29 August 2008

29Aug-"I'd like to return this 'closed' sign. doesn't seem to work."
I think I am of, at least, average intelligence. I did okay in school. I know a variety of things. I'm not particularly good at doing math in my head but I enjoy crossword puzzles.
If i were visiting a restaurant during peak lunch hours and encountered a chain stretched across the parking lot I'd like to think I'd make the leap in logic that they're closed. But let's say I thought maybe the restaurant somehow managed to forget to take the chain down, so I continue to the front door, through which I could see a lit sign that said "Closed." I'd turn around and try somewhere else. But maybe, silly them, the restaurant forgot to turn the sign, too, so I might go in and see the "closed" sign on an easel in the lobby. Me? I'd figure they're closed. But maybe that's somehow a mistake, too, so I might walk into a restaurant and find no customers (even at 12.30), cases of beer and wine on the floor, television blaring in the kitchen, and a young man in a tshirt walking by carrying, not a tray of food, but a box filled with folded up cardboard. I would say, "Oh, pardon. I thought you were open." I would like to think, with my average intelligence, that I'd have figured out by this point that the restaurant is closed. Why do so many people, two today, stride merrily past this gauntlet of closed signs and signs of being closed and ask with confusion, "Are you open?"
I refuse to think it's an intelligence thing. It can't be. These people are allowed to drive cars. I had a guy in scrubs come in to find roughly the scenario stated before but, rather than me walking by, I was reading a magazine at the bar and my brother was napping on a booth. Still, he asked if we were open. I can only assume the man wore scrubs because he was in the medical field, one usually reserved for people of above average intelligence, or discipline, at least. Unless he stole them to wear as a disguise to get past the orderlies.

I think, to a certain degree, some people don't think we should be closed so they don't understand how we could be closed. Of the two people who came in today, the first I politely (always politely) told that we are only open for dinner. "So you're not open for lunch." Lunch-unch-unch, her voice seemed to echo, rolling back from the canyons of empty booths. No, I'm sorry. Only for dinner. Her companion asked "Is this always the case?"
The second person who managed to ignore the chain, the two closed signs, the empty restaurant and delivery day clutter and ask if we were open told me, after I said that we're only open for dinner, that her daughter had just graduated boot camp, wanted Thai food and hadn't eaten in something like ten days. Then she stood, with a smile on her face and an expectant pause. I swear to God, I really think she expected me to say, "Oh, well come on in then. Pardon the mess." I considered engaging in a blank smiling contest to see who would speak next but writing this entry is taking up the only free half-hour I've had since 8 this morning so I sped things up by saying brightly, "Oh, well congratulations to your daughter." Which I did truly mean. I hear boot camp is a bitch.

Maybe we should have a Burma Shave style sign process that begins at the chain. "We're closed." "Seriously." "Not open" "Cerrado" "Ferme" "What are you doing?" "Seriously?" "Gas leak" "Gone Fishin'"
29Aug-Tasty low-alcohol beer? Well, good.
About damn time, as far as i'm concerned. I'm not particularly a fan of over-indulgence, though I cannot deny the occasional, sometimes poorly thought out, anchoring in the harbors of inebriation.

But this state is rarely my aim when I open up a bottle.

So, yeah. Sometimes I'd like to drink more without feeling less.

The Other Extreme: Low-alcohol beers. Article from NY Times

26 August 2008

26Aug- Is it coup season already?
So there's more unrest in Thailand. I think it should be worrisome when a leader of any large group announces it's "Judgment Day."

Under Siege -article from The Economist

I've successfully avoided writing a funny caption to this
26Aug-sort of enjoyed Bottle Shock
I decided to approach watching this movie as an experience completely separate from the reality Taber set forth in his book, Judgement of Paris. Which was helpful.
It was certainly a pretty movie and, at times, it did evoke some sun-saturated feelings of free-spirited, albeit hardworking, joy that might tug a bit at a soul already somewhat enchanted by the thought of a life among the vines. At other times it was more evocative of the set for a dust mote accented, vaguely sepia-toned women's clothing catalog where thin models in muslin halter tops lean against door frames and look out over country landscapes.

"Enter the dame. There's one in every story.", as the Coens say. Even as a movie to be considered apart from the story I knew, it seemed as though they shoehorned in a love interest where there was no real room for one. Despite the not unwelcome stretches of long, lithe lady leg, the whole sub-plot felt clumsy and less integral part of the story, more useful as an excuse to have Rachael Taylor hose down machinery in a thin cotton shirt and wear form-fitting overalls. I think she looks a bit like a young Britt Ekland.

It was difficult to hush the "wait a minute. That didn't happen" part of my brain but I sort of got caught up in it. It makes it clear with whom you're supposed to sympathize, at whom you're supposed to bristle, and with whom you're supposed to learn life lessons. And it was fun to see bottles of wine that I've had.

Speaking of which, I decided to sneak in the '05 Stags Leap Wine Cellars "Artemis" Cabernet. I really enjoyed it. It was pretty lean and focused with blackberries and some leather and a nice, long finish. It was a tad pricey at $44 but it was worth it this time. If I saw it for less somewhere I might pick it up but I wouldn't get it again at that price. It was considerably more to my taste than the 05 Clos du Val Cabernet we opened up later in the evening. We found it less complex with a disappointing finish. It was kind of strange. It went from simple blackberry, vanilla entry to a roundish midpalate then straight to nothing. Leigh said it wasn't even like it had a clean finish, there was simply no finish. Pity. And this truncated thought of a wine was $23, which I think was asking a bit much, too.

Okay. It's 9.20 and I'm running late for work.

25 August 2008

25Aug-Hm. 1:00, eh?
I think I just might make the 1:00 of Bottle Shock.
Let's just see how they did this.
Now I have to think of a reasonable way to sneak in a relevant wine. Heitz is still fairly affordable. So's the lower end of Clos du Val.

I bet Rickman's going to be great.

on an unrelated note, here's an interview with Woody Allen I've been meaning to read.

23 August 2008

Due in large part to last night's steady diet of '94Chateau Palmer (thanks, Ed! - "Ed" as in "Ed", not "editor"), '05Montes Alpha Special Cuvee Chardonnay, '05Clos du Val Pinot Noir, Hogue Genesis Cabernet, and a can of Campbell's Chicken and Stars, I awoke this morning to a bit of a headache. Somehow Leigh didn't.
Now, I'm normally a fairly industrious person with a lot on my plate to keep me busy but I decided to eschew the getting up bit and lie in bed all day.
So far, so good.
Following last night's trail of YouTube wonders including Bill Irwin, La La La Human, clips from movies like Tap, and plenty more, I chased one link to another all morning.
While I'm a great fan of lounging, I find that I don't indulge that often, which I suppose makes it that much more satisfying when I do. My diet suffers, I write as my Totino's settles happily. But my hangover is gone, with some help from the lovely 99Langoa Barton I opened at a wholly appropriate hour.
Leigh is languishing in the bathtub with a book, our respective lazy pursuits connected by our wine.

You should try this sometime, this lazy morning business.

But if all your mornings are like this then to hell with you.

crazy beautiful dancing

22 August 2008

22Aug- Baan Sawan t-shirts?
we've kicked around the idea of this for a number of years but have never come up with a design or price that works for us. The most agreed upon design has been the Sor Sua character (the first character of our last name and the central character in the 'triptych' that is on the left as you walk in) either tastefully small over the breast pocket or centrally located over the back.

Simplicity itself and therefore probably the way to go. But, ever the self-conscious one, I wonder about the people around town whom we've disappointed or angered and who, upon seeing our tshirt on someone, would cross their arms, turn their heads and go "Hmph."

So I was thinking something like the Sor Sua on the front and then above it "Baan Sawan Thai Bistro" then maybe the blogspot address. Then on the back "But my endorsement, though wholeheartedly given, is in no way a guarantee that your personality and their personalities will mesh successfully."

for absolutely no reason.

21 August 2008

21Aug-self-indulgent daydream
I consider the stresses I experience everyday and the whims and vagaries of people's personalities that are among the reasons for these stresses and, sure, like most young men my age my first thought is to run off and buy a little vineyard in Provence, France. You're sure to have heard such desires around the water cooler or discussed while waiting for the video game machine to warm up or while slouching over a bar. Somebody with their necktie tugged loose and slurring "Cinsault" and "Mourvedre" as a stack of bar napkins covered with sketches of oak barrels and vineyards cascade to the floor.
I'm quite certain, however, that I would be stressed about countless other things should I be at the helm of what amounts to a farm and a big chemistry set. But at least my stresses would live under a blanket of the appeal of the rustic French countryside. Or they'd be soothed by the fresh afternoon Pacific winds that flow through Los Carneros or the Willamette Valley on their way to cool the Pinot grapes I'd be sure to ruin somewhere between vine and bottle.
That'd be pretty neat.

(that's bizarre. this photo is oddly appropriate. that even looks a little like me at that age. except for that thing on his face...what's that called? I've seen it before....A smile?)

18 August 2008

18Aug - blah blah movies blah Montelena blah blah me me me
Not too long ago I read George Taber's book about American wines beating French wines in a blind tasting, Judgment of Paris. At the time (the 70s), America was not known for the quality of its wines and, upon the discovery that several leading French opinons mistook California Chardonnays and red blends for top French wines, the wine world was understandably shaken. To them, it seemed, it was the equivalent of saying "Yes, this is classic Mouton Rothschild." and then finding out that your neighbor's kid made it by mixing things he'd found in the fridge.
Anyway, great book. And two movies are being made from this story, though I'd be surprised if either will spend much time on the screens here in Columbia. (On a somewhat related note, it seems Vicky Cristina Barcelona is playing at Carmike on Harbison, an out-of-the-way mainstream theater that, curiously, shows little movies not shown at more in-the-way places. If I can get my chores done in a timely manner i might catch a showing this afternoon)
Bottleshock, the name of one of these Judgment of Paris movies, is getting mixed reviews.

So the other night we opened a bottle of the current release Chateau Montelena Chardonnay. This was the same vineyard and varietal that came out on top at the famous tasting. I hesitated somewhat when buying the bottle because I don't think it's illustrative of how the wine might have tasted back then as they've changed winemakers since, but I figure i can swing the price and I was curious. I enjoyed it rather more than I thought I would. As with most whites, I preferred it a little warmer than current widely-accepted serving temperature as I thought it brought out more of the apple and slight citrus flavors in it. I found it very refreshing and clean in way I wasn't expecting but thoroughly liked.

A year ago I never gave much attention to Chardonnay but, lately, I've been enjoying some styles more and more. Delicate flavors, crisp acidity and no to mild oak or maloactic fermentation appeal to me when drinking them. True, it seems all the ones I enjoy could be described as French in inspiration but at least I'm exploring other countries' interpretations. Chile's Montes Alpha Casablanca Valley Special Cuvee I found to be absolutely delicious. The most amazing one I've recently had is Burgundy's Clos D'Arlot Nuit St George Blanc, which, like the previously mentioned two, had subtle as well as forward fruit notes, crisp acidity, and an overall refreshing finish that makes one want to drink just one more sip.

Just thought I'd mention that.

12 August 2008

12Aug- self-indulgent random thought
my heart aches dully when I hear certain songs by Dean Martin. It will come as no surprise that this is so because of a girl. Oddly (comfortingly, even) I don't remember which girl or why, specifically, those songs remind me of her, whomever she is, so I suppose it might be more accurate just to say that I listen to some Dean Martin songs with nostalgia.
Some are happy songs; some are sad songs. This leads me to believe there was a before and after to this story I assume I have. It goes without saying that I was very young at the time (though does the hasty readiness to believe that someone is "the one" ever go away with age?). Sometimes I wonder what of the things I enjoy now will, through association, fill me with sadness in the future.

Break-ups are generally a sad affair. I say "generally" because sometimes it will come as a relief to both parties, though this is rare.
We've seen a number of break-ups at the restaurant. None, fortunately, have become scenes but there have certainly been tears from both men and women, alike. Are there people out there right now who drive by the restaurant and feel that dull ache in their hearts? Is there someone out there who, despite having moved far from here, automatically says "No" when offered the option of going out for Thai food because the taste of Pad Ginger is too closely associated with rejection? Surely, there must be.

Friends must choose with whom to side. Books must be separated. Custody of restaurants decided upon. Songs. Aromas. Cities. Countries. There is always collateral damage in break-ups just as there must be collateral damage in new relationships.

"Really? You and your ex went there all the time? Hm. Maybe we should go somewhere else tonight."

I don't know...
It's been slow lately.

11 August 2008

11Aug- staff wine tasting
dayna and jennifer

On Sunday we had a wine tasting at the restaurant so that the staff could review our selections, ask any questions, and go over some suggested wine pairings. And, in addition to having them come in on a Sunday, I asked that everybody get dressed up, which they did. I got together some wine tasting kind of snacks (salamis, breads, mushrooms)and everybody was nice enough to bring something so we had a bit of a spread going on as we trudged through our wines. I think it did some good. We discussed some basic wine ideas, some things specific to our selections and I got everybody a 187ml split of Korbel sparkling wine (the smallest bottle I could find that still had a cork and cage) so that they could practice opening sparkling.
I suspect some did not adhere to my "must spit" policy but I don't think I honestly expected it to be followed to the letter.

I put the thing together for a few reasons. Education, primarily, but I wanted to do something nice for them, as well. And I wanted them to get all gussied up because I thought to do so would put them in a different frame of mind. They look good and so they feel good and, maybe, would therefore have a better time. I like the idea of them enjoying the wine tasting process, even though in this case it was mandatory. I wanted to inject some civility to the drinking process, which, as I understand it, youth isn't known for advocating. And I don't think they all have much experience with getting dressed up to go socialize, outside of a wedding. Frankly, as time goes by, none of us have many chances for that. Parties are getting more and more casual and evening dresses and ties are falling by the wayside. It's a shame.

So here are some pictures of the crew looking good.

leigh, greg, rus

marshall, jennifer


Dayna wearing a wine bottle

dayna, alex

and some pictures need to be in color:

especially the "prom picture" for which Dayna saw the potential. so cute!

09 August 2008

09Aug-unusually pointless self-indulgent post.
I wonder sometimes about our tendencies to sublimate our assorted tensions. Frustration at X can be more easily expressed through frustration at Y. Or enjoyment in Z is tangentially, and more easily, enjoyed by exploring A. Food, alcohol, social interaction are all ways one can use to fulfill desires, whether they be as straight-forward as the three aforementioned subjects or they be more deeply hidden from others and/or ourselves.
I love wine. I can happily engross myself in a bottle of wonderful wine for hours. Certainly, I'd prefer to be with others so that the experience is shared and that moment is spread through more memories than my own but I find that I can close my eyes and enjoy glorious wine by myself, just for the intrinsic experience. But where does the enjoyment of it end and my desire not to think about whatever begin?
I can come home after a long day's work and spend an hour cooking just for myself, with four things happening - two elements of the stove, one in the oven and one in the toaster oven - but is that so I can enjoy it or so that I don't have to think for the duration of the cooking?
I squeeze in years of personal exploration in one year with the various classes and challenges I shoehorn into my already busy week but why? Am I working hard to get where I want to be or working hard to avoid where I am? Or both?
How many of us know why we do what we do?
Are my questions another way of detaching myself so that I can try to deal with something as a puzzle and not as life?
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

to accompany the pointlessness of this post I'm adding a pointless video of me cooking dinner to a Ben Webster tune one night after work.

06 August 2008

06Aug- I find this entrancing
(that's a word, right? "entrancing". that suddenly didn't look right.)

Chopin Nocturne, opus 27 #2 from musanim on Vimeo.

05 August 2008

05Aug- Recipe for beef Pho
I know this isn't Thai or hugely relevant to anything, but after I had to reinstall Windows on my computer I lost all of my recipe bookmarks. So, after looking for this specific recipe for a little bit I was very happy to find it. It's a very rich, aromatic soup that's easy to make.
The recipe says to trim the fat off of the beef, which I don't advocate.

Pho Bo (Hanoi beef noodle soup)

02 August 2008

02Aug- False ADT alarm and then a lengthy digression
Everyone stand down. The perimeter is secure. Nothing untoward floating in the fountain. I think we're going to be okay.

I got a call from ADT at 4.27 this A.M., beat the cops to the restaurant (which I hope is just my rapidity and not them using me as a first wave) and now I can't get back to sleep.
It's always a stressful drive down there as i have no idea what awaits me. It could be a number of things at a number of threat levels and it's a well-known fact that being prepared isn't always enough.

We had an unpleasant situation tonight with an impatient woman. A table of two came in, whom I seated and, as I was about to get them waters, a table of six came in. There was a moment of distraction as they got situated and I debated as to whether the newest of our crew should take so large a party and, as I got the waters ready for the six, I looked up to see the woman of the party of two seated not 5 minutes ago holding her arms up like a far less charming Savannah Bird Girl Statue. This body language generally means "What the hell?" or "I've almost got that walk like an Egyptian thing down pat". I smile at her, give her a "one minute" gesture and immediately take two of the waters I'd arranged for the six and sent their server over with them and an apology. The customer, at this point, seems to have decided that we're against her and lays into her server, telling her -among other things- that she's very observant and saw that we rushed to take care of the six. If it's about the water, there's plenty to go around and she still got hers before the six. Her husband insisted they place their order right then as "who knows when she'll be back."

A good restaurant, I suppose, would've bent over backwards to mend the situation. Lavished them with amuse-bouche and stroked their hair and crooned "Hush, Little Baby" until they were happy. My desire not to do this, I'm sure, is indicative of a deep-seated fault in both the restaurant and my personality but, for as long as we've been doing this, I've come to recognize someone who is looking for a fight and who cannot be made happy. Her unpleasantness to her server was severely out of proportion to our infraction and, even though every time I caught sight of her she was laughing and seemed happy, she made snide comments about the food and the service directly to her server and when other servers were in earshot. I know from experience that a customer like this can never be made happy and that if I went out of my way she would quite likely make it a point to vent at me and try to make a fool out of me. I told her server, who seemed hurt by this woman's invective but was keeping it together, that all she should do now is make sure the table's waters are filled, that whatever they need gets taken care of and just do everything right so that if she remains unhappy it wouldn't be because of any compounding of mistakes.
Even though I was busy refilling waters and washing some dishes I made it a point to be behind the bar as they left so I could field any complaints but she opted to storm out quietly instead. As vocal as she was with her server i felt sure she'd have a few choice words for me but it seems as though she might be the type of person who yells at the nurse but is civil to the doctor.

So right now their version of the story is circulating among friends and family and that's a group of people we'll never see.

I know, from a service standpoint, I should've done something to appease them but if they got so worked up about a five minute wait for water and I gave them butterfly kisses until they're happy then they come back on a similarly busy night and have to wait 45 minutes for their food I can only imagine how unhappy they'd be then. Then their server suffers their slings and arrows, we keep the kitchen informed thereby giving them more to stress about and the ripples of this unhappy table begin to infect everything.

Was it right to let them leave upset in order to spare us a potentially more explosive situation in the future? No. I don't think so. But if there's one selfish philosophy to which we've adhered, lo, these many years it's that we're not for everybody. A restaurant is like any other entity with which one can have a relationship and sometimes the chemistry simply doesn't work.

I think about how I'd like to have been treated if the positions were reversed but mine is not a personality that froths at not getting water for five minutes. I think, to a certain degree, this exercise is futile. We're very different, she and I. But if I thought about it...
If I got so angry at something so small I don't think it would be about that small thing at all. I'd be angry at something else entirely; something big enough or out of my hands enough that I fixate on something small and trivial so that I can finally feel like I can control the situation. If I were ugly with a server it would be because I misconstrue the fact that they bring me things as evidence of their inferiority and, therefore, I can conclude that they're someone whose actions and, to some degree, feelings I can control which thereby establishes me in a position of power, which feels pretty good. And if someone tried to appease me I might see that my running commentary got me some positive attention and I'd hate to miss out on someone trying to make me happy, especially if I'm getting attention neighboring tables aren't. But if I admit satisfaction or happiness then I might be left alone so I might very well continue to make noise and besides, I can't be seen as someone who can be manipulated by a little sweet talking since that would mean i'm not in control and that's what got me so worked up in the first place.

But I admit that could be entirely an entirely wrong and unfair assessment.

I also admit that now I would like for someone to sing to me.

01 August 2008

01Aug-self-indulgent post on existentialism
Here are some headlines from CNN.Com that I read this evening when I got home and prepared myself dinner:
-Bus rider beheads seat mate, witness says
-Guilty verdict in videotaped torture death
-Police:Preacher killed wife, put her in freezer
-sexual assault in military called "epidemic"
-Street fight turned fatal or ugly ethnic clash?

How does one blithely continue slicing away at zucchini while reading that, hours before, someone was blithely slicing away at the neck of the guy who was sleeping next to him on a bus?

I don’t pretend to understand existentialism (anymore. Ahh….college) but there are a couple of ideas espoused by the “-ism” that I find interesting, from time to time: Alienation and absurdity. The former plays with the idea of when the individual can’t play well with others because of the shallow and depersonalized state of society (read: Stanford and Milgram experiments, reality shows, Grand Theft Auto) and the latter is about how incredibly disparate things can happen in the same life, like zucchini and neck slicing.

I come home and I live my life and I complain about how there’s nothing interesting to eat and nothing interesting to drink and my back hurts and how I can’t find a pair of black dress shoes I really like and how I can’t sleep and how I abuse run-on sentences and then, hundreds of miles away, there’s Joe Headless who was just closing his eyes for a second so that he can be fresh for his arrival at Wherever, USA and the next thing he knows he wakes up with this insistent being-beheaded feeling.

What a world. What a cold, indifferent world that leaves Luis Ramirez convulsing on the ground after a vicious beating while I confirm that a bottle of Minervois is, indeed, corked and I see that a good bottle of something be brought out.

And what’s wrong with the bad guys in these scenarios? Why are they the way they are? What makes a person so detached from humanity that they can casually kill as they have? Some chemical imbalance? Childhood abuse? In five hundred years will social mores make a question like that immaterial?

What a weird world.

On the other hand, come eat at Baan Sawan!