While sweating over the book, I found writing lists more preferable to writing magazine articles. Why? My client's actually thanked me for my work. I was appreciated. So, what's not to like? More important than the accolades, writing them felt very satisfying. While it wasn't exactly working for the Peace Corps, I had the feeling I was making the drinking world a more pleasant place to be.
In 2006 I authored three; the very affordable, classy one for Yuva, an Indian restaurant on 58th. A slightly more New World-ish yet accessible list for the Indo-Chinese restaurant, I Chin on 52nd. A teensy, yet high end one for a Kyoto-style restaurant in Tribeca, Rosanjin/Tribeca on Duane. This, the trickiest, had to accelerate from $30- 1k a bottle in a mere 20 bottles. Thatís like going from a walking pace to 100 miles an hour on the short block between Prince and Houston.
All clients were unfamiliar with the kinds of wines I chose, but when they tasted with me, they were convinced. I felt like a good little wine evangelist when Kedar Shah, the owner of Yuva, told me how much his wife, Hritu, loved the Desvignes Morgon. I don't know why it warmed my heart, it's like someone saying they love my cooking, or an essay I wrote moved them.
I agonize over wine selection just as I do when I try the most active verb, the perfect, succinct analogy. These choices are never easy for me because my base-line nature leans towards self- torture; one day I love my work, the next day I hate it. One day I feel like the shtettle idiot, the next I feel like the village genius. One day I feel the self-confidence of power, the next I am plunged into painful second-guessing.
Knowing this about myself I was relieved when I returned to Yuva last night, opened the list and had no self-recriminations! When I held the list in my hands, I had no regrets, felt no need to edit. I wanted to drink everything, especially at the fair prices. Pepiere muscadet and the brilliant white, Notre Dame de Cousignac Cote de Vivarais at $6 a glass? Kefraya Rouge at $7 a glass? Moncuit champagne at $68 a bottle? My only question was why were most people drinking beer when the wine was this good and so cheap? I kept on telling myself, that even though I knew beer might be the most popular choice, my goal for the list was to make it a happy one for wine drinkers. Mission accomplished. The food also exceeded my expectations...delicious. Everything was fresh, flavors clean and clear. The deep fried okra had a gorgeous coating of cornmeal and white poppy seeds, saag paneerís paneer was fluffy and home made, none of the typical congealed stuff and the baby eggplants in the Baigan Bartha were smoky delicate with a spicy tomato compote, all, believe it or not were pretty delicious with Kedarís wifeís favorite, the Desvignes 2004 Morgon.
(Part 2: list for I Chin, coming right up)