The pairing of food and wine is a complex and highly inexact science. It is fraught with outmoded rules and a propensity for generalizations.
Sid Goldstein, The Wine Lover’s Cookbook
“Venison with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy,” would pair nicely with the wine in your glass, said the winery owner’s wife, looking Big Papa right in the eye.
“And with your wine, pizza,” is what she said to me.
Pizza?! I definitely hoped for more venison and less pizza in my life, in a metaphorical sense. It was January 9, 2005 and I was on my first date with Big Papa. Seattle lay under a dusting of snow, and the air was chilly, but inside the Bainbridge Island Winery we were toasty and warm as we stood side by side and sipped. We had successfully navigated a ferry ride to the island (successful in the sense that we liked each other enough not to end up on opposite sides of the boat), and had commenced to part two of our date: wine tasting.
Big Papa and I found each other on an online dating site and, for our first date, I asked him to think of something more creative than going out for coffee (the gold standard for first dates with online suitors). He said “ferry ride” and I said “great idea.” I suggested Bainbridge Island as our destination and wine tasting as our island adventure. We were two people who had never met, taking a ferry to an island across Puget Sound, to drink wine and then ride the ferry back to the city, easily a 3-4 hour date as opposed to a 30 minute coffee chat. What could possibly go wrong?
As it turned out, nothing went wrong. Our first date was awesome. We left the winery and drove to Faye Bainbridge State Park, where we sat at a picnic table near the water as the sky grew dark (I must mention again how cold it was). I brought out the cheese, crackers and chocolates I’d carried along with me in my backpack. We quickly found out that the chocolates (and some of the cheese) were frozen when Big Papa tried to cut a chocolate truffle in half and it sailed off into the evening sky. I’m not sure how much time passed as we sat there together, sharing stories and getting to know one another, but I do remember that my fingers were numb from the cold by the time we decided to head back to the car.
In a flash of brilliance (and attempt to be the female equivalent of gallant), I grabbed the fleece “emergency blanket” stored in the trunk of my car (which, by the way, I still have) to throw over our legs on the drive back to the ferry. And throw it I did. As Big Papa got into the front passenger seat, I tossed the blanket (which is tightly wrapped into a fabric envelope, like a pillow) in his direction.
“Are you okay?”
“You hit me in the face.”
“Oh wow. Sorry. Did I hurt you?”
“You nailed my cheek.”
I started to laugh. I couldn’t help myself, the hilarity of it all (though I will say I breathed a silent sigh of relief the moment he started to laugh too). We were having a good time together, inadvertent attempts to cause my date bodily harm notwithstanding.
On the ferry back to Seattle, he suggested we continue our date and go out to dinner. We headed to Coastal Kitchen. After dinner, wine, and dessert–eight hours after I’d picked Big Papa up and said hello for the first time–I dropped him off at his house and headed home to my apartment.
Since that first date, nine years ago, we’ve continued to taste wine–and share adventures–together: in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and the Walla Walla wine region in Washington State, in New York, Pennsylvania, California, Canada, Mexico, France, and Armenia. Wine at restaurants, tasting bars, wineries and–most of all–at home, where we enjoy wine collected from our travels.
And you know what? The two of us are still a nice pairing.
Take the road less traveled, Beth