A Spoonful of Sherry

So there I was, 6:15 p.m. on the night of this month’s #Under25Challenge. I still hadn’t left the office, I had no bottle of wine, and even more distressing, I had nothing to eat for dinner[1]. Shite. I packed my bag, grabbed my keys, ran out the door and headed to Price Chopper[2]. I ladled myself some split pea and ham soup,[3] then made my way over to the hole-in-the-wall liquor store across the street.[4] I wasn’t sure what I was gonna get, but I figured they had to have SOMETHING drinkable. I was in a pinch, and beggars can’t be choosers.

I walked in to the store and found the lone employee perusing the Beverage Journal at the front counter. As it turns out, Marvin owned the store. I told him about the Twitter challenge and how I’d like for him to make a recommendation of his best bottle $25 or under, and he chuckled to himself. I could tell that this was the kinda guy in the kinda store that just didn’t do Twitter. He asked whether I wanted to give him any direction and I said I was open to anything, although I was leaning toward having a red. He took me over to the wine section, plunked a bottle down on a wine box, and then disappeared. I didn’t know if that was it or if he was going to get something else. I decided to wait around.

The #Under25Challenge Selections
The #Under25Challenge Selections

Four minutes later he came back with two more bottles, then he wandered to another section to get a fourth. I really wasn’t expecting this kind of variety, or thoughtfulness, from my hole-in-the-wall package store down the street. My choices ranged from $13.99 to $19.99; he offered an interesting Australian blend featuring Petite Verdot, which he told me was rare for a Rhone style wine, a 100% Mencia from Spain that he said would knock my socks off, a Rioja that may need a bit of decanting[5], and a delicious black cherry fruit bomb from Napa. I told him I was rather partial to fruit bombs from Napa, but that I wanted to go out of my comfort zone that evening. I was leaning toward the Australian or the Mencia.

Then I casually mentioned what I was having for dinner; split pea and ham soup. “Aha!,” he exclaimed, “well then I know just the thing, but this is gonna be weird.” I waited with bated breath while he disappeared again. He came back with a bottle of what looked kind of like Boone’s Farm. It was a $10.99 bottle of Hartley & Gibson’s Fino Sherry. He explained that Sherry was the secret ingredient to make any soup outstanding; clam chowder, chicken noodle, beef and vegetable, you name it, Sherry would make it shine. I said, “Really? I’d never heard that before!”

Fino Sherry

Marvin told me that the Sherry would do three things to my soup: 1. it would add its own unique flavor; 2. it would meld all the flavors of the soup together; and 3. it would remove any excess saltiness. I thought it sounded great, and I figured that since my store-bought soup couldn’t possible get any worse, I might as well give it a try[6]. So I went with the Sherry… and the Australian blend, just to be safe. Both bottles came to $26.16, almost cheap enough to meet the #Under25Challenge parameters.

But all that chatting with Marvin about wine and Sherry had seriously cut down my lead time for the challenge. I didn’t have much time to prep for the chat, and clearly, my main priority was the soup[7].

First I tasted the soup sans Sherry, to give myself a baseline to compare it too. It was really good, but not amazing. Then I added the magic elixir. Less than a shot, maybe two teaspoons, and mixed it all in. Marvin said you should add it tableside or right before you take it off the heat. I took my first bite and said, “Oh. Em. Gee.” What Marvin said was true! Holy. Moly. This was the best thing I’ve ever done to a soup.[8]

Fino Sherry

The flavor it added was just a hint of oak barrels and a touch of sweet port. It really did bring the flavors together and eliminated the saltiness. It gave it a richness that wasn’t there before, and a whole lot more pizzazz. It was a soup miracle.

Since the #Under25Challenge is all about finding new things for under $25, this bottle fit the bill perfectly. I tried a small taste on its own to get a feel for Sherry, it may have been my first foray. Someone on Twitter said it should have been on the rocks, but I drank it warm and neat, and I can tell you it wasn’t something I’m in a rush to do again. But I can tell you that this soup season is going to be packed with a Sherry punch!

Until the next bowl, Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] #Priorities.
[2] Because where else would I go for food?
[3] I love that it’s officially soup season.
[4] When I say hole in the wall, I’m really not exaggerating. This is the kinda place where regulars come in for their nips and their forties on a daily basis. #classy
[5] But ain’t nobody got time for that when your twitter chat is about to start in 20 minutes!
[6] To be fair, the hot soups at Price Chopper are seriously awesome.
[7] Because, #hanger.
[8] You know, besides re-heating it.