workin' it

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Blame the bad blogging on The Auction that Took Over My Life. As soon as I got back from Australia, I became immersed in Napa's major trade auction. This event is huge -- all the major wine buyers are in town, and the media is out in full force, too. So I was running around, making sure our wine was where it needed to be, trying to figure out what the wine writer from the Chicago Tribune looked like so I would be able to pick him out of a crowd and pouring at hospitality events. The result: 11-hour workdays, lots of miles on my car and a pair of very sore feet. (Note to self: Do not wear heels when you have to stand and pour wine at two back-to-back tastings!)

But the craziness was worth it. I did meet the Trib writer (I was told to look for his partner, who happens to have really amazing glasses), found out the Dallas Morning News writer shares my love of $2 thrift store finds, and may have secured some press for our flagship Cab. All good!

back from oz

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I am back in the U.S. and trying to go to sleep right now, but my sense of time is all turned around, so instead, I am wide awake and organizing my photos. (If I were still in Sydney, I'd be getting ready for dinner, not bed!)

During those last few hours in Australia (were they last night or yesterday or when? -- the time thing is so confusing), we talked a lot about our favorite trip "highlights."

How to choose -- there were so many. I loved Tasmania -- the white sand of the Friendly Beaches that stretched for miles, and no one was there but us. I loved the deck at Clover Hill -- the sun felt so good, and you could see the Bass Strait. I loved stopping for fresh-baked pies -- I am obsessed with them!

Then there was my early morning run at Warrenmang -- wild kangaroos were literally bounding away in front of me, and cockatoos yelled down at me from the trees. And of course, the night sky in Moonambel. You looked up, and just like that, there was the Milky Way and the Southern Cross. And I'll never forget the feeling I got when I walked to the Sydney Harbour for the first time and saw the Opera House. To see something like that -- something you grow up reading about and seeing on TV -- in person literally just takes your breath away.

And let's not forget the crazy nights out in Sydney. How in one night we went from a bar that was like the Marina on steroids (mini-dresses that barely cover your ass and stilettos are de rigueur) to a lesbian bar where they stamped our wrists with the word "bitch" (and it wouldn't wash off!) to a terrible touristy bar with Lionel Ritchie blaring on the speakers. And that last night -- how we sang Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" at karaoke, got the whole pub singing along and won two pitchers of beer. (Definitely the high point of my karaoke career!)

Still, it feels so damn good to be home. Even if I am the only one awake in the house right now ...

there's more to tassie

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

… than the devil.

There is food. And a huge emphasis on organics and eating local. The produce is amazing. (What I love is that it’s summertime here in the Southern Hemisphere, so I am eating fresh tomatoes in February!) The seafood is unbelievable (best scallops I’ve ever experienced, and there are so many types of fish that I have never heard of before, like blue-eye trevalla, which I had tonight). I’m also discovering Australian cuisine is heavily influenced by Asia. Last night we went to Stillwater in Launceston for a five-course tasting dinner, and several of the courses were takes on sushi or noodles, used soy and ginger, and were designed to be eaten with chopsticks.

Then there is the Tasmanian honey, which is legendary. I find it very herbaceous and fragrant – like you can smell it through the roof of your mouth as you’re eating it. And the Tassie fudge – don’t even get me started! I had to force myself to eat just one piece today and no more.

But my absolute favorite so far are the pies. Aussies make these savory mini pies with flaky crust that are filled with everything from curried chicken to lamb to “chunky steak.” Seriously, I could eat these pies for days. I am absolutely obsessed with them. If only I could figure out a way to smuggle them back to the U.S.!

on my way down

Friday, February 08, 2008

I've got my passport, my Ambien and a carry-on full of magazines.

Because tonight I'm flying to Australia for work. We'll go to Melbourne, Tasmania, Victoria (Pyrenees and Heathcote) and Sydney, all in a span of seven days. I'm hoping to see a wombat and some flying foxes. I want to avoid poisonous snakes. And I can't wait to experience Australian cuisine (actually, what exactly is "Australian cuisine" -- does anyone know?) and drink my share of Shiraz.

caution: delayed post ahead

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

It's funny -- lately at work, I've been putting together a plan for how we can incorporate alternative media (social networking sites, blogging, etc.) into our marketing strategy, and one of the points I've been emphasizing is that in order to have a successful blog, you have to update at least twice a week.

Meanwhile, I am totally failing to update my own blog regularly.

So tonight, my attempt to catch up.

First, the LVMH tasting on Jan. 27 at the absolutely unbelievable Tubbs Mansion in San Francisco. For those of you who don't know LVMH, those initials stand for Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessey. So pretty much luxury, luxury, luxury. This is the group that owns Yquem (my favorite wine ever), Cheval Blanc (my first taste of St. Émilion Premiere Grand Cru!), Dom (I swear, I can never drink this wine without thinking of child actors), Veuve, Ruinart, etc.

Before I continue, let me explain that the only reason we were at this tasting is because my former boss -- the woman who introduced me to the wonderful world of PR, way back when I was still a grad student on the East Coast -- now works for LVMH. So we were lucky enough to be invited to an event where absolutely everyone else was dressed in black designer clothing and reeked of money. We were by far the most underdressed people there. (Sadly, even my rockin' J Brands were not enough.) And at first, we felt very awkward. But hey, there's nothing a few glasses of high-end bubbly can't fix.

I wish I could tell you about the wines, but now so much time has passed since the tasting that I can't even remember what vintage of Yquem I had. (I know, I know -- this is a sin of the worst kind.) All I know is that it was fabulous, as Yquem always is. I also remember being mad for the Veuve Grand Dame Rosé and the Cape Mentelle Chardonnay. And I liked Newton's The Puzzle blend. And Ruinart was very nice, too.

What I can tell you, though, with much clarity, is that the Tubbs Mansion is insane. Three gorgeous, gigantic floors, plus a basement. And an elevator. An elevator! We actually tried to take the elevator down from the top floor, but after pressing the button and waiting for it forever, we decided to take the stairs (spiral, beautiful, also insane). And as we reached the ground floor, we realized why the elevator wasn't coming: Amidst the black-clad rich people was the San Francisco Fire Department, trying to pry the door open. Apparently, the owners of the house were stuck! It was quite dramatic. But again, there's nothing a little high-end bubbly can't fix. Oh, and caution tape, too.

touchdown cupcakes

Saturday, February 02, 2008

I'm not a fan of football, but I'm a fan of eating. Which is why I'm going to a Super Bowl party tomorrow. What can I say? They promised me nachos. Lots and lots of nachos.

And a party is always a great reason to bake a batch of cupcakes. I took a stab at a different chocolate cupcake recipe today. While my previous chocolate cupcake recipe included sour cream, melted chocolate and water as ingredients, this one emphasized cocoa and instant coffee, and called for milk as the liquid.

I have to say that I prefer the recipe I followed today. The overall consistency of the batter was better -- it was actually like batter, not like mousse. These cupcakes also rose beautifully -- resulting in the soft, rounded pillows that I love so much. And while the chocolate flavor wasn't as intense as in the previous recipe, adding coffee gave the cocoa a nice deep, rich flavor, which I like quite a bit.

However, I strayed from the recipe when it came to the frosting. Instead of doing a coconut buttercream as suggested, I made a coffee buttercream -- my mother's coffee buttercream frosting, to be exact. This is pretty much the formula, although the measurements don't really have to be exact:

Coffee Buttercream Frosting

1-1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
1/2 cup coffee (make it either with instant or use actual coffee that you'd drink)
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1. Beat butter with an electric mixer until it is softened. Add coffee and blend.
2. Slowly add powdered sugar until the frosting reaches a consistency you can use in a piping bag.
Note: If you want more coffee flavor, just add more coffee. And if you want stiffer frosting, add more powdered sugar. If the frosting gets too stiff, add a teeny bit of milk.

Finally, I used a cheese grater to shave some chocolate and dusted the cupcakes with it. Et voilà!
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