The Austrian Wine Salon The Invitation Pleasure is an under-utilized word. When is the last time you used it? The dictionary defines pleasure as: A feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment Enjoyment and entertainment, contrasted with things done out of necessity I actually remember the last time I used the word. It was several years ago and mostly for shock appeal. My internist had retired and I was giving my health history to the newly appointed one--a colleague of my husband at NYU. When he asked me the routine question: "What business are you in?" expecting no doubt to jot down something within the realm of ordinary/acceptability, he looked up in shocked surprise when I innocently but forthrightly said "The pleasure giving business!" It certainly grabbed his attention. And when I explained more specifically what I do that justifies such a descriptor I knew I had a sympathetic ear as he turned out to be a great connoisseur and appreciator of wine. My delightful friend and colleague, Fred Plotkin, has been described as a "pleasure activist" for the way he shares his encyclopedic knowledge of food, wine, travel, music, and art through best-selling books on music and food. When I saw on the invitation to the Austrian Wine Salon that he and esteemed sommelier of Le Bernadin Aldo Sohm were joining the Haydn Trio from Eisenstadt Austria on a recent Sunday afternoon, I couldn't resist cutting short my weekend in Hope to race back to the city. Had I known that my favorite Austrian chef, Wolfgang Ban, was providing the food we would have driven even faster! It turned out to be such an extraordinary event I am moved to share some of the highlights with you.
The Autumnal Tables, beautifully carpeted with a narrow length of moss The Food, Wine, and Music Menu from right to left: Fred Plotkin & Aldo Sohm offered a lively and informative repartee from right to left: Wolfgang Ban and Eduard Frauneder, chef owners of Seasonal Restaurant & Winebar in NYC Their food was utterly and perfectly exquisite. The Haydn Trio: My favorite music is live chamber music and this was chamber music at it's finest. Many of the listeners had their eyes closed while the trio played as if to shut out every other sense but the mesmerizing notes. Pork Belly: Thin undulating ribbons of cured pork belly, far more refined than the usual rendering. The pickled pearl onions provided the perfect slight acidity to balance the richness of the pork. Wild Alaskan salmon: Lightly smoked and meltingly tender with cauliflower puree and star anise (I wanted more!) . Duck Breast: Perfectly cooked, the cabbage was the best I've ever tasted and the "schupfnudel" which resembled a skinny root vegetable but was more like a cross between gnocchi and spaetzle but firmer was a great new experience. Dessert: What a grand finale--a brilliantly harmonious paring of poached pear with yes blue cheese ice cream! Fantastic--but wait--equally stunning was the dessert wine--in fact the best I've ever tasted and I've had the good fortune to taste many an eiswein, trockenbeerenauslese and Sauternes, including Chateau D'Yquem. Kracher is justifiably a famous name in dessert wines. This trockenbeerenausleese, aka TBA, was most unusual because it was not distilled from the ubiquitous riesling grape but rather from the scheurebe grape varietal, which is 'rounder' and more fragrant. The wine was a melody unto itself--ambrosially honeyed but utterly uncloying due to the perfect balance of acidity. The event was held at the nearby WNYC studios and Elliott and I walked the few blocks home on wings of song.