Red Wine Braised Pork Melt w/ Gorgonzola, Grain Mustard and Grilled Onions on Marble Rye
I was happy my good friends Burkey and Donna were in town for a visit. I took them to the Penny because I owed Donna a debt. A year ago my wife Sherry and I were staying at their wonderful beach house in Delaware. Both Burkey and Donna are designers and the house, exterior and interior, showcases their many talents. They weren’t at the house when we were, so Sherry and I had the place to ourselves.
Donna had decided to learn to drink Scotch, so she bought herself a bottle of Glenlivet, an expensive and delicious set of training wheels. All I brought with me to the beach was a gallon of Tanqueray gin, which I quickly tired of. I helped myself to a taste of her Scotch, remembered how much I loved it and thereupon, over the week, drank the entire bottle. I intended to replace it, but in the end I forgot and we left. I confessed to Donna when we next saw them and she was gracious; Donna is always gracious, but I felt guilty; as well I should. This is not the first time I have committed this particular sin. So when I heard they were coming for a visit, I rushed out and bought her a bottle of Glenlivet.
But one of the rules of the 69 drinks is that you can’t drink a spirit at home and claim it even though it’s on the list. So we took Burkey and Donna to the Penny where I bought Donna and myself a shot of Glenlivet.
I was happy to pay the $16-a-shot freight for the Glenlivet. The Penny serves a 12-year-old version, the youngest of the distiller’s many older choices. In my town, here in North Carolina, you have to buy your liquor from a state store for home use, so they jack the price up on everything. The cost of the Glenlivet is too much, but it’s worth every penny, so to speak. Glenlivet has a special 50-year-old version (not at my liquor store). Only one hundred bottles from one cask exist, each in a hand-blown glass container with a gold stopper. One bottle recently sold for $38,000.
On my night at the Penny with Burkey and Donna, I was reminded of how Glenlivet, in my limited, but growing, experience, is the perfect glass of Scotch whiskey. It holds all the usual flavors that you read about when professionals bullshit about the merits of whiskies — berries, other fruit, chocolate, leather, etc. – and of course peat, but none of that really matters, the overall combination is everything you could want. If I were told I could have only one brand of Scotch to drink for the rest of my life, this would be the one I’d choose. That may change; I have 12 more brands to taste in my odyssey.
Let’s return to Sherry, my wife. Last week when I was sitting with my pal Mark, and we were testing the Aberlour, he asked me, “Have you cleared this project with your wife?”
As a matter of fact I had. Sherry is a good sport, and while she’s not cheap, she keeps a close eye on what we spend. She handles all the financial matters in the family. “You realize it’s going to cost you around $1200.00,” she said to me. “We’re retirees, remember? We need to watch our expenses.”
“I’ll just buy the drinks,” I said. “No chicken wings or fabulous cheeseburgers.” She agreed. As I said, she’s a good sport.
Back to the Penny with Mark. “At any rate,” Mark said, “it’s got to be a lot better than Gay Talese trying to explain to his wife that he was going to be hanging around California screwing other men’s wives as research for his book, Thy Neighbor’s Wife.” Mark was right. I know, most of you are probably too young to remember Talese’s book, but it was awesome, as the kids say. Good point, Mark. I wonder how Talese sneaked that one by his wife.
Glenlivet is a great Scotch, everything you want in the genre. It tasted fine at the Penny.
I think Donna had a drink or two out of my home bottle, and I polished off the rest. As usual.
I said at the end of the last entry that there was a mystery central to my old house.
My town is hip deep in history, from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War. Off the main street to the left as you drive north there’s a lovely old yellow house with red trim (not my house) that sits atop a gentle hill surrounded by a manicured lawn and an aging garden. This is the Ashburn School.
The Ashburn School flourished in the 1840s (1835-1857). It was the only progressive school in the south for young girls. Progressive is a term one seldom hears applied to the South, particularly North Carolina, in this, or any other time. Progressive meaning socially forward or even liberal. In the mid 1800s, the idea of educating girls was a progressive idea. Actually, it was pretty much unheard of.
The Ashburns, husband and wife, had 12 children and knew they would have to teach them at home if they were going to get a decent education, especially the girls, so they decided they would open their home to the daughters of other like-minded, socially forward parents in the area. And since Reverend Ashburn never earned more than $400 a year as a preacher, they would charge these other girls for the privilege of attending their school. Eventually two hundred girls from the ages of 6 through 14 attended the Ashburn School over a period of 22 years.
The Ashburn archives contain a letter directing a carpenter in town, one Benjamin Watley, to build a single room schoolhouse of 16 by 36 feet. There were to be ten windows of nine lights (panes). This school building, situated to the north of the Ashburn’s house, was built in 1847.
The historical record, then, becomes confused. Sometime in the late 1850’s the two-room schoolhouse beside the Ashburn’s home was taken off its foundation and dragged several blocks away, where it was jacked up on low pillars in the center of a lot, almost an acre in area.
Over the years, the old schoolhouse was added onto until it became what is today known as the Daisy Lynch House. This is the house I live in.
We found our town by happenstance. We wanted to leave our 1970’s, large, suburban house in Maryland but weren’t sure where to go next. While researching an article I was writing, I came across a uTube video of Lee Smith, a well-known writer, talking about the small town she lived in, a town that had a disproportionate number of writers. I took note and told Sherry; we visited the town, fell in love with the old houses and liberal community. Over the course of two years searching, we found the Daisy Lynch house. A Craftsman style, rambling old pile with the original Ashburn school building nestled inside.
The guest room in our house is a large cube, 13 by 15 feet with ceilings that are eleven feet high. If not strictly a cube, it feels like one. The owner before us called it “the ancient inner core of the house,” with one square window that lets in very little light. It’s dark, isolated from the rest of the house, and just a little bit spooky. We joke that our guests don’t know what they’re in for when they go to bed. Most stagger out the next day at least ten hours after they went to sleep. Our friends, the men in particular, are known as go-get-em guys, the type who leaps out of bed, even in retirement, at what would be the crack of dawn, ready to tackle a new day.
Not here. They, like everyone else, sleep in. Eight hours, ten hours, and when they do appear they’re muddle-headed, half dressed and confused.
“Man, you slept in late,” we always say. They agree, surprised.
Some mornings it becomes so late I fear they are dead in there.