I love wine and cheese and, recently, deli meats. I also love when I get to sample these things for free, which is why I left the comfort of my couch this Tuesday to join some friends at Epicurious, a hip little delicatessen in Mandaluyong. We Uber-ed out of the Fort at 6:15 and got to the Shangri-La at 7:15 after slogging through what BBC calls the worst traffic in the world.
The things I’ll do for complimentary wine on a Tuesday night.
I looked up the definition of the delicatessen’s name because I was epi-curious (yeah, I went there) about its origin. As with most words, this one came from Greece – the name of a Greek philosopher, Epicurus, to be precise. Apparently he believed that pleasure was the aim of life, going so far as to specify his definition of pleasure: “absence of pain in the body and trouble in the soul.” Though he doesn’t mention wine by name – but come on, what else could he be talking about? – the word epicure evolved to describe someone who finds pleasure in good food and drink, especially wine. So it’s a fitting name for this haute little delicatessen.
I expected to enter a bustling room with Pottery Barn-esque oak barrels strategically placed on the floor, each barrel bearing a different type of wine or a Rubik’s Cube made entirely of cheese staked with toothpicks.
What we got instead was a very chic, very personal sit-down affair that featured a panoply of wines hailing from America’s great sommelier state, California. I couldn’t be more pleased, and I shouldn’t have been surprised; the head chef, Djack, is a tasteful Frenchman whose sagesse regarding wine and carefully paired cheeses is what truly makes the evening.
We started off with a glass of Beringer’s chenin blanc, which was a dangerously smooth white wine that leaves zero aftertaste and probably leads to regrettable decisions after you’ve unknowingly downed two bottles of it. It was paired with – I’m practically salivating thinking about it – a luxurious slab of macaroni that I forced myself to consume noodle by noodle in order to savor all of its creamy, cheesy goodness.
Djack was the paragon of a host, dashing effortlessly between tables, topping up wine glasses, and talking the language of wine, which I do not understand and cannot translate for you here, though it is very seductive. You’ll have to go inquire about it yourself. (You know you were looking for an excuse to go visit.) The wine list catered to every palate, offering a range of options from a dry and robust cabernet sauvignon – my personal fave – to a crisp and sweet white zinfandel. I also enjoyed the cool merlot, which I’ve so often sipped warm that it came as a surprise to swill the chilled vino around my mouth. There was also a second cab sauv – a bit sweeter and less pricey – and a classy pinot noir. I liked them all. I especially liked how the glasses kept filling up.
And holy fromage – the meat and cheese platter that Djack served post-macaroni was staggering. There were favorites like smoked cheese and cubes of cheddar – sans toothpicks, you barbarian – and, which I thought was cool, local Filipino goat cheese served right alongside gently perspiring French goat cheese. Everybody wins. It felt like the right blend of traditional cheese with a welcome splash of something new. (OK, I’m onto the wine again.)
Dessert was served with a cork-pop and some bubbly sparkling zinfandel to wash it down. It was close to 9pm at this point and I was in that delightfully Bacchanal stage of contentedness that only comes with good wine, spicy chorizo, and a wooden slab full of cheese. And a good chinwag.
I said it was free – and it is – but you’d be a fool to walk away empty-handed. Even after gorging myself on breadsticks dipped in marmalade and overstuffing my belly with food, I still know a good cheese when I eat one – so I bought more. It helps that the wines are all sold at a discounted rate, which means not only do you get to spend your evening sipping on good libations for free, but you get to snag a few bottles to bring back home for cheap. It’s a great way to stock up before retreating back to your flat to binge-watch Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix until the next wine night.
It’s also super easy to purchase the wine, which is helpful when you’re lethargic and don’t feel like walking over to the display and picking out a bottle. Djack goes through the list with you and marks down the number and bottle you want, and then escorts you to the counter. If you want to stop and buy some cheese, you can either put on your fromage connoisseur hat and do your own thing, or you can ask Djack to recommend one based on your preference.
Their next epicure evening is unannounced, but it will feature wines from a different region, which I will dutifully drink.