Pair with 1998 Chateauneuf du Pape?
I'm a former chef, but husband is a former sommelier and unfortunately this is a surprise dinner for him so I can't exactly ask HIM what I should cook to go with this...
Difficulty is not an issue -- was thinking about lamb, but would appreciate any advice!
I'll agree with ibstatguy, CNdP goes well with almost any meat. Lamb would be great as would a cassoulet, or short ribs or even steak. You might be more daring and go with rabbit or other game such as venison, or you could even try duck. Which '98 CNdP are you thinking of serving? As I'm sure you are aware, it was a great year for the wine. I've been fortunate to try and enjoy many and have been very impressed with the Pegau, Beaucastel, Clos des Papes, La Vieux Donjon, and especially the Janasse.
Duck, especially wild duck, roasted or braised in savoury preparations. Peking duck can pair suprisingly well.
Venison, elk or moose, grilled, roasted or stewed. A *civet* (the dish, in which the sauce is thickened with the animal's blood) of these or wild boar can be sublime.
Long-hung game birds.
If you want to pull out all the stops and spend a day in the kitchen, the legendary lièvre à la royale (stuffed boned hare in a wildly rich sauce; variations abound but usually involve truffles, foie gras, rabbit/pork, the hare's viscera and blood, mushrooms, etc., braising in wine, sometimes roasting).
Carswell, your mention of hare takes me back almost 40 years to Germany where we enjoyed preparations in the countryside where tourists never went. Recall seeing the 3 ft long skinned bodies hanging in the markets and learning that a half inch stainless hollow rod of fat had to be inserted up both sides of the back bone to insure that the inside of the extremely lean meat cooked properly. Another offering in those areas was the wild boar.... simply heaven. Thanks for the trip back in time.
Assuming you are playing with a mid to high caliber 1998, you can expect the gamey and leathery flavors to be present. Do yourself a favor and look up the recent tasting notes of the wine you're about to pour. Because you are a former chef, you will be able to fine tune your parings (if said wine is tannic vs soft, brighter fruit vs darker, etc.)
That said, I agree with my colleagues here, that the more gamey meats with higher fat and starch acoutremants are the general way to go.
We did a Beaucastel dinner last year. Paired the 89, 90 and 98 CdP with separate dishes. All were awesome, in their own ways. The 98 went best with duck cassoulet.
BTW - I am totally jealous!
Given that it is the Pegau and you are an accomplished cook... The first thing that came to mind was Osso Bucco of wild boar. A braised lamb shank would also be fantastic.
Really, any rich, hearty red meat, preferably prepared in sauce, not simply grilled or roasted, will be great. (If you are doing a simple grill preparation I would do a high heat grill on a marinated butterflied leg of lamb.)