Lillian here, in New York. There is probably little better evening than when you can sit down with a best friend, make dinner, talk endlessly and drink wine. Wine has a remarkable characteristic to it. I love my beer and other alcoholic beverages to accompany talks with companions. However, there is something special about discussions with a best friend over an open bottle (or two).
This experience becomes entirely necessary sometimes, in order to cope with the insanity that is New York City. Though I remember it is also a salutary past time amidst the pastoral calm of the Midwest (perhaps my father has more to say here).
So, here are some tips for lubricating your conversations with wine and making a great night even better:
1. Take a Chance: Pick up some wine
I know that it’s easy to think a chilled, relaxed night should be lubricated with some beer picked up without any drama at your corner bodega. But I’m going to tell you here to try making your purchase of wine equally as chilled as that beer pick-up.
Your local wine store becomes just as important as your local bar in New York. It’s refreshing (not to say, rewarding) to find non-pretentious wine shops with great selections and helpful workers. I usually go to In Vino Veritas, where everyone working seems to be a Scorpio and everyone is incredibly friendly.
I am fully aware that wine stores can be daunting. It’s a rough business to go, sorting through the Barrolos, the blends, the Cabs, the Merlots, the Syrahs, the Sangiovese, the Chiantis, the…well…it continues – and that’s just the red section. Not to mention, prices can be fairly terrifying and you always want to avoid embarrassing yourself when asking about a wine or revealing that, actually, this bottle costing $33 isn’t exactly what you were hoping to pay tonight (not that I’m cheap or anything, I’m just being reasonable on a Wednesday).
However, at this place in Yorkville (Upper East Side), it is no problem to say “hey I need a cheap, good one” and they’ll happily talk through what you are seeking that day, and walk you to a wine that will inevitably be grand.
So, my friend picked up the wine. Two bottles of inexpensive red. Good choices.
2. Thank You For the Music: Make some food (Chili con Carne)
While preparing the meal, I ensured there was good music playing on my Spotify and opened a bottle of Crabbies ginger beer (sold at Whole Foods here in New York, if you can believe!) while I waited for my friend (and the wine) to arrive.
This chili con carne recipe was “perfected” by myself and my good friend at University. It has certainly got us through many rough nights while studying for our Masters and continues to prove therapeutic and comforting, while being pretty hassle-free.
I’m not very good at writing recipes (but it seems like blogs like them), and I really do not know any technical words for what happens in my kitchen. However, here is quick brief on what is involved in this (I think) delicious Con Carne meal:
Saute the diced onion and garlic in a pan with salt, put them into a pot when browned and smelling lovely. Put the half the tomatoes and peppers in the pan and let those simmer. Dollop in a bit of tomato paste. Add paprika, cayenne, thyme, oregano. At the end, put in half of the chopped chili. Transfer these to the pot, add some cream and let simmer. Put the beef in the pan; add cumin, some garlic, salt, pepper and a bit of the cream. After cooked, put this in the pan with the others to simmer. Add the rest of the tomatoes and peppers, chopped chili in the pan and do the same as previously. Combine everything in the pot and let it sit while you cook the rice. Taste and add more spices as necessary.
Advice: Eat some brie on crackers on the side. It is great.
3. Gimme, Gimme Gimme!: Drink the wine
Do I really need to write more?
4. Knowing Me, Knowing You: Talk it out
And here it is. The lubricated conversation from that hefty bottle of vino. Conversations can be mundane or remarkable, or both all at once if you are lucky.
On our discussion agenda, developed were such topics as the remarkable Joan Rivers, the National Football League, the insanity of the national football league right now and the ethics of watching football, the World Cup, non-football sports in the States, Friday Night Lights, aging and dementia, work, and moved into the more philosophical realm (health, happiness and the general pursuit of joy) as so often happens at the end of a bottle of wine.
The thing about wine: it is an excellent lubricant for conversation. That action of pouring contents from a large bottle and into your glass embodies the perpetual invitation to say “what should we talk about?” As the bottle has more contents, that invitation continues. And when you have two bottles, there is no stopping the joyful conversations from trickling out.
This social aspect of wine is one part that makes me so passionate. Pouring wine from that 750mL bottle, unlike pouring beer from a smaller vessel, sets off an indication in my head that we can keep talking endlessly and the conversation can curve and twist and turn and change fluidly, as that bottle is slowly emptied of its contents. Plus, we are sharing from one bottle in this sort of communal symbiotic metaphor for the conversation transpiring: joined but separate and being refilled.
In any case, it is probably unremarkable to say that drinking wine can shape a night in a way unlike other alcohol. (And other alcohol shapes and lubricates the night in different ways of course). But that’s my small pitch on the invigoration of wine in your Saturday night soirée with a friend.
5. I am Just a Girl: Braid one another’s hair
What do you do when you have finished the bottles? It may sound cliche, but after having numerous glasses of wine is the best time to get your braid on. Women (and men with long hair), can bring back the excessive braids with full force, Greek deity style. It is good to have a bit of activity amidst the talking, particularly something that is productive and facilitates dexterous exercise. We did these:
6. When All is Said and Done: Go to a bar when you’ve finished the wine
After finishing two bottles, perfecting that ethereal crown on your head and peaking your energy by listening to some good Abba tunes (as if you haven’t already noticed the Abba theme in this post)…
…it is probably a good time to finish the night by going to a local bar. We chose the Jones Wood Foundry, my local bar in Yorkville, and proceeded to drink some great IPA’s with more good company and conversation.
So, now go for it. Ask your friend over next Saturday, prepare something filling and easy, uncork those bottles and get your talk on. Who knows what will happen. Though, likely, it will be brilliant.