On the Trail

Revelry and Revelations

Kate Soto

There are two things swirling around in my head right now, and they seem connected somehow. One is a truly delightful night that I had on Wednesday with employees and friends of K&L. Hosted by Caroline Debbane’, we gathered by a rooftop pool (which sounds so LA) overlooking the city as the sun was setting. We opened bottle after bottle—me getting to know the wines and the people—then ate an absolutely perfect meal. I want to write about this dinner because of the wonderful wines and the wonderful food. But mostly because this is why people fall in love with wine. It opens you up. It brings open people to you.

We started with Champagne by some of our direct-import producers who are making under-the-radar, exquisite bubbles. We tasted Launois—elegant and aromatic, distinctive in style from the next wine, Franck Bonneville’s NV Blanc de Blancs, which was mineral-driven and racy as hell. Great counterpoints to one another, and to the tapenade, grilled bread, and roasted stuffed peppers. Greg St. Clair poured us the Marisa Cuomo "Furore Bianco Fiorduva" from the Amalfi Coast, and I tried to practice my rusty Italian.

Keith grilled the meats, which had all been thoughtfully sourced from McCall’s Meat and Fish and prepared by Caroline, served alongside a chicory salad and fingerling potatoes. Once our meal was out, we opened a panoply of reds, and they all were drinking so well that night. The 2015 Montfaucon Chateauneuf-de-Pape was spot on with the pork loin from Snake River Farm—bright, red fruited with deep inflections of spice, beautifully balanced. Santamaria Patrimonio is a red from Corisca, a medium-bodied, lively, wine based on Niellicciu, Corsica’s version (maybe clone?) of Sangiovese. It was awesome alongside the various sausages from Cook’s Farm. We opened a Bourgogne rouge from Charles Audoin—sexy, sumptuous, deep with hints of baking spice—and a Morgon from Lucien Lardy, which was crunchy, bright, berried. Both excellent with the cumin-orange-marinated chicken. Lastly I tried the Frontón de Oro from the Canary Islands, and it was a festival of black pepper and red cherries. For dessert, Caroline made a mixed berry-almond tart and a lemon tart (one of my favorite things on the planet). We drank nearly 50-year-old Port from Fonseca’s Finest (1970), because of course! It was a night of revelry. All of this with a beautiful view of a sparkling city and old half-lit neon signs from the last century. We listened to Jazz, and Keith did an impressive lip trumpeting. We talked about our next outing.

The night reminded me of why all this matters—food and drink. Wine is a damn fine way to make a human connection. To share in the pleasures of life. A lot of hard work goes into making it, but then it’s uncorked, and you forget about your own hard work among the pleasures in your mouth and the pleasure among people. I admit I am a hedonist, but enjoying a night like this does feel meaningful.

And then.
Two days later, Anthony Bourdain. My husband brought me coffee on Friday and news of his passing. I can’t say how much it has affected me. He is one of the people who taught me about voice in food writing. And his irreverent, personal, iconoclastic voice was so strong. He wrote from the inside of whatever subject he was addressing; not as an outsider looking in, but as someone who’d been in the trenches of the kitchen, or who had best friends and knew all the secret, local spots in every far-flung corner of the world. He seemed sardonic and cynical, but he showed the joy in encounters with people and places over a meal—that work that food and drink does of connecting us to other cultures/times/people. He was suspicious about celebrity chefs opening pantheons to fame in Vegas. He was looking for authenticity. He made that search into an adventure. Maybe I loved him because he seemed like a hedonist too.

What we were doing on Wednesday, at Caroline’s beautiful roof deck, felt akin to what Bourdain often did. He sat down and broke bread with people. He found the pleasure in sharing a meal with people and the process of creating a connection. Once these connections are there, that’s something out of nothing—something that now exists in the world, between two people. The world gets a little deeper and more interesting the more you uncover who’s in it.

I won’t analyze why it happened. I just want to say that I’m sorry to lose that voice and his vision. And I’m thankful for the joy of food and drink and travel that he offered to the world. This shocking and sad thing has left me grateful for the happy moments between good people. So, thank you Caroline, Greg, and all the friends who joined together at the table that night. It made me very happy.

- Kate Soto