Last summer I was in Chicago for business. Prior to my arrival my friend and business colleague Gwen did a careful survey of some of Chicago’s most highly touted restaurants, matching them to what she knew about my food and wine interests. It’s what any public relations specialist worth his or her salt would do, and Gwen is nothing if not a superior pr professional. On her list were neighborhood joints, top chef restaurants, and restaurants with ongoing buzz like Table 52, owned by former Oprah chef Art Smith. In case you’re not current with celebrity trivia, it’s also the place where President and Mrs. Obama recently shared a special Valentine’s Day dinner.
Nobody’s talking about what they ate, or most importantly, drank there. (Drat it!) But if my own experience is any indication, I can say for certain that they didn’t leave thirsty or hungry. (There’s a photo of them leaving the restaurant -- Mrs. Obama is holding a carry out bag).
Chef Art Smith’s dishes are an haute cuisine take on traditional Southern dishes. His signature buttery cheese biscuits accompany all of the entrees. Though fancied up a bit, this is still comfort food, and it needs some hearty wines to go with it. That’s why I chose a Viogonier; the medium bodied white wine has long been my favorite comfort food wine. Table 52 offers Koehler Viognier Santa Ynez Valley 2006. With its melon, peach and honey notes and a little kick of acidity, the Viognier was a nice balance to my meal.
I thought it would be fun to peruse the Table 52 wine list and guess what President and Mrs. Obama drank while they dined. But, while the wine list is posted on the restaurant’s website, a note indicates that there is a reserve wine list (code for pricey and rare) available upon request. If I were the President of the United States and it was Valentine’s Day, I would choose from that list. I don’t have to guess about the kind of service they received. Even for folks like Gwen and me, the service at Table 52 is Commander in Chief outstanding.
On another note, I love it when I make a new wine discovery. One of my latest was Inauguration Day when I sipped the wines chosen for the Inaugural luncheon. I was particularly taken with the sparkling wine, Korbel’s black label natural cuvee. Before the inauguration, I’d never seen or heard of it. But, now it’s a new favorite. It’s light--the vintners describe it as delicate--and crisp and yummy. Once I popped the cork, I came dangerously close to breaking the rule about not drinking alone:)
Apparently this sparkling wine is known to those in the know. I caught a glimpse of it being poured on Bravo’s hit program, Top Chef. The final contestants for Top Chef—Carla (my girl!), Stefan and Hosea –toasted their advancement into the finals with this Korbel bubbly. The shot went by fast, but it looked as though they had a few bottles on ice. The folks at Korbel must be somewhere clinking crystal flutes themselves—from the tables of Washington power brokers to the millions of cable viewers --nice marketing plan, indeed. And at under twenty dollars a bottle, this is a sparkling pick me up for economic hard times.