Sunday, January 17, 2010

2010: A Spice Odyssey

Editor's Note: Think of this brief blog as one of those tall, fancy Lucite peppermills stuffed with multicolored grains of piper nigrum, and think of your brain as the dish that will receive a muted distillation of all these different individual piques.  But don't think of the following thoughts as anything spice related.  So, my apologies for the misleading title. I just wanted to be the first to come up with the obvious culinary headline we'll be seeing in newsprint for the rest of the year....

Indeed, a new year is upon us, and optimism is on the rise.  You can see it in the faces of our nightly guests at Black Trumpet, and--in turn--on the faces of our staff.  You can sense it in the tone of dialogue, the gestures of strangers.  And, of course, you can see it on our nightly wine sales reports.  Granted, this last may be one of the least appreciated of our country's economic indicators.  So, if Ben Bernanke is browsing the web and comes across this blog, I hope he'll rethink the metrics and formulae used to gauge the depth of the nation's debt-induced doo-doo by looking at what people are drinking.  Denise and I have performed a rudimentary autopsy of high-end wine consumption in the last year, and the results are fascinating.

The cause of death of the pricey wine bottle is obvious, and admittedly there have been sporadic signs of life amid the mourning, but for the most part, value has been the key to wine sales in 2009.  What is most interesting to note is that the void in wine sales has been filled by stronger medicine.  It seems that, in the second half of 2009, our 80-proof offerings provided significantly more comfort to guests than in previous second halves, although wine still accounts for double the sales of beer and liquor combined.  So, while liquor has increased, and wine has ebbed slightly, recent months have shown a noteworthy reversal, leading us to believe that household discretionary income tides are turning. 

Perhaps the best indicator of all is a new slot on our by-the-glass list.  Since early December, we have featured a truly spectacular wine, available for $24 a glass.  First, it was Freemark Abbey, a renowned Napa cabernet from the winemaker's favorite vintage.  Now it is Wellington Vineyard's Victory, a stellar Bordeaux blend.  This latter is fairly small production, so we'll be moving on in February to another big boy.  We introduced higher end glass wines that folks might balk at by the bottle to give everyone of every means a chance to experience some great wines.  With that, let me raise an imaginary glass and issue a hearty "welcome back," to high-end wines and the people who (are able to) enjoy them.

If BT liquor has surged over the holidays, it might have something to do with our crack team of mixologists.  I feel strongly that our current list of specialty cocktails--which our mixmistress Jody concocted (I can only be credited, or scorned, for naming them)--is without a doubt the best line-up we've had at Black Trumpet.  The Lava Lamp is a virtually interactive champagne cocktail that is so mesmerizing to watch one might forget to drink it.  The Anti-Occident is my personal favorite, with green tea ginger ale and citrus muddled with gin.  And there's the Quincy Alexander, Denise's fave, with quince-infused brandy and cream.  Yum!

Two weeks ago, we closed the restaurant for two days so our staff could convene for our annual Holiday Getaway.  Dexter's Inn in Sunapee played host for one long, wild night flanked by two days of winter recreation at Mt. Sunapee.  Meals were prepared, memories were constructed (and, in some cases, erased), and a good time was had by all.  Thank you to the cherished regular customer who sent us on our way to Sunapee with a colossal jug of Patron Silver! 

Our restaurant, our staff and our family appear to have weathered what we're now calling the Great Recession, and the world's economic bleeding may well have been staunched by the ligatures of time more than any reactionary policy measures.  These things are cyclical--however gratuitous, unnecessary and greed-induced this last deep valley may appear in retrospect--and we are all prone to the natural binging and purging of elements we do not fully understand.  One thing, though, that pervades our community organelle in the greater organism of human experience, is the need we have for each other.  I hope that, with the evolution of palm-held technology and social media and voice-activated everything, we will retain the obsolescent social medium called conversation.  Our wine bar is the kind of venue where conversation still reigns, where ideas exchange, revolutions begin, and friends and lovers forge their bonds.

Stay tuned....more meandering musings to come...