We've been getting rain, which is so needed, but it means I don't have the DIY post I had scheduled for this week. Instead, read about my birthday weekend over on my other blog. It was a beautiful few days. :)
My Charles and I went to Anderson Valley and the Pacific Coast this weekend, specifically Little River and the Jug Handle State Reserve. As we pulled into the valley, and even more so as we arrived at the ocean, I felt my bones settle and my entire body relax. Do you know what I mean? It was glorious. As we drove away, I felt the tension return, slowly tightening as we traveled until I was back, stuck in my usual, wound-up self. But for the short bit while we were there, it was wonderful, beautiful, and right.
(Re-posted from my food blog.)
The skies were dreary and overcast. My wool pea coat was a must and was destined to be drenched multiple times. A pub and a pint by a crackling fire beckoned, but I was on a gastronomic mission – to eat at as many great restaurants in Winchester as possible.
We were visiting my sister, a recent Masters graduate from the Winchester School of Art. People had made fun of our culinary pursuits while in England – don’t they boil everything? – but we persevered and were rewarded with a week’s worth of wonderful meals. Winchester is actually a hub of a town with a teeming culture.
To begin our eatery extravaganza, we did in fact choose a pub. We were in England after all! At the Royal Oak, I opted for the Fish & Chips, and I was not disappointed. The haddock had wonderful flavor, the batter light and crunchy. The serving was huge – too much to consume in one sitting. The only unfortunate aspect was that it was presented on a wooden tray that had obviously been abused with frequent washing. (I was also not a fan of mushy peas, sorry!)
Trying Indian food was a must. I grew up in Yuba City (it’s often referred to as “Little India” because of the large Sikh population), which means that I also grew up with Indian cuisine, and I was curious to experience the differences – if any – from across the pond. The waiter didn’t believe that I could handle the spice in my meal, I ordered madras, but I could have handled more. We shared some lovely garlic naan and a bottle of Riesling for a very satisfying meal.
At Rimjhim, we waited – and waited – for the bill. We had encountered the lovely, non-pushy restaurant culture in Great Britain. They’ll let you sit there for hours if you don’t tell them you’d like the bill that last time the waiter or waitress stops by and asks if you’d like anything else. (When we ended up wanting dessert at another place after our meal, we had to practically pounce on a member of the staff in order to procure our bill.) After being left alone for what seemed like an eternity, we finally walked up to the register.
With traditional pub food and Indian out of the way, the next stop on our culinary journey was, of course, Italian. Zizzi was a bit haughty, and they sat our riffraff selves in a corner behind a life-sized statue of a horse, but my Ravioli Di Capra was divine, and the Barbera De Asti Superiore 2010 D.O.C.G., Chiarlo Piemonte was quite lovely with the food. It did sport more than a touch of Brett, to which I’m very sensitive (I think it tastes like Band-Aids), so it wasn’t my favorite, though that Brettanomyces, along with its restrained mineral characteristics, made it very European.
On our last day, we kept it Mediterranean and headed to Spain. El Sabio had a wonderful assortment of tapas. My choice of three dishes, Croquetas De Setas y Queso de Cabrales, Ensalada Mixta, and Albóndigas en Salsa de Tomate were perfect and packed with flavor. We shared a bottle of Tempranillo, Marqués de Verdellano for a very easy-going, and very filling, lunch.
I think our favorite stop of all was The Black Bottle – not a restaurant, though they do offer food, but rather a wine bar. With a card that had been charged from money given at the register, you could choose wine by the glass in 125 ml, 175 ml, or taste sizes. I had a grand time skipping around and sampling various wines from the automated dispensers until I happened upon my favorite, Masseria Pietrosa Malvasia Nera, and had a glass. I love it and am hoping to find a distributor here in the States. Thank goodness I live with a wine buyer!
All in all, our gastronomic tour of Winchester was a rousing success. We had a wonderful experience, and with all of the walking we did, I managed not to gain any weight, so, WIN!
The sun gifts us with the first light of day.
As it climbs higher in the sky, I will experience a slight ache in my back, an amazing sense of satisfaction, and a very minor buzzing in my head – the ache from harvesting grapes grown in the traditional, Italian way (tight rows and low-hanging fruit), the satisfaction from working as hard and as quickly as possible among the vines, and the buzz from the amazing champagne brunch that is our payment for a job well done.
For the past three seasons, my Charles and I have helped in Montoliva’s harvest of its estate-grown Sangiovese grapes. Each year, it’s gotten easier. In part, this is because we’re getting a bit better, but more of the success has come from nicer weather.
The harvest in 2010 was on Halloween. It was cold and stormy. It had rained the night before, so even though I was wearing a sweater underneath my raincoat, I was drenched and shivering within five minutes. 2011 was warmer and more pleasant, though there had been some moisture, so we dealt with a small amount of rot. Plus, I forgot to bring our gloves, so my Charles and I both managed to nick ourselves with our clippers. 2012 was hot and dry. The bunches were big and beautiful and dusty – no moisture, and therefore no rot, to be found.
This year’s crew was also outstanding. For the first time, the entire estate was harvested on the same day, and not only that, it was harvested in a few hours. Everyone kicked some major ass and took some major names. My Charles and I were home by noon, feeling good, though tired, and cheered by a beautiful, warm morning spent out amongst the vines.
2012 is going to be an amazing year for California wines.
Recently, I needed to create a new food blog location for work. Seizing the opportunity, I created it for me, too. I'll be posting most of my recipes, coffee, etc. writing over there. I'm still deciding on wine and beer -- I may post both places, I may just post there. But if you enjoy my foodie nature, please visit Sapid Cellar Door.
Ten groups gathered around two tables, one within the winery and one out in the glorious sunshine. In front of each group sat five glasses and a beaker. The challenge was deceptively simple -- combine Sangiovese, Barbera, Teroldego, and Primitivo to create a compelling blend. At least 40% had to be Sangio, no more than 10% could be Barbera, and all four had to be used. We had one hour.
My Charles and I started with what we called the, "Mathematical Blend." It was nice but wasn't quite right. Onward we delved, creating six blends within the space of that hour. We were the most satisfied with our fifth blend. It had just enough fruitiness to be enjoyed on its own but with enough backbone for personality. Plus, it would go great with food. We had enough extra time after creating our favorite blend for what we called, "Charles' Extra Credit Super Tuscan," which we didn't enter but also thoroughly enjoyed. It was 75% Sangiovese, 2% Barbera, 15% Teroldego, and 8% Primitivo. Try it out the next time you have a wine party. It was quite nice.
Then the competition commenced. Everyone brought enjoyable blends to the table. One didn't have much structure. One was very fruity. They were all nice. When we got to our wine, Mark, Mr. Winemaker Extraordinaire, poured everyone our blend. Not to start any rumors, but I MAY have witnessed him taking the extra from our offering and stashing it away. In the end, we didn't win the competition. The blend went to the creation for which we voted. (We weren't allowed to vote for ourselves.;)) It was very nice, and the lady who won was very surprised and honored that hers was the most popular.
If all of that wasn't enough, my Charles and I and the rest of the blenders got to try Mark's newest creation, a sparkling rosé. Full of strawberries with just enough dryness to please the palate, it was the best sparkling wine I've had in a long time. I can't wait until it's bottled!
As the day wound down, we realized that we needed to get home to the pup. We said our goodbyes and left our entry's recipe with Mark. As we drove away, my Charles and I looked at each other and smiled. He looked back at the road and said, "This is the most fun we've had since we moved to Nevada County." I couldn't agree more.
Today my Charles and I are doing something fun & exciting -- we're going to participate in the creation of a wine blend. We're so stoked!
I've also been participating in the many things that others are doing -- tons of new year organization. I'll post more about that later as well.
I'll fill you in on what our blend becomes and if we take home the prize.
Bitchin' Vista has been having some tough times the last week. We got hit with one heck of a snow storm, as mentioned in a previous blog. The snow was of the stereotypical Sierra cement variety and broke many tree limbs and downed many power lines. We were actually without power for almost five days. Because of the outage, we lost all of the CSA produce that I had put back in the freezer, including casseroles and pasta sauces that I had cooked up in preparation for a long, cold winter. We saved our turkey by putting it in a cooler and packing snow around the bird, but everything else was a complete loss. The power didn't come back on until Wednesday, so there wasn't enough time to make an entire meal, pack it up, and bring it down to my Charles' dad. Instead, we ordered a Marie Callender's feast. I don't know how it was because we never got a chance to eat it, but that's too sad a tale for this little ol' blog.
There were many happy things about getting back to basics, getting a terrific core workout from shoveling high drifts of powder, and living in candlelight. I got to read since regular chores were out of the question. I read three books last week -- awesome!. Also, our little Bodie dog is quite the snow puppy, so he was stoked with Mother Nature. It made us slow down, which was a blessing.
Since we still had a turkey, my Charles and I decided to do Thanksgiving dinner last night. I brined it as planned, though if I had to do it over again, I would have brined the turkey in two bottles of wine instead of one and cooked it a bit less. I always forget that free range turkeys cook more quickly. I made our favorite green beans, sans uber expensive pine nuts. I made some amazing mashed potatoes from the last surviving bit of our CSA, and I threw together a quick pumpkin pie. It may have been a bit late, but my Charles and I enjoyed the meal. We paired it with a Navarro Gewurztraminer (one of our favorite wines from our absolute favorite winery). It was a lovely meal, and I got to share it with my favorite person in the world.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and even if it ended up being a little late or had some pitfalls along the way, I hope it was satisfying in the end.
Ouch. My whole body hurts, but it’s okay. It’s because I’ve been helping harvest wine grapes.
This morning my Charles and I got up at 4:30 after going to bed late because we saw Billy Bragg who was fucking awesome (sorry, Mom). I haven’t been so stoked to be at a show in quite some time. Anyway, this morning we had a bit of oatmeal, chugged two cups of coffee each, and departed to Montoliva Vineyard & Winery. We were supposed to be there at first light, and so we were.
Equipped with gloves, pruning shears, and buckets, (plus I scored the one and only stool, lucky, lucky me) we headed out to pick us some Sangiovese. It was cold, it was wet, it was back pain and knee pain, and we had a blast. Mark Henry, vineyard owner and winemaker extraordinaire was a wonderful host, as was his wife Julianne – who made us the most scrumptious brunch – quiche and apple sausage and pumpkin scones and mimosas, oh my!
Mark, Julianne, & their awesome wine*
Then it was back out to harvest some more. Everyone moved a bit slower as our bellies were full of good food and our backs had been given the opportunity to stiffen. At the end, we got to hang out, drink great wine, and thieve some vino from a barrel. (One of my favorite things. I always feel like such a VIP.)
It was the best Halloween my Charles and I have had in a long time. We ache and it’s great. And hopefully, we helped contribute a little bit to the creation of some kick ass Sangiovese.
*photo from Montoliva's FB page. Seriously -- check out their wine already!
One of my Charles' wine vendors keeps inviting us to events. It's terrific that he thinks of us and gives us the opportunity to do enjoyable, wine related type things. It's just been a tough year for extracurricular activities -- work and family matters taking priority over things we might find fun.
Saturday, we decided that it was high time for a treat, so we went to work early and then went to the Festival.
Wine and food went as follows:
Avanguardia Wine with food from Carpe Vino, Baumbach with Max's, Chatom Vineyards with Cafe Delicias, Truckee River Winery, Secret Ravine with Old Town Dessert Cafe, Vina Castellano with Bootlegger's, Vintner's Cellar with Awful Annies, Naggiar Vineyards with Latitudes, Fawnridge, and Pilot Peak with Club Car.
We, obviously, tried wine at each of the places we stopped. We didn't eat at every location. Sometimes the lines were just too long to attempt it, others just didn't look that appealing. Carpe Vino made a kick-ass pumpkin soup with vanilla brown butter. It made me feel all soft and squishy when I sipped it. Awful Annies served us a seafood chowder that was to die for, and Bootlegger's had a shrimp dish that was the perfect amount of decadent as well as a cheese and prosciutto plate that was scrumptious.
It was interesting to discover that the Nevada County wineries tended to be better than their Placer County counterparts. I don't think it was just because we're more acquainted with the Nevada County wines. They seemed more polished, mature, and had a better sense of self. Of the new wines tried, Vina Castellano and Fawnridge were the big winners. We were the most impressed with Fawnridge. (They were the only winery that was graced with one of my Charles' business cards.) Their Chardonnay had a touch of Orange Muscat that gave it a lovely, unique flavor, and their red table wine was a pleasure.
After all of that wine, (we tried two to three wines at each location) we needed an actual meal. We stopped at our Auburn standby, the Auburn Alehouse for some tasty pub food. It didn't disappoint. We both opted for the Alehouse Brisket with fries. Man, their fries are tasty! Their menu describes the Alehouse Brisket as a "slow smoked Angus beef served with sautéed onions, our Old Town Brown BBQ sauce, and house slaw on a garlic-grilled French roll." Their slaw is pretty groovy too. Plus, the portions were large enough, we had leftovers for lunch on Sunday.
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