Just Under the Hill.

Just before the fertile rebirth of Beltane, just prior to the Maypole grind, just preceding the neo-pagan self-righteousness of a non-contextual holiday ritual, I snuck in another birthday, another year flirting with the fleeting feeling that Cernunnos himself is resting his twig and berries on my forehead. I don’t entirely know what I mean by that, but it’s probably not what you think. I haven’t done anything really big to mark the date for a number of years, because – let’s face it – it’s just a commemorative human thing and if we’re lucky, we’ll have a bunch more to play around with. But taking a day off in between my split weekend made a nice span of D-time which I tried to use wisely. There was laundry! Letters! Bills! And cleaning the house!

And in between a bike ride or two through the park, finishing up some lingering ends of books, and vid chats with dear friends, I managed to attend one of the more perfect meals I’ve yet encountered. Chalk up one more for the generous and incomparable hosting talents of Ryan and Rebecca, an orgiastic rush of culinaria, and a gathering of lovely friends who I am sincerely delighted to know closely. Oh, and piano bar late into the night which includes hits by Celine Dion, Phil Collins, Journey, and Bon Jovi. What else could one desire?

I’m taking hints after each of my attendant friends gifted me with something to do with wine or cheese. There were books, bottles, racks, and even an insulated tote bag complete with its own cheese board, knife, and wood-handled bottle opener. Some would say it marks a sort of connoisseurship; I’d say that I’ve been branded as a hedonistic lush by my closer chums. All of these were fine presents which I eagerly look forward to enjoying in the near future, but the meal and the evening were an immediate pleasure, and a zenith. Below is le menu, paired with the choicest of excellent wines:

Oysters Mignonette
Pierre Morlet Grande Reserve Premier Cru Champagne
2005 Laetitia White Riesling
Apricot and Casera Tamales, Mache, Apricot Cumin Dressing
2005 Lewis Cellars Russian River Valley Chardonnay
Roast Turkey or Beet on Sweet Potato with Blackberry Sauce
2005 Adrian Fog Two Sisters Vineyard Pinot Noir
2005 Kosta Browne Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Roast Leg of Lamb in Sauce Marchant du Vin,
Buckwheat Polenta, Wild Spring Vegetables (Morrell Mushrooms, Fiddlehead Ferns, Fava Beans)
Farfallone, Wild Mushroom Sauce, Wild Spring Vegetables

2001 Larkmead Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
2005 Torbreck ‘The Struie’ Shiraz, Barossa, Australia
Classic Creme Brulée, Assorted Shortbread Cookies
2000 Royal Tokaji – 5 Puttonyos
2000 Oremus Tokaji – 3 Puttonyos



Reb always puts a million perfect little thoughts into every aspect of what she cooks, from taste to texture to colors that food evokes when passing through one’s bowels. You think I’m kidding. The table, gorgeously set, was a sparkling marvel, and it was almost a shame to upset its perfect form. We found a way, however.


It’s not just the magnification quality of the glasses, and I didn’t plan this shot.



While the pictures of the courses came out a bit blurry, details of the night didn’t take on this quality until the eighth bottle or so.


Gamescape in the house, yo.




We each had four glasses to cycle through at any one time. Though the wines were paired perfectly by Ryan, keeping up with the courses was difficult at times. He always has a generous pour and each varietal and vintage was a complete experience unto itself. I wanted to chug 775ml glasses to keep up with the table. Thank goodness there was an everflowing bottle…


OMG the main. I’ve never had better polenta in my life, and I’ll be damned if those fiddlehead ferns aren’t the most beautiful (and tasty!) little veg around.


You thought I was kidding about generous pours. This lovely berry bomb is much of a bottle of the Adrian Fog Two Sisters Pinot, my special treat on the birthday. The raspberry haze color that ‘The Fog’ has is just exquisite, and their 2003 Savoy is one of my absolute favorites.



A few days before this, I had a $12 vanilla creme brulée at a swanky Vegas steakhouse. Reb’s brulée kicked the SHIT out of that one. André almost died right there at the table.



The clean angles of the Hungarian Tokaji-cam. Like drinking pure fresh apricot juice.


I figure that one of these a year is a blessing, but R&R are keen to do this kind of thing quarterly. And I promise that I won’t stop them. As long as it means that I don’t have to age four times as quickly to enjoy them.

46 Responses to “Just Under the Hill.”

  1. velvetdahlia Says:
    May 2nd, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    You ate ferns. OMG. How fey and awesome.
    This all seems so adult! Maybe by the time I reach 40 I will have that kind of dinner party, instead of the paper plates and crisps kind. Haha.
    You look very handsome!

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 1:48 am

    You totally are confusing me with my very handsome business partner and his 1970s shirts. 🙂
    Ferns! I know!

  3. viscera Says:
    May 2nd, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    I didn't plan this shot.
    You're too modest. That's going straight to the pool room [reference to an Australian movie called The Castle, which is sadly a fair representation of 85% of the population].
    Err, yes. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! *muah*

  4. FunkyPlaid Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 1:51 am

    Honest, the boob-wine glass paradigm was totally incidental. Damn, I should seek that out more often.

  5. eskimolimon Says:
    May 3rd, 2007 at 4:03 am

    Magnificent, I am so jealous.
    That Tokaji is wonderful stuff. I have a Hungarian mate who brings me a bottle now and then, it is quite expensive in France.

  6. FunkyPlaid Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 1:52 am

    Isn't that strange that it's cheaper here, so far away from the source. Scots whisky is the same way, what with the local VAT and all. Cheaper to get it in the States.

  7. aitkendrum Says:
    May 3rd, 2007 at 4:05 am

    So much food…

  8. pisica Says:
    May 3rd, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    Yeah, like you looked at any of the food; you're too enthralled by the wineglass picture. 😀
    Happy birthday!

  9. FunkyPlaid Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 1:53 am

    Thanks to both of you!

  10. avalokita Says:
    May 3rd, 2007 at 4:31 am

    Happy belated birthday. 🙂

  11. FunkyPlaid Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 1:55 am

    I'm the one who owes you a belated-er happier birthday. Yours was more recent. Happy Happy. Damnit.

  12. agntprovocateur Says:
    May 3rd, 2007 at 8:37 am

    again, happy birthday. here's wishing you a wonderful and luxurious year!
    btw, i know it's short notice but artlyn is having a get togehter either this friday or saturday night. probably the east bay tiki bar. details to come if your schedule permits!

  13. astorax Says:
    May 3rd, 2007 at 8:40 am

    Forbidden Island Tiki bar?
    D, if you end up going, let me know…I might try to pop in. My new house is two blocks from said Tiki bar…
    oh, and happy belated! Looks like it was indeed, a happy one.

  14. agntprovocateur Says:
    May 3rd, 2007 at 8:56 am

    ah sorry, no. 🙁
    if it's on friday, it will be at the conga lounge. it's a group of of the hula and tahitian dancers coming after practice so it wil depend on how much stamina everyone has left over.
    <a href="http://www.congalounge.com” target=”_blank”>www.congalounge.com
    if it'ssaturday, i'm not quite sure what the plan is….yet. 🙂

  15. astorax Says:
    May 3rd, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    Ah yes.
    Who knew there were so many tiki bars in so small an area?

  16. FunkyPlaid Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 1:59 am

    Cheers for this. Somehow I had no idea you were still in town, even though I recently read about your move and the whole shebang. When you going to stick your head into the shop again?

  17. astorax Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 9:28 am

    I keep meaning to, being in east bay I'm finding this bizarre gravitational effect that seems to be contrived to keep me on this side of the bay despite my best intentions.
    Are you guaranteed to be in on the weekends at all? I have rehearsals for a production of 3 Musketeers I'm in out right near the Richmond bridge on Saturdays, so it would actually be pretty easy for me to escape over there and perhaps buy you a lunch break so we can catch up?

  18. FunkyPlaid Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 10:50 am

    I'm in every Saturday like clockwork, usually all day and late into the evening. Sundays I have off. You're welcome to stop by anytime you'd like – for lunch, a day's warning is helpful so I can get the monkeys to cover me.

  19. FunkyPlaid Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 1:58 am

    Thanks for your kind wishes and also for including me in the A-plan for the weekend. I'll be working for a majority of Saturday and then am meeting up with a group of rogue game designers from the U.K., so I don't know if I'll be able to make it to tiki. Regardless, I owe that girl a call, and we all owe each other a date night…

  20. agntprovocateur Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 10:18 am

    i figured it might be a tight squeeze.
    date night, absolutely! I'll try and coordinate….again. 😛
    btw, the fiddlehead ferns, i want to try ferns! never had them.

  21. seide Says:
    May 3rd, 2007 at 9:28 am

    Lovely, sensuous, tasteful (and tasty-looking!). How appropriate. Happy Birthday!

  22. FunkyPlaid Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 10:53 am

    Thanks so much. I've got middle-class guilt over things like this sometimes, but I realize how totally lucky I am to be able to enjoy things like this. The world would be a better place if everyone had remnants of fiddlehead ferns in their teeth.

  23. divineseduction Says:
    May 3rd, 2007 at 9:30 am

    Happy (belated) birthday, my Taurus brother. 🙂
    You know, I still happily remember that one (and only) birthday you took me out, because I happened to be in SF. 🙂

  24. FunkyPlaid Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 10:54 am

    Thanks! See what good things happen when you come to S.F.?

  25. ohjolielaide Says:
    May 3rd, 2007 at 11:00 am

    Oh, how beautiful. What a wonderful night- you deserve many such occasions.

  26. FunkyPlaid Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Thanks for this sweetness. We gonna start having 'digs at your amazing new pad? You're the consummate host, yourself…with a talent and flair for such beautiful things.

  27. lachlain Says:
    May 3rd, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Co` latha breith sona dhuibh!
    Slainte, good sir! Hope to see you soon.

  28. FunkyPlaid Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Re: Co` latha breith sona dhuibh!
    Cheers, ears. We must get the Aaron-Jon-Dougie-Rich-Darren collective back on the prowl, if even for a night. June looks good for this.

  29. lachlain Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    Re: Co` latha breith sona dhuibh!
    Sound good to me – my schedule is rather clear aside from the 1st weekend in June. Guinness, Newcastle, Scotch, and Curry…ye have been warned!

  30. dndupree Says:
    May 3rd, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    Wow! Happy birthday man 🙂 <big hugs> I'll have to stop by the store and give ya a real hug! The food looks beautiful, the wines sound mouth watering and good pics yo 🙂

  31. FunkyPlaid Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 11:09 am

    Consider this a window into your future of wino-enjoyment. I'll be making a list for you to sample, as requested.

  32. dndupree Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    Awesome! You're the best 🙂 I'll do what I can to repay you in untapped girls <grin>
    Thank you so much for making me feel so welcome last night, it was really good to be able to connect with people and laugh 🙂

  33. scothen_krau Says:
    May 3rd, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    Happy birthday, sir.
    Yeah, that's a sawnky dinner party, man. And the wine and cheese theme is fantastic. I may have to steal that idea.

  34. FunkyPlaid Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 11:00 am

    Thanks for your good wishes. Was a splendid night, and I invite you to steal themes as often and as soon as possible. It's all very good for your soul.

  35. podle Says:
    May 3rd, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    So elegant! The ladies are all so pretty and every little detail looks great (fiddleheads! softly glowing lanterns!). Looks like a truly lovely night. How lucky you are to keep such gracious company.

  36. FunkyPlaid Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 11:12 am

    The luckiest. If could cook like this, I'd have people at mine every single weekend.

  37. gingiber Says:
    May 3rd, 2007 at 11:40 pm

    Glad to see you had a great birthday. I am overwelmed by the food and presentation. What an amasing person Rebecca must be.

  38. FunkyPlaid Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 11:13 am

    Oh, they're totally amazing. And you'll be sampling their hospitality on more than one occasion when you're over this fall! They're excited to meet you both…

  39. gingiber Says:
    May 7th, 2007 at 3:24 am

    meep. how worrying.

  40. no_mans_land Says:
    May 4th, 2007 at 1:58 am

    <small>eep. your swanky birthday bash puts all 24 of mine to shame. but i you deserve it, so i can't hold a grudge. happy belated, darren. :]</small>

  41. no_mans_land Says:
    May 4th, 2007 at 1:59 am

    <small>"i you deserve it". freudian slip ? :P</small>

  42. FunkyPlaid Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 11:19 am

    You do deserve it. And if you're out here for your next one, we're gonna have a quarter-century smoker for ya.
    Thanks for your kind wishes.

  43. not_so_evil_now Says:
    May 6th, 2007 at 4:04 am

    Belated Birthday Greets!
    Happy Birthday from the other side of the puddle, my friend!! May your next earth year be stuffed to the rafters with happiness and prosperity! Harrah!*
    <small>*I'm sorry it's late as i've been sans interweb till now. I played some Tom and raised a glass to you on the day ;0). </small>

  44. FunkyPlaid Says:
    May 8th, 2007 at 10:15 am

    Re: Belated Birthday Greets!
    A better toast I could not have asked for. Thanks for your wishes, and I'm so happy to hear about your recent move! Catch you in a few short months…

  45. thistlelurid Says:
    May 8th, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    fiddlehead ferns…would make excellent band name! my food-a-phobia prevents me from this sort of birthday revelry ….I am so glad I can live vicariously through you! Present on way presently! breast magnification….glorious….you are a hero!

  46. spiffington Says:
    May 8th, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    I'm so glad you had a great day and got truly pampered 🙂
    'though ferns….? You turning veggie on me? I'll make sure I break out the vegetarian haggis and sausages with a sprig of parsley (for good effect) for you next time your here!!

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