Zuni Café: unexpected splurge

(Last) Tuesday the 25th, after dropping off my bags at the Metro Hotel & returning my rental car, some prints I'd stopped to pick up at Wolf's Photo (by the Safeway on Market Street) needed to be redone, so I thought I'd take the couple of hours waiting time to grab some warm lunch & ward off the creeping, foggy chill in the grey San Francisco afternoon.

Bistro Clovis, my sentimental choice, was unexpectedly closed so I backtracked uphill & walked into Zuni Café for the first time since having their celebrated roast chicken & some breaded artichokes back in 1998 or so.
It seemed to me then that Zuni was great if you had deep pockets & didn't mind somewhat overpriced, European-styled comfort food, but the day's menu had some tempting choices that piqued my interest & overcame any lingering hesitation to bring me inside:
Following through on my initial impressions from the menu, I chose what turned out to be a delicious, seasonal root vegetable soup-- chiefly celery root & parsnip, I was told-- & a tasty salad of rabbit & bitter greens, near-perfect in its balance of acidic, bitter, & fatty elements.

I paired the first course with a surprising discovery: the 'Osteiner' grape is a cross between Riesling & Sylvaner, & Rippon Vineyards of New Zealand biodynamically grows & vinifies a delicious wine from it in Central Otago. The nose was initially poised between crisp Granny Smith, & softer, sweeter Golden Delicious apple, with some subtle citrus & apricot blossoming gradually in the glass & continuing on the palate. The lingering aftertaste had a distinct tart-sweet tangerine brightness...really lovely wine!
The impression was admittedly heightened by the serendipity of the pairing: the subtle fruit & pitch-perfect acidity were set off by the earthy creaminess of the soup. I made my wine selections, as usual, partly from economic considerations & mostly out of curiosity. I felt less secure about my second choice: another white might have been more appropiate, but having never tried any of Jean-Louis Chave's wines, I felt compelled to fill the serious gap in my Rhône curriculum. The 'Mon Coeur' bottling the Café offered by the glass is a Côtes-du-Rhône Grenache-Syrah blend sourced from outside domains. Forest floor & leather dominated the tart cherry in both aroma & taste, lending it a character more usually associated with Pinot Noir. Having had similarly 'bretty' expressions of Rhône variety-based wines before, I took note, & drank on...
The wine paired well enough with my light main dish, even if it by no means meshed in as tightly rich a weave as the earlier match. Only after splurging on some Port & going even further out on a limb, taking some Nocino* with my espresso, did I notice as took a deep breath & examined the check, that I was being billed for a $13 glass of Pinot Noir. Indeed, it seems I'd been misunderstood & served the Domaine Gros Frère & Soeur's 2006 Haute Côtes de Nuits. I ended up spending about $35 for the drink portion of my repast compared with $22 for the actual meal courses. It's these occasions that make me yearn for Spain or Argentina, even if the restaurant selections by the glass, especially in the country of Malbec & mate, are usually frustratingly limited to local product striving to ape the 'International Style' on low budget oak chips...

(à suivre...)


Black Friday Wine Scraps?

I've been doing woefully little to earn my wine blogger stripes lately, & Thanksgiving was no exception...eight different wines, & no tasting notes to show for it--!

An intensive, 10-day cycle of 5-6 oz. of Echinacea-Golden Seal extract a day seems to have helped in strengthening my immune system & finally loosening my chest congestion. I've never been as strangely happy as I was coughing up a gob of phlegm on Thanksgiving morning-- the sense of release to my lungs was immediate.

My friend Mark, author of the Danger Boy series, invited me to join him at a lovely dinner hosted by his friend & boss, Patrick Graham, publisher of Below the Line, 'providing an insider's reverence for the craft of filmmaking with all the humor and intelligence of the craftspeople it celebrates'...this was no Hollywood turkey! Patrick is a dedicated amateur chef, & Mark's elder son Eli performed admirably as sous-chef, delivering the moistest, tastiest bird I've had in many a holiday season.

Proceedings got started with some Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau in the kitchen, followed by a pink blend from Provence, then Château Clerc-Milon, 2005 vintage, I believe...I sipped some Cru Beaujo throughout the main, sit-down event-- my first Régnié since a glass at Brasserie Le Carrefour in Paris in 1995...didn't like it as much as some '02 Chénas I discovered a couple of years ago...opened some Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine & white Côtes du Rhône to pair with the Humbolt Fog & Fiscalini cheeses I contributed, then went on to my own wine contribution: a big Petit Sirah from Lake County, a Cougar's Leap 2001 still young & dense with discrete blueberry & clove wrapped up in coal-tar minerality & alum-chalk tannins that painted & puckered up your gums for minutes after swallowing...just before heading home we tasted 'Triple C', an unusual, Cab Franc-based blend from Santa Rita in Valle del Maipo, Chile. I was just reminded the upcoming Wine Blogging Wednesday is focused on Chile & this is a likely candidate for more studied sipping...

--à suivre...


Overwhelmed & Under the Weather

Yikes. I'm just a wee bit worried...after a week's rest & recovery at Sam & Karen's in Lakeport, (seemingly fruitful on the evidence of a 45-minute hill run in Glen Ellen almost a-- over two weeks ago by now, back on Thursday 6 November) it took me a whole day of feeling like I was coming down with a flu all over again to recover from a couple glasses of wine more than my usual couple this last (?) Thursday...
Monday the 17th I went for a same-day roundtrip drive to the Paso Robles area, to retrieve some wines from their climatised storage at El Camino Wine Lockers in Atascadero. Oof.

Been missing on all the activity throughout the wine blogosphere deriving from the energy & Internet eyeball boost from the Wine Bloggers Conference-- almost--er, over a month ago!

I'm at the Jack London Lodge in Glen Ellen, still recovering from a gloriously grueling hike instigated & led by Russ 'Winehiker' Beebe. Nine of us spent six very full hours, from nine in the morning until three o'clock in the afternoon last Saturday, to cover the ten miles up to Table Rock & around the Palisades rockface, on the slopes of Mount St. Helena, just North of Calistoga.

Meanwhile, the slow burn in my throat has subsided & I'm blowing a bit of snot out my nose-- would the heightened histamine level in my system from a big, itchy allergic rash reaction to some insect bites have anything to do with my immune defenses finally 'kicking in'??

But this is not at all what's foremost on my mind. My buddy Sam, mentioned above-- guitar-playing, bass-fishing, idiosyncratic self-made chef & host extraordinaire of the Arbor House Inn, is recovering from a stroke as of last Wednesday. He's well enough that he could send me an email himself with the news, but Karen details his right side is all somewhat affected & he will have to undergo physical therapy...I keep harping on my Dad's inspirational story of Georg-Friedrich Haendel's recovery, & how struggling to remaster organ-playing technique was his principal therapy...from the Wikipedia entry on the composer:

...On April 1737, at age 52, he suffered a stroke or some other malady which left his right arm temporarily paralysed and stopped him from performing. He also complained of difficulties in focusing his sight. Handel went to Aix-la-Chapelle, taking hot baths and playing organ for the audience.[11] Handel gave up operatic management entirely in 1740, after he had lost a fortune in the business. Following his recovery, Handel focused on composing oratorios instead of opera. Handel's Messiah was first performed in New Musick Hall in Fishamble Street, Dublin on 13 April 1742, with 26 boys and five men from the combined choirs of St Patrick's and Christ Church cathedrals participating...

I can only hope to visit & make myself a useful guest sometime between Thanksgiving & my Christmas return to La Isla del Encanto...continuará...



incertidumbre dura regla de juego
acatada en el umbral de la luz
y sombra indiferente con, bajo, ante
su absoluta contradicción

(o ciego amor anónimo)

imposible comoquiera olvidar
a los pececitos de colores
o restituir su reluciente tono
sin tapar y cubrir sus escamas
sin sellar sus agallas de vida

imposible negar la preñez
de pajaritos en sueños



carcelarias rayas de texto
pretenden alzar la voz y marcar
preguntas en el tierno susurro

la piel del pecado sella
la fuente urgente del mensaje
dejando escapar solamente
una gotera detergente
por el culo y un accidente
de lavado por los poros

alguna luna se escapa el suero
racionado del amor
por la pobre acequia de los ojos



Views across Clear Lake

Woke up Monday with a sticky-swollen throat-- again. Seems I'm not out of the woods with this lingering virus or whatever it may be, & the weekend activities took a toll on my immune system. Precisely yesterday, I ran out of some Echinacea-Golden Seal extract that seemed to be doing a nice job of keeping a full-blown flu at bay.

Hallowe'en I spent mostly on a barstool, quietly nursing some Hennessey in a mini-snifter at Carlos & Vinny's while friend & Arbor House owner-host Sam wailed on guitar with Blind Monkey. Struck up a conversation with a local firefighter who had broad work experience related to water resource management. I touched a nerve when the issue of vineyard irrigation practices came up: he'd crossed words with a famous Napa vinegrower whose Lake County holdings top the thousand acres. Seems the drip-irrigated, high-density plantings pioneered & favored by the Beckstoffer viticulture machine are a drain on said resources, impairing availability to smaller growers & possibly depleting the water table.
From the Beckstoffer Vineyards website:

'...As a result of his willingness to experiment with closer spacing, innovations in pruning and trellising, and his introduction of drip irrigation, the vineyards of Andy Beckstoffer are some of the most technologically advanced in Napa Valley, and he is in the process of integrating these innovations into Lake County...The conventional wisdom that reasonable quantity and super premium quality are incompatible has been challenged. Canopy management techniques that include new methods in pruning, trellising, and vine spacing have brought improved access to sunlight, resulting in increases in both quality and tonnage. Adding drip irrigation has opened up whole sections of the Carneros region to new plantings. Sustainable agriculture has brought new life to soils and vineyards...' (My emphasis) Arguably, drip irrigation in & of itself can only by a stretch be considered a sustainable practice. In Lake County's Red Hills, from a local perspective that stretch might be close to a breaking point.

On waking Saturday I was troubled by a persistent, foggy sluggishness I attributed to the previous night's alcohol intake. (I did pour a couple glasses worth of the River of Skulls with a possibly too-light dinner before heading out & sitting down to the cognac.) My response was to overcaffeinate in grand & luxurious manner, as Sam had just taken delivery of a pound of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee from his longtime supplier, Freed, Teller & Freed. Long story short, I felt anxious, fueled & vigorous enough that the short, light jog I had planned, taking advantage of a break in the persistent drizzle, lengthened into a 45 minute course along the lake.

(One of the less positive impressions I took home from my discovery of this area was the overwhelming dominance of private property on the lakefront & the curtailment of public access. This acted as a prod to walking a more activistic walk concerning such issues in Puerto Rico...but that is 'flour from a different sack'-- & longterm grist for the blogmill.)

(à suivre...)

Story of my Life...with a musical interlude by Joaquín Sabina

(David's Chinese Zodiac Sign - The Wood Horse)

In love, even though destiny puts charming persons on your way, you may very well discourage them; indeed, you'll expect so much from others without making any effort yourself that they'll believe you to be indifferent. Try not to give in to carelessness, muddling, or discouragement if certain of your undertakings do not meet with success according to your desires. You'll feel misunderstood; this will be all the more painful to you as you'll have the clear impression that others don't in the least try to understand you.

One of my favorite songs of all time. Maybe only the arias 'Nessun Dorma' from Turandot & 'E Lucevan le Stelle' from Tosca-- operas composed by Giacomo Puccini, both of them-- are lodged deeper in my melancholy heart.