Biscuits and toast! Sweet lemon curd. Seville oranges.
Allow me to elaborate: fresh baked biscuits, hot from the oven, so hot you grab for one quickly and juggle it from hand to hand until it cools enough to handle gingerly, just with your fingertips; delicately crusty on top but when you twist it open and it exhales a little puff of steam, it’s doughy soft inside and smells fresh and clean and still a bit yeasty, just waiting for the slather of pure creamery butter.
But in the background, clanking and futtering and making the mysterious sounds of hot metal expanding, an old toaster is emitting fumes of toasty bread, with a touch of char and wisp of black smoke where the reliable antique always burns a bit too close to the slab of hand-cut bread so that you always look to see if there is a toasted face of Jesus or beneficent Mary beaming out in singed glory to start your morning.
Allow me to summarize: Egly-Ouriet Brut Les Vignes de Vrigny Champagne.
When champagne-lovers strive to come up with appropriate descriptors for the elegance and subtle complexities of champagne, it often comes out elaborated, stilted, artificial, too intricate by far; champagne is difficult to describe, in large part because as soon as you try to grasp something in champagne it shifts away, teasing and elusive and coy, and shows you another side, briefly, to lead you on and back for another sip. What was that?
Best, then, to stick with the basics and leave it at that, hoping some of the message, although inchoate will get through.
So, Egly-Ouriet: biscuits and toast. You had to be there.
Then, with the refill of Egly-Ouriet safely in the glass, BettyLu’s exquisite shrimp bisque arrives, a lovely bowl of pearly pink and creamy broth exuding a heavenly rich aroma. An appreciative gasp from the diners, and murmurs of anticipation, and quiet descends as all apply themselves to the bisque, creamy sweet and delicious and exquisitely cut with the brisk and acidic lemony-toasty bite of crystalline Champagne.
The only problem here is restraint. The bisque and champagne is so beguiling you’re ready to replay Oliver in the poorhouse and supplicate for more of each…but all of us are experienced enough in the plentitude of BL’s cassoulet that we muster up what willpower we have and grudgingly say no to the seconds we really do want.
As the ever reliable Kevin begins to prepare the plates in the kitchen for the main course, Lou brings out the headliner wine.
There’s always a bit of excitement here---we know it’s going to be good, but we don’t know exactly what it’s going to be. Usually…but not always…Rhone, yes; but Lou has surprised us in the past, and even in the Rhone there is sufficient variation of style to keep us wandering.
It is to be a classic evening, it appears, for Lou brings out Robert & Patrick Jasmin Cote Rotie 1998.
And then the plates of cassoulet begin to arrive…