A couple months ago my stepmom asked me to help her find something special for my dad’s sixty-fifth birthday celebration. We going to have a “once in lifetime” sort of dinner at The Lodge at Torrey Pines in San Diego and we wanted to do something really unique. After a good amount of research and with a bit of a budget in mind, we decided to surprise Dad with a mini-vertical of Paulo Scavino’s Bric dël Fiasc Barolo.
A colleague who’s been collecting for a couple decades generously sold me an ’88 and ’89 from his cellar. I packed them very carefully and sent them off in my luggage, with a wave and a furrowed brow. Several times throughout the flight I worried not for my own life, but for the fate of those priceless bottles. I imagined myself on the shoreline, with the cast members from Lost, frantic over two bottles of Italian wine. When I arrived in reality in CA I eagerly found them still snuggled in their stryofoam amongst my t-shirts. I unpacked them and set them down carefully on my brother’s kitchen counter with strict instructions that sounded something like “Don’t touch these or I’ll kick your @$#%ing ass.”
The next day, observing all speed limits and taking each turn with extreme caution, I drove from Lemon Grove to La Jolla like this:
I arrived at Torrey Pines a little before sunset and took in the view. La Jolla is without question among my top three favorite places in the world. Then I very, very gingerly took the bottles from the backseat and walked through the lot. I fought back the anxiety of dropping one or both of them and tried to apply football’s four points of pressure technique. I made it safely inside and I gleefully handed off the bottles to my curious father. A round of hugs ensued, followed by a chorus of “I need a glass of wine” and we went into the restaurant.
The Lodge at Torrey Pines is certainly an experience. We arrived just in time to see the grandeur of the last rays of light shining on the fairway below, with the roaring Pacific just in the distance. The dining room was smaller than I expected, quaint and even a bit old fashioned, but extremely comfortable.
Our attentive server opened and decanted our Barolos for us while we sipped a superb demi-sec Champagne. The plan was to save some to accompany dessert. Yeah, right. We enjoyed our amuse bouche and ordered extravagantly. Sweet corn and crab soup for me, followed by an elegant seared duck breast with cous cous. Incredible! My parents shared something delicious I don’t quite remember and Steve had fish that wasn’t, thankfully, the salmon he almost ordered accidentally. The food overall was very good, although not wonderfully original or memorable.
The desserts however, were simply spectacular. To be fair, the pastry chef is the daughter of a friend of my parents, and was responsible for our royal treatment that evening. But what she sent us for dessert exceeded anyone’s wildest imagination. I remember figs, and apricots, a custard, and chocolate, and home made sugar plums…. plates and plates of creative gluttony that would put Willy Wonka to shame. I tasted each blissfully and flirted with both the remainder of the demi-sec and a fantastic 20 year tawny. If I were to re-visit this restaurant I would simply take in the exquisite dessert course.
As for the main event. The wines were extraordinary, although the ’88 took longer to open up. Once it did, it showed violet, truffle and hints of rustic raspberry. It was soft and refined, although not extremely substantial. The feeling was that while delicious, this wine was teetering on the end of its long, illustrious life. The ’89, on the other hand, was truly remarkable right out of the gate. It still possessed all the power of a great Barolo, but had softened and evolved into a beautiful, elegant masterpiece. It still tasted of ripe, exotic berries, plums, red and purple flowers and something rich and stewy. 1989 was a stellar vintage in Piedmont and this was an eye-opening experience in what a difference a year makes.
We had an amazing evening at Torrey Pines, thanks to good food, great service and incredible (albeit too many) desserts compliments of the lovely Jennifer Costa. But mostly this night was all about Paulo Scavino… and my pops.
Happy birthday Daddy!