Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Thanksgiving in Three Acts

Filling the House with Smoke

Well, not literally. I can only imagine the crazy ideas you all just had about what went down at my Thanksgiving. I smoked a turkey. And that’s not anything new. But this time it came out damn good, my best ever. And it filled the house full of aromas of smoked meat goodness.

( The smell was so rich and deep. )

We also roasted a turkey and served both with the usual sides including, homemade cranberry sauce, a root vegetable gratin that wouldn’t be good until it was reheated three days later, mashed potatoes, squash, green beans, carrots, stuffing, bread and of course gravy.

Thanksgiving Day was all about laughs and good food. No fuss was made of wine pairings and we finished off the Saisons from the prior day before dinner was even served.

We finished the day with board games and homemade pie.

Say Hello to My Little Mojo

On Friday my parents came to visit for the holiday. I had planned a non-traditional menu for dinner to avoid any boredom with the typical post-Turkey Day fare. One of the dishes I made, they were all small bites/portions, was a Cuban Sandwich on a lettuce leaf instead of bread.

Several key elements came together for this plate to have made the impact it did. First, bone-in pork chops marinated in an orange mojo overnight and then slow cooked. Take a look at this little mojo.

Orange Mojo Marinade

¼ cup fresh squeezed OJ
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp lime juice
Peel of 1 orange
2 large garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp annatto soaked oil
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground black pepper

Mix and pour over pork in a container than can be sealed and refrigerated overnight. Agitate several times during the marinating.

The cooked pork was topped with thick cut bacon that had been baked with melted brown sugar and Dijon mustard on it. The bacon alone was immensely flavorful and had a good spicy bite. I melted Gruyere over the two meats and then placed all of that on top of the lettuce leaf, pickle and a small amount of Dijon mustard. My take on a Cuban sandwich. Everyone said it was the best of the four courses I served.

( Not the best shot, but the best one I got! )

For the first course I served fish croquettes I made following my friend Kelly at The Pink Apron’s recipe. I deep fried them, I would normally use the oven, and served them hot, and with the dijonaise. Wow! Lots of flavor and the fish was cooked just right. The ones in the freezer won’t stand a chance at a party real soon!

I paired wine with each course, finding the Westport RiversSparkling Wine to be a keen match for the croquettes. I used the remainder of it to make several cocktails two days later with no loss of carbonation or flavor. Other wines from my own collection and my trip to Virginia were tasted with several courses.

I served an intermezzo course of grilled butternut squash & pineapple topped with Meyer lemon curd crème fraiche. I followed that with dinner consisting of slow cooked Asian style BBQ lamb, creamed corn muffin and an Asian-inspired slaw. I’ll save more on those dishes for another day.

If the Muppets Can’t Make You Smile, You’re Dead

The rest of the weekend was a bit of a whirlwind. I made three batches of mead on Saturday morning, look for notes on that project at WineMaker Magazine’s web site real soon, and we rung in the holidays with friends Ed & Jim and their house full of guests in the afternoon.

For the party on Saturday I made a beer & cheese bread dip that surprisingly pleased more people and went more quickly than I had expected. It was pretty simple actually. Sadly I forgot to get a picture.

Beer & Cheese Dip

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
¼ cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tsp dried sage
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup beer (I used Shipyard Pumpkinhead)
1 large round loaf of bread
1 loaf of bread, similar type to above

Place all the ingredients, except the beer & bread in the Cuisinart and mix well. Slowly add the beer and mix until smooth. Refrigerate overnight.

Cut a cone out of the center of the round loaf of bread, much like taking the top off a pumpkin. Cube the removed bread and the additional load of bread. Using a spatula place the dip in the bread bowl and serve the bowl and the bread for dipping on a large platter.

We checked out the new Muppet movie on Sunday and spent a couple hours laughing over our shared Muppet memories. Margot and I both grew up watching the Muppets and we pondered over the self-reflection and contemporary relevance questions raised by the movie. We would still watch the Muppets now, it wasn’t exclusively for kids in the beginning, but over time I think the perception of the show and the movies has seen them relegated to the big pile of kid’s shows out there. Who knows, maybe this movie can reverse that trend.We laughed a lot and think most people our age could relate.


Thanksgiving is what you make it and clearly we made something of this one! The leftovers have been parlayed into nearly a week of different meals with a bacon and pineapple pizza making an appearance tonight.

We finished the weekend with a late day walk up to the old cemetery. The big, gnarly and leafless sugar maples set against the fleeting sun were a sure sign of where we are in the year, the weather notwithstanding!

I hope you enjoyed time with family and friends this Thanksgiving, and I wish you even more good times for the remainder of the holiday season. Happy Holidays!



Don't forget to enter to win a Spanish Wine Party Pack at

Monday, November 28, 2011

Win a Spanish Wine Party Pack from Tapeña Wines & the Ancient Fire Wine Blog

The Ancient Fire Wine Blog is teaming up with Tapeña Wines to give away a Spanish Wine Party Pack to one lucky reader. The Party Pack includes wine, charms, a corkscrew and other goodies. How exiciting!

Tapeña Wines is a new take on Spanish wine combining socializing, food and Spanish style to create a line of wines that are valued priced and ready to drink. Tapeña produces four styles of wine covering wine lovers of many stripes with Tempranillo, Garnacha, Verdejo and Rose. I know I’ve had the Tapeña Temrapnillo in the past, but sadly I can’t recall my impressions. My take on reading the producer notes is that the wines are dry with a focus on balance and long, clean finishes.  

With food and entertaining in mind the Tapeña Wines blog contains weekly updates of recipes, pairing ideas and style tips. While Tapas is one of the inspirations for the wines, many dishes can be successfully paired with them, and specifically a range of seafood dishes. Recent Thanksgiving themed posts are a peek into the breadth of Spanish wines when pairing them with food.

So how is this giveaway going to work? Your first chance to win will be accepted with the following actions:
  • Follow @tapenawine and @ancientfirewine on Twitter (if you don't use Twitter don't worry)
  • Like Tapeña Wines and the Ancient Fire Wine Blog on Facebook (same here)
  • Leave a comment here with how you would entertain with a Tapeña Wines Party Pack.
  • The winner will be selected randomly from the valid entries.
  • The comment and Follow/Like period for the giveaway will be open until 12:00 PM EST December 7th.
  • Must be 21 years or older to enter, and that by entering you verify you are over 21
  • Apologies to my readers outside the U.S. but you must also be a legal U.S. citizen to be eligible to win

Next week I will be posting a Spanish Wine pairing of my own matching Paella and the Tapeña Tempranillo. A second chance to enter the giveaway will be available via a comment on that post with your Spanish wine pairing questions.

Thank you to Tapeña Wines for the great party pack giveaway. Like Tapena Wines on Facebook and enter to wine an Ibiza trip for two!

Locate Tapeña Wines at your local wine shops using the Retail Locator at the Tapeña web site.

Don’t forget to follow @tapenawines on Twitter to get frequent updates on expressing your Spanish wine style with Tapeña Wines.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saisons for the Season

This isn’t a Thanksgiving (or even a Christmas) food & beverage pairing post. The title is catchy. I thought of it and decided to write a post reviewing several saisons that I would drink while cooking and hanging out on Thanksgiving Day. When I wrote this I didn’t even know yet what I would break out to drink with the multiple dinners for the upcoming holiday. On Thanksgiving day we did open up some homemade wine, but beers of several varieties won the day. I was hosting a beer drinking crowd so this was not surprising. The day after I served a menu of small plates, not themed for Thanksgiving, each with its own wine pairing. That’s for another post though.

My other reason for lining up a flight of saisons is that I plan to make a sour cherry saison this winter that will be done in time to celebrate Spring and Summer with. For that project I need some inspiration from commercially available examples. My life is hard!

What is a saison? First off saison is the French word for season. This style of beer hails from Wallonia in Belgium, and a French speaking part of that country to bring it all together. Brewed as farmhouse ales, saisons were originally brewed seasonally in the fall or winter for consumption by farm workers during the next planting and harvest seasons. During that time sources of potable water were few and brewed beer was safe to drink, contained some nutrition and was hydrating. Low alcohol levels in the original brews would have staved off outright drunkenness. Just a few historical facts that take us back to the beginnings of beer. Back to saisons however. Variations were available from many different brewers making the style somewhat broad to define. Modern day versions cover a broad range creating some excitement when trying new ones.

Saisons were historically brewed as pale ales and likely with a low ABV of around 3%.  Strong hop character was a foregone conclusion based on the need to cellar the beers for quite some time without the aid of refrigeration. The preservative qualities of hops and considerable acidity (sometimes through blending with lambics and prior year saisons) ensured the beer didn’t spoil. Most modern-day saisons are typically cloudy, golden in color with an off-white head. The nose will vary between different saisons, with a range of fruity, spicy, earthy/funky and yeasty often having moderate tartness and bitterness as well.  Darker versions are common enough (called biere de garde in France) to be notable. Likewise some versions will have a perceptibly sweet, rich and malty finish.

Saisons are typically sold in large format bottles, 22oz bombers, often with a cork and wire harness much like sparkling wine and champagne. Most are bottle conditioned and some labels will suggest what you should or shouldn’t do with the bottle sediment to ensure a good drink. Bottle conditioning also adds variation, with the level of charge and size of the bubbles of different labels to span a range.

Names of several highly rated commercial versions of saisons include Dupont, Hennepin, Sofie and Jack D’or, all of which we will taste and review here. I also have the Ovila Saison, a new product from a partnership between Sierra Nevada and Abbey of New Clairvaux, to try alongside the others. Selections from Fantome and The Bruery are on my list to search for to taste another day.

Saison Dupont

Pours a gold/orange color. Tall white head. Considerable sour and savory notes, herbs, drying grass, etc. in the nose. Sour citrus in the mouth followed by tart stone fruits. Dry with moderate funkiness towards the finish. Very effervescent, mouth filling in fact. Very smooth finish and a well balanced disposition. I’ve only had this a few other times and couldn’t recall them well enough to compare. The smooth finish increases the likelihood I would drink this anytime I found it. web site

Pretty Things Jack D’or

Big funky nose. Short white head. I found hay, herbs, unripe fruits and spices. Margot said herbaceous and I can’t disagree with that at all. Pours gold and unfiltered. I picked up quite a bit of citrus in the nose and sour notes. Margot thought it came off as very hoppy which is consistent with my expressions of the nose. Mouth filling carbonation is a note we both made. I found the mouth to be considerably full with light malts and grains, almost like a golden ale. The hops came on big for me in the flavors with many green elements like grass, herbs, spruce and bitter greens. The finish is clean, albeit more bitter than we liked. web site

Goose Island Sofie

Pours yellow/gold and hazy. Tall white head. The complexity of the nose caught my attention right away. The fullness of the sour, fruit, yeast and malt notes in the nose was surprising. As you sip earthy notes show up very early and slip away in favor of dried fruits and citrus. The finish was like sour lemon candy. Margot felt it was more complex, very balanced and finished smooth. This was the most drinkable and the mutual favorite for both of us and one we hope to enjoy again very soon. web site

Ovila Saison

Pours orange/gold with a medium off-white head. Moderate sour notes to the nose, hints of green apple. Full bodied and fruit with a dry finish. Hops are present in the nose and mouth, but not very big. Not as complex as the others, aromas and flavors are not very deep is how Margot described it. web site

Ommegang Hennepin

Pours hazy and gold. Short white head. I picked up some salinity in the otherwise sour nose. This beer is malty and grainy in the mouth with considerable prickly carbonation. Citrus and tart unripe fruits were the predominant flavors. The finish was very clean and smooth. I ended up rushing through this tasting and I didn’t get back to my notes when I shared the rest of the bottle with friends the next day. web site

Like with a lot of foodstuffs you have to want to like something to enjoy it. If you try saison and don’t like the style I won’t argue the point. Beverages of all kinds are designed to accentuate several key tastes, sour and bitter here specifically, and that coupled with textural elements like bubbles and tannins in beers, wines and spirits, create a lot of action for your palate. Any one off presentation and it could be the end of any enjoyment. Adventure does come with a cost. I love finding new beverages that channel their attributes in that way that I must pause and consider the tweaking of my senses that is going on. I don’t like everything I drink, the experience notwithstanding.

I was in the Boston Wine Exchange on Tuesday picking up the last of the saisons for our lineup. One of the staff was picking some fall beers to put in a holiday display. She asked what I was drinking and whether it was for Thanksgiving. I mentioned that I was picking up some saison or “beer drinkers Champagne” to take for a test drive. I didn’t commit to it being my Turkey Day pairing choice because in this case most of it will be gone before dinner!

With the moderate (or higher) carbonation, healthy acidity and range of flavors saisons are a solid utility player when it comes to entertaining, supporting both socializing and enjoyable eating. Having an all-sparkling-beverage party is a lot easier to envision when you consider beers such as saison. As an aside, dry sparkling cider adds yet another option increasing that potential further still. I’ll leave you with that thought as you ponder what to serve to your family and friends this holiday season.



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blogging to Remember

In March of this year I posted a review of several samples from Crispin Cider that I had received. One in particular, The Saint, caught my attention then and inspired me to create something similarly influenced at home. Having posted the review on my blog I am able to go back and consider what I recall experiencing about the cider, and what I shared with readers. Here's what I wrote in March:

The Saint Artisanal Reserve

Pale, almost cream colored & unfiltered.
Smells like sweet cider & spices.
6.9% ABV
Tartness in the finish.
Yeasty, with spicy sweet bread flavors.

The flavor combination reminded me of the warm apple gallete w/ caramel sauce and bourbon cream glaze I had over Christmas.

This is one that I would stock at home and could have a good deal of fun with in different pairing scenarios. Dessert pairings are the first to spring to mind, but I also think a roast pork tenderloin would make for a good match as well.

The marketing sheet for The Saint at Crispin's web site reads like a dream. It speaks of floral, yeasty and herbal notes in the nose and a silky mouthfeel. I recall telling Margot than I couldn't quite identify the savory element to the cider, something earthy and likely from the maple syrup. I didn't note that, and I'm not sure why.

For my own version of this beverage I used local New Hampshire syrup from Ben's Sugar Shack and cider from a Sunnycrest Farm in town.The Belgian Trappist High Gravity beer yeast was something familiar from my homebrew projects. The fermentation proceeded slowly and the aromas the few times I checked were sweet and spicy creating lots of hope for the final product. As it reached the end of fermentation I was able to detect the richness of the syrup in the mouth with now subtle hints of sweet spices, a transition I was hoping for. The nose is bready and yeasty. The cider stayed just this side of dry imparting a slight amount of fruitiness as well. Not bad. I've got some time yet before I can taste it absent of the influences of the lees and trapped CO2, but I'm happy so far with the direction the drink is going in.

( This shot is of fermenting cider, in the outer ring, from 2009. )

Read, Cider Free or Die, for highlights from the brew club cider buy and what's brewing this year.

In my review above I also mention food pairings. One of the things I liked the most about Crispin's web site when I was visiting to get to know their products was their section on Food Pairings. Several types of information from recipes, pairing suggestions to entire cider dinner menus are available at their site. Lots of really great ideas after you've read about their products, found them at the local store and now want to get your drink on.

I've no doubt paired cider with food hundreds of times, and quite a few with real intent because it was the best match to be had. I've used it in sauces, dressings and drinks.The acidity and gentle fruitiness of ciders has them playing in with similarly structured white wines like Soave or dry Seyval Blanc.If the cider is flavored or otherwise brewed with specialty ingredients it is wise to take those into a account for any pairings.

In the pairing suggestion from my review I mention roast pork. An herbed roast pork is going to have big flavor on the outside with soft white flesh inside. The acidity of cider would help focus and refine the herbs and the earthy character from the syrup and beer yeast will impart a rustic feel to the bite. I'm hungry now. I was looking around for a picture of an herb encrusted pork loin from my own kitchen and came up with nothing. Now I'm really hungry!

Sparkling ciders in particular offer a familiar experience, with the best versions being dry, tart and a bit yeasty much like small lot Champagne. Artisinal ciders made from heirloom apples and fermented dry can be mistaken for unique French sparklers. Sparkling beverages have a food pairing advantage in just that one difference, they are sparkling. The crispness and effervescence is palate cleansing.Whether it is with fried foods as snacks, roast turkey & gravy, Helene's pork stuffing, baked root vegetables, mashed potatoes or just some cheese can crackers, who is going to turn down some bubbly?

Taking this stroll back through the review and the homebrew project it inspired was fun.I'm definitely looking
forward to breaking out cider over the long weekend to while away time with family and friends with. I expect lots of cheering, yelling or otherwise laughing at the TV over some cider on Turkey Day. I've also got a new bottle of Scotch to try with my dad, but that's a review for another time.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, November 19, 2011

F*%K Nouveau!

F*%K Nouveau! Whoops, somebody pissed in the pool, everybody out! Nope, I’m not gonna let that happen.

Nouveau Day 2011 (Twitter: #NouveauDay), the celebration of the current year’s Beaujolais Nouveau harvest & wine, saw the critics, the supporters and the revelers mixing it up pretty good. I heard and read points all over and on both sides of the love it or hate it question when it comes to Beaujolais Nouveau. I appreciate everyone’s position on the wine and the marketing party around it. I enjoyed the hang out because, and not in spite of all of it. And no, nobody has to tone it down. You have a right to your opinion and I say sing it proud.

I try at least one Beaujolais Nouveau each year just in case I find one that for a short while might be drinking well enough to enjoy a bottle or two. That hasn’t happened but twice (2005 and 2009) in the ten years I have been tasting it, but there is so much variability in the world’s wines why punish this wine excessively for the same potential?

So far I have only tasted the Duboeuf art covered bottle and didn’t find it notable. The label is again a feast of orange and yellow, a trend of the last couple of years. During the live tweeting last night I didn’t get many responses to anyone drinking other labels so I couldn’t gauge whether there were others that would be worth a few bucks this year. The producer Bouchard Aine & Fils came up several times and I might seek that one out. If anyone reading had it please leave some thoughts in a comment.

The Duboeuf is intensely purple as expected. I was showing my friends at the Salon I go to (haircut during happy hour) what the wine looked like up against a piece of white paper. The lesson about that being a dead giveaway for a very young wine that might be super fruity wasn’t lost on a couple people.

The juicy fruit and candy like aromas were pleasant and consistent with the style. The wine was low in fine tannins providing little structure for the wine. Again, consistent with the majority of the years I am familiar with. The tannins of the 2009 and 2003 Nouveau’s were somewhat bigger and led to a more complete experience for me.

The wine is moderately full in the mouth and finishes a bit sour. Not quite balanced from nose to tail. There isn’t anything flawed about the wine, it’s just that it can’t have the finesse of most other wines with the short time frame for production. It is a great example of being what something is going to be.

I broke out a bottle of the Duboeuf 2009 Julienas during the TweetChat and compared the two. I participated in Burgers & Beaujolais with friends earlier in the year where we shared a flight of Cru Beaujolais. A selection from Julienas was tasting pretty good during that event and I was happy to have an extra of a different bottle from that region laying around.

Yes there is nothing fair in this, comparing a Cru from a good year to the Nouveau, but experience is king and tasting them side by side and contrasting the differences in wine from same grape is instructive.

So the Duboeuf 2009 Julienas is ruby colored wine with purple tendencies and medium concentration. The nose is lively with fruit, some funky earth and a bit of oak. It is a dry, a more earthy than fruity wine in the mouth, with a long dry finish. I picked up strawberries in the finish. The tannins are reserved and structurally sound. The wine has a well balanced acidity and is pleasant to drink on its own. The distinctions of this wine or my favorite Beaujolais’s from Saint-Amour are clear. I prefer my Beaujolais to have the time to come into its own and a little finesse with age.

Beaujolais and Thanksgiving get asked about all the time. The timing of the release is certainly no coincidence. Here is a link to my first blog post about the relationship between the two, entitled Food & WinePairing #1 from Thanksgiving 2008. I don’t find Beaujolais to be a universal hit as a food pairing wine, but in good years like 2005 and 2009 I can see how it doesn’t take away from the food on your Thanksgiving table and thus isn’t memorable for having messed up your holiday!

Continuing the Thanksgiving tangent for a second. In that same post I also make an interesting assertion that there is a new domestic wine revolution going on with hybrid and cold-weather hardy grapes and how those wines make for better holiday pairing in my opinion. With three years of wine travel and tasting experience since writing those words I would say I was on to something. Many areas of the country are springing to prominence for their local, and not “California style”, wines made from lesser known grapes. I have paired wines made from those grapes grown here in New England with holiday meals several times with considerable success.

Do you Nouveau? The date has come and gone and over the next few weeks more wines will arrive for quick consumption. The new year’s Nouveau is worth checking out for the experience and also to get people riled up about wine. Sometimes that’s the only reason I keep doing this…



Friday, November 18, 2011

Drinking Local – A Regional Selection from Hunt Country Vineyards

Not long after I came back from my first trip to the Finger Lakes I got to Tweeting away with Andy at Hunt Country Vineyards. I had not visited Hunt Country, we weren't acquainted yet, during that trip and with so many wineries to choose from I could only be so worried that I would miss someone. The bigger worry would be that I didn't get back there soon. Fear not, we return in February and June next year!

Andy sent me sample wines to try, thank you, which added more fodder to the fire that is the tastings and pairings I want to experiment with using my stash of Finger Lakes wines I picked up along my journey. 

I tasted the Huny Country 2009 Cabernet Franc for an installment of #winechat that featured that varietal, its history and tastings from different participants of different types from around the world. This week I opened and tasted the 2009 Valvin Muscat.

The nose on this wine is full of flower petals, fruit tree blossoms and young fruit. You have to like the perfumed nose of a Muscat to try enough to seek out renditions that really wow you. I like this type of aromatic profile which is why I like aromatic vinifera’s like Viognier and Gewurztraminer. That is also why I like Riesling, Traminette, Torrentes, La Crescent, all types of Muscat and the little known grape Symphony. The hallmark of a good version of any of those wines is a bountiful nose full floral and fruit notes.

The one thing I liked the most about this wine is the lusciousness on the palate. The touch of sweetness along with the viscosity of the wine creates a very nice body.

The finish is all lemons and with that body and sweetness it tastes like a lemon sour candy. Nicely played! I tweeted my thoughts on the wine and a response from Evan Dawson got the most descriptive wine review tweet award for the week. Evan tweeted:

“Like potpourri, that nose. Crazy floral, with lemon fruity pebbles. Unique - our guests love it.”

Those words sum up this wine much better than mine!

This is one of the most well put together Muscat’s I’ve had. Some of the versions I’ve tried in the past have missed on balance, whereas this wine is well balanced, from hotness, sharp mineral acidities, too much sugar or a nose that was completely disconnected from the body. Finicky grape, I guess.

The Hunt Country Vineyard 2009 Valvin Muscat finishes smooth with citrus, but not in the overt cleanup role drier white wines express lemon and citrus. The finish is long and the body sticks with you the whole way. Very reminiscent of a lemon infused and sweet herbal tea.

My pairing for the evening, which I have no pictures of, was curried chicken kebabs. The pairing was well conceived and the wine and chicken went together, but no sparks flew. They didn’t oppose each other in any obvious way so I wouldn’t dissuade people from trying something similar. Not much more to say. They wine was good enough on its own that it didn’t really matter becuase I was rushing through dinner to get back in the kitchen to tend to a couple batches of cider. The juice-maker has to eat too!



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

One Day in Sonoma

I can’t complain about the busy life I choose to lead. It is my choice, and when weekends fly by and I can barely remember the fun I had, it is my own fault. But, sometimes I use a time crunch to my advantage. 

If there is one sacrifice to be made on a trip to Sonoma, my first trip no less, having only one day would scarcely make most people’s lists. Most destinations are like that, one day isn’t enough to do them justice, and a lifetime might never be if you leave your heart there. How did I rock one day in Sonoma?

I set out early, picking up the one day rental car at 7AM. I was staring back at the Golden Gate Bridge from Marin before 8.

Back to that trip I took with my family in 1987. The Golden Gate Bridge was one of the city sites I was especially taken with. So many people are. Definitely a point of distinction for SF, part of the charm if you will.

I leisurely made my way toward my first stop at ClineCellars. I peeled off at the first Starbucks I could find and used the WIFI to jam out my Foodbuzz Festival Day 1 post.

I arrived at Cline shortly after 10AM. I planned a trip to Cline after Maribeth Doran, their Goddess of Wine & Social Media, participated in #winechat for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Bottles of Cline’s Cashmere currently carry a pink ribbon and are linked to a donation made to Living Beyond Breast Cancer for each bottle sold. Nobody has to tell me or my family how important raising money to fight cancer is, we’ve been at it almost ten years now. It’s hard work! As a cancer survivor, fund raiser and volunteer I am dubious on some methods of raising funds, and retail promotion is one of the easily questionable methods; but I do thank organizations that support the fight and try to make their involvement worth the most with an extended relationship with a good charity. My thanks are due to the whole team at Cline for their continued involvement which has raised more than $200,000 in the fight against cancer. I heard personal stories in the tasting room, survivor to survivor even, and that means so much more on top of money raised and realities somewhere else.

Thank you Maribeth for arranging the good care I experienced during my visit. Lots of smiles and energy in the tasting room. 

One of the experiences I have had several times this year is the tasting of a blend and the varietal bottlings of the constituent wines. At Cline the Heritage Zinfandel is made of wines from the Bridgehead, Big Break and Live Oak vineyards, each expressing attributes that when blended presented much differently than expected. I am particularly taken with this type of experience because of how much creative expression can be attributed to the series of tastings and trials that winemakers go through each time they haul in grapes and try to balance how to use everything they ferment.

Cashmere is a blend of Mourvedre, Grenache and Syrah. The 2010 is still young with abundant fruit and spice. There was also a minerality component that was metallic in nature. It wasn’t a detractor from the wine per se, but it was noticeable. The wine drinks well and should see improvement over time. That’s only if the bottle I have in my cellar lasts long enough…

Something you must do if you only have one day somewhere, is move on. My trip would take me next to Rodney Strong Vineyards and my second stop of the day.

I met Robert Larsen from the Public Relations team of RodneyStrong Vineyards at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Virginia in July. The first meeting was at a tasting table and then I met him again in the evening as conference attendees met up, shared wines and networked. I had enjoyed the wines at the table earlier in the day and I was told then that there was a surprise in store for after hours. The surprise was that the Rodney Strong team had shipped along a blend deconstruction tasting (like the one at Cline) for their Symmetry blend. Based on what I said above, you figure I was pretty excited, right? Correct. Blending with friends at the counter was so much fun. The high quality of the constituent wines was abundantly clear. A range of richness, fruits and already finessed structures seemed so much for a pedestrian hangout amongst the industry set, but what the hell, we can experiment like anyone else! And, a little wine goes a long way, and we might have had a little more than a little wine….

During that trip I brought some of my homemade strawberry wine along and shared it the same night. The comment Robert made, and several others echoed that evening, is that the wine was straightforward, made well, and tasted exactly as it was described; strawberries. A thank you to all who wish to acknowledge my craft with so much as a word. It is/was an honor. During our Wine Bloggers Conference goodbyes I told Robert that I would stop by real soon and when the trip to San Francisco came to be, Rodney Strong was the first location I checked on!

I met up with Robert again during my Sonoma visit. We shared some laughs about the WBC trip and my thoughts on the wines I selected for my tasting. I had picked the 2009 Pinot Reserve, 2008 Symmetry, 2008 Alexander’s Crown Cab and the 2007 Brothers Ridge Cab. Symmetry is where my biggest interest was and this being a newer vintage from my last tasting, there were differences. The 2008 is a little hotter than I recall, but it still expressed the earthy nose and vegetal character I was expecting. One bottle for home, check! If the 2007 was any indication this wine with additional age should taste even better. Both of the Cabernet's were big wines and already drinking pleasantly. The Alexander’s Crown is unfiltered and is a touch sweet, which complements the red fruits and oak spiciness well.

Great to see you again Robert! Thank you!

I like Cabernet. I have really loved it so many times. But these days, I am finding that I dig it only when part of a mutli-grape blend. I can’t really explain why.

The rest of the day was random. I say this because my destination for lunch was picked at random as I was in pursuit of it, and my final destination of the day had been picked randomly from a list of recommendations provided through a trusted friend. Of course I had to call ahead for an appointment, but it was random nonetheless.

I found lunch at Bovolo in Healdsburg located inside of Copperfields Bookstore. As soon as I saw the description for the Zucca flatbread pizza I knew what I was having. Roasted squash, Black Pig bacon, sage leaves and ricotta salata. I’ve already recreated something like this at home just because the flavors were that well paired in this dish. Sweet squash with salty bacon and sage. Adding the crust to the action, it almost tasted like a light stuffing. The bacon pieces on the Bovolo version were huge and full of flavor.

I had to rush through lunch, although the adjacent power outlet and a phone charge was welcome, because I really didn’t have but a couple of hours and I would need to be back on the road for SF. Afterall, I was dealing with an area known for lots of highway traffic, construction and all the minutia of the modern era that goes with it.

Michel-Schlumberger was recommended to me by Jolene Bonina (Thanks Jolene and Red White Boston for linking us!) after her recent trip to help with harvest in Sonoma. I didn’t know it from any other destination on the list. That’s what being a newbie does for ya!

Michel-Schlumberger Wines is an absolutely beautiful place. The late day walk through the vineyards was a true pleasure. I snapped quite a few photos and several were the best of the trip. I didn’t take any pics of the building or the interior plaza where I enjoyed a glass of Pinot Blanc whilst waiting for the tour group to assemble. That’s a shame because it was great place to take it easy for a while. The dogs were very friendly, they know a dog person when they meet on, so I was having fun of a different sort.

The tasting menu included Pinot Blanc, Pinot, Merlot, a 1991 Cabernet, Rhone/Cab Blend and the more recent 2008 Cabernet.

The 1991 Cabernet was drinking well for the age. The tannins were a bit more aggressive than what I would have expected, but were small and clearly softening, albeit slowly. A thick salmon colored rim speaks to the age this wine already has in. The aroma is best described as dried chilies. Quite tart in the mouth. The story with it being on the tasting menu was that a newer vintage of a different wine sold out through the wine club and the 91 Cab was selected from the cellar to replace it.

The 2007 Le Sage Merlot was a wood influenced nose, is medium bodied with abundant tannins and tart red fruits. The Pinot is also notable for the length of its dry soil finish with hints of spice. I love experiencing new wines!

I had to cut my time tasting short and head back to the city and to return my rental car. I did hit traffic, of course, and was cutting it close arriving when I did; but all was well. I and my memories were home safe.

Sonoma looked exactly like I expected it to. The area north of Santa Barbara likewise looked like the agricultural and commercial area that I recall the California grape growing areas to have looked like 25 years earlier. I saw them then, I just didn’t care. I was 15 and didn’t drink, yet. That doesn’t mean there was no charm to be had. These agricultural areas also saw lots of almonds, olives and citrus orchards. All good stuff for exciting living.

Margot asked me if she would have enjoyed the places I visited on my trip. She most certainly would, and some more than others. The sub-urban and rural areas that can be found in Sonoma are much more our style and the place I could see us staying the longest. Mixing both wine travel, gourmet food and some outdoor adventure trips nearby, I think we could make a great go of the area more than once. Something to fit into the future travel plans.

I can also see how people can lose their heart in a place like Sonoma. It felt a bit like the times we have at our house in Vermont, where I leave a piece of my heart when I visit. The hours in VT are similarly casual and good food and drink isn't that far away. There definitely isn't as much wine in Vermont, but dragging along some of the cellar can make up for that!

And don't forget to check out Ancient Fire Wines on Facebook

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nov. 15th Cellar Update – 2011 Awards, Etcetera

( This my new Cellar Update photo. Shot by my college friend Josh Mazgelis. )

This has been another big year for the Ancient Fire home fermentations. Entering four competitions netted us 13 places including 3 gold medals and a first place among them! Two recent results were for the Northeast Regional Homebrew Competition and the Amenti del Vino Amateur Wine Competition. Congrats to Margot for her Third Place in Stout and our first ever win for beer! We made and won for wine, beer, cider AND mead all in the same year. That’s crushing it!

Northeast Regional Homebrew Competition 2011
First Place – 2011 Orange Vanilla Mead
Second Place – 2009 Cider #4
Third Place – Margot’s FX Stout (2011)

Amenti Del Vino Amateur 2011
Gold – 2011 Dry Creek Chardonnay
Silver – 2011 Peach After Dinner Wine
Bronze – 2011 Yakima Pinot Gris, 2010 Chilean Cab/Syrah

I posted a new page for the Ancient Fire Competition Awards. You can see an inventory of our awards by category and type plus links to the full results of all the competition’s we’ve entered. Four years and 41 medals!

Margot and I brewed again over the weekend. Margot took a shot at an Oatmeal Stout and I went with an Amber Ale with Rye. Margot and I both think the initial gravity on the stout was a bit low but will play it by the book and decide if we need to interfere later. The ryle ale smelled of moderately toasted rye bread, a good sign for the style. I’ve got an IPA Braggot to make coming up and I think putting down a sour cherry Saison might be a nice touch when the warm weather returns next year.

I cleaned through three batches of wine bottles this weekend. And I ordered some as well. We just can’t get, don’t  already have and don’t have enough time to deal with all of the ones we need. And with what we are making will need a lot of clean bottles. Time to buy some. Bottling of the remaining 2010 reds and some early 2011 wines will proceed swiftly this coming week. The 2011 Strawberry in particular needs get bottled so it can show up around the holidays as it always does!

Ancient Fire Writing from Around the Web

My article entitled SensoryPerspectives for the Dry Finish column of WineMaker Magazine is live online. In the article I review the obvious, but not as obvious as you’d think, application of sensory evaluation of wine for winemakers. I find the appreciation of this skill especially helpful for amateurs who are very much learning wine and winemaking at the same time. I’m still learning this way.

As a WineMaker Magazine blogger I have also recently shared the recipe for my Orange/Vanilla Mead, my thoughts on How Artisanal Producers & Products Can Help Us Create a Story for Our Own Creations and a report from the Finger Lakes ahead of the upcoming 2012 annual conference in Itahca. I am very much enjoying writing for an amateur winemaking/brewing making audience who can geek out on some of the things I find interesting in my projects and travels.

There are a couple of tech updates as well.

A mobile version of this blog is live. Browsing to it from your smart phone is all that is required. It was a simple change and posts now show up in a short form in a list from my Droid. I can read the posts, see the pictures and otherwise interact with the content. If your experience with the new mode is underwhelming, please let me know.

Ancient Fire Wines is on Facebook. We’ve had the page for a while and give it some care and feeding, but the traffic is quite honestly not compelling. If by my publicizing it folks want to prove this to be untrue I say bring it on.

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I’ll be posting all of the California trip reports tonight so if you haven’t checked them out already you’ll be able to find them on Facebook soon! I’ve also got some Godiva swag to give away and giving Ancient Fire Wines a Like on Facebook will be one of the entry criteria. Stay tuned for that drawing to kick off next week and run into early December and thoughts of sweet treats.



Saturday, November 12, 2011

Toronado – San Francisco, CA

Toronado is a beer bar. They have over 100 labels in stock between casked, kegged and bottles. You go there for the beer. Located on Haight Street.

Toronado is a dive in the most sincere sense. Is isn’t pretty, is just clean enough and is organized in the most utility of ways. One long bar with tables opposite and a small side room containing booths and small tables. It is what it is and because they have the kind of beer selection they do you are able to go there and have fun. I did! Margot will know what I mean when I say there “was shit all over the walls”. Shenanigans!

There was loud music playing, sports on the TV and patrons can bring the food from the shop around the way at will. It even kind of had keg party vibe, and again, in a good way.

I took a post at the end of the bar and doubled up, one pint of Pliny the Elder and one of the Sierra Nevada Torpedo. Ending with a hop explosion sounded like the best way to go out. My next adventures in the area were taking me to wine country so I needed to live it up!

The two beers are big on the hops with the Pliny taking the winner for nose. The fruity and sweet nose had a large hop presence that wasn’t as aggressive as I would have expected. The Torpedo had this biggest hop flavors but in the end the Pliny had the best balance. For a bit I just chilled out over my beers and checked out the scene.

The seats next to me filled up and I briefly met a couple of neighborhood partiers. Used to live near here, favorite place, live somewhere else now, etc. You can get pretty well in the bag around here without much effort it seems. No wonder some people love it so much.

I killed my beers and stole off into the night. Or more simply, to catch the bus. The ride back to Union Square was uneventful and the walk back to the hotel would have been if someone hadn’t tried to lift my wallet. I got to my wallet and his wrist before the damage was done. He was promptly told he didn’t want to do what he was doing and should scram. Several people in the crowd at the crosswalk echoed my feelings and he bolted. No harm came to anyone or my wallet!

I hope you enjoyed my trip around a few of the beer spots in San Francisco. There are many, I picked just a few and likely didn’t get anywhere near a list of “best of’s” if a poll was taken. But I ate and drank well, had good fun and met some pretty cool people. Not bad for a few days “work”!



Magnolia Brewery & Restaurant – San Francsico

As I was doing my research to find a list of brewpubs and beer bars to check out in San Fran the name Magnolia came up several times. A bit of free word association got me wondering if it was anywhere near Haight-Ashbury and the famed San Fran neighborhood that spawned the Grateful Dead. If you don’t know the connection, read on, there is nothing I can do here. To my surprise it is located on Haight street a couple blocks away from the Ashbury junction and the cute little village you will find there today. Before I popped in I had to walk up to the see the Grateful Dead house. It may seem cheesy, but as I have said in recent posts, connecting the dots in our lives for our readers create far better stories than ”look at this recipe, it’s amazing!”, or “this bottle of wine is fantastic”, and them not backing it up with any tasting notes. But I digress.

Magnolia has enough reviews for it that suggest it is one of the top tier stops for beer lovers when in town. I also found that the beer bar Toronado, heralded for its 100+ choices, was only a few blocks away from Magnolia making the trip out that way from Union Square where I was staying well worth it. I’ll share my Toronado experience in my next post.

After walking up Haight to Ashbury and back, through a few wafts of marijuana and the glut of head shops, I couldn’t help but think back to the good old days. For some there was a time when a joint and the Dead on the stereo was like milk and cookies for other people. Don’t judge.

Magnolia has a busy street corner location making the window and sidewalk seating front row center for whatever action comes along. On the bus ride out I saw a naked guy wandering around and a fight. I figured based on that shit could go down at anytime.  It was busy when I arrived but I scooted under the high bar and grabbed the one empty stool along the window. I found myself next to a lovely couple from Berkeley, who were clearly knowledgeable about beer. I picked up several recommendations for my next visit from them! The one piece of information I did seize on to is their impression of the West Coast adoration for IPAs over Belgian style beers which get more love in the East. This was a new consideration for me, I’m equal opportunity, and one I will delve into a bit more later in this post.

As is tradition I went for the sampler which included six brews of my choosing in a nifty triangular carrier, all served in tall cylindrical glasses for a touch of distinction.

4.7% ABV

Light gold color and clear. Lightly toasted grains in the nose. Mildly bitter early in finish, finishes dry.

7.0% ABV

Orange/gold color. Sweet, floral aroma. Brewed with rose buds. Finishes sweet with fruit from beginning to end. This was the first beer I recommended to the new folks to the table.

Proving Ground IPA
7.0% ABV, 100 IBU

Gold/orange color, minimal head. Abundant floral aromatics. Very bitter and light in body. More hop flavor than malt flavor as expected. This is a big hoppy beer, but drinks light with fruits and flowers as the predominant aromas/flavors.

Barking Pumpkin

Medium brown color with amber notes. Tan head, sits up good. Moderately spiced nose, squash flesh also obvious. Medium bodied and savory flavors in the mouth. Sweet malts, lightly roasted. Toasted bread is predominant. A bit of alcohol in the finish. Solid rendition of a pumpkin, spiced beer.

Blue Bell Bitter
4.5% ABV

Toasted malts in the nose and mouth. Straightforward bitter. Hops are subtle, not much influence on flavor.

Dark & Mild

Medium brown colored ale. Moderately toasted malts with a clean and lightly bittered finish. I am starting to get this style more and more.

The Rosebud was my favorite and mentions are due for the IPA and the Dark & Mild. 

The crowd turned over a bit as I moved through my sampler and two new arrivals grabbed seats being vacated right across the bar from me. They were also from out of town, Portland, Oregon specifically, and were in town to see a show. Looking back at my notes who the artist was is the one thing I didn’t get, and they mentioned it several times. It was either the beer or the nostalgia at work here.

I did get their names and not long after making their acquaintance I pegged them for the fun loving types. When Arin (right in pic below) ordered the Crackerjack Bacon for her and Rachael I took the opportunity to ask for them to pose with it for a picture. Cheers! And yes, it is literally Crackerjacks reheated with bacon. And it is surprisingly rich! The salty bacon with the caramel popcorn is as freaking sinful as you might imagine. I’m gonna be making this for my next party, Sandra Lee be damned! Sandra Lee didn’t really come up with this as far as I know, that is just a little inside joke for Shannon who had shared good laughs with over the weekend. I hope she’s reading.

After I got home I did a bit of cursory research and the West Coast is hoppy beer heaven idea is commonly held and demonstrated. Not new of course, I just hadn’t ever given the stylistic differences between the coasts into consideration. I found lots of styles of beer in the local haunts, but there was a considerable representation from IPAs and hopped up beers. I drink them all so this only makes it more interesting to try the local styles when on the road.

I ordered the Cubano with Fries for dinner. Can’t beat a Cuban sandwich and beer! On my bus ride back to the hotel I was chatting up a couple of partiers and one of them mentioned that the food at Magnolia was particularly good for a brewpub and that the Cubano was his favorite thing. I guess I picked a winner. The pork on the sandwich was tender as it should be and the ham was salty and full of flavor. Served on fresh bread with crunchy pickles it was just the thing to balance out the beers. I hadn’t eaten since 10:30 (and it was 6:30 or so now) on the count of the gluttony from the Foodbuzz Festival farewell brunch. I ordered the Chocolate George Stout to go with my meal having killed off the beer sampler right before my sandwich arrived. The beers were doing their thing to be sure, including my forgetting to take a picture of the sandwich. The fries were pretty straightforward, pleasantly salted and hot. I’d come back to Magnolia for the food, and then stay for a beer or three.

The George’s Chocolate Stout pours as black as night with a light brown head. The aromatics were of roasted malts and just a little bit of chocolate and coffee. The chocolate flavor was quite subtle and yet another example for us to consider when we attempt to make a beer in this style again. The finish is clean and it transitions to slightly sweet to dry by the end.

The crowd thinned out a bit and a gentlemen in from Arkansas joined us. I didn’t catch his name (you sort of see what kind of night this was turning into), and Danny from the band Scars on 45 saddled up a short time later. As Danny got to know the group around him he realized I was taking notes and asked “what are you a fucking journalist or something” with his killer British accent. Yes, in fact I am a fucking journalist, and damn glad to meet someone who can make the work fuck sound so fucking good! He and the band were in town for a show. If only I had more time. I’m betting I could have maximized that meeting. 

We had some great laughs, all of the out-of-towners appeared to be making a better go of it than the locals, and after finishing my beer I took my leave and headed out into the night. I forwent the bus in favor of a 15 minute walk to work some of my buzz off. Up next, Toronado!



Friday, November 11, 2011

Rouge Pub – San Francisco

I know Rogue is from Oregon and not San Francisco or even California, but I am rarely able to get their beers on tap so I had to make a stop. You can find the Rogue Pub on Union Street in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco.

My nose was pretty stuffed up when I arrived as the cool weather in SF was wreaking havoc on my sinuses, so my tasting notes are somewhat incomplete. I do what I can, and somebody HAS to taste all the beers in the world so I persist!

I took to the sampler again, actually two this time! Any four Rogue ales from the tap for $8. A good deal by me.

Flight 1

Golden ale brewed with Chamomile.

Golden color and hazy. Short white head. Chamomile influence is subtle, but having made a wine with it recently I was able to pick it out. Nice and smooth, with a moderately bitter finish. Minimal hop in both the nose and mouth. This didn’t kill it for me, but there was nothing wrong with it.

Dead Guy

Gold/orange color, slight haze. Light, sweet malts, gentle dried fruit essence in the mouth. Moderate bitterness with malty, bready finish. This is a full bodied beer with pleasant flavors and serious drinkability.

Buckman Village Brewery Black Saison
Black Saison

Molasses in the nose and mouth. Also a bit of coffee and brown spices. Medium brown color and clear. Very light in body.

Brutal “Bitter” IPA
Imperial Bitter

Huge nose full of hops. Citrus, resin and floral aromas are wrapped together. Medium bodied and moderately bitter with long hop laden finish. I didn’t feel that the word “brutal” in the name fit my impression of the beer, but then again I like hoppy beers!

Flight 2

John-John Whiskey Barrel Aged Dead Guy
Barrel Aged Maibock

Considerable differences from the traditional version. Lots of fruit, a bit sour and more orange in the color. Even more enjoyable in my opinion than the classic.

Hazelnut Brown Nectar
Brown Ale

Lots of hazelnut in the mouth. Starts out a bit sweet, but finishes dry. Low carbonation. The nut flavors swim along the finish which is quite nice.

Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout

Dark, dark brown and opaque. Smooth and slightly sweet. Nicely balanced with a long clean finish.

Double Chocolate Stout

Tons of chocolate in the nose. Dark, dark brown and opaque. Sweet malts with balanced bitterness. Long chocolate and coffee finish. Very smooth and clean.

Going Rogue

The barrel aged Dead Guy was my favorite of the lighter beers and the Double Chocolate Stout was inspiring to me for what it helped me understand about what we can do with this style at home. We know we need to work on our chocolate stout and this is pretty good example to work from.

The Rogue Brewery is on my list of places to visit when I am in OR for #WBC12 next August. It is a bit of a ride but that’s what the extra days are for!



Thursday, November 10, 2011

Foodbuzz Festival Farewell Brunch & San Francisco Sights

All good things always come to an end and thus the Third Annual Foodbuzz Festival came to a close with one final spread at Perry’s onthe Embarcadaro. Godiva was the sponsor and they were pouring their own coffee and had gifts bags (or two!) for everyone.

My mission of meeting new people had been accomplished and I cemented that at brunch by meeting a few others. We even talked about the fact that making a small number of connections that would convert in a few new faithful blog readers or Twitter friends was a worthy return.

Miriam Wlicox from Sometimes I Veg, and another NH representative of the Foodbuzz Community, found me and we got to chatting about the sessions the day before. She had run a half marathon with a friend that morning and missed the sessions so I was filling her in on what she missed.

We also talked about the fumble with the vegetarian/vegan food options for the formal meals over the prior two days. During that conversation Miriam floated the idea, which I elaborated upon in my second Foodbuzz Festival Day 2 post today, that it might have made more sense for Foodbuzz to have tried to have the meal for everyone be vegan, the lowest common denominator if you will. If you read my post you will note that I thought that would be a great idea despite being an unabashed omnivore.

I also met Aubrey King (I Talk to Food) & Ilana Freddye Pulda (Whisked. Eat Your Heart Out) at the breakfast table. They were both strategizing on which restaurants to try before leaving town Millennium and Tartine were both in play. Part way into chatting Morgan and Tiffany of Strudel & Streusel took the empty seats the the table. Lots of sharing. Travel spots, cooking school (Aubrey & Ilana met there), the cheese fest underway, the coffee, which was brewed strong the way I like it, and laughs from the weekend. It's what I came for.

Breakfast was a cheese-a-palooza, and that was fine by me! Some handmade sausage patties, crispy thick cut bacon, French toast, a berries & granola bite, a deviled egg and coffee I was done and I didn’t eat again for 8 hours!

Miriam and I departed Perry’s and headed towards public transit. She was heading back to meet her friends where she was staying and I wasn't sure yet what my next move was gonna be. I can’t wait to invite Miriam to come check out what we do for wine tastings. Since we cook many dishes that vegetarians and more so flexitarians can eat, I think she would have fun both bringing something and sampling what everyone else was doing. I realized afterwards that Miriam and I never got a picture together. The little things I guess! She lives a couple towns over so seeing her somewhere out this way is pretty likely.

I decided on the Ferry Building next. I was pretty sure I was going to have to go before I left and I figured that if I was full I wouldn’t buy any food that I didn’t have time to eat or couldn’t take home. There are so many reasons to come back to this city in that build both those you can enjoy on site and those to go. A wine bar, coffee bar, shops with every type of produce, meat, cheese, bread and dessert, you could really go nuts in there for a couple of meals!

Take a stroll with these photos.

A South Park reference for Margot!

I had some of all of those sips and eats over the weekend, and more. And I loved it!

The Ferry Building is a must do when I come back, especially with a hotel suite where some snack prep is possible. I next headed back to the hotel, dropped my swag off at UPS and out towards The Rogue Brewpub and Fisherman’s Wharf.

Yeah, I walked. Needed to...

The Rogue review will come out tomorrow, but for now I am going to retrace some steps from nearly 25 years ago.

Back in 1987 when I travelled to the West Coast with my family we stayed in San Fran for a few days. I remember coming out to Pier 39 and the wharf to see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the sea lions and the shops. I found them all right where I left them. It was a lot of fun. I called my parents on the bus ride as I was leaving to remind them of the trip. Here were my 2011 sights.

San Francisco is a beautiful city with everything that is said about cities all blended into one. While it has its own charms it is like so many other cities, including Boston where I work. Margot asked me if she would like San Francisco and of course I think she would. A couple of days to do the tourist thing for us would be the right fit for a long trip with wine country and the National Parks also included. Something to dream of!