Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Adventures in Wine #1 - July 2009

The first gathering of the newly planned semi-annual event - a new experience in taste and companions. Set-up: multiple stem ware, appetizers, dump jugs - dump jugs?? Jugs in which we can pour the remains of an unwanted glass of wine. We converted two vases to ‘dump jugs’, set the table with plates, napkins, water, stem ware, and appetizers, and we were ready.

Spanish wines were the agreed-upon theme. The eight of us were gathered and the sommelier began his stories...we learned the origination of each wine, the climate, the vineyard. His assistant held the book showing the location of each vineyard. Whether you liked the wine or not, the background added depth to the tasting. The body of knowledge shared by wine lovers is so gargantuan, however, that most of what we heard was more than we could ever hope to remember.

We started with Mont Marcal Cava Reserva, moved through Vina Alarba, Bodegas Breton Criadores Lorinon Reserva, Pasanauy, and more, and finished with Casta Diva, the dessert wine. The wine was interesting, the lessons instructive (swirl before tasting and try to identify an element of the bouquet; what? earth??), but the geniality of the group made the evening. Postscript question: why does a wine that tastes wonderful at the tasting, taste not as good several days later? Is it the buildup from the previous wines, the appetizers, the history? (Maybe it's simply that the wine is too old.)

The road to becoming a wine connoisseur is a long one and we took a very delightful first step on the journey.

Asian Dinner Extravaganza - July 2009

Winning bid at auction: authentic Chinese dinner prepared at the home of the chef. I knew it was serious when we arrived to find the kitchen fully prepped, and off-limits. Timing and concentration were things that would brook no interference.

Wine was ever-present and always appropriately paired. Starting with fire-cracker shrimp, the evening moved through dim sum, green onion pizza, bok choy, lop chong, fried rice cones, mapo dofu, and yes, chicken feet, sampled only by the brave. Every dish was exquisitely prepared and presented, and the dinner was a tastebud cornucopia. We closed the night with Dreamy Clouds saki; ok, maybe not Chinese, but deliciously oriental all the same.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Visiting the Mall on December 8

I needed to pick up one non-Christmas item from the mall so I stopped by mid-day to avoid the bulk of Christmas shoppers. That was a little naive for December 8 and the parking lots were pretty full but I found a reasonable spot at a lesser-used entrance. There were a lot of people shopping but not uncomfortably so. I slowly made my way to the store I wanted, looking at people and merchandise as I strolled along.

Suddenly I felt happy and content to be there, not my usual reaction to being at a mall. We don’t do the traditional Christmas shopping extravaganza so I had no pressure to finish any shopping list, and people seemed to reflect my mood. Shoppers and sales clerks appeared to be equally relaxed. While I was waiting in line to check out, customers were chatting to each other. A woman who set off the exit alarm cheerfully came back to have her bag searched. When the offending clip was found, the customer volunteered to go back to that department to have it removed. This checkout desk did not have the removal equipment and she was concerned about the 5 or 6 people waiting to be checked out. Really?? So it wasn’t just me. Everyone seemed to have a touch of the Christmas spirit.

I continued to walk around the mall looking at the displays and the people. There were a few stressed parents with crying babies, but why, after all, would a baby want to be at the mall? There was a short, calm line of infants and young children waiting with their parents for a picture with Santa - very cute. After I picked up a few additional items for myself and for stocking stuffers, I headed out. I’m sure the atmosphere at the mall will change as it gets closer to Christmas, but today it was a little piece from A Christmas Carol: "so let it be said of us, we knew how to keep Christmas well if any people alive possessed the knowledge."