I know, it's rough

Monday, July 27, 2009

Attended a conference this weekend. It was a lot of work -- if you define work as eating and drinking with a bunch of really fascinating people for pretty much 48 hours straight. (The only reason this didn't last for 72 hours was because I did not attend the Sunday session -- was too busy getting my ass handed to me on a seven-mile run. Note to self: Wine and running really aren't the best combination; water and running are a much better choice. Also, do not eat a giant, heaping, absolutely embarrassingly huge plate of corn salad the night before a training run, no matter how wonderful the salad or how nice and/or generous the chef.)

But briefly, some highlights from the conference:

* Tasting some older-vintage Cabernet from the '90s: Saturday's festivities included a panel called "Napa: Past, Present and Future," with older and current wines from four wineries. If you haven't had a chance to taste mature Cabernet, do it. Go to a library tasting or an auction preview, ask the guy behind the tasting room bar if they happen to have any older bottles open, make friends with rich wine dorks who have a collection -- do whatever it takes. Older Cab is so worth it -- it's so much more versatile with different types of food (unlike younger Cabs, which seem to want steak and only steak), and a good older Cab that has aged well will be incredibly balanced and nuanced -- drinking an older Cab is sort of like really getting to know someone on a deeper level. At this tasting, of course I was completely biased and picked my brand first (I am a PR hack, after all, and this winery is my baby), but the 93 Spring Mountain was also a treat. Additionally, I found it fascinating to taste the older wines against current releases and see how much styles have changed. (Thankfully, my brand is remarkably consistent -- um, do you expect anything less? -- but others in the tasting had notably more oak, more extracted flavors and higher alcohol.)

* Putting a face to the name: Loved saying hello to Felicia, Thea and Tish after reading their blogs for so long.

* Experiencing the awesomeness that is Roli Roti: They catered the dinner at Gargiulo (see photo) on Saturday night. Death by corn salad. But oh, such sweet death.

* Meeting Greg La Follette, winemaker for Tandem Cellars: He takes his overalls seriously, his Chardonnay even more so.

Funny, though -- I'm looking at my list of highlights, and not one of these things is really related to the actual act of blogging, once again proving my theory that even though blogging and Web 2.0 are valuable and pretty fun to be part of, you really can't beat in-person contact.

um, so what about that wagon?

Friday, July 24, 2009

And after all that hoopla about my diet and drinking in moderation and proper hydration and good nutrition, what do I do?

Stay up way too late drinking plenty of Pinot and not enough water.

Granted, it was pretty much impossible to resist the Kosta Browne 2007 Rosella's Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands -- especially since (a) this wine has not yet been released, (b) even when it is released, it is very strictly allocated and I am not high up enough on the KB mailing list to actually get an allocation and (c) everyone is raving about 2007 as The Vintage for Pinot Noir. Also, the Santa Lucia Highlands is one of my favorite AVAs for California Pinot -- the wines from this area just tend to be, for lack of a better description, so damn pretty -- and I'm a sucker for Pinot with feminine characteristics.

So Todd brought the bottle home last night -- he used to work at KB, and every once in awhile, he'll swing by there and come home with a little treat (also brought home the 07 Kanzler). The Rosella's was lovely -- a little bigger and more powerful than what I expected, but I think that was because it's young still. Probably could wait awhile (a year at least, maybe two, maybe even more) to open. Also seemed a little oaky at first, but after letting the glass sit for awhile, the fruit started to come through and the wine became more balanced.

And then I forgot to drink water. And then I stayed up too late. And then when I went for my run this morning, it pretty much sucked. Note to self: Rosella's is not an energy drink.

the wagon

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Being a complete glutton/whore for food/breakroom vulture/doughnut maniac does not help with the attempt to transform oneself into a serious runner.

Some things I have discovered: Eating a giant slice of peanut butter cheesecake the night before your first training group run is not a smart idea, unless you want to feel like you have a brick in your stomach. The Indian food all-you-can-eat buffet is also a bad choice, especially for anyone who might be behind you while you are running. And pre-run almonds are good for sprinting -- to the toilet, that is.

But the main thing I'm realizing is that it's really, really tough to mix running and alcohol. In fact, to be honest, during the month leading up to a race, I pretty much stop drinking entirely. (Although I was sort of bad this time around -- snuck a few sips of bubbly here and there.) I just find it difficult to stay properly hydrated when I'm drinking alcohol, and it's much easier to give in to cravings for things like -- ahem -- a giant slice of peanut butter cheesecake when I've been drinking. Also, I tend to get less sleep, and I'm less alert overall. And being hungover -- even just the slightest bit -- pretty much sucks and can ruin an entire workout.

Naturally, not drinking can get complicated for me since my day job involves tasting wine and my night job involves serving it to people at a wine bar. And to complicate matters even further, I seem to have signed up for back-to-back races until the first weekend of December (Healdsburg half on Oct. 11, and CIM -- 26.2, baby! -- on Dec. 6), which means I am pretty much training non-stop.

Which means that this lovely cocktail -- from the bar at Cyrus on Monday -- was a rare treat. It's called the Down By the Bay, and it's one of the restaurant's seasonal drink offerings. My favorite thing about it: The cilantro. It keeps the drink from being too sweet, but it's not too vegetal either.

Anyway, here's the recipe, courtesy of Pocket Lint.

Down By The Bay
Salt and Old Bay
3/4 Oz. Smirnoff
3/4 Oz. Buddhas Hand Citron Vodka
1/2 Oz. Lime Juice
1 1/2 Oz. Watermelon Juice
1/4 Oz. Simple Syrup
Shaken on the Rocks

How's that for a post-run recovery drink?


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Currently experiencing pre-race jitters.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Oh, oven and flour and measuring cups, it has been a long time.

But today I've returned to you. Despite the hot weather and the preparations for this weekend's race and the new set of silly vampire books in which I momentarily lost myself, I've come back.

And what a lovely, lovely reunion this is: Homemade banana nut bread following the recipe in Baking Illustrated (with only a few adjustments -- two bananas instead of three, a 40-minute baking time instead of the recommended 55).

The result: Perfection. Satisfaction. Pride.

And a nice little breakfast snack for tomorrow.

one-pot cooking

Monday, July 06, 2009

There are times when you can spend hours in the kitchen, planning a menu that requires multiple burners, the oven, the food processor, two chopping boards, several knives, the rice cooker, the saute pan and the Dutch oven.

And there are times when all you want to do is eat ASAP, goddammit.

Lately, it seems like we've been experiencing more of the latter, especially on weeknights. Let's face it: Though lovely, homemade pesto sauce and a roasted beet salad aren't exactly the best projects to embark on after a long day at work. (Unless a 10 p.m. dinner and staying up afterwards until midnight to do the dishes and wrap up leftovers is OK.)

So instead of ordering pizza or Chinese (which we lived on before the wedding -- so embarrassing -- everyone at the restaurant knows our order by heart and they recognize our voices when we call) or heading for the nearest drive-through, I've been looking for easy one-pot meals that won't take too much time to prepare or require a ton of cleanup. (Holy crap, I sound like my mom.)

Tonight's dinner: Pan-fried chickpea salad.

The original recipe is actually from 101 Cookbooks, and I tried to find a middle ground between the two versions, with some of my own modifications. This is what I came up with:

Pan-fried chickpea salad

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 can chickpeas (or 2 cups cooked, if you're Kate -- ha!)
1 leek, sliced thinly
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup chopped red onion (less if you're not a big raw onion fan)
3 Tbsp non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 cup of loosely packed fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Lemon zest from 1/2 a lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
About two handfuls of fresh spinach leaves

Heat oil in skillet over medium-high. Add chickpeas and cook until they begin to brown. Add leeks and continue to cook until chickpeas are golden and leeks begin to brown. Add garlic, cook for another minute. Remove from heat, pour into a bowl and allow to cool for a few minutes.

In a small mixing bowl, combine yogurt, curry powder, cilantro, lemon juice and lemon zest. Mix well to create a dressing. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Add red onions to the chickpeas and mix well. Add the dressing, a little bit at a time, tasting as you go along. (It's better to do this slowly so you don't end up with too much dressing. You don't want yogurt soup with chickpeas.)

To serve, put a handful of spinach on a plate. Top this with the chickpea mixture. Garnish with a little cilantro. And -- voilĂ ! -- a pretty healthy, super-fast dinner for two with minimal cleanup. (Be warned, though -- you will have major stinky breath afterwards. Don't make this on a first date.)

Other options: I can also see this salad as the perfect filling for some warm pita bread. And any leftover dressing can probably be mixed with canned tuna or chicken for a tuna or chicken salad sandwich later. (That's what I'm planning to do with my leftover dressing later this week -- maybe play around with adding capers and possibly sliced green apple or maybe even celery. The possibilities are endless.)

family matters

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

In La-La Land visiting the parents. Whenever I visit them, they take me to their latest and greatest sushi discovery. This time, it was Sushi Ozekii. The place had a really modern vibe. And it was very L.A. -- in other words, plenty of "no rice" options because in this land, carbs are considered evil.

Not that carbs are ever a no-no for me. Hell, I run. I eat. And I'm Filipino. Rice is pretty much second nature to me.

I ordered a combination entree that included a crunch roll (shrimp tempura, crab, avocado) and a California roll (boring, I know) -- both rolls were big and fat and had lots of rice. But when I tried to find my usual nigiri choices on the menu -- tamago and saba -- they weren't there. I had to ask the server if they had them. Tamago was a yes (and it was quite tasty), but saba was a no, unfortunately. However, they did have Spanish mackerel, so I went with that.

The Spanish mackerel ended up being a fun choice -- two nigiri pieces, plus a sashimi piece served over onions with a cool-looking whole fried fish on the side. (I wolfed down the sashimi and nigiri, but I admit I was intimidated by the whole fish -- I'm not a fan of the small, spiky fish bones -- but my parents are brave souls. My mom ate most of the body, and my dad -- so freaking awesome -- tackled the head.)
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