Sunday, June 24, 2012

Wine for Critters, Part I

Now as most of you probably know, living in an apartment or house of any kind usually involves dealing with critters of one variety or another:  flies, mosquitos, bees, spiders, cockroaches, mice, etc. are par for the course.

Growing up, I remember the occasional cricket finding its way into our basement, and when I was young, I burst into tears one time when I thought my father was about to kill one such intruder.  Eventually, my dad managed to collect the cricket in some kind of a glass or jar and release him back into the wilds, where I imagine he was probably eaten by some other creature lurking outside.

When I was about six, I spent an afternoon playdate in the woods with my friend, and the next morning discovered a tick attached to the back of my neck.  I didn't know it was a tick of course; I just reached back to scratch an itch and discovered something lodged there that wouldn't move when I touched it.

I can only imagine the horror my mother must have felt when I asked her what it was.  Luckily, my dad hadn't left for work yet, and he calmly announced that he was going to have to stick a burning match to the back of my neck and then pull the tick out.

I immediately dissolved into a fit of noisy tears, and I remember my dad wedging my head between his knees and lighting the match.  Luckily, steady hands of a surgeon that he has, I didn't feel a thing, and the tick was successfully extracted.  This was also in the days before Lyme disease, so that was one less thing to worry about.

It's funny the vividness of these memories after all these years, and I remember watching my dad opening the garage door to leave for work following the tick removal and discovering that my hysterics had left a stream of tears and snot on his pants.  That's gratitude for you.

I have found San Francisco to be surprisingly free of critters for the most part compared to other places I've lived.  Other than the occasional fly or spider, I have seen nothing.

Until we moved to our house.  We have seen nothing for the first year here, and then one night a while back, on the way home from work late one night, I saw three raccoons marching across the street near our house, and then, a couple of months ago, Steve came up from our garage which is also our laundry room, and announced that he had seen something run from behind the dryer to under the stairs.

This "thing" was either a mouse, or a mole, he wasn't sure.  But it was small and brownish and fast. I'm not a person who is particularly afraid of mice, but still, I don't want them to start finding their way up into our living quarters.  It would be better if we still had a cat, as I imagine that the dog would be useless.

I grew up with mice in our basement, and I remember watching my dad removing their stiff little bodies from, and then re-setting, the snap traps.  This was probably not the best idea for a surgeon, since one good snap could break a finger, but oh well.

Needless to say, when Steve saw our houseguest, I immediately called in a pest control service, and they came out and put down traps of various varieties, and since doing this we have caught, exactly...nothing.  Not a one.

I had started to convince myself that maybe the mouse had just been a straggler, or maybe Steve had been hallucinating.  It can happen.

But about a month ago, when I had been lulled into a false sense of security, I went down to do laundry  at about 8pm.  I was standing there by the dryer,  when suddenly something streaked by me.  As it had before, it ran from behind the dryer and disappeared under the stairs.  It was definitely a mouse, and since it startled me, I let out a cry, kind of an "Ahhhh!"  Not really an "Eeeeeek" but close enough.

Let's just say, I'm not going to win any toughness awards with that display.  The dog heard it upstairs and started barking his head off.  You'll notice, though, that he didn't come running to my rescue or anything.  No, he just made a lot of noise, hoping that such a loud display would hide the fact that he was, in fact, too afraid to come down and face this creature head-on.

I can hardly blame him. I went to sleep that night afraid that the mouse was going to start following me everywhere I went.  In the middle of the night, Steve's hand brushed down the side of my leg, and I started awake, saying "I just felt the mouse".

Steve thought I was crazy, but he's kind of used to my odd middle-of-the-night behavior.  I once, in my sleep. pulled his pillow out from under his head, waking him up.  When he asked what I was doing, I explained that I had thought it was a football.  At the time, it made perfect sense.

My Wine for Critters, Part I is a Quattro Mani Franciacorta DOCG sparkling wine.  This bubbly hails from the Lombardia region of Italy, which is in Northern Italy, bordering Switzerland to the north, and wedged between the Piedmont and Veneto regions.

Quattro Mani translates to "four hands" and is the product of four different Italian winemakers seeking to make terroir-driven wines using mostly Italian varietals, in this case Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Nero.

This wine is a beautiful summer sipper, with notes of green apple, toasty bread, and lemon curd.  It is absolutely delicious with summer salads and light, hard cheeses.  A favorite of critters everywhere.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Wine for Dad

Last year, I devoted a post to the moms out there for Mother's Day, and this year, since Father's Day is fast-approaching, it is Dad's turn.

My father, better known as Dr. Bob, or Boston Bob (my sister's father-in-law is also named Bob but hails from NY, and my father somehow didn't believe that my sister would immediately be able to recognize his voice on her answering machine, and so started identifying himself as "Boston Bob"), is quite a guy.

A dedicated surgeon, he is, at over the age of 70, still working away, performing surgeries, and seeing patients.  I don't think it's an overstatement to say that he's a little on the obsessive side.  Once he gets a notion in his head, forget it, he will hang on and not let go until the idea either comes to fruition or has taken its last painful gasp.

This compulsiveness is part of what makes him such a great doctor, but it could also drive his children a little nuts.

I cannot lie: my dad was not the easiest guy to live with, but now, as an adult, with distance and insight, I can honestly say I feel a closeness to and an even greater appreciation for him and all that he has done in his life and for his children.

Though I think he has always been disappointed in the fact that none of his kids became doctors like him, once he realized that my struggle to be an actor mirrored his struggle to become a surgeon, he got behind me wholeheartedly.

Now on the surface, this sounds wonderful, but believe me, he most often drove me nuts with it!  His favorite word in the world is "contact", as in "that person's a great contact", and he would enlist everybody he could, chase down anyone with a pulse, if he though they might, in any way, contribute to my acting career.

He even, at one point, decided he was going to become my manager, and got stationary made up with "Dr. Bob's Agency" written on it.  The poor man, I think he's still using that stationary to this day.

If "contacts" is my dad's favorite word, then by far his favorite phrase is "buy low, sell high".  I think those must have been the first words I ever spoke.  I've never seen a man who's not actually a trader spend more time staring at the stock ticker or watching every existing investment show than he does.

I remember the horrors of being forced to watch "Wall Street Week" as a kid.  I can still hum the entire opening theme song, and I can remember the evolution of Louis Rukeyser's hairdos, and the fact that he drove me insane because he never seemed to swallow when he spoke.  Seriously, I never saw him do it.  I remember sitting there watching him, screaming to myself  "Swallow, for the love of God, man, please swallow!!!  How can a person talk so much but never need to swallow?!!"

While Dr. Bob is often serious and intense, he can also be quite quirky and funny.  One of my favorite illustrations of this is when, a few years ago, he got tired of the swelling squirrel population in his and my mom's backyard, and decided it was time to take action.

So he bought a squirrel trap and put it in the backyard, and, low and behold, he caught one.  This particular squirrel was, in my father's view, quite a guy, and my father named him Sport.  He decided that Sport should be relocated somewhere green, and he chose a golf course.  But not any golf course.  He picked one that was at a country club which he felt was anti-semetic because it didn't have any Jewish members, and deposited Sport there.

And not just Sport, for the next few months, this Jew-hating country club found themselves playing host to a burgeoning squirrel population.  I only wished that my dad has dressed the squirrels up to look like hasidic jews, in little black suits, with the yarmulkes and curlicues hanging down the sides of their little heads.

How great would it have been to see these upper class waspy white folks playing golf one day only to suddenly be witness to a flock of hasidic squirrels running by them, presumably on their way to Torah study, or maybe a Bar Mitzvah.

In line with most men of his generation, my dad is not necessarily the most verbally communicative of people, but he certainly manages to say a lot with a few small gestures: I did a play called Kaleidoscope in NYC many years ago, and what did he buy me when it was finished?  Yup, a little Kaleidoscope.  And he got a tiny engraved plate on a stand with an image of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, as in "to dream the impossible dream".  And now that I'm involved with wine, he's looking through his own cellar, trying to find bottles we might be able to drink together.

But my favorite is a copy of Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, which he bought, one copy for me, and one for my sister, after a fishing trip she and I took with him on Martha's Vineyard when I was 16.

Inside the front cover he wrote: "To Emily and Jocelyn, I was very proud of both of you today.  Always fight the good battle with equal courage.  Love, Dad".  Somewhere out there, on that No-Jews-Allowed golf course, I know that Sport, the hasidic squirrel is saying "amen to that!" as he dodges the golf balls being lobbed at his head.

My Wine for Dad is not a wine but rather a single-malt Scotch.  I admit to not being a huge Scotch fan myself, but after working at the restaurant for a while, and smelling my way through our large selection, and experimenting with and tasting a few of them, I have begun to appreciate them more and more.
Macallan Scotches hail from the beautiful Easter Elchies Estate, overlooking the Spey River in Northern Scotland, about 3 hours from the Edingurgh airport.

A single malt Scotch whiskey must be distilled at a single distillery, made entirely from malted barley, and matured in an oak cask in Scotland for a minimum of three years.

Macallan uses new oak casks made from Spanish or American oak, some seasoned with sherry, some with bourbon, for the aging of their scotches.

They have quite a range of scotches, but the only ones I have tasted are the Macallan 10, 18 and 21.
Obviously the longer they age, the richer, smoother , darker they become, with increasing notes of spice, dried fruit, vanilla and chocolate.

If your dad is a Scotch drinker, these would make an excellent gift, and an even better way to say "Thanks, Dad, for driving me crazy, buying low and selling high, and dreaming the impossible dream."

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wine for the Joy of Roomba

One thing I neglected to really think about before getting both my cat and dog was pet hair.

The cat I had years ago lived only to cuddle, sleep, eat, and deposit as much hair as she could on every available surface of my apartment.

This invariably included me, and the mistake of getting an almost all-white cat when I had an almost all-black wardrobe soon became apparent.  The sticky tape roller became my best friend, and since mere vacuuming wasn't enough, I was forced to throw a clean sheet over my couch whenever anyone came over, in case they mistook my couch cover for a bear rug.  Or a gorilla suit.

Clearly I didn't learn my lesson with her, because Tuco is mostly white as well.  I was overjoyed when he was a puppy, though , because he seemed not to shed at all.

How fabulous, I thought.  We've managed to luck into a dog that doesn't shed!

Oh, how I was mistaken:  little by little, the scattering of doggie hair around our house began to increase, gradually covering the rug and creating tumbleweeds that blew across the wood floors within a day or so of vacuuming.

The only way to keep the house truly hair-free would have been to vacuum daily, and I'm sorry, but house-proud as I am, i just could not bring myself to do it that often.  Not to mention that every time I open the closet door that hides the vacuum, the dog runs away in fear.

It was a random woman at the dog park who told me about the Roomba; a small round robotic vacuum that swivels itself around your house of its own accord, sucking up dirt and hair along the way.

Well I couldn't resist, I got one.  And I'm not going to lie to you, I was immediately in love.  I can simply press the "clean" button before I leave the house and the Roomba will toodle around the house and clean it while I'm away.  The best part is it has a little docking station, and when the vacuum is done cleaning or its battery gets low, the Roomba docks itself and charges.

It's pretty fab.  Tuco, however, is not so sure, and the first time I took it out of its box and set it to charge on its docking station, Tuco became afraid and I had to pick him up.  It hadn't even started cleaning yet.

When it did, he stared at it, sniffed at it, jumped backward when it bumped into his paws, and then began to chase it around barking at it.

But by far the strangest behavior occurred that night and the night after:

Tuco just wouldn't settle.  He ran around the house, then he stood still, staring at us pathetically, imploringly.  He hid between our living room chairs, looking up at us, only to run away a few moments later.

Something was really wrong: he seemed sick, and i kept taking him outside to see if he needed to poop, but once outside he seemed fine.

Maybe, I thought, in his doggie way, he was trying to tell us an earthquake was coming.

He looked desperately at us, begging us to help him, but we had absolutely no idea what was wrong, so how could we know what to do?

It was shaping up to be a very long and freaky evening, when Steve, clever lad that he is, had the brilliant idea to unplug the Roomba docking station.  I admit, I was skeptical of this move, and the thought "oh yeah, that'll do it" crossed my mind.

But as soon as the words finished forming in my head, I realized that Steve had been right.  Tuco immediately seemed better.  His eyes relaxed, he stopped standing and running around, and he lay down and almost instantly fell asleep.

It must have been that whatever signal the docking station emits to draw the Roomba to it must be at a frequency which humans can't hear but dogs can.

I can only imagine how it must have been driving Tuco crazy, like an incessant test of the Emergency Broadcast System, or a fire alarm that won't turn off.  Try relaxing or sleeping through that.  It's no wonder he was happier outside.

So now I know:  I need to plug in the Roomba when we leave the house, and unplug it when we get home again.  After all, now that I have experienced the joy of the Roomba and a house not swimming in dog hair, I can never go back again.

Now if someone would only invent a robot to vacuum the actual dog, I would be in heaven.

My Wine for the Joy of Roomba is a 2008 Tardieu-Laurent "Les Becs Fins".  This red wine hails from the Cotes du Rhone Villages appellation in the Southern Rhone Valley in France.

A blend of Grenache and Syrah, this wine has nicely balanced tannins and acidity, with rich, ripe red and black fruits, tobacco, dried flowers and herbs.  The 2009 is probably easier to get now than the 2008, and can be found for under $24 a bottle.

A lot of wine for the money, we serve it with squab at the restaurant, but it would also be perfect for those days when you just want to curl up with a glass of wine, sit back and watch the Roomba do the work for you.  Just make sure to put earmuffs on your pooch first.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wine for the Long, Hot Shower

There are few things in like I enjoy more than a long hot shower. Put me under the steady stream with some lavender body wash and soft lighting and I am in relaxation heaven.

I am not kidding when I say long shower, unfortunately for our water bill. I have been known to stay in there for 25 minutes, and when I was growing up, in a house with 4 other individuals, it was a bad morning when anyone in my family let me take a shower first, because invariably by the time i was finished there was little hot water remaining. This might explain why no one in my family liked me until i moved out of the house.

In my opinion, a good shower requires good water pressure, and so it should be no surprise when I tell you that I believe the low-flow shower head represents one of the lower points in our existence.

I am all for being conscientious, but how can one have a truly great shower when the water is more like a mist than a rain. Especially when it's really cold out, it's just cruel, to have a small trickle of warm water touching one part of your shivering body while the rest goosebumps in the cold air.

And forget about ever really washing shampoo or conditioner out of your hair. Low water pressure means an ever-present slick of hair products always clinging to my locks.

My most recent shower head was more than a trickle but less than powerful, and I was distressed when suddenly the water pressure seemed to ebb to the point where I could barely get my hair wet.

I called the plumber out in case there was something suddenly wrong with the pipes, and imagine my surprise when he informed me that the problem lay in the shower head itself. He removed it from its arm, and showed me the inside filter that had flipped on its side, blocking water flow, and also showed me the green restrictor, which has tiny holes which restrict the water flow. It is this little piece of plastic that makes it a "low-flow" shower head. The plumber told me that these teeny holes can easily become blocked by as little as a grain if sand, making water flow even less forceful.

Imagine my joy when he further informed me that this restrictor could be removed, thereby giving me a shower head with unimpeded water flow! Finally, I thought, a proper shower with some oomph to it!

But, I questioned, wouldn't this make our water bills skyrocket? You probably won't even notice the difference, he assured me, because the stronger water pressure usually equals shorter showers.

Well, I thought, we'll see about that.

It was with great anticipation and excitement that I got into my shower the next morning. So imagine my surprise when I found I had entered a chamber of terror rather than my peaceful shower.

To say that I now had increased water pressure would be an understatement. The force of this shower blew me halfway across my bathroom the first time I turned it on. I had to fight my way back against it while covering vital organs.

The noise of it obliterated all other sounds including those of my shocked and agonized screams; the drain couldn't handle the amount of water and within 15 seconds I was standing in a foot and a half of it; and within about 6 minutes, all the hot water was gone.

It's true that the force of the water rinsed out all of the hair products i used since the 5th grade, unfortunately it also removed large clumps of hair. I sometimes shave in the shower, but now I don't need to, since the needles of water ripped most of it out by the roots. I used to wash my face in the shower, but I stopped since I was afraid that I might lose a nostril.

The plumber was certainly right about me taking shorter showers. I'm in and out of there as quickly as I can be because I'm now terrified of it. I approach it like a lion tamer, complete with stool and whip. Or like a boxer, bob and weave, baby, bob and weave.

Sadly, it is back to the low-flow for me. I may emerge from it with hair that is greasier than it was when I got in, but at least I leave with all my body parts accounted for, and that is no small matter.

My Wine for the Long, Hot Shower is a little concoction I whipped up myself at brunch with Steve a few weeks ago.

We were at Presidio Social Club in the Presidio, one of my favorite spots. For those of you in the Bay Area it is worth a visit for the ambiance and the mac & cheese alone.

I have become enamored of rose champagnes and sparkling wines lately, and am on a mission to try as many as I can and find the best ones. At this brunch, i decided to try and add a little something to the California bubbly I had ordered by adding a shot of St. Germain Elderflower liqueur to it.

Success! It was absolutely delicious. The elderflower added a slight sweetness and floral quality to the lightly berried bubbly. Yum, yum and yum. Try it with your favorite rose sparkler and let me know what you think.

Also, if you have a rose Champagne you think I should try, please let me know!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wine for Doggie Communication

As anyone who has pets can tell you, after a while you develop a certain understanding with your pet, a way that you communicate with each other, verbal and non-verbal cues you pick up on so that you can understand what the other wants and needs in a given moment.

Watching and interpreting Tuco's signs and signals is an ever-amusing and evolving sport, and seeing how he interprets us is even more so.

For example, Tuco's peeing style: I always thought that all male dogs cocked their legs to pee right from the get-go, but I have since learned that this is not the case.

Much of the time Tuco just kind of stretches his back legs out slightly and dips his hips and pees like that, kind of splay-legged, both back paws on the ground. He has quite a devil-may-care stance when he does this, in my opinion, a kind of "A-hoy Matey!" attitude.

When he is trying to send a message to other dogs however, be it on a walk or at the dog park against a shrub or tree trunk, then he cocks his leg. He does this with quite a bit of exuberance, shoving his leg up as high as it will go standing on the tip of his other back paw, I assume for maximum coverage.

The problem with this is that he lifts his leg so high and lifts it with such a sudden movement that he often teeters over mid-pee, and then has to try and recover his dignity and make sure the other dogs don't suspect that he just fell over while having a wee wee.

But the pee on the tree is always a clear message to other dogs that he was there.

In other ways he makes himself clear to us:

It's pretty clear when he stands by the door of the house that he needs to go out to pee, or when he won't leave the kitchen that he's telling us it's time to eat.

He seems to understand us much of the time, too. When we say "sit", he sits. When we say "In your place", he runs into his crate. When we say "Do you want your breakfast (or lunch, or dinner)?" he runs into the kitchen, tail wagging.

There are a few things that seem not to be quite so clear. Most dogs will become apoplectic when asked if they want to go out, or go for a walk, or go to the park. Tuco, however, when we ask him any of those questions, simply stares at us, maybe giving a slight tail wag, and then runs away from us as soon as he sees the leash.

This is made more confusing by the fact that when I ask "Do you want to run an errand?" he is delighted and wags his tail no end and can't wait to go. Running an errand usually involves me driving somewhere and leaving him in the car while I go to Trader Joe's or Target. This seems, however, to be no end of fun for him for some reason.

The fact that he runs away from us when he sees the leash is the oddest thing by far, because this is a dog that LOVES to go to the park and run and chase the ball, and in the mornings, when he needs to go somewhere to run, he lets us know it in no uncertain terms.

It begins with him rolling around on his back, teeth bared, making odd snuffling and snorting noises. It then progresses to him staring at us from a distance. And staring. And staring. He then moves closer. And closer. Still staring (see photo above). Then he puts his chin in one of our laps. And stares.

If that doesn't work, he moves on to the windows, raising the shades noisily with his snout and staring longingly outside. Then back at us. Then back outside.

If this still doesn't produce results he then progresses to operation-squeaky-toy, during which he picks up a variety of squeaky toys and pillows in turn and obsessively squeaks them, so that there is no possibility of ignoring him and no way we can hear the television, or ourselves think.

If that also fails, then he brings out the big guns: the chew toy. This is a dense, hard, plastic object which he will pick up and fling around the house, causing it to crash loudly against our hardwood floors. He will do this until our heads explode, or our floors are dented, or we finally, finally, take him out.

Once in the car he paces around the back, whimpering, whining and groaning like Chewbacca until we finally get to the park, whereupon he flings himself dramatically against a tree to announce his arrival with a pee, loses his balance and falls over.

My Wine for Doggie Communication is a 2009 Yves Leccia Domaine d'E Croce Patrimonio Rouge. This is red wine from the Patrimonio appellation in Corsica. The wine is made from 90% Niellucciu and 10% Grenache.

Now if you have never heard of the Niellucciu grape varietal you are not alone. I had never heard of it either! In fact, I just made it up.

No, that's not true either! Fact is, there is some dispute about the varietal itself, with some people claiming it is indigenous to the island of Corsica, while others maintaining it is a clone of the Sangiovese grape from Italy.

Regardless of its origins, the wine is yummy. It can be something delicious and surprising to bring out for guests who tend to like Pinot Noir, but might like to try a wine that is unusual and probably unlike anything they've had before. It is not an overpowering wine, with lots of bright, juicy red berry fruit, notes of rose soap leaves and a pronounced essence of damp stone.

I got it from Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant in Berkeley, CA for around $28/bottle, and if you want to try it they ship anywhere in the US that allows.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Wine for The Oscars

I confess, this year i did not watch the whole telecast, partly because Steve and I were at the dog park trying to exhaust our puppy menace for the evening, and partly because, well, to be honest, i just can't bear it anymore.

How many more years can I sit there watching the telecast through my fingers, Steve and I frozen in horror saying things like: "Oh no, no, don't....don't look at it!! Don't look!!! Mute it, for the love of God, mute it now!!!!!!"

I so want to love the Oscars, and there are so many reasons why I should be able to, but so much of it is just bad, so, so bad sometimes.

And now that presenters have started directly addressing the actors who are nominated: "Rooney, your performance was so scary, it made my shorts get tight and my knickers grow long. You are, indeed, the girl with the boxy bangs in....The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", I just cringe and want to crawl under my chair.

Is it just me that finds this horribly embarrassing? Does anyone else think it's just too much? Or am I simply The Girl with the Phobia of Direct Address?

I do love the glamour, and the beautiful dresses and jewels, but I'm sorry, what was happening with Angelina Jolie's leg and voice? She looked like she was trying to do Jessica Rabbit singing "I'm a little teapot", showing us her handle and her spout. Why, why, why would she keep standing like that? It just was so odd.

And the woman needs to eat. Seriously, that is not attractive, or healthy. When she gestured with her arm it looked like a half-eaten chicken wing.

I unfortunately missed Billy Crystal's opening monologue and the black-face schtick he's getting so much flack for, so I can't comment on either, but i can say that he really, really, really needs to stop with the plastic surgery now. Like right now.

His face is so shiny and stretched, he's starting to look like a woman. Or a man in drag as Irma Bombeck.

I know no one wants to look old, but plastic surgery like that doesn't make a person look younger, it makes a person look like one of those alien-dolls people can squeeze to alleviate stress, so the eyes bug out and everything looks stretched and distorted.

A woman came into the restaurant one night who had had so much plastic surgery on her face that she was starting to look like a Picasso, with a nose where her eye should be, and half her face on the back of her head. It wasn't pretty. And when I gave her wine to sniff, I had to hold the glass up to her ear, because that's where her left nostril was.

Enough's enough. I have no problem with people trying out injections and fillers, to see if they can't plump things up a bit, but some of these surgeries just make people look like aliens.

I'm sure Meryl Streep and Glen Close have used some sort of line-fillers or something, but overall they look like they are aging gracefully and elegantly, and above all, allowing themselves to still look like real people.

So Billy, you're such a funny guy...but be careful. If you don't stop with the knife now, in a few years, when you are still hosting The Oscars, some guy in his eighties is going to be watching you, cackling and saying "Now THAT is one funny broad!".

My Wine for The Oscars is 2005 Bru Bache L'Eminence from the Jurancon, in Southwestern France. This is a very interesting and unusual-tasting wine. Wines from this area are made from more unusual varietals like Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng and Corbu, but the real thing that sets this wine apart is the fact the it has been deliberately exposed to oxygen, so it takes on a sherry, apple cider-like quality.

The wine is sweet, but still bright with acidity, and is what we pair at the restaurant with our foie gras.

It is golden in color, and sparkles in the glass. Perfect for a toast on Oscar night.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wine for Rowing my Way to Glory

Now I am well aware that it has been a ridiculously long time since my last posting, and really, there's no excuse for it, so I won't make one.

We instead will pretend that I have been filling your in-box with wonderfully pithy posts for the past two months, making you laugh and cry and toast my name each time you read them.

In that vein, we will just pick up where we've left off and jump right in:

A few weeks ago, I turned 40. That's right, I did. And my husband got me a present. A big one, for a big birthday.

Now what do you think a beloved husband might get for his adored and adoring wife on such a big birthday: diamonds? a surprise trip to Maui? A humongous bouquet of flowers?

Nope. What i got was a rowing machine. For exercise. Like the ones they have at a gym.

Now I know that getting someone a piece of exercise equipment for her birthday might seem a bit like putting a can of deodorant on a smelly French-teacher's desk (I didn't do this, of course, but some other kids in my school did. Mean, I know, but boy did that woman really need to take the hint.).

And to get such a machine for your wife on a big birthday might sound as if he's saying "Happy Birthday!! You're 40! Please God do something about that ASS!!!!!!"

But I promise you he's not saying that at all. Doesn't mean he's not thinking it, mind.

But before you start sending him hate mail, let me tell you that I asked him to get it for me, crazy as that may seem.

As many of you may know, I hate to exercise. Try as I may to convince myself otherwise, I really just hate it. I know it's good for health and well-being, and over the years I have tried various machines and classes and dvds, only to come once again to the inevitable conclusion that exercise is a terrible form of torture and punishment and should be avoided by one and all.

Of everything I have tried over the years, only two forms of exercise have ever really stuck: walking and rowing. Steve finds it very funny that the only gym machine I like happens to be the one that almost everybody else in the gym studiously avoids.

But I do like it; the smooth motion, and the fact that it's kind of a one-stop shop. It gives an intense cardio workout and pretty much works every muscle in your body (ok, not EVERY muscle, but you know what I mean).

And since I did just turn 40, and am a bit concerned about the fact that I am getting older and at some point in the future, my boobs may wind up in permanent conversation with my knees, I decided it was time to take decisive action and try to get in better shape.

Knowing there is no way I can get myself to the gym, I decided to bring the gym to me! Or one piece of it anyway.

This rowing machine is pretty. Very pretty. Plus I can watch movies while I'm rowing, and it doesn't get much better than that. If i can just figure out a way to eat popcorn and drink a glass of wine at the same time, I think i will really be able to change how I feel about the whole exercise thing.

Now the hard part begins: actually getting on the thing and rowing away several times a week, one week after another.

No doubt, I will need some help and encouragement along the way. And wine. Of course, wine.

To that end, my wine for rowing my way to glory is an Italian digestif called an Amaro. These are after dinner drinks made from spirits that have been distilled with secret recipes of fruits, spices, flowers and herbs. Traditionally they have a sweetness offset by a bitter finish.

My favorite one of the moment is Meletti Amaro, from the Adriatic Coast of Italy. A beautiful caramel amber color, the Meletti secret recipe includes saffron and anise and is deliciously sweet with a gentle bitterness at the end which is enticingly addictive.

The best part is, you can find it online for $16.99 a bottle at K & L Wines.

Trust me, try it once and you will be hooked.

This stuff is so delicious that, when I served it at my house recently, one of my guests loved it so much, she wound up carrying the bottle around the house with her, kind of like a security blankie, never letting it out of her sight.

Now that's Amaro!