It all starts at Marc Veyrat. A friend had introduced us to his art of cooking. This wonderful adventure is told in the Bulletin 158. We met again in his restaurant. He achieved a meal with a rare sensitivity (it is in the Bulletin 160). Having won a bet against one of the women of this team, on one of those subjects whose character does not have to be unveiled, I choose to be invited to the hotel’s restaurant Meurice because these great gastronomes friends had wanted to enter the creative world of Yannick Alléno. The challenge this meal exceeding the value of the bet, I promised to bring a bottle.
Before preparing meals and wines future for Christmas and Sylvester dinner, I wander in my cellar and I take four bottles, having in mind the cook of the chef. The choice of bottles in cellar is one of my favorite exercises: imagining the possible agreements is extremely exciting. I arrived at 5:30 pm and I opened the Bordeaux. Dusty but pleasant smell. Madeira I gladly would situate around 1870 (if not before) because it is older than I told my friends: I had announced 1890. The wine has a putrid smell that scares me. I have reason to be afraid, for it does not fade. Now I take care of two Burgundies. These bottles are heavy like bottles of the 19th century, at that time the weight of the glass did not count . The capsules of a blood red are identical, with legible words « Chevillot Beaune ». I go on the internet to research what could be this wine without a label, and I found a report by John Kapon, this crazy American mad of wine whom I met in New York and Paris to share great bottles, which indicates a sublime Musigny Chevillot 1928. It was an event organized by Bipin Desai, this American friend who makes the most extravagant tastings of the planet. I had already noticed that we have common heart strokes: when he likes a Pommard 1926, I like it too, when he loves a Romanée Conti 1972, I love it too. I felt that these convergences also be worth on this occasion. We need indeed a name for this wine, as it was wished for this pianist stranded on the English coast. Then it will be Musigny and 1928. The experience showed that it is Musigny. 1928 The idea pleases me enough, but if you showed me (it’s too late) that it is 1899, I would not say no, due to a load of evidence at the opening. And also because it reminds me of Musigny Coron Père & Fils 1899 which is one of the greatest wines of my life. I will call these two wines Musigny Chevillot 1928. A bottle is seriously low and gives off a terrible smell when opened. The other has a superb level and fumes fill me with joy.
The bottles are opened and I expect that my friends and my wife arrive. We chose the tasting menu by replacing one meat by the hare royale, as my friend who lost her bet is fond of. I wanted to put foie gras in the end, as it was made in « old times », but Yannick Alleno told me the sauce being made of Chambertin, logic was rather in sequence. I nodded. Here’s the menu: delicate jelly whelks with urchin, cream of rice and seaweed crust / walnut Saint-Jacques scallops to the pan, light broth with celery fresh chestnuts / blue lobster medallions strongly fried confit cabbage the essence of truffle / duck foie gras poached in Chambertin wine, pasta with truffle juice swollen and filled with mashed peas / hare royale, small pasta cubits related truffled cream / crispy buckwheat, ariégeois goat stuffed with cream flavored with white truffle oil / heart roasted pear, tile ice tonka bean caramel salted butter / Caribbean puck fondant chocolate, ice cream speculos.
We begin with a champagne Souza, non-vintage cuvée the caudalies that I find a little nose too dosé for my taste, and mouth, I have less emotion than in less prestigious cuvées of this house of Mesnil-sur- Oger I like the style. The appetizer is a little copy of the first dish which creates confusion to me. The champagne tones up very significantly on the first dish that is an example of the virtuosity of Yannick Alléno. It becomes a pure precision, very Mesnil as I like, and demonstrated its full relevance to the dish is given when one removes the empty plate. The champagne becomes pale, yet, all things being equal, a good champagne. The dish had transformed it.
We will demonstrate the opposite with the second dish. Nicolas Rebut, knowledgeable sommelier I appreciate we had suggested a demi-sec Vouvray Domaine Huet Mounts 2001. With the flat of Saint-Jacques shells extremely subtle, where celery and chestnut compete delicate suggestions, Vouvray is clumsy. This is obviously a well crafted wine. But there, too powerful for the dish. The demonstration opposite the champagne appeared with the same evidence: as soon as the plate is removed, the clumsy ballerina becomes joyful and fluid in the mouth. The dish had inhibited.
Lobster is a monument of perfection. Nay lobster, sauce! And Château Duhart-Milon, Pauillac 1962 is unbelievable. This wine is’ the lobster sauce. He became lobster sauce. At our table, there are formidable aesthetes. One of them is moved to the gustatory perfection of this combination, which is part of one of the finest he had the opportunity to live to the point that he begins to cry with happiness. There is no need to describe wine, and I would be incapable, because wine « is » sauce, like Louis Jouvet « is » Doctor Knock. The generous maître d’hôtel who had the brilliant idea of giving out small table cassolettes sauce, I grabbed one, to lose myself in the pleasure of this immeasurable combination.
Two bottles of Musigny 1928, since that is how we have lived them, which would be served first? The smells of the lowest had heckled me that we would drink first? The good or bad? We opted for the so-called bad, but I wanted to try both. The « bad » is beautiful, joyful, if we can do from small imperfections that do not irritate and does not encrypt the message. The « right » nails me on the spot. My friend who was watching me was amazed: « How can you, after everything you’ve been drinking, still experience sensations as strong? « . I had in mouth such emotions that I announced immediately that here was one of the greatest wines of my life.
Foie gras is superlative. Immense. With Musigny 1928 Chevillot more tired, a prodigious agreement. And we forget that wine dirty socks. It releases this Burgundian rough beauty, rough, a miner noble. Undergrowth, mushrooms can be searched, but who cares, a flesh of a sensual texture and a taste of personality, the wine is, though serene tired, giving the palate a myriad of unexpected flavors.
The second Chevillot Musigny 1928 is the absolute perfection of Burgundy. I thought of some great friends winemakers in the region to whom I would have liked to try a burgundy that is perfect, so they know what makes me vibrate from their grandiose region. Is it because of Chevillot perfect, I do not know. But this wine, at this time, is an unattainable balance of all components of the beautiful Burgundy. Gritty, disturbing as I like, but twirling to bamboozle your palate. A wine that joined my pantheon. I still have, as I write these lines, the satisfaction of having touched what makes these wines taste crippling and confounding puzzles of disconcerting seduction. This wine has the madness of a Verlaine when he wrote his most beautiful poems and that of Egon Schiele when torture on his canvas shapes and colors. This is the foie gras hare that blends better than the hare variables flavors, suave in certain parts and game over others. I found this a little intellectual hare. I would have liked more vulgar, more proletarian. But each chef has an interpretation of this institution.
We wanted of course that also appears on the hare the Madeira 1890. This is what I announced but it is much older, because its cap is the exact replica of the cork of Cyprus in 1845 I will tell later: its size to half of the distal phalanx of a finger. I was disturbed because the veil that hid its value was not gone. My friends, they are polite but sincerely appreciate. In my part, I am furious. And now suddenly, by one of those miracles that I have repeatedly observed, the mask falls. The film, the veil obscuring the beauty of this wine, and the wine shows lights. It is a curious Madeira because it is merry, round, almost red fruit, which is not the exact definition of madeira. But it is beautiful, warm, filling the mouth of a beautiful splendor.
The trouble is that this awakening – which does not erase completely injury, but idealizes what wakes – appeared on a cheese not really necessary in the intense journey that we have lived. Desserts hung up the delights of this wagon train of sensations of unprecedented wealth.
This tasting meal reveals clearly three facets of the cook of the chef whom I count among the greatest. There virtuoso facet, for whelk or hare, and it’s not one that speaks most to my heart. There’s the sentimental side, the generous and sensitive cook, which is expressed in the foie gras and Saint Jacques shell. There I am, because we are in the line of my wines, aspiring to this delicacy. Finally there is the lobster, Yannick treats emperor masterpiece of serenity.
A chef explores different tracks, as it takes all tastes. And God knows there is not a single taste. Duhart-Milon was on an unrivaled accuracy. A Musigny 1928, « the » best possible expression of Burgundy. Such moments are infinitely rich.