I decided to make an interesting mix of dishes, all stemming from different cuisines. Making a pure French meal just did not seem like the best idea. To start things off, a moderate array of locally made pate was served with perfectly toasted croutons. I wish I could remember each wine I consumed at every point of the meal but I was having way too much fun to record every bottle. All I know is each and every glass was better than the next. After spending time enjoying the pate, I moved to the scallop course. At the market earlier in the day, I found enormous, voluptuous scallops. It was true love at first sight. I prepared an asian style reduction sauce with orange juice, lemon grass, ginger, garlic, soy, and chilies. I reduced it down until it was a syrup-like consistency. After searing the scallops on an aggressive heat to form a perfect caramelized crust, I topped each scallop with orange and grapefruit segments to cut the richness. The dish was delicious, simple, and very elegant. I knew the dish was a success when I saw everyone pouring more of the sauce on their plates even after all the scallops were consumed. I told everyone to go ahead and start licking their plates, and that is exactly what occurred next. A simple salad followed with shaved radishes, fennel, and herbs. I wanted to keep everything light since the main course was a rich hearty rabbit civet, or stew if you will. I would definitely be lying if I said I was not nervous to serve the civet. I knew it tasted great but everyone at the party had eaten civet probably hundreds of times in their lives. After seeing everyone's reaction to the first bite, I was able to breathe much easier. I received nothing but incredible compliments on the dish. It was a pure success. I was even asked to cook for one of the wine producers full time instead of going to Noma, but it was an offer I had to decline. A large selection of wonderful French cheese followed with some dried fruit. I wanted dessert to be super light so I made a balsamic vinegar reduction that I drizzled on top of delicious strawberries. These were the strawberries that actually tasted like a strawberry, some of the very best I have ever had. The balsamic reduction added another layer of sweetness that finished off the meal on a perfect note. It seemed as if each bottle we opened was the perfect choice, even though the four bottles I chose were completely random.
It took no time at all to get used to the life of living on a beautiful vineyard. Each day at exactly 12:30, Philipe, Catherine, and myself would stop anything we were doing, regardless of the importance, and have a wonderful lunch outside in the gorgeous backyard. Each day was a very light lunch, but absolutely perfect. One afternoon we had scrambled eggs with herbs, bread, cheese, and delicious wine. Another lunch consisted of a tuna fritata accompanied by a salad with more cheese, more bread, and of course, more wine. Life could not get any better, until I would take a ten minute afternoon nap on a great hammock which was hanging from two perfectly shaped trees in the back yard. After the short nap on the hammock, it was back to work, acquiring more and more knowledge on wine.
I was not expecting to feel as sad as I did when my time on the vineyard came to an end. After all, I had just met these people. In only one week, I had made some incredible life long friendships. I was treated as if I was part of their family every second of every day. I am beyond grateful for everything I learned while on the vineyard. The entire experience transformed me not only into a better chef, but a better person as well.