Saturday, April 09, 2005

Fine fish on First Thursday

I didn't realize it was First Thursday until I'd parked in front of Uncommon Objects and seen the signs. It was early; the jewelry and candle peddlers were still setting up their tents. The hub and I have done only one First Thurday before. Other than my love of catching a light buzz and shopping, it doesn't do much for me, especially if I get a slightly stronger buzz on and decide I need to stock up on soy candles and tank tops with pictures of Hindu Gods. Eeek.

I was down on South Congress to meet the hub. We met at Vespaio for antipasto and a sip of white wine (the hub had a Muller Thurgau, and I chose a Terlaner, both from Alto Adige; both were light and lovely) But dinner would be at Seven, a sparsely adorned seafood bistro belonging to Sam Dickey and Will Packwood.

I always feel I've snuck in the back door to a lifestyle that has great perks. Because the hub and I have been so long connected with restaurants, we know chefs, managers, and every wine vendor who shows in the Austin area. As a result, we end up running into wine tastings in progress, into which we are heartily invited, as we were on this lovely evening.

Sam greeted us and led us into what will be the new Seven bar, once the trim is finished, painting is complete, and the bar's filled with all sorts of bottles. He was very proud of his baby, which he thought might be complete as soon as late this month. So far, so good, I thought. This addition will do great things for the capacity of the dining room, and lure cocktailers in for a bite.

After our tour, we sat down at the small bar already in the corner of the front room. Yay! It's Greg, our vendor buddy, with a bag fulla vino! We had a great time, tasting everything. I was only briefly chided for taking geeky little notes on guest checks (all these boys are well past the honeymoon of selling wine, and I'm still in wide-eyed fascination).

Before I get to the juice, though, two things: praise for Seven's list. Their list is one of the few I've seen in Austin that actually sets the pace rather than follows it. It's an exciting, ecclectic list that invites guests to experiment, rather than settle back into the usual. Much applause to them.

Two: praise for Seven's food. They do a la carte, selling super-fresh fish by the 3-oz portion, and offer a list of versatile sauces that come in ramekins so you can mix and match. So yummy, especially the skate. They make a butter/caper sauce to complement it, but I liked the brown butter/almond even better.

Here's my little notes on the juice:

Marchesi Alfieri 2002 Grignolino

Have you ever had one of these? This one was my first, and I was giddy with it. The bartender had opened the bottle the day before; apparently they're best with a good long chunk of air time. I'd never had anything quite like it. It had a rosy-orange tint in the glass and a hot nose exploding with white pepper, pink blossoms, and orange peel. What a perfect glass of red to go with fish fillets, I thought. The palate, again, was full of soft white pepper, light cherry fruit, sage, and a touch of something like tangerine on the finish. Very light body. I had this again with my meal, and the white pepper played off the fish nicely.

I Frati 2003 Lugana

I love Lugana. Love it, love it, love it. This one had a nose full of honeysuckle, pear, and a teensy hint of something heady and green, like...well, like really good weed. Unctuous and honeyed palate with a touch of spiced pear, and a caressing, long, nutty finish. Oh, sweet waters of Garda, how your fruit makes sweet love to me.

Anna Boroli 2003 Langhe

This one is roughly 30% each Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Merlot, with a toss of Cabernet. The wood is young barriques. Hot, dark cherry/black pepper nose...shit, my notes are bad...

Me: Honey, what was that Langhe like?
The hub: it was yummy.
Me: I need more. It's a blog, dammit.
TH: Smokier than I remember. It had been open for a while, and I was suprised at how it had changed. Just out of the bottle, it tastes like Nebbiolo.
Me: wait! I need more, don't run off.
TH: lesseee...when I first got it, it had lost some of it's sparkle already, the high end tone, the spice...but it had gained in body. Fatter, fuller mid fruit...don't you remember?
Me: I was distracted by the guy outside, the guy with the sign about 'will heal all hurts, donations accepted'. The guy with the Jesus thing going on?
TH: Then write about the Grignolino you liked.
Me: I already did! Just help me out here.
TH: Christ...okay, it was bright fruit, but with body, heady. It was really good.
Me: Is that all you can pull out?
TH: You're the one blogging! You should have taken better notes.
Me: Fine. Piss off.
TH: Ptthblt.

I apologize. I had this Langhe in hand while Jen and I checked out the goings-on in the street and failed to take decent notes. What can I say.

So while the prophets of God healed people in the street, we wined and dined inside. Sigh. I love spending my disposable income this way, instead of on rugrats.

OH, and before I forget: Seven's layered chocolate-hazelnut turrine is a freakin DREAM, even if it did cause me serious acid reflux at four in the morning.

Clinkies.

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