(The following is a true story with names and voices altered to protect the witnesses. Except for my dingbat retard date, whose name is Cecilia Morgan.)
You know who doesn’t believe in coincidences?
Homicide detectives, that’s who. Oh, and Stephen Hawking and evangelical Christians and guys in the Mafia and gypsy fortune tellers.
You know who does believe in coincidences?
That’s why, when I received an email from someone considering getting their ‘beer sommelier’ certificate, I was all like, ‘Day-um. Ain’t that a coinkydink!?’
Because as it happened, the evening before I was dining at a well-known clip-joint—in one of those library-quiet dining rooms where, when you get up to tinkle, everybody turns and looks—where the appointments in the bathroom alone are worth more than every stitch of furniture you’ve ever owned. You know the place I mean: Obligatory valet where you hand some smelly, pimply, geeky teenager ten bucks to pull into a nearby parking spot when you’d prefer to give him a tenner to keep fifty feet away from your car; inside, alpha-male leather banquettes are lined with the city’s power menagerie whose steady patronage assures that the place hasn’t changed anything but a light bulb since the Cuban Missile Crisis; there’s a chef whose age and accent indicate that he could have cooked for Heinrich Himmler and an immutable Mad Men menu presented with suave, supercilious service that, the more flawless it becomes, the more self-conscious you get, and a check, in the end, which is the equivalent of Aruba’s GNP.
Anyway, that place.
And Now That The Stage Is Set, Here’s What Happened:
People are surprised when I tell them that I never order wine in a restaurant. ‘You’re a wine writer for Christ sake,’ they say, and I am forced to get all patronizing and superior and remind them that that’s exactly why I don’t order wine in restaurants. In the first place, I never pay for wine at all—I have so many samples waiting for my high-demand, acutely clever reviews that were I to try and get through them this quarter I’d remain permanently in the state that Captain Hazelwood was the night he cold-cocked the Exxon Valdez. Not only that, but I do know retail pricing, and can therefore accurately gauge extortionist mark-ups. I am loathe to further line the restaurateur’s pockets with no-value-add profit when I can just as easily snort from my hip flask of Old Crow whenever I get up to use the bathroom, which is every five minutes, which may actually be why everyone keeps turning and looking at me.
That said, I don’t want to look cheap in front of my spoiled-brat date, and since there has been some talk lately about ‘beer sommeliers’, last night at Chez Cher-Recherché, or whatever it was called, I asked to consult with one.
And Lo and Behold, From the Mists of the Grill Room, The Beer Sommelier Appeared…
I will admit to being pleasantly impressed by this new breed of certified serf. I don’t know what I was expecting, but this fellow was an archetype of industry professionalism. Crisply attired in a wing-tipped, bow-tied shirt, diamond cuff links and a hunter green tuxedo with matching cummerbund, he’d been blessed with Tom Selleck good looks and wore an expensive-looking sterling silver tastebier around his neck. In fact, if it wasn’t for the Bully NASCAR Dale Earnhardt Jr. cap perched backward on his head, I might not have been able to identify him as a beer sommelier at all.
As it happened, he was affable, engaging and extremely knowledgeable in his chosen discipline—at least, he was versed in brands you find at gas station Quickie Marts. For example, with the beef carpaccio over baby mustard greens and Périgord winter black truffles, he recommended Schlitz, grandly and correctly noting that it was ‘the beer that made Milwaukee famous’. With the soup, a bisque of Sercial Madeira and roasted horseradish, his pick was Rolling Rock, because there’s a picture of a horse on the label. With the salad, I initially thought he might be heading a bit off track when he suggested a forty ouncer of Olde English ‘800’, which, despite the Elizabethan spelling, is not as classy as it sounds. Hesitantly, because I was clearly willing to defer to his expertise, I wondered if the restaurant stocked any Trappist Achel Brune Extra. He mulled the question and replied, “Oh, that faggy Belgian shit?”
Meanwhile my airhead date went with a glass of ’09 Domaine Rossignol Chambertin for which I had to shell out such an obscene amount of money that I had to briefly breath into a paper bag to keep the phony smile on my face.
My main course was black bass in lobster-fennel broth, and although the beer sommelier thought I should rein it in a bit with a Keystone Light, I teased him and ordered a ‘Black and Tan’, which was a really brilliant bon mot on my part, don’t you think? Black bass? Guinness Stout mixed with Bass Ale? Ha ha ha ha—hooray for me!
Unfortunately, the look that crossed the beer sommelier’s face was one of utter befuddlement and near desperation—in fact, the only other time I’d seen that expression was once when I asked a sushi waiter to pronounce the letter ‘L’.
Guinness seemed to be his sticking point, so finally I said, ‘You know, that black beer?’
“Ohhhh…” he replied with a confident sigh. “Colt 45.”
In all, the experience would have been stellar, except that when it came time for my dessert beer, the beer sommelier was nowhere to be found. Now, I can forgive a lot in a waiter—total drunkenness, blatant thievery, regular petitions that I accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior—but being AWOL when I am going through alcoholic withdrawal is not a forgivable transgression.
Ultimately, I located him perched on a benchwood stool at the end of the bar watching Sons of Anarchy with Kharouf the bartender, who comes from a country so obscure that even the Foreign Secretary hasn’t heard of it. On the screen, someone was getting a tattoo removed with a blowtorch. I approached with the intention of tearing him a new one, but the whole scenario suddenly broke as so mind-bogglingly absurd that I drew up in my tracks to consider the implications of this strange new breed of dining room drudge, the beer sommelier. And then, I had a thought was so far in left field as to be in the middle of Brush and Montcalm, but I tapped him on the shoulder anyway and said, “By any chance, do you have a spliff sommelier as well?”
“For sure,” he nodded grandly, and a moment later, back at the table, from the smoky depths of the storage room, the resident pot pro approached.
As stylish as his fellow sommeliers, the dining room’s sinsemilla steward was dressed in a sharp, tie-dyed Bottega Venta cashmere blazer with a matching, solid silk necktie by Cardi. Balding, but with a neat ponytail that reached the middle of his back, this gentlemen was obviously a veteran of countless concerts, outdoor festivals and microbus convoys, and indeed, before getting to the Dope List, we had a fascinating discussion about Bob Marley’s empowering influence on the freedom fighters of Zimbabwe. Ultimately, with the dessert course, I went with his recommended ‘89 vintage Big Buddha Kush—winner of that year’s Cannabis Cup. And although the dessert menu looked scrumptious, the sativa server was accommodating enough to shoot out to Taco Bell and pick up three bags of 5-Layer Burritos as an accompaniment. I’d scarcely started on my eighth burrito when I had an odd notion. “Do you happen to have a methamphetamine sommelier, too?”
“Totally, dude; hella gnarly one,” he responded with the high-rise Valspeak terminal that is characteristic of the breed. And from the aromatic, ether/acetone-scented lab annexed to the pâtissier’s work station, the meth sommelier emerged.
At this point, my date—a bitchy blue-blooded bimbette from Grosse Pointe Woods—indicated she’d had enough, so I gave her fifty bucks for a cab and told her to get lost. I was on a roll.
Predictably, the tweak twinkie was impeccably groomed, wearing a second-hand but immaculate two-button Savoy tuxedo with satin lapels, a microfiber formal shirt and a maroon and crimson Windsor tie which color-matched the acne craters that made his face look like a map of the Sea of Tranquility. He was a rapper, no doubt, and a nail-biter and a scab-picker and an eyeball-scratcher and a bicuspid-grinder, but so was I after smoking a bowl of his latest release: Strawberry Quick crystal crank (which also matched his tie) flavored with a reduction of wild Fraises des Bois berries and Red Bull, vintage twenty minutes previously.
Snooty, pretentious, hoity-toity and la-di-da as the place may have been, it certainly met every criterion required for a five-star ‘destination restaurant’ experience.
Of course, after getting totally gurped on gackle, I needed a level-set before staggering off to find the valet, and with remarkable attention to each nuance of service minutia, I was introduced in quick succession to the Benzodiazepine sommelier, the Haloperidol sommelier, the Methaqualone sommelier, and ultimately, when all else failed, the heroin sommelier. There was a cold turkey sommelier on staff as well (the joint was detail, detail, detail), but his hours were necessarily erratic: 3 AM to 6 AM, Sunday night, after the restaurant closed.
In all, the place exceeded my expectations. I’d finish this review and text it to Yelp, but some aggressive dickhead is pounding on my door, shouting gibberish about being from the 9th Precinct police department.
And, my droogs, after the night I had, that is another pretty bodacious coinkydink, don’t ya think?
For further information: http://www.guildofbeersommeliers.com/
or: Chris Kassel #19776599, Wayne County Correctional Facility, 37601 St. Aubin St., Detroit, MI 48212