Posts Tagged With: Easter

OK, so… Easter.

Easter was a really pleasant day. Like one of those days where you actually fall asleep smiling as you drift off, just reviewing the preceding hours in your mind.

We started the day with a late-morning brunch at my parents’ house. Their backyard is mind-boggling. There is a pool,  an outdoor kitchen, a fireplace, and even a waterfall made from rocks that they have collected from their trips to the mountains over the years. It’s *that* cool. So of course we braved the drizzly weather to enjoy brunch in the backyard. Mostly straightforward brunch-y stuff: eggs, grilled ham, toast/bagels/English muffins, fresh fruit, coffee and juice. Basic stuff. But there were a couple special items on the table as well. Armenian nibbles! Yay! Mom drove out to Anaheim to buy basterma (paper-thin slices of buttery, spicy, air-dried beef, not unlike pastrami), good Armenian string cheese and lahmejun (the Armenian version of pizza: spicy flatbread with veggies and sometimes meat). Just forget everything else on the table. These little morsels of mezze are what I’m really craving. There isn’t much on the table, so most of us are being very selective about how much we eat. Neither DH or DS care for basturma or lahmejun, which is fine with me because that means I get their portion.

After we got home and DS is down for a nap, I grab the keys and I’m off to Trader Joe’s. I admit it; I have a “thing” about shopping at TJ’s. I always go in with a list, and then I buy an additional 50% of new-and-interesting-and-oh-jeez-I-better-buy-that-because-next-week-it-could-be-discontinued stuff. You can find me there at least once a week, usually on Sunday, prepping the fridge and pantry for a week of culinary craziness.

Fast forward to 6:30ish. The house is clean, the table is set, the wine glasses are polished, friends have arrived and I am ready to ROCK AND ROLL. I start rapid-firing courses out to the table. The first is Ceaser salad, with homemade dressing and homemade garlic Parmesan croutons. The out goes the traditional Gruyere fondue (I’m not taking any credit for that one; it’s a microwave-ready cheese-o-rama from TJ’s). Next is the French onion gratin (like French onion soup, but without the soup part). There’s bread and apples and raw vegetables and wine being passed around the table. The whirlwind starts to die down, so I go in for another kill: linguine tossed with wild mushrooms, baby spinach, Parmesan cheese and white truffle oil. The red wine gets passed around. We are talking politics and culture and whatnot, but every sentence is peppered with praise for the food on the table. I am  so happy that I forget (for the moment) what my kitchen looks like.

After DS is put to bed, we move the party to the living room. Time for dessert! Someone has brought an angel food cake, which I lay out buffet-style with vanilla bean ice cream (TJ’s), sliced strawberries, sliced pineapple, chocolate sauce (TJ’s) and fleur de sel caramel sauce (TJ’s). There’s a general feeling of contentment in the air. All of a sudden we realize it’s 11:30, and we all start clearing away dishes. They get piled upon piles in the kitchen. It starts to look like a scene from a Shel Silverstein poem, but I tell everyone I’ll deal with it later. Guests shuffle out the door, filled with dairy products and pasta and good cheer. Shortly thereafter I too shuffle off, this time for bed, wearing the aforementioned smile as I drift off to sleep.

Then Monday morning comes. And until I round the corner into the kitchen, I have somehow forgotten what is waiting for me in there.

Can someone call ServPro?

Who's gonna clean up that mess?

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Our Easter Oeno-experience

Easter 2011, I must say, was pretty cool. So cool, in fact, that the exploits of the day are going to have to be broken down into several posts. Well, at least a couple. But this aspect of Easter definitely deserves stand-alone recognition.

Some of you may know that, in another lifetime, I was in the wine business. My first job in wine, as a matter of fact, was at Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, CA.  I still have relationships with a few of the people I met there. One of those is John Downing, who is my go-to guy for recommendations on Italian (and other) wines. So when I found myself inviting an ex-pat Italian — from Rome, to be exact — to Easter dinner, I knew I was going to have to do something special. So I trotted over to Hi-Time when I knew John would be in the cellar, and I waited.

Pretty soon John was able to break away and spend a few minutes with me. I need help, I said.

Your mom’s a therapist, he said.

Not that kind of help, I said. (Yes, we have that kind of friendship.)

And I boiled it down for him: I wanted two bottles of wine, one each red and white, and I wanted them from the Emilia-Romagna region. (Rome is located in the Emilia-Romagna, and our dinner guest was Roman, so I wanted to do my best to make him feel welcome.)

John chuckles and scratches his head and starts kicking some thoughts around. At first, he thinks he only has one — a Sangiovese/Cabernet  blend. Thirteen bucks. I’m on it. But what about white? It takes him another minute, but he produces one more bottle for me: a white, this one a varietal called Albana. Not very acidic, very round, a little sweetness. I shrug and take the bottle. Could be great, could be gross. We’ll find out tomorrow. I go home and put the red on the sideboard and the white goes in the fridge.

So now it’s Easter dinner and our guest has arrived. He’s affable and charming, and is quite engaging in conversation. He compliments everything that comes out of the kitchen. One of our friends asks if he can open the wine. Go ahead, I say, I’m busy in the kitchen. So a couple minutes later, I get handed a glass of the Albana. It’s reminiscent of honey and pears, kind of like a Greek dessert. I take a sip. I swear if you had not told me this was Albana, I would have put money on it being an unoaked Chardonnay. Barely sweet, fat, not woody. Not normally my kind of white wine, but I have to say it was a killer match for the Ceaser salad and the fondue I was laying out on the table. So I was pleased. I was also pleased that our Roman friend was enjoying himself.

Finally I get the pasta on the table, and it’s time to get the red wine into the glasses. The bottle has been open for an hour or so, but not decanted. Didn’t matter; it was pretty young, but not tight at all, so it did just fine being poured straight away. I generally don’t get excited about Sangiovese, but this was yummy. The nose was like the darkest red roses you’ve ever smelled, and in the mouth it was rich but not tannic. It was a perfect foil for our pasta with spinach/wild mushrooms/truffle oil.

It was no surprise when the bottles were completely drained. Nor was it a surprise when our Italian friend reached for second glasses of each with a big smile on his face. I’m sure someone dead and famous once said that wine is the lubrication to make fast and lasting friends of us all, but for the life of me I don’t know who that might be. So maybe it’s me. After I’m dead, be sure to quote me.

FATTORIA MONTICINO ROSSO 2009 ALBANA, $12.98 and DREI DONA 2009 SANGIOVESE CABERNET “ROSENERE”, $12.95; both at Hi-Time Wine Cellars.

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