Monday, June 2, 2008


Black Tagliatelle with Peas and Parmigiano
Tocai Friulano

An old friend of ours lost a bet with Mr. ABF and as a result, agreed to treat us to a tasting menu (each course paired with a wine) at this restaurant in Manhattan on Saturday night. With Bella deposited at a kind friend's house (hopefully not bossing around her child), the three of us embarked on a culinary experience the likes of which I haven't had in . . . well, years. Year before last I wasn't drinking because I was pregnant (fuck, what a waste of potential Brunello imbibement '06 was). Last year I couldn't taste. I simply lost my desire and ability to discern one food from another, one wine from another. I really didn't care. Not to mention we lost valuable babysitting karma with Bella leaving her alone for the week of Maddy's life and then again every Tuesday evening in April and May so we could attend a support group. It was hell on us all, leaving the house and her in someone else's hands, during a time when we all needed to just be together, eating cold cereal for dinner.

"Casunzei" with Poppy Seeds
Südtiroler Sylvaner

A whiff of the first wine, one I'm familiar with but not that exact appellation, confirms that much is coming back to me. The second wine swims under my nose and -- although not my favorite -- I'm able to rattle off the butter and apricot tendencies, and the dryness yet the more structured body underneath in order to compliment my favorite pasta of the evening filled with beets and topped with a heavenly grating of smoked ricotta salata. I sit and simply inhale the smoke for a few minutes and wonder if I'm really back.

Garganelli with "Funghi Trifolati"
Pinot Nero "Mazzon"

By now I'm considerably relieved that I still have the ability to taste. I continue to impress our dinner partner with the smells of our turn to red wine (a lighter one, to compliment the earthiness of the fresh mushrooms in the dish). This course turns out not to be my favorite separately in wine or food, but by far my favorite pairing. Each does the other so many favors. Our dinner companion is slowly, course by course, talking us through some work related politics, the other tables are clearly happy, and I may be developing a crush on our sommelier.

Domingo's Pyramids with Passato di Pomodoro
Montefalco Rosso

Because by this point I feel the need to insert myself in this conversation about online business and prove that I have some sort of clue (and probably because by now I've had a fair amount to drink) I out myself to dinner tab-picker-upper that I blog -- on not one but TWO blogs. He's genuinely surprised and happy and asks how it's going. I not only impress him but myself with my knowledge of this particular wine -- I knew two of the grapes in this blend, but not the third, and what I'm picking up in unfamiliarity is with the third grape. I confirm this with the sommelier and pat myself and taste buds on the back.

Pappardelle Bolognese

Fuck it's nice being in a dress and heels, drinking wine knowing that my child is being tended to. And this is a big wine, obviously, to go with the meat. I begin to ponder if it's time we think about going out to nice restaurants at home. I'm all a twitter thinking about our wine cellar nearing completion and our holding being delivered in a few short weeks. It hits me that when we packed up our wine, I wasn't drinking it. I was pregnant. Swill a bit more.

"Frittelle di Caprino" with "Uve Moscato"
Colli di Scandiano Malvasia "Daphne"

I'm readily approaching the point of saying basta. This course does nothing for me, it's a bit . . .gratuitous. Nothing about it grabs me. I've even tasted better honey. Wondering if we've hit saturation on the evening, and maybe I'm overselling the whole going-out thing. This dress is tight. My foot hurts. I hope Bella is ok. I check my phone for messages and note the late hour.

Milk Chocolate Panna Cotta with Licorice
Vin Santo di Chianti Classico

Wait. Vin Santo. My favorite dessert wine. And maybe I'm completely creamed by this point not to mention sitting over my (thankfully small) thimbleful of chocolate, but I detect chocolate in this bouquet of usually honey and nut with a hint of citrus. I finish my glass, and our friend who doesn't like Vin Santo gives me his. I don't drink it, I'm getting sated, but I sit and occasionally just put my nose over the glass. I tell the waiter not to take it even though I'm fairly sure I'm not going to drink it.

Chocolate Chestnut Budino with Chestnut Gelato (Plus two additional desserts, one different for each diner)

Uncomfortably full. Ready to go. I lick my spoon, but pass my dessert off to the men, and barely sip the last wine, which is delightful. It's too much. The rest of weekend is a blur of hangover, Bella tripping the next morning and getting a bloody nose, driving home in silence. I haven't eaten much of anything since Saturday night, not so much from penance but because I haven't been hungry.

And while delightful to know that my senses are returning, and I can enjoy food and wine again, there's always the uncomfortable grumble letting you know that what you were (a late-thirties mom) and what you are (a late thirties mom) sometimes ain't all that. Being gone for 48 hours means I come home to 48 x 10n unread things in my reader. Of the first six random blogs I click on, two are by people already pregnant; one paints a scene that reminds me of "those crazy kids" while I was in grad school but takes one commenter back to the summer she was 15; and the remaining three I randomly click announce pregnancies.

Niobe once wrote "for some reason or for no reason at all, someone else's good news has tasted bitter, has burnt acrid in my lungs." To be honest, I'm not sure why I'm feeling so melancholy about it all this Monday. I'm not trying. I'm not even thinking. I know this won't take away grief, because you can't replace a child. When I read these things, quite frankly, they scare me. When people tell me, "envision yourself in the future. What do you see?" I can't. I can't go there. My mind puts up a steel curtain, and I can't see myself there, with or without. I get this overwhelming feeling that I'm in over my head, and maybe I'm just too old for all of this shit -- staying out drinking until midnight, getting nose blood out of the weekend's laundry, running with people young enough to consider music of my fifteenth summer "oldies." Maybe I regret not having the drive or desire.

Maybe I just miss having the hunger.


Beruriah said...

First thing, I got so excited right off because somehow I immediately knew from the first sentence that you were going to tell us about going to Babb.o. I clicked the link and was correct. I love the food.

Of course, last time I was there, in NYC, I was with a good friend and I couldn't have any of the wine because I was finally out of the first trimester, and felt safe with Natan. Ah well.

I am sorry though that it turned out to be a mixed weekend for you, and about Bella's bloody nose. I don't know - so much makes me feel so old these days too.

Anonymous said...

Poor Bella!
I am in awe of your palate. I seem to specialise in quantity, not quality.

CLC said...

Wow, I am so envious of your evening. Although, you sound far more sophisticated in wine than I could ever dream to be, so it would probably be lost on me. Still sounds awesome though.

As for the last part, I get the hunger thing. I don't know if it's the getting older part, or the loss of a child. Probably a combination of both. But it's hard to not feel melancholy when you feel like everyone else is moving forward except you. Hopefully it will diminish over time. But I have a feeling that anyone's pregnancy announcement is always going to give us some sort of twinge. Hope tomorrow is better.

k@lakly said...

I love, love love, tasting menus!! I am sorry that the weekend had a mildly? bitter end to it. I think what's so hard about this path we have landed on, well one part anyway, is that, especially like you and I, where getting pregnant and having the healthy baby came so easy before, effortless really, now we have been hit with the lifetime knowledge that nothing comes easy, we just got lucky. Now every decidion we make has the shadow of the pain, the potential for loss, again, and the everlasting heartache that comes just as a bonus.
I know I can no longer see my future or plan for it. I just think, well, I guess we will see what happens. And then hold on tight for dear life cuz I am scared shitless.

Antigone said...

Yum to the n^th.

And to think I was excited about our homemade pierogies this weekend.


My husband's been pushing me to finish prototyping a site. I just don't care enough or want it enough. I have this vague memory of ambition and such but now my life is little more than sitting on the couch, blogging about dead babies, and occasional Colbert induced laughing fits.

Drive and desire have checked out.

luna said...

great post, tash. i LOVE tasting menus. haven't really done a full meal since our honeymoon, but we've got one planned for our anniv. at the end of june.

hearing that news can sting, yes, even if you're not trying. go easy on yourself. it's just how it is.

I disagree with the envision yourself in the future thing. sometimes it takes all we are just to be in the present. (that's another thing I actually like about tastings -- it's that immediate sensory experience of the moment, nothing more or less.)

Bon said...

this post was so rich, for me, Tash...partly just for the decadence of the vicarious NYC restaurant experience, partly for the melancholy itself.

i keep waiting for the sting of other people's good news to fade...but it rises and falls, try as i do to swallow it, bury it. it is a hunger for something i can never fully sate again...the belief that things are mostly going to turn out right.

i wonder if each time things do go well for us if the emptiness that others' news creates will be a little filled. i don't know. i don't know.

i hope your Tuesday feels better than Monday.

MsPrufrock said...

Jesus, that sounds terribly posh. The mention of panna cotta had me drooling, so ta for that.

I'm sorry that my blog had to be mentioned within the "stuff that makes me feel horribly depressed" section of this post. Ugh.

Here's to a happier Tuesday.

G said...

Can I admit I have a ridiculous sting of jealousy over your love of wine? Try as I might, I can't drink it - it tastes groddy and makes my face flaming red in seconds. Instead I will be stuck in the purgatory of cheap beer and mixed drinks. Sigh.

The announcements were abundant yesterday, weren't they? I am jealous but elated for them. The little woman in the back of my head says, What about me?

janis said...

I love how your posts play out, Tash. Always like a well-composed piece of music, with the notes lingering long after the end of it all.
That dinner sounds awesome; the other parts not so. I'm sorry.

Coggy said...

The food and wine sound amazing. While reading I had an image of you in my head dressed for dinner. I can't remember the last time I've worn a dress and heels. Long time ago.
I'm also sorry your weekend was tinged with a little bitter. I certainly don't have the drive or desire like I used to. I'm just putting one foot in front of the other and I'm sh*t scared where I'm going to end up. 'Everything will work out in the end' just doesn't cut it with me any more.

Which Box said...

I used to have dinners like this all the time, 3 jobs ago. I miss it. I've had some unbelievably fabulous meals, though never at this place. yum. Sigh.

Anyway, as someone who crosses the spectrum of good news to bad, all at the same time, and who turns 40 in, let's see, 2.5 months (yikes), I too find myself thinking I am too old for this. All the time. And many days I'm not even sure what I have the hunger for.

But, it seems good to me that your tastes are coming back. I think hunger (for something you probably don't even know yet) will come.

Magpie said...

I'm sorry that this turned blue for you, but man, I loved reading the descriptions of the wines and the foods, and yes, hon, you still know how to taste. Wow.

Amy said...

I am now sufficiently hungry and thirsty! I don't drink a lot of wine but you make me want to try!

I believe the more we try to move on the less we have the will to. I think it's something that will just come one day but then again, what the hell do I know? I'm only 6 months out and having a hell of a time even seeing babies, let alone having someone ask me to see them. The going out I do consists of grocery stores and support groups! Oh, yeah!

I do hope that with time the hunger will come back and the pain will fade a smidge!

debbie said...

it just reminds me that even when we are all dressed up our past, our life, our pain and our pleasure is right there with us . . . all the time.

if it makes you feel any better Tash, and this must, I myself was actually hoping that the false rumors of Angelina Joie's birth story were true so that there would be at least one celebrity out there dealing with premature births, suffering through, hoping that things would turn out okay. Of course, I do not really wish this were so and I want everyone's babies to be fine, but I am so tired of everyone's good news everywhere, I think it would be nice if someone shiny and pretty experienced this kind of pain so other people could take note and learn that not all pregnancies or journeys thereto turn out as happy endings. And this makes me feel like shit for even thinking this way. Great, just what I needed, more bad feelings :)

niobe said...

Just reading this is making me a trifle tipsy.

Pregnancy announcements, as such, don't bother me, it's more people's overly sanguine attitudes that get to me. I keep thinking to myself, "this person will be so crushed when her baby dies."

Oh, and I'm so flattered that you quoted me.

Julia said...

I've had this post open in a tab for days, trying to find the words. I don't know that I have them now, but I will try.

First, you do this to me all the time-- suck me in, make me smile, get lazy, get comfortable, and then BAM-- a well-aimed knock-out punch. You are one hell of a writer.

Second, dude, do I have some wines for you! And I can even cook. Is that at all enticing? Or do I also have to beg for you to come visit? Cause I will totally do it-- I've got no shame.

The news, the news, the lake that comes up all around you. I am sorry. It just isn't easy, or can possibly be expected to be easy. The one thing about this is that if any group of people can be expected to understand, it's the rest of us. Right?