Private Chefs are the way to go. After our magical Christmas Feast with Chef Bill, I wasn’t expecting to have the private chef dining experience repeated again so soon; sometimes you just have to go with the flow and see where life takes you.
We arrived at our destination, a locally renowned historic mansion. This 1920s Italian-Renaissance-Revival masterpiece is this corner of the world’s very own Downton Abbey. We were donned in our black-tie finery; Husband in his tux and I in my Lady Mary-inspired gown. Our friends are antique mavens and their incredible home is filled with treasures and finery, the likes of which you only see in museums. We began the evening in the grand salon, flanked on either end by roaring fires and a violinist serenading us in the background. To start we sampled a pomegranate champagne punch served, of course, from an antique silver punch bowl with matching silver cups.
Before dinner we noshed on a charcuterie spread of Mangalista Pork, bred by a former Wall-Street financier on his Mangalista farm in New Jersey. Ugly little suckers with curly hair and massive waist lines, but their high fat content leads to amazing cuts of meat. After experiencing a piece of straight lardo, literally the lard of the Mangalista, it was time for dinner.
Walking into the dining room literally took my breath away. I was expecting Lady Grantham to come around the corner with her cane wondering what had taken us so long. The table was set for twelve. Each place setting included our own salt and pepper cellars, antique glassware for days, a bud vase of fresh flowers, and a wine rinser. The fire was roaring behind me, the hot air balloon chandeliers were aglow, and we were surrounded by a set of four of the most beautiful paintings I’d ever seen; four massive depictions of the muses of games: dice, chess, dominoes and cards.
The first course was a butternut squash puree soup, served from a silver pitcher, topped with the faintest drizzle of burnt brown butter and topped with homemade croutons. I’m a huge fan of starting with soups and this did not disappoint. Savory with a hint of sweet, I could have munched on those croutons all day. This was perfectly paired with a Kistler Chardonnay. Thick and oaky, a chardonnay that could stand well on its own, but was even better enjoyed with this course.
We moved on to the plat principal of rack of lamb medallions. These were served with the help of our host’s newest antique acquisition, a set of sterling silver lamb chop sleeves. Who knew such a thing existed, but it was quite fun to eat the medallions using the sleeve instead of a knife and fork. We had undeniably stepped back in time. The lamb was accompanied by a serving of wild rice and cranberries, three types of kale, each separately sautéed in garlic loveliness, and vine-ripened tomatoes slow roasted overnight for twelve hours. Truly Divine.
The wine pairing for the main course, hand-selected from our hosts’ wine cellars, was a 2001 Chateau Lynch Bages Pauillac. A majestic Bordeaux that did the juicy lamb medallions justice. It was rich, flowery and deep, everything a Bordeaux should be.
Our lamb escapade was followed by a salad course; a bed of the freshest, crispest greens, crowned with a hearty helping of freshly pressed sunflower oil. The oil was smooth and clean with just a hint of saltiness. A flawless palate cleanser before the cheese course.
Yes, there was a cheese course. The cheese cart came around the table, stopping at each place as our server prepared us a dish of all the cheeses we cared to taste. I went to town. I had some of the creamy Le Crémeux du Mont-St-Michel, a taste of parmesan, a bite of manchego, and a few others I can’t recall just now. It was rounded out with a spattering of toast points, a sprig of grapes and a wee glass of 1997 La Fleur Baron Sauternes. Yes, a 1997 Sauternes. Epic. Simply epic.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, out came the Bûche de Noël, or the Yule Log. A traditional French delicacy served at the holidays, it’s a spongy cake rolled and iced to resemble an actual log or branch. Let’s just say that WineEsquire was a happy camper.
After all that food and wine, we were all were feeling good. As the final touch to the meal, out came individual servings of Underberg, a German digestif made from a blend of aromatic herbs. It reminded me of a potent Amaro with a touch of black licorice, akin to Sambuca. The bottle tells you it will make you “feel bright and alert” and it really worked. I was able to escape that feeling of lethargic fullness and we were ready to continue on our journey to the New Year.
We settled down in our quest to 2016 with another round of drinks. I kept the party going with a glass of Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé and its delicately fine bubbles, while Husband moved to his staple beverage, Onyx on the Rocks.
Time passed quickly and before we knew it, it was just minutes to midnight. Another round of champagne was poured and we gathered round the fireplace. We wrote what we wanted to let go from 2015 and threw it into the fire, then we threw a grape over our shoulder into the yard. Kisses were exchanged and the New Year arrived! This was a remarkable way to ring in the New Year, and not one any of the guests will soon forget.
2015 was a magical time; we went on adventures, we drank some great wine, and I started this little blog. I am so excited for this new year and all it will bring. Cheers to happiness, love and good wine in 2016!
 Complete with a backwards necklace a la J. Law at the 2014 Oscars. My own creation. #fashionista
 @hartfordista and @nickcaitophoto, if you haven’t sampled this yet, it’s right up your alley. #CHARCUTAPALOOZA2016
 The lardo was exquisite. It was like eating a sinfully flavorful piece of melted bacon fat. #caloriefree
 I’ve truly failed as a wine blogger because I didn’t even get a photo of the bottle.
 I confess I did not pay attention enough to any of the wines that were served. With all the stimulation, it was hard to stay sober take it all in.
 A legit, glass, roll-top, two-layer cheese cart. It was epic.
 My inner food blogger is kicking myself for not getting a photo of the cart. Oh wait, I’m not a food blogger. When you’re knee deep in this much food and wine, it’s hard to concentrate on photos and taking notes. My main concern was figuring out how to roll the cheese cart to a private place so I could eat it all. By myself. #priorities
 Diet starts today. #fitfam
 Husband awkwardly exclaimed as I was handed my cheese plate, alarmed at how many I was tasting. Hmph, I told him. It’s not every day you get a cheese cart rolled around to you.
 You’ve got to go to their website and watch their video. It’s full of hilarious wholesome German cuteness.
 One of our host’s favorite beverages, he came around to collect the caps which he will send in to collect another Underberg Tall Glass for his collection. The going rate is 96 caps, he has at least four. #dedication
 At this point it was about 9:30 p.m. and I’m not gonna lie, I could totally have gone to bed. But I made it to midnight #likeaboss.
 Or two.
 Someone said we needed 12 grapes, referring to the Spanish tradition of eating one grape at each stroke of midnight to ensure prosperity in the coming year. Somehow this turned into throwing a grape into the yard. Just go with it.