The longer I go on writing and thinking and doing my damnedest to offer value to some imaginary individual out there via this little wine blog, the more I think that my best bet in life might just be to share versions of toast that I tickle my own palate with alongside a couple of ideas of wines to go along.
This is how I like things. Simple. Borderline rudimentary. OK, rudimentary. Delicious. And let's face it, "x" on toast is the recipe of the people. Something about toast just feels democratic. It's got an everywoman/everyman-like quality to it. It seems essential. Even to the gluten-averse. After all, if toast wasn't so important in life, why would anyone even attempt to create a version of it without gluten? It reminds me of the book Jason Alexander's character (a character named Jason Alexander) in Curb Your Enthusiasm writes called "Acting Without Acting." He explains to Jerry & Larry that the point is to conceal the act of acting while acting.
But, you're still acting, as Jerry points out.
And toast is still toast.
We don't really need toast. I went years without even the thought of toast. But, why? Was I skinnier? Probably. Was I faster? Definitely. Was I dumber? Yes.
Was I happier? Emphatically: No.
I just had one of those moments when you write something extremely common, say the words, and have a hard time understanding how and why those words actually work together and if they're supposed to be put together at all.
Say it with me. Was...I...OK. I'm over it. Back to the gin & tonics (and toast).
I'm making it my mission. I don't know what we'll call it. The great toast. The toast of the town. Sex on toast. Time will tell as I find more and more ways to drink wine with said toast at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This may result in divorce, or it may result in the greatest marital development in the history of mankind, proving to be the most important thing (I think ladies have given up on men pleasing them) in creating and sustaining domestic bliss.
And the wine. Maybe it's just me. Maybe it's laziness. I'm sure the wine community at large who likely does not read my content in the first place thinks that it's lazy. But, I've never been after absolute perfection when it comes to pairing wine and birdie-num-nums. Do I love it when it happens or when I feel like I get close to it? Naturally. How could anyone not love that? When I think about food and wine, though, I like to think big. Maybe not big, but broad. I like to take a step back. I like to keep my perspective. I think of my most memorable meals. Few, if any of them, involved technically perfect or even considered-at-all wine pairings. Some of them didn't even involve wine. And none of them were formal wine-pairing dinners.
When I started in the wine business, specifically, when I started getting involved in running wine programs, finding ideal pairings was my raison d'être. What I quickly realized, though, was that it wouldn't be very often that I would have the opportunity to do so. More often than not, you'd be dealing with a table of 2-6 people who were ordering different dishes, had different preferences, and who had different ideas, if any, about what to drink with their meal. I started looking at the whole picture. I started falling in love with wine as the best supporting actor. It didn't mean I took wine less seriously. But I started to look at it through a different lens. 6 times out of 10, a table of 2 can only handle a cocktail each and 1 bottle of wine between them. Of those other 4 times, 3 of them consume far less, don't order a bottle, or don't even drink wine or anything at all. The other 1 time out of 10 you get a lush like me with a willing accomplice. Thank you, Jessie. You're the best. Mush-moosh-mish-mosh-mooshie.
The point of these metrics was that I realized that wine pairing doesn't work. You get 1 bottle. Who the hell can afford to start every meal with Champagne alongside the oysters, then have Sancerre with the goat cheese + frisée, and then Chablis with the gravlax, and then Montrachet with the Dover sole, and then Volnay with the quail, and then Cornas with the lamb shank, and then Mouton with the chateaubriand (maybe we should have paired Mouton with the lamb shank but we felt it far too cruel), and then Opus One with the braised AND sous-vide chocolate chip cookies, and then Taylor 40 Tawny with the blue cheese toenail, and then d'Yquem with the curried baklava, and so on and so on. And who could survive that night after night? What do you think, you're Elvis or something?
That 1 bottle you go with is going to be your friend throughout the meal. Something's gotta give, Jack. And this is where I realized that a general, broad, decent match is more than enough to create an enjoyable atmosphere and a memorable meal. Perfection is overrated. You gotta embrace those absurdities. The story behind that bottle, the way it's presented, the way it's decanted, if so, how sparkling the glassware is, the server's wit, and the induced sense of discovery on the part of the guest, collectively, has a greater impact on how much the wine and the evening or afternoon or morning are enjoyed.
Mulling and moaning over the Gevrey-Chambertin or the Chambolle-Musigny and how the tertiary aromas and development of either might overpower your squab...spare me, just hand over the PTG and let's get this show on the road.
Because I'm having toast.
Here's my latest:
Sardine Toast with Blistered Heirloom Tomatoes
What you'll need:
•One slice of toast. I used Silver Hills™ Sprout Power for this iteration. It's not fancy. It's not even what I would recommend. But it works.
•One can of sardines in olive oil. Mine were lightly smoked. I dig.
•4 baby tomatoes per slice. I had some in-season heirlooms at my disposal. You can get creative.
•Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sea Salt, Pepper.
•2 frying pans or skillets
Open the sardine can and remove the sardines. You can mash them up a little in a bowl or leave them whole. I mashed them this time, but I think next time, I'll let them remain as their cute, little fishy selves.
Fire up the skillets to medium-high heat. One is for the tomatoes, one is for the toast. Season skillets with EVOO.
Season the tomatoes with EVOO, S+P in a small bowl.
If y'er cookin' with gas, take a fork and stab a tomato and stick it right in the flame on your stovetop. If y'er cooking with electric, stick the tomato right onto the element. It might crackle. It might briefly catch fire. That's awesome. Once you have a touch of blackened skin, huck it in the pan and let 'er sizzle and cook down a bit. Repeat this step with all of your tomatoes.
Lay down your toast (and your arms. and your lover.) in the seasoned pan. Drizzle the side still facing up with EVOO.
Monitor your tomatoes and toast. Flip tomatoes occasionally. Rub your toast around in the pan to make sure it soaks up that yummy oil. When you likey the toast's doneness, flip it.
Depending on your timing, when your tomatoes are sweating but the skins aren't quite peeling themselves off and shriveling, get them off the heat and into a bowl. Season with S+P and toss.
When the toast is done, get it on a plate and arrange your little whole fishies or your mashed-up fishies on the sliceee. S+P.
Arrange those beautiful little tomatoes on top of the sardinos. Season further to your liking.
Bonus: sprinkle some fresh herbs if you're feeling froofie. I'm not that smart, but I'd say thyme, basil, chive, or dill would play nice.
Wine. I did it with the quaffer I already had open from the night before. It happened to be a 2017 Sperling Market Red. Pinot Noir + Marechal Foch. 30+ year old vines. $20. Light, savoury, with a certain tang and mineral character. Although it wasn't intentional on my part, it was a wonderful answer to that old red-wine-with-seafood conundrum. I fear I am becoming that very hyper-localized blogger whose suggestions are unattainable to any reader from anywhere other than the very apartment in which this article is being created. Sigh. If I caught you cursing me out for the very same reason, think Bardolino, Gamay, or Lambrusco.
Toast: It's what's for dinner.