Reading every chapter aloud is taking a toll on my voice.
Medicine: creamy soothing hazelnut goodness.
Chapter 26 of 43. It’s gonna be a late night, friends.
Category Archives: Food and Cooking
[Writing Prompt: ekphrastic and timed; time limit = 15 minutes]
“How’s the baklava?”
He shoots me a surprised look. “You know to ask.”
“I know my baklava.”
The proprietor closes in to block off the other barflies. “Order it next time. This batch…?” He shakes his head.
I order a burger, a good burger, as I rarely keep red meat in my house. The order comes, and I ask for tzatziki sauce on the side.
Tzatziki. Boston lettuce. Tomato slice. Scrape the O rings off. 1/4 pound of beef, large slice of feta, more tzatziki, close with the bun. Flip over for good luck. I invented that, I don’t know when, but it’s just something I do. Bury my knife into the middle to part my feast and…
Solid. Grey. LUMP.
My eyes slit.
“I know I ordered medium rare.” It was supposed to be delivered with concern, but instead, dripped with acid.
The keeper, the trainer, the new cook, everyone’s in disarray then in a hurry. I backpedal my statement, realizing it’s become an issue. Before I could finish explaining myself, the new burger is in front of me, the house cook, doing me the favor of meticulously dressing my burger the way I just had that pile of dog food.
Sorry. It’s just that ‘well done’ makes no fuckin’ sense to me. You gonna eat meat? Get some blood in ya.
I carve in, the juices flow, all is well in the land of The Burg.
Other than the petite woman breathing down my neck as she read the beer menu board, I enjoyed my company. On moments when I teetered back to breathe and let my gullet expand, I joined in on the surrounding conversation, the latest concern from the proprietor being his current roommate situation. I dive back in. The guys around me and in the kitchen comment, “She’s really putting it away!” “She’s not playing around!” “I thought she was kidding!”
“Fellas, fellas,” I lean back as one sliver of 1/2 pound burger awaits its demise, “don’t let the small frame fool ya. I’m here for a slayin’.” I hoark the final piece down to emphasize I mean business.
“Ready for dessert? Other than the baklava?”
“I absolutely would. But I have a technical error.”
“Too full from the burger and fries?”
“Not at all. I’m wearing tight pants. There’s no more give!”
Everyone laughs. He goes back down the bar.
“Is this The Dynamics?” the guy sipping on pinot noir asks. The proprietor checks Pandora. Yes, it is.
“That’s an amazing cover.”
I agree as I finish my Lehnenkugel. “That is an amazing cover.” The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army.
They go back to the roommate issue. “If I don’t get someone to move in, I’m gonna have to get another job,” he laments.
Pinot Noir suggests, “There’s always stripping.”
“Yeah,” he laughs “there’s always stripping.”
“Just do me a favor,” I insist as I slide my bar stool back, descend from my seat, and hoist my purse onto my shoulder. “Don’t strip with sneakers on. It is just so unsexy.”
At first I get several pairs of weird looks, and then, once the thought has soaked in, laughter.
“Til next time, fellas.”
Reading every chapter aloud is taking a toll on my voice.
Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be
Remember I invited you to the wine tasting this past Saturday? Well, Marie and I went and, well, lemme tell ya.
Before I turn into a tart, let me set up the scene: me, former wine and cigar enthusiast, Marie, former chef. Both of us congested from the gloomy winter weather, so our noses and palettes were facing a challenge.
Our first stop was visiting with the handsome, engaging gentleman representing Angulo Innocenti, Mariano Innocenti. His family’s vineyard is located in Mendoza, Argentina in a low lying, rocky region overlooked by the Andes. Along with grapes, they grow walnuts and fruits on their property. He poured us a sample of his Malbec. A woman joining us at his table noted she’d never tried reds before, she was partial to whites. I held the glass to my lips to watch her reaction, the same reaction most people who aren’t into dry wines give, that puckered face indicating harshness. I fought my congestion to smell the bouquet; earthy, not punchy, no pepper. I ingested it and felt it smooth, almost a buttery finish. In my mind I paired it with a short rolled Maduro of the Ybor City variety.
Bacchus smiled upon us. The nibbles table was freshly replenished with a spread of meat and spinach-filled empanadas just as we turned around. REAL empanadas! Perfectly executed. As I noshed on my empanadas, Marie sailed us towards the Ernesto Catena table. I continued shoving food in my face while she delivered the requisite “how yoo dooin’?” to the HAWT vineyard representative. Marie produced his business card, cuz she’s a bawse, his name is Mauricio. Ernesto Catena Vineyards is also located in Mendoza, Argentina.
He presented two styles of Malbec, one heavy with oak, the other, more fruit notes. I enjoyed the former. We discovered his English was spare, so we kindly launched into Spanish to make Mauricio more comfortable, or, at least, more entertained. My Spanish depends on the dialect I’m around, but with the wine and empanadas in me, my accents were hopping the globe. Meanwhile, Marie kept up by listening to Mauricio speak and smiling coyly as she responded with English.
In my best Valley Girl accent, I said to her, “Me gustaria hablar en Espanol como las Blancas.”
Marie responded with, “Tu eres una puta.”
And we’re in there like swimwear.
We gave beautiful, delightful Mauricio some space to work while we visited the sole representative from Chile, Cono Sur. They hail from the San Antonio region. Yet another table of tall, gorgeous, dedicated craftsmen, and Marie and I are now trying to work out how to move to South America and open a B&B near these guys. Why are all South American men beautiful??
We engage one of the gentlemen, and I ask about his white wines. Note to those new to the wine tasting thing: if you know nothing about wine, be honest. These guys want you to enjoy wine the way they do, and they’re happy to assist you in finding one that appeals to your palette. In my case, I told this well-dressed, lovely eyed man I’m not a fan of whites, but I want to find one I can enjoy with friends who insist on white wine. He introduced us to their Sauvignon Blanc. I noticed the label said ‘organic’ as he poured it, and frowned. I’ve had organic wines recently. They are, in a word, shit. Not this one. Very oaky, green peppery, citrus notes, lovely soil, I was standing on the summit of the Andes spinning in place with my arms splayed. Magic. How? He entered into this very engaging description of how they process the wine, reducing the sugars to just 7 grams, leaving that clean taste, resulting in an organic wine that can stand with the classics.
The second wine he presented with great pride, introducing it as the star of Cono Sur, the Pinot Noir. The nose to it was heaven. Marie and I drank, and immediately fell in love with its body. Savory, citrusy, full, deep soil. It conjured up pairing with venison, maybe bison, pheasent. Marie agreed; it was a wine that was perfect for a complex dish. Marie and I talk about food like college frat boys talk about sex, so for us to start planning meals at the mere sip of this wine is a high compliment. Our sommolier was pleased. Gorgeously pleased. His assertiveness, posturing, intellect, maaan… that’s my kind of hype. Then I realized, I’m tipsy. Smartly, he walked away.
“Hey Marie, we didn’t try the white wines at the Ernesto table.”
We flirted up Mauricio some more as we tried the Sauvignon from his vineyard. Marie bore a wide contented smile across her face, which I’ve learned is her finish line smile. Mauricio asked if we wanted more wine. I turned and asked her, “Do you want another round?” then politely silenced as the little angel and devil parked on opposite her shoulders engaged in a debate. Finally she said, “Nah, I’m good.” We slinked (slunk?) away and did the responsible thing: went down the candy aisle and grabbed some chocolate bars for the ride home.
BLUE RIBBON: CONO SUR – Pinot Noir
ANGULO INNOCENTI – Malbec
ERNESTO CATENA – Malbec
CONO SUR – Sauvignon Blanc
Because I love you, I’m gonna save you some dignity. Trust me, you’ll understand after you read.
Back in the yearin Oh Seven, I had me a curio bout the Nordie folk tale of a rabbey en him magick hole. (Shouts to David Mitchell, yo) This was the beginning of Spring semester 2007. A fellow cohort in my Science Technology and Society graduate minor program, Jenn, a lifelong Pennsylvanian, said she and her brother may be planning to go up to Punxsutawney for Groundhog Day. I said, hey, if that happens, count me in. Doubt I’ll ever be up in these parts again, sounds like a thing to do.
Early, I’m talkin’ errrrrrrrly that 2nd of February, we leave from State College after a very necessary stop at Sheetz for brekky and coffee up on 322W towards the town of that very spirited tradition, the witnessing of a ground rodent’s shadow to predict if the winter continues longer. I knew of it from the Bill Murray classic, Groundhog Day, and I remember our February school room calendars decorated with Punxsutawney Phil along with hearts and cupids and head shots of presidents.
I figured a place with ‘Punx’ in its name would be, by default, cool. It ain’t. Alright, first, the early morning call is because the crowd gets thick around 5am. If you want a good view of the ceremony, you have to be in town, up the hill (there’s a hill), in position, and you cannot leave that position lest risk losing view. There’s no stadium seating around the hole, go figure. It’s an hour and a half drive from State College, so I figure we’re relatively okay.
We smartly filled up at Large Grocery Store Complex with snacks and sandwich goods in a cooler to keep with us as we hold position. Sure, there’s tents set up for hot cocoa and street food and artisanal wares, but again, risk losing optimum rodent viewing. Interesting was the moment Jenn mentioned, ‘you have to look out for my brother. He’s a little strange.’ Like, grab girls’ butts as they pass him in the crowd strange, or has a sniper rifle in his long coat and plans to take Punxsutawney Phil out strange? Before I could ask for clarification, she hits me with, ‘oh, and… No alcohol allowed on the hill.’
It’s Six Degrees Fahrenheit at 5am. Whiskey needs to be in my life, as a survival tool. She coulda mentioned this before we left, so I could’ve had my flask at the ready. But they check bags and monitor the crowd for such things. As they say up in dem parts, criminey!!
So alright, early ass morning, no alcohol, trapped like sardines til The Big Show. Just when the sun starts making its way up, signaling time for Phil to do his thing, Jenn’s brother is nowhere around us. She casually says, ‘He escaped.’ Escaped? That’s the verb we’re using? Someone escaping in a large crowd on purpose can only mean terror/disaster/hysteria. At that moment, not my problem, cuz here comes a bunch of old, White men wearing top hats, waistcoats, coattails, spats, I mean, they’re into this. And the fact they’re only wearing that and no furs or thermals means they’re dedicated to the game. Super Bowl XLVIII ticket holders have nothing on the Committee, or whatever they’re called.
The crowd clusters, I crane and crook into a clean view of the tree stump Phil’s gonna do the observation from. Then with much applause, a HUGE dirt rodent is hoisted in the air by the Committee Head. Then he’s placed on the stump. And then…
…every member of the committee enters into a huddle OVER Punxsy Phil! Blocking out the sun with their bodies! Really??
To which one steps back and proclaims whatever Phil saw, which I couldn’t hear, because I was screaming out, ‘DIS IS BUUUUUUSHHHEEEEIIIITTTT!’ If it wasn’t for the fact there was a pancake breakfast on the Main Street immediately after, I may have snatched Jenn by her pretty brown curls and shook her body with them.
Miraculously her brother showed up, with no explanation as to where he went. I housed about six to eight pancakes, a low number, because I wasn’t thawed out completely. The Main Street was lined with tents, activity centers, booths, street shows, all that you would expect for a holiday celebration. The local movie house played all day, you guessed it, Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. You can tell the local chamber and officials put a lot of effort into providing entertainment for all us shmucks who just got conned by Marmota Monax and his well-dressed henchmen.
Jenn made up for the lackluster show by taking us to a winery she knew about off of 322W on the way back home. Years of cell damage limit me from remembering the location, the owner’s name, or the name of the fantastic blush I had, but it sure did make up for the farce that is Punxsutawney Phil’s Big Day.