On the 23rd, Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter will be aligned around the constellations Virgo and Leo along with the sun and moon. Some biblical literalists are absolutely convinced that this particular planetary alignment has long been foretold in the Book of Revelation and signals the end of time, which will come after great destruction and turmoil.
Reading about yet another prediction for the end of the world did give me pause. What if it was true? Not sure about you, but I wouldn’t be pleased. With the end imminent and nothing to be done, one might quickly experience the inevitable emotional boomerang of shock, outrage, despair, apathy, and finally, reluctant acceptance.
It goes without saying that one would have many intense “I love you, man” conversations with friends and family. But soon we might even find ourselves actually looking forward to the last 24 hours before the big show. Then there’s the last meal. Now that would be important. Mind you, it’s not to be confused with the last supper or one’s last meal in prison. This last dinner would have to spectacular seeing how it’s literally the final meal before all of humanity and god’s creatures go poof. By the time dinner rolled around one would certainly have a ravenous appetite because, let’s face it, one really never would be this hungry again.
With a universe of cuisines to choose from confusion and paralysis could quickly set in, what with the world ending and all. Focus would have to be the key. I personally would steer clear of any brash ethnic extravaganzas which might create digestive disturbances that would, well let’s face it, never happen. I’d also avoid any uber fancy Barbie food pageants of teeny tiny food on enormous plates, no matter the chef or the venue; too much maintenance and too little time. Instead, I’d go for the jugular of gustatory experience, the basic of basics, the urtext of fine dining. The menu would look something like this:
I remember dining at an excellent seafood place in Singapore called “No Signboard” (because, there literally is no sign on the front of the restaurant) and my tablemates tucking into the most gargantuan oysters I’ve ever seen (as big as a toaster). The very sight of these monstrous bivalves was, needless to say, alarming. Eating oysters from and in a tropical climate is wrong. It’s also violating the universal law of not eating anything bigger than your head. For me the oysters would have to be small, delicate, and with just a touch of brininess. Kumamotos are my favorite. Six, please.
Champagne, of course. I’m a huge fan of blanc de blancs Champagne with oysters so I’m thinking that a beautiful vintage of Salon or Krug Clos du Mesnil would be perfect.
Yes, I know the salad should follow the entrée. But it’s the end of the world so the règles de la cuisine be damned. Here I’m choosing the most abused member of the salad family that usually appears on the table as a mess of soppy greens slathered in a gloppy white substance the content of which could be several molecules away from plastic with croutons fashioned from leftover dry wall. Regardless, a well-made Caesar is my go-to salad and a thing of beauty. The romaine has to be fresh, vibrant, and crisp; the dressing has to be tart with a more than a bit of citrus cut; the croutons have to be small and crunchy; the cheese a good Parmesan. And don’t hold back on the anchovies, please!
We need an intense, mineral-driven, and bracingly acidic white here with little or no oak: a young vintage of Raveneau Le Clos or Künstler Hochheimer Hölle Grosses Gewächs sounds just right. The latter is oh-so-appropriate.
A bacon course? Why? Because we can--and we should. After all, bacon is vitamin “P”; it makes everything taste good. But we’re not talking about any bacon here--only serious bacon from a heritage breed of hogs like Berkshire will do and simply roasted. Jamón Ibérico would also do in a pinch. In fact, let’s have both!
A great vintage of La Tâche or Leroy’s Le Musigny will do nicely.
The ultimate entrée: a bone-in 24-26 ounce strip steak with an outrageous amount of marbling like Kobe beef done over a very hot grill medium-rare with a touch of charring on the exterior. The fries have to be twice-done in goose fat or duck fat and finished simply with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Perfection.
There are too many great reds to choose from but I’d narrow it to three: a monumental vintage of Bordeaux (’45 Latour or ’61 Cheval Blanc), California Cabernet (’74 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard or Ridge Montebello), and an extraordinary vintage of Penfold’s Grange or Henschke’s Hill of Grace. Yes, all three.
Once again too many choices, so I’d narrow it down to just three favorites. They’re like a trio of scandalous dwarves: Epoisses (stinky and runny), Stilton (salty and pungent) and a fine aged Reggiano Parmesano (crumbly and bit corrupt).
A trio of weapons-grade botrytis wines is the only solution here: great vintages of Yquem, Royal Tokaji Aszú Essencia, and Robert Weil’s Kiedricher Gräfenberg Beerenauslese Goldkapsul.
Pot du Crème au Chocolat
With the end of world literally just around the corner the last morsel of food would fittingly be chocolate, one of mankind’s greatest achievements. My only requirements here are that the chocolate has to be outrageously good and the texture of the pot de crème like a weightless wisp of silk.
I’m going counter-current here with a great young vintage of Fonseca or Taylor’s; 2011 immediately comes to mind.
After dinner, we’d make our way to an arrangement of lawn chairs in the front yard. I’d pour myself a very large Fernet Branca accompanied by a Montecristo No. 2.
Finally, the speakers would be moved from the living room to the front steps to play tunes for the end of time. What music would fill the air those last few precious minutes? Here are some initial thoughts:
1. “Stairway to Heaven,” Led Zeppelin: NOT
2. “It’s the End of the World as We Know It,” R.E.M. - possible!
3. “Quartet for the End of Time,” Olivier Messiaen: good thinking but it’s too long and complicated.
4. Beethoven’s Ode to Joy from the 9th Symphony: gets my vote. It’s a good tune, repeated several times, and everyone can join in or just hum if they don’t know the words.