Round Up

30 04 2005

Good – Being Julia
Bad – Bad Education
Fugly – Suspect Zero

Red – 2001 Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon
White – 2003 Dry Creek Vineyard Chenin Blanc
Bubbles – Schramsberg 2001 Blanc de Blancs (yes, I know: v unimaginative)

Caipirinha: Quarter a lime. Place lime quarters and 1 tbs of icing sugar in the bottom of a glass. Crush and mash the limes with a wooden spoon or pestle. Pout 1 shot of cachaca (or rum). Add crushed ice and stir well. Garnish with a lime wedge and serve before eating.


Perfect Napa

29 04 2005

Marriott Napa Valley Hotel and Spa
In-house Amadeus Spa with best price guarantee. Try the champagne rub.
Suite in Concierge room gives access to Concierge Lounge with lovely breakfast, bottomless bar and crunchy appetizers. Peasants can access same via outdoor patio behind Harvest Cafe. Daily free wine tasting in the Lobby. Helpful concierge Kenneth.
Bistro Don Giovanni dinner – ask for outside table near fountain and fire.

Wine Country Safari is a touring company specializing in appointment tours of small wineries in California-certified Clean Air Touring Vans that operate on clean0burning natural gas., eacn van accommodating 4-6 guests. The tour is typically seven (7) hours long and you end up visiting up to eight (8) wineries, which can be customized to your taste (vintage, region, budget). The charge is around $130 per person but remember you will need an additional $50 per person on tasting fees, picnic food, driver gratuities and incidentals.

Esperya offers wine country tours of different types: certain wine types, educational courses, wine bledning classes, tours of multiple wineries and barrel tasting. They organize cave dinners as well. Hess Collection has nice contemporary art gallery. Wines are middling to poor, mainly blends. Pourers are devoid of knowledge.

Bosko’s Trattoria
Brannan’s Grill
Calistoga Inn
Flatiron Grill
La Prima Pizza
Wappo Bar & Bistro

Uva Trattoria Italiana
Belle Arti
Bistro Don Giovanni
Sweet Pies
ABC – Alexis Baking Company
Villa Corona
Villa Romano
Zinsvalley: NO CORKAGE!!
Fume’ Bistro and Bar
Bombay Bistro: why are you eating Indian food in Napa?
Napa General Store
Pizza Azzurro
Pizzeria Vitte: NO CORKAGE!! 707-967-9999
Gillwoods Bakery & Cafe
Caffe Cicero
Cafe Society
Silverado Resort – Royal Oak
Red Rock Cafe
Julia’s Kitchen (at Copia)
Ristorante Allegria

Auberge du Soleil
La Toque
Rutherford Grill: NO CORKAGE!! 707.963-1792

St. Helena
CIA at Greystone
Dean & Deluca
Martini House
Model Bakery
Pinot Blanc: NO CORKAGE!!!
Silverado Brewing Company
Taylor’s Refresher
Tra Vigne
Trilogy 707.963-5507

Bistro Jeanty
Bouchon Bakery 707.944-2253
Domaine Chandon
French Laundry
Hurley’s Restaurant & Bar
Pacific Blues Cafe
Pere Jeanty

Hotel Listings:

Brannan Cottage Inn
Calistoga Inn
Christopher’s Inn
Calistoga Country Lodge
Calistoga Spa Hot Springs
Calistoga Village Inn & Spa
Calistoga Wayside Inn
Carlin Country Cottages
Casa Lana
Chateau de Vie
Chien Blanc
Comfort Inn
Cottage Grove Inn
Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort
The Elms
Eurospa & Inn
Foothill House
Garnett Creek Inn
Golden Haven Spa
Hideaway Cottages
Hotel d’Amici
Indian Springs Spa & Resort
La Chaumiere
Mountain Home Ranch
Mount View Hotel and Spa
Nance’s Hot Springs
Roman Spa Hot Springs
Scarlett’s Country Inn
Scott Courtyard
Silver Rose Inn & Spa
Stevenson Manor Inn
Trailside Inn
Brannan Cottage Inn
Washington Street Lodging

Arbor Guest House
Napa River Inn
Beazley House
The Daughter’s Inn
John Muir Inn
Boutique Resorts – Bel Abri
Blackbird Inn
Blue Violet Mansion
Candlelight Inn
Chablis Inn
Chateau Hotel, The
Cedar Gables Inn
Churchill Manor
Elm House Inn, Best Western
Fairway Condos at Silverado
Hawthorn Inn & Suites
Hennessey House
Hillrise Cottage
Hilton Garden Inn
Inn at the Vines, Best Western
Inn of Imagination
Inn on Randolph
La Belle Epoque
La Residence
Marriott, Napa Valley
Embassy Suites, Napa
McClelland Priest B & B
Milliken Creek Inn
Napa Inn
Napa Valley Redwood InnNapa Valley Redwood Inn
Napa Valley Travelodge
Oak Knoll Inn
Old World Inn
River Pointe Napa Valley
Silverado Resort
Stahlecker House
Auberge du Soleil
Rancho Caymus Inn

St. Helena
Adigio Inn
Ambrose Bierce House
El Bonita Motel
Elsie’s Conn Valley Inn
Bartels Ranch and B & B Country Inn
Castle in the Clouds
Forest Manor
Glass Mountain Inn
Harvest Inn
Hotel St. Helena
Ink House
Inn at Southbridge
Meadowood Resort
Oliver House
Shady Oaks Country Inn
Spanish Villa Inn
Vineyard Country Inn
Wine Country Inn
Wine Country Victorian & cottages
White Sulphur Springs Inn & Spa
Zinfandel Inn

Bordeaux House
Crossroads Inn
Lavender Inn – Four Sisters
Maison Fleurie – Four Sisters
Napa Valley Lodge
Oleander House
Petit Logis
Villagio Inn & Spa
Vintage Inn
Yountville Inn

Week in Wine

28 04 2005

My Sangria has always been very popular:

Classic Sangria
Pour 1 bottle chilled cabernet sauvignon into a ceramic pitcher and stir in 0.5C sugar with a wooden spoon (I use a bambo spatula). Take chunks of unpeeled washed wedged fruits (I use three (3) varieties of whatever is in season, typically seed [apple], stone [golden peach] and berry [raspberry]) and stir again. Let marinate at least 24 hours. Just before serving, pour in one (1) can each of orange and lemon fizzy drinks (I use orange crush and 7-up) and 1 standard tray of ice cubes. Stir and serve.

White Sangria
Boil 1C water, 0.5C sugar and 6 cinnamon sticks and let simmer for 5 minutes. Cool. Remove sticks after cooled. Chill overnight with 3 fruits (see above) and 1 bottle Pinot Grigio. Just before serving, pour in 1 bottle Cava (I use Freixenet) or Sparkling wine (I use champagne), 1C freshly squeezed orange juice (I use Safeway concentrate of white cranberry juice), crushed ice, golden raspberries and blood orange wedges. Garnish with mint leaves and serve.

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
2004 Amisfield Central Otago Sauvignon Blanc: $20
2004 Borthwick Vineyard Wairarapa Sauvignon Blanc: $18
2004 Craggy Range Winery Te Muna Road Vnyd Martinborough S. B.: $18
2004 Matariki Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc: $20
2004 Neudorf Nelson Sauvignon Blanc: $24
2004 Palliser Estate Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc: $19
2004 Pencarrow Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc: $14
2004 Te Kairanga Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc: $16
2003 Te Mata Cape Crest Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc: $21
2004 Te Mata Woodthorpe Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc: $19
2004 Torlesse Waipara Sauvignon Blanc: $18

2003 Dynamite Vineyards Kelsey Creek Lake County Sauvignon Blanc ($10)
2003 Fat Bastard Vin de Pays d’Oc Sauvignon Blanc ($10)
2003 Foxglove Edna Valley Chardonnay ($10)
2004 Twin Fin California Pinot Grigio ($10)

2003 Barahonda Yecla Monastrell ($10)
2002 Guardian Peak Western Cape Frontier ($10)
2002 Luna di Luna Delle Venezie Merlot-Cabernet ($9)
2004 Twin Fin California Pinot Noir ($10)
2002 Twin Fin California Pinot Shiraz ($10)
2003 Waterbrook Columbia Valley Melange ($10)

Caution: Wines listed are available but may not be in all stores. Start with local wine merchants, but also try larger stores. I get my wine from BevMo. Drinking during pregnancy is associated with birth defects.

Supper Club

27 04 2005

Music venues that serve food in the city

12 Galaxies
2565 Mission St (at 22nd St)
Pub grub

Bottom of the Hill
2170 Market St (at 15th St)
Bar food and Sunday BBQ

Cafe du Nord
2170 market St (at 15th St)
Full dinner. Bar food.

The Fillmore
1805 Geary Blvd (at Filmore)
Full dinner

Great American Music Hall
859 O’Farrell St (at Polk)
Full dinner. bar food.

Hotel Utah
500 Fourth St (at bryant)
Lunch, dinner and pub grub.

Three Parkside
1600 17th St (at Wisconsin)
Pub grub

333 11th St (at Folsom)
Full dinner. Pub grub

Dining London

26 04 2005

Most affordable foodies are accesible by Underground. The first trains began in 1863 and the first “tube” bored deep in the ground opened in 1890. Compared to the taxicab, it is a bargain. The shortest one-way trip in Central London costs about $4 but you can save with a seven-day pass for $35 (Zone 1) to $75 (Zones 1-6, which includes Heathrow). This Travelcard is good on all buses, prelcuding queues and waits for change. Pick up a Travelcard at any staffed Underground station. You need a passport-size photo (there are photo booths in larger stations) or buy a one day pass (no photo) for $9 (Zones 1 and 2 only) but you cannot use this before 0930 on weekdays. Remember if any of the days you buy your 3day Travelcard is a weekend or observed holiday, it is cheaper to buy three (3) one-day travelcards. Oystercards are for UK residents only.

Baker & Spice
45-56 Elizabeth St; 020-7730-3033
tube: Sloane sqr, Victoria
closed Sunday

Inn the Park
St James’ Park; 020-7451-9999
tube: Charing Cross

Lisboa Patisserie
57 Goborne road (north end of Notting Hill); 020-8968-5242
tube: Labdroke Grove

287 Upper Street; 020-7288-1454
tube: Angel

St. John Bread & Wine
94-96 Commercial St; 020-7288-8724
tube: Liverpool street

202 Westbourne Grove (in Nicole Farhi shop in Notting Hill); 020-7727-2722
tube: Notting hill Gate

E Pellicci
332 Bethnal Green road; 020-739-4873
tube: Bethnal Green. Closed Sunday

Monmouth Coffee Company
27 Monmouoth Street; 020-7379-3516
tube: Leicester Sqr

Monmouth Coffee Company Cafe
2 Park St (edge of Borough market); 020-7645-3585
tube: London bridge

Amaya (lamb)
Halkin Arcade, 19 Motcomb St; 020-7823-1166
tube: Knightsbridge

Painted Heron (seafood)
205-209 Kennington Ln; 020-793-8313
tube: Kennington, Vauxhall

New Asian Tandoor Center (tandoori)
114-118 The Green; 020-8574-2597
Madhu’s (punjabi)
39 South Road; 020-8574-1897
train: 20 min from Paddington to Southall

Cinnamon Club (steak)
Old Westeminster Library, 30-32 Great Smith Street; 020-7222-2555
tube: Westminster, St James’ Park

Chowki (street food)
34 Highgate Hill; 020-7439-1330
tube: Piccadilly Circus

Sagar (south Indian)
157 King Street; 020-8741-8563
tube: Hammersmith

Rasa Samudra (Kerala)
5 Charlotte St; 020-8741-8563
tube: Goodge Street

Kastoori (Gujarati)
188 Upper Tooting Road; 020-8767-7027
tube: Tooting Bec

1200-1800 Friday; 0900-1600 Saturday
tube: London Bridge or, walk across Thames from North Bank: Cannon st
Apulia Blend: Italian
Arabica: Falafel
Booth’s Mushroom: wild fungi
&Clarke’s: baked goods
Cool Chile Company: tacos
De Gustibus: Bread
Elsey and Bent: tropical fruits and vegetables
English Preserves: interesting jams
Flour Power: baked goods

Konditor and Cook (10 Stoney street): cakes and pastries
Neals’ Yard Diary (6 Park street): artisanal cheeses
Tapas Brindisa (18-20 Southwark St): Spanish
Wine Wharf (1 Bank End): wines by the glass

Busaba Eathai (Thai)
106-110 Wardour Street; 020–7255 8686
tube: Piccadilly Circus

Hakkasan (Chinese)
8 Hanway place; 020-7907-1888
tube: Tottenham Court road

Yauatacha (Chinese)
15 Broadwich Street; 020-7494-8888
tube: Piccadilly Circus

Maison Bertaux
28 Greek Street (Soho): 020-7437-6007
tube: Leicester Sqr

Parlour at Sketch
9 Conduit Street; 0870-777-4488
tube: Oxford Circus

The Wolseley
160 Piccadilly; 020-7499-6996
tube: Green Park

Thames Clippers:
from Savoy Pier (Victoria Embankment) to Canary Wharf in 30 minutes, stopping at bankside (Tate Modern) and London Bridge (Borough Market)

Tate Boat:
Tate Britain with Tate Modern, stopping at the London Eye

Impossible Dream

25 04 2005

Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, has printed one million (1,000,000) copies of Don Quixote to hand them out free in public squares for the improvement of his citizens: a misguided and adorable project which itself is ironically quixotic. Don Quixote is a novel by the Spanish Authors Miguel de Cervantes and often considered the finest book in Spanish. Today is the 400th anniversary of this book. Quixotic means “idealistic and “impractical”. We also get “tilting at windmills” from this story.

The novel is made of two parts:
(i) El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (published in Madrid in 1605) and
(ii) Segunda parte del ingenioso caballero Don Quijote de la Mancha (1615)
Between these two (2) parts, a fake sequel was published and the true second part has several references to an impostor. Part II ends with the death of Mr. Quixote so no sequel is possible.

Alonso Quijano (Quesada) is an ordinary Spaniard or hidalgo. He takes the name of Don Quixote and becomes a knight errant (quixote is a piece of armor). He sorties to wander Spain on his thin horse Rocinante, righting wrongs and protecting the oppressed. He is visibly crazy to most believing inns to be castles and peasant girls to be princesses, especially Dulcinea del Toboso, to whom he pledges love and fidelity. Sancho Panza, his simple squire, knows the truth but plays along for the money. Many adventures ensure: they meet criminals sent to the galleys and are vicitims of an elaborate prank set by a pair of Dukes. Each undergoes personality trades as the novel progresses. Upon his death, Mr. Quixote decided his actions have been madness.

Most American audiences are familiar with Sheena Easton in the musical Man of La Mancha but if you read the book you would know that Dulcinea (Aldonza Lorenzo) is never seen in the book. She is invoked constantly as his lady but she never appears allowing his hyperbolic statements of her beauty and virtue to go untested.

Sidebar: Foodies like me know la Mancha for manchego viejo cheese (big in 2002) and its annual saffron festival (“Azafran de la Mancha”), usually the last weekend in October.
Manchego comes form the milk of Manchego sheep, has to be aged more than3 months to be viejo, is semifirm with a rich golden color and comes in a 10″ diameter wheel, 5″ thick with a herringbone design on the rind. It is mild to sharp, depending on aging, and pairs well with a good Tempranillo based wine such as Rioja or Ribera de Duero.

Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice. It is the stigmata from the Crocus Sativus flower, only three (3) threads per flower and needs hand harvesting. It takes 13,125 threads per ounce. I am Indian so I put saffron in everything I can. Some tips:
* buy one (1) gram at a time unless youa re Indian
* buy whole saffron and not powdered
* store in a cool dark place with a tight lid
* saffron goes bad in three (3) years
* toast or grind before use
* do not use too much at a time
* soaking: crush threads and soak in boiling water for 20 minutes before use
* toasting: whole threads in cast iron skillet before they burn, then grind to powder
* crumbling: soaking in a tablespoon of boiling water enhances flavor

Passover Afikomen

24 04 2005

L & J invited me for my first Seder. Afikomen (“dessert”) is a recent custom based on Talmud Pesachim 109a which describes a Matzot grabbing so that the children stay alert and do not fall asleep.

Passover is the 8 day observance commemorating the freedome and exodus of Israelites (Jewish slaves) from Egypt under Ramses II. It begins on the 15th day of Nissan (a Jewish month). Tonight was the second night of Passover.

As per Exodus, Moses, a simple Jewish shepherd, was instructed by G_d to go to Pharoah and demand the freedom of his people. As his plea was ignored, ten (10) terrible plagues were unleashed upon the Egyptians, each with a scientific basic in fact:
1. Blood
Teutonic plate shifts or submarine volcanic activity turned the river Nile toxic and red in color from a freshwater algal bloom called Pfiesteria, a unicellular organism secreting neurotoxins called the red tide, that stuns fish and eats away at their flesh tipping a delicate ecosystem.
2. Frogs
Massive death of fish frees the spawn of frogs from their natural predators causing an inordinate surge in frogs that flee the toxic waters and migrate in huge numbers on to land (they are amphibious) where they due, decompose and cause the great stink. Toads of the genus Bufo are common, hugely prolific and draw towards sources of light and heat.
3. Lice (vermin)
Some translations talk of gnats. Culicoides canithorax, a biting midge, is associated with viral infections in both animals and humans. Naturally quelled by frogs, they are now free to multiply without interference from their natural predators.
4. Wild Beasts (flies)
All those dead fish and putrefying frogs lying around in the Egyptian heat are heaven sent for the stable fly that can produce large swarms and can bite, leaving open puncture wounds that expose the victims to secondary infection.
5. Blight (cattle disease)
An epizootic outbreak affecting animals but sparing humans are horse sickness and bluetongue, spread by the Culicoides midge and affecting horses, mules, donkeys, cattle, sheep and goats. Note how the camel is spared! Culicoides is a weak flier so herds and flocks outside the distribution range (such as in Goshen) may have escaped.
6. Boils
With all these biting insects and purveyors of disease, skin eruptions would break out on animals and humans alike, probably from Pseudomonas mallei that is highly contagious and can affect animals and humans causing suppurative adenitis (glanders) using the stable fly as the carrier
7. Hail
Violent hailstorms are a disastrous coincidence, often more than 5 inches in diameter and levaing one meter of ice in their wake.
8. Locusts
The desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria, can swarm in huge numbers and ocnsume every vegetation in their path. A one-square-mile swarm can contain 200 million locusts and travel depnends entirely on wind conditions.
9. Darkness
The Khamsin, a hot southerly wind sweeping in from the Sahara, creates fierce sandstorms, lasts up to three (3) days and can bury entire buildings with fine sand blotting out the sun in a dark, dusty haze. Typically occurring in March, san accumulations prevents occupants from leaving through blocked exits.
10. Slaying of the First Born
Egyptians rush to save wet crops that are contaminated by locust feces that introduce mycotoxins that thrive in damp and fetid sand-covered grain stores. The mold Stachybotrys atra creates a toxin, macrocyclic tricothenes, that causes massive alveolar and GI hemorrhage, resulting in ARDS and exsanguinating sudden death when ingested in small amounts. Among animals, the most dominant would feed the first. Among humans, faced with drought, the firstborn humans would be fed first and even receive double portions. Poisoning may occur by breathing the unventilated air of grain stores or eating food prepared with it. Deeper stores may be unaffected by the surface growing-mold. Israelites’ understanding of food hygiene and elements of the passover meal (newborn lamb, herbs, unleavened bread) are safe from mycotoxin contamination.

Pesach (“passing over”, “protection”) derives from instructions to mark their dwellings with lamb blood to facilitate identification of Jewish homes that would be passed over by the Angel of Death. Pharoah did not budge until the last plague. When the slaves finally left their homes, there was insufficient time to bake bread so they packed raw dough for the journey ahead. The desert sun baked them into hard crackeers called matzoh. To celebrate this liberation, lavish dinners called Seders are held on the first two (2) nights. Prior to the Seder, the home is cleaned and cleared of all yeast foods (hametz) by consumption or sale. Only kosher foods are permitted with no leavened (yeast-containing) foods or grains.

At each place setting is the Book of Exodus (Haggadah) which is read and celebrated with story and song. The youngest child (effort to pass on tradition) answers questions of Passover:
* Why is this night different?
* Why do we eat unusual foods?
* Why do we dip green herbs in saline?
* Why do we open doors?
* Why do we hide and then eat the Afikomen?
* Why do we lean on a pillow tonight? (reminds us that once we were slaves and now are free)

Three (3) pieces of matzoh are placed in a Matzoh cover. Before the meal begins, the middle matzoh is removed and broken in half. One half is returned and the other (Afikomen) is hidden to be hunted by children at the end to win a special meal. This is probably to include children in the festivities. The centerpiece is the Seder plate containing foods with special meaning:
1. Haroseth: Chopped walnuts, wine, cinnamon and apples to represent the mortar of the Jewish slaves used to assemble Pharoah’s bricks. Ashkenazi and Sephardic variants
2. Parsley (dipped in dilute brine): springtime (saline of tears of the slaves)
3. Roasted egg: reminder of the sacrifices made by slaves (unclear reference)
4. Shank bone: marrow used to mark the outside of the home
5. Bitter herbs: freshly grated horseradish for the bitter affliction of slavery

During the Seder, four (4) glasses of wine were poured to represent the staged of Exodus:
1. freedom
2. deliverance
3. redemption
4. release
I think our end of the table (the noisy end, if you should know) drank a little more than that. The wine served was 2001 Cab Sauv from Topel by the proprietors themselves, who were absolutely delightful persons. A fifth cup was poured and placed as offering for the prophet Elijah (a door or window is opened to invite him him)

After the meal is eaten, children search for the Afikomen. When they do and everyone has eaten a piece of it, it is time to clean up.

Haroset recipe: