The Opposite of Wine – Course 107 Beers, Spirits and Cigars

Finally something I know something about! I’ve drank a lot of beer and booze! While the cigar information was interesting, this class felt like an excuse to test us on food pairing and our champagne serving skills. The courses were short, the tastings included Hienikin. I was expecting pork rinds as a pairing.

We would no longer have blind tastings as a part of our normal tests. For the remaining two modules we’d have short written tests followed by a service exam. The first exam would focus on Champagne service, the last exam would focus on decanting wine. Both would happen in a mock restaurant setting, the PCI banquet room. Our “guests” would also be our examiners, MS’s observing our service and asking us a variety of questions, some of which would definitely be wine and food pairings. Doomed again!

A food pairing test goes something like this:
Fake Guest: “We’re having a 3 course meal today. We’ll be starting with the Lobster tail on pilaf with Pumpkin foam. Next we’ll be having the Duck Confit with chantrels in the tart rhubarb sauce. Finally the short ribs with the wasabi parsnip and potatoes. What wines do you recommend?”
Me: “Ahhhhhhh….” {shit} “how about a nice Hienekin?

I nearly failed the service exam. 62%. If the written test hadn’t been so easy I’d have gotten a D-.

Part of the problem is you can’t just name a wine for each course, you also have to name the region, year and producer. You then have to explain why that wine is the right choice for that menu item. The guest is then scripted to reject your wine and ask for a similar pairing from another part of the world. Choices should also escalate from the implied price. When first serving the champagne we’re told what champagne its supposed to represent. This should be our baseline price from which we escalate. Not always easy to do if you’re serving up a 500$ bottle of champagne.

Try as I might, 24 hours was not enough time for me to cram enough wines into my brain to match the menu that was thrown at me. Not sleeping didn’t help much either. Of course my exhaustion and nervousness were reflected in the actual service portion of my exam. I nearly took my thumb off the cork after loosening the basket (an automatic fail if I had), the champagne made a quiet “pop” when opened (only a maidens sigh, or perhaps babies fart is permitted). Finally, I clinked my glasses at least four times. My one saving point was knowing the base alcohol for a Manhattan. Later that evening I would personally check the base alcohol for quite a few Manhattans.

It was a sad testament to how sucked in to the testing process I was – pacing the halls, terrified of a failing grade! I was not interested in a profession in service. God damned cork! Why did I get the warm bottle of champagne? The bottle practically exploded in my hand! Surely I’d been the butt of some cruel joke. At my evaluation later I would save my teacher the time of composing the laundry list of everything I’d done wrong. I read off my own list, painfully aware of almost all of my shortcomings. I had about a week before the next test, hopefully time enough to make up for sleeping on my trip down the Mississippi.

previous chapter: “Beard And Moobs Interlude” ~ next chapter: “108 Wine Program Management”

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