Category Archives: Wine Reviews

Seventeen to go

Week One of Boston training is finished and I got through it with no ill will toward Sir Pfitzinger. Although with weeks Two though Eighteen still in front of me, I’m sure that will change.

I stayed 100% faithful to the plan with the exception of swapping Saturday and Sunday (assigned recovery run and long run, respectively) to accommodate meeting my normal running group on their long run day.

This was probably the most disciplined week of training I’ve undertaken since college. Here’s how it went down.*

Monday: XT and weights. 15 min on the rowing machine and 45 min of upper-body-focused lifting.

Tuesday: 8 miles Lactate Threshold with 4 miles @ 15K/Half Marathon pace. Looped around Piedmont Park to avoid traffic lights; finished in 1:05:24 overall with 4M tempo portion in 29:40. Wasn’t sure what pace to target; this felt challenging but manageable.

Wednesday: Rest.

Thursday: 9 miles General Aerobic. Nice and chill, did this one at lunchtime and enjoyed the sunny 60-degree weather! Finished in 1:19 (8:47 pace).

Friday: Weights. An hour of of heavy lower-body lifting: weighted lunges (45 lbs), hack squat (50 lbs), leg press (180 lbs), dumbbell hamstring curl (30 lbs), prone hamstring curl (70 lbs). 12-15 reps.

Saturday: 12 miles Medium-Long. Met up with my group and did our usual 10-mile loop. Finished that in 1:25 exactly. Tacked on an extra two miles solo afterward and ended at 1:42. 8:30 pace for the run which I was pretty happy with considering that I accidentally consumed an entire bottle of Pinot Noir the night before (ahem.)

Sunday: 4 miles Recovery. Easy run around GA Tech campus in 37:00, 9:15 pace. Am trying to purposefully keep recovery runs very mellow because that’s what this book says to do.

Total for week: 33 miles.

In other happenings:

Saw the Hobbit movie today. For fucking real, I did not realize they were going to squeeze three movies out of this thing. Halfway through, I was sitting there wondering why on earth things were moving so slowly. I get that some of the content comes from Tolkein’s appendices or whatever, but seriously…I don’t think making nine hours of Hobbit film does any service to the literature. And generally, I really don’t like this trend of splitting books in to multi-part movies.

(Looking at you, Twilight Part Eleventy. Can’t wait for, like, Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 6, in which we extend battle scenes to such ridiculous lengths that we forget what the fight is about and burn minutes by watching various characters stare at each other balefully. Not that they’re planning on doing that – I have no idea – but I wouldn’t put it past them.)

My Christmas Shopping. It’s in a disastrous state. There are so many things that need to be shipped off, like, tomorrow. Things that I haven’t purchased (or even necessarily identified) yet. I have no excuse for this because it’s not like I haven’t had time to do it. Apparently I just enjoy procrastinating.

But the stockings have been hung with care! I have no idea what will be put in these (nothing, probably…see above) but they are darn cute.

(Yes, our walls scream: Colonel Mustard did in in the Living Room with a tacky can of poo-colored paint! This color came with the house. And custom window treatments to match it, so it’s not changing any time soon.)

And I’m almost done with cards! I can’t even remember the last time I sent out holiday cards. Many years ago, when the concept of being an adult was still an exciting novelty.

But there are a number of people (mostly, my entire family) that we won’t be seeing in person this year, so I ordered ridiculous custom cards (complete with photos of our cats in festive attire…do not judge me), collected addresses, and got to it.

Because I had a moment of panic at the VistaPrint checkout and ordered approximately four times as many cards as I needed to, I’ll have a number of these gems leftover, so if you want one, feel free to email me your address.

Finally, about that bottle of Pinot Noir. I’ve recently rekindled my relationship with red wine. Even though it’s not particularly chilly here, it just seems right these days.

I picked up this the path 2011 Pinot Noir last week on the afternoon of an impromptu dinner party. I was serving lamb and didn’t have time to do much in the way of wine selection beyond flagging down the guy in the Whole Foods wine section, gesturing at the contents of my cart, and begging for HELP PLZ.

It worked out well, especially since there was an extra bottle left over all for me.

With lots of ripe plum and a hint of black pepper, this bottle was nothing but enjoyable. The winemaker (Don Sebastiani and Sons) is probably most known as the operation behind supermarket labels Smoking Loon and Pepperwood Grove (both of which, if my memory serves me, are okay for the price point) but at just $12, this bottle seemed to be a cut above those in terms of value.

Bottom Line: Yes, I’d absolutely buy this again. Maybe not to drink the night before a long run, though. (Purchased at Whole Foods, $12.)

Time to address a few more cards before hitting the sack. Hope you all had a great weekend!

*Two things here:

1. I want to document my weekly Pfitz 55 adventures because (a) personally, it’s beneficial for me to sit down at the end of the week and reflect, and (b) it seems like some people are genuinely interested in reading about it. In the past I’ve done chart-like thingies but I’ll admit I’m a little turned off from formats like  that because so many people are using it to whore for Pinterest now. And I’m not really in to updating my RunningAhead log these days. So for this Boston training cycle, I might just write a weekly day-by-day narrative, unless y’all have other suggestions.

2. I realize it’s controversial to write out a training plan’s workouts on the internets, where someone could theoretically piece it together for free rather than buying the book. This particular plan is sooooo already out there online that I’m not going to worry about it. But if you’re thinking of following this plan, I’d definitely suggest you buy the book, as there’s a lot of background and other info that’s very helpful.

Friday afternoon wine musings

It was exactly noon when the taxi deposited my husband in our driveway, fresh from the airport after a two-week business trip to Asia.

The twenty-hour flight had left him tired and disheveled and in need of a shower. While he cleaned up, I made us lunch. And because it was midnight in Japan or whatever, I figured we may as well have a drink with our meal. I opened a bottle of wine.

Three hours later, he’s napping. (Ill advised, I know…but I can’t bear to wake him.) And I’m left with a half-finished bottle of wine on a Friday afternoon. Hmm. What to do…?

Remember when I used to blog about wine all the time? Yeah, me neither. It’s funny that nearly a year ago, I went to the Wine Bloggers Conference, at which I received that freebie glass. I can probably count on one hand the times I’ve done a wine review on this blog since then.

What happened?

Regular wine drinking ceded to a growing love of craft beer. Growing love of craft beer resulted in growing love handles. Which is how I’ve found myself in the current situation, savoring a (second) glass of Sauv Blanc on a Friday afternoon after abstaining from beer-slash-wine all freaking week.

I won’t lie: it’s been hard to get used to not having a pint of beer or a glass of wine with dinner. I’ve always said (and probably said here, on this blog, more than once) that having a drink or two each day was my version of a small daily indulgence. I’ve said things like: I can live without cookies or chocolate or ice cream, but you’ll pry my daily drinks out of my cold, dead hands.

Well, get me some mittens and a defibrillator, I guess.

It’s sad, but with each passing year, it seems I am less able to get away with minor dietary indiscretions. Through most of my early twenties, I ate whatever I wanted. Then, as thirty approached, I found that in order to maintain my weight, I had to start eating somewhat healthy food…but I could still drink whatever I wanted.

(This is evident in reading the first year of posts on this blog, written by a spritely 29-year-old. Although I don’t recommend it, because the earliest entries on any blog are always horrible, and mine are no exception.)

(On a related note: over the three years I’ve been blogging here, I’ve received several emails accusing me of being a raging alcoholic for posting beer/wine reviews with such frequency. These emails tend to be pretty entertaining in that they are the closest thing I get to hate mail. But of course such accusations always make you think a little about your life habits. And, as I reflected, I never thought I had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. So I find it kind of amusing that pure vanity is what eventually led me to curb my drinking a little.)

Anyway. In a month, I’ll be thirty-two. If the last year has been any indication, I realize that I’m going to have to make a permanent change in my eating habits if I don’t want to gain weight. That sucks, but I also acknowledge that I’m very fortunate to be in a situation where cutting out shitty carbs or eliminating (or, realistically, limiting) weeknight drinks to stave off the five-pound scale creep is the worst of my health concerns.

But still. It sucks.

So until Monday, I’ll enjoy my drinks. With temperatures creeping into the low-100s this weekend, it would be criminal not to enjoy a few cold beers. Or a bottle of summery white:

My local Trader Joe’s has been beating its customers over the head with this Trellis Sauvignon Blanc for the last couple of months. As in: huge pyramid display up front, another huge pyramid in the wine section. Okay, okay, TJ’s. You have a bunch of this wine to offload.

Yesterday, I finally caved. Okay, I’ll bite and pick up a six-dollar bottle.

It’s…alright. For a Sauv Blanc, I think it’s a bit heavy-handed. Thick and fruity, it attacks you with intense honey and floral flavor before settling in to a sweet-and sour finish. There’s even a bit of oak. This wine comes across like a lightly-oaked Chardonnay.

Bottom line: It’s not bad, but if I’m drinking a Sauv Blanc I want light and refreshing, not floral honey and oak. But for the price, you could definitely do worse, and I could see stocking this wine as the type of bottle you open at the end of the night, when no one is really tasting it anyway. (Purchased at Trader Joe’s, $5.99)

See? I can still do semi-snobby wine reviews.

And now, I have a spouse to wake up before he naps himself into a wicked jet lag. Have a great weekend!

To hell with hills

I’ve been keeping a list of things that have become noticeably more difficult for me – and specifically, the runner in me – since we hit the other side 30 a couple of years ago.

Warm-ups: need to be longer.

Recovery from a hard effort: seems to take forever.

Hills: have become steeper.

I used to be kind of okay at hills – at least on a comparative basis. It was the one place on a race course where I had a shot at chasing down my more willowy counterparts. Something about a low center of gravity, I guess.

Well, my center of gravity hasn’t changed, so I’m going to go with: the hills have become steeper. That’s clearly the only way to explain the pain and suffering of this week’s speed workout.

Eight times up a stretch of neighborhood blocks, amounting to a quarter mile and about 80 feet of elevation gain. My speedwork group from last fall is back in action (yay!), so I had a nice pack to work with. (For the first six, anyway. It’s fun being the only person working on full marathon this spring…)

Our coach told us to shoot for 15 seconds slower than we’d normally run 400 repeats on a track. If I were going to do 8X400 on a track, I’d like to think I’d be down in the low 80s, so I plugged 95 seconds in to my head for this hill workout.

But my splits were: 100, 100, 99, 99, 98, 97, 102, 99. (Obviously, I lost a little steam when I had to do the last couple on my own…)

Apparently I was optimistic. Still, I guess there’s nothing wrong with that workout. It just felt kinda crappy. Meh.

Anyway. On to the next one. I’m hoping to hit 60 miles this week and as I am sitting here sipping some Friday night wine, I’m at 34. I have some work to do this weekend.

Which means I should probably put down the wine glass. 

This South African outfit’s Rose has long been a favorite, but I’d never tried the simply-named Red 2010 from Goats Do Roam before. It’s mostly Syrah (72%) and Cinsault (13%) with a little Grenache and some other stuff mixed in. Very bright and berry-forward, it was sweeter and lighter-bodied than I expected it to be, and very smooth. A respectable choice if you’re looking for something on the grocery store shelf that will be widely enjoyed, with food or without. 14% ABV.

Bottom Line: I received this from a friend, but I’d buy it again! Retails for around $10.

Time for me to chug some water so I don’t wake up feeling like I slept with a cotton ball in my mouth. And give my teeth a good cleansing. Don’t want to show up to morning running group with a headache and purple lips.

Add that to the list of thirtysomething woes….

Red wine: kicks my ass if I’m not careful.

To hell with getting old.

Almost perfect Pad Thai

Ask me about the best thing I’ve eaten abroad, and I’ll tell you: it’s Pad Thai from a street cart at a night market in Bangkok. And I’m not even trying to be trendy with the whole food truck thing. This was ten-plus years ago.

The noodles were fresh. The flavors were simple yet amazing: briny shrimp and tart tamarind, lightly sweetened and caramelized together to make a brown sauce so delectable you wanted to lick every last egg bit from your plate. (But you restrained, because you were eating at a table full of locals and you didn’t want to give scrubby American backpackers a bad name.) The whole thing was served piping hot, cooled down with a squeeze of lime wedge so that it wouldn’t scorch your tongue.

Good Pad Thai isn’t easy to re-create at home. It’s the fresh-noodle factor. And the heat factor. (Well, maybe your kitchen has a big-ass open-flame burner large enough to accommodate an enormous wok, but I have a crappy electric range.)

But it’s one of my favorite foods, so I try.

I’ve been tweaking this recipe, derived from a booklet I received as a souvenir for taking a tourist cooking class in Chiang Mai, on and off for a few years now, and I think I’m finally getting there.

To make good Pad Thai, you have to use a very hot pan: this prevents the noodles from getting overcooked and sticky. And when using a very hot pan, things happen quickly. When making a dish like this, I always measure and lay out each and every ingredient before I put anything in the pan. Even little things like spices and water.

More dishes, less stress.

So you get your pan piping hot and then add all of the above things in succession, while stirring constantly. My favorite part is the egg; I like to make a little cradle in the middle of the pan and scramble it there, in it’s own little space, before mixing it in with the noodles.

So, anyway. Try it and let me know how it goes for you?

Until then, I’ll keep tweaking….

Almost Perfect Pad Thai [Adapted from the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School cookbook]

Serves 4.

1/2 lb dry flat rice noodles
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp jarred crushed garlic (or 2-3 fresh cloves, minced)
1/2 block extra firm tofu, pressed and cut in to 1/2″ cubes
1 lb shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/2 C warm tap water
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3-4 scallions, sliced
1/4 C dry roasted peanuts, chopped
2 limes, cut in to wedges
1 C mung bean sprouts

Sauce:
1/4 C fish sauce
1/4 C brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp fresh lime juice (1-2 limes)

  • Soak noodles in warm water for 20-25 min, or prepare according to package directions for stir-fry.
  • Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large high-sided pan or wok.
  • Whisk together sauce ingredients and set aside.
  • When pan is just smoking hot, add tofu and garlic. Stir until fragrant, about 45 seconds.
  • Add shrimp and stir until just barely opaque, about 45 seconds.
  • Add noodles and water and cook, stirring frequently, until water has absorbed, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium.
  • Add sauce and cook until absorbed, about 1 minute.
  • Push noodles and shrimp to the edges of the pan, creating a “cradle” in the center. Add egg and scramble. When egg is nearly cooked through, add half of scallions and combine with noodles. Toss thoroughly to distribute.
  • Transfer to a serving platter and top with bean sprouts and peanuts. Garnish with lime wedges. Serve immediately.

I had some Chardonnay with dinner:

This 14 Hands 2010 Chardonnay was a nice wine. Definitely on the fruitier side, but well-balanced by a hefty dose of vanilla and a very smooth apple-pie-like flavor.

Bottom line: A good value white, in my book! (Purchased at Harris Teeter, $12)

And that brings me to last week’s running recap:

I’m reasonably satisfied with my long-slow-distance (LSD) run and pretty happy that I got a track workout in, but I wish the overall mileage number were higher. I should be in the 50s. Perhaps I could have pushed today’s post-work run a bit to get there, but it just didn’t seem like it was worth it. My legs were tired from a long day at work, and really, I need to be logging that mileage in earlier in the week, not cramming it on on Sunday night on the heels of a long run.

I know I need to start doing doubles again, a couple of times a week, if I want to get my weekly number back up in to the fifties and sixties and beyond.

Let’s call that a goal for this coming week, eh?

A damn proper steak

This is supposed to be eat, drink, and run, but I haven’t written much lately about the stuff that goes in my mouth. Well, the solid stuff, anyway.

It’s because my diet has gone to shit in the last couple of months. Cooking healthy yet delicious meals simply ceased to be a priority when this whole Atlanta thing came about.

Pork Nachos at Raleigh Times. Fried Chicken at Poole’s. Toro Nigiri at An Sushi. All of the favorites. As the days until my husband left to start his new job grew fewer, so did home-cooked meals. Instead, we opted to enjoy the last of our days together in a town that has some pretty great restaurants.

It’s funny how an impending Big Life Change can make you feel entitled to indulgences. Comfort food, indeed.

Now that I’m on my own for a bit, I’ve done a complete one-eighty. Instead of eating out every night, I’ve been eating…whatever I can find in the refrigerator.

Cheese, bread, sliced fruit. Salad. Crackers and peanut butter. Frozen pizza. I haven’t been eating the worst diet in the world, but I certainly could do better. Especially with lots and lots of miles on the docket for the next couple of months.

Today, I had the day off of work, and was in the middle of a glorious mid-afternoon sofa-loafing session when I was suddenly struck by: steak. A good steak. Filet. Nearly rare. OMG.

I don’t know where the idea came from, but suddenly I could think of nothing else.

You are going to change out of those pajama pants and put down that reheated frozen cheese pizza, I told myself, and go to the store. And then you’re going to make yourself a damn proper steak for dinner tonight.

Let’s not discuss the fact that this tiny hunk of filet cost almost $13 at the Whole Foods meat counter. It was exactly what I wanted, and as luck would have it, I nailed the preparation, cooking it to the exact level of almost-rare that I adore – and that is frustratingly difficult to communicate to most steakhouse servers. (Um, #firstworldproblems.) With some crispy butter-fried shallots, roasted fingerling potatoes, and some baby spinach, the whole plate was absolute perfection.

Just a little classier than my typical cracker-crumb-covered solo meal…

Sitting at the actual dinner table with a plate of real food made me realize how much I’ve missed the experience of dining rather than just snacking/eating. I realize how ridiculous that sounds, being that I’ve only been on my own here for a week. But eating alone is no excuse to be a total slob and eat garbage. I’ve been wallowing a little for the last few days. It was amazing how much better putting on a bra and making myself a nice meal made me feel.

A glass of damn proper Cab helped too:

I don’t often buy Cabs. It’s such a food-centric wine, and I generally prefer to stock my tiny rack with more versatile bottles: bottles that can be opened up with dinner, or stand alone if I just want to have a glass of red on its own.

But the Wine Sample Lady at Fresh Market was pouring this 2009 Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon a few days ago, and sipping it in the store, I really enjoyed it. It was smooth as velvet with lovely chicory and cherry notes, and it didn’t give me any cottonmouth. Just very…drinkable. So I picked up a bottle. Which was fortunate and timely, because it paired wonderfully with my steak tonight, and tasted even better after airing out for half an hour.

Bottom line: Get it! A solid affordable Cab. (Purchased at Fresh Market, $14.)

Anyway. I’m not sure what the point of this post is, other than to perhaps congratulate myself for putting on pants and using my stove today.

Perhaps I should revel in the laziness and just eat my cheese, because I’m sure that once I get down to Atlanta and am reunited with my dining partner, there will be gorging a-plenty. A whole new batch of restaurants to explore! We’ve been apart for two months! We just dealt with moving! Who wants a cocktail? We deserve it! 

Things that happened while I was not blogging

This Christmas, I was a slacker from the start. It was a solid 48 hours after I landed in Washington State that I even tried to connect my computer to the internet.

Eventually, I thought: I should probably do a blog. But when it became clear that the WiFi at my mom’s house wasn’t going to play nice with my laptop…well, it seemed like a great reason to take a little time off.

But I was thinking about you guys. I really was! If I had blogged during my little Christmas vacation, here’s what I would have blogged about. In title-plus-three sentences-format.

Friday, December 23: Fit ALL OF THE THINGS Into The Suitcase

I successfully finished my shopping. My suitcase was 54 pounds. Thanks, Continental, for letting that one slide.

Saturday, December 24: A Christmas (Eve) Miracle

The miracle is that blue sky. In Tacoma…in December! Too bad it disappeared with the sunset that afternoon (at, like, 3:30….Jesus H, PNW latitude!) and never reappeared, replaced by the gloomy perpetual drizzle that I remember so fondly from my childhood winters.

Sunday, December 25: Jubelale!

Family, food, and of course beer! Winter Warmers are irresistible, and boasting a 97 BeerAdvocate rating, Deschutes Brewery’s Jubilale is a fine representation of the style. Enjoyed one, then two, then…uh…. (Pilfered from the family fridge, 6.7% ABV)

Monday, December 26: Jubel…ail

Alternately titled: How to spend the day after Christmas loafing on the couch with a itty bitty kitty (literally…my mom’s cat is like four pounds) on your lap, watching way too many episodes of Property Virgins, which is a show you don’t even really like because it’s always in freaking Toronto, but you’re feeling too fetid to fetch the remote. And then rally and head to another Christmas celebration with even more boozing. Tis the season!

Tuesday, December 27: Mem-reeeeeeez

The day, chronologically:  (1) a run on my favorite high school trails; (2) a trip to the mall where I used to hang out as a dorky middle schooler; (3) happy hour with my dad at a gorgeous restaurant overlooking the sound; (4) a bottle of wine in my mom’s rec room while digging through a box of old childhood crap. That last one yielded some hilarious treasures which I’m excited to share with you very soon. And the wine – Darby’s Viognier Blend, from Washington’s Columbia Valley – was excellent.

Wednesday, December 28: Mad Gluttony

Lunch: sushi at Kikasu in Seattle, which included the the best Albacore and Red Snapper I’ve ever laid lips on. Dinner: a little bit of the South in the PNW, as I made a big batch of Rosemary Gorgonzola Grits (pictured) to go with our grilled ribeye steaks. Boarded an eastbound red-eye flight with distended bellies.

…and that brings us to today, which can pretty much be summed up thusly:

It was a good Christmas and a nice trip home to Washington, but I missed my CHUBBY KITTEH SNUGGLES.

I hope y’all had good holidays too! Til tomorrow…

Do not touch

I have the hardest time leaving my food alone while it’s cooking. Maybe it’s from watching too much Iron Chef.

For some reason, when I put something in a hot pan, I feel the urge to wave the pan around: a circular flourish, flames kissing the bottom of the skillet as I toss its beautifully-browned contents (exotic secret ingredients!) into the air and then effortlessly catch them again.

But of course, I’m no Iron Chef. And there are no flames leaping from my electric stove. And I don’t cook with exotic secret ingredients. And lord knows I cannot catch.

It’s kind of funny how the urge to stir and toss strikes when it’s exactly the opposite that’s needed. Tonight, as I hovered over a pan of cubed tofu, I had to constantly remind myself: Do not touch. Do not move that food. No spatula. No touch, no touch, no touchy touch touch.

The reward was well worth a little patience: perfectly browned cubes that had no problem standing up to a hearty curry sauce.

Recipe: Curry Noodles with Tofu [Adapted from a Food & Wine recipe for Vegetarian Red Curry Noodles, which I would argue is not actually vegetarian because it contains fish sauce…not that I really care, but DERP, F&W, get it right!]

Using pre-crushed garlic, ginger and lemongrass, this dish came together very quickly and was bursting with flavor: more like a spicy stir-fry than a traditional soupy curry.

A crisp white always goes well with spicy food:

This Cottesbrook 2010 Sauvignon Blanc was a good match. Tropical flavors dominated – pineapple, grapefruit, guava – which played nicely with my coconut-based dinner. Very much on the sweeter side of the scale, with a little hint of earthy gravel, and really none of the spicy green pepper that you often get from an SB.

Bottom line: If you don’t mind a sweeter/fruit-forward wine, then get it! (Purchased at Total Wine, $10)

Weather weirdness: today, it was eighty-something degrees. Tomorrow, it will be forty-something degrees.

HEY WEATHER, KNOCK IT OFF.  I don’t need to get sick two weeks before my marathon….

Grill marks make food taste better

So. I’m not the only one jabbing at my eardrums with Q-Tips on a daily basis. This actually makes me feel much better about the habit. Thanks for all of your comments on yesterday’s little slice of self-indulgence!

Also: it would probably help if I got the date of my upcoming marathon right. CIM is on SUNDAY, DECEMBER 4. Not December 3. How awkward would that be if I showed up on Saturday?

Anyway. I am on my own for dinners this week, which usually means cooking and eating all of the things that my husband doesn’t like.

Like, um…tofu:

I know you are thinking: OMG TOFU! What a special, special thing to treat yourself to! Nah. It’s just that it had been sitting in the fridge for a while and needed to be used up.

And it was actually pretty delicious because of MAH GRILL PAN and those little stripes. Seriously. Why is that? Does food actually taste better when it has grill marks – even if they’re semi-fake? Or is is psychosomatic? (Or is it just me?)

Soba noodles, mini sweet peppers (Costco again!) and a delicious easy peanut sauce made this a quick dinner for one. I marinated the tofu slices in a bath of equal parts soy sauce and apple cider vinegar with a little brown sugar and sriracha sauce. Then I combined the leftover marinade with peanut butter to make the sauce.

As a certifiable peanut sauce fanatic, I offer you this tip: the creamy, processed stuff makes way better sauce than the natural stuff.

Much smoother and creamier. Probably the mono- and diglycerides. Mmmmm, delicious.

I popped open a bottle of Chard to enjoy with dinner:

Lately, I’ve been doing my grocery shopping on Sunday evenings. Because this is when the wine distributor reps are getting ready to shut down their sample table and are therefore likely to give extra generous pours. Which happens to make shopping in a gigantic supermarket on a Sunday night much more pleasurable.

A couple of weeks ago, they were pouring a bunch of Penfolds wines. The Australian brand is well-known for churning out decent affordable reds, but I liked their whites, too! So much so that I picked up a bottle of their 2009 Koonunga Hill Chardonnay.

Very light and crisp. No butter in here and just a hint of oak. Very fruit-forward with peaches and apricots and a little touch of both citrus and something a little earthier, like a sweet ripe fig. Definitely an enjoyable bottle, and one I’d happily serve to guests!

Bottom line: Buy it! (Purchased at Harris-Teeter, $10).

Off to do some productive stuff with the rest of my Wednesday. See ya later!

The Dinner Dance: A Drama In Four Acts

To say that our cat, Parker, is food driven is an understatement – a trait clearly evidenced by his scale-tipping weight and swaying belly.

His vigil typically begins around 4 PM and lasts until the very second that slop of canned cat food finally lands in front of him, roughly five hours later. Every afternoon is like Christmas Eve for him, as he awaits the singlemost important event of his day: dinner.

To the untrained ear, it may just sound like a bunch of nonstop noise, a chorus of innocent kitten mews and threatening guttaral grunts all jumbled up together.

But Parker’s Dinner Dance, as well call it, has four distinct stages.

Stage One: Optimism.

We know that dinner is coming.  We just don’t know when.  Therefore, the best thing to do is just to sit in front of our dish and inquire constantly about its status.  

Stage Two: Doubt.

Something must be wrong.  Clearly there has been a mistake of some sort.  Is dinner, in fact, coming?  Let’s up the volume of the whining and see if that fixes things.

Stage Three: Despair.

LOOK AT THIS. SKIN AND BONES. We might die of hunger right here on this floor, right in front of this empty food dish while this STUPID HUMAN passes by the food cupboard like a MILLION TIMES.  This is intentional abuse. Someone call the ASPCA.

Stage Four: Revenge.

You’ll pay for your malice, human.

Of course, the moment Lord Fatass gets his food, everything is forgotten.  But it’s quite a show he puts on.  Oscar-worthy, really.

I often complain about his Dinner Dance because he is constantly underfoot when I’m trying to do chores and make dinner and stuff.  But the other day, I noticed it was remarkably quiet in the kitchen as night fell.  Something was wrong.

The fat cat was sleeping quietly on the sofa.  At 8 PM.  Something was very wrong.

He picked at his dinner that night.  However, it was the straining to pee the next morning that prompted a drop-everything trip to the vet.  As it turned out, our poor Parker had a raging bladder infection as well as some crystals in his urine. He was basically pissing out tiny shards of glass, which I’m sure was incredibly painful for him.  But fortunately, he didn’t have a blockage.  In male cats, a blocked urinary tract can become deadly in a matter of hours.

Why am I sharing this?  I don’t really know…other than as a quasi-PSA, I guess. Until our kitty started having these issues, I didn’t realize how potentially serious peeing problems are in cats, especially the boys.  A male cat who is straining to urinate or urinating very frequently should be taken to the vet (the emergency vet, if necessary) immediately.

So dealing with that has been a major consumer of my time over the last few days.  When cats have a urinary infection or another issue that makes doing their business painful, they usually start going outside of their litter box, as they associate the box with the pain.  (And as gross as this sounds, it’s actually kind of a blessing, because it gets your attention and alerts you to the fact that something is wrong.)

Anyway.  I need to make a Costco run to replenish my supply of Nature’s Miracle and paper towels, but I’m happy to say that our big guy appears to be on the mend.

I had the day off of work on Friday, and thought about cooking a fancy dinner. But with all that had been going on, it was just easier to throw together some [only slightly exotic] sandwiches.

I love a good Banh Mi!  This standard Vietnamese sandwich, consisting (traditionally) of pate and pickled vegetables on a fresh baguette, seems to have become standard fusiony food-truck fare in the last few years.  But I don’t care.  The combination of warm meat + cool tangy veggies + fresh herbs all wrapped up in crusty bread is pretty unbeatable.

I guess this is my contribution to the trend: Dirty South Banh Mi.

BBQ pork (Eastern Carolina style with lots of vinegar!) gets smothered in veggies soaked in apple cider vinegar and topped with crispy shallots (onions would work too).  Jalapenos give it a little kick. Sweet corn would be awesome on there, too.

And so my tired butt, weary from multiple trips to the vet, spent the night planted on the couch, scarfing this sandwich down.  And sipping a bottle of Chardonnay:

Nestled several thousand feet above sea level, Chile’s sleepy Aconcagua Valley is one of the highest-elevation wine regions in the world.  It’s not particularly well-known, and what press it does get seems to be for churning out reliable yet inexpensive reds, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon.

So this In Situ 2010 Chardonnay was kind of a surprise.   Perhaps reflecting the region in which its grapes were grown, this was a simple but very enjoyable wine.  Light notes of lemon and a little butter.  A touch of acid, but in pleasant way.  Perfectly drinkable and a great value wine!

Bottom line: Get it!  (Purchased at Fresh Market, $12.)

Off to bed I go.  It’s a wild Saturday night around here, with an early long run on tap tomorrow morning.  Good night!

Three seconds

I generally have limited tolerance for people whining about the accuracy of their race times.  And not just because of the whole Garmin/tangent problem.  But because, I think, weekend-warrior racing has become such technical endeavor. Did your chip hit all six timing mats?  Was your official time within milliseconds of what the gadget on your wrist said?  Quick, load up your phone’s web browser and check with Lord McMillan to see if you ran what you were supposed to run!  

Sometimes I miss those old-fashioned cross-country races where someone handed you a popsicle stick with a number on it as you crossed the finish line, and that was the end of it.

So, um…the fact that today’s race bugs me a little?  Bugs me a little.

During the usual pre-race teammate chatter, I’d stated that I’d be content with my time if I could just slip under six.  I ran 6:02 on the track a couple of months ago.  Although I hadn’t done much in the way of quality running since then, I’d logged decent maintenance mileage.  Totally reasonable.

The course for this afternoon’s Magnificent Mile was nice: a lollipop, with the loop portion circling the state capitol.  Relatively flat, with a couple of gentle grades during the second and third quarters of the race and a slightly downhill finish.

I lined up behind a throng of middle-school-looking kids in matching cotton t-shirts who were hogging the start line and prepared to throw elbows. Ugh.  Sorry, kiddos.  We’ve only got a few minutes to do this thing, and I’m not going to let you get in my way!

My confidence grew as I heard the splits called at each quarter: 84. 2:58. 4:30. I was running a fairly even race and picking people off left and right.  I hauled it down the home stretch, thinking there was no way I couldn’t grab a few extra seconds on the kick and come in under 6:00.

I saw a row of three fives on the clock as I headed into the chute and cranked out those last couple of strides to the timing mat.  5:55?  Worst case, 5:57 or something.  Sweet.

“Hey, you got it!  I saw you go across at 5:58!” A teammate slapped my sweaty shoulder as I chugged a cup of Gatorade.

“Nice work!  5:58!” shouted a coach from the other side of the finish area.

Satisfied with my sub-six performance, I headed out on a long cool down.  I thought to myself: you know what?  That was good.  Not my best race ever and certainly not a PR, but hey: I did what I set out to do.  I ran a consistent race and I passed a lot of people.  It was fun.

So why did my official time have to be 6:01?

Oh-ONE.  OH-ONE.  Seriously?  WTF?

Aaaand here we go.  This is exactly the sort of thing that I roll my eyes at when people start talking about what their finish time WAS versus SHOULD HAVE BEEN.  Because it does not matter.  There isn’t prize money or even a PR at stake here.  It’s just a three second discrepancy. That happens to span the barrier between a finish time that starts with a five and one that starts with a six.

But still.  WTF?  I guess everyone (including multiple people, spectating the race separately) had rose-colored glasses when they watched me cross.  And I still don’t understand how it could have taken me six seconds to travel approximately six feet, from when I last saw the clock to the timing mat.

You all should go ahead and tell me to take my own advice right now.

And to just be happy.  To be happy that I ran a good smart race.  To be happy that I can still run a six-minute mile (or thereabouts) with no formal training. To be happy that I earned a popsicle stick with THIRD PLACE written on it – in my age group, that is.

Oh well.

Prosecco makes me happy:

No need for an “occasion.”  Other than: I had dinner at this cute wine bar last night and was craving sparkling wine but didn’t like any of their by-the-glass offerings.  So I picked up a bottle at the grocery store after the race.

This Ecco Domani Prosecco is a little blah, but it does the job. There’s a little grapefruit, a touch of honey, and very perky carbonation that almost assaults the roof of your mouth.  And there’s something acidic that I can’t quite place.  I don’t know that I’d seek it out again, but this time around, it had two things going for it: one, it was pre-chilled (CANNOT WAIT FOR BOOZE TO COOL) and two, it was on sale for $8.  And for $8, it’s better than Cook’s or whatever.

Bottom line: Skip it…unless it’s on clearance. (Purchased at Harris Teeter, $8, regular price $12)

We had charcuterie for dinner tonight…

Which is a fancy way of saying we had cheese and crackers for dinner. Goat brie, grapes, spicy soppressata, sharp cheddar, and slices of toasted baguette brushed with olive oil and sea salt.  I also had a salad and some strawberries.

Off to relax with a book before bedtime…hope you had a great weekend!