Wednesday, July 30, 2008
White Bordeaux is not something I probably would have thought to purchase unless I tasted it first. There are a couple reasons for this: 1) I have only just recently began to be comfortable enough to navigate the French waters without the help of The Earle's Stevie G.; and 2) white Bordeaux has not enjoyed the best reputation over the past years - at least, not the drier varieties.
However, white Bordeaux seems to be enjoying a renaissance. Nice, dry white Bordeaux can be found for under $20 a bottle.
Julie's 2006 Chateau Guiraud Bordeaux Blanc - which retails for about $16 a bottle - was one of these. Comprised of Sauvignon blanc and sémillon grapes, it packed a punch from the start. Smelling it was like sticking my nose into an herb garden. Tasting it was even better.
No sooner did I return from South Haven singing the praises of Chateau Guiraud than our local wine store Thames River Wine and Spirits put a similarly priced white Bordeaux on the tasting menu for a recent Friday night. The Chateau La Rame Bordeaux Blanc 2007 proved to be a dry Sauvignon blanc with some nice, crisp citrusy notes. It was not as heavy or intriguingly spiced as the Guiraud, but I definitely enjoyed it.
So, here I am, still trying to track down the Guiraud, enjoying my recently purchased Chateau La Rame, when the New York Times publishes this article: White Bordeaux: Oft-Forgotten Bliss
The article talks about the recent improvements in dry Bordeaux blancs and encourages wine drinkers to seek them out as a more affordable alternative to white Burgundy. I say give it a try! Ask your local wine store what they would recommend or see if you can find either of the wines mentioned in this blog - both retail around $16/$17 per bottle. Let me know what you think!
Monday, July 28, 2008
Actually, I joined the ranks of the nerds a few years ago while working at the Earle in Ann Arbor. One of our line cooks, Curtis Sullivan, happened to be the owner of Vault of Midnight, the comic book store downtown. My day job at the time was at the Ann Arbor News, and sometimes on my lunch hour I would get bored and go hang out at the comic book store.
Curtis was the one who introduced me to the Sin City graphic novels. Since I had thought the movie was incredibly cool, it wasn't a hard sell. I collected three of them, all of which I lost in my breakup with Randy.
Anyway, I hadn't really given graphic novels much thought since then. Sure, I see all the comic book movies and would even go as far as to say that some of them (the first two Spiderman movies, Iron Man, and the recent Batman movies come to mind) have a ton more plot and character development than a lot of other source material. But I didn't really think about reading any more graphic novels until we went to see Dark Knight and saw the trailer for something called Watchmen.
I have to admit, I was baffled by trailer. I could tell it was supposed to be big, and important, and I thought I saw Denny from Grey's Anatomy in there. But I didn't get it, and I didn't really care - I was 100% invested in the Batman hype.
But later on when I was looking up Twilight coverage from Comic-Con (I told you I was already a nerd), "Watchmen" tidbits kept popping up.
It took being bored at work - I mean, bored on my LUNCH HOUR - to really investigate. I Googled "watchmen" to see what I could come up with and found out that it is apparently the most important graphic novel of all time. Amazon gave me a brief and totally unsatisfying synopsis, so I turned to Wikipedia. I knew comic fans wouldn't let me down on a medium like Wikipedia, and they didn't. I not only found incredibly detailed plot synopsis, but all kinds of character information and back story. (Main "Watchmen" Wikipedia page here.)
By the time I had Wikipedia'd each of the main characters, I pretty much knew I was going to end up buying the book. Curiosity got the best of me. So I ordered a used copy from Amazon and it should be here in a few days.
I'll keep you updated as I descend into nerdiness.
(And I don't really think that there's anything wrong with reading graphic novels - I just needed a catchy opening line.)
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Anyway, when you are always seen with a book in your hand, it goes without saying that people ask you for recommendations. I've been asked several times to post my "must read" list on the blog, but I've refrained from doing so because I know the minute I hit "post" I'm going to think of four or five books I should have added and by the time I'm done the list will have forty-seven books on it.
However, I have decided that there is no harm in posting some recent recommendations from time to time. So, for those of you who have requested it - Amy's July Reading Recommendations. Let me know if you like them! And by the way - I am always looking for recommendations myself, if you have any suggestions...
For Foodies/Restaurant Employees/Home Chefs:
Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
Ruth Reichl came from L.A. to the east coast to take over as the food critic for the New York Times - which, you find out from this book, can be a pretty thankless job. After her first review she became more or less the most hated woman in New York City. She was also fairly recognizable, thanks to her mane of curly hair and the fact that the NYT put her picture on a billboard prior to her arrival. In order to experience restaurants as an average customer, Reichl enlists the help of an older acquaintance and a wig shop owner. Reichl's accounts of her various disguises are amusing and her food writing is nothing short of delectable. You'll also thank her for steering the NYT dining section away from reviewing only stodgy formal restaurants and toward exploring smaller neighborhood places and ethnic offerings. Reichl may have left the paper to be the editor of Gourmet magazine, but her influence is still all over the dining section.
Buy it here on Amazon.
For History Buffs/Royal Watchers/Tabloid Readers:
Sex With Kings and/or Sex With the Queen
Written in a dishy, gossipy style, these accounts of European monarchs and their sordid affairs is at times hilarious, outrageous, and eye-opening. The amount of influence a royal lover could have over political procedure is almost appalling. Honestly, Charles and Camilla are the most boring of the bunch. I thoroughly enjoyed both books, but actually prefer Sex With the Queen - often there was more at stake when a queen was keeping a lover and these relationships were generally carried out with more secrecy. Today's celebrities and politicians don't even know the meaning of the term "sex scandal."
Buy it here on Amazon.
Classy People/Travel Buffs/People with ongoing home improvement projects:
A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence
A British writer and his wife buy a house in the French countryside. Doesn't sound that interesting, does it? Well, Mayle's accounts of adjusting to the French timetable (projects begun in the summer often don't end until the next fall), the French lunch hour (make it two hours five courses) and a more or less totally unstructured lifestyle is fascinating. Mayle has a dry British wit that I find incredibly appealing on paper, and his descriptions of the characters, the scenery, and most of all the food will have you lusting after his lifestyle. You will cringe when his English friends infringe on his hospitality and drool over every meal description. Enjoy this book with a glass of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Buy it here on Amazon.
For Everyone - I can not recommend this book highly enough:
Water for Elephants
This is not exactly a recent recommendation - I read it last summer while house-sitting in Kalamazoo. Those of you who know me know that I NEVER cry at books/movies/etc. Well, the staff and patrons of Water Street Coffee Joint would never believe that because they watched me cry on and off through this whole book (not like, SOB or anything - just get a little teary-eyed). Water for Elephants is the best book I have read in a long time.
Set in depression-era America, Water for Elephants tells the story of Jacob, an aspiring veterinarian stripped of his resources by an unexpected tragedy. Jacob hops a train in the middle of the night, not realizing that he has accidentally hopped the train of a traveling circus. Before long, he is drafted into duty as the show's vet. Jacob finds himself caught in a love triangle with a beautiful horsewoman and the schizophrenic ringmaster amidst dealing with the everyday cruelties of the circus lifestyle.
Gruen's research and attention to detail are amazing. The notes in the back of the book are as fascinating and as sad as the fictional narrative (FYI if you read them - be prepared to be VERY upset with Thomas Edison). Men might be tempted to stay away from this one because it sounds like a sappy love story, but I promise you, this is historical fiction at it's best.
Buy it here on Amazon.
I hope these brief synopsis' encourage you to give some of these books a try. I'll post some more recommendations in August, and please let me know about any good books you've read as well!
Friday, July 25, 2008
Part of the reason Ewan is so swoon-worthy in Moulin Rouge – besides being HOT and having a hot accent – is because his character, Christian, is a very appealing character. It got me thinking about some of my other favorite fictional characters (who also happen to be handsome men). So, without any further adieu, I give you Five Movie Men Worth Loving:
When it comes to pure, classic charm, George Clooney ain’t got nothin’ on Carey Grant, and Carey is at the height of that charm as C.K. Dexter Haven, the rich playboy ex-husband of Tracy Lord (Katherine Hepburn). Besides having a most excellent name, C.K. Dexter Haven is handsome, witty, clever, and just a lot of fun all-around. Who wouldn’t love him?
4) Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando), On the Waterfront (1954)
Terry Malloy is the complete opposite of C.K. Dexter Haven in everything except good looks. Where Dexter is rich, Terry is poor. Where Dexter is a suave society man, Terry is a washed-up boxer working on the docks. Dexter mingles with socialites, Terry mingles with the mob. So what’s so great about Terry Malloy? He is the ultimate brooding, misunderstood, trying-to-make-it-right guy you’re going to find in the movies. Plus, where Dex is handsome, Terry Malloy is sexy. It makes watching Marlon Brando’s later movies that much harder.
3) Captain Georg Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer),
The Sound of Music (1965)
Let me start by saying that Captain Von Trapp is not sexy upon his first appearance in The Sound of Music. He is kind of weird looking, and an asshole, AND has seven children to boot. This does not add up to sexiness. But Captain Von Trapp grows on you. Maybe it’s the singing. Maybe it’s that whole not-giving-in-to-the-Nazis thing. Maybe he just looks good in a fedora. All I know is every time I get to the end of The Sound of Music, I’m pretty much willing to escape to
2) Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), Gone With the Wind (1939)
If you don’t think Rhett Butler is sexy, well, you’re just dumb. Yes, he is pompous and selfish and arrogant…and witty and passionate and did I mention extremely good-looking? Bonus points for wearing a cape and having a mustache and still being sexy. And underneath it all, he turned out to be a fairly decent guy. He sweeps women off their feet – literally.
1) Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart),
Like Captain Von Trapp, Rick Blaine is not the most classically handsome man in the world – but he is one of the best dressed. Watching
I limited this list to older movies – there are definitely modern movie men worth loving (I could write a whole post on how much I love the character Indiana Jones alone) but these are movie men who stand up to the test of time.
Which movie characters do you love?
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Budget Wine: Think INSIDE the Box
My good friend John - or CT Wine Guy, as you may know him - has been exploring boxed wines for awhile now and because of his blog, I have been able to find several boxed wines that are extremely drinkable and classy enough for most classy gatherings.
Boxed wine qualifies for the class-on-a-budget list because of the bang for your buck. Most boxes of decent wine hold four bottles, and the most expensive of the box wines currently top out at about $25/box ($6.00 and change per bottle - that is cheaper than Yellowtail, folks!) An added benefit of boxed wine is that the new bag and box technology keeps the wine fresher for a longer period of time.
Chardonnay is probably the most widely available boxed wine, and there are a couple worth trying. At John and Katie's recommendation, I tried the Black Box Chard and really enjoyed it (as much as I am going to enjoy a California Chard, that is - they are almost never my first choice). The Black Box Shiraz, which we drank at Amanda's house, was also nice - fruity and spicy.
I would suggest reading John's posts for more suggestions. Plus, then you can mention that you got the recommendation from a classy wine blog and sound like you keep up with these hip sorts of things.
Budget Cheese: Trader Joe's and grocery store selections
The Trifecta is very found of our fancy cheese store. I love the artisan cheeses available at the farmer's market. However, there are weeks when you are short on cash but still need some classy cheese to serve to some last-minute guests.
Never fear: Trader Joe's was made for this sort of thing.
Trader Joe's has a very good cheese selection and extremely good prices. In addition, unlike Whole Foods and other such stores, Trader Joe's does not cut all their cheese to a uniform size, so it is very possible to find smaller wedges of triple-cream brie and Port Salut which in turn cost less money.
(Side Note: Even though Trader Joe's is cheap, it enjoys a certain hipness in classy circles. It is what they would call "Cheap Chic." Bringing almost anything from Trader Joe's to a party will cement your status as hip and classy - even Three Buck Chuck, as long as you make a self-aware and self-deprecating joke about it's cheapness.)
In the event that you have no Trader Joe's close by, you can still find acceptable cheeses in most grocery stores. My go-to grocery store snack cheese is Boar's Head Harvati. This is a creamy (but solid) mild cheese that goes well with most crackers and is offensive to almost no one. A block usually costs between $5.00 and $6.00, but the taste is much classier than that.
Budget Dinner Party: Serve Pasta
The easiest way to cut the costs of your dinner party without sacrificing classiness is to make pasta for the main dish. Pasta itself is cheap and even if you put meat in it, you probably only need about a pound, which is much less meat than if you were to supply your entire dinner party with their own individual Cornish game hen.
My go-to cheap and classy pasta is from Giada DeLaurentis's cookbook Everyday Italian (probably my favorite cookbook ever. Go on Amazon and see if you can find a cheap, used copy). The Orecchiette with Spicy Sausage and Broccoli Rabe can feed six people and be made for under $12. Seriously, check out these prices from a recent grocery store trip:
- 1 lb. box of pasta - $1.34 (you can use penne or cavatappi if you can't find orecchiette)
- 1 bunch broccoli rabe - $1.99
- 1 lb. package of Italian sausage - $3.99 (it was actually on sale for $3.00)
- 1 head of garlic - $0.50
- Small block of fresh Parmesan - $3.16
I hope you find this post helpful on your journey to classiness. Classy tips are always appreciated!
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
I was pleased to see some of my favorite restaurants mentioned - readers of the blog should recognize Dev's on Bank Street and Brie & Bleu. I was not, however, to thrilled to see them mentioned in the same paragraph as the overrated Bulkeley House (yes, the patio space is nice but the service is abominable and the live bands are too loud for an outdoor bar). I was also thrilled to see some of the fun stores (Peacock Feathers, Flavours of Life), the Saturday Farmer's Market, and the Garde Arts Center get shout-outs as well.
These are places that have made me appreciate New London a lot more than I thought I would initially. I'm glad to see them getting a little credit from a major newspaper - trust me, it's well-earned.
Check out the story: Whale of a City
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Whew. Needless to say, I am slightly exhausted and not really feeling the creative energy necessary to blog tonight.
However, starting tomorrow I will be back on a regular basis with all your favorite topics: restaurant reviews, wine recommendations, garden updates, sports analysis, book/movie reviews, and of course the random mix tape or Saved By the Bell post.
Until then, a few random photos from the whirlwind week for you to ponder. Check back tomorrow!
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Flash forward a couple years: high school was nothing like Saved by the Bell. Some major differences come to mind:
We never had a restaurant that was A) near enough to school to walk to when we did not have cars or B) that considered loitering high school students to be their favorite customers. Think about this for a second. The Max must be some kind of magical restaurant utopia. There were never any adults there and the kids never ordered food. Occasionally they ordered sodas, but more often than not they just showed up, zipped off a few one-liners, and then left. On the few occasions food was served, I never saw anyone ask for a check. No wonder there had to be so many telethons and dance-a-thons to save the Max - there's no way that place was making money. Which brings us to difference #2...
I never witnessed a single dance-off in high school. Ever. I would also like to add here that AC Slater was more willing than any guy I've ever met to wear spandex. And at dances, we did not do that weird shuffle-in-place-and-snap-your-fingers dance that seemed so popular on the show. Anyone who was planning on making that their signature move was probably very disappointed. And Casey Kasem NEVER showed up at my school.
No guy ever dressed up like a girl - at least, not as a serious "disguise" - and actually fooled anybody. Disguises in general were a very important part of the Bayside lifestyle. Zack had to dress up like a girl to find out how Kelly felt about him and also to help boost Screech's self-esteem. And Screech had to dress up like an alien to win the tabloid contest (boy, that sure backfired when the FBI showed up, didn't it?!) Not to mention when Screech had that awesome 90-year old man disguise to get into the club with his fake ID (by the way, did any of you guys have ID-forgery equipment in your school's photography lab?)
One man with no secretary can not oversee an entire school. This is perhaps one of SBTB's larger diversions from reality. I get the idea that Bayside was a fairly large school - however, if you wished to see Mr. Belding, you could simply walk into his office. The principals office at my school was actually a maze of offices - to get past the front desk meant getting past at least two admins and a couple of office aides. Then you had a couple layers of assistant principals and guidance councilors. I'm not even sure where our principal's actual office was. Mr. Belding was amazing in the fact that not only does he not need assistants or secretaries, but he personally knew every student in the school and was responsible for dispensing discipline and helpful advice. He was also able to MC at dance-a-thons and cram an entire student body's worth of files into one filing cabinet which he could then retrieve them from without even shuffling through the names. Hats off to you, Mr. Belding...although perhaps Bayside was smaller than I thought considering the same group of students were on every team, starred in every play, and participated in every activity.
Nobody ever got addicted to caffeine pills. This does not happen in real life, particularly on the eve of your big singing break at the Max. Also, if you do get addicted to caffeine pills, you probably do not have to spend time in bed recovering and your friends are most likely not going to visit you with flowers like you broke your leg or something. Even Dennis Haskins (that's Mr. Belding to you) was quoted on the E True Hollywood Story: Saved By the Bell as saying "that was the stupidest episode we ever did."
No one gets into Yale on the basis of high SAT scores alone. This does not happen. Period. Zack Morris never would have made it out of high school without multiple sessions of summer school. Also, if you got into Yale, why the hell would you end up at California State University or whatever it was on the College Years? That's right - the viewers thought it was a lame decision, too.
Monday, July 7, 2008
When I met Noe, I watched a few of his matches (for those of you who don't know, Noe is an excellent tennis player. If any of my Connecticut friends who read this blog play tennis and want a good match, call Noe). The first few I watched, I had no idea what was going on and didn't even have the helpful TV commentator to give me a vague idea of who was winning. And then there was the time my cousin Olivia watched a match with me and yelled out that the ref looked like our Uncle Rick, causing every player on the court to look at us in disgust and make "SHHHHHH" noises.
Noe's very patient teammate Fred must have seen the confused looks on my face every time I attempted to watch a match, because one day he came over and sat with me for an entire set, explaining exactly what was going on and how the scoring worked. This made watching the matches much more enjoyable.
Not too long after that match, Noe and I went to the tennis shop and picked out my racket and a new pair of K-Swiss sneakers - I was going to attempt to play that game that had befuddled me mere weeks before.
I lucked out big time.
When I had signed up for the Ypsi Township tennis lessons, I was not expecting anything spectacular. What I did not anticipate was the township hiring Ryan Rooney and Gary DeGuzman to teach the lessons. I didn't know Ryan and Gray at the time, but Noe knew them from the local tennis circuit - and they knew who Noe was, too. They were thrilled to get his girlfriend in tennis lessons.
Not only were Ryan and Gary awesome instructors, but after the official township lessons ended, they agreed to meet at designated courts every Tuesday and Saturday and teach drop-in lessons for whoever wanted to come. Most of our class showed up. Because of them, I was able to get great instruction and play at least twice a week all summer. And I really loved tennis.
Sadly, I have not played much since I got out here to Connecticut, a fact that I am hoping will change. Unfortunately, the parks and rec options in the Ypsi/Ann Arbor area were better than the Groton/New London region, and Noe doesn't get a corporate membership to any of the clubs out here like he did at Huron Valley - so we are both a little out of the tennis loop.
However, in the absence of playing tennis, we have watched a lot of tennis. Due to our somewhat ridiculous satellite television package, we get the tennis channel. Plus, tennis is always on at weird hours since most of it seems to be played overseas. But yesterday an epic match was played on network television.
This year's gentlemen's final at Wimbledon may be the best tennis match the world will ever see. For those who don't follow tennis (and really, who does? I never used to) Roger Federer of Switzerland and Rafeal Nadal of Spain are two of the greatest tennis players ever.
Federer has twelve Grand Slam titles to his name. He had won Wimbledon five times in a row. He was going for six - attempting to beat Bjorn Borg's record set in 1980 and tied by Federer last year. The only slam title to elude Federer is the French Open, the only slam played on clay. And four French Opens made up Nadal's slam titles.
The two have met in the finals of slams repeatedly over the last few years, with Nadal always victorious on clay and Federer usually the victor on grass or other surfaces. The gap has been closing, however - last year, Nadal managed to take Federer five sets in the Wimbledon final before succumbing.
This year, Nadal snapped Federer's winning streak on grass in a four-hour plus match that was nothing short of exhilarating. Even two rain delays couldn't keep this match from playing out at the maximum level of excitement. The two never once looked fatigued, even though they played five sets and a number of lengthy tie breaks. Darkness had started to fall when Federer's usually reliable forehand slammed the ball into the net and Nadal hit the ground in relief.
Although I was rooting for Nadal, I want to acknowledge that Roger Federer is an amazing athlete. The most appropriate modern comparison is probably Tiger Woods - both dominate their sport in a way that intimidates most of their competitors. But if you saw Nadal play Wimbledon, you know he not only wanted it, but deserved it. He earned his victory.
Makes me wish I still had Ryan and Gary around.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Well, today I went out to check the garden before I went to work. It has gotten slightly out of control.
The peppers, parsley, mint, and cucumbers that I put in seem to have taken well to their new environment...however, several rogue bean plants - which apparently seeded themselves from the previous owner's garden - have completely taken over a third of my alloted garden space. Also, there was no need to have Amanda start tomatoes for me, as apparently I already have six or seven thriving tomato plants, including one that completely uprooted and overtook my rosemary.
Hmm. Maybe I am not so good at gardening after all.