Le Menu

Roasted leg of lamb
Farro with fava beans and asparagus
Tian of roasted vegetables
Green mixed salad

2013 William Fèvre Chablis "Montée de Tonnerre"
2013 Etienne Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet "Champ Gain"
1999 Domaine Camus Mazoyères-Chambertin
1964 Pierre Ponnelle Clos St. Denis

Catherine Ro: So this meal tonight would be the equivalent of which opera?

Abraham Appleman: We're not listening to Pergolesi tonight!

Rafael Figueroa [Pointing to the leg of lamb]: Yeah, this is Wagner right here.

David Chan: The leg of lamb is like Meistersinger...it needs a big red wine.

CR: How so?

DC: In Burgundy you have the various designations...villages, premier cru, and grand cru wines. Some of it has to do with pedigree and quality, but some of it is also a question of power. Power without weight, just like a great singer or a great musician has a big tone without necessarily dragging everything down. Great food and great wine can pack a lot of flavor and power without being heavy. Anybody can make Meistersinger really heavy and plodding, but to give it the proper size and power, and still retain lightness and grace...that's a gift. 

RF: A great grand cru wine does that.

AA: And a well-cooked piece of meat can do the same thing. 

CR: When did your love of wine start, Chevalier Figueroa?

RF: When I was growing up, the wines available to me were not good, they were quite poor. I didn't actually even like wine. My love for wine came pretty much when I came to the Met. I had fine wines on tour in Europe, but I had no knowledge whatsoever. I was at the mercy of whoever was pouring me a glass. Things got crazy with my association with a certain violinist named David Chan. He introduced me to the world of Burgundy. Ever since then, I have no money in the bank...but I do have a lot of wine at home.

CR: And you’re a very happy man as a result!

RF: It's all a part of my diet...good wines and good food. I like to cook. I'm not like Abe, but...

AA: You're an excellent cook!

DC: Not to be redundant, but a common point between food, wine, and music is that everyone partakes of them at some level. You have to eat for sustenance. Some people drink wine because it's customary for them. You listen to music in the background, in hotels and elevators, in the car. But when you take the time to get to know each of them, the interest and knowledge in them bring new rewards...you become able to appreciate them on a new level. Whether you play music or just listen to it, whether you cook yourself or only dine out, whether you're a consumer of wine or you take an active interest in it…with all of them, greater knowledge equals greater enjoyment.

AA: And the whole concept of sharing...to be able to enjoy, whether it's with your significant other, or a close friend who’s like-minded...the conversation over it, the opening up of other experiences while you're sharing this, sure beats doing it by yourself. 

RF: The important, meaningful bottles that I have, whenever I open them, I'm never alone. I'm with friends. 

DC: Rafi one, Rafi two…

RF: [Ignoring David] I feel bad when I open a great bottle of wine and enjoy it by myself...you want to share it, to talk about it. 

DC: I think in an age where wine has become such a collectible and can be very expensive, with so much new money chasing after the blue chip wineries...it's just not what wine is about. Wine is meant to be shared. Here we are, gathered together on Easter, with friends and family we love. 

CR: What do you say to those people who think wine are for snobs?

DC: They’re probably of the same mentality that classical music or opera for that matter is only for snobs. Yes, classical music in general and opera in particular, at some level, were never intended as popular music for the masses. They were always written for kings, for emperors and courts and special occasions, but just because they were written in that context doesn't mean that they can't be enjoyed by everybody.

Same thing with wine - budget is a limiting factor for people, as is dining out or attending concerts, but that doesn't mean there's no way to enjoy them. You can enjoy classical music on the radio or at the HD at a movie theater; there are opportunities here in New York to try food during restaurant week, or to go to an organized wine tasting where you get small tastes of wines that are normally out of your budget. There's always a way for a person who's interested in all of the above to experience these things, especially in a city like New York. 

RF: You know, it's really interesting what's happening globally with wine. Wine has been around for ages, but the technology of wine making nowadays is so advanced and so available to everyone.

AA: Decent and inexpensive!

RF: It has become a commodity for people who want to spend less. It's really hard to make a bad wine nowadays. 

DC: There is a parallel. If you look at conservatories or orchestras worldwide, the bottom level has come up so so far. The minimum level to attend a conservatory or to join an orchestra is so, so high, yet the top level hasn't risen at all. The old guys...the old generation is still the standard by which everything is measured. With wine, you have all this new technology, but the guys who make the very best wine are still what we term “old school.” They take advantage of the new technology to check on things, but they work the hardest in the vineyard and do the least in the cellar because they trust the old methods. And none of the new technology can replace the brute hard labor. 

RF: The guys that are sitting on top of the wine labels are also sitting on top of the world's greatest terroirs. You cannot buy that. 

AA: And cooking properly - there's nothing better than using the very best ingredients, cooked in the proper time and temperature. You can have all these new-fangled techniques like sous vide cooking - which is very nice, don't get me wrong! - but, for instance, it does matter how young that lamb was, and that it ate the grass at the very top of the mountain where the air is the cleanest and the grass is the greenest and least trampled on. Then all you do is put a little salt on it and simply grill it. It doesn't get any better than that. They've been cooking that way for generations.