“Slow it down, there’s no hurry,” Zhou Qianlin said good-naturedly.
“Shut up, or I’ll beat the crap out of you!” The Mechanist’s growling voice thrummed through the room as he shook his large fist under the Accountant’s nose.
“Only cowards resort to violence!” The accountant shot back.
“Call me a coward and you’ll regret it. All I know is, you keep running your mouth and I’ll crush you to paste, then scrape you out the door!” The Mechanist’s harsh voice threatened.
The Accountant’s face paled. “B-bowing to superior physical might is the wise decision. I’ll tolerate it, for now!”
Zhou Qianlin struggled to stifle her laughter at seeing this strange man. He was a bit of a clown.
The argument was punctuated with the rise of the back curtain. The Gourmet appeared bearing a large tray, upon which were perched eight delicate square-shaped plates. Each bore a large seaweed roll, though their contents were unclear.
“Here comes the delicious food! What is it? What is it?” The Accountant nearly jumped for joy.
The Gourmet placed the platter atop the table. “Our appetizer is a minced handroll. Help yourselves. Made from the left-over pieces while I was carving the Bluefin, wrapped in seaweed. There is no seasoning, just the delicious original flavors of meat itself combined with the faint additions of the wrap. One for everyone.” As he spoke he took up one for himself. One bite, two, and then it was finished. Afterwards his eyes fell upon Zhou Qianlin, and he smiled amicably.
“This is the Gourmet,” Lan Jue introduced.
“Hello, thank you for hosting this lovely dinner,” she said, turning towards him.
The Gourmet chuckled. “No need to be so polite. Welcome, welcome, please eat. “He motioned for her to choose a wrap, then turned and left.
The Accountant was first to reach out for a wrap, but his hand was slapped away by the Mechanist.
“What now?! I can’t use food to plug up my mouth, isn’t that what you want?” The Accountant fumed.
The Mechanist pointed towards the Wine Master, who had stood and walked off to the side. He stopped by a box.
Lan Jue’s eyes grew bright, and rose to his feet as he followed the Wine Master with his gaze.
The silver metallic box opened, and from within a faint white wisp of air emanated forth.
“Sherry,” Lan Jue stated, a grin plastered on his face.
Zhou Qianlin gave Lan Jue a curious expression. “How do you know that’s sherry?”
“Temperature and grade,” he said. “Different types of alcohol each have specific suitable temperatures at which to drink them. For red wine, that’s fifteen degrees. The incubator wouldn’t have released steam like you saw at that temperature. White wine, on the other hand, is best at five degrees. Which of course would produce that sort of steam. Champaign is often enjoyed at a similar temperature, but it wouldn’t be suitable for this meal, clearly. And so, it must be sherry. It’s only white wine that can cause the natural flavors of seafood to blossom forth.”
The Wine Master first produced eight glasses from within the box, followed by a bottle of wine. It was significantly larger than an average bottle – roughly three liters. However, Lan Jue’s face dropped when he spotted the label. “A common blend.”
The Wine Master shot him a withering glance. “For Bluefin Tuna, cold and dry sherry is best. What would you prefer?”
Lan Jue smirked. “It’s fine. And quite the bottle. It should be of adequate quality.”
The Wine Master gave the bottle a gentle push, and it slid towards Lan Jue. He tossed him a bottle opener.
Lan Jue skillfully opened the bottle, and lifted it up. He placed his thumb in the punt and wrapped his fingers around the base before moving to the Wine Master’s side and pouring him a few fingers.
The Wine Master picked up the glass and gave it a swirl before bringing it to his nose. He inhaled deeply, took a sip, and in the midst of appreciating it’s aftertaste gave Lan Jue a small nod. “It’s a relatively ordinary village wine, but of fine status. The advantages of a larger bottle.”
“A large bottle can be that good?” The Accountant asked.
The Wine Master cast him a dismissive glance. “The wine is wasted on you.”
The Accountant glowered dubiously, but dared not say anything before the Wine Master.
Lan Jue laughed in spite of himself. “In a larger bottle the total volume is much higher. When preserved it retains it’s flavor for longer. If we assume the average bottle is about seven hundred and fifty milliliters, which could be stored for around thirty years, then a one point five liter should last over forty. This three liter can last even longer. In regards to taste, since it’s all the same wine in higher volume, it can stand longer exposure to oxygen. The taste will change over time. And so, higher volume bottles of wine are held in higher esteem, and are of higher quality. This is particularly true of older wines.”
As he spoke he’d arrived before the Tailor. He poured her approximately two fingers before moving to Zhou Qianlin, then the Wine Master, Mechanist, Coffee Master, Accountant and himself.
His method of pouring looked simple, but followed the rules of etiquette; women first, followed by seniority.
Zhou Qianline swirled the wine in her glass, and the faint scent of the sherry wafted up to fill her nostrils. She took a small sip, and was immediately swept up in the sweet burn as it slipped passed her throat. She felt it tingle through her whole body. Her pretty eyes sparkled.
A pink meat filled the wraps, not something that appeared terrible attractive to eat. There was no distinct scent, either. Zhou Qianlin turned her head to look at Lan Jue. It was her first time trying something like this.
Lan Jue smiled at her. “Go on and try it. We only get this opportunity about once a year.”
The Accountant couldn’t help but interject. “Jewelry Master, what’s so nice about this particular fish? This is also my first time partaking.”
The Coffee Master rolled his eyes. “Letting you worm your way in was a mistake. But for the sake of our two beautiful guests I’ll educate you.”
“Bluefin Tuna live in the deep ocean, and are considered mature when they reach fifty pounds. In truth, freshly pulled from the water they aren’t at their best. Five days on ice is the sweet spot. It gives it time to release it’s amino acids. After five days of acid discharge is when they reach the highest point of deliciousness – which is the point we’re at right now. As for the richest part of the tuna, that would be the area around it’s belly. Made in to a paste, as it is in the wraps, it isn’t as ambrosial as the belly, but it certainly is still something special to eat.”