the plan

Saturday, April 29, 2006


My weakness is Sauternes. I have been known to order only a side salad for a main course, just so I can ensure I will have enough room for dessert and the appropriate accompanying dessert wine. (Is there anything more wonderful than that pale amber liquid?)

The ultimate in Sauternes is, without a doubt, the 1976 vintage from Chateau d'Yquem. (Coincidentally, 1976 is also his birth year. My favorite wine and my favorite man -- this is fate.)

The closest I have ever come to this legendary wine is finding bottles listed through several different retailers for anywhere from $750 to $800 for a 750 ml. (Which I always considered too expensive, but which I now think is perhaps completely reasonable, especially since I more than willingly shelled out $879 for veterinary costs last weekend when Meep fell out the window.)

But two friends were lucky enough to taste the nectar at Gary Danko about a week ago and concluded it was a life-altering experience. (I believe it was $1,500 a bottle on the wine list; a very rich and extremely wasteful patron had ordered the bottle and failed to finish it, so our friends -- who always manage to befriend the waitstaff -- received the coveted leftovers. They regret only that they forgot to ask for the empty bottle -- the trophy.)

And last night, while we were dining at Isa (fabulous food, especially if it's a dish with truffles, but the clientele is atrocious and I hate the Marina because it makes me feel both homicidal and suicidal at the same time and also frumpy and angry that I feel frumpy because then that means the wannabe yuppie scum have succeeded), we came up with The Plan:

The four of us will buy that $800 bottle of 76 Yquem. And we will drink it with foie gras and a fabulous dessert.

And it will be The Ultimate Experience.

I think this is the best plan ever. I have already begun contacting retailers to find the best deal on the Liquid Treasure. I cannot, cannot wait.

Now ... who can tell me where the best place to obtain foie gras is? And what about the perfect dessert? Hints and suggestions for Sauternes pairing?

bird + poo

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


This is how I feel right now.

(P.S. The swallows have returned to the winery. So far, I've been lucky -- no poo bombs yet.)

the secret ingredient

Monday, April 24, 2006


We almost lost the Meeper this weekend. He fell out of the window, and we live on the third story.

He's fine -- he didn't break anything, and there wasn't any internal damage. (I never thought I'd say this, but thank goodness for the rain -- it made the ground soft for him.) But he did spend Saturday night at the pet hospital. The doctor put him in an incubator filled with pure oxygen. When I saw my Meeper all curled up in a plastic box, I started crying.

And I couldn't stop.

How is it that something so small and so silly can mean so much? My life was still my life before the Meeper. But now ...

And he is just a cat. Just a silly little orange cat. But he has this way of getting into everything. And once he's there, you can't stand the thought of him leaving.

sparkle

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Finally, there is sun. And finally, I can think straight again.

There is so much catching up to do.

We had this Shiraz -- my first sparkling Shiraz -- several weekends ago. (Yes, when it was still raining. I remember the plan was to do everything possible to avoid leaving the house. Too cold. Too much water.)

Jessica came over. We ate Zachary's pizza (spinach and mushroom, and because the wait was so damn long, we got the kind that you finish baking in your home oven for 20 minutes). We watched an early press copy of "Friends with Money." (Why does Joan Cusack have such a strange voice?)

And I forgot to take notes on the wine.

So here are the notes I was given when I purchased it about a year ago through Garagiste for $15.89:

"Sparkling Shiraz is a somewhat idiosyncratic beverage that is not only all the rage in Australia, it is a proud and longstanding tradition. It is one of the most popular wines in Australia yet few have had the guts to export it. Few, if any, of the top examples have been available in the US and most are overtly sweet and somewhat cloying. Today's offer represents the best of the genre from a new, highly respected entity that is out to prove sparkling Shiraz's worth in the international market. ... Initially, the residual sugar is so light that it is almost imperceptible -- it unfolds with time in the glass but is never overdone. The wine finishes with a noticeable bite at the back end that is at once refreshing, pure, grapey and unusual (the opposite of something like the Fox Creek Sparkling Shiraz which is quite sweet and cloying). The longer the wine sits in the glass, the fruitier and richer it becomes. The wine should retain this character for a few more years and the potential for short ageing is certainly there (there are classic examples of aged sparkling shiraz from the 1970s that are still at peak)."

I still have one bottle left. Next time, I'll remember to write it all down.

you do what you can

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Today I got an e-mail from a writer, and the subject was "interminable rain."

Everyone is talking about how the rain will affect this year's grape crop. Will there be mold? Problems with insects? (And aside from the vineyards, what about the strawberries? Everything is underwater.)

Our vines are fine. They insist on trying. We're in bud break now. All varieties, from Chardonnay to Cabernet Sauvignon.

I promise that I will try, too.

build me an ark

Monday, April 10, 2006


We will board it, two by two. Each of us carrying a bottle of wine.

Because at this rate, it's anyone's guess when the rain will stop. And we'll need the wine to tide us over.

(What will you pack? I'll have a Sauternes under one arm and my cat tucked under the other.)

convert

Saturday, April 08, 2006


I think if you eat a certain flavor a number of times, you'll eventually end up liking it, even if you originally thought you hated it.

I used to dislike ginger. (Is it just me, or does ginger root look strikingly similar to gnarled chicken feet?) Got upset whenever Indian restaurants made their daal with too much ginger. Never ate the gingerbread cookies during holiday time. Wrinkled my nose at a bistro that served a ginger creme brulee for dessert.

But if you give something enough of a chance, you eventually come around.

Especially if mango and raspberry sorbet are served alongside fresh-baked ginger cookies.

(P.S. Citizen Cake also makes fabulous ginger cookies. I never leave the restaurant without buying some.)

thank you, Brian


Potato and leek stew topped with asparagus, shiitake mushrooms and chives.

(Is there anything more fun than a dinner party? Especially when the kitchen is very large and everyone is cooking together and chatting and drinking wine and chatting.)

first course


I am proud to say this time, I did not fall asleep on the couch.

And the tomato, basil and mozzarella salad? I made that.

And the broiled polenta triangles with red peppers and goat cheese? I arranged those on the plate. (The real mastermind behind this dish was Jessa. Believe it or not, this was her first time making polenta. And it was heavenly. Five zillion times better than the yellow mush I always end up with every time I attempt polenta. I think maybe I lack patience.)

waiting

Friday, April 07, 2006


The refrigerator repairman said he would be here between 1 and 4 p.m. It's almost 3:30. No sign of him.

Meanwhile, the mold continues to spread. I don't know what kind of mold it is, or why it thrives in our wine refrigerator. I have asked people at work and even e-mailed a wine columnist, but no one knew the answer.

I suspect it's the humidity reservoir, and I told the repairman this when I called two weeks ago to set up the appointment. The difference between 75 percent humidity and 80 percent humidity is larger than we think.

It is raining. Again. The doctor thinks I have the kind of sadness that grows worse with bad weather. He orders more medication. He spends more time ordering more medication than he does actually speaking to me.

And here I am, waiting for someone to fix it all.

some people search for the perfect wine


But I go to Napa five days a week, and search for the perfect burrito.

True, my search is somewhat limited; I've stayed mainly around Trancas and Salvador and haven't really branched out to the downtown area or the part of town near Copia yet. And I haven't even thought about driving up to Calistoga -- there's not enough time on my lunch break for that.

So far, the Search for Wine Country's Perfect Burrito has been pretty disheartening. And I've even tried the taco trucks -- you know, Tacos Michoacan, that silver catering van at the gas station. (Yes, I was brave and I walked right up there and asked for un burrito vegetariano, por favor. But even that was a disappointment.)

I was told that Villa Corona had a good vegetarian burrito, so I went there yesterday to give it a try.

What a letdown: Not enough sour cream! Too many mushrooms! (Why are there mushrooms in a burrito in the first place?) And no guacamole or salsa at all! And the whole thing was smothered in green sauce.

But the weirdest part was the onions. There were tons and tons and tons of sauteed onions in that burrito.

In fact, I think I can still smell them.

juicy finish

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


My brother was in town for less than 24 hours. He is a med student. He was here for a conference at the Moscone Center. He was also recovering from some kind of stomach flu, which he described in great detail.

So we took him to Medicine Eatstation, which specializes in Shojin cuisine (a type of seasonal cuisine created by Zen monks -- or so the restaurant's menu says).

This may be my new favorite vegetarian-friendly restaurant. While Millennium tends to "do up" their food, Medicine pares it down. Way down. Everything is basic, yet unbelievably creative and flavorful.

And fresh. So fresh.

This is what we ordered:

For appetizers, the four of us split Maitake Mushroom Tempura (which the server told us wards off cancer -- I support anything anti-cancer), Daitoku-Ji Fu (hand rolls which the server said "Westerners" typically find "challenging," so we felt like we had to order it) and the Inari & Cabbage Roll (filled with pickled melon and nine-grain rice).

I want to marry the Maitake Mushroom Tempura.

And then divorce it and get married to the Mung Bean Salad, which was my main course.

And then divorce that and marry the Edamame Soup (creamy and topped with toasted seasame and flax seeds!).

"What about the wine?" you ask.

I admit it -- Medicine's list is short. Maybe only five wines at the most. And of those five, only one red. We went with with Albet i Noya Lignum 1999, which was described as having a "juicy finish."

I found the nose similar to a Zin (lots of ripe black fruit, a hint of toffee and some pepper), but the wine itself was incredibly light-bodied (a little bit like a Beaujolais). The flavor was slightly spicy and earthy, with a cherry finish -- almost candy-like. There was good acidity.

But would I say "juicy"? Maybe not. But definitely perfect with the Maitake Mushroom Tempura. Which I may end up remarrying in the end, especially if this wine is involved.

dim sum and then some

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


I used to date a guy who found dim sum frightening. The crowds, the noise, the sometimes unidentifiable food -- he hated the experience. In the almost three years we were together, we had dim sum just once.

He also hated most vegetables -- literally had a list of only 10 he would touch. Mushrooms, potatoes and green onions were included. None of which, I believe, really qualifies as a vegetable. (Mushrooms are fungi. Potatoes are starch. Green onions count, I suppose, but aren't they used more for flavor purposes?)

I like a man who will experiment. One who is adventurous. Few things are sexier than dim sum on a Saturday morning, and there he is, sitting next to me, with baby octopus on his plate.

"I'll try anything at least once," he says.

it pours.

Monday, April 03, 2006


The man on the radio this morning said: "There's a fatal car crash on Highway 121 near Viansa Winery. A head-on collision that is still being investigated. The highway has been closed for three hours now."

So I chose another route — went through Vallejo and up 29, past the Wal-Mart and the In-N-Out and the Safeway gas station. (How many of the cars around me were also taking detours?)

But I still saw the wreck (how did it catch up?): Two tow trucks — monstrous in their bright yellow paint — one behind the other, each carrying crumpled metal. One was burdened with a grey truck, the front-end smashed. The other held a maroon Buick, no driver's side door, no windshield, all shards and tangled steel.

While I commute, I chew gum. I like Altoids Sour Cherry. I like the way it makes my mouth pucker, the way it clears my head.

I debate while I drive: Is it time to leave the city? Is it time to move?

The rain will continue for the next six days.
 
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