Young and Hungry

All About Eve, Part III: Grape Expectations

grapes and wine

Welcome to the third installment of All About Eve, Young & Hungry’s behind-the-scenes glimpse of working at Restaurant Eve. You can read previous posts here.

Ren and Stimpy. Felix and Oscar. Leonard and Guy.

Leonard and Guy are two servers on the floor at Eve's Tasting Room. Leonard is  6-foot plus, wears terrific glasses, and carries himself with this easygoing, thoughtful demeanor. Guy is a (shorter) Israeli guy with an edge and a great sense of humor, who got married a couple Sundays ago at the courthouse on his day off.

Leonard and Guy make for an odd pairing, yet they're both wine geeks who studied together and recently passed their first level sommelier exam. It was a big deal around Eve that week.

One of the things that strikes me about working in front of the house is how much a server has to convey about food and wine without having had a taste or a sip. Sure, we might sample a bite of crispy sweetbreads, an extra from a lunch party. Or buy a bottle of lovely Sancerre for after work. But one of the biggest differences in learning about wine is having to memorize grapes and regions and vineyard anecdotes — in addition to flavors and aromas and possible pairings.

I remember a couple of years ago, I was researching an article on how to educate yourself about wine in a month or less. My guinea pig was Erin Zimmer, then a 22-year-old who knew little about wine aside from [yellow tail] and Two-Buck Chuck.

We tasted samples at wine shops. We sipped at seminars. We were schooled by bartender Chris Cunningham, then at Dino, who taught us about Italians, from bubbly to barnyardy. We got the rundown from Ramon Narvaez, then at Brasserie Beck, who pulled 25 wines, gave lectures on each, and demanded that we spit them all in a bucket so we didn't get drunk. It was a weeks' long education — and a boozy whirlwind at that.

While I may have absorbed a few things about wine during that month and some schooling since — that savignon blanc and oysters are lovely, for example, or that cabernet franc is quite food friendly — I realize how much more I have to learn when I talk with Leonard and Guy.

Interesting enough, both suggested I turn to books in addition to bottles, specifically Windows on the World Complete Wine Course. The name disturbs me, with its reference to that long-gone restaurant in the North Tower of the Trade Centers. Yet the legend of Kevin Zraly remains, as he's touted as one of the nation's most respected wine professionals.

I've also taken to asking lots of questions — occasionally of Todd Thrasher when he's available and of Eve's newest server, the inimitable John Wabeck, former sommelier at the now-defunct Inox as well as the former chef at New Heights and Firefly.

But he just started, so I'm trying to hold back my inquisition. In the meantime, Windows on the World it is, with some after-work tastings when I can find it, late night.

Photo by katerha via Flickr Creative Commons, Attribution License

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