must. have. mashti.

Monday, May 28, 2007

A few months ago I was wandering down the frozen food aisle at the Petaluma Whole Foods, when I came across the best ice cream ever: Mashti Malone in Turkish coffee flavor.

I've loved coffee ice cream ever since I was a little kid (if you send me one of those e-mail surveys that asks what my favorite flavor of ice cream is, I always put down some variation of coffee), and this is by far the best coffee ice cream I've ever had. It actually tastes like coffee. It's not overly sweet like Ben & Jerry's. And it's not overly creamy like Häagen-Dazs. (I know a lot of people think Häagen-Dazs makes the best coffee ice cream, but I think it tastes more like a latte than actual straight coffee -- there's just so much cream in it. If you have really good, high-quality coffee -- which I am lucky to have here at home since a certain person is absolutely obsessed with coffee and has started roasting his own beans and grinding everything fresh in his favorite toy the Burr grinder and making coffee by the individual cup instead of in a machine by the pot -- you realize that really good coffee doesn't need lots of cream and sugar. In fact, the perfect cup won't need anything at all because the coffee is already naturally flavorful and complex.)

Mashti Malone's Turkish coffee ice cream is like really good coffee. There's a smokiness to it, a rich earthiness. And while it does have a creamy texture (this is ice cream, after all), it's like just a spot of cream instead of lots and lots of frothy hot milk and sugar. Seriously, Mashti Malone is so freaking good.

Which is why I just about died when I went back to Whole Foods about two weeks ago and couldn't find it anywhere. Yes, there was the lavender flavor and I think maybe the pomegranate sorbet, but no Turkish coffee. I wanted to cry.

Instead, I e-mailed both Whole Foods and Mashti Malone and told them I really love the Turkish coffee ice cream and am somewhat obsessed with it. And I asked Whole Foods to bring it back. And I asked Mashti Malone if the ice cream is available anywhere else. (By the way, did you know you can actually order it online on the Mashti Malone site? And they actually ship it to you with a bunch of dried ice. I haven't tried it -- yet -- but that's what the Mashti Malone people told me.)

I got e-mails from three people -- the customer service person at Mashti Malone, the sales rep for Mashti Malone and the ice cream buyer at Whole Foods' Petaluma store.

And my fabulous ice cream is back on the shelf. And I picked some up today. And it is good.

So. Damn. Good.

behind the scenes

Sunday, May 27, 2007

You know you've been to too many weddings when you realize you'd rather take pictures of the caterers than the wedding party.

at last, the weekend

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Wish I could've made it here in better health. Right now: sneezing, sniffling, reaching for more Kleenex (which we don't have, so I'm using a napkin from In-N-Out and hoping it won't rub my nose raw).

It's been a rough week. I got home from Vegas at roughly 2 a.m. Monday morning. Twelve hours later, I poured at the Rosé Avengers and Producers tasting in San Francisco. Then on Tuesday it was back to work at the winery in Napa. Then on Wednesday I drove down to Palo Alto for our Northern California sales blitz -- spent the day riding with our distributor rep and selling as much wine as I possibly could (end result: 18 cases, one new placement, 12-hour work day and lots of miles on my car).

We went to two Whole Foods stores that day. And at both stores, you know what was a hot item? Sparkling wine in a can. Yes, the buyers we saw told us these Sofia mini Blanc de Blancs are just flying off the shelves. The packaging is irresistable -- the teeny-tiny pink can, the little straw for your convenience, etc. Whole Foods can barely keep them in stock.

I completely see why. Small sells (case in point: our half-bottles of Cab always sell out mid-way through the year -- way before the 750s). In fact, Whit gave me one of these Sofia cans for my birthday recently. (As she handed it to me, she said: "It came in a four-pack, but I drank the other three. I hope you understand.") I drank it a few days later.

The verdict: The packaging is way cuter than the actual wine is. Little Sofia tastes like carbonated White Zinfandel. The can is a mere 187 ml, but I couldn't bring myself to finish the whole thing. I got about halfway through.

But hey, if the cute Sofia can gets more people interested in wine, then that's great. Maybe they can start with Sofia and then move to a more serious sparkling Rosé. And then maybe still white wine. And then maybe red. And then the rest of my week, which was spent trying to get attention for our wines -- sending out media shipments, working on this big release event we're having in June for the new vintage of our flagship Cab, making sure our winemaker did the radio interview he was scheduled to do -- will mean something.

I'm going to make myself another cup of green tea.

eating las vegas

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Lots of famous chefs who have restaurants in other parts of the U.S. also have restaurants in Vegas: Michael Mina, Hubert Keller, Thomas Keller, Charlie Palmer, etc.

Unfortunately, none of these places fit into my Vegas budget for last weekend. So I ended up eating at the worst restaurants (can you really call a disgusting 24-hour casino kitchen a restaurant?) ever. And of course, since nothing on the Strip is cheap, I also spent way too much on these terrible meals. (And I am so sad because I never made it to Del Taco. It was on the opposite end of the Strip from where we were staying!)

Case in point: Carnegie Deli at the Mirage. Everything about this place was awful. If you wanted a sandwich with meat on it, you'd have to fork over upwards of $12 (and when I looked at the sandwiches other tables had ordered, they scared me -- just big piles of greasy pink flesh). And if you wanted to eat vegetarian, well, the options were pretty much non-existant. I tried to order a baked potato (which was on the menu for $5, by the way -- $5 for a freaking potato!!), only to be told they didn't have any. (Why the hell would you put something on the menu if you don't have it?) So my other option (because I was afraid of getting food poisoning from the egg salad and I didn't want to pay a ridiculous amount of money for a pile of iceberg) was the potato knish, which cost $3.25 (yes, that's right -- $3.25 for something I've paid under a dollar for in the past). Thankfully, though, the knish was decent. And potatoes are always a good thing when you're trying to absorb alcohol.

Unfortunately, the grilled cheese sandwich was another story. One of the girls in our group ordered it. It was by far the saddest sandwich I have ever seen in my life. The slices weren't even facing the right direction! It looked like someone had dropped it on the floor and then just put it on a plate! And talk about a complete lack of presentation -- there wasn't a single garnish on the plate. Not even one sprig of parsley. Just the sad, soggy sandwich, with the bread facing the wrong way. And the really painful part: It was $7.95.

This meal was so bad that we actually found ourselves practically crying tears of joy when we ate at La Salsa, where I would never eat normally. (It's not good enough to be real Mexican and not trashy enough to have Del Taco status. And you know how I feel about mediocre food.) At least the service there was good. And they had Herradura.

Luckily, though, there was Battista's for dinner. For about $20, you got unlimited house wine (a nice, crisp, easy-drinking Pinot Grigio), soup or salad (I had the minestrone, and it was really, really tasty), garlic bread, an entree and a (fake) cappuccino. Now that was a welcome deal. Especially since the roulette wheel just wasn't spinning my way!

barely unpacked and off again

Friday, May 18, 2007

Came home from Boston on Wednesday night, only to leave again tonight for a bachelorette party in Vegas. Yes -- my third bachelorette in three months.

Is it silly that I'm excited not so much for the dancing (which we will do) and the fake jousting (which we will watch) and the foo-foo drinks by the pool (which I will definitely order), but more for the fact that my favorite fast food restaurant ever has locations in Las Vegas?

I've been slightly Del Taco-deprived ever since I graduated college and left Southern California seven years ago. Thankfully, there's one Del Taco on Market Street in San Francisco, but that's a long haul from here in Chickenland. And there's no parking.

But Vegas, where you can walk up to a Del Taco on the strip ... fabulous. Seriously, I cannot wait to order nacho fries and a Del Classic Chicken Burrito.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

There is something about being in another city.

You walk around and you wonder what other people are thinking, what their day is like, where they work, where they've just come from, where they'll go home to at night. What is their favorite food? Do the floors creak when they walk in the door? Is there anybody waiting?

This is my fourth trip to Boston. We arrived yesterday evening and are leaving tomorrow afternoon -- and nearly every second is filled with some kind of work-related activity.

But I still think about what I was like seven years ago, when I was applying to grad schools, and I could have -- maybe could have -- ended up in this very city. So strange to think about how that would've changed everything.

don't go to work

Friday, May 11, 2007

... on your birthday. Because many things will go wrong and/or you will be asked to do crazy tasks at the last minute.

For example:

1. The photoshoot you scheduled with The San Francisco Chronicle -- the awesome photoshoot, in which your winery was going to be the main art -- will be cancelled because the staff has suddenly chosen a different location. Sorry.

2. The winery owner will call you and ask you to make travel arrangements to fly three Bhutanese visitors up from L.A. to Napa on Sunday, which is only two days away and which also happens to be Mother's Day. You will be responsible for organizing their entire itinerary, including meals and transportation. And figuring out whose credit card to put it on. You will thank god that your co-worker is an event planner who takes charge of this project before you have complete brain meltdown.

3. You will fail to see the review of your wine in a certain very popular food magazine, so then you will contact the writer about it, only to have him point out which page it's on, and then you will look like an idiot who doesn't read carefully.

4. You will spill the contents of your Nalgene bottle all over your desk and all over the floor.

5. And even though this isn't related to work, you will also go to the dentist and find out you have two cavities.

Hooray for getting older.

breakfast of champions

Monday, May 07, 2007

I forgot to mention that last Friday, I had chocolate-covered potato chips for breakfast.

Our VP of sales was in Ohio last week, and he brought back a box of these goodies for the office. He said these chips are an Ohio specialty. He also warned me not to eat too many of them at once. (Apparently, he pigged out on them the night before and went to bed with a massive headache.)

Chocolate-covered potato chips are the best idea ever. Chocolate, salt and crunch -- pure genius. I was the first person to attack the box. And attack I did. Oh yes.

This morning when I got to work, I was excited to find the chips box still sitting on the counter next to the coffeemaker. Unfortunately, the box was completely empty -- not even a crumb. Talk about toying with my emotions.

bland like chicken

Sunday, May 06, 2007

It's amazing how service can make or break a dining experience. Tonight we had dinner at the girl & the fig, a restaurant which I have been wanting to visit for a long time. And everything was set up just right -- we had a table out on the patio, the weather was perfect and we had been saving our appetites for this all day.

Unfortunately, our server pretty much ruined everything, and I'm not sure I'll ever go back. She basically ignored us. I suspect this was because we look young, and she made the mistake of assuming we wouldn't leave a decent tip or wouldn't run up a nice ticket. Um, big mistake.

She hardly came to our table at all. It took her forever to take our order, and when she finally came over, she wasn't helpful in the least. She didn't make any recommendations or offer any insight (funny, since I overheard her gushing about the Alban Syrah and recommending the hell out of the pork chop to the table next to us, which had four older people at it). I had to ask her what the day's bistro and wine flight specials were. (The restaurant has a special $30 three-course fixed menu Sundays through Thursdays. But apparently, you have to ask about it because the server won't volunteer any information. Why try to give the customer a deal, right? Who cares about service?)

We continued to be ignored throughout the meal. After our first course came (we shared the polenta and the asparagus soup -- the polenta was absolutely amazing -- I wish the rest of the meal could've been this good), she took forever to come back to check on us. I don't think she checked on us at all after the main course. In fact, my water glass sat empty for a really long time, which was like torture since my main course (a Sonoma rabbit pasta that was decidedly less than mediocre -- the rabbit itself pretty much tasted like really bland, overcooked chicken while the rest of the dish was extremely, extremely salty) made me thirsty.

And then after the main course, the server brought our dessert menus and then disappeared for such a long time that we decided not to get dessert anymore (and we were originally going to order two dishes) because she was taking so damn long. (And while we were waiting, we watched her bring three cheese plates to the table next to us and gush about how one of them was a special goat cheese that wasn't on the menu. She had asked for this special cheese just for them so they could have a greater variety. Um, gag me.)

And then the check took forever. And then she was awkward when she dropped it off. (We were using a gift certificate, and the bill ended up being less than the certificate, and she was trying to explain that the difference had been applied to her tip, which we had requested, but it just came off really strangely because she acted like she was trying to avoid saying the word "tip," so her sentences just kind of hung in the air. And then she ended up just taking the receipt and everything and walking away. Weird.)

We were happy when we finally got out of there. That meal took three hours and cost $95 ($95! -- and we didn't even get dessert!). And also the music they were playing was god-awful. And we were sitting right under the speaker.

I am disappointed. Seriously. I thought this was going to be a fabulous meal (really, the restaurant is called the girl & the fig and the fare is French country cuisine and it's in downtown Sonoma right on the square -- how much cuter can you get?), but we were treated like crap. It really pissed me off. Just because someone is young, that doesn't mean they aren't worthy of the same level of service as everyone else. If anything, I think youth affords the opportunity to educate and win over someone who will likely be a customer for a much longer time than some of these old folks. And you should never assume that younger people won't spend money -- how many of us don't even blink when we fork over $165 for a pair of jeans? (Okay, maybe that's just me and my addiction.)

Anyway, enough ranting. I'm going to bed.
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