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."