Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Fans of Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey - Stephen Maturin novels will be happy to know that Houston Steve and I have continued our tradition of hosting a dinner in the style of an early nineteenth century Captain’s Table. Our latest effort began this Saturday just past, at the customary eight bells of the afternoon watch... four o’clock post meridiem to you landlubbers.

All of the usual Foodly Suspects were in attendance: the Roast Beef of Olde England with individual Yorkshire puddings, the roast goose with giblet gravy, the Toasted Cheese, and the Christmas Pudding, the latter having been flambéed in brandy and doused with warm custard sauce. In addition, there was gravlax and caviar served upon blini, those tasty little buckwheat pancakes (OK, not especially British), accompanied by my homemade akvavit (also not especially British). And for the pièce de resistance, Eric had prepared a sticky toffee pudding... a classic dessert completely in keeping with the historical tone of the evening.

Of course, Jack Aubrey and his particular friend Dr. Stephen Maturin would not consider a dinner worthy of the name unless it was accompanied by prodigious amounts of wine, especially claret during the meal and sherry with the afters. And wine we had a-plenty:

2010 Château Saint-Sulpice Bordeaux Rouge
2010 Scala Dei Negre Priorat
2005 Opus One
1999 Château de Lescours Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
Taylor Fladgate 20-year-old tawny Porto

Priorat?  What might that be? many of my Esteemed Readers may ask. It is, in fact, a Catalan wine, the very first wine mentioned in O’Brian’s Master and Commander:
“Allow me to fill your glass,” said Jack, with the utmost benevolence. “This is rather better than our ordinary, I believe?”

“Better, dear joy, and very, very much stronger - a healthy, roborative beverage,” said Stephen Maturin. “ ’Tis a neat Priorato. Priorato, from behind Tarragona.”
Strong, indeed: at 14.5% ABV, this stuff had the alcoholic kick of a red Zinfandel, and plenty of body to spare. Completely appropriate as well, given Dr. Maturin’s combined Irish and Catalan ancestry. The one we had was produced at Scala Dei, a winery dating back to the twelfth century.

Of course, we also enjoyed some fine single malt Scotch: Bowmore 12-year-old, as well as a few wee drams of the legendary Mackinlay’s Shackleton Discovery Edition whisky... tipples that, while not contemporaneous with Captain Jack Aubrey and his associates, would certainly have been appreciated and thoroughly enjoyed by them.

Was it a fine evening? Yes, it was, thanks to excellent company and good food. And one of the most pleasant things about it is the voluminous pile of leftovers, which we shall be revisiting later this evening. ((discreet belch))

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