Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sweet Summer Peach

Jody, my sweet summer peach, hosted a barbeque to officially kick off the Summer of Fun. Jody first endeared herself to me when I spotted Pork and Sons in her kitchen library. Tonight, I had to work, so rushed through service and ran to the liquor store for a bottle of wine and a six-pack of one of my favorite summer beers.

Greeted by a roar of applause, I felt like a celebrity leaving from the backstage entrance, accosted for autographs by her fans. Quickly I realized the girls were only after my booze. It turned out I’d showed up just as the boys left on a booze/propane run.

The wine was quickly emptied into the remnants of a summery sangria. An accessible, tropical New Zealand sauv blanc, the honeysuckle and melon complimented the strawberry citrus concoction. Although, had I known Michael’s infamous lavender, rose infused sangria was also making an appearance, I would have picked up a BC rosé with hints of elderflower.

I cracked a beer and was passed a glass of sangria while Jody hauled me to the stovetop

“Can you guess what that is?”

I peered at the pot. Bright eyed with a big smile, I replied, “poached peaches!” Too this day, I dream about the orchard of white peaches outside my bedroom window in the Ardeche and the cratefuls we’d eat on the patio after lazy, lengthy dinners. “I made it just for you. Guess, just guess, what that is?” Jody urged, as she held a spoon to my lips. I purred pleasure. Cinnamon, anise, and some... mellow richness. “Woodford Reserve.” Jody works for the LDB and has a thoroughly stocked liquor cabinet.

That beautiful woman, knowing my fondness for bourbon, had made this desert especially for me. After poaching pears and peaches she aimed to lightly grill them and serve them with vanilla ice cream.

By now the boys had returned and were throwing the marinated flank steak and sausages on the grill. Sarah was in charge of the Yucatan corn (insert link), and I was in charge of eating. Jody, a most hospitable hostess, served me plate after plate of delights I’d so far missed out on: a perfect garden fresh caprice salad, vegetarian pate, miniature humus tartines with feta and red onion...

We huddled around the grill and planned more summer adventures. Oyster Fest is on Friday (and work is highly over rated). Kayaking has become a probability, while tanning has become a priority. If thrice a week we make it to the beach with a book, a cooler and some sandwiches, I’ll consider out summer of fun a success. Then again, a picnic on the beaches of Witty's Lagoon after a healthy paddle shouldn’t be difficult to accomplish.

Dinner was inside, as the sun had long ago set. Everyone dug in, fingers over forks. We prodded Michael (poor Michael) about his vegetarian wieners and cajoled Carrie over her attempts to chew through hiccups.

Silence fell over the table when desert was brought out. Michael, a brilliant baker who has a knack for unknowingly mimicking American Girl Scout cookies, tonight made fresh berry crumble. I blessed Vancouver Island for it’s bountiful fruits as Sarah handed me my peaches and Jody a sipper of bourbon with a splash of water. After many slow, savouring bites, I eventually was able to choke out, “My heart is breaking.”

“Has it stopped yet?” Sarah barked, “Then keep eating!”

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Michael is not a chump, nor are people who cry, necessarily. Sarah has a refrigerator magnet saying, "Crying is for chumps."
Also, I've been musing after a bottle of Monkey Bay that ended up forgotten in the freezer. Wine ice cubes for next sangria? I think so.

Friday, June 12, 2009

My Good Side?

I once heard Katie Couric (yes the one we never really liked until the infamous interview with Sarah Palin) lament that she never photographed well. Then she noted how Jessica Simpson always looked stunning - yes, the word was “stunning” - and realized Jessica always looked stunning because Ms. Simpson was always posing. Hence, Katie Couric became a poser, and a respectably attractive one.

Yesterday was my good friend Sarah’s birthday (Not the aforementioned Mrs. Palin). Besides the guarantee of a lemon mouse cake masterpiece by Mark from Fol Epi, we were going to Stage for dinner, a sure bet for a stellar evening. Some would even call it stunning.

I arrived at Sarah’s with a bottle of Bollinger for a pre-dinner drink. We preened, gossiped and sipped. To record our merriment we headed to the garden with the camera.

“What are you doing, India?”

“You’re making that face.”


My good friend Sarah is the first friend to admit, as I have proclaimed for years, that I am horribly un-photogenic. Sarah says I am one of those otherwise attractive people who spasms at the instant of a flash. I say I'm one of those people who morph into the Hunchback of Notre Dame, ogle-eyed and disheveled. I give up and focus the flash on Sarah, who radiates joy. Excitement and a devilish smirk flash across her eyes when she tells me her friend Michael suffers the same spastic condition. There’s a story. He’ll tell it best over dinner.

With the stage set and costumes on, we headed out to Stage. It has fast become a staple in our restaurant route. When we arrived, Jody and Michael are already sipping a BC Ehrenfelser. Jody swears she could swim in it. More champagne, we croon! Jody and I decide the Valdo Prosecco will best kick the night off. And it does. Rapacious bubbles assault our noses when sipping from the Reidel stemware.

Sarah opens her presents. Jody has put together the most thoughtful gift, giving Sarah a card series of listing special events for the two of them to do this summer, including Oyster Fest (with over 150 wines!) and a visit to the bird sanctuary. Michael says, "don't cry," and Sarah touches her finger to her lashes and replies, "It's been a long time since I've cried tears of joy, I forgot how." We smile. We laugh. We're touched. Michael says, "Crying is for chumps.” We all laugh until the tears are rolling.

Once Sarah manages to put two words together she turns to Michael. “Tell India your Montreal story about the photographer.” Michael is now forced to recall a very embarrassing incident that happened on his recent trip to Mutek. A professional photographer noticed Michael's special knack for looking ridiculous and spent an entire night trying to get one good photo - to no avail.

From there the contest was off. Through the series of small plates including: mussels in coconut milk and cilantro, asparagus spears with duck egg and pancetta, and pork belly over beans, those around the table took turns attempting to get a decent shot of either Michael or myself - also, to no avail.

In a last ditch effort we passed the camera and posed, Zoolander style, with Blue Steel. Michael refused point blank, and once again Sarah managed pure illumination. It turns out I photograph best while eating. So I took to desert like Jessica to the spotlight. I may have still looked awkward but the dessert was stunning 

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Mission

I, India Rael, hope to embark on a six month wine adventure. Traveling to the Alexander Valley I will immerse myself - to the neck in cabernet, if necessary - in the vineyard practicies of MURPHY-GOODE. With perseverance, I will drink my way through picnics, hawk-watching, farmers markets, and everything Sonoma has to offer.

To get me closer to Sonoma give me your vote and come here to read about booze, food and the life in between. 

The Beginning: Making Friends and Buying Wine

Under the pretense of visiting my cousin for his birthday, I took the floatplane from my home in Victoria, BC to Seattle, WA for the weekend. He was coming up from Cali to visit his good childhood friend, whom we’ll call Hooligan #2. Seeing as how I’m forever promising to visit him and never actually do, I figured now was a good time to make the trip. But my real motivation - I needed to go Seattle to pick up some Murphy-Goode wines, which the BC LDB does not import. (Let us here lament the ineffectual LDB, who will soon become our running joke.)

Arrive Seattle, Lake Union. Floatplane is highly recommended. Seattle is already pulsing under the early May heat. Cuz is not there to get me. Figures. But soon enough Hooligan #2 rolls up. From here the boys spend the day napping, talking about cars and girls, and I harass them to take me out to no avail. It seems we’ve all reverted to being eight; and by ‘we,’ I mean ‘them,’ and by ‘reverted’ I mean are ‘still.’

They do take me to the grocery store however. Oh America! Sometimes I truly do miss you. The neon is bright, the overhead music hypnotic and the booze so readily available. I pace slowly along the wine aisles, fingers running along labels, stopping now and then at something new, or something I haven’t had in so very long. And cheap! Gloriously inexpensive. Now I see why our forefathers fought taxation. 

I hail a sales clerk to help me search for Murphy-Goode. A funny little man with a round belly and a red face, he clearly takes advantage of his occupation. His eyes widen as I tell him why I’m looking for only Murphy-Goode wines. His shoulders fall a little when I explain who they’re looking for. “I only just got Facebook for my girlfriend,” he says, glumly, then launches into a rant about how Facebook helped him pressure a friend into moving his truck from the driveway. I listen politely and can’t help but grin when he so enthusiastically wishes me the best.

Later, the boys go to the Mariners game. Cuz neglected to inform Hooligan #2 of my visit before Hooligan #2 had given away his spare tickets. No hot dogs for me. I am not sad. Entertaining myself in Seattle is never difficult.

We hit the Pyramid beer garden before the game and meet up with some other Juneauites. Pyramid has a very smart thing going for them, but should seriously consider hiring another DJ. As the crowd swarms the beer booths he pulses out some Creed on his Toshiba. Audible groans. 

Boys leave for game; I leave for dinner. There are some new places I should check out, but tonight I head to my old favorites on an appetizer tour. Cafe Campagne first. Right off Pikes, it is tucked away on a cobbled alley. It has its fair share of tourists, but maintains a following of Seattle’s most stringent Francophiles.

I hoist myself onto a stool at the bar and linger over the wine list. As I’m on a wine mission, it seems right that wine should direct my diner. My mind immediately jumps to champagne and oysters. But as I peruse the list I spot a rosé from Cassis being offered by the glass. Could there be a wine more indicative of summer?

Somewhere between rosy and golden, this Bagnol wafts apricots and afternoon sun. The palette is light and leans dry while hinting at bright, summer fruits. It pairs perfectly to the calamar a la Provençal: perfectly trenched calamari tossed in olive oil with kalamata olives, lemon juice and maybe some thyme.

While savoring my perfect pairing I become friends with my waiter and the gentlemen on either side of me. Before I’m able to leave, Fabien pours me strident Beaujolais when neighbor-to-the-left offers a bit of his pate de campagne. Neighbor-to-the-right will not be outdone and shares his cheese plate. Piglet has finished all her calamari and has nothing to offer. So I smile politely and stroll onto Le Pichet.

If Cafe Campagne is the quintessence of France then Le Pichet is the epitome of Paris. Stein and Hemmingway are locked in conversation in a corner and Amelie makes espresso behind the bar. I fain apathy and let my server order for me. She pours a pinot and severs the special: a frise salad with chicken livers. Obviously a wise woman, I shirk my detachment and we rhapsodize about the merits of chicken livers when cooked right and the spar over Oregon, Burgundy and politics of the Pacific Northwest.

Cuz calls. Game over. I spear one last liver while my server recommends her favorite late night haunts. We exchange FB pages and I promise to tow her around the boutique vineyards of Vancouver Island if she ever makes the pond hop.