April 13, 2006


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Got milk?

A pain in the glass
Breaking up set leads to forced labor
By Tim Protzman†tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

Every day at noon our office closes down. No calls are put through, no faxes sent. E-mail is unchecked. Itís time for lunch. Well, not exactly lunch, but the daily lunch conference.

Itís funny that we can agree to spend $700,000 on a piece of development property in a 20-minute meeting, but it takes us 40 minutes to decide, order, coordinate payments and head out the door to pick up our noon meal. Itís not like itís hard; we just have so many choices. The Mexican contingent will push for burritos. The sub club clamors for ham and cheese. But finally we agree on what and where and we get down to the individual orders. Here the bargaining starts.

ďI paid for your doughnut, so hereís four bucks and you throw down for the side of fries.Ē

Eventually, everyone eats at their desks. Having spent too much time ordering, they chow down while on the phone or answering e-mails.

Much more civilized is the party I went to in March. It was catered. Delicately passed trays, drinks in fluted glasses, all the best people ó I wish Iíd been a guest. But I was the next best thing. I was the catering help.

It started in December when Haley gifted me with six crystal Ravenscroft wine glasses. Three were Bordeaux style, meant for dry red wines. Stylish, heavy, but relatively plain looking. Two were Burgundy Grand Cruís, deeper and rounder with a flaring rim. The final one was a chardonnay glass. Simple, elegant and easy to hold. I was very impressed.

But one by one they broke. Not by themselves, but in the normal course of wear and tear, like when Beans threw a hissy and swept the Scrabble board, the chips, the dictionary and the first Bordeaux glass off the table.

Xenon, a colorless, odorless gas, is not spelled with a Z.

Now all but one wine glass is gone and I had to do penance with Haley for all the breakage. She co-owns a catering company. Her partner Rick does the food and she handles the staff. I ended up working as bartender.

It was one of those new money households where real estate holdings and corporate piracy figured largely in the wealth mix. I myself am descended from old Midwestern money, as my motherís family made a fortune in bootlegging and my great grandfather was in wholesale hardware. Growing up I remember visiting my grandparents and having their maid Winnie tie my shoes. It was the height of luxury.

The party was a simple affair for 20 people. A cocktail party with the usual butternut squash ravioli, mini-tumbrels of oyster risotto garnished with caviar and pigs in a blanket.

There was no Chex mix, only a funky Waldorf salad made with imported Roquefort, endive, Gala apples and toasted walnuts dressed with a warm walnut vinaigrette. The one rule was nobody was allowed upstairs without the host or hostess. Once the party was underway I broke this rule, mentally justifying my transgression with the simple rationale, ďIf I didnít go upstairs and check, how could I make sure nobody else went upstairs?Ē

My logic was flawless.

They had six bedrooms. Most were never slept in and you could tell by the scary collection of pierrette clown dolls splayed across the pillows.

The master bedroom was nice. Plasma flat screen, fresh flowers in the bathroom, and a little candy dish filled with tiny, tiny soaps that looked like Vicodin. I retreated downstairs before I was missed.

The liquor was all top shelf ó Johnnie Walker Black Label, Belvedere Vodka, Hendricks gin. But being the help I didnít get a chance to sip. I stood behind a bar, thinking how I got into this mess.

The Chardonnay glass broke while we were drinking a 2004 Domaine Jean-Noel Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet ďLes Masures.Ē The Chassagne-Montrachet refers to the village the wine comes from and Les Masures denotes an actual vineyard, no more than 2 acres.

The wine cost $37.59 and was full of minerals, very young and had an acid streak running through it that left a metallic taste on the tongue. This dissipated when we drank it with food. The beauty of this wine is not the price but the taste of the ancient soil, which is clearly present in the wine.

We broke the Grand Cru Burgundy glass drinking a $9.99 bottle of 1999 Le Lodole, an 80 percent sangiovese, 15 percent merlot, 5 percent cabernet sauvignon blend thatís my new favorite wine. Very Californian, but with an accent.

I broke one Bordeaux while doing dishes after tasting a 2004 Wild Horse Syrah, priced at $14.99. Beanís Scrabble-induced tantrum dumped a 2000 Summit Lake Vineyard, Howell Mountain District Zinfandel, $21.99, that was very ripe, jammy and grapey but a little too high on the alcohol.

The last Burgundy cracked up while filled with 2004 Cornish Point Pinot Noir from New Zealand that a friend had brought back from one of his self-indulgent fishing trips. Heís been to Chile, Costa Rica, Kenya, Austria, Scotland and Iceland as well. The wine was excellent with fruit and soil, a surprising cross between Californian taste and French terroir. Cherry, grape and a potting soil nose with fruit and structure, although not as much as a Burgundy.

The party went well and was over early. I wasnít really dragooned into working; Haley just called me at the last minute to see if I could fill in a pinch. She even offered to pay me, but I told her to just get me some new industrial-strength wine glasses.

Now that last crystal wine glass sits in the cupboard. I wonít use it for wine. But it does have a purpose. I put some of those little soaps I swiped from the catered party in it. Who knows the next time Iíll have to wash my hands when I have a headache?

Tell Tim your wine stories. You can reach him at tprotzman@sbcglobal.net.

Comments?†Thoughts? Discuss this article and more at hippoflea.com

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