Daily Decadence: The Art of Sensual Living by Sherri Dobay (Twitter, Facebook) is a mashup of a lifetime’s worth of short anecdotes about love, life, art, and wine, all centered around detailed recipes for gourmet cooking. Dobay is well-experienced in a life centered around the luxury of the arts, fine food and wine. After growing up on a horse farm and attending private schools, surrounded by art, she took the opportunity to travel quite extensively throughout the world before settling down in the valley of my hometown, of Napa. She is an accomplished painter, graphic designer, and also the owner of a small wine label called Ruby Kurant Wine. With a foreword by none other than the Senior Editor of Wine Spectator, James Laube, her book promises to return a life back to inspired luxury and sensual awareness within each moment, ie. bring sexy back.
Now, sexy is pretty much always good in my book (no pun intended…I think) and Dobay is definitely working that angle throughout Daily Decadence. One of the reasons that I love the works by Frances Mayes (Twitter, Facebook), for instance, is that she has no fear about adding sensuality and sexy anecdotes to her food, wine, and travel writing. When describing the taste of a simple roasted chicken, Dobay launches into a remembrance of a love letter she once wrote to a former lover:
“But it is the chicken itself that drives me to the edge, pushes me back, then pulls again with a sticky, salty taste in one perfect bite –mmm— and the juices drench my lips and chin and I sit alone, trembling, until your return, when I should hope you lick it off and share in its divinity with me.”
The typical structure of the book is a detailed, multi-page recipe, followed by a shorter anecdote that is related to the given recipe, topped-off with a paired wine review and tasting note. It is with the wine pairings that the book loses traction. This particular recipe was paired with a bottle of Carter Cellars Napa Valley Fortuna Block Cabernet Sauvignon. Clocking in at $100+, this is no easily accessible wine. Indeed, it is a boutique label that is actually quite challenging to find for sale outside of their website, if you’ve got the bling. Another recipe is paired with the Bordeaux First Growth Château Mouton Rothschild, while still another is paired with the 1990 vintage of Dom Pérignon.
All of these wines are completely inaccessible to the normal wine buyer, whether by availability, or more commonly, due to their immense cost. That bottle of 1990 Dom?…$250+. Don’t even get me started on the Mouton, which will set you back more than $500, depending on the vintage. My point is that all of her wine reviews are of this level of wine…a daily dose of decadence is one thing, but all of these wine pairings are useless for the vast majority of her reading public. When paired with an already 2 to 3 page gourmet recipe, her intent to bring sensuality and decadence back into the modern daily life begins to look more like a continuous chance to show off her higher end lifestyle: “look what I can do!” A lack of realistic wine pairings just adds that same dose of intimidating eliteness and aloofness that repels potential beverage lovers from the delicious world of wine.
Wine pairings aside, Dobay excels when she describes short pieces of her childhood and for her recipes that do show more simplicity and an easier route to adding a bit of luxury back into our busy lives, such as with her descriptive recipe for Popcorn With Truffle Salt. Many foodies will enjoy this book, and potentially travel writing lovers, as well. You can find a link below, to purchase Dobay’s book on Amazon. Cheers!
by Sherri Dobay
Flying Archer Press 2012, $15