Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Riva Wine Class Dinner #2: The greedy gobbler emerges

A funny thing happens when I am hungry, drinking wine and in the proximity of delicious food (or any food, really). The faux displays of gastronomical restraint that I normally exhibit when not under the influence of the grape become severely compromised by a survival of the fittest mentality. In this animalistic state, my heart begins to beat a bit erratically. Conversations about non-food related topics fail to hold my attention, and in the most dire of circumstances, I turn into the most loathed of all dining companions --the greedy gobbler.

Such was the case at the second tasting menu and wine pairing ($40) that my friends and enjoyed at Riva this past Sunday night.

I hadn't planned for it to happen. I'd eaten a good sized bowl of Kashi Go Lean Good Friends Cinnamon Raisin cereal with banana that morning, a chicken wrap at my niece's baptism luncheon at noon, and arrived at the Santa Monica eatery at 5 pm with only the beginning hints of hunger. Yet, as my friends and I began to sip our Borgo Magredo Prosecco and nosh on savory bites of crostini with parmesan-laced braised greens, and miniature meatballs, something inside me began to stir.

I tried to stop it by cutting off the flow of Prosecco at two half glasses, but the amuse bouches had done more than just tickle my palate with their amusing flavors. They'd awakened the beast in my belly -- teasing it with their diminutive size and saucy deliciousness. Not even two of each could satisfy the alchohol-fueled hunger that was slowly gaining ferocity.

I wanted more.

Particularly after the second glass of wine, a 2007 Lungarotti Torre di Giano, was presented to our table.

"Will we be receiving bread?" I asked a server in the sweetest voice I could muster to disguise the greedy gobbler.

He nodded, and moments later, a bastion of servers descended upon the three tables in our private dining room with herbed butter and baskets of warm bread rolls. I removed the largest roll from the nearest basket before passing it along to my fellow diners.

This was not a good sign. I had become ruthless in my quest for sustenance.

Fortunately, my hands and mouth were soon occupied with our second course -- the burrata peperonata with creamy mozzarella and roasted pepper salad. Yet even with my own plate of the luscious cheese to devour at my will, I found myself immediately comparing its girth to the size of my companions' servings. Satisfied that I'd received a plentiful portion, I was finally able to focus in on the interplay between the sweet peppers and marshmallow-textured burrata.

With the bread and second course now securely in my belly, I thought I might be able to relax and enjoy the rest of the evening. My pour of the complex white wine had been restrained enough to soften the effects of the previous glass of Prosecco, especially with the fat that now lined my stomach.

But then the 2007 Umani Ronchi Montepulicano D'Abruzzo arrived at the table with three different kinds of pizza -- a Funghi with mushrooms, taleggio and fresh oregano; a Peperoni pizza with bell peppers, salami, black olives, and marjoram; and the Spring Onion pizza with sweet onions, fontina, and thyme. I was defenseless against the platters of my belly beast's kryptonite -- smooth red wine and cheese-laden carbohydrates. Before I knew what was happening, my hands were grabbing indiscriminately at every serving platter in sight. Three slices of the funghi pizza, one of the peporoni and one of the spring onion were soon happily hugging the sides of my overly ambitious stomach. I cursed the wine for its disastrous affect on my decorum.

Where oh where had the sweet Diana gone? The girl who opens doors for strangers, says "please" and "thank you," and bakes cookies for her friends was no where to be found.

The prodigious amounts of pizza tempered the beast until our fourth course, an Angus flat iron steak with polenta fries, mustard greens, caramelized onions and brandy sauce, was served. Paired with a 2005 Contratto Barbera "Panta Rei," my favorite wine of the evening, it was exactly what the greedy gobbler needed to pay adequate attention to my friend's discussion of her impending date later that evening. Things were suddenly becoming clear again. I laughed at jokes in between bites of the succelent steak. I made jokes, as well, and I was even able to channel the real Diana long enough to offer my friend half of one of my four polenta fries.

The greedy gobbler seemed to be retreating. Or at least he did until the servers starting approaching our tables with more of the spicy full-bodied Barbera.

The fuzz in my head came back full force as I drained the contents of my second glass. The timing couldn't have been worse. It was at this critical moment that the desserts arrived with the 2007 Marenco Moscato d'Asti. The spread was intense -- two tiramisus, a torta della nonna with blueberry compote and mixed berry sorbet (not pictures), and the piece de resistance, the chocolate peanut butter cup with banana ice cream, peanut brittle and caramelized bananas.

With four desserts to share between nine people, the greedy gobbler reached his most potent level of the evening.

"Pass that down here." I demanded when I saw my companions demolishing the torta della nonna. The one delicious bite I was able to secure was maddening to the beast, and when I saw the chocolate peanut butter cup was disappearing as well, I reached across the table and stabbed as much of the impeccably presented dessert as possible. My hungry eyes met my friend's across the table. She seemed to have caught the gobbler disease from me. Her hand flew up to catch a passing server.

"Can you bring us another of the chocolate peanut butter cup since we didn't really get to taste it?"

The greedy gobbler's heart seized up with adoration for my friend -- a kindred spirit in the quest for total, overindulgent satisfaction. If she were of a different sex, I would fancy her my soulmate.

The additional bites of the chocolate peanut butter fantasy dessert soothed my tongue and comforted my belly beast. The sensuous chocolate mousse lulled the gobbler to sleep, and I sighed with relief when the final crumbs of the tart were finally gone. I looked around me, attempting to orient myself with my surroundings. Had I spoken to the man on my right? I remembered asking him to pass down a plate, but couldn't remember his name or astrological sign.

My friend and I left the restaurant in a haze. I felt ravaged inside -- like my body had been taken hostage by an evil force of nature. I didn't like it. Aside from being disturbingly full, I was repulsed by my behavior and the storm the greedy gobbler had unleashed upon my table of friends. I cursed the generous pours of wine again. I cursed the deliciousness of the food that made it impossible for the gobbler to stop. And I cursed myself for losing control of my senses and grabby appendages in such a fine establishment.

But there is hope -- future wine events, courtesy of my new friend Shelley's company Vinovents, and more Sunday night tastings/pairings at Riva, as well. Only time will tell if the greedy gobbler can keep his hands to himself, but I do know that these events will always satisfy my thirst for good wine, hunger for good food, and need for really great company (even if I do ignore them when there is chocolate on the table).


ruth said...

Ha! I admit I share your greeder gobbler gene. I was just discussing this with another friend over the weekend. It is distressing-- I mean, there's always enough to eat, it's not like I ever regret not eating more...

Esi said...

WOW! Everything looks so great. I would love to go to one of these in the future.

Gastronomer said...

All that goodness for just 40 bucks? Now, that's steal.

Ain't no shame in being a greedy gobbler, especially in large groups. You gots to get your share.

Hari said...

This looks every bit as good as the first one! I am so mad at missing this one. The greedy gobbler would definitely have had serious competition :) Damn I didn't know it was on after Shelley quit Yelp. Is there anyway I can get on the list for future events?

TonyC said...

this is the EXACT problem I have with some of the "foodie" events, ie pre-pay, AYCE. And people, many whom obviously shouldn't be, gorge themselves. Homey don't play gluttony. It's unbecoming.

Diana said...

Ruth - I'm so glad I'm not the only one! There was plenty of food -- too much even! I would have been fine to be a nice nibbler instead.

Esi - You totally should! I'll keep you posted about future events.

Gastronomer - Riva is incredibly generous at these wine events. I was pretty floored at my first one - so much food and SO much wine.

Hari - Yep, Shelley is still planning events - she should have a website up soon.

Tony - I know, isn't it gross? I felt so disgusted after! It wasn't quite AYCE, but given the amount of food available, it was pretty close. I was definitely was the big fat American on Sunday night... not my best moment!

Nicole said...

omg you are too funny! :) sounds fun and DELICIOUS!

please promise me you will meet me there in october when paul and i come back to LA for a visit! please?!?!?!?!

Anna A. said...

Aw shucks, you ARE my Greedy Gobbler Tall Lady Friend soul mate! I don't even want to start with an acronym. That was some damn good eats!

Diana said...

Nicole - Name the time and I'm there! Can't wait to see you! :)

Anna - Haha, GGTLFSM? Yep, that's definitely more than a mouthful!

The Duo Dishes said...

Hand over the burrata and no one gets hurt! Fresh burrata is just too good. You got a good deal with this meal.

The Blonde Duck said...

I too, am a greedy gobbler.

Elra said...

OMG, I would too...
Are you kidding, with all of this delicious food, who will say no?

Reeni♥ said...

You are so funny, you little gobbler, you! I get the greedy gobbles from time to time. A few weeks ago when I was out with my aunt, I suddenly felt like I hadn't eaten in a week, and made quite a little piglet of myself. The pizzas look really good and the peanut butter dessert - divine!