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perfect match

We celebrated his birthday Sunday (early -- his birthday is actually today) with the six-course chef's tasting menu -- complete with wine pairing -- at Restaurant Eloise in Sebastopol.

My favorite course: Sauteed sweetbreads in a Calvados (apple brandy) sauce with slices of bacon and apple, paired with a Riesling Spätlese (killing myself right now for not paying better attention to the producer and vintage, but I think it might have been the 06 Matthias Moeller, which is the only Spätlese on the Eloise wine list -- also wondering if the producer's name is spelled wrong -- Google only comes up with Matthias Müller). The dish smelled just like freshly-baked doughnuts, and the wine was absolute perfection with it. (I love how Riesling can have peach and ripe fruit notes with a teeny-tiny hint of petrol at the same time.)

wine country casual

Sometimes I regret that I am not a mean person.

Because if I were, I would take pictures of the ridiculous outfits that people wear when they go wine-tasting or attend winery events.

I blame the term Wine Country Casual for these fashion offenses. Any time you are invited to a wine event and ask what the proper attire is, the response is always Wine Country Casual. It's printed on pretty much every invitation, and every winery employee has it permanently entered in his or her vocabulary. (Yes, I am guilty as well.)

But there is no actual concrete definition for Wine Country Casual.

So people end up just wearing whatever the hell they want.

Which is usually so incredibly bad.

Take today, for example. I spent most of the day working at a major wine event. Keep in mind that the temperature hit 100, and extraordinarily hot weather coupled with wine-tasting equals Wine Country Casual that is even worse than usual.

I saw a man walking around with his shirt completely unbuttoned -- chest hair, stomach, very orange skin on display. (People, you are at a winery! This is not the beach!) And this man wasn't the only guilty party. There were a number of see-through white tops (no need for water in this T-shirt contest!) and too-short dresses.

My favorite was probably the woman in a fake Missoni bubble dress that barely covered her ass. And she had turquoise platform mules on to match the turquoise in her dress. And she was, oh, about 60 years old. (Just because the store is called Forever 21, it doesn't mean you'll be forever 21 if you shop there. I'm just saying.)

Then there was the couple who matched perfectly. True, there is always at least one of these at every wine event. But this couple was extra-exceptional because they were dressed in head-to-toe green. I am not even kidding you. I actually did a double-take when they walked up to the registration tent. If they had been taller, I would've thought the Jolly Green Giant was out on a date.

view from the top

Today I met a local wine writer for a tasting with a winemaker and a jaunt through a very awesome mountain vineyard property, which I'm going to refer to as AME because acronyms are official-sounding. (Also, I don't want to be accidentally Googled by a co-worker and listed on the monthly media coverage report.)

Anyway, as I was saying, I was hosting a writer. On AME. We bounced along in the winemaker's four-wheel-drive vehicle, off-roading in the vineyards. The three of us talked about wine and grapes, of course. But we also talked about wildlife, and how you know it's summer in wine country when you start seeing snakes. And then we talked about the other animals on AME -- the buzzards, the deer, the rabbits with their big floppy ears. The winemaker said he's even seen cougars.

The wildlife is just one example of how awesome AME is. The place is freaking gorgeous: Terraced vineyards, soils that vary in color and type from one block to another (and you can literally see the changes -- the diversity is amazing), huge bay trees, old ranch buildings, etc. But the most unbelievable part is the view -- you can see all of Alexander Valley from this place.

Naturally, the winemaker wanted to show this to the writer; she needed to have the full experience. So he drove us to a little outlook, and we got out of the car to walk to a patio area that juts out on the edge of the mountain.

We took a few steps.

And the writer said: "There's a snake. And it has a rattle."

And the winemaker said: "That's a big daddy."

And I watched as the winemaker -- who is a very manly man from South Africa -- made the widest path possible around the giant rattlesnake and then got on his cell phone to call someone else to come up and "take care of it."

"I really don't like snakes," he said.

We piled back into the winemaker's SUV. And after that, the writer was very reluctant to get out. "I'll look from here," she kept saying.

impossible to ignore

I suppose I should probably write about The Beast, especially since The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, NPR, The Today Show and a bazillion other media outlets have covered it.

Also, today I made two trips to the FedEx/Kinko's store and spent three hours in a meeting all for the sake of determining the top 50 candidates. Therefore this topic is foremost in my mind.

Narrowing down the field of hundreds upon hundreds of applicants hasn't been easy. I can't tell you how many questions I've gotten from job hopefuls -- queries about music (what's a copyright infringement and what's not), if it's OK to submit a video they created for another purpose (um, not if you actually want this particular job), why YouTube occasionally craps out, etc. etc. People have also e-mailed me their resumes (which is not what you're supposed to do; according to the directions, you can only apply via the Web site, not via me). People have also contacted me to "report" that so-and-so other applicant is cheating because he/she has too many votes compared to the number of views his/her video has actually gotten. (Dear applicants: The "votes" are only there to show you can create a Web following. They aren't the determining factor. This isn't a contest; it actually really is a job search. You don't "win" if you get the most votes.)

I do my best to help. I try to give people answers or connect them with the IT support they need. But when it comes to choosing the top dog, the truth is I have very little say. We have an HR team that is overseeing selection. I don't envy them that job; the head of said team told me today that she has spent at least 16 hours a day reviewing applications since Friday, which was the deadline for submissions. Ouch.

So today we sat down to talk about the top 50 candidates, which are going to be announced Friday. Honestly, I feel like this thing has gotten so huge (in fact, there was this curve ball when another company tried to ride the PR) that no matter who gets chosen, there is going to be a debate in the blogosphere. Some people will feel like some applicants got mistakenly passed over, that others didn't deserve to be chosen.

It is impossible to make everyone happy. At first, this seemed like a pretty bleak conclusion. But the more I think about it, the less awful it seems. The debate, the dissent, the discussion, even the conspiracy theories -- isn't that the whole purpose of Web 2.0? You want to have these kinds of conversations. You want everyone to be able to voice their opinions, whether they agree or not.

Anyway, my two cents on The Beast.

Sadly, Ashley and I did not get to keep the viking helmets.

like riding a bicycle

(Unless you are me, who happens to randomly fall off at stop signs for no apparent reason at all.)

Here I am learning to blog again.

Since my last post I have:

... not changed my name despite all the hoopla

... hiked the toughest trail I've ever hiked (took almost four hours to travel only four miles!), become a Spam convert (and yes, I'm talking about the mystery meat, folks), concluded that many things really do taste better when slathered in gravy (see for yourself, above) and survived the attack of a bazillion mosquitos

... added swimming (if you define flailing around a pool as such) to my list of athletic endeavors

... started training for my next half marathon, which is less than a month away, and begun contemplating the possibility of a full 26.2 miles

... gotten a second job (unfortunately, the economy hasn't changed much in my absence from blogging, and this is my attempt to make things better)

... watched a NASCAR race from the pit

... succumbed to the all-powerful addiction that is Twitter

... finally started reading the Harry Potter series

... baked absolutely nothing, despite an influx of really nice bakeware, madeleine pans, cake dishes, measuring cups and (insert sound of angels singing) the much-lusted-after KitchenAid mixer

... promised to be better about blogging. Wink, wink.