I write down lessons during my time travel or during residency (see Travel Lessons & Expat Lessons) to prevent myself from making similar mistakes in the future. After an underwhelming dinner at Cadaques where I received 6 pieces of shrimp and a bottle of wine, for an outsized bill (see Don’t Take All Advice: Meh Restaurants in Madrid), I decided that ordering a bottle of wine at dinner should be eliminated for future evenings out: Here’s why:
- Pre-Dinner Drinks: In Madrid, it is common to go to a few tapas bars before dinner (see Best Tapas Madrid: No Budget Cuts Here). By the time I arrive for dinner, I have already had a few glasses. Alternatively, if I went straight to the restaurant, I would order a martini before ordering a bottle of wine. Pure vodka before vino is overkill.
- Good till the last drop?: I enjoy perusing the wine list and I enjoy the pomp and circumstance of the sommelier opening a bottle of wine. It is a treat when the sample is poured and the result does not disappoint. Besides that experience, I have to question whether it is worth splurging for the whole bottle. By the time I finish my fourth glass, I am too inebriated to distinguish this fine bottle versus something basic.
- Cost: When I go on a TPOL adventure, I typically run around for 24 days. When I go on a residency it is for 5 weeks. A $100 bottle of wine at dinner is cost-prohibitive.
- Unnecessary Pressure: If I purchase a full bottle, I am compelled to finish the bottle for two reasons: First, I paid for it. Second, I cannot let good wine go to waste.
- After dinner outing: Assume I drank before dinner and assume a whole bottle of wine was consumed at dinner. That is a significant amount of alcohol. The wise move would be to go home, but that is not fun. Neither is the hangover the next day if I stay out all hours.
Going on a pub crawl or tapas tasting in new cities, I fool myself into believing that the effects of a drink from one bar do not carry over to the next. The number of drinks consumed does not reset just because I enter a new establishment or because I switch from liquor to vino. Accordingly, my new rule is to order one drink when I am first seated, cheers to the experience, and sip slowly. From there, the time should be centered around enjoying the food. Indeed, being too buzzed detracts not only from embracing the intricacies of the wine but also from savoring the taste of food. At the time, I know that the wine and food are delicious, but the next day I cannot vividly remember the subtleties of the flavors. That is regrettable.
Caveat: The one-drink strategy at dinner may not always work as I found out in Copenhagen, where I had the wildest Michelin experience (see Punk Royale Copenhagen: Michelin Restaurant on Acid). After that dinner, I should have gone home instead of overindulging (see Guns & Butter: Copenhagen Travel Guide).
Here’s TPOL’s tip from that Travel Guide: Don’t overlook the alcohol consumed at the 16-course Punk Royale. I learned this the day after.
In order to maintain figurative and literal balance in my life, I am giving up the pleasure of ordering a bottle of wine at dinner. I will reserve the experience of trying new wines at wine tastings (see Global Vineyards) or at home where my Coravin Wine gadget allows me to sample a fancy or souvenir bottle of wine without opening the bottle itself.