Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Morning Conversations

We went out to an up & coming little wine bar with the Luces last night - I say "up & coming" because it's not quite there, but we know of a big change that's taking place very soon that should pick things up...but it shall remain nameless for now. Anyway, as always, we had a great time & even ended up winning (yes, I said winning) some free wine. You see, there was a wine challenge thing, & I placed first, Doug & Lucy tied for second, & Mr. Luce came in third! That's because of how cool we are & the fact that we're all so very smart. Heh. Yeah, we're smart, alright...we didn't get to bed until 11:00. For people like me & Doug that get up at 4-freakin'-30 a.m., that's just downright dumb. Oh well.

Both of us were tired & unmotivated this morning. I did a little laundry the other day, but not enough, so my wardrobe choices were rather limited. My closet didn't have anything that I felt like wearing, so I fished around in the dryer & found one of my favorite work tops. (Yes, I have work clothes that are for work only. I don't know why.)

Me: "I think I wore this pink sweater on Monday. I think I don't care."
Doug: "Apathy can be very liberating."

Doug's right. I'm wearing the pink sweater.

I was sitting at my desk this morning, nursing my ever-essential coffee, when one of my pals walked by.

My Pal: "Hey. Happy Friday! You're looking exceptionally...tired today."
Me: "Yeah. Did your kid do your hair this morning? That's quite a look you've got going there."

(As an aside, I'm pretty tight with this guy & this kind of banter goes on a lot.)

My Pal: "Ha! No, I only slept for 2 hours last night."
Me: "Huh. What the hell's up with that?"
My Pal: "Work. It's killing me."
Me: "Ambition will do that to you, my friend. You should try's quite liberating."

Ladies & gentleman, my husband, the philosopher.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Stress Relief

If I had to describe our weekend in one single word, it'd have to be crazy.

It started off innocently enough on Friday night with a wonderful dinner at 1111 Mississippi with our friends Julia & Tim. Excellent food, wine, & company... however, that will probably be another post, as it really has nothing to do with this one. Heh, like I usually stay on topic.

Saturday - now that was another story! This story could take all day, so let me give it to you in a teeny-tiny nutshell:

Doug's mom called to tell him that his 80-year-old father had broken his hip & was in the hospital. Ooooof... That call prompted all sorts of "what ifs" - my 78-year-old mother-in-law is in a wheelchair, & not really able to fend for herself.

We had a commitment ceremony at 2:00 that went well, but we needed to finish shopping for a wedding shower that we were throwing at 4:00. We had a list of things to pick up from Target, but we had to hurry, as the whole morning was taken up with phone calls.

I couldn't find my #$*^ cellphone, so if anyone needed to reach me, they couldn't. Argh!

I forgot to print the list. I couldn't call anyone else because I didn't have my phone. Double argh!

My chin still itched like the devil...& I didn't have my phone! (My chin is much, much better, thanks to a dermatologist & some steroid cream. Ah...)

On the way to the ceremony, I called my mother (on Doug's phone) to let her know what had happened to Harold. She then told me that my dad (who just had 5 teeth pulled) had proposed marriage to her yet again. He does this in cycles, by the way, to no avail - they remain divorced. But the real kicker wasn't that he asked, it was my mom's reply... "Gordon, I don't have time for this, I have to go to the bathroom." (Far be it from her to actually give the man a good, honest "no". Not my mom.) Then she told me that he asked her again later. Criminy. While still on the phone, I looked at Doug & told him "We're moving."

The commitment ceremony went off without a hitch & afterwards, we went to the Bread Co. on S. Grand to meet people to put the gift basket together. The day was starting to turn around...or so we thought. At 4, we headed across the street to Erato Wine Bar, only to find that it opened at 5. Huh? Their website clearly says that it opens at 4 on Saturdays! Our guests of honor were due to arrive at 4:15 & Erato's doors couldn't be wished open, so a few of us stayed behind to wait while the others took the basket to the coffeehouse around the corner.

Once the wine bar officially opened, we made our way back & ended up having a lovely time. A few bottles of wine & some entertaining pals assured us of that, so our troubles were temporarily put on hold. We even found the White Bordeaux that we found & that my pal Lucy wrote about a while back! Yay!! After a couple of hours, people started to leave, so 8 of us headed over to Absolutli Goosed for some of their famous martinis. I love that place. What fun! After a few drinks & a ton of laughter, we all headed home.

Sunday morning, Doug's dad had hip replacement surgery, so Doug went to pick up his mom. There was no point in my being there, so he told me to do whatever I wanted & promised to call me with any news. (The surgery went well, by the way.) Now, with all of the stress of the weekend, that led me to seek out one thing...

Retail therapy!

I'm in a pretty serious rut with clothes right now, so my plan was to try to branch out & try something other than v-necked t-shirts, bermudas, & cropped pants (for weekend wear, of course). I tried & tried, but nothing worked for me. I looked pregnant in everything, & God knows that's the last thing that I am! (Ick - perish the thought.) Something has to be done about that, but that's another blog altogether. I'll think about that tomorrow. Anyway, my patience ran short, so I decided to look for makeup. I had a limited-time 20% off coupon to Bare Escentuals that just had to be used. It had to be. Damn it, I was going to buy something!

And so I did. I've wanted the complexion enhancers kit for a while now, so I grabbed it. I've been told I don't need it, but hey - I wanted. I was stressed to the gills & disappointed in myself for gaining weight, so I fulfilled the want. The salesgirl must've sensed that I was on a mission & feeling weakened, so she went in for the kill. She showed me the newest collection, Heroes, & immediately started to put it on my face. The eye shadows weren't colors that I wear, & I was a bit leary, but in the end I liked it & bought it. Oh, & I got a free full-sized lipgloss if I spent $100, & that helped push me over the edge.

I like makeup, but I don't like to wear a lot of it or spend a lot of time applying it. I discovered Bare Minerals makeup a few months ago, & fell in love. The weird thing is that I hate powder...I hate the way it feels, I hate having to reapply, & I hate the way that it looks on the girls that keep reapplying over & over again so that it's just clumpy & gross. People have been trying to sell me that cream/powder formula for years now, & after trying it once, I swore off the stuff & resolved to only wear powder when I really wanted to. Which was very rare. Now, the salespeople at Bare Minerals will tell you that it's not really powder, but it's close enough, so imagine my surprise when I was thrilled with the stuff! It's fast, it looks great, & it's long-wearing - what's not to love? Ok, Bare Escentuals doesn't pay me to advertise for them (but they should, along with countless wineries & liquor stores!), so I'll hush up about them now.

One would think that my spree would be over by now, but thanks to Living Life's post about Etsy, I did a little shopping today at Decorate The Diva. I'm still stressed - it's fiscal year end here at work, so I have an excuse. Lookit the pretties!

Now, when Doug asks me if I've lost my mind, I can give him an honest answer....

Makeup & jewelry always fit!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Rash Decisions

I have a mystery rash on my chin. I have no idea how I got it...I haven't eaten anything different nor used new products on my chin, nor have I put my chin anywhere that would cause this atrocity. I can't imagine that it's stress-related, although I do have some right now. All I know is that my chin is now bumpy & (not too terribly) red, & itchy.


I noticed that something was going on while we were at my mom's the other night. I just thought maybe it was acne (& a pretty gnarly case of it), so yesterday morning, I put medicine on it. Sometimes, my brilliance is blinding. That stung!

My chin grew itchier & itchier all day. Clearly, this isn't a case of isolated adult acne, but some awful skin ailment. Joy. It's all I can do to keep my hands off of it, & I'm about to run down to the gift shop to see if they have Benadryl. That might help with the itch, but it won't do a thing about the bumps. I've got Caladryl Clear on it, which is really pretty when it flakes.

I really just want to pull a Cartman & soak my chin in a bath of anti-itch something, but of course the directions say to apply sparingly & no more than 3-4 times a day. Damn it.

I'm really stumped. Maybe, just maybe, I'm developing an allergy to my mom, starting with my chin. Could it be?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

And Then There Were Four

We suffered a loss last night.
After 13 & 1/2 months of living with us, my mom's dog Poppy finally went home.

For those of you that don't know, let me give you the "Claire's too tired to go into the whole thing again" version - my mom broke her ankle in 2 places on May 4th of last year, & after laying in her hallway all night with the phone in her hand, finally called for help. (Ugh - just revisiting that whole experience so briefly drains me of what little energy I possess!) Mom had 3 surgeries in a year, & there were a lot of challenges - some what you'd expect, & then others that could only be brought about by the mind of my mother.

(Doug's really, really happy that I'm adopted.)

Our time with Poppy was not without problems. You see, Poppy knew our dogs well, but had never stayed with them for very long. She came into our home & found herself living with a pack, & that was new to her. There was a hierarchy & Poppy didn't want to play along, so there were many scuffles & lots of posturing & pouting. Doug & I lost a lot of sleep because of these flare-ups, & neither of us operate very well after such nights. Yes, little Poppy had a hard time fitting in for a while, & everyone struggled because of it. There were times when we couldn't wait for her to go home so that we could have our peaceful house back.

Eventually, Poppy's behavior made a big turn for the better, & suddenly she started acting like she was one of our dogs. Happy day! She returned to the cute, bouncy, sweet Poppy that we knew & adored, & gained the nicknames that come with living at our house - Pops, Pop-Pop, Popster, Pop Star, etc. The fighting had stopped & she started to enjoy living at our house. If I were a dog, I think our house would be a great place to live! We have a big fenced-in backyard (complete with squirrels to chase), 4 other dogs, & what seems like constant petting & scratching. Sounds pretty good to me, although I'm not big on squirrels & I like indoor plumbing. A lot.

Neither of us wanted to, but we both came to love Poppy as our own. Yeah, yeah, we knew the time was coming for her to go home, but after so much time had passed, it was impossible not to! The thought of her leaving our home made us both sad & stressed us out a bit. My mom had some crazy list of things that needed to be done before Poppy could come back, & admittedly, we took our time in doing them. But finally, it was time.

Poppy went home.

We couldn't let my mom know that we were sad. I mean, Poppy is her dog, & we do want my mom to be happy. However, after seeing Poppy hooked up to her dog run & looking confused, it was impossible to not feel bad for her. I know my mom will take great care of her & that she loves her, but we just can't stop feeling that Poppy's happier with us.

So now, we're down to 4 again. Our girls are very out-of-sorts - Piper's very sad & Bella's fervently searching for the missing member of her "herd". It will take time for all of us to adjust to a Poppy-free life. Sure, she'll come back for visits, but it just won't be the same. In the meantime, we're just hoping that it all works out.

Our days of being the guardians of the family dogs are very likely not over. One of Doug's brothers - who is just a big unhealthy mess, to put it mildly - just asked Doug if we'd take his dog Queenie if something should happen to him. Doug said yes, fully realizing that something always happens to Randy to incapacitate him in one way or another.

Queenie is a St. Bernard.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Food & Wine Pairing for Dummies

Let's face it - unlike most Europeans, most Americans think that Coca Cola is the best beverage with almost any meal. Very few of us have been raised to believe any differently, but we couldn't be more wrong. Think about it - whether it's diet or regular soda, when was the last time that you thought "Hmmmm...this soda really complements the smoky flavor in this grilled steak!"? If you're being honest with yourself, the answer is never.

But hey, Doug & I are definitely not experts on these things - damn near dummies, in fact - which is why we were thrilled to have the opportunity to go to Lukas Liquor's food & wine pairing event last Friday night. We were in a room full of approximately 20 people that were willing to share their extensive knowledge on how to unravel this mystery, & we took full advantage...of the wonderful food & delicious wine that they happened to throw in with it!

I'll be typing all night if I ran down the whole list, & that could get pretty boring. Hell, some of you are probably thinking "There she goes again....", & that's fine - go drink your Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper with that lasagna, & we'll pick up on another subject later. For those of you that are interested, here we go...

The tasting room at Lukas was crowded, so we couldn't really go from table to table in the order that was intended. Well, we could have, but the 4 of us - me, Doug, & our friends Shan & Sean - are fairly impatient when it comes to our wine, so we hopped around a bit. The tables were set up so that your palate wouldn't exhaust itself from all the different flavors, but we're wise enough to know that if you're going to taste over 25 different wines - not to mention food - you're just not going to win that battle unless you taste like the professionals other words, spit. While spitting has its place - in my book, a very secluded one that isn't visited often - that wasn't in the cards for us. We were quite content with not being too wine geeky & just do our best to eat the food, drink the wine, & appreciate the pairing without wasting the wine. After all, depending on the wine, that's a sin.

Enough of my gabbing - I'll get to the highlights:

We started out with Creole crab cakes with Broadbent Vinho Verde, & it was really nice. Vinho Verde is a very crisp, refreshing, & ever-so-slightly fizzy white wine from Portugal, & in my opinion, it rocks on its own, but is also great with fish, shellfish, or any light chicken entree.

Lobster bisque is one of our must-haves at Wild Flower, a little place by my office, but we've never quite known what kind of wine to pair with it. So, we've always gone with the Wild Orchid, which is a to-die-for raspberry margarita...& a horrid match for lobster bisque! Now we know better - a Viogner is an excellent choice! We had the Bridlewood Viogner, & it really made sense to us. But damn, I sure do love those Wild Orchids...maybe we'll just get those after the bisque, eh?

They didn't have this available when we were nearby, but I heard people raving about the fresh strawberries served with the Angovese Nine Vine Rose'. Since rose' wines often have strawberry character to them, I can see how this pairing would be a winner. Besides, this particular rose' is a steal for under $10, so what have you got to lose?

Wine & pizza....yum. One of the most knowledgeable reps we know, Brent, was kind enough to bring in Dewey's Pizza to go with 2 of his wines - the veggie & the meatball, to be exact. The Cusumano Nero d'Avola was delightful with the meatball pizza, & we were excited to be able to refresh our memories on why we own this particular bottle of wine. (God only knows how much money we spend on wine & we have no idea why we bought it!) With the veggie pizza, Brent chose to serve the Pieropan Soave... whodathunk it? Even though I picked the veggies off, I got it, & it was good. So good that we had to snag a bottle of the Pieropan & quit ignoring the Cusumano in our rack!

A little while ago, my good pal Lucy wrote about Cal Ital wines, so these next 2 wines satisfied the craving that she kicked off! Tony made his own sausage bolognese (mmmmmmm) & decided to pair 2 wines out of Mendocino County, CA - the Enotria Barbera & the Enotria Dolcetto (sorry, couldn't find links), & he knocked it out of the park with both! Hopefully it just wasn't the pairing that was so good...we bought both!

Our good friend Robin brought in her should-be-famous marinated sirloin (I'm telling you, the woman can cook!) along with one of our favorites, D & S Meritage (a red wine) & a fabulous wine we hadn't tried - the Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon. Talk about heavenly matches with the sirloin! We already own the D&S, so yes, we picked up the Smith & Hook, & we can't wait to try it with our own - or someone else's - grilled creations.

Another friend of ours, Amy, had the good sense to bring in arepas (South American corn cakes) from Wapango to pair with her Paso a Paso Tempranillo & Verdejo - both Spanish beauties - & both choices were fabulous. Good thing they're both inexpensive, because we'll be back for both!

A lot of people adore Riesling, & it's the "noble" white grape & a favorite for pairing...but Doug & I aren't sold on it yet. We've tried many Rieslings ranging from dry to sweet, & we have bottles that we like quite a bit, but we just don't get it...yet. However, the Riesling from Hogue Cellars gave us a bit of hope when paired with Creole stuffed shells from Juniper Grill! Wow.

The surprise of the evening was from, of all places, Romania. Christian, a really nice guy but one that often has offerings we aren't nuts about, brought homemade Baklava (!!) & poured Prahova Valley Tamaiosa Romaneasca to go along with it. (Sorry, I couldn't find a link in English!) Up until then, we hadn't had a Romanian wine that really impressed us, but this one was really good. It was sweet, but not in a cloying way, & with the Baklava, it was just incredible. I won't say it was the best pairing of the evening, but it was definitely at the top. We were just glad to see the "little guy" from Romania show what his country's wines can do.

Oh, I could go on about a few other wines, or at least the food, but I think I've done enough. I learned quite a bit, was fed well, & had a fun little buzz when I got out of Lukas, so the evening was a smash! Plus, we brought home 4 kick-ass bottles of wine & rediscovered a couple that we already have. While we certainly enjoyed ourselves, I hope that those of you that stuck with me have gotten an idea or 2 about what wine to serve or order the next time you're wanting to mess around with the world of food & wine pairing.

Remember - the rule of red wine with red meat, white wine with fish & poultry is only the beginning. Yes, Riesling can work with beef, & red wine can work with fish. In the end, you should drink what you like with what you like - don't let the wine snobs sway you with their fancy talk. It matters what you think of your choice, not anyone else.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Comfortable Thursday Evening

For lack of a better title, that's exactly what this has been - comfortable. "Comfortable" is such a nice word....

We had some choices for what to do with our night. You see, with our crazy schedule, we've come to think of Thursday evening as the unofficial beginning of the weekend, so this is the night we'll hang a little looser than the other "school nights". Maybe we'll even get together with some friends, but more than anything, it has become our tradition to enjoy a bottle of wine. (Obviously, Thursday night isn't the only night that we partake in vino, but we do try to make this night consistently.) I worked a little late this evening, so Doug was considering picking up a pizza from one of our discoveries while he waited, but we also thought that either staying home or going to one of our favorite little places in the Lou would make for a fine evening as well. I left it up to Doug since it seems like I'm making most of these kinds of decisions lately.

Doug chose the last one, & even made reservations at our wonderful little find: Veritas Gateway To Food & Wine. Man, I hesitate to even write about the place for fear that any more publicity would take away our enjoyment. We stumbled across this tiny place in a strip mall in Chesterfield a few years back after doing some grocery shopping, & we're so glad that we did! About once or twice a month, we started heading to Veritas for their weekly Thursday evening wine bar, which entails a free tasting of about 6 wines & an ever-changing menu of small plates prepared in the diner-style open kitchen, surrounded by a small wine shop & a small shopping area for home & kitchen accessories. This place is so cool that is was voted "Best Dining Concept" for the Riverfront Times "Best Of", which is a magazine that heavily favors city establishments - quite a feat! Doug & I were worried...was "our place" - the place that we found before it was cool, where we didn't invite people unless we felt comfortable enough with their behavior, the place that we could go on Thursday nights & have a pleasant, quiet evening without phone calls, neighbors, etc. - in danger of becoming the place to "see & be seen"? We'd seen several local celebrities there already, but now the cat was really out of the bag. We were conflicted because the owners, David & Stephanie, were now friends of ours, & while we certainly didn't want them to fail, we didn't want Veritas to be tainted by popularity.

So far, so good. While it has definitely gotten busier - we now need to make reservations to guarantee a place - the feeling is still the same. There is still David's wonderful, hand-selected wine store, with some of the quirkier, less-heard-of labels, & Stephanie's gourmet groceries & upscale stuff for the crib - oh wait, this is Chesterfield, I don't think they use that term. The staff know us by name, we get special deals & uber-exclusive tastings on occasion...but best of all, there's the food. Veritas has the best grilled cheese sandwich in the world! Really! Couple that with the bison bites (think mini-burgers) with a variety of toppings, & you've got comfort food. There's some crazy stuff on the menu, too - for example, tonight there was Kentucky Thunder Scallops (do they have scallops in Kentucky, or is that a clever name for something scarier?), fresh salmon with avocado salsa on cucumbers, flat iron steak with blue potatoes (?) & grilled corn, & perhaps the oddest -- grilled lamb chops with roots & wine-soaked onions. I'll pass on the roots, but trust me, everything we've ever had at this place has been delightful.

After a tough week (strange, it's been a short one for me), we chose to go with the easy - grilled cheese & bison bites. We chose the 2006 Carmela Benegas Rose', a 50% Cab Franc/50% Petit Verdot blend, for our wine. Doug & his pink drinks, I'm telling you, people are going to start talking if they haven't already. Anyway, we always, always trust Benegas wines & find ourselves reaching for them again & again. They're fabulous & an incredible bargain, so you should do the same. (In other words, this goes on your weekend to-do list, ladies & gents.) Anyway, there wasn't a whole lot on the nose (but it's allergy season), but the color was beautiful & it was great on the palate. We had a hard time deciding what we were tasting - raspberry, maybe watermelon & some flowers - so we declared that what we were getting was snozzberry with just a touch of cream.

It's good to be us - we say it so convincingly that people might actually buy that BS.

So now, we are home with our wonderful pack of dogs. Bella is curled up on my feet on the couch, Charles is laying on the floor at my side, Piper is snoring across from me on the loveseat, Poppy is, well, wherever it is that Poppy goes, & Mattie is laying on her bed, lampshade-free for the moment & waiting for the magical words of "bed time, girls".

Those words are just minutes away, & I look forward to our comfortable bed. Tomorrow is Friday, & that's a beautiful thing...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Thinking Globally

I'll bet you're thinking that this blog is going to be about the environment. Well, gentle readers, it's not. While I do care about the environment, I grow a bit weary of all the hype about going green, & oh, what's that new buzz word? Ah, yes - sustainability, that's it. Don't get me wrong - it is definitely important to protect our environment, but for cryin' out loud, there are enough blogs out there about it. Personally, I'm tired of the preaching, so let's talk about other things.


When Doug & I came back from Jamaica this last October, we made a last minute decision at the airport (before we checked our bags) to buy Eaton's Original Jamaican Jerk BBQ Sauce. We were heading into cold weather then & grilling was quickly becoming a fond memory, so when we got home, the sauce was put in our pantry & forgotten about until our good friends the Luces came over for a very fun canine playdate & some BBQ. (As an aside, yes, I'm aware that this linking might be considered shameless promotion, but hey - bloggers love hits & comments, right? So if you're here or there, don't be bashful...Oh, & if you followed that link, do yourself a favor & find that white Bordeaux. You won't regret it.) Doug & I finished off the last of this wonderful BBQ sauce last night, & I found myself a bit sad. This carried over into today, & after looking on the internet & becoming disgusted at the outrageous shipping costs, I remembered that there was a place nearby that came through in a pinch the last time we had a craving for things Jamaican...Global Foods Market in my hometown of Kirkwood, MO.

You see, the last 2 times that Doug & I were in Jamaica, we discovered this wonderfully refreshing Jamaican beverage - Ting & vodka. Oh. My. Gracious. We fell so hard for this delightfully crisp, slightly fizzy grapefruit soda (ok, the vodka that was mixed in didn't hurt) that we just had to have it again after a few months back in the Lou. We needed to bring back The Happy. In fact, I'd started to sing its name - tingtingting, tingtingting... Once again, I looked to the internet, & just as I was today, was angered at how ridiculous it would be to have it sent to us. In a moment of brilliance, I recalled that there was this place in Kirkwood, not far away, that promised to be our beacon of hope. So I called & asked whether or not they had Ting, & to my delight, the man declared that he not only had it, but he was looking at it right then. Glory hallelujah! We stopped in on the way home & picked up a bunch of it, & as soon as we walked in the door, we had our happy back. Cheers to The Happy! Never to be accused of being too selfish (I said "too"), we shared out Ting & vodka concoction with our friends that came over for the soiree' that Mattie mentioned a few posts ago. They were also enthralled with The Happy, & it's mentioned often. Ting, glorious Ting!'s kinda cute, really.

Back to today. When I called this afternoon, the man - perhaps the same one - told me that they carried Eaton's, but didn't have the same one we enjoyed before in stock. They had the Jamaican Rum BBQ Sauce instead, & would that be ok?

Duh, Mister. Can't you tell when someone is frothing at the mouth?

Doug & I both worked a bit late today, but we decided that we had to make a side trip to Global Foods. Had to. We quickly found our sauce as well as a 1/2 ton of Ting, & then oh no! We remembered that we didn't have any chilled wine! Not to worry - Global Foods has a wine section, & we had a ray of sunshine.

Not for long. One look at the pathetic selecton dashed our hopes. It was chockfull of the likes of Yellow Tail, Beringer White Zinfandel (you have no idea how hard it is for me to type this), & to add to the horror, The Little Penguin. EEEEEEK! Thoughts of "I could do so much better if this were my store," & "What in the hell is wrong with these people?" raced through my head but I recovered quickly & realized that Grapevine Wines was just right up the street. We paid for our bounty of Jamaican treats & headed straight there.

We rushed in & headed straight for the cooler. I mean, a warm rose' or other warm-weather-friendly wine just wouldn' do. We were so happy to see an old favorite, the 2007 Boxcar Rose', chilled & ready to go for $14.99. We had no idea what kind of wine would pair with the Jamaican Rum sauce, but we were willing to risk it, so we grabbed it. Besides, Doug does love his pink drinks - just ask him, he'll tell you. One of the store owners recognized us & after a moment or 2 of chatting, offered us a taste of a new Zin he'd just received, the 2005 Lake Sonoma Dry Creek Zinfandel. It retailed for about $17, & from the first whiff, I was lusting a little. I love Zin, so long as it's red (& I can't believe I just clarified that). It was really good with a good bit of black pepper & cherry - doesn't it seem like that's in almost all red wines? - but we were hungry & in a hurry, so we took note, thanked the man, paid for our rose', & headed home.

Now, you may be thinking "My, Claire & Doug sure do drink a lot! The owners of wine stores know who they are!", but think, good people - a bottle of wine split between 2 people doesn't add up to much. But yes - we do drink a healthy bit, & we're happy to do so! So go ahead & judge. Heh.

So, you may be wondering, when does this story end? Right here. We fired up the grill, cooked our chicken, poured our wine, & consumed every last bite. And it was good. The food & wine pairing was just ok (perhaps a rum-based beverage would've been better, but we work in the morning) but neither one of us complained. We were off work, at home, with good food, great wine, our dogs, & each other - we were happy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Coming To You Live, From My Living Room

I've had a 4-day weekend, but today was unplanned. Yes, I'm home today because of my beloved spring allergies. I just didn't have it in me this morning to struggle through a day at work on next to no sleep, so here I am, in the recliner with my dogs scattered around me, watching Braveheart...that all sounds nice unless you consider my red, itchy eyes, sore throat, & that I'll undoubtedly hear about this absence tomorrow at work. We should never feel sick enough that we can't come to work, after all. Bah. Enough about that, it's not fun to think about. Let me tell you about my weekend instead, since it's the reason I'm home in the first place.

On Friday night, we'd had plans to see Kim Massie & the movie Grease at Laumeier Sculpture Park, but the storms took that option away from us. Instead, we joined a bunch of our childfree friends at Graham's Grill for the evening. It's a great place to just hang out & enjoy the fun that usually accompanies a few beers & people with great senses of humor. Not that I'm one of those people, of course, but we had a really great time, & the food & drink was good, too.

We had a wedding in Highland, IL, on Saturday. Normally, we'd never consider going that far for a wedding (no offense to anyone living in the area), but the groom was the son of Doug's karate instructor, work partner, & teaching partner at the karate studio that they once ran. The man died about 5 years ago when the boy was 18 or 19 & the debauchery that immediately followed could only be rivaled by something you'd see on Jerry Springer. The boy wisely decided to sever all ties from his family, leaving him with no family except for his father's friends from karate. He called us last year to tell us he was engaged & asked Doug to perform the ceremony, & obviously, there was no way that Doug could refuse. Even in Highland, IL, & even if we don't believe that either the bride or groom was mature enough. In the end, Highland's not that far, & it's not up to us to determine who should or shouldn't be married, so it was done, & we wish them the very, very best in the future. The reception had to be the most awkward I've ever seen, & soon that along with the canned beer & impending long drive home sent us on our way. You should see our windshield - many very large bugs met their maker on it. Ick.

For those of you wondering when I was going to bring up wine, wait no more...

Sunday, we headed to Augusta, MO, for our friends' daughter's engagement party. It was at our least favorite winery in the area, which I will dub "Mt. Unkind" for the purposes of this post. They are the largest winery in the Augusta appellation, & its aesthetics are nice enough, & they can afford to bring in good bands. Normally, they charge $5 per person admission (but our friends paid for their guests), & that includes a tasting of 5 of their wines. (Mind you, they barely have 5 to choose from since some of their list is unavailable for tasting.) More & more wineries in Missouri are charging for their tastings, so while I don't care for it, I understand. What I don't understand is why they charge more than twice the price of a bottle to drink it there, when most other wineries charge a nominal fee. Let me break it down for you... It was a hot day, so we didn't want to drink red wine, so we chose a white that they compare to Pinot Grigio. Personally, I'm not much of a fan of Pinot Grigio, but it was the most palatable & the cheapest. They sell it on their website for $9.99, but to drink it at the winery it was $21 a bottle. Add to that the $3 bucket of ice (again, higher than others), & the fact that politeness as well as time with our friends caused us to buy another bottle & bucket of ice, & you'll come to the same total that we did - $48. Yes, $48 - not including the gas it took to get out there - for mediocre wine in a highly over-rated place. Highway robbery. Just think of the other wine we could've bought for that! Ok, ok, it was for our friends, so we were (somewhat) happy to do it, but still....

Wow. Our friends' kids are getting married. Either we're old or our friends had kids really young. Yup, that's it - they were too young.

On to less frustrating subjects!

Doug & I took yesterday off. We didn't really have a plan in mind, & in the end, we decided it would be best to stick around the house & take care of things. You see, between work, weddings, & our social life, we don't have a lot of free time that we allot to the house. As a result, our house is disorganized in areas (as I've mentioned before), & we had a veritable forest of maple trees our gutter. I remember this happened a few years ago, & our neighbor's son was amazed at our supposed cleverness - he said he'd never thought of planting flowers in the gutter, but he thought it was a fine idea. Heh, that's cute, but in reality, no, so before it got too hot, Doug climbed up on the roof to begin the nasty business of digging out the muck in our gutters. I was grateful that he didn't ask me to help, so I started doing laundry - about 6 loads - & dishes - 2 loads. I started piles of clothes to donate or trash. Doug attacked the pile of mail that needed to be shredded, we did a little work on our tragic rose bed, & voila! Work was getting done around our house. We still have a long way to go in order to get organized, but it was a damn good start. Maybe I'll knock a little off of that long way today. Or not.

To celebrate our day of accomplishment, Doug & I went to our local Mexican joint, El Nopal. Yum. After the grocery store, we came home & continued our celebration by opening up a bottle of rose' that we'd intended to bring to Laumeier on Friday night - 2007 Eye of the Toad Rose' by Toad Hollow. We paid about $9.99 for it & we figured we'd be putting it into a plastic flask anyway - no glass was allowed at Laumeier, & there was sort of a challenge - so we didn't want to risk tainting a better bottle. We'd never tasted it before, but after drinking it, I'm pleased to report that it was quite good, & we'd pick it up again. This rose' is made from Pinot Noir, & it was deeper in color & heavier in body than most Pinot Noir rose', & dry & crisp, just the way we like them. For the price, we were pretty pleased with it, & it's got a cool name to boot. Pick some up when you see it, it's a great bargain.

And so, here I sit...this day is mostly a waste, but at least I was able to write something today. The dogs are sure happy I'm here, & Mattie's getting a little bit of time out of her cone. (If only she'd quit licking what's left of her scab off, she'd be done with it by now.) Perhaps I'll do a bit more laundry or clean the kitchen.

Hmmmm....maybe I should grab a beer first. After all, I'm not at work.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Wine & Tequila

Doug & I were extremely fortunate this week. Our friend Robin is a wine rep for Hahn Family Wines, & she invited us to her magnificent home on Monday evening to meet their main winemaker, Adam LaZarre. We're very lucky to have befriended Robin over the last couple of years. She's an amazing cook, has introduced us to fabulous wines - in my opinion, most notably Catena wines, distributed by her former company, as well as selections from Hahn - & is just a great person overall. Robin is truly one of our favorite people, & it's just a huge bonus that she gives us big pours at her tastings.

No, really - the big pours are just a huge bonus.

Being the aspiring wine geeks that we are, Doug & I have met quite a few winemakers. While I can say that some of these encounters were interesting, most were rather benign. With the exception of 2 - Charles Smith (formerly of Black Flag) & Adam - the winemakers were content to talk of soil Ph levels, rainfall, elevation, & various other blah-blah-blah. Adam? He drank tequila, bourbon, rum, & wine, & talked about anything & everything. He'd tell you a little about the wine but nothing that was too complicated - his main concern was that you simply enjoyed the wine. That's what it's all about in the end, isn't it?

Sure, I understand that winemaking is a science & an art. I admire the people that are able to do it & do it well. However, I'm just an aspiring wine geek, & to be honest, a lot of the technical details just don't matter to me that much. I don't believe that there's ever been a time that I tasted a wine & said "You know, I think the Ph level must've been different for this vintage." What does matter is that I love & appreciate the end product - I mean, really, I just want to drink the stuff - so talking to Adam LaZarre was perfect for a dolt like me. In fact, when I told him that I appreciated his simpler approach, he said "It's all the fruit - I just play with it a little bit."

While we were there, we also got a chance to hang out with the owners of one of our favorite stores, The Wine Barrel. They said that Robin & Adam would be at the store on Wednesday, so we said we'd go & invite friends. Since Adam has such a love of tequila, Doug decided to pick up an airplane-sized bottle of Cuervo for him. He gave it to Adam, who then opened it immediately & downed it in 2 gulps. Considering he'd been drinking wine, the man must have an iron stomach.

At this tasting, we were able to try a couple of wines that Robin didn't have at her house, along with some favorites. Most notable was the LaZarre 2005 Pinot Noir - Bien Nacido. Yum...& it even had a cute leopard-spotted cork! My fashionista friend adored that detail. I would've loved to pick up 1 of the 4 remaining bottles, but with today's gas & food prices, $49.99 was a bit too steep. For NOW. Instead, we picked up a bottle of the Huntington 2005 Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc, & the just-bottled-2-weeks-ago Hahn 2006 Syrah, both under $15 a bottle & downright scrumptious. Great wine doesn't have to break the bank!

Adam signed both bottles, but I didn't look at what he wrote...he signed one bottle at Robin's with something about hookers, so I guess it'll have to be a surprise!