Thu 29 Mar 2007
* Saw this on a menu recently, in the appetizer list: “Toasted bread topped with bruschetta.”
No, people, bruschetta isn’t the topping, tomato/basil (though that has become the cliche) or not; bruschetta is the whole thing, the piece of grilled — not toasted — bread, preferably smeared with olive oil and garlic, mounted by any number of toppings, tomato and basil, certainly, or roasted peppers and eggplant or cheeses or strips of meat orÂ chopped shrimp and octopus, pretty much anything that makes a savory few bites to whet the diner’s appetite and go well with a glass of simple wine.
Now we’re even seeing in grocery stores, in the refrigerator case, little plastic containers labeled “Bruschetta” that hold chopped tomatoes and basil in olive oil with a few herbs. No, sorry, you can use that stuff to make bruschetta, but it’s not the thing itself.
* This happened at a restaurant last night, a warm night, suitable for sitting outside, which we did, and ordering a bottle of Taltarni Sauvignon Blanc 2005 and by the way I hate the new label. Anyway, the waiter brought the wine, we went through the tasting ritual, it’s quite lovely but not really cold enough; I mean, this is a sauvignon blanc. So I ask for an ice bucket, “Yes sir,” and she brings the bucket, which is filled with ice, and she tries to jam the bottle down in there. Of course it won’t go; the thing is packed with almost solid ice. So she gives up and leaves the bottle sort of perched on top of the ice with a white cloth wrapped around it.
If you took physics in high school, you know that a bottle of wine sitting on top of a mass of ice cubes is not going to get chilled; there’s no conductivity; it needs water so the cold can circulate, so, of course, I pour my glass of water in the bucket to try and get the ice loosened up a little. It takes several glasses of water. Three, actually.
The point here is that no one trained this waiter that an ice bucket needs to be filled with half ice and half water in order to chill a white wine or keep it cold; the bottle needs to be down in there. And it’s amazing how often this situation occurs, even in fine dining restaurants with great wine lists where you would think they know better. And you hate to be a smart-ass and pull rank and say to the waiter, “Look here, I’m a wine writer and I need to tell you how to handle the ice bucket problem,” because then they turn on you and say something like, “There’s no problem, sir, this is how we do it,” and there you sit with your bottle of white wine or champagne perched on top of the ice and everybody sort of pissed off. At least me.