Friday, September 30, 2005

Luncheon at Limon

On my recent trip to San Francisco (pre-hurricanes; seems like years ago), my solution to the maximum-grub-for-minimum moolah equation was to do lunch instead of dinner at a couple of the most suggested spots. Turned out to be a fabulous idea. Even better that we were the first guests of a Sunday at Limon, a knockout Peruvian restaurant nestled comfortably among the eclectic storefronts of Valencia Street. I love being the first table. The food is fresh and first of the day, the server is fresh from his morning coffee, and I can walk around the dining room and check it out without feeling conspicuous. What's more, Limon is a beautiful space in the daytime light, stylish and colorful without pretension.

The wine list shines with a well-selected and wide variety, organized for easy browsing (thank you very much), and the house n/a beverage is a sort of punch made from blue corn that appeared on every table once more people began to appear. My server brought me a sample, which I found very unusual and refreshing. But I decided to stick to my prosecco. It was too early not to be drinking.

Course one: ceviche, baby. Just look at that little fiesta en plato. Are you not salivating yet? Allow me to describe. Center mound is swooningly fresh marinated mixed seafood crowned with delicately shaved red onion, around which dance an assortment of odd platefellows-- a pile of fresh, crunchy posole, boiled posole, two mussels marinated in a pico salsa, and a lone slice of roasted yam. Aw, yeah.

Course two: Picante de Mariscos. A generous pile of scallops, clams, calamari, shrimp, mussels and potatoes in a smoky adresso cream sauce. I don't mean to lay on the doting praise, but this was perfect. Okay, wait--no it wasn't. Note above that the circle of sauce is interrupted by an errant drip. Other than that, it was perfect.

I think there was a side of rice, too, but who needs to fill up on starch? We gotta do dessert.

In fact, we dove into the dessert before I shot the photo, dammit. Can you really blame us? This is a cherimoya panna cotta, for God's sake. A ripe cherimoya is almost panna cotta on it's own! I nearly licked the menu just reading the description. This one is served with a carmelized pineapple slice and a little napoleon-thingy made with diced tropical fruit and crunchy triangles.

The only mishap of the morning was my wine, which was ill-paired with the entree. My fault, though; I chose a Spanish Montsant (review later) which I remembered liking, thinking that the grenache blend would work. It was a bit of a clash with the cream sauce.

After our lunch, we hit a number of fun stores, including Good Vibrations, where we giggled at dildoes and marveled at the un-illegal-ness of open conversation regarding their proper use. See, here in Texas, one must call one's dildo an "educational device", similar to the way a bong is called a "tobacco accessory" in a head shop. I had my eye on a certain model...but after so many urban legends about dildoes in suitcases, I just couldn't do it.


Monday, September 26, 2005

Dear Mr. Important Consultant Guy,

I owe you an apology for my incompetence a few days ago. I know now that it was wrong to assume that just because I had explained the reason your wine is not available at the right price once before, apologized, and gave my word I was on top of it, that you should remember this information four days later. I can see why my Day Four update on Jug Wine Crisis 2005 was inadequate; while progress had been made, the issue had not yet been resolved. A mere second apology and assurance that I was waiting for someone else to follow through must have been infuriating. It had, after all, been four days. How inconvenienced you must have felt all that time, that you might have to drive to another store for the jug you wanted. But most of all, I regret the egregious suggestion that your tearing me a new asshole this second time was of no use, and that you might want to make your feelings known to those closer to the snag.

I also want to apologize for not being able to wrap my little mind around how your experience as a "well-respected consultant" also makes you an expert on corporate retail. It seemed so simple, the way you laid it out, that if there's a problem, the owner of the company should fix it immediately, and sort out the details later. As soon as the owner of my corporation drops by the store, I'll be sure to point that out to him.

You tried to explain, illuminating hand gestures and all, how I am the "crucial point of contact" between my clients and my company, and therefore am obliged to have my ass chewed into a pulp, regardless of my past attempts to correct the problem or the fact that I have done all I have power to do. I really appreciate that lesson. You see, I didn't realize that all you really wanted was to let fly on someone and watch as they tremble and stutter before your superior intellect. What a disappointment it must've been when I refused to tremble properly, and instead had the gall to suggest you stop barking at me. I'll be sure to pop a couple xanax next time and behave like the plebian I was born to be.

I felt so bad, having forced you into the irrational, arrogant critism with which you are obviously uncomforable. On both occassions, as I watched the veins bulge on your forehead and spit fly from your mouth, I thought it a shame that such an otherwise reasonable, socially adept, centered gentleman should be so pushed to the brink. But I sympathize: being unable for the second time in a week to purchase your favorite jug of cheap wine is enough to make anyone crazy. I can only hope you were able to take a breath before leaving the store. I would have hated to hear that your rage over a bottle of wine had caused you to veer into oncoming traffic in your SUV, which then burst into flames, reducing you to a smoldering briquette of bitterness. I would have felt really, really bad about that.


Sunday, September 18, 2005

Abita aids the LDRF

Louisiana's Abita Brewery, famous (or infamous) for brews like Turbodog and Purple Haze, is releasing a special 'Fleur-de-lis Restoration Ale' this October to benefit the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation. A buck per six-pack and 100% of proceeds from merchandising products will go to the foundation, whose mission is to provide both immediate assistance and long term restoration aid to LA families and communities.

The cynic in me furrowed my eyebrows when I first read that merchandising schwag was on the table as part of this effort, but I checked out the little pins and ribbons and thought: well, shit, if I was gonna design a pin to sell and donate the proceeds, that's exactly what it would look like. So yeah, right on.

So whether or not you're a fan of the brew (I plead the fifth), consider grabbing a pin and a hat, or perhaps a car magnet (one that is actually benefitting someone!) and show off some Louisiana love.


Friday, September 16, 2005

Japantown's faux food

Why, I ask you, merely put out a menu describing the dishes served within, when you can have astonishingly accurate plastic replicas of every meal, right outside for viewing? In Japantown, San Francisco's quiet Japanese community just south of Pacific Heights, this is the norm for the string of sushi and bento box joints in the Japan Center shopping mall.

The mall itself, one side of which flows from the Raddison Myaka, is a maze of enticing specialty shops where one can find real treasures among the stacks of mass produced touristy rice bowls and chopsticks. I barely managed to pull myself from a stack of ancient kabuki scripts before I made my escape, wallet intact. My japan-0-matic sister, however, made off with two hundred bucks worth of incense. Incense! I thought of giving her a piece of my mind about that, but hell, I've spent that on wine, so who am I to say?

I found a shop nearby that sold the artificial delicacies, and found out just how impressive a large display like the one above really is. These things are expensive. A pile of tempting tempura like the one below goes for about ten bucks a shrimp.

Plastic replicas of sushi are so fascinating, I wanted to decorate my whole house with them. This feeling, thankfully, passed.

Mifune, I think, was my favorite of the three restaurants we visited. God, how I love bento boxes and big bowls of steaming noodles with every conceivable protein source floating happily within. I ordered the Samurai plate, and got both a huge plate of sashimi, tempura, salad, tofu with benito and fish cakes and a giant bowl of noodles on the side. Lord have mercy! That's good eatin'. There's also the added bonus that, while sitting in the dimly but warmly lit dining room, watching people toodle by, it is a sustainable fantasy that you're really in some quiet, outlying suburban town in Japan.

The real food is exactly like the replicas, only edible and delicious.

More on my trip to San Fran, comin' up.


PS. Why is my post in italics below this picture? I wish I knew. I can't freakin' fix it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Marauding Macon Vintners!

As a creature of habit in the morning, I wake up, make live-giving Coffee, and boot up my Firefox tabs, starting with the news. After reading about death in Iraq, death in Louisiana, and the death of common sense in America, I like to hit wine news to unwind. But THEN, I get this story on, and it's so krazier than shit, I nearly spritzed my laptop with organic breakfast blend. If only there were live coverage in this country! I'm off to see if I can find it online.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Rattlesnake Hill

Monte Rosso wineries. Home of some serious old gnarlies, baking happily high up on Rattlesnake Hill. It looks like Oklahoma up there, the soil's so freaking red. Both Robert Biale and Louis Martini source fruit from this vineyard. Mr. Martini himself was on hand with the winemaker from the Biale winery to talk to us about the vineyard.

I freely admit it: Zin ain't my favorite, especially the way it's tarted up these days into a massive, boozy fruit bomb. However, the first cellar sample of the day was quite nice: the 2004 Trocadero Zin had gobs of deep red-over-black fruit, nice zippy acidity and a long, rich finish to even things out. It was fine sipping, especially looking out from the heights, where on a clear day, you can see all the way to the City.

By the way, the pic on the left shows why Zinfandel sports both ripe black fruit and tart red fruit flavors at the same time: the berries ripen unevenly. Did you know that? I did not know that. How I love to learn things.

Mr. Martini (pouring barrel samples, left) and the winemaker for Biale. I can't remember his name, okay? So sue me.

We tasted four other barrel and cellar samples that day: a flight from Biale and one from Louis Martini. Everyone stood around the winemakers, slurping and nodding while the two men talked brix levels and fermentation techniques. I tried my best to pay attention, but what I really wanted to do was escape the dark barn and walk around the vines for a while. I'm just an odd one like that.

View of Mt. Veeder from Rattlesnake Hill.

The history of this hilltop vineyard revealed over a century of struggle with weather, economy, and the waxing and waning of intrest in Zinfandel in America. Tim Gaiser, our instructor, was adamant that we never snub the pink stuff, because it's popularity saved acres and acres of ancient Zinfandel vines from becoming compost. Okay, fine; but I'm still going to try to get people to drink Cabernet D'Anjou instead.

2004 Trocadero. Deep, rich, beefy. Can't complain, but I'd trade it in for a glass of French Syrah in a hearbeat. That's just me.

So here's what bugs me. The esteemed gentlemen who were leading our tour start talking about the 'unique terroir' of this vineyard. If there was terroir to be detected, it was pretty well buried under a mound of fruit.

Illustration of fruit/terroir ratio

I don't know if I'll ever be able to call myself a Zin fan, but I can appreciate the allure.


Saturday, September 03, 2005

Connect with the Need

Here's some confirmation of your worst fears about what government officials say and what is really going on.

The hub and I polished off a couple of bottles of my latest favorite comfort wine: Luan Bodegas "Equis" cuvee. It was the first time in a looong time that our specific intention was to get snockered. Why? Because we needed to purge everything that had been welling up over the last several days: deep sadness, rage, helplessness. We needed to rant, laugh our asses off, and weep, and there's no better companion for that than good red wine. We needed to talk about what we wanted to do to help, what made the most sense, beyond the monetary donations we'd already made. He and I both feel that making progress towards getting the evacuees back to normal life is our personal responsibility, in whatever way we can.

I hope everyone reading this has already donated all they can to the American Red Cross, Second Harvest, or whichever organization is also on the front line of the devastation. There's no excuse not to, people. Give it up for the Americans who need us right now. Then do whatever else you can: help the Red Cross with the phones, organize a fundraiser. Just do the most. This is the one you can't ignore.


Thursday, September 01, 2005


Amazing how difficult it is to write about how much fun I had last week in San Francisco, and all the great wine I tasted and food I ate, when New Orleans has been wiped off the map. The hub and I were talking about sheer numbers of people who would have to begin whole new lives, and how the majority of those people had just lost what little they had to begin with. Most of the people, who we are now forced to call refugees (that's right, refugees, right here in the U.S.A) barely had two quarters to rub together in the first place. Those who got out of the city with a bank account should remember how fortunate they are.

I keep wanting to riff on the scope of this disaster, just to get my mind around it: an entire city, drowned. The heat and stagnant water. Days on rooftops with no sustenance. And then the images to terrible to think about.

You know what this makes me remember? Is this: if you have sat down to a beautiful meal, opened a bottle of wine, you had damn well better be grateful. This is one thing your mama was right about. I don't care what superior entity you do or don't believe in, make one up if you need to. But take a good, long moment---not to feel guilty in any way for your own fortune, quite the opposite---to feel grateful that you are there. Guilt does no one any good. Gratefulness connects us to the rest of the world.

God Bless everyone Katrina ravaged, wherever they may end up.