One of our customers used to send its key executives to Houston every December, there to host annual dinners for its two biggest suppliers - which is to say “The Great Corporate Salt Mine” and “Brand X.” Said dinners would be held on consecutive nights, one supplier on each night. Owing to the prodigious Wine Expertise and Wallet Thickness of these key executives, the dinners would always feature excellent wines. Not that the food was anything but superb, but the wines – ah, the wines! – were the stars of the show.
The dinners were almost always held in the wine cellar at Tony’s, one of the Best and Highest Falutin’ places in a town noted for its wealth of Good and High Falutin’ restaurants. [The sole exception was in 1994, when Tony’s was closed for renovation.] There would generally be two or three representatives from our customer’s firm, and a crowd of between ten and fourteen of us Salt Miners, spouses included. It was a coveted invitation – something like being summoned to the Christmas parties given by the late Jim Williams in Savannah, the ones so well documented in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The Great Corporate Salt Mine would pay for the hors d’oeuvres and Champagne, but our customer would insist on taking care of everything else. It was, they said, their way of thanking us for being a good supplier...and quite a “thank you” it was.
Myself, I ended up going to nine of these tasty little affairs between 1986 and 1997, many of them accompanied by She Who Must Be Obeyed. Here’s the menu and wine list (wines are in boldface) from the one we had on December 15, 1986:
- Hors d’Oeuvres: Smoked salmon, caviar, paté, fried zucchini sticks, sweet peppers
- Dom Perignon 1976 Champagne
- Appetizer: Linguini Pescatore
- Bâtard Montrachet 1984
- Lobster bisque, served with Johnnie Walker Black Label scotch whisky
- Beefsteak tomato vinaigrette with avocado and hearts of palm
- Grapefruit sorbet
- Entrée: medallions of beef in a balsamic demi-glace, or medallions of lamb in a mint demi-glace, or Dover sole Meunière
- Vegetables, soufflé potatoes
- Château Latour 1966
- Apricot soufflé
- Château d’Yquem 1976
- Cheese plate: Port Salut, Stilton, Brie
- Warres 1963 Vintage Port
- After-dinner drinks
Decadent? Sure. But there’s got to be a reason I’ve put up with Corporate Bullshit for, lo, these many years, and the occasional Gold-Plated Feed-Bag is as good a one as any, innit?
[Note: Tony’s still exists, but it has moved from its old digs on Post Oak Boulevard. Is it still as good? I don’t know…but it would be nice to find out.]