Monday, November 16, 2009

What to Eat and Drink when you Cannot Drink Wine

Last week, for the first time in several years, I was really sick. I didn't have a drop of wine for five days. Sounds crazy, but it's true. Imagine not drinking wine for five whole days! You'd have to be in prison, or shipwrecked, or completely knocked out with the flu.

My cold was bad enough so that I didn't even miss wine, actually. But one must eat and drink, even when sick. So what does a guy like me think about ingesting when he's on the sick-wagon?

Phở. Chicken soup might be more traditional for us Americans, but when I'm sick I immediately think of Phở, the traditional beef noodle soup of Vietnam, and the most comforting food that I know of. It warms the body and soul, and if you garnish with the right amount of chili paste, it clears the sinuses too. My favorite bowl can be found at Cong Ly in Manhattan, at 124 Hester Street between Chrystie and Bowery. Great Phở is distinguished by the quality of the broth and the toppings. There is no better Phở broth in NYC than at Cong Ly, I assure you. There are many toppings to choose from, some better than others. When I'm sick, I just want the simplest version, Phở Tai, topped with thin slices of eye-of-round, a medley of herbs, charred onion slices, bean sprouts, and fresh lemon juice. Just look at that bowl in the picture above, as of yet untouched by my waiting chop sticks.

McVitie's Digestives. I cannot stop thinking about these things. Nothing more than round wheatmeal biscuits, but they taste so good. If they're bad for me, I can't figure out how from reading the ingredients. A good hot cuppa, a few of these, who wouldn't feel better? My daughters seem to like them too, and now they bum-rush me whenever they see the brightly colored package. But I don't see why I should share, I'm the one who is sick.

Good bread. Almondine bakery opened an outpost not too far from me and sells what I think is the best baguette in NYC. Crusty and a bit chewy on the outside, light and flavorful on the inside, irregular and lumpy, this is a beautiful thing. Eating one makes me understand the endurance and and ubiquity of the baguette - most are just terrible, but we keep buying them because we once had a great one, and we continue to search for that experience. In Brooklyn, here it is. More on the new Almondine spot soon.

Good reading. Dr. J's recent writings reminded me that I hadn't yet read Kermit Lynch's classic book, Adventures on the Wine Route. I tore through it during these five days and it was perfect - completely engaging but not terribly demanding, perfect for reading with a slight fever at 1:30 AM when you can't sleep. That sounds like a slight, and I don't mean it that way at all - this is a classic for a reason. The book is informative, inspiring, entertaining, and Lynch's passion is contagious. Kermit Lynch is definitely a pioneer. Do you remember when you first heard of Domaine Tempier? Of Charles Joguet? Of Vieux Télégraphe?

* * *

While I was sick I thought of many wines I wanted to drink, and the meals that I would enjoy with them. Yet what was the first wine I drank when I was able? A simple country wine, a Gamay from the Côte Roannaise, and it was delicious. I need to drink simple wine more often.


Cliff said...

Wow, McVitie's! I have never seen them in the States but used to live on them when I lived in England. Where do you find them?

Asher said...

Coincidentally, I just finished re-reading Kermit's book. It had been about five years since my first read. It should be mandatory reading for any wine enthusiast.

And I agree 100% on the Pho. In my current residence on the Upper West Side, I am far removed from Chinatown and I now have to take comfort in Saigon Grill, which is good, not great, but as you said, improved with the addition of that chili paste.

Brooklynguy said...

hi cliff - i saw them at Fairway, and also at my neighborhood fancy food store, called Blue Apron.

hey Asher - you need to abandon saigon grill entirely, for your own mental health. it's a trick, i tell you. come back to chinatown -i'll meet you there.

Drink, Memory said...

If it's still open, they sell Mcvitie's at Myers of Keswick in the west village, and wonderful English sausages and pies, too.

slaton said...

So a Negroni isn't an option, then?

Brooklynguy said...

slaton - a mixed blessing, it would have been. i love a good negroni, and it would have felt great. but one would have felt like 6 in the morning, from past flu-drinking experience, anyway.

AJ said...

What a great book. My wife just read it and is recommending it to non-wine people. She found his voice that compelling and entertaining. I plan to reread it soon.

Do Bianchi said...

BrooklynGuy, thanks for the shout out. I hope you're feeling better. It was so much fun to hang out with Kermit and glean some of his insight into the world of European wine, historic and contemporary. I can't even repeat what he had to say about Natural Wine! ;-)

Hope you're feeling better and thanks again, man. Means a lot to know that you read my blog. :-)

Wine Splodge said...

You think McVities are good with tea... wait till you try them with a slice of tangy Cheddar cheese on top. I apolgise in advance for what can quickly become a serious habit.