Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wine, wine, wine. . .

and more wine.

I seem to be talking to myself these days, could be because everyone else has better things to do (be pregnant, play in SF, bake 900 doz. cookies), but I am on vacation until January 5th and I have some (8) wines to tell you about. So sit back and let me babble on.

Tortoise Creek Pinot Noir (France though they also have a winery in CA, $10). Got this one on sale from my wonderful PeaPod (groceries delivered, godloveit). It was a nice spicy/fruity wine (cherries?) and went very well with the Chef's lamb stew you see in that cute little bowl. It was a very snowy night so this was a wonderful meal to have while we watched it come down out there.

"Learning to Fly" (Chile, $9) is a 100% Carmenere wine. I was reading about this grape on a favorite blog and was surprised to find a bottle at my local wine shop later that night. It's not a flavor I have had before, but this has become a favorite in the house. Notes of pepper, cumin, and (Wingal, I shit you not) bacon. It's not overly dry nor is it the least bit sweet. It's a very suprisingly good wine for very little $$.

While a lot of you, my gentle readers, live in a more tropic climate, I do not envy you. Except when it is -35. That sucked. Holy crap was that cold.I don't know if I have ever been that cold. The Chef laughed and told stories of driving in -70 degrees (Ferienheit, not Kelvin),I scowled and snuggled under a blanket with two of the boys.

What we needed was a hot wine to drink while we were shivering and decorating the tree. We chose to mambo! "Hey Mambo!" (CA, $13) is a blend of a crap load of grapes (barbera, zinfandel, syrah, petite sirah, carigname, & alicante bouchet). It's spicy, just like something called "Hey Mambo" should be. Plenty of pepper and a smooth finish, we need to add this to the next PSSWR wine list. We also should invite the people who wrote the label over. There was some crazy Mickey Spillane like story on the bottle. The website describes one of the flavors in the wine as "sweet leather." Seriously sexy wine.

The next day was more of the same frigid hell. I think I see why the Vikings 1) drank so much, 2) left Sweden. Seriously, if this is what you looked outside (yes that is a ice floe you see) and saw you would either go back inside and drink til it was sunny, or leave.

I chose to drink more.

"Efe", a 2005 cabernet savignon (20%) monastrell (80%) blend from the Bodegas Los Frailes (Spain, $12) was good and, really let's face it, like most of the other wines I tend to buy. Fruity and dry, incredibly drinkable with that nice spicy after taste. The monastrell grape in this wine makes for a more cherry flavor than in most of the wines I bring home, but it wasn't over powering. Very good, but not excellent.

For an excellent, and I do mean excellent, Pinot Noir head to Oregon (or your wine shop) and get some of this:

"Cloudline" I paid $15 for the 2007, but I see that the 2006 & 2005 will run you $20+ if you can even find them as they appear to be "collectables". This Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley is amazing. Raspberries add to the soft somewhat sweet flavor. I see on a few websites that people said it had "faded by the next day" making me wonder why they didn't finish it the night before?

Christmas Eve, Chef prepared well seasoned duck, caesar salad, and homemade rosemary bread. I stopped on the way home and picked up another Pinot Noir, hoping for another bottle of the Cloudline. Instead, my local wine merchant suggested this one from the Yamhill Valley Vineyards (OR, $18).

A bit more than I chose to spend per bottle, but well worth it. The Estate Pinot Noir tastes cool and the slight tartness complemented the savoriness of the duck.

For Christmas dinner of beast roast in a scotch and mushroom sauce, we had a ridiculously dark red cabernet franc from France ($15). I'm sorry I don't have a picture of it, but it was the Frederic Mabileau Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil Les Rouilleres. That's a mouthful, but so was the wine. Musky, woody, black cherries, tobacco. Wonderful.

Then, just as quickly as the cold came it was gone. And lo, it was 65 and we switched to gin.

I will end this obscenely long post with last night's wine, "Alaia" (Spain, $13).

I had been waffling between a few other bottles and this one was recommended to me by the loverly Irishman who works/owns the wine shop. I know that the Irish are not known for having the best palate (really between that and the rest of my Anglo Saxon roots, ketchup is sometimes too intense a flavor) but he was right about this one. Not amazing, but certainly different. 5% Merlot, 45% tempranillo, and 50% prieto picudo, it's a sweet wine. Not like Boones Farm, not at all. It's still dry but it's more of fig taste than any other fruit I can pin. Apparently the prieto picudo grape was thought to be lost, but some guys in Spain found it in an old lady's backyard and revived it.

So that's what I have been drinking this last month. I also finally had time to finish a book that I bought as the beginning of this past semester started, "State by State." It's a fantastic look at each state by fifty different authors not always associated with the state they were assigned. Some of the essays were horrid (California, Delaware), some were painfully beautiful (Idaho, Rhode Island), two were done as cartoons (Oregon, Vermont), and some were hilarious (Illinois, Massachusetts, New York). When you have a chance, I recommend picking it up. I had brought it with me to the lake house in October with the intentions of reading a goodly portion of it. I didn't get a chance to as I was helping Dad out and had suggested to my younger brother that he take a look at it. He read almost all of it by the time I left 3 days later.

Enough from me for now, though I suspect I will have more to say by tomorrow. I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and that this next year will be merry & bright!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

My ride home.

For the first time since we have lived here, I had the privilege of riding on the CTA Holiday Train. The most fun was watching people's faces as we pulled up to the various stops on the route home. We were met with either pure bouncing smiling joy from grown men & women, or horror and disgust.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday, December 08, 2008

To my neighbor scraping ice off his car at 5 am on Saturday

Good morning! I don’t know if you noticed or not, but it was 5am and on a Saturday when you spent that hour or so vigorously scraping, ney beating, ice off your car. I will ignore the fact that you are doing this simply because you probably have a job you have to get to and in this economy, well, hey I don’t want you to lose your job because you were late. But really kind sir, I must say your ice scraping was taking you forever and seems to have turned in to quite the laborious task. Being a native of the colder climates myself and a bit of student in the art of winter weather, might I offer this handy guide to getting that pesky ice off your car?

1) De-icing the car door: So you get to the car and find that you can’t open it. Take your key and warm it up in you hand, breathe on it if you have to. Slide your key around the seam of your door; this should move enough ice that you can open it up with a firm tug. Not too firm! We don’t want you falling backwards and breaking anything like your coccyx or your head! Coccyx is a fun word to say isn’t it? COCCYX! It’s like word a superhero would use to make his powers work. COCCYX! then BAM! the bad guys blow up.

2) Get in the car: I know, seems like an odd step, but here me out. Once you get in the car, turn it on, unless you are one of those bastards with keyless entry and start up, in which case you may have damaged your coccyx for no reason as you could have started the car up before trying to de-ice the door thereby saving you some time, troubles, and the injury to your coccyx.

Anyway, get in the car and turn it on. Turn the heat, the front window defroster, and the rear window defroster all on hot & high. While that is starting up and heating the car, you can look for your ice scraper, which is undoubtedly not where you think it is. Look in the backseat…not there? check in the glove compartment….I’ll wait while you riffle through that mess….not there either? Did you put in the trunk for some inexplicable reason? No? Are you sure? No, don’t bother to get out and look that would be silly. Well, I’m sure you are starting to sweat a little, but trust me all the heat blowing around in there is a good thing. Did you look under the driver seat? I know I had one that always ended up…oh good you found it! Actually while we’re talking about your ice scraper…

2a) Get a real ice scraper. No doubt, you are using one of those namby-pamby small plastic ice scrapers you get free from gas stations and insurance salesmen.

That thing is a waste of time and energy (not to mention a waste of valuable polypropylene, which is made from oil…so maybe you should hold on to it in case you need to melt it down for fuel later when the coming economic apocalypse hits).

What you want to get is one of these:
As you can see the expandable handle has a nice grip in the center allowing for more force and therefore allows for a more thorough ice removal. The handy brush on the other end is also far superior to those crappy plastic and wood things that will splinter when you hit them against the neighbor kids when they ice up the sidewalk. I hate those bastards too you know. See, something we have in common! Anyway, really spend the $ and get one of these nice scrapers, you won’t be sorry and you won’t lose it under the car seat. Or in that shame of a glove box; seriously was that a cheeseburger wrapper in there?

3) Crank up the tunes! Everyone needs good ice scraping music, so crank up the radio loud enough to be heard out side of the car with the windows closed and the engine running. I know, I know, I was complaining about the sound of your ice scraping and now I am telling you to turn up the music. Trust me, no one will hear it and if they do, they won’t mind that for the short period that it will be that loud.

4) Get scraping! Jump out of the car (slowly, be careful of that coccyx) and let’s get to work on that windshield! Assuming you still have that crappy one (and of course you do, I mean where would you go on foot because your car is still covered in ice at 5 am to buy a new better one?), using both hands grasp the ice scraper at the middle and the very end of the handle. This should give you the force necessary to remove the stubborn stuff. Starting at the top of the windshield, start pushing/scraping the ice in a diagonal direction toward the wipers. This should be relatively easy now that your heater and engine have melted much of the ice that was directly on the glass. Again, since you have that shitty scraper, use your arm to brush away any large chunks.

5) Don’t forget the mirrors and door windows! You may have to readjust the side mirrors, but really you will thank me for reminding you when you try to flip off the yahoo riding your ass only to find out it’s a cop. LOL, what am I saying! You’re a guy! You don’t use mirrors! Those are for pussies and girls!

But really do the door windows and not just a damned circle large enough for you to peer out off. It’s a car, not a sub, and those should not be used like a porthole.

6) The back window: By the time you get around to here, the ice should be just sliding down the window to the trunk. Again, just use your arm to brush the snow/ice off the car.

7) DONE! See how much easier that was than the torture you went through Saturday morning!?!

Now on your way home, go buy a real ice scraper. You’ll thank me later.



Saturday, December 06, 2008