We’ve all been there. You’ve just pulled the paté out of the fridge when there’s a knock on the front door, and who is it but Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II. Apparently her carriage has broken down outside. Now you’re going to have to figure out what to serve with paté whilst obeying the utmost standards of etiquette. Luckily, you boned up on fine dining before she dropped by, so this will be a sinch…
Making a Good First Impression
“Right this way your Highness,” you say incorrectly, as the Queen is not a princess, “I mean, right this way My Lady,” getting it wrong again because the Queen is not a Countess, before adding, “I mean, right this way Your Majesty.”
Running ahead of her, you can arrange the kitchen in the proper manner. At the table, the cutlery on the outside must be the utensils that you expect to use first. The next cutlery in will need to be for the following course, and so on. Put her glass above the cutlery on the right, and a plate for bread above the cutlery on the left. As the Queen is advanced in years and progresses slowly down the hallway, there’s just time to throw on some more formal wear. When she opens the door, you stand resplendent in a top hat, white tie and waistcoat, neatly laundered trousers, and coat with tails.
Was that a look of disdain on The Queen’s face? Of course! White tie is far too formal for casual dining, and is only for diplomatic events or weddings. You decide to distract her with the paté.
“Paté, m’am?” You say so that ‘m’am’ rhymes with ‘farm’, as you realise too late that it should rhyme with ‘jam’.
“That depends,” she says, “What wine are you going to serve it with? And please, call me Betty.”
What to Serve with Paté
This pairing had better be good. Get it right, and there could be a knighthood coming your way for Services Rendered to Inconvenienced Queens. Get it wrong, and she might set the corgis on you.
Duck is a fairly fatty meat as it is. The liver of a fattened duck in particular is going to need an acidic wine to cut through the fat droplets, and a great match would be a Sauternes like Château Suduiraut. Both the paté and the wine are of similar weight in the mouth too. What’s more, there’s a pleasing contrast of the sweetness from the wine with the savouriness from the duck.
“Yes. Didn’t Wine Spectator give the 2005 Château Suduiraut 93 points?”
“Gosh, you certainly know your wines Betty.”
“Well, one has to when one’s the Queen. And don’t be so patronising. But suppose one wanted to mix things up a little and try something new. What would one drink then?”
The Queen’s really testing you now. Luckily, you buy several wines at a time, and have a bottle of Torelló Vittios on hand. It’s an unorthodox choice, but it’s like a Spanish Sauternes. There’s a good amount of acidity on the palette. In addition, it has a weighty mouthfeel to match the duck, and it has that sweet profile to contrast with the savoury meat. The flavours – peach, apricot and honey – are all nice accompaniments to duck, which is often served with a sweet plum sauce.
Leaving with a Good Taste in the Mouth
As the mechanic rights the carriage and the Queen rises to leave, she utters, “Torelló Vittios and foie gras is such a lovely combination. If only they didn’t make paté in such a barbaric fashion.”
“Have you read this article on The Wine of Life? It’s called ‘Dan Barber’s Foie Gras Parable’, and it talks about a chef who makes the stuff in a humane way.”
“Oh, that’s interesting.”
You silently berate yourself that now she knows, the Queen will eat all of the humane paté in existence, and there will be none left for you. As she clears the front door, pour yourself a large glass of Sauternes.