Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The East is the New West

Well, it's a new day--with a fresh, more international future for America. For those of us who truly like the rest of the world--what a huge relief to have Obama be our global emissary. Actually I think I'll give little globes out for Christmas this year, just so we can all catch up.
Of course food has always been international. We were in New York State for election week and enjoyed Jewish, Caribbean, Indian, Chinese, Halal (at the cart on 6th Ave. in Manhattan) and Cajun food. All of it goes beautifully with Irish beer in the pubs and German Reislings from the Finger Lakes area upstate. (Manhattans and mojitos are nice too. More on that later.) Plus golf and walking up and down subway and train stations. East Coast transit rocks.
Back home, we have bikes instead, so that will have to do.
Right now I'm missing our little town of Corning NY, near the Finger Lakes. With its ornate brick storefronts, glass art, pretty eateries, lively nightlife, great Indian food and odd characters aka Sweaty John. Holidays sparkle in Corning.
But onward....we have a new president. It's a new day.
BTW: Here's info about my favorite Halal cart in case you are in midtown Manahttan.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Merlot Kind of Week

Am I the only one who is a nervous wreck here? What with the failing banks and the cartwheeling Dow and a presidential race focused on the little people---named Sarah and Joe and George. Big ideas and steely judgement would be more helpful than fussing about plumbers I think. (I know plumbers and they are a godsend , but they're not going to fix these problems.) Does anyone notice how much the Feds look and sound just like they did during the other disaster --the one called Katrina.

But I digress. As I write this I'm enjoying a pleasant affordable Merlot, which is getting better as it breathes--and I type. Merlot is not a challenging Zin or a subtle Pinot Noir, but that's okay. I'm less in the mood for sophisticated flavors right now --and more for a calm, mellow, unexciting wine (or a stiff drink with many olives). Perhaps you feel the same.

Did I mention that my most extravagant spendthrift friends are hiring someone to teach them how to grow vegetables in their new garden patch? They don't cook, they didn't even have a garden patch 'til last week, but they are growing their own food, for god's sake. Times must be tough. Anyway, a friendly Merlot may not be trendy, but it's pretty good with garden veggies tossed on the grill with a bit of olive oil and garlic. Also, that puts me in a mood for soups with late harvest tomatoes, white Italian beans, seasoned with bay leaves from the local Laurel trees. All of which goes beautifully with delightfully boring Merlot.

And, as you know, sitting does not help stress. So go look at the moon on a walk after dinner and do some restful stretches when you turn off the laptop. Some of the best moves are stretching your arms high and behind your back and bending your neck back and forth (do it now!) Even better is putting each leg up on a chair and slowly bending over --to get at that tight hamstring. Do it a few times after you've had a shower or been moving around. It releases some serious tension.
Just like a bit of inexpensive Merlot.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Ode to Orange

October already. sheesh.
Orange is the color of the season -- for the designer types as well as for the autumn vineyards. There is always plenty of orange around our household lately because of all the oranges falling from the trees and stacking up in baskets on the dining table and in the back of the refrigerator. The founding fathers of Healdsburg who planted citrus trees all over the place had no idea what they started.
A pal who just returned from New England points out that they pay a dollar for an orange back there. (I'd be rich!) But they get fresh maple syrup from the family "sugar shack" for free. And she gave me a jar... Amazing stuff.
Then the two thoughts collided. The result: The Maple - Orange Smoothie. Non-fat milk, a ripe banana, a whole, peeled, very cold orange from the back of the fridge, a spoonful of real maple syrup. Blend it all together with lots of air and a sprinkle of nutmeg. It's the perfect treat for after a hike up a hill or two to gaze at the beginnings of fall color--or at least our wimpy California version of fall color. But, admit it, you EastCoasters, our russet leaves might not impress, but you can't beat our oranges.

Friday, September 19, 2008

In Honor of Miss Figgy

For years we knew about a little old lady the guys did handyman tasks for, who they nicknamed Miss Figgy. We pictured a cute little English lady with tea, fig jam and crumpets. And I always though of her in September--when the fig trees around town are full. By mid-month, the tree owners have eaten all they possibly can and are begging for people like me to help out so the moist little fruit won't go to waste. No problem.
A favorite appetizer at local backyard parties is figs with goat cheese--and a nice Zinfandel. But I confess my favorite treat is a couple of figs with a small chunk of dark chocolate in the afternoon with a cup of French Roast coffee. That makes the last burst of online work go MUCH better. And a few dried figs with herb tea at bedtime is not too shabby either.

Here's a fig fact I bet you didn't know: Although considered a fruit, the fig is actually a flower that is inverted into itself. The seeds are the real fruit.
Oh yeah, it turns out Miss Figgy is a sweet little Italian lady who's real name is Miss Figge
And this is her fitness tip: get outside, plant some flowers in your front yard and chat with your neighbors. It will do wonders for your health.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Is it Coffee or Is It Wine?

The election news is swirling around us and the coffeehouse is one of the better places to get out of the fray and try to make sense of America's fascination with the latest new shiny object, er political figure, er puppet. And coffee can be almost as controversial as politics in our town--and maybe in yours. The issues here are: does pressed coffee preserve the flavor of the beans better than the old way of brewing, and are blends of beans secondrate compared to using only one type of bean. In other words, should we start treating coffee like wine?
It seems like a 50-50 split here, with about half the locals in favor of blended, traditionally brewed java and the others preferring their presses. As for me, I want robust dark coffee that is easy to get and costs less than $2 a mug, because I buy a lot and I'm not very patient in the morning. Pressed is fine, but make it strong and do it quickly. Please.
If coffee cafes want to be like wine bars, then I say go all the way--offer a selection and let people taste and pick what they want. And have an express line for the grumpy folks.
Oh yeah...the fitness tip this week: Take care of your feet because sore feet (like sore backs) can stop you cold. Handy trick from "Runner's World" magazine is to gently pull your toes back toward your shin with your hands. It feels really good after a brisk walk and you can do it a few times every day. Reward yourself with a bit of Port before bed.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tomato Central

The garden tomatoes have hit town. Folks are eating as many of the homegrown beauties as they can--and now are giving away bagfuls at coffee. When you want to use a lot of tomatoes while preserving their vineripe flavor, here's a local trick:
Chop up a bunch of tomatoes, garlic and fresh basil. Put tomatoes in three equal piles, with the sweetest tomatoes in pile #3.
Saute the first pile of toms and most of the garlic in a skillet with a little pre-heated olive oil.
After a few moments (garlic is browned) add second pile of toms. Cook for about a minute.
Turn OFF the heat. Add pile #3 of toms, the basil and the rest of garlic. Toss and wait for a few minutes. Add salt, red pepper flakes, grated hard cheese if you wish.
So some toms are cooked and some are raw. Tastes like heaven. Can put on pasta, sourdough bread, polenta or anything.
Enjoy it with some Pinot Grigio, or my preference, Sauvignon Blanc.

This week's fitness tip comes from my sister Karen. Do your hips sometimes hurt? Yeah, I thought so.
Whenever you can, sit cross-legged on the floor. Even better, put your hands on the floor, palms down, right behind you. That's it. So simple even Dave could do it.
It stretches out the tightness from walking, biking, sitting on a chair and just living.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Wine Spectator -- the Mag for the Gullible

Maybe it was just a matter of time for this to happen. Wine Spectator gave an award to a Milan restaurant that doesn't exist, falling for a hoax by a wine blogger who thinks such award programs are baloney. Robin Goldstein invented Osteria L'Intrepido restaurant, created a bogus website, menu and wine list and submitted them to the magazine’s annual award program. It was one of 3,000 plus restaurants that won. Only 400 entries lost. Each entry pays $250 to enter, earning the mag a cool million bucks.
The hoax was kind of mean, actually, because Robin even created fake restaurant reviews on Chowhound. But the "gotcha" reveals how worthless these awards are when you are looking for a good restaurant wine list.
The best wine lists are the ones that let you bring your own local wine and waive corkage if you also buy a bottle of the restaurant list---or let the servers taste your wine. In Healsdburg, that's Ravenous and H-BAG (Healdsburg Bar and Grill). Others?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Welcome to Harvest

The wine pros in our world are getting ready for harvest and a nervous buzz is in the air. Towns with music in the park are planning their last performance of the year next week and some kids are already in school. And it's hot, hot, hot. Dry rose wines are suddenly in demand to go with all the fruit, nuts and light meals full of greens and slices of succulent pork.
Our exercise of choice: the second-hand, three-speed bike you can use for errands (and to save gas). No need to lock them up--who would steal 'em? Plus hiking in hilly areas at sunset is a must.
The vegetable gardens are also coming in and I'll report on that soon......How about your August favorites?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Who eats Spam?

Spam, the brand, has an interesting situation in front of it. As a 70-year-old product--precooked pork butt in a can -- it is lucky to still be alive. But in those 70 years, the brand became the butt of jokes by Monty Python (Spamalot) and Weird Al Yankovic, and consequently was morphed into the very common term for junk email. Fame moves in mysterious ways.
Now the sales of Spam, the meat, are going up, up, up and parent company Hormel is running a big ad and marketing campaign and new campy website.
It seems spam email is helping sell Spam meat because the funny and unlikely connection between the two is making people curious. The ads and website satisfy the curiousity.
But do you know anyone who really eats Spam? Have you bought any lately? Based on the sales figures someone must be buying the stuff....maybe it is a secret pleasure....like governors have for hookers.
The company itself is mum. They finished a study of their core consumers and are not giving any hints of what they've found.
It's hard to figure out who's sending all that spam email---and almost as hard to figure out who eats Spam meat.
What is up with that?