Kane is cooking again tonight, which is always an adventure. I forget what the excuse was, but I am drawn to his upper east side digs like a moth to a flame. Lisa figures with SFJoe in attendance she'll have someone with whom to diagram molecules (I try to indulge her in all things, but admittedly fall very short in this particular regard), so she tags along as well.

By the time we arrive there's already a corked bottle of Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sevre etc. etc. Clos des Briords Vieilles Vignes 2000. I sniff and grimace, Lisa gags from across the room, nearly retches: it's seriously tainted.

It's a small crew tonight, just us and our irrepressible host, along with Mover and Shaker SFJoe, Bigshot Retailerdude Greg dal Piaz and the utterly silent Jayson Cohen. We're all atwitter with anticipating what creative adventures await us when Brad is behind the stove.

The second half of the vertical, a Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sevre etc. etc. Clos des Briords Vieilles Vignes 1988 is corked as well, although markedly less so. I have to put aside a glass for a few hours to be really sure, but by the end of the evening it's clear. It's all very romantic, this kind of thing.

On a more promising note, Kane has discovered that his pot of potatoes, instead of boiling for the past hour, have merely been enjoying a lukewarm bath. He turns the heat up, we wait in gleeful anticipation.

Bradley has a Mystery Wine for us to sample. Let's see, smells lightly tropical, lemon-pineapple, hint of gardenia, good whiff of beanbag chair. Tastes simple and crisp, relaxed but with decent acidity, pleasant enough but quite unremarkable. There's a touch of sweetness and a general plasticky neutrality that has me thinking maybe an '03 scheurebe or some offbeat German grape. When I finally do say "scheurebe" Greg perks up: "Ooh," he says, "I was going to say 'rieslaner.'" I nod. That sounds about right too. (Sakonnet Vineyards Vidal Blanc Southeastern New England 2003)

"HaaHAAAA!" cackles Kane when the label is unveiled, "I GOTCHAAAAAAA!"

A moment of puzzled silence.

"What? Why? What do you mean?" We look at one another, unsure of who's been got by what, but Brad looks frightened and scuttles back into the kitchen, declining to elaborate further.

Well okay then. Bemused, we continue on to reds with a Domaine Peyre Rose Coteaux du Languedoc Clos Syrah Léone 1995. Ooh, Kane wine: ripe, fleshy and loose. Impressively volatile--"Reminds me of my days in the lab," says SFJoe. Generously wooded, expansive blackberry-raspberry fruit, meaty texture, loose and gobby-oaky. Decent enough, although one has the sense that the wheels are about to come off the cart. Drink up, I'd say, there are too many puffy frills for the thin stitchwork to keep this one together much longer.

Kane has become impatient with the potatoes and taken them out to test them. He brings a chunk over to Greg, who fingers it suspiciously. "Raw," he declares. "The starch is not broken down. It has to cook more. A LOT more."

Kane looks blank. "But I poured the water out," he blurts. General eye-rolling and sighing. Greg turns to SFJoe, "Help him out," he pleads. "Take over."

"I won't," says Joe pleasantly.

"The microwave!" cries Brad. "I'll zap them into submission!" He races back into the kitchen.

"Just put a pan of water on the stove, turn on the heat and wait a few minutes," says Jay wearily.

"Do what Jay says, Brad," I call. "And whatever you do, DON'T UNDERCOOK THEM. If we're waiting two hours for potatoes you'd better be damn sure they're cooked through!"

Here's a Badia a Coltibuono Sangioveto Red Table Wine from Tuscany 1990. "More volatility," says SFJoe. "We may have a theme developing here." Yup, it's got a good whiff of acetone mingling with the cherry-leather-sod aromatics. Tastes sharp and taut, quite crisp and aggressively tannic. Finishes roughly, cherries and tar and drying tannins. Overstructured; the flesh seems to be fading faster than the bones.

Let's try a Clos de Gamot Cahors 1989. Smells smoky-flinty, blackberry and yam, a hint of iodine-type volatility ("Continuing the theme!" says SFJoe), just the beginnings of complexity. A sip, and it's on the semiplush side, surprisingly easygoing for a Cahors, blackberry-yam flavors, smooth and velvety and unusually grabless. I keep sipping at it, expecting some kind of an edge to come along and pull things into focus, but it just keeps being a calm, medium-low-acid blackfruity wine, still fairly primary and in need of time.

Kane is back with another chunk of potato. "Try this!" he urges, and this time I'm the guinea pig. I poke at the white blob, which is yielding on the outside but still crunchy-stiff in the middle. "Kinda... kinda raw... ish..." I say. Kane clutches his head and moans.

"You didn't do as I said, did you Brad?" asks Jay. "The pot of water, the stove?" Kane offers no reply, bustles back into the kitchen. It seems we'd best settle in for a long period of potatolessness.

SFJoe, with a flourish, unveils a bottle of Huet Vouvray Sec le Haut-Lieu 1953 for our consideration. Medium-dark red color, bricking very slightly at the rim. Odd, I wasn't aware that they made Vouvray Rouge in 1953. It's calmly redfruity, strawberry-cassis, touch of oregano, high note of mintiness. Loosely wrapped and fleshy-warm, it's a wine with a general feathery quality around the edges. This sounds more interesting than it is, I suspect, because there's a lack of anything other than a simple redfruitiness to feather with. At any rate, it's pleasant and seems to be in a place where it's not going to get much pleasanter.

Joe confesses that it's not really Vouvray Rouge at all, but a Mystery Wine that he's put into a Huet bottle that we're invited to guess on. I guess Napa cabernet, when pressed for a year, go with '89. It turns out to be Cyril Hensche Cabernet Sauvignon Eden Valley 1991. Eden Valley? Is that Australia? Go figure.

Here's a Château Pichon-Longueville, Comtesse de Lalande Pauillac 1989. Warm, rich aromatics, anise- and oregano-laced cassis-blackberry that turns tobaccoey with air. Tastes ripe and smooth, velvety-gentle and loose, a plump little wine that I enjoy at first sippage but soon grow impatient with. Where's the guts? I ask it silently and rhetorically, where's the focus? It's a pleasant round sipper with some aromatic complexity, but could do with a lot more mouthgrab. Maybe instead of 'volatile wines' we've got a theme of 'plump little underachievers'?

"Just another few minutes!" shouts Kane from the kitchen.

"We've heard that before," I call back. "Might as well start on the dessert wines while we wait, eh?" I ask. General agreement.

"He sure takes a lot of shit from us, I gotta say," says Lisa approvingly.

Joe has another Huet, this time a Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Moëlleux 1976. This one is a proper medium amber-gold color, smells calmly complex and earthy, orange rind and Earl Grey tea, hay and quince jam, only turning minutely minerally with air and thought. Just past demisec sweetness, just a bit tired, firm acidity, possessed of an almost Savennièrish earthiness. Quite charming, not a wine I'd hold much longer.

Off the other end of the scale is a Domaine de Clos Naudin (Foreau) Vouvray Moëlleux Reserve 2003. Yipes, gonzo Vouvray. Vivid, tropical and spicy-smelling. I don't get a lot of botrytis, or much at all really, which is odd for the wine but I suppose reflective of the weird heat that year. Hugely sweet, but with enough of a spine to carry it off, it's orange-apricot spicy and broad, a wide-beamed, viscous wine with all the subtlety and concomitant appeal of a drunken deb on prom night. Provided you like that kind of thing, of course. If not, fill in your own metaphor for fascinating unsubtlety.

Here at last are the long awaited potatoes. I take a generous helping, going for the gusto. Beef stew follows, but I only have eyes for the creamy whiteness. A forkful is soon speeding mouthwards, the velvety-rich flavors at long last erupting across my tongue. Superb; tuberous ambrosia, a sublime match for the Foreau. It's taters 'n chenin for me, boys!

These are such spuds as dreams are made on.

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