This is what a weekend of wine, friendship and celebration looks like. The event, a milestone birthday – with my best friends Lynne (the birthday girl) and Helen and a promise it would be EPIC.
The weekend proved to be all that and more. Highly appropriate because Lynne and I have shared many a bottle of good, bad and even the odd ugly wine over the years. This celebration’s wine list – proved to have a little of each.
Our first toast was over a glass of Cuveé de FlyPorter. Not exactly vintage, but good enough to get this party started. By the way, a shout out to Porter Air for having the best service – they switched our flights to get us to Newark on the same flight – with a smile and no charge.
The Birthday Odyssey Surprise began at NBC studios for a live taping of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Did I mention TV-friendly Hugh Jackman was the guest with a surprise appearance by the mildly photogenic Chris Hemsworth? No pix or wine allowed – but the experience whetted our appetite for later.
La Mela is fixture in Little Italy. 20 years ago, one of the waiters stopped my sister Eileen and lured her in. Since then, there has been a steady Canadian contingent enjoying the family style meals (menus are for tourists they told me) with wine to match. In the early days we ordered a bottle (or three) of house red to share at the table.
This time, we went for a full-bodied Primativo, after all what’s a milestone birthday all about? And just as they do in Italy, a digestivo of Limoncello, on the house of course.
Day One. Good wine – check. Great surprise – double check. SO far so good.
The TV experience didn’t end there. Lynne got up close and personal with Kelly Ripa. Helen made 6 ft 5 Michael Strahan laugh when she looked up, way up, and told him “I’m 5 ft 2 in a good mood”. Helen also ended up winning the daily trivia prize too. Day Two starting well. But where’s the wine?
AH, EATALY – the food emporium for people not afraid of carbs and wine.
We settled on fish and ordered an incredibly delicious Santa Vittoria Gavi 2013, a superb selection, refreshing, crisp and a perfect match with our Skate and Mixed Grill Seafood platter.
Categorize this one as GREAT.
The BAD came at the theatre when we were handed two sippy cups of wine. “That will be $51” said the man at the concession stand. “Pardon?” Lynne and I, the polite Canadians replied at the same time. I kept the cup.
Hey when on Broadway…and when you throw in a post-show sighting of the amazing Dame Helen Mirren – well, what’s to complain about?
Day Two: two more thumbs up.
Our next theatre experience, “Cabaret” starring Alan Cumming, proved it’s all about the context.
The wine probably wasn’t any better. But this time we were sitting in the former Studio 54 disco now converted into the Kit Kat Club.
And this time the wine came out of a bottle. It made the Santa Marina Cabernet “delle Venezie” bottled last month, taste just fine.
Oops, forgot the Prosecco at Eatery NYC– a fantastic find on 9th Ave and 53rd street. The best Mimosas in Hell’s Kitchen- crisp and ice cold bubbly with just enough orange juice for colour (the food was fantastic too – especially Helen’s Mac and Jac).
But the big wine winners on this celebration weekend came at the official birthday dinner at Ilili in midtown where friends came from near and far to toast the birthday girl.
The waiter Isaac couldn’t have been more accommodating, When the white drinkers asked for Pinot Grigio – he suggested a Greek wine at the same price point.
I’ve sampled a few Greek wines in the past months, especially the whites and I have only good things to say. Like the Mantania Tselepos Classic 2012- they were light and refreshing, much more appealing than the average Pinot Grigio.
Isaac did the same for the red. I looked at the Chianti Classico – and he suggested a Bodegas Ateca Atteca Old Vines Garnacha 2012 . Deep red with a lovely long finish – and most important – it met the approval of the Birthday Girl. This was without a doubt my favourite wine of the evening – upstaged only by the toast with Veuve Cliquot – which according to Lynne -” if it’s not Veuve, it’s crap” (a motto repeated to much hilarity by her 10-year old niece at a dinner party).
And this is how the birthday girl felt at the end of the weekend.
The moral of the story: when you are lucky enough to have great friends as I do, whatever you toast with is a celebration. Friends pick you up when you need it, dance with you when times are good, and they always turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.
And yes, it was EPIC.