wine and ghosts

We spent Saturday night with ghosts. Or at least we did according to the ghost hunters who were loudly staying in the room next to ours. We overheard them excitedly talking about the “activity” from their “readings” as they tromped up to the attic, giving fair warning to any ghosts who might want to stay hidden. They woke us up the next morning as they exuberantly reminisced about the door that had shut on its own!

I decided not to mention that the hotel was over a hundred years old and kind of slopey, which tends to make for closing doors, or that I had read that the owners made up the stories about the woman who jumped to her death when her fiance jilted her and the priest who hung himself. And that the manager has been known to don a white sheet and run past the dining room. It is true that the owners claim paranormal activity does exist, they just made up the stories to heighten the fun (or maybe the bookings).

However, other than hearing our neighbors talk about the “activity”, we didn’t see signs of any ghosts. We did manage to find wine and cheese and crackers and the hugest jacuzzi tub we had ever seen. We found a little winery and talked to the winemaker about helping him bottle in summer. And we found a little chocolate shop and bought truffles to go with the black Muscat we picked up at the wine shop in the little downtown. So, we had a great, relaxing time even without a haunting.

And what follows a day of wine better than another day of wine? It was P’s birthday and I made reservations at the Herbfarm, which is a five-star restaurant with a prix fixe menu that includes lots and lots of wine. It’s really more an event than a dinner, beginning with an open house of the wine cellar, then a tour of the herbs of the night, and history about about the restaurant. Later, the owner and chef both come out to regale everyone with tales about the ingredients and the wines. And between courses, you can take a bucket of leftover dinner out to Hamlet the pig, which of course we did. Hamlet lives with several ducks. They didn’t mention the ducks. We went out to see them just after the foie gras course. They really should have warned us. Especially since the course they presented to us once we returned from admiring the squacking, happy ducks was duck confit. I’m surprised they didn’t top it with a ham hock.

Things I normally don’t eat: foie gras, confit. Also: sea scallops, crab. I had requested no seafood when I made the reservation, and as the meal was starting, the owner came over to our table and said, “I see you’ve requested no seafood. You sure you don’t want to try it?” I was shamed! P. laughed that I was getting in trouble with the owner, no less. What could I say? I said I’d try it. The first course included the scallops (along with truffles and something called a sunchoke). As far as scallops go, I’m sure it was lovely, but I’m just not a scallops kind of girl. I swapped plates with P. so he could finish mine and of course I chose the moment the owner decided to stop back by to see how I liked it. In trouble again!

The crab was better. It was shredded in a salad that was topped with tasty crispy yam sticks. But I just couldn’t do the crab claw that tottered over the whole thing. I snuck that onto P.’s plate. I managed it just before she came by again. “Ate it all this time!” I nodded. As she walked off, P. whispered “you lied! You’re in trouble again!”

The liver? Well, I’d have a few glasses of wine by then. I just didn’t think about the fact that it was liver. It’s probably not something that I would seek out again, although I’m not saying it didn’t taste good. The main course was squab. P. leaned over: “that’s pigeon.” No! Yes. Just add that to the list of things I wasn’t really planning to try ever in my life.

Although the food was extravagant, the centerpiece of the night was definitely the wines. Six wines were served, the first five of which were “free-flowing”. This means that when you half-emptied your glass, a server was instantly there to refill it. I had close to ten glasses of wine without even trying. Which made it difficult to fully appreciate the 1916 Madiera we were served at the end of the meal.

We also had a sorbet course just before the entre, that was, if you can possibly believe it: douglas fir. We got little douglas fir sprigs on our napkins. Every time we left the table, which was more often than you might think — the meal did last close to five hours and we were drinking a lot of wine and had to go see the pig — someone rushed to the table and replaced the napkins.

At one point during the tea and coffee course (a palate cleanser between dessert courses, I imagine), I got the hiccups. Damn wine. Just picture it: elegant surroundings, people dressed in finery around me, expensive wine, and I’m hiccuping. I could not stop. I tried holding my breath and drinking water. P. tried scaring me. He laughed. And laughed some more. Finally, we walked outside to see if the cold air would shock the hiccups out of me. (Our napkins were instantly replaced with fresh, crisp ones.) The hiccups remained.

We bought a cookbook written by the chef. He autographed it for us and brought it by our table. I tried to subdue my hiccups. “The dinner was fantastic! (hic)” Classy.

As the evening ended, I realized just how much wine had free-flowed its way into my glass. Fortunately, we had a room at the lodge across the parking lot. The walk seemed very long. I was wearing teeteringly high heels because the skirt I had on trails behind me about six inches otherwise. As soon as we crossed into the hotel lobby, I snatched them off and hoped I wouldn’t trip as we walked down the hall. We were interupted by a basset hound who flopped over onto his back in front of us. His tummy needed rubbing and it needed it now. The next morning, we saw him curled up on his doggy bed, sleeping, covered in a warm blanket.

Our bed was the most comfortable I have ever slept in. Of course, I’d had close to ten glasses of wine, so it’s possible my judgement was impaired. P. was thinking more clearly than I was, because he grabbed two bottles of water and put them beside the bed. I still had a headache in the morning. P. made fun of me. Where was his headache? After a bunch of coffee, I was feeling better. Although I didn’t want to leave the room with the warm bed and the fireplace and the heated towel rack.

Wine and ghosts. It’s not a bad way to spend a weekend.

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