We first asked Laurent Saillard, owner of iCi, to ponder his ideal last meal months ago. He finally settled on Liévre à la Royale—braised hare stuffed with foie gras and truffles. But Ariane Daguin, who owns D’Artagnan, beat him to the punch (Last Meal, December 1, 2006). Saillard was crushed. After a recent wine-intensive trip to France, though, he has a new fantasy. Saillard told us he’d drink four bottles of “beyond organic” French wine made by friends of his—and eat nothing.
Is it really going to be a liquid supper?
If it’s a last meal, to me, what’s the point of eating? It’s better to finish with the wine, because I’d like to finish with my friends, and the best way to do that would be to drink their wines. But now that I think about it, I will have some food—just to enjoy the wine better.
So how does the meal begin?
I have a corkscrew in my right hand, and the Anjou Blanc “Marie Besnard” Domaine Mosse in my left. It’s a chenin blanc from Agnes and Rene Mosse. It’s a beautiful grape from a small vineyard with very old vines. Actually, last month I was pruning those vines! A very special moment. The wine is rich, opulent, and generous, but well-balanced—just like the couple. He plays music to the casks in the cellar. He told me that the yeast, which is working for the first six months, works better to music. I love that.
So is that the first course, on its own?
Yes, and next is Vin de Pays “Les Longues Vignes,” Domaine le Briseau from Christian and Nathalie Chaussard. The grape is pineau d’aunis (also called chenin noir). It’s one of my favorite grapes—gamay-style fruit, but spicier, complex, gamey, smoky, with a cherry flavor. The couple is amazing. She is tiny, and he is big. He looks like a peasant, but he does pineau d’aunis like nobody else. I would have a bowl of sautéed collard greens with chili flakes and garlic with this wine, as an appetizer. When I was in France, I really missed collard greens.
How American of you! What’s next?
Pommard Domaine Sabre from a woman named Fanny Sabre, who I met recently at La Dive Bouteille, which is an annual festival for natural winemaking in France. Fanny’s father died when she was 15, so her mother hired Philippe Pacalet, who is considered a god of natural wine, to take care of the family’s vineyards. Fanny got a law degree, but she also worked with Philippe, and now she’s doing it herself at 22. She’s a woman, she’s in Burgundy, and she’s beautiful-—everyone in France is waiting for her to fail. But the wines are really good. Very elegant, with that kick at the end that could only come from a six-foot-two blonde woman. With this, I would have [iCi’s] braised pork shoulder with grits, pecans, and brussels sprouts.
And for dessert?
I would end the meal with Champagne “Origine” by Jacques Selosse. For Anselme Selosse (Jacques’s son), it’s wine first, before champagne. It’s chardonnay-based, and just happens to be sparkling. Every time I have dinner with any vigneron [“vine grower”] I really like and respect, they always finish the meal with a Selosse champagne. You go to bed with all the beauty, the drama, the dreams that come with the bubbles, in your head. It’s a beautiful way to end a meal, so to end a last meal? Wow.
Laurent Saillard’s recipes for collard greens and pork shoulder are on Eat for Victory (villagevoice.com/blogs/food).