The sensual experience began with the question, “What is the most interesting edible thing you’ve ever put in your mouth?” We were in The Cottage Aspen, Executive Chef Rob Ittner’s latest addition, a sweet open-spaced Victorian on the corner of Hopkins and S. Monarch Street. We were listening to Marisa Hallsted, “Sensual Sommelier,” yoga instructor and founder of The Mindful Vine, as she guided us to begin a journey of our senses. I was having difficulty coming up with an answer for that question, was it the Tête de veau I mistakenly ate in Paris, or my first experience with Uni Sashimi in a trending back alley restaurant in New York City with my Connecticut bad boy boyfriend? I had just had a full day of racing around the valley for kids and clients and my mind was a main throughway jam packed with racing thoughts. Putting all my effort into refraining from spewing out my fragmented quirky answers to that question, I sat back at our dining table and breathed it all in.
[su_box title=”The Mindful Vine”]Enjoy an expedition into your senses with Marisa Hallsted, the ‘Sensual Sommelier.’ You will be led through techniques that transform a luxury sommelier and chef curated wine and food tasting into a fully immersed experience. The journey will guide you through a unique dining format combining mindfulness, connected conversation, and discoveries that will transform your life beyond the table. Together, we will explore and awaken our palates to the pleasure of the moment. Each dinner in the summer series will be a uniquely themed 4-course meal created by Executive Chef Rob Ittner, paired with Old or New world wines.[/su_box]
In front of white walls adorned with sultry photographs by Guadalupe Laiz of Horses of Iceland, Hallsted guided us to awaken our senses and embody our tasting experience as she connected us to one another and to our own immersion into the moment, beginning with our First Experience, Sea & Tingles with a Rinarts, Reserva Brut Nature 2014 paired with a cured salmon crudo prepared by Chef Ittner.
For our Second Experience, Earth & Acid, the wine we sipped was a 2017 B. Millet Sancerre Le Chemin Blanc from Loire, France, paired with a baby beet salad. “Where are you right now?” Hallsted asked, and the traffic jam in my brain started to clear as I gave in to the experience. At first I was transported to where I wanted to be, in St. Martin as a child, riding brilliant turquoise sun struck waves with my sisters. With the second sip I zoomed away from the ocean landing in a field of snow with soft flakes falling all around me. With grapes grown in soil rich in minerals, it made sense that I switched from beach to snow. As Marisa had us linger on each sip, she asked questions guiding us on how to decipher tastes, acidity, the body and legs of the wine, the alcohol content, what fruits and minerals we detected, and then we would taste the food to see how it all complemented one another, discovering how each sip and bite alerted our senses and brought memories and images forward.
[su_box title=”winex.com”]It is interesting in talking to our suppliers about the current high demand for Sancerre. Many told us they can’t keep the stuff in stock because of overwhelming on-premise demand and that a number of purveyors simply don’t bring the wines out to show as a result. This demand might also explain why we have had a tough time finding good, well-priced Sancerre. Demand has pushed up the prices, and a lot of , ahem, less compelling examples are coming to market. That is why finding on like this is noteworthy. B. Millet, a 22 hectare estate based in Bué, is a third generation Sancerre producer run by husband and wife Betty and Franck Millet. In Sancerre, there is a mix of limestone and chalk terroirs. Bué is a top village in the region and the majority of the domaine’s white wine vineyards are located on the limestone that accentuates the minerality that Sancerre is famous for.[/su_box]
As each course was served and Ittner eloquently gave us his verbal presentation of what we were about to indulge upon, I felt myself melting into the moment, letting go to the richness of sensations consuming my body. By the Third Experience, Land & Sultry, we were asked to put blindfolds on made from gold Tibetan silk prayer flags. Tasting the oven roasted leg of lamb paired with a Domain Julien Cecillon, Saint Joseph Rouge Babylone 2015, I felt as though I had arrived at the place where my meditations take me, somewhere in a safe lush forest, far away from the rigors of life, where everything around me is peaceful and calm.
The evening ended with the Fourth Experience, Summer & Sunshine, a coconut flan dessert with tropical fruits and candied favors adding a delicious tart bitter flavor with a chewy texture combined with the sweet creaminess of the flan. Many of us kept our blind folds on as we sipped the Chateau de Cerons, Cerons 2009 and tasted the mingling of flavors. It was a grand finish to an intriguing evening, and I walked home under the full moon appreciative of this life I have created for myself, rich in experience where I am able to experience the passions of others who too have figured out how to stay devoted to their dreams and be one with the surrounding pleasures that life has to offer.
Visit TheMindfulVine.com to find out more about upcoming events and private parties.
**The Cottage Aspen is available for rent as a catering space with simple amenities, i.e. hand washing station, counter top, refrigeration, induction burners, movable table, etc. The space can accommodate up to 65 standing, 35 sitting with several different set up configurations. Outside seating also available.