Food, Wine, Good (and Evil) Spirits
We'd been drinking since Happy Hour at that Korean Pirates of the Caribbean on Wilshire. We guzzled 5000cc's of Amber Ale, and dined on authentic cuisine: "tteokbokki" and "potato skins." Post-Happy Hour pricing pushed us on to the streets. We decided to regroup at a home-base off Franklin.
We drank whiskey shots and warm beer on the breezy patio. Our friends were at that bar-that-offers-free-tacos-with-every-drink. The house descended on to the watering hole recently annexed by the hip-seeking Manifest Destiny of gentrification. Friends from varied areas of my life crowded into a corner of the cantina.
Many of us have heard that old adage from the Corinthians: "When I was a child I spoke as a child, thought as a child, and reasoned as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things." Well, when I was a child of sixteen I liked to drink beer, smoke pot and listen to Led Zeppelin at top volume.
Admit it – you did too.
Eventually, much to my dismay, I was required to become an adult and to reason as one. I am not saying that I have achieved any great levels of thought; but I did stop listening to Seventies arena rock. I thought I was supposed to. Just like I thought I was supposed to acquire some decent furniture, invest in an IRA, and make sure my hemline never again drifted above my thighs....that kind of crap.
I even brought myself to marry someone who liked “Smooth Jazz.” I found myself spending many evenings at the second-rate jazz clubs on Bleecker Street, trying to look at least mildly entertained as I listened to some tepid trio, while drinking even more tepid wine. There were things about adulthood I found incredibly disappointing.
I know I am not the only person who feels like this. New York City is full of adults who still crave the thrill and energy of the head-banger music of their childhoods, but no longer want to have to resort to banging their heads. In other words: We no longer want to fight for our right to party.
When summer temperatures go up, my appetite goes down. I want less to eat and more to drink. Homemade lemonade with mint is a great favorite. Iced tea in a tall glass filled with cracked ice is a great way to cool down. On a recent trip to Spain, I rediscovered sangria, which might be the best remedy for double and triple digit heat waves.
In the summer, the Iberia Peninsula bakes under an unforgiving sun. Spaniards long ago learned that the best way to beat back the effects of hot weather is to eat small plates ("tapas") and drink wine flavored with fresh fruit.
When I was served a glass of sangria in a bar in San Sebastián, a small resort town on the coast of Northern Spain, I loved the way fresh fruit added flavor to the wine. Fortified with brandy and sugar, sangria goes well with small sandwiches, salads and snacks.
Visit Spain and you'll see sangria pitchers. Wide at the base, the large pitchers have a spout narrowed at the end. When the pitcher is made, the potter gently pinches the spout to narrow the opening, allowing the wine but not the fruit to enter the glass.
Last night husband Martin and I were feeling a bit restless – nothing that an ale at the Verdugo couldn’t fix. The Verdugo is our (somewhat) local bar. It has an awesome selection of craft beers on tap, and really, is there anything as good as a good beer on draught? Beer geeks LOVE this place – it has Pliny the Elder, Craftsman, Sour Beers, Belgians, stouts, meads – you name it – on tap. Dudes love the place because the bartenders are pretty, and there is a flat screen t.v. at the bar, where if you ask nicely, they will turn on the ball game. Chicks love the place because, er, the beer is so fine? Also, if you happen to have unenlightened friends who don’t appreciate fine beer, there is a full bar.
So last night perusing the beer list, we both fixed on Aprihop by Dogfish Head. We requested a small taste (they will let you do that!) and we both ordered a pint. Dogfish is an interesting brewery. It’s in Delaware and there was an entertaining article about it in the New Yorker a couple of years ago. Unbeknownst to us, Bryant Goulding, Dogfish’s West Coast Regional Sales Manager was sitting a few seats down, and we got to chat him up about the beer and brewery.
Even though I take all those silly self portraits of me doing absolutely nothing and blog about trips to pretty places I am not much of the relaxing type of guy. I’m actually quite the opposite and find myself nervous or antsy when I’m sitting still. The thought of midday naps freak me out and stopping to sit down for tea or coffee in the afternoon is a luxury I rarely allow myself. Even if I had the time I’d still feel like I was missing something or that something terrible would happen because I wasn’t working working working working working.
Yea, I have issues. I know this. But I’m trying to grow and slow down just a little bit.
When I got home the other day after I was greeted by Adam clanking away in the kitchen. He had the urge to bake and it’s an urge I completely encourage. Who doesn’t like fresh baked anything the second they walk in the door? But I had a chunk of editing to do and had to submit some images to the magazine I was working for that day before running to Fed Ex to send out a package.
As a devoteé of all things wine, I am on the constant lookout for events that allow me to expand my palate without hurting my pocketbook. It's rare to find me at large "Grand Tastings" because I find it difficult even with pouring/spitting to get my $50-$100 worth and still be able to function or remember what I drank. Living in Los Angeles, "bang for the buck" wine-centered evenings are few and far between so when I heard about the Tavern's bi-weekly Wine and Cheese Club, I made a reservation immediately. The Larder, where the tasting takes place, is the casual cafe attached to Tavern, which is Suzanne Goin's latest restaurant venture. Even though I've never been to her reknowned wine bar A.O.C. – it's horrifying I know, I'll get there, I promise – I knew this was going to be good. It's what she does. Plus, four wines paired with cheese and nibbles for $29? There's nothing wrong with that equation. Except the drive, which thankfully for us was against traffic.
The evening is very casual, though there is some "education" about the wine region being featured, the backstory behind each wine and why it was selected, as well as what they hoped to accomplish with each pairing. It was probably 5 minutes of information before each course, leaving you plenty of time to socialize with your dining companions while savoring the pairings. Questions are encouraged, but not necessary to the enjoyment of the evening.
I had to laugh the other night while having dinner in a local restaurant. The patrons next to us ordered a bottle of wine, confidently requesting "Pinot Grisss", with lots of heavy emphasis on the "isssss", as their wine of choice for the evening.
I shouldn't have laughed. Really I shouldn't have. But I'm horrible like that. Don't worry... they didn't hear me. I wanted the waitress to correct them though, "You mean PEE-noh Gree?" but she didn't. Maybe she was worried about her tip or was trying hard not to laugh herself.
I think the intimidation for ordering wine is even greater at fine dining establishments employing a sommelier (sum-muhl-YAY). The sommelier is there to help guide restaurant guests in the best wine choice possible in terms of their meal, palate and pocketbook. It can be intimidating to speak up and request something from somewhere like Chateauneauf-du-Pape (shah-toh-nuhf-doo-PAHP), if you have absolutely NO IDEA how to pronounce the words.
I should be more forgiving. I know for a fact, as many have confessed to me, some people shy away from ordering particular wines simply because they are afraid of making a pronunciation mistake in front of friends and clients.
Here's the thing I hate about wine, the attitude. You know what I'm talking about. Wine should be something we enjoy and yet it easily slips into something that intimidates instead. Of course it's not the fault of the wine. It's the people who write about it, sell it and pour it who use it as a weapon against the unsuspecting. I haven't actually met any intimidating winemakers, although it may just be a matter of time.
In my quest to learn more about wine I have been attending wine events, reading up on wine but mostly tasting, as you might imagine. Reading about wine sounds like the most boring thing in the world, but as with anything else if the the writer is talented the subject turns out be fascinating. Two recent books have utterly delighted me in this regard – Lettie Teague's book Educating Peter: How Anybody Can Become an (Almost) Instant Wine Expert and Rick Kushman and Hank Beal's A Moveable Thirst: Tales and Tastes from a Season in Napa Wine Country. They actually have quite a bit in common. Both are conversations between a wine novice and an expert.
Tired of being the host and the bartender at your party? This is the perfect solution...a festive drink your guests can serve themselves.
When's the last time you brought out the punch bowl? They are hip now and back in style....very retro and not to mention look beautiful on a table. If you don't have one, get yourself over to Goodwill...they have shelves and shelves of vintage ones they are dying for you to take home.
This drink is a very fun way to start of your party. This punch along with some bottles of wine will keep you concentrating on the meal while your guests help themselves to some cheer!
From the Huffington Post
There are bartenders who make a living mixing cocktails, and baristas whose wages are earned behind espresso machines. There are high-concept tea masters, sommeliers, and soda jerks, too. At home we are never expected to be any of these, but when guests arrive for your holiday parties some simple instruction might be helpful. After all, there's a week's worth of celebrating still to be done.
I tend to restrict drinks at my dinner parties to champagne and wine and perhaps one great cocktail. I suggest you try all the ideas here, or create your own, but choose only one as your "house special." "What you don't need," says wine writer Anthony Dias Blue, "is people sidling up to your bar expecting a Singapore Sling or a mai tai," or both!
I know a thing or two about drinks. At age 16, I was a bartender, illegally, at the Olde London Fishery in Queens, New York. I was tall for my age and looked the part. Next, I had the ultimate pleasure of helping create two of New York's most spectacular bars -- the Rainbow Promenade at the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center, where Sleepless in Seattle was shot, and the Greatest Bar on Earth on the 106th floor of the now legendary Windows on the World. A great drink is always remembered.