I can use to sum up this dessert wine, it would have to be "racy".

Clean, fresh, floral and tangy/spicy lightly "botrytised" (as compared to the level of botrytis of dessert wines from Sauternes) and flavors of ripe (but not over-ripe) sweetened peach, white grape juice, apricot, melon. Crisp, palate- resuscitating acidic balance. The fruit is very pure and keen-edged.

With the conspicuous absence of the rich vanilla bean/oak notes of Sauternes and Barsac dessert wines I am familiar with, I was not surprised at all to read that this saw no oak-ageing.

I believe this wine, or a more recent vintage thereof, is available for a mere P550/bottle at Forth & Tay. This would be a candidate for pairing with - probably - a berry and cream dessert for a large party. At its price, it would be very easy on the pocket, and it is certainly charming.

After lingering over a double espresso and some cigarettes, chatting with Marc (finally back from a few weeks' well-deserved vacation in France), I couldn't help but tease him about becoming a celebrity what with everyone wanting to have their photos taken with him and the evening's celebrant. Perhaps all the regulars were also just too happy for him to be back in JSG. I certainly am.


Anonymous said...

i ve never had to entertain as many as 40 in recent yrs. choosing the wine would be a challenge as one's options are vastly reduced due to cost constraints. i remember in my wedding back in 1999, i had to choose between an italian called Dogajolo or a bordeaux called cheval noir. both were available in bacchus for about 500 i think. i chose the bordeaux. for the presidential table i got half a case of La Louviere 1988. i remember when fides and i had to do the rounds for picture-taking, i saw a La Louviere in Eric R's table! he said he had bribed the waiter to get the bottle from my table! -jojo

Aaron said...

Reminds me of my wedding! Although obviously, all the wines were free courtesy of our...uhm...warehouse (hehe, my dad could only shake his head). I allocated certain wines per table (Crianzas & higher for people who were more discerning) and jovens on regular tables. I saved the Reserve cavas for the latter part to be served (after the toasts); but I noticed some friends already enjoying it before Jo & I did! Apparently, they asked the waiters to bring them out for them!

Michi said...

Remember a few months back when I asked if you knew a David Beddow (whom I've met here in Aman)? It's that gentleman in one of your photos...

PS: I miss the bone marrow appetizer in JSG.

Miguel said...

Good thing Marc is back....I was craving for JSG food already....

Noel said...

Hey, Jojo and Aaron.

I used to host big parties on my birthdays, Christmas, and wedding anniversaries until around 2002 or 2003. By then, I had decided that, as a host, I didn't really get to enjoy those celebrations as much as I could have since I had to keep checking on all the tables/guests, checking the food levels, etc. The last one clear in my mind was the 10th wedding anniversary in 2002 - a little over 50 people.

Killed a few cases of champagne, wine and some bottles of scotch and cognac - a lot of people got totally smashed, myself included.

I don't do those parties anymore; now preferring more intimate dinners. My last birthday celebration with over 20 people was back in 2005 I think. Jojo, you were there - it was held in my place. Since then, maybe 10-12 people, tops.

Hi, Michi.

I hadn't met David when you asked me then. We met only this past Friday - we were seated beside each other. He's a very nice fellow who loves Rioja wine.

Best to all,


Noel said...

Hey, Miguel.

Welcome back, buddy. Yes, Marc's back in town. You want to try the '08 Tempier rosé with some escargots? Let's plan it.


Anonymous said...

Noel- i still have that Domaine Ott Chateau Romassan Rose 2007 that we had planned to open with the Tempier. -jojo

Noel said...

Hey, Jojo.

Oh, I've not forgotten that, not by a long shot. What say a comparative tasting of the '07 Ott Ch. Romassan with the '07 Tempier, and the latter with the '08? With escargots and a simple, light Provençal lunch from Marc? Bouillabaisse or bourride? Maybe a bit of ratatouille?

Anonymous said...

that sounds swell!!

Miguel said...

hmmm...yes Tempier and Escargot sounds perfect.. :)

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