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by Fred McMillin
For your last supper of the century...
Yes, the year 2000 is the last year of the twentieth century, and I'm finishing it with the best last course I've found in that century. It's vintage port with Stilton cheese on water crackers.
1880 (in a village on Portugal's Upper Douro River)—At night, groping our way through one of the side streets of the village by aid of a lantern, we arrived in front of a low one-storied edifice, whence shouts of laughter mingled with strains of music were issuing. The odor of fermenting mosto pervaded the air, indicating that winemaking was going on. The door being opened, we entered the dimly-lighted building. [Men were treading grapes in one lager.] The other lager was tenanted by treaders of the softer sex. A solitary musician fiddled away. Two damsels gifted high-pitched voices struck up a well-known song, forbidden by the Oporto authorities on account of its impropriety. Jokes were cracked and shouts of laughter followed. ... early British author Henry Vizetelly
Also in 1880 on the Douro— with action like that, 21-year-old Adriano Ramos Pinto started his own Port firm. He produced a premium Port called Adriano, and sold it to the lucrative South American market at twice the price of most of the competition.
A Shocking Innovation
His brother Antonio joined the firm in its 18th year. At the time, Portuguese publicity techniques were primitive. The brothers changed all that with a series of carefully-produced, rather racy posters (see 1906 example).
Today, the publicity is more conservative, but business is better than ever in spite of it, which we'll cover after discussing...
The Cheese—In the Beginning
The year is 1790.— Mr. Cooper Thornhill owned the Bell Hotel in the town of Stilton. Mrs. Paulet, his sister-in-law, sent him a wonderful cheese as a Christmas gift. It was so good that he immediately arranged to purchase all the "Stilton" she could produce.
Modern Stilton comes as a 14-pound wheel, nine inches thick. It should have a texture a bit heavier than butter, so you can spread it on water crackers. The blue veins should contrast clearly with the cream-colored body. (Caution: Compared to the Stilton I would buy in London, that for sale in the U.S.A. sometimes has become too old, dry, and overly strong.)
There's still time to purchase a moist block or slice from your cheese shop before New Year's Eve. Enjoy as the last course while waiting for the ball to drop at Times Square; serve it with...
Our Wine of the Day
1997 Vintage Porto by Ramos Pinto
Around 1700 England and France got out of step. England set up tariffs that shut down imports of French wine and replaced them with Portuguese wine. This inspired Jonathan Swift (Gulliver's Travels) to pen:
12/26/00—Acres and Acres of Errors?
12/25/00—A Grape from the Time of Christ
12/22/00—Our Best-Buy Winery
12/21/00—The First Fish and Wine Dish
12/20/00—A Fight to the Finish
12/18/00—A Merlot for Mary
12/15/00—Big Talk or Big Wines??
12/14/00—The Bishop's Fate
12/13/00—That Creek Mystique
12/08/00—Against All Odds
12/07/00—It's Time for The Rosé Bowl
12/05/00—Cod and Carneros
12/01/00—Something New Under the (Southern) Sun
This page created December 2000