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this is halloween

And we used the pumpkin ice cream for an ice cream pie with an Oreo cookie crust. And we drank Schramsberg Crémant. And we watched "The Bad Seed." And it was a good night.

And now I am ready for bed.

got any ones?

So my job has it perks: good wine, good food, good people who also love good wine and good food. But it definitely has its shortcomings: long commute spent sitting in the car, long hours spent sitting at a desk, very little physical activity. And as a result, over the past year, I've developed what I call a wine baby (a.k.a. pooch, pot belly, spare tire, etc.).

A few months ago, I decided the wine baby must go. Hence, much time spent at the gym (I love my spinning class) and the Pilates studio (addicted to the reformer), plus a little running and some yoga, too.

And tonight, I added stripping to my regimen. That's right: I'm learning how to pole-dance. So far, I feel extremely self-conscious and very un-sexy, but it's fun, and I'm going to be sore tomorrow. And I think the wine baby is in some serious trouble.

Which is good since I immediately came home and finished making the pumpkin ice cream I started preparing yesterday. And I plan to indulge in said pumpkin ice cream at a Halloween party tomorrow night. This girl isn't holding back -- if I'm going to be working out this damn much, I'm going to need some calories to burn off, right?

not a utensil in sight

Woke up this morning craving Ethiopian food, all because last night's dinner was just so damn good. A group of us (sans costume, by the way -- I still regret not wearing a wig at least) went to Club Waziema for gigantic helpings of Injera heaping with various "sauces" -- lentil, split-pea, mushroom, vegetable -- a lamb stew and a chicken dish, plus sides of collard greens and salad. And two pitchers of beer. Un-freaking-believable. And the bill was just $71 for five people.

Funny -- I can't tell you how many times I've driven by Club Waziema. I'd always wondered about it but never thought about stopping in. The place looks kind of silly from the outside -- neon signs advertising Ethiopian food and a nightclub at the same time. Seemed a strange mix to me.

But the truth is -- and man, I love surprises -- the place is an absolute gem. Walls covered in gorgeous vintage wallpaper -- yes, it's actually velvety to the touch! Romantic lighting. A past that boasts amazing live shows from Billie Holiday to Ike and Tina. Can't believe it's taken me two-and-a-half years to check this place out!

I was so freaking happy that I ate my whole meal with my hands and didn't flinch one bit.

Which means either (a) food conquers all or (b) the Prozac is working.

Maybe I should go with all of the above.

breaking the fast

For two days, neither of us ate. Because food was too much of a reminder, and even watching the Food Network hurt.

Thankfully, all of that is over. Food is okay again. Remembering is okay. And making plans -- that's even better. I am learning new desserts (tomorrow, I will attempt homemade pumpkin ice cream). He is thinking about new cookbooks to add to our collection. And we have new flatware, so the fourth person at the table will no longer have to eat with the little fork and a teaspoon.

And I hunt for new places to dine, places I can tell him about and take him to when he comes back (which may happen in two weeks). Today for brunch, it was Bette's Oceanview Diner, where there is absolutely no view of the ocean at all. Here, a gigantic pie hangs from the ceiling and the Halloween decorations border on freakish kitsch. The scrambled eggs are prepared custard-style, the home fries are topped with sour cream (joy of joys) and there are cupcakes and eclairs on the dessert menu.

It is so nice to be able to eat again.

please come home

Do you remember the day we allowed ourselves to be that couple, and we walked on the beach, holding hands? Do you remember the tiny sea creatures that washed up on the shore? They looked like tissue paper, pale lavender, and we picked them up and they were so light they could have blown away.

It was our first day in the city together, just us. We had iced chai from a tiny cafe near 17th Avenue. We went to a wine bar, and the glass of Pinotage we had there tasted like it could change the world. And you ordered your first creme brulee ever. And isn't it so true that cracking the top is the best part?

Today I went back to that beach. It was cold and overcast and only a handful of people were there. I think I was trying to look for you, to look for us.

dining alone

isn't as awful as you may think. I do it often. At lunch, nearly every day during the week. At brunch, today. I sat at the counter, next to a gay couple who kept ordering Ramos Fizzes and talking about the furniture they were planning to buy. The man closest to me glanced often at the pain au chocolat. "I want that," he said but ordered eggs and bacon instead. His partner chose the polenta.

I had the quiche and some coffee. A peanut butter cup from the pastry case to finish the meal off. ("How was that?" the man next to me said. "Good," I said. "But not as sweet as Reese's, which makes sense.")

When you are alone, the bartender is nicer to you. The servers ask you how you are doing. When you are alone, there is no need to eat slowly or order only a salad. There is no need to look anyone in the eye.

Still, I admit it: Alone is a challenge. Especially when there are no books or magazines to read. And you can only balance your checkbook so often and type on your handheld so much.

It is hard when there is nothing to hide behind.

don't laugh

I am cleaning my closet and folding my clothes and making piles. I am rearranging the furniture, setting up my iPod (yes, finally), sorting through junk mail. I am surveying the wine collection (I need more whites). Paying bills. Dusting.

And trying on my wig collection.

Yes, this is my Saturday night.


Don't let it get to you: The fatigue from smiling so much and trying to entertain strangers, as you attempt to bring a 12-hour work day to a close. It is okay; this is all part of it. And your feet don't hurt. And your throat isn't hoarse. And yes, they are listening to you. And yes, they enjoy it. They are swirling their glasses and taking second sips. Keep talking.

Don't dwell on the big, lumbering trucks that slow your commute -- a trip that already takes up a good portion of your week. Don't scream behind the wheel. Don't pound your fists. Don't tug on your hair.

Don't think about the absence at home. And the news that you will be alone for at least another month. Tell yourself: This is nothing. I have done this before. Because it's true; you have. And absence can be good.

Carry on. Don't let any of it affect what happens. Don't let it change the way you answer the phone. Or how you greet someone when you meet them for the first time. Don't become oversensitive, insecure, small. There is no need for that, and there never will be. Don't alter your course or forget what you enjoy doing; there are things you enjoy doing.

Remember them: Taking photos of fall leaves. Rubbing his belly. Crossing that bridge.

the experiment

Dear cats:

I thought you were supposed to bury your poo. I thought this was a Cat Thing: cat + litterbox + poo = bury. But no. Apparently burying your poo requires too much effort. Either that, or you somehow believe each poo you create is a unique work of art and must therefore be displayed for the entire world to see (and smell).

I have had enough. No more exposed poos. No more kitty litter crumbs sprayed all over the floor and embedded in the rugs (especially disgusting when I find them in my bed). No more loud digging noises that go on for 15 minutes straight in the middle of the night (funny how you do this and still completely fail to bury your poo).

This weekend, the toilet-training begins.

Be prepared, my furballs. Be prepared.

about paso robles

1. Instead of asking you for a $5 tasting fee (or any tasting fee at all), you will be asked if you've gotten a chance to sample the fresh bread, cheeses and dips. You will be offered the Reserve-tier wines without asking for them. And you will listen to a woman with white hair tell you she got so "shit-faced" (that's a direct quote) while she was barrel-tasting with her husband that all she wanted was a hot dog, and she never usually eats hot dogs. And then she will pour you some late harvest wine. Go now.

2. That guy with the sunglasses and the tourist sweatshirt behind the bar? He's the winemaker. And coincidentally, he used to live in your neighborhood -- in fact, maybe only a few blocks away. You both like the same sushi restaurants.

3. You can find a tasting room that stays open until 7:30 p.m. And they have a peacock that will eat out of your friend's hand.

4. French onion soup and beautiful pastries.

5. There are grapes growing just outside his kitchen window and lizards that sit in the sun on his front porch.

potluck trivia

The origin of the potluck is not the Native American custom of potlatch, where the host throws a huge ceremonial dinner and sometimes ends up giving most of his possessions away to his guests. The potluck actually has its roots in the Middle Ages. People wanted to make use of every last leftover scrap, so they would often throw everything together in a pot and keep it warm, so if anyone came over at the last minute, they had something to offer their guests.

As far as I know, no scraps were involved in last night's dinner. But I'm sure as hell looking forward to eating the leftovers from our meal -- especially the decadent chocolate peanut butter cupcake that Brian brought from the newly opened Bristol Farms in Union Square.

diable incarné

Eric Asimov's recent article proves Michel Rolland is just as charming as he was portrayed on the big screen.

My absolute favorite part of the article is when Asimov asks Rolland about the movement toward big alcohol wines. Eric lists Clos Du Val (bless his heart for thinking of us!) and Corison (let me just tell you -- Cathy Corison makes amazing, amazing wines -- I had her 96 Cab recently, and it was unbelievable -- and only 12.8% alcohol!) as examples of two wineries that aren't following this trend. And Rolland pretty much responds by calling us both losers.

I kid you not:
We spoke about the rising level of alcohol in wines and the trend toward allowing grapes to ripen longer before they are harvested. The resulting wines are bigger and more opulent, with sweeter fruit, softer tannins and an absence of herbal flavors that were once commonplace in cabernet sauvignon-based wines. I mention Clos du Val and Corison, two Napa Valley producers whose wines adhere to a less upfront, more austere style, and Mr. Rolland is strikingly dismissive.
“Are they as successful in the marketplace? No,” he said, warming to the subject. “Wine is done for what? The public! Wine is a business. They want to make wine to sell wine. In the U.S. they are honest enough to tell you they want good ratings. They don’t want loser wines.”
I have been fuming over this quote since I first read it early yesterday morning. Rolland goes against absolutely everything wine is to me. The winemakers I admire don't go into the wine industry because "it's a business." In fact, it takes years to actually make a return on your wines -- if you plant vines, it will take 2-3 years before you get any fruit, and then when you actually use that fruit to make a wine, you'll have to wait an additional 2-3 years before you can release it. Seriously, anyone going into this business because they think it's an easy way to make money is nuts. Most everyone I respect in the industry -- those I've come to view as teachers -- is not in it for the money. They're in it because they genuinely love wine. Many left well-established (and yes, often more lucrative) careers -- tenured professorships at big-name universities even! -- to become cellar rats.

It's the corporate folks -- those who are impatient, who want huge results right away, who don't even really know how to make their own wines -- who hire Rolland. And so he travels all over the world, making the same kind of wine from a number of different regions and countries, thus destroying the idea of terroir. And then of course his BFF Robert Parker gives his wines 90+ scores and all those consumers who think wine is a status symbol or an investment and have no clue how to form their own opinions about what they like and don't like buy these wines. And of course, they don't even drink them. They just show their friends: "Look what I have that you can't afford. I am so cool."

And we get called losers because we stand by our own beliefs and offer people something different.

P.S. Lower-alcohol wines pair better with food. And they are more likely to age.


One ritual: counting the hot air balloons on my drive to work. This morning, there were 11.

But I could only capture two. The rest were specks on the horizon. Sort of like someone had thrown confetti in the air and it stayed there, floating.

two days of sun

hello, I am an oinker.

Last night the fabulous Geisha came over for Sake House, Sauvignon Blanc and "Sex and the City" reruns. (The wine didn't exactly match with the sushi, but no big deal.)

Upon surveying my apartment -- the futon I've been sleeping on for the past week because I'm too lazy to put sheets on the bed, the huge piles of wine magazines littering the floor, the remote controls conveniently located within arm's reach, the entire wardrobe hung all over the dining room chairs and the smell of fresh cat poo in the air -- Geisha declared: "This is like a bachelor pad."

He then moved a huge pile of blankets and a teddy bear (not mine -- it belongs to the cats, I swear), so he could actually sit down. And he said: "So. You're going to clean up before tomorrow, right?"

Which is why I'm awake so damn early on a Saturday morning. My winemaker has the weekend off and is on his way home, and Geisha thinks I live in a pig sty. This is not a good combination.

And it's just not wise to ignore a geisha.

it rained

And this morning the streets were wet and the sky was heavy and it really, truly felt like fall. I am imagining mugs of hot cocoa. And padding around in super-soft spa socks. And reading, all curled up, under layers and layers of blankets.

(By the way, the grapes are fine. We're 90 percent done picking, and what's left on the vines is Cab and Petite Verdot, which I'm told aren't susceptible to Botrytis. So no harm from the rain.)

could I be a workaholic?


Tonight I went to a fancy wine party at the de Young. I ate goat cheese and currant cones (amazing -- I could spend the rest of my life snacking on these); teeny-tiny crepe purses stuffed with warm short ribs; truffle pork pâté; and golden beets with crème fraîche. And I sampled the 04 Sea Smoke Gratis Chardonnay (winner of "Best New Winery"), the 05 Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc ("Best Wines Under $20"), the 03 Paloma Merlot ("Best Wines Over $20" -- and big, big, big -- in a blind tasting, there's no way I would've ever guessed this was Merlot!) and the 02 Joseph Phelps Insignia ("Best Bordeaux-style Blend"). And I hung out with a lot of fellow PR folks. Saw the woman who recommended me for my job. And the woman who had my job before I did.

You know, I am really glad everything worked out. Not just because it was a nice party in a beautiful space with good food and good wine and a good DJ, but because I actually really like my job. And this is the first time I can say that about any job I've ever had.


I am a city girl. I am the one our production team laughs at because I think manual punchdowns and shoveling pomace are "fun" and "a good workout." On Saturday (I was at the winery all day for an event, which is why I have today off), they happily let me punchdown the grapes that will eventually become our 06 Reserve Pinot Noir. Everyone -- including our winemaker -- was very entertained. My arms are still a little bit sore.

We always want what we don't have. We city people will pay good money to pick grapes so we can feel like we are part of the harvest experience, like we understand winemaking. (See the photo above -- I took it on Saturday at our annual grape stomp for wine club members.)

I am trying to learn to want what is here. This perpetually messy apartment that doesn't have enough storage space. These bangs, which aren't quite long enough yet to tuck behind my ears. This piece of toast, which doesn't come with any jelly, much less a side of eggs or a glass of orange juice.

And this time. This in-between time while he is gone and working and absorbing and deciding. It is lonely, but he is excited when he talks about presses and yeast and sugar levels and tanks. His shoulders are strong. His nails are stained purple. And it is so good when he is happy.

This weekend was like the beginning, all over again. And I remember the beginning: The boy with the grey scarf standing just outside the kitchen. I was washing dishes. There was snow on the ground outside.

And I thought: Those eyes.