31 July 2008
29 July 2008
aside from the obvious joy of that rhyming, this complement to the aroma wheel is a great idea. Sure, some of the descriptors sound ridiculous, like: "grippy" or "sawdust", but if you can't be creative and make thoughtful gestures with your hands while trying to describe a wine then that detracts from the fun.
The Mouthfeel Wheel
24 July 2008
You know, it's interesting.
I was driving home this afternoon singing "In Dreams" along with Roy Orbison and a self-consciousness overtook me.
What if, thought I, a person with whom I had some sort of altercation at the restaurant saw me happily crooning in my automobile?
This put a temporary end to my dulcet tones.
I have, from time to time, found myself in the unpleasant position of having to defend the restaurant when ticket times creep up and up. If I'm called to a table to smooth something over it is, inevitably, about a ticket time. Admittedly, on some terrible nights, it can take up to an hour for food to come out. At this time I don't begrudge anybody some impatience with our system but it seems like most of the ways with which one decides to express one's dissatisfaction are condescending, unpleasant, and generally unflattering to the complainer. I've had people mock my apologies (I sometimes press my palms together when I talk. I had a woman come behind the bar to complain about her 40 minute wait and, at my apologies, she mimicked my body language, pressed her palms together at me and said "Oh really? You're sorry?"), people refuse to accept my apologies (a friend of a friend of the restaurant came up to me to complain about how starved he was and how long things were taking and how, as he was with a friend of the restaurant, he didn't understand why things were taking so long. I tried to explain to him that X amount of people ordered their meals before he did and that we needed to complete their orders before we could complete his. He told me he didn't want my apologies, rather, he wanted me to do something about it. Later on I heard from his server -to whom he had said "If you ever work somewhere else I'll happily go there but I'm never coming back here"- that I had told him "That's just the way it is." While that is the crux of the problem, those were certainly not my words. Everytime I happened to look in his directions he was giving me this melodramatic evil eye that looked like a B-movie director had told him "O.K., you're angry, you're angry. Now seethe!" His server told me a couple of times that night "Oh, man. He hates you!"), and I've had people just say matter-of-factly that everytime they've been in they've had to wait a long time for their meals and that this was unacceptable.
What to do.
I can remember, one time at an unnamed Shop that bills itself as Gourmet, Leigh and I waited for a half hour to be acknowledged before we decided to get up and leave. Neighboring tables were seated and taken care of several times over. A table's dog was actually given a bowl of water and we still had yet to be given menus. By the half-hour mark we knew that none of the servers (none of whom had even made eye contact with us) was going to lean in and take one for the team and wait on us. So we left. For a number of reasons. We're not complainers, by nature, for one. What good would it have done, for another. Was this the right response? Who's to say?
I tell myself this: the people who make a fuss and complain and seem to go out of their way to be asses aren't angry at me. I mean, they are angry at me but, deep down, something else is going on in their lives and when they're faced with a situation in which they can take control and vent and make a spectacle because they're ostensibly in control they take advantage of it and go to town with their anger. Like the Stanford Experiment, some personalities will suddenly settle into the role of the superior and they will behave in a way that would seem inhuman if directed to those they consider peers. There's no reason to return their anger. If that means absorbing abuse, so be it. Like Henry Hill in "Goodfellas" said, "The way I see it, everybody's gotta take a beating sometime."
So I'm driving along, worrying a bit that if someone I've upset sees me singing they'll begin to fume at my happiness in the face of the memory of their unhappiness. What right do I have to be happy? Or, of course he's happy; he doesn't care anyway.
And then I thought. Fuck it. I like this song. This is my life. We work damn hard to do the best we can.
I'm singing "In Dreams."
It makes sense, I suppose, that a restaurant doing what we do (something rather niche-y) will appeal to certain personalities. And, as the saying goes, birds of a feather something something something. So it makes perfect sense that, when they come eat here, people will constantly be running into people they know. And it happens all the time. It lends to the neighborhood feel of the place, which I like, and sometimes it makes a person who's leaving look like they're running for office as they go from table to table shaking hands, which I like to watch.
Generally, friends of mine who come to the restaurant I've met through the restaurant and only rarely do people from my outside life (such as it is, socially speaking) come in so it's always fun when that happens. A few nights ago, quite out of nowhere, three people from my highschool days came by for dinner. One of them is getting married this Saturday (coincidentally enough, at the same place in Asheville where I was last week) so that accounts for why they're in town, I suppose.
It's strange the emotions that flutter through when I meet someone whom I haven't seen in eleven years (which may not seem like a terribly long span but can suddenly feel like a lifetime.)
I tend to feel both my current age and the age I was when I knew them best, which is a jarring dichotomy. As much as I've changed, in many ways I don't feel like I've changed that much since high school. I suppose by some standards that means I'm doing pretty well. Another way of thinking is that I may not have changed that much since this restaurant, to some capacity, has been plugging away for thirteen years.
This is not the path on which I saw myself but I'm enjoying this boulevard of what I do enough that I never really consider what life would've been like if I went to Boston eleven years ago to work in the newspapers.
One hears of therapists having you write a letter from you years ago to you now and I wonder what I would say.
I'll tell you one thing, even considering ill-conceived imbroglios, foolish things said, and rash decisions one of the things that strikes me as something I'd change right off is that I'd have bought a case of the Chateau Damase 2000 before it sold out. And the Avondale Julia. And there have been some hires over the last 13 years we could've done without. And the kitchen could've been better designed.
Meh. Live and learn.
19 July 2008
Christine went to Portland, Oregon late last week and I requested in an off-hand kind of way (that included repeated text messages) that if she found the time, could she pick up a bottle or two of Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir for me. It's been over a year now that I bestrode the great, green hills of McMinnville and, because of limited distribution in the southeast region, I've been unable to find some wines here that I tried out there. The most wonderful of these locally unattainable wines are those made by The Eyrie Vineyards.
What I love about their Pinots is that they're so elegant and delicate. I had their 2002 Reserve while I was out there and I was so impressed by its rusty color (which one sees only rarely outside of Burgundy - in my price range, at least) and how much flavor just seethed from its deceptively light body. Their 2005 was no exception to this. It was light in color and had wonderful strawberry, earth and a touch of spice to the nose. Its body was light but it seemed to expand its flavors in the mouth with a wonderful acidity and lingering finish.
The nearest this can be found is in Augusta but I can never find the time to get down there. So if anybody is anywhere where Eyrie Pinot Noir can be found and happens to be headed to Baan Sawan, give me a call at 803.252.8992 to see how much Eyrie I can afford at any given time. Bring me the wine, a receipt, and I'll pay you back. 05 should keep for a while and I'd love to re-experience the 02 Reserve.
On a related note, I opened up a well-chilled bottle of Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Pinot Noir tonight. It's a bit of a big name and I normally don't entertain such things but I tried it on a whim a few years back, enjoyed it, put it on the menu and held on to a bottle to see how it would age. After two years more bottle age than its release its flavors integrated nicely and it tasted like a much more expensive bottle. The 06 is kind of big but it's still almost elegant. Lighter colored with some earth to the nose, rose petal and a good body. This is a pinot I recommend to have chilled to around 50 or so degrees. Any warmer and its 14.3 percent alcohol will become more noticeable. In my opinion, this is a solid pinot, especially for around $20 dollars.
18 July 2008
This is a constant issue with Leigh and me. We tend to have eyes bigger than our suitcases when we buy wine and beer. As we packed to come home from San Antonio we ended up knocking backing two Framboise Lambics and a Porter to make room for all the wine we'd wrapped in ziplock bags and clothes. That's been our method so far: put the bottle in a plastic bag (in case it breaks) and then wrap in tightly in a pair of pants or a shirt. Then line the bottom with clothes and then make sure to have more clothes on top. We haven't had a bottle break yet. Confiscated at the San Antonio airport because they tested positive for plastic explosives, yes, but that wasn't the packing's fault.
I'd love something clever and goodlooking in which to carry my wine home.
Bringing Wine Home - from Wines & Vines
16 July 2008
I remember reading about this a number of years ago and have since checked in on it periodically. That nobody seems to know exactly what's going on or how to stop it I find discomfitting and I'm sort of reminded of how it was the birds to die first in Phillip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the book on which the movie "Blade Runner" was based.)
I ran across the following video and, as I find apiological humor hilarious, I thought I'd share it. It's a short, clever reference to the disappearing bee problem that begins with a modern sort of waggle dance.
Interestingly, Haagan-Dazs produced it and, according to their website at helpthehoneybees.com, their doing their bit to make things right.
So that's going on.
We all have our guilty pleasures. Some, perhaps, more private than others but usually there are some to which we'll admit such as a goofy movie, a sappy song, or a particular preference for an author who might not be terribly well-regarded.
Monday I had an urge for a chili dog. Normally, I have no qualms about admitting my love for the chili dog. It is a wonderful thing. That day, however, I didn't feel like stopping somewhere so I got a foot long Coney from Sonic. So I was driving along, in something of a hurry, and rather than try eating it as I drove - which I was sure would result in the bun acting like a gutter and shunting off its chili contents all over me - I decided to pull over. This is where I suddenly found myself self-conscious. I have nothing in particular against Sonic, but I rather like my chili dogs to come from charming street vendors or, at least, apathetic kids at Sandy's. I'd prefer they come from a diner, if there were one, and even though it's been a while I get a occasional urge to have a gas station chili dog. Whether it be my ostensible corporate support or that I feared I would look like a chili sword-swallower I suddenly felt the clearness of my windows and I sought out a quiet parking lot to take my bounty in shame, as though it were a hooker.
While it may seem the height of ego to presume that anybody I know would see me, much less give a damn about my eating habits, I'll tell you this:
I was talking to a regular at the bar, let's call her Liz (her name actually is Liz. I just wanted to say "let's call her") when a to-go order was being picked up. I left for a second to get change and got waylaid for no more than a minute. When I returned, and our To Go Client had departed, Liz told me that the other woman had seen me at the Publix with a Totino's pizza and had been disappointed as she'd assumed I'd be eating something more interesting. See, the thing is maybe once every six months I'm in the mood for a Totino's pizza. Every other time I shop I buy healthy things and ingredients. I buy components to food rather than things to heat up. I do actually cook. Interesting things, too. But she'll never be convinced of that. I find that somewhat depressing.
And, granted, that comes only from my own vanity but I've never claimed not to be vain.
but i want to eat it a lot.
15 July 2008
I like the idea of this and I'd love to do something like it. I could see one of two things happening if I tried. One, I could see buying $100 dollars worth of materials, stacking them up, deciding I'd done enough work for that day,and then never finishing the damn thing. Two, I could see actually finishing it, baking a loaf of bread and a few pizzas, then never doing anything with it again.
August Vanderdonckt, on the other hand, seems to be taking full advantage of his.
Wood Fired Brick Oven Tampa
12 July 2008
Tonight was busier than we've been in several months and was consistent with a trend we've seen all week of renewed interest in that which we do.
And tomorrow, on a Saturday, I'll be out of town. I'll be traipsing in a linen suit through some copse of verdant grass in the mountains outside of Asheville with my beautiful girlfriend in celebration of the wedding of a good, good old friend of mine.
Meanwhile, if tonight was any indication, the restaurant will be assailed by eager customers cresting the hill like hungry Visigoths pouring into Thracia.
I'm terribly proud of the efforts of my staff. Sometimes even I find it easy to forget how difficult their jobs are. Every night we ask of them not only to put up with our craziness, but to walk up to strangers and try to satisfy their unique expectations and whims. If you've ever dreaded public speaking you can imagine the stress of approaching a table, unsure of how you'll be accepted, and then throw in trying to remember dish abbreviations, what's in stock, that another of your tables requested one drink and another table is still waiting on a side of rice.
Ours is not an easy job but it's important for us, and everyone, to remember basic tenets of relativity. Granted, a sniper for the L.A. S.W.A.T. team has a stressful, thankless, and bad- dream-plagued life that makes a bad tip from an unpleasant table pale in comparison. But we haven't all had that experience and, for all intents and purposes, our toughest day is just that: our toughest day.
Is the five year old who's broken an arm less deserving of sympathy than the thirty year old who's lost an arm?
We all have tough jobs. And it's not a competition. Everyone's efforts and toils and disappointments should be respected as being important to that person, even if they might seem less stressful than your own. Anyway, let's face it, in almost every case it could be much, much worse.
Update: As it happens, I hear it wasn't so bad. ...I worry too much...
here I am, as predicted, traipsing in a linen suit through some copse of verdant grass in the mountains outside of Asheville with my beautiful girlfriend in celebration of the wedding of a good, good old friend of mine.
11 July 2008
I'm having great difficulty with this, for some reason. We had the JRE for a while and I quite enjoyed that but found that the most recent vintage had a limited shelf-life. Next I tried the Meeker 11th Rack Zinfandel, which I liked a great deal because it was sort of restrained with some nice French Oak spice to it. Evidently, some people didn't care for this because it was not text-book Zin. As it was not big and jammy some people, or one person in particular, accused me of trying to serve her from a long-opened bottle even though I'd opened that bottle just for her. When I mentioned in passing (that is to say, not pointedly) that I'd just opened it and that I'd be more than happy to let the matter rest with my Zin simply being of a style for which she didn't care. She then informed me that she drank zinfandel every night and that it just didn't taste right.
Zinfandel seems like an odd thing in this respect. Anticipation of it seems to angry up the blood.
There was another woman sitting at the bar one evening who, upon tasting the JRE (which I'd opened earlier that day) announced that it tasted like grape juice and that it was off. I immediately offered to open a new bottle for her, which I did in front of her since hers were eyebrows that seemed very ready to arch in accusation, and she deemed her taste from the new bottle similarly repugnant. She asked me if I ever actually tasted these wines. (I'm always surprised when a customer finds a new thing to say or a new way to say something that makes me die a little inside. I frankly didn't think I had that much left to kill and what I had left was well-guarded but she slipped in there and her aim was true. Serves me right for taking pride in my work.)
I explained to her that I did taste these wines and many people enjoyed the JRE. She gave me a description of what she was looking for and I told her I could easily find such a Zinfandel brimming with cherry, wildberry, bramble, and spice but not for $8 a glass. (Later on, and several tastes of wine later, she settled for our Pinot Blanc. And I do mean settle. I can't remember her wording but it was clear that she was doing me a favor, drinking that which I had the nerve to offer. At this point her husband, who was clearly getting more uncomfortable as time passed, told me quietly - but still for her to hear- that she drank Kendall Jackson Chardonnay at home. And this made me smile.)
So back to searching for a Zin.
And I promise to taste each one.
09 July 2008
"TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- A Japanese labor bureau has ruled that one of Toyota's top car engineers died from working too many hours, the latest in a string of such findings in a nation where extraordinarily long hours for some employees has long been the norm.
The man who died was aged 45 and had been under severe pressure as the lead engineer in developing a hybrid version of Toyota's blockbuster Camry line, said Mikio Mizuno, the lawyer representing his wife. The man's identity is being withheld at the request of his family, who continue to live in Toyota City where the company is based."
and here I am sighing over going back to work after a week of vacation. I should be ashamed of myself.
Ruling Finds Japanese Man died from Overwork
08 July 2008
Goethe suggested nine requisites for contented living. I find eight of them relevant to me and good things to think about as I polish my emotional armor before heading back to work today.
Health: enough to make work a pleasure
Wealth: enough to support your needs
Strength: enough to battle with difficulties and forsake them
Grace: enough to confess your sins and overcome them
Patience: enough to toil until some good is accomplished
Charity: enought to see some good in your neighbor
Love: enough to move you to be useful and helpful to others
Hope: enought to remove all anxious fears concerning the future
One can find oneself dipping from their well of each in any given day but especially a work day and especially in the restaurant business.
During my week off I dabbled in a number of interests and as I enjoyed each exploration of ability I gave some thought, from time to time, to the vagaries of the service industry. My place in it. My future in it. And I'm reminded of something else Goethe said, through the character of Faust.
"Out of this earth flow all my joys!
It is this sun that witnessed my 'passion!'
And am I parted from its sweet decoys,
Then come what will - and in what fashion!"
True, he was sort of arrogantly waving away the consequences of his pact with the devil and his post-mortem servitude but what I like about the quote is its sense of now.
My joys come from my present as well as my grief (the 'passion' in quotes is generally read as sarcastic) and what ever happens next happens next.
So. Back to work.
06 July 2008
this was fun to make. the idea began with the Fleck song. It seemed like walking in the country kind of music to me and it grew into what you'll see here. Originally, the sepia part was going to be the whole thing but when everybody was around the bar like that late one night I decided to bookend it the way I did. Plus, I suppose, I had to get me in it.
03 July 2008
Humor and music don't always translate well when it comes from far off lands. Social context, being accustomed to indigenous instruments and chords, and a variety of other influences unique to a culture can make a joke or a piece of music fall flat to my ears.
I like how this ad doesn't try to be American or European at all.
02 July 2008
Well, I fully agree. I fell in love with chilled Beaujolais sometime last year and have since tried it with a number of other reds. I like our Malbec, in particular. As it's not as big as most it takes quite well to a lower temperature. And there's a wonderful Carneros Pinot from X Winery (I had to buy as much as I could afford, which only turned out to be 6 bottles, but just in time as it sold out shortly thereafter) that needs to be a little cooler than most before it goes from soft and good to graceful and great.
Plus, I think this article has convinced me to start more sentences with "Brothers and Sisters,"
Reds on Ice? It's not Heresy
01 July 2008
This just in from CNN.com:
"LONDON, England (CNN) -- Britain's Prince Charles has converted his 38-year-old Aston Martin to run on biofuel made from surplus wine, his office revealed Tuesday.
Prince Charles with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, on a visit to a
whiskey distillery in Northern Ireland last month.
The car was a 21st birthday present from Queen Elizabeth, and the prince has converted it to run on 100 percent bioethanol as a way to reduce his carbon emissions, his office, Clarence House, said.
The prince has also converted his other cars -- several Jaguars, an Audi and a Range Rover -- to run on 100 percent biodiesel fuel made from used cooking oil, his office added.
Details of the prince's biofuel use were made public Monday in his household's 2008 Annual Review, which details the prince's income and activities over the past year.
The report says Charles and his household reduced their carbon footprint by 18 percent last year after switching to green electricity supplies and reducing their travel-related emissions.
Charles, 59, has a strong interest in environmental issues and rural affairs. He is active in environmental charities, and his food company, Duchy Originals, uses ingredients produced at his organic farm in Cornwall, southwestern England.
The biofuels are converted and provided by Green Fuels Limited, a British company that previously provided biodiesel to power the royal train, Clarence House said.
The wine used for the bioethanol comes from current vintage that remains after English wine producers reach the EU limit for annual wine production, a spokesman for Green Fuels said.
The prince uses wine from a vineyard close to his Highgrove Estate, the spokesman said."Ha!
I was having coffee and some kind of delicious, crumbly cookie thing my mother made and enjoying the fact that today is my first day off when two things struck me: One, the text message from Alex that makes me think I need to be at the restaurant at nine to start working on the kitchen floor and, two, it's Tuesday.
I'm missing out on my normal Tuesday.
Tuesday mornings have their fun side. It's the day when I've got some wine reps coming, which usually yields some interesting wine or beer and/or chit chat. Alex and I have lunch, during which we like to watch something relevant and educational like Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (BBC version, which we both prefer to the American) and then we discuss how we can apply any lessons illustrated.
And it's the first day of the week when I re-stock and inventory the beer and wine. I rather enjoy that. It puts me in the same sort of comforted mood as alphabetizing (or categorizing in some way) my books or records or wine at home. When I was younger it was the National Geographic collection that grew disheveled and I'd spend hours sorting them chronologically. When I was younger still (and I'm amused to see Leigh's God son do this) I liked to arrange my toy cars. One day by color. One day by style. One day by preference.
I enjoy order. Not in every theatre of my life (which is clear by the disheveled state of my car which, I hope, would compel a would-be burglar to walk by it under the assumption that a fellow criminal had already thoroughly tossed the vehicle's contents) but in many.
Given enough free time and inclination I'm sure I could over-analyze that and maybe break it down to some need for control or fear of the unknown or a brain tumor that gets irritated when some part of the brain that responds to asymmetry gets going.
But why do that to myself? I'm just going to enjoy the simple comfort of arranging things.
If you're one of the many people who has lots more money than I do,
the good people at Valentini's can make you this.
99cent, Andreas Gursky
naturally, I'm a fan of Gursky. I like how he can take chaos
and bring order to it through perspective. Click on the image to make it much bigger