DINNER with … two charming French boys, or should I be calling them messieurs? But I’m just a girl, a girl host, so my guests should rightly be called boys, n’est-ce pas? The evening was too hot to handle, two pairs of translucent blue-gray eyes gazing at me across the table. Petit Louis, to the right, he’s a Lyonnais, an absolute live wire, but Eric Double-Vay, a Marseille native and right across me, he was just so calm, so tranquil, always speaking at Volume Level 1, at most 1.5, in slow, measured cadences.
Our soirée was as long as the night, filled with bons blagues, bons vins, bons conversations. I learned a Provençal phrase, Oh, fan de chichoune! (“Oh, my goodness!”). But Eric warns: You can’t just say it to anyone from Provence just to impress them, you shall only save it for the one person you truly wish to flirt with.
At the start of our evening, I can’t remember what I said, but Petit Louis gave me a kind compliment: You make a good joke, an awkward little phrase in English, but perfectly translated from the French, Tu fais une bon blague.
Perhaps the greatest compliment that had swooned all over the table was the endless gesture Petit Louis made—from the stewed tofu, to the Japanese hamburger, to our two desserts—the gesture the French are wont to lapse into when they wish to express extreme approval.
His right hand, limp and pivoting only at the wrist, would flick back and forth, signifying that the first taste of whatever he was tasting was just killing him—and rightly so, for the tip of his fingers came close to suggesting a sawing action against an imagined neck just above his platter, all this while he’s letting out an irresistible sigh, head shaking away, as if the room were hot, hot, hot, chaud, chaud, chaud. But who was hot? Them or me?
I was so flattered, so charmed I couldn’t even curtsey, but I returned everything in kind with my own quiet swoons over the wines they had brought from their wine cellar: an exquisite Bourgogne Pinot Noir by Dominique Laurent, with whom I would love to meet again, and some obscure label from Piedmont made from a single white varietal, a grape I’ve never heard of, but which sounds like a jewel I’d love to suck in the mouth. Say it: Cortese.
We bid the night good-night late, so late that after the clean-up, I had chosen to do my pre-dawn meditation at 2.30AM instead of having to wake up in less than two hours at 4AM. Meditation and prayer with wine in the head and the heart is as heady and giddy as it can get, I wasn’t sure if any of the poetry from my Holy Book got digested the way our dinner had steeped so beautifully through the hours.
Dinner: 1. Japanese shiso hamburger with butter-seared Nai Bai / 2. Stewed salted-fish tofu with wood ear, shiitake, gluten balls, strewn with coriander, roasted garlic, julienned red chili / 3. Lemongrass-infused Niigata Koshihikari rice
Dessert: Moelleux au chocolat, chouquette (with just a little sugar nibs, please)
White Wine: Oltretorrente | Colli Tortonesi | Cortese, 2015
Red Wine: Dominique Laurent | Bourgogne | Cuvée Numero 1, “De Luxe,” 2013
Après Dinner Beverage: Chamomile
On the Jukebox: Francis Cabrel
On the Night of: October 27, 2017