Saturday, January 26, 2008
This time, I tried the Penfolds "Bin 389" Cabernet/Shiraz, 04, South Australia and the Valdivieso "Reserve" Cabernet Franc, 04, Central Valley, Chile.
The cab/shiraz blend was quite delicious. Ever since I went to Canberra about a decade or so ago and met a wine connoisseur who highly recommended a Penfolds cab/shiraz blend, I try and taste them when I can. Of course, by now I can't remember which bin # he recommended, but I haven't been disappointed yet, as long as it wasn't one of the cheapest bottles on the shelf.
I decided to try the cabernet franc because first, it was from Chile, and I've really enjoyed Chilean wines lately, particularly the carmenere. And second, I'd tried some cabernet francs at several wineries in central California and I was interested in how the Chilean compared with the Californian. I enjoyed this wine also, but it had a bit more of a tannic taste to it than the cab/shiraz blend from Australia.
To go with the wines, I also had the mushroom, prosciutto and manchego cheese empanadas. The crust was nice and flaky. But the mushroom to prosciutto to cheese ratio was a bit off, with the mushrooms overpowering the flavor of the prosciutto and cheese. In fact, I could barely tell there was any cheese in there at all, let alone any prosciutto. The last time we went, I had the bruschetta, which was quite delicious with lots of nice tomato, garlic and basil.
- House Under Snow by Jill Bialosky (fiction) -- a good read. The main character flashes back to times when she was a teenager and when she was younger; focus is on her relationship with her mother and how it has effected her in the past and in the present
- The Barbary Plague: The Black Death in Victorian San Francisco by Marilyn Chase (non-fiction). Details how the plague managed to become endemic in the western United States. A bit slow to start with lots of names and dates, but becomes more interesting as more organizations and people start to cover up the existence of plague in San Francisco to protect their financial situations. All of which comes to an end when the 1906 earthquake hits.
- Don't Try This At Home: Culinary Catastrophes from the World's Greatest Chefs (short stories). I'll never see a wedding cake in the same light again after reading this. Some stories were much more enjoyable, some were definitely laugh out loud funny, and some were downright cringe-inducing. But almost all had one thing in common -- a loud, obnoxious chef who berated and abused his underlings.
- Untangling My Chopsticks by Victoria Abbott Riccardi. An enjoyable memoir about her year in Kyoto learning tea kaiseki, the formal meal that can precede the tea ceremony. Also included were some recipes which I plan on trying soon. Her descriptions of the food made me want to go out and find some Japanese food, and makes me look forward even more to my upcoming trip to Tokyo. And as always, I enjoy reading stories and memoirs set in places that I've been to because I can then more easily picture the setting in my mind.
Friday, January 18, 2008
There were a couple of things that I got out of this book:
1) "We the people" no longer have a voice. We may elect politicians to their positions, but it's the corporations with their highly paid lobbyists that get the legislation they want passed.
2) I worry about what kinds of chemicals and nasty stuff are in the food I buy, including the fruits and vegetables, the meats, fish, and poultry. I tend to think more and more that I need to buy a plot of land where I can grow what I eat so I know what's in my food. But even still, any soil supplements, fertilizers, etc, the actual ingredients aren't listed on the bag, so I may still end up with cadmium or lead or other unwanted things. And that's making the assumption that the land I do eventually buy isn't already contaminated with this stuff.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
This book covers the legal, news, academic and research communities, detailing how Japan, through its bureaucracy and traditions, has made it very difficult if not downright impossible for any foreigner to gain access to Japan. Whether it's the restrictions on hiring lawyers, or the clubs prohibiting foreign members, or the universities that fire all foreign lecturers or professors, these are all detailed.
Despite all that, I did enjoy my six month sojourn in Japan. But I think I definitely made the right decision to not pursue teaching and/or research possibilities in Japan. I think an annual contract with the potential for non-renewal would not have been a realistic situation for me.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
While we were watching, we had the doors open because it was a very nice evening. And when the Jags scored, someone somewhere was setting off fireworks (and yes, for those of you in California, fireworks are legal here, and there's a stand somewhere off I-95 which is close by. And I'm sure there are other places even closer where you can get them). And any time someone for Jacksonville did something good, someone else in a nearby apartment would cheer and yell. I think pretty much the entire town was watching the game. In fact, at the grocery store the next day, everyone asked, "Hey, did you see the game last night?"
Anyway, Go Jags!
I think anyone who has had a dog, lived with a dog, or currently has and/or lives with a dog can relate to some of the stories in this book. None of her stories particularly stood out, but as I was reading, I certainly was laughing.
And I certainly was thinking of some of my own dog tales, from the time Molly decided that she'd check out Mom's newly redone bathroom and locked herself in and managed to get out through the window way at the top of the wall after shredding the laundry basket and turning on the faucets so the bathroom flooded to the time I came home to a twelve-pack of coke sitting on the floor with coke cans with bite marks and coke squirting out all over the kitchen in giant arcs (the dogs sported sticky mohawks, by the way). Or the time that Nicky decided she was going to help herself to some poor kid's sandwich while we were at the park (he was waving it around right at her nose level). Or waking up nose-to-nose with Alex under the covers and then realizing, hey, he wasn't under the covers when I fell asleep. Or my roommate's whippet that would come in and poke me so I'd lift the covers for him to crawl into bed with me.
I think the one thing I learned from this book, or actually it was simply reinforced, was that living with a dog always provides lots of entertainment, and that it takes lots of time and work with a dog to make sure they are decent canine companions and realize that you're the boss. I do look forward to the time when I have a house with a yard and can get my own dog.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Anyway, once I got on the road, it was a straight shot, for the most part, to the office. But I did notice a few things:
1) people inch through red lights. I'll be the first car in my lane at a stop light, stopped because it's red. Yet the person next to me will start inching forward. And they don't wait until the light's about to turn green. They'll start doing this even if the light just turned red. Anyway, I'm stopped at a light, and this guy in the left lane started inching through, and finally he just went all the way through the red light, even though the folks in the left turn lane had a green arrow. They just honked at him as he went through the intersection.
2) they have speed trap warning billboards saying warning, speed trap ahead
3) there were lane realignment ahead signs on I-10, and I saw them and expected that there would be a decent change to the lanes ahead. Nope, the lanes shifted about a foot from the existing lane lines. In California, if they have one of those signs, it usually means a 45 degree angle change, dips and bumps over temporary construction stuff, and a lane not quite big enough for big rigs that runs right next to those white concrete dividers.
4) signage is lacking -- I noticed, or maybe I didn't notice, there was no sign indicating which was the north direction and which the south. See, there are no mountains or other large direction indicators out in Florida, so sometimes, especially at night, it's difficult for me to tell what direction something is, particularly if there's no sign saying which way is north and which is south. So I came to an intersection and had to guess, because it wasn't a straightforward intersection, I had to turn right and go over some railroad tracks and then cut back over to catch the road, and I never saw a sign that said go right for south and left for north.
I say this was magical realism because of it's similarity in some cases to the stories of Isabel Allende. The co-existence of Christian religion and the unexpected magic, but both are taken to be real.
Overall, this book took a while to get into. I actually started it a couple of weeks ago, and just got back into it the other day. But once I got about half way through, I became a lot more interested in finding out what happened. Although I am rather disappointed in knowing what happened to the family after they boarded the barge. Did they all manage to go after their true loves? Did they even survive? What happened?
And the news has been nothing but Jags, Jags, Jags all week long. Jags flags are flying in place of Gator flags. Casual Friday meant teal and black Jaguars clothing.
It's actually really neat to be in a place where everyone's interested in how the team is doing. And it's fun to be in a small enough place where the chances of seeing members of the team out and about are actually pretty high. In fact, the other night we went to the Mandarin Ale House for a co-worker's going away happy hour, and a member of the Jaguars was there. He was even autographing stuff for some of the kids there.
While a win tonight won't solve the lackluster tickets sales leading to local TV black-outs for next season, in my opinion. The inability to sell out the entire stadium isn't because of a winning or losing season, I think there are other issues, such as the economy, difficulty of getting to the stadium, prices of the tickets and the food and drink that have more of an impact on whether or not tickets are sold. But it will be very exciting indeed if the Jaguars do beat the Patriots.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Anyway, have a few things...
1) I just finished Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto. I enjoy her work because she manages to convey so much with so few words. This was a story about a young woman and her relationship with her cousin and how she comes to grips with the fact that while she loves her cousin, she doesn't really like her, and yet, they're still good friends.
2) I also recently polished off a bottle of Morro Bay Vineyards 2001 Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon. This was a lovely red, with nice rounded flavors.
That's about it. I'm pretty much just working these days. The headaches are getting less and less each day, which is good. I still have a minor bump on my head which I hope will eventually actually go completely away.
Saturday, January 5, 2008
So, a friend and I went to Lemon Grass on Old Baymeadows Road for lunch today. And it was good. Apparently, lots of people like the Amazing, which is a peanut/coconut curry dish. For me, I had the sweet and sour with chicken. What I liked about this lunch menu was that you could choose which type of meat with which type of sauce/noodle. So if I wasn't feeling like chicken, I could have beef or shrimp. Or I could have chicken with either amazing or sweet and sour or any other number of curries and sauces available.
The sweet and sour chicken was very tasty -- not too sweet, and not too sour. It had some hidden bits of ginger, and also included baby corn, onion, pineapple, zucchini, snow peas, matchstick carrots, and bell pepper. Most of the time when I get this dish, it comes with just chicken, onion, bell pepper, and pineapple. So the addition of the other vegetables was a delight.
Also, we ended up sitting in the bar area -- this place gets crowded at lunch time. It was a tad bit cold when the front door opened, but otherwise service was good and timely. I noticed a decent number of Napa and Sonoma wineries represented in the bar -- many are ones that I particularly enjoy. So I may have to revisit for dinner one night.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
In California, it's summer where the electricity demand soars.
Just another one of those differences I've noticed between California and my new home state. As long as there are no rolling blackouts tomorrow! It's very, very cold outside.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
I enjoyed reading this book. Dylan was an interesting character who underwent change based upon his experience. I also think this is a book that focuses on the conflict between the middle and upper classes of society, and the clash between the two. The morals and standards of the two groups are so different, which makes for an appealing story line as the middle class realizes what's going on after first beginning to feel like they've been accepted and how they're being used and decides enough is enough.
Other than the large number of main characters to keep track of, this was a nice mystery. Definitely recommend this for a by the pool summer reading session.
For Christmas, my mom gave us a gift card for Williams-Sonoma. I've wanted a dutch oven for quite some time, so we picked out a 5.5 quart blue Le Creuset dutch oven. It's enameled cast iron, and is quite heavy, but works well either on the stove or in the oven.
The first thing we made in it is Slow-Cooked Achiote Pork from Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday. This is a traditional Yucatan pork dish, usually an entire pig cooked in a pit in the ground; but a simple bone-in pork roast in a dutch oven can replicate the flavor.
First, the dutch oven is lined with banana leaves. Then the roast is seasoned with a thick marinade made of achiote seasoning and lime. The roast is placed in the dutch oven, then onions are placed on top.
The result is a sweet, non-spicy pork roast that practically falls apart. And when I say 'sweet', I'm not meaning sugary sweet, but simply not spicy. I usually associate Mexican cooking with spicy, like carnitas, but this isn't. The red color comes from the achiote, which I've used to make red colored olive oil for Puerto Rican rice and peas. The recommendation is to serve this with a salsa or hot sauce. We had corn tortillas, but no salsa. The next time we make this, I definitely think something with a bit of bite/heat to it will go very nicely with it.