Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I'll take the peanuts, but skip the Crackerjacks

No surprise that the ballpark food in San Francisco is so freakin' good. Mmmm...

Different Strokes

Today I helped an attractive, early 40's couple from New York. They were both nice to me, but had that distinct air about them. She had a slight edge of superiority and that was almost waiting for you to slip up, and he was uber-fast and aggressive - definitely New Yorkers.

As they were looking around the store, they asked about the easiest way to catch a cab locally. Not satisfied with my answer that a cab hangout was about a block away, the man asked if I had a number he could call. Luckily, I did. (Like I said, they were nice to me, but I'm glad I was able to answer all of their questions and needs quickly and correctly. I wasn't looking to catch flack.) He went outside to call the car as I rang up her purchases. While chatting, I mentioned that I used to live in their city.

Right around this time, the man started yelling into his phone at the cab company. I'm not sure what it was about, or how you could possibly get into a shouting match with a car company that you have never used within the space of two minutes, but there were definitely a plethora of expletives being thrown around.

Back inside...

"So why did you leave New York?" she asked me.

It took a great deal of restraint to not point outside and utter these two words - "That's why." Instead I mumbled my stock response about wanting to work directly for a winery, blah blah blah.

But really, that's why. As much as I sometimes love the unabashed aggression and honesty of New Yorkers, for me the more laid back West Coast pace is a much better fit. I mean, who wants to have an aneurysm at the age of fifty anyway?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Grace in Small Things - Day 13

1. Watching the cat cop a 'tude every time her favorite closet door is closed.

2. Pomegranate Greek yogurt

3. Tickets for two Giants games in one week!!

4. Down comforters

5. Monthly spa pedicure day!

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Love ya, Bea.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The way to a woman's heart

The first time my boyfriend cooked for me was the morning after the first night we kissed (ahem). I woke up to the sound of his gentle snoring, tangled in his arms for the first time, and he peppered me with kisses before heading into the kitchen to make French toast from the two day old loaf on his counter. I sipped a homemade latte and we talked about our families while he proceeded to make one of the best breakfasts I'd had in years.

A week later we took our first trip to the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market. He grabbed my hand and weaved me around from stall to stall making me try different pastries, knowing which herb guy was the best, and picking out vegetables for that night's dinner. I bought a bouquet of lavender and some jam, and the whole time could not get over how romantic it all felt. Later we rode the cable cars home I stepped outside of myself for a minute to relish this slice of life - newly in love, holding hands and fiddling over food while holding a vibrant, purple bunch of flowers in my arms. To me it was, and still is, one of the most breathtakingly beautiful moments of my life.

The second time my boyfriend cooked for me was that night. I returned to his apartment to find him wearing an apron, elbow-deep in juicy red tomatoes which were being crushed into a sauce with nothing more than olive oil and basil. As they simmered on the stove, I perused his wine collection - which was better than mine. We picked a bottle, sipped and chatted more. This time it was about past relationships - soon for that kind of talk, but it felt comfortable. Everything did.

The tomato sauce was ladled onto fresh pasta, also from the farmer's market, and garnished with nutty Parmesan cheese. We continued to talk, but the sauce was so good I could barely concentrate on anything else. The tomatoes were a bright crimson red, and richly sweet - easily
the best tomato sauce I'd ever had. It was so good, at times I was actually holding on to the sides of the table to prevent myself from passing out. I had several helpings, and sopped up the leftovers with crusty bread.

And then he baked a strawberry souffle and hand-whipped cream...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Grace in Small Things - Day 12

1. Watching my boyfriend patiently pet my cat for an hour.

2. Happy Hour by the water.

3. Old Navy rubber flip flops

4. The word "apothecary"

5. Mastering new recipes

Friday, April 17, 2009

Grace in Small Things - Day 11

1. Nine hours of sleep in one night

2. Self-awareness

3. Finding new blogs to bookmark

4. Housewarming parties

5. Mushrooms sauteed in white wine and aged balsamic vinegar

*Picture from a restaurant on my first day in Italy about a year ago. Gasp.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tasting Room Do's and Don'ts

Don't grab the bottles and pour for yourself.

Were you raised in a barn? Would you do that at a bar? Are you aware that it's illegal?

What's weird is that I've actually had all walks of people do this. It's not just rowdy young people - once I had a matronly old Southern lady just help herself.

It even gets on my nerves if people pick up the open bottles to just inspect them more closely. I know that some people are just curious, and that this is probably one of those unreasonable pet peeves that people in customer service develop. But it annoys me. If you want to see a bottle, ask politely and I will happily hand you an unopened one to fondle to your heart's content.

Do wait patiently for your turn. Sorry if it's a busy time. Deal with it like a civilized person.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wine-Geeking It Up

I'm no fool. When my next door neighbor emails me an excel spreadsheet detailing his 400+ bottle wine collection with the note "If anything catches your eye bring over a loaf of bread sometime and we can crack open a bottle," I'm there in less than 48 hours with two bottles in mind.

I rarely reach for chardonnay, but his older vintages of some of Napa's most famous producers intrigued me. 1994 Grgich, 1999 Chalk Hill... there were a few on there, and suddenly I was curious - how were these babies holding up? After spotting a 2005 Puligny-Montrachet, I suggested cracking one of those open next to the 1994 Grgich to see how it was holding up. (I had a brief stint brokering some of the wines that the then Grgich winemaker produces now, so I was curious to see how his chards age.)

I knocked on the door at 6:15 with a creamy French goats milk cheese and soft Italian loaf in hand. I thought the cheese would work nicely with the white Burgundy in particular, which had been described to me as "France in a glass".

As I was welcomed into the kitchen I started to peruse the wines that were sitting out on the counter.

"Oh, here's that chenin blanc!" I exclaimed.

One of the wines in his collection was one bottle of 1985 Chappallet Chenin Blanc, which upon seeing it on the list sparked a slew of mental questions. A chenin blanc that old? Where did he get it? Was it just a random leftover that has been sitting around for years,
or had someone told him that it was going to age well? Are any of them - outside of Vouvray - supposed to age at all? Did Californians even make chenin blanc twenty-five years ago? But I had refrained from mentioning it for this casual night because there was only one and I didn't want to overstep my bounds.

"Yeah that's probably the most random bottle in my collection. I got it a few years ago at an auction for a restaurant that was closing. Not like I paid a lot for it or anything. I figured, what the hell? Let's crack it and see what it's like."

As he eased the cork out of the bottle, the top half denigrated and it became apparent that some major cork surgery was going to be required. A few minutes later what was left of the cork eased out and we poured the amber-colored wine into our glasses, excited for a potential miracle.

Sniff, sniff - didn't take long for my hopes to be dashed and reality set in. Let this be a lesson - California chenin blanc does not age. (Shocking.)

And so it was on to the next. First we opened up the 2005 Puligny Montrachet from Domaine Bernard Millot, which soared out of the bottle and into our glasses. Lightly straw colored, with green apple aromas and a crisp but solid mouth-feel, this wine embodied white Burgundy. It was absolutely lovely.

Then came the 1994 Grgich, which I had high hopes for. Sure, California chardonnays aren't exactly known for aging potential, but this is a pretty substantial producer and it's not that old.

Predictably, it came out of the bottle looking like honey. It was thick and dark yellow. One quick dip of the nose, though, revealed - nothing.

"It's dead."

"No, maybe..." Bart started.

"Nope. Dead."


"It happens. But you know, I'm actually tempted to think that this is just a random bad bottle. I'm really surprised that it's this dead. Maybe it's oxidized, or has some other random flaw. I'll bet a different bottle of the same might not be this bad." (Identifying oxidation and other flaws, like bret, is not really my strength. I can call corked from ten paces but the others sometimes allude me, so I wasn't entirely sure with this one.)

Luckily, Bart had a backup chilling in the wings. He pulled out a Napa producer that I wasn't familiar with - Chateau Potelle - and explained the story behind the Frenchman who had been lured to Napa with a big house on a hill in exchange for winemaking services as he opened up their 1999 chardonnay. The wine was in a heavy, simple bottle and came out with the same honey color as the Grgich, but had a rich, developed nose.

"There we go," I sighed as I breathed in the toastiness. It was full bodied, still pretty oaky, and with a decent amount of fruit. Decidedly not dead.

But still, it was different than I had expected. My hopes with tasting the older vintages of Napa chardonnay was that some of the inevitable oak would have mellowed a bit and that they would have become more crisp and Burgundian in style, but I didn't really find this to be the case with this one. I suppose that was naive of me, but a girl can hope.

All in all, even if two of the four wines were disappointing, we had a fun time. And hey, isn't that what this is all about?

Next time, we're going for pinots...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The universe is conspiring to take away my money

I mean, seriously? $80 for a new charger for my Mac Powerbook? That is crazy. Especially since the old one just up and died for no reason.

Damn you Mac with your sleek, fabulous, addictive products. Damn you.

Grace in Small Things - Day 10

1. The Container Store

2. Weaning myself off of the Facebook addiction

3. Having enough quarters to do at least one load of laundry, therefore being able to wear anything I want to work this week

4. Clipping coupons

5. Homemade breakfast sandwiches

Friday, April 10, 2009

Grace in Small Things - Day 9

1. Books on hold at the library.

2. Fresh flowers in the kitchen.

3. Having a boyfriend who gets scallops from work at cost.

4. Having a boyfriend who cooks scallops nestled in white beans, cherry tomatoes, artichokes and scallions for Sunday dinner.

5. A schedule that gives me my Mondays off.

Grace in Small Things - Day Eight

1. My new guilty pleasure - Gwyneth's GOOP newsletter.

2. Mycanos Greek restaurant's combination platter #1

3. Ibuprofen for everything

4. The Millionaire Matchmaker

5.  Realizing that it was just a bad dream.

New favorite word

Thanks to Daily Candy SF:

froodies (n): friends who share your obsession with food.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Tasting Room Do's and Don'ts

Don't ask me "What's good?"

That is a stupid question. They're all good, for different reasons. Plus, your palate is not mine, so I would never presume to tell you what you will like and what you won't. That is totally up to you. (Besides, by telling you that you will like something, I am completely setting myself for some jackass to throw it back in my face that they didn't like what I "promised" they would.)

The better question is, "What do you recommend?" Then I'll probably ask you one or two broad questions about your preferences - I'll keep it simple - and recommend accordingly. I am more than happy to recommend certain wines.

Grace in Small Things - Day Seven

1. A new Nars lipgloss

2. Remembering to actually put it on

3. Granny panties

4. An upcoming brand-new Kathy Griffin comedy special

5. The beautiful cadences of the Indian accent.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

My co-workers: an explanation

In the tasting room, it's pretty much just me on the days that I work. The owner pops in from time to time, and on the days that I'm off we have one or two more people on staff at any given time who fill in, but for the most part we work our shifts alone, at least in these recent slow months. (This will change as busy season picks up, but more on that later.)

However, in this small town's little retail area, you become pretty friendly with those who work around you, and I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by some really dear people. We talk every day, we lament when it's slow, high-five when it's been busy, ask about each other's weekends - just like normal co-workers. So that is what I have come to view these people as.

They're fantastic, unique, and inspiring. And will be lovingly profiled here.

My co-workers: Greg the Parking Lot Guy

There is a parking lot two doors down from the tasting room that my boss happens to own – in addition to the four retail spaces adjacent to ours on the block. She contracts out the work to a very successful company in the Bay Area, and our main parking attendant is a dude named Greg.

Greg is twenty-seven years old, and has parked cars at 609 Bridgeway for over four years. To say that it is a surprisingly lucrative profession is an understatement – last year he bought his first house.

Greg is kinda tall with short brown hair and a sun-ruddy face, talks with his mouth pushed to the side of his face, and wears his uniform pants much lower than has been fashionable since, oh, I don’t know… 8th grade. (Seriously, I’ve seen him holding them up with his hands before while walking.) He definitely comes off as a bit of a stoner. He knows how to run the lot brilliantly, but sometimes people gripe about him for some rookie mistakes – leaving people’s windows down, changing the position of the drivers seat, that kind of thing. Actually, apparently it’s happened so frequently that his boss would have kicked him to the curb, so to speak, had my tasting room’s owner not fought to keep him around and defended his loyalty.

Because loyal he is. You could not ask for someone nicer than Greg to have around. Need help sifting through the dirty cardboard pile to put it out for recycling? Greg is there breaking down boxes with you. Toilet in the upstairs office clogged with wishy toilet paper? Greg is fetching the plunger, exclaiming out loud how thankful he is that no one had “taken a big dump” in there. Light bulb fifteen feet in the air needs to be changed? Where’s the ladder? Under Greg’s feet – light bulb is changed in no time. I have never asked him for a favor and not had him help with complete willingness and expecting nothing in return.

Most of the time when it’s slow he sits in his little booth watching the TV that hangs from the ceiling, although he has lamented to me that after a while it feels like his brain is rotting. When it’s sunny he parks a chair outside and reads Stephen King novels. Carlos Santana (one of the most famous locals) is one of his biggest tippers, and has even bought him lunch before for taking such good care of his Maserati.

Greg and I don’t have a lot in common, but we get along great. Nothing too deep, but there’s always a little morning chat about the weather, wishing a busy day for each other, etc. And with my female-run operation, I can’t tell you how great it is to have someone around who is willing to lift heavy things, hammer the occasional nail, and be a male presence in general if I need it. (I serve alcohol, after all, and things do have the potential to get rowdy.)

In short, Greg is a bit of a character, and great to have around.

Grace in Small Things - Day Six

1. Having eaten at 18 of the Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants.

2. NPR while getting ready in the mornings.

3. Good ole' Hamburger Helper.

4. My big, overstuffed red chair and matching ottoman.

5. Rain on my skylights.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

New project

It's been a while since I've really written, and I've missed it. For some reason I've been having trouble jump-starting.

Back in December I accepted a full time job managing the tasting room in Sausalito where I had been just clocking a few hours a week. At the time I accepted the job partially out of desperation, and partially out of actual fondness for the work I was doing there, but I've come to realize in the last few months that even if this is not where I see myself five years down the line that this is a pretty unique situation I've got going here. Not many people get to spend time managing a store in this lovely little town, right on the bay, overlooking San Francisco. Heck, most people just get to spend a few hours here in their lifetime, and right now I'm lucky enough to really get to experience this.

I want to start writing about it, so that I don't forget the special experiences that happen almost daily. Snippets with amazing people that I've met, quirky Sausalito locals that have essentially become my co-workers, things I find out about this unique little town that I absolutely love... Some I'll post here, some will be tucked away into a Word file deep in my MacBook.

So anyway, that's what I'm working on. I'll definitely appreciate feedback, so if anyone's out there, please feel free to pipe up. And wish me luck...

Monday, April 06, 2009

Grace in Small things - Day Five

1. My cat enjoying the window seat as much as I do.

2. Fleur de Sel, sprinkled on Recchiuti chocolate sauce, poured on vanilla ice cream.

3. The view of Alcatraz from my kitchen window as I make coffee in the morning.

4. Getting a grip on what I want from people.

5. Making a HUGE payment on my credit card.

Grace in Small Things - Day Four

1. The smell that envelops my apartment while homemade chicken stock simmers on the stove.

2. Rescuing my cat from being accidentally locked in a closet for 3 hours. (Oops.)

3. Finally discovering this blog, and fantasizing about one day being that simple, creative, and beautiful.

4. Walking to work.

5. Sundried tomato turkey from the deli.