ELV went scotch drinking the other night. Which is pretty extraordinary since he’s a bourbon drinker.
But the invitation by an Official Friend Of ELV (whose name shall remain confidential, but whose initials are: Larry Springberg) was too enticing to pass up: Five courses at Smith & Wollensky steakhouse matched with five different Johnnie Walker scotches. That’s five healthy belts of whisky to accompany (and supposedly compliment) the food.
“Hummm, ” ELV thought to himself, “This might make for the worst marriage since Ernest Borgnine and Ethel Mermam.” “But if it’s every bit the food and beverage Armageddon we think it will be, it’ll give us something to write about.”
So faster than you can say: “Dry-aged rib eye,” we were in.
And we were right.
As the courses started coming — nice appetizer pizzas, mighty rare duck, good rib eye spoiled by an excessively salty, character-free sauce, “artisanal” cheese plate with less than top-shelf cheeses (save for the Grafton Vermont cheddar), and a “tartan coupe” of really, really good praline ice cream and nougat that atoned for many of the meal’s sins — we were consistently floored by the ineptitude of whatever marketing genius thought 80 proof scotch would somehow enhance the taste of savory food.
We’re not even sure they go this far in Scotland, where, if we’re not mistaken, scotch is considered the ultimate pre- or post-prandial libation — something to kickstart your appetite or leave you with a warming glow at the end of an evening.
Our staff guessed they are trying anything to move product these days, and when you now have multiple lines of the same beverage, you have to think of innumerable (and absurd) ways to try to promote them.
But pairing them with food shouldn’t be one of them.
For the record (and from a guy who has always found the smoky, peat-mossy taste of scotch to be a turn-off — until you get to the brandy-like qualities of aged single-malts), the Johnnie Walker Black seemed to have the most power, depth and creaminess of any of the five bottles. If you’re really into these things, here is a quick primer on the different blends — although we find some of the tasting notes comical. “Mint?” “Mustard seed?” “Rose petals?” In scotch? Ridiculous.
It’s enough to drive us straight to shot of Maker’s.