Sometimes you get so excited about something that when it actually happens, you realize you have anticipated it too greatly and the event is more of a letdown rather than a great triumph.
For the past 10+ weeks, I have been greatly anticipating the arrival of Larry Stone, Master Sommelier and President of Evening Land Vineyards to visit On the Square for a wine dinner.
Tuesday, May 24th was the confirmed date, and Master Stone was to be our master of ceremonies. I must say my nerves were fired up as Stephen spouted out different ideas for the menu.
“Stephen, this has to be special, this has to be 100%, this has to be mind-blowing,” I pleaded. “This is the first Master Sommelier to visit Tarboro, and not only that, Larry is legendary. He is epic. He is the bomb.”
As in typical chef fashion, Stephen completed the menu sometime Tuesday morning, approximately 7 hours before our guests were to arrive. No worries there, he had it all under control he assured me.
The menu did look pretty amazing, and as I nervously prepared for a night of wine and dining, I prayed Larry would love the food so much he wouldn’t be able to control his mind, and he would deem me a Master Sommelier just based on the dinner he was served at On the Square.
O.K. Pipe dream, I know, but if I can’t dream in my blogs, what’s the point?
As go-time became more of a reality, I started to worry. What if Larry thought our stemware was not the right kind? What if he didn’t think I was dressed appropriately? What if he thought the pairings didn’t work? What if? What if? What if?
A sidenote about our glassware to those who eat and drink at On the Square. We use all-purpose wine glasses with a thick, sturdy stem with basic bowls. They are not fancy nor are they tacky. Are they the best wine glass in the world? Absolutely not, nor do we claim them to be. However, we believe our restaurant wine pricing is the best in North Carolina, and part of the reason we are able to offer great prices is because we minimize our costs by having basic glassware. We welcome anyone coming into the restaurant to bring their own glasses if they choose, but our belief is it is much more fun to offer wines at very affordable prices rather than have thin-stemmed, big bowl, fancy-smancy glasses, and, in turn, higher wine mark-ups. Can you tell I have wanted to get that off of my chest for awhile?
But, I digress. Minutes were ticking away, and any moment, Larry would walk through the door. Larry Stone, the first Master Sommelier to come eat and drink at On the Square. I felt faint.
Because Evening Land Vineyards doesn’t have a sparkling wine, and Stephen and I feel it’s anti-everything to not start off with bubbles, we decided to go local and contact Michael O’Brien, proprietor of Fishing Creek Flower Farm. Michael has been dabbling in hard cider production, and we called to see if he had any cider made to get the night started right.
As is so often the case in Edgecombe County, we have very good neighbors. Michael being the good neighbor he is, brought us the only five bottles he had of L.L. Draughn’s Fishing Creek Farm Hard Cider, completely label-less, but cold and ready to serve. Michael cautioned me about sediment in the bottom of the bottles so I stood behind the bar as guests arrived to make sure I was pouring cider that wasn’t full of dead yeast cells.
What a surprise, when Larry walks in the restaurant, sees me behind the bar, and completely without pretense, joins me in my pursuit to pour perfect glasses.
His first question: “Are you doing something illegal?”
I guess the green bottles with no labels gave me away.
For ten minutes, I stood behind the bar and listened to the luminary of wine. It was surreal, spending one-on-one time with him and listening to him tell of his first science project where he created ethanol that was almost 200 proof.
The time flew by until he had to go out into the crowd and entertain our guests with his legendary amount of information.
The evening continued as the guests made their way into the dining room for a four-course meal complimented by the wines of Evening Land Vineyards.
Before I knew it, we were serving chocolate truffles and Rusty’s Peanut Brittle, and guests were paying, and to my dismay, Larry was leaving.
This amazing night far exceeded my expectations. The only disappointment I felt was that it had to end. The wine was magnificent, the food was tremendous, and the host was absolutely incredible. My ears ares till ringing from the stories he told as he sat in our restaurant, sipping his wine and eating our food. It was a night that will continue to set the bar for great wine dinners, and I will always be in awe of someone who flew from Napa to take time to be with our friends in Edgecombe County. Our friends who enjoy wine and food as much as anyone in the world.
Cheers to great wine, great food and great expectations!
If you are interested in the menu, please see below for complete details.
Truffled Grissini, Kushi Oysters, Shrimp Salad in Pickled Cucumber, Fried Oysters
L.L. Draughn’s “Fishing Creek Farm” Hard Cider, Whitakers, NC
Dayboat Scallop Duet
Spring Pea Puree, Truffled Carrot Cream
Evening Land “Blue Label” Chardonnay, Arroyo Grande 2009
Fried Softshell Crab
Sweet Corn Ragout, Asparagus
Evening Land “La Source,” Seven Springs, Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon 2008
Mushroom & Duck Crepe
Foie Gras, Vermouth Cream
Evening Land “Occidental Coast” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast 2008
Evening Land “Seven Springs Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills 2008
American Leg of Lamb
Creamed Spinach Custard, Rosemary-Roquefort
Once Wines “The Sorcerer,” California