October 07, 2007

It's been a LONG time since I ...

It's been a LONG time since I gave a proper restaurant review on here, so i'm going to throw in a bit about the wine tasting we did, too.

Oh, BTW, let me interrupt myself:
      Hi Earl! :-* Smooch! :-* thanks for saying HI in the comments!

So Kelly and I celebrated our 13 year wedding anniversary on October 2nd. Yes, i was practically a 'child bride' by Los Angeles standards, but 23 is a perfectly acceptable age to get married in Chicago. About this time of year, after someone asks how long we've been married, I get to make the joke, "13 years, but 12 of them have been in Los Angeles, so that's like dog years." Ha Ha Ha.

Ok, anyway, the review. We've come to San Luis Obispo to do some wine tasting, restaurant dining and "antiquing" (basically thrift store shopping but the stuff is clean and works).

If you've never done a wine tasting, here's what's supposed to happen:

(i'm using the words winery, tasting room and vineyard somewhat interchangably here.)

You can buy a pass to get a chauffered tour, which will pick up several other potential winos at different hotels and B&Bs, and then takes you all to 4 or 5 wineries. The tasting fees are often included in the tour cost. At some point, there will be a stop for food (which might not be included, so bring some cash) You will automatically meet new people, as we did on the chauffered tour between wineries (and it got more fun as we got more buzzed!) but we were lucky in that the other couples were friendly and fun. YMMV. You'll be on a schedule, kind of, because there's probably another tour after you, and the driver and guide (might not be the same person) are working a job, not having fun, like you are. So while there's a built-in designated driver, you might feel rushed, as we did the time we did a limo-tour. At the end, everyone gets delivered back to their own hotel.

You can also drive to each of the wineries yourself. You'll have to scope out what vineyards seem interesting to you, map them, and figure out how to get there. You can bring a picnic lunch. You can take your time, and look around at everything as long as you want. If you're going for the experience, and not just to drink, drive yourself. Of course, one person's got to stay sober enough to drive.

I'm not getting into bike tours, but i hear that they can be fun.

Once you arrive at the tasting room, you belly up to the counter, and they let you know what they're going to pour. Most places present just one winery, but others have more than one, so you might be offered to choose one or the other or both. They take out a (usually) generically shaped glass, and pour the first wine for you.

They always pour lightest-to-heaviest, so they'll pour whites first, usually in this order: gewürtsraminer, riesling, sauvignon, chardonnay, rosé, pinot, zinfandel, cabernet, port. They will most likely not do all of these varietals, and may have different offerings, but that gives you the basic idea.

Now, a curious thing, to me, is that at each of the places we went to, there were people who refused half of the wines. One couple only wanted to taste reds. At the next place, one woman only wanted to taste whites. I can appreciate that maybe that's all you'd want to BUY... but why not give the others a taste? ME, i have to taste everything. And if you're with me, i want YOU to taste everything too! If i've met you more than once, and we're eating together, there will probably be a lot of passing forks back and forth. but i digress. as i do every post of more than 20 words. whatever.

ok, so they pour you your first white. You'll only get about an ounce or so in your glass. first you smell. then you swirl, then you smell. and then do it all again. If you're not used to smelling wines, sniff first, and THEN look a the tasting notes sheet, and then sniff again to see if you can find those flavors. You can go through the song and dance of rim variation, clarity, viscosity, and all that other stuff, but usually that's to learn about a wine that doesn't come with a tasting sheet. So just smell, and then taste. I usually taste at least 4 times. First a tiny sip, to get a first impression, and to acclimate my mouth to the wine. then a bigger sip, to reinforce that first impression, and let the acids and tannins get out of the way. Then an actual mouthful, which i drink kind of normally, but i hold it in my mouth a bit before swallowing, to get a feel for the alcohol levels (feels like pressure on your tongue) and to pick out some flavors. then finally, a last mouthful, to see what the finish is like, and to see how long it lasts in your mouth. Since i've been doing this a while, i've gotten better at picking out smells & tastes. it's fun. If i like the wine, i'll drink what's left in my glass. if not, i pour it into the dump bucket. Then you go on to the next wine... but don't feel like you have to rush!

OH, btw, nobody spits at these, not even the guys working there, who often take a sip or two along with you if you mention a scent or flavor that makes them raise their eyebrows. One day i want to learn how to spit in a perfect stream. Oh, such lofty aspirations! lol.

We went to Saucelito Canyon/Ortman Vineyards tasting room first...
Saucelito Canyon
Ortman Vineyards
...and tasted 6 7 wines ($5), with very little going into the dump bucket. They poured in the order mentioned above, intermingling the wines from both vineyards. Each of them presented a white that was spectacular. The reds were rich and interesting. We took home a bottle of a rich, red, gorgeous Zinfandel that had some lime undertones, that I want to see if i can make work with a meaty fish. The tasting room was small but cute, and the men behind the counter were friendly, charming and bantered with each other faux animosity. It was fun.

Oh, and the reason for the strikeout above: we got a special "bonus" pour of a newly released cabernet that the winery's rep was very proud of. As another aside, a LOT of people who are intimate with their wines are itching to share something new, or something they think is special, as a little bonus pour. with that in mind, take note, as they probably know what's worth mentioning, and also, be respectful, because saying it tastes like swamp water is not only rude, but insulting to their tastes.

Don't be afraid of asking questions,

Also don't think you have to like every wine offered. Like i said in the "do it yourself wine-tasting course", taste is subjective.

Ok, so on to the next winery. This was Claiborne & Churchill Theirs is the tasting room is made of bales of hay covered in stucco. It was so crowded, i considered suggesting that we try another place...6 pours for $5, you could see why...but soon enough we got our first pours. This winery specializes in dry gewürtztraminers and dry rieslings. We also tried a couple of their reds, which were very nice, but we finished with a port that was just superb. We purchased a bottle each of the gewürtztraminer and the port.

Another nice thing about doing a tasting is that they refund your tasting fee if you purchase a bottle. This might not be valid everywhere, but it did apply at both places we went. That's something you can take into account:
      pay for the tasting: $5
      got to a tasting, $5; buy a bottle, get $5 off.
so if there's something you like, when you look at the price, take $5 off per bottle, per person in your group. (In other words, if you are two people, and you buy two bottles, take $10 off the total.)

Each of these places had a cute little outdoor seating area where you could wait out your buzz if you didn't go with a group.

I'll write about dinner later... where there was even more wine!!!

Last thing I ate or drank: the above Crème Brûlée and the 6 grapes port.

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October 04, 2007

A new strategy for efficiency.

Do you procrastinate? I do. It's horrible. I can sit there and stare at something for a month and think, "I should really do that....." and that's where it ends.

I end up reading e-mail, sorting through my catering equipment, editing a podcast, testing a recipe, organizing my collection of pastry tips or some equally idiotic thing that keeps me doing what i should be doing.

Eventually, the important stuff gets done, and it does get done in time, but i fret about it from the time the thought is conceived until the damned thing is finished. (this blog is a GREAT way to procrastinate, although I'm not procrastinating right now, honest!)

So today, inadvertently, I've discovered a strategy to get stuff done.

I had a bunch of papers in the dining room, because that's the room the air conditioner is in, and I'd camped out to work there instead of my office during the heat wave. I decided that i should plow through some of those, and it didn't make sense to bring it back into my office to sort them until it was done. So i got started. I put on some music and settled in.

Once i had about 3 things that needed computer attention, i came into the office and paid a couple bills, sent off an invoice or two, and looked in my calendar... and then went back to the dining room.

After another 40 mins, I had another 3 or 4 things to do on the computer, so i went back to the office, sent and e-mail, looked up a phone number, paid another bill...and went back to work.

I realized that I'm doing that whole 45 mins on, 15 mins off time management thing. Which I've tried before, with the kitchen timer and such, but it never worked.

I think that the 'trick' here is that i can still hear the radio out there, barely, and it reminds me that i have more to do in the dining room.

So, I'm posting it here, so that you, my dear readers (all 3 of you) can use that, perhaps, to help to keep yourself on track and Getting Things Done.

Last thing I ate or drank: a really yummy combo of eggplant, onions and tomatoes that I made the other day for dinner, but Kelly decided he was craving pizza. Secretly happy that i got to save it for myself for lunch!

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