Sunday, December 26, 2010

Will to eat...fading

I feel as if I have been running for days. My hands are cracked, my legs are tight with exhaustion, and I am wearing lethargy like a cape. I have been on an eating marathon.

I wake up from a night of drunken debauchery (see "Homeless fishman Christmas) and suffer through a few hours of work before schlepping back into the city for FoSF's chunkier, raucous cousin...Meat Fest. After helping Kelly finalize his apartment cleaning, I rush to the North End to pick up Evie and we return to find Kelly in full swing. A cheese platter also fitted with pate, chorizo, and prosciutto stare up at us, and we graze through the final moments of chaos that dominate Kelly's kitchen.

The menu, surprisingly, has a few vegetarian options (more so than I would have imagined)...but they are so thick with starches and carbs that they may as well be bacon wrapped around chicken stuffed with quail. Kelly pours out the champagne into our glasses (cleverly marked with wine markers that fit our personalities...I am "understated but competent") and begins plating. Pan-seared cauliflower with garlic and capers are placed right next to his English potatoes slathered with herbed goat cheese (my favorite of the whole meal). Next comes Evie's mushroom pasta and her scallop and crab stuffed jumbo shrimp. Cordelia buzzes to be let in, joining us with a flush from the cold coloring her cheeks.

And then the meat appears. Beef Wellington, as big as my fist and coated with a glossy egg-wash, is pulled from the oven and Kelly begins cutting. Decorated with a puff pastry candy cane on it's surface, the pastry crumbles under the knife and the juices spill. The meat is pale and blushing in the center. Kelly divides it into quarters and we each get a slab.

I haven't really eaten all day. Still full from FoSF and just getting over my hangover, all I managed to trick my body into consuming is a small sandwich and water. By now, I am ravenous. I pile my plate with cauliflower, potatoes, pasta, a shrimp, more potatoes, and then the Beef Wellington. The meat is so perfect that I almost pick it clean out of its protective puff shell.

After gifts are exchanged, Kelly returns to the kitchen and Evie and Cordelia glow with delight. "Time for dessert," Kelly says and I can hear something sizzle on the pan. After a few moments, he scoops out a seared slab of jelly and doles out a portion on everyone's now empty plates. "It's foie gras," Cordelia says and divides a thick piece from her own with her fork. Kelly pours a Sauternes to pair and I look down with determination at my plate. By this point, I just want to cross the finish line. Fatty and smooth, with a crust of carmelization on the tops, the foie gras tastes delicious but makes my teeth feel slick. I rinse them off with the Sauternes and manage to clean my plate yet again.

As the night ends, I pull a comatose Kelly into the car with me to drive Evie back home and wish Cordelia a good night and happy holidays. I move automatically the entire drive knowing that, in a matter of hours, I will have to get up and start eating again for the holidays.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Homeless fishman Christmas

I slump over onto my desk. My computer stares back with judgment across its screen, knowing full well what I did last night. "Well, your shoes are at least different," Virginia says with a giggle. "So you only look a little homeless." I mumble something unintelligible and reach for my water. I feel twisted and rung out like a used sponge, but it was worth it for the Feast of the Seven Fishes.

The name itself evokes some sort of ancient ritual. It's other name is the Vigil [La Vigilia], which only enhances this feel. It has also been a tradition for Kelly's Bottega friends. Since we have been seriously dating, I have heard of the magical night from Kelly at odd times. It's always said with the glitter and awe that most see in five year olds when listening to them talk about Santa.

The day of, we gather/pre-game at Karen and Michael's apartment. Karen's mother coos at the baby as Michael pours champagne for a toast. A second toast is done when Cordelia arrives, and yet a third as we get to the restaurant and meet up with Evie. The waitress seats us at a gorgeous table in the back and Kelly makes the first choice of wine for the night. Nestled between Kelly and Cordelia, I keep shooting goofy looks to Karen (the only other non-wine geek) and prepare myself for the long haul.

Fish #1 - Cherrystone clams & pemaquid oysters with prosecco mignonette and lemon
Fish #2 - Duet of Tuna (yellowfin tartare, Spanish mojama, and artichoke)

The first two dishes come out almost in tandem. The salty shellfish barely sucked down before the waiter returns with the tuna. He refills our glasses [pouring a sliver more for me because, according to Kel, I am "the hot one"] and someone initiates "the Ugly Shell Game." As the clams and oysters are sucked down, we flip the shells over and stare at the coarse, raw sides blasted with years of saltwater. I have the contender for most of the game until Karen flips her knotted and pitted oyster.

Fish #3 - North End whipped baccala with olive oil, grilled bread, and wild mushrooms
Fish #4 - Neptune Waldorf salad with smoked salmon, grapes, walnuts, and apples

Evie picks the next bottle as Kelly chases the chef (a friend of the group's) back into the kitchen to make sure he knows about Karen's nut allergy. "Kelly! He knows!" she shouts as he disappears behind a corner. The baccala is airy and savory. I dollop more of what I can only assume is a fine mousse of mushroom and olive oil onto it and force myself to start pacing. I haven't really eaten all day and I binge on the fish and wine as if it were my last meal. The salad is just as delicious--Karen's well-being saved by her own plate with some hot pepper to replace the effect of the missing nuts.

Fish #5 - George's Bank diver scallops with celery root, golden raisins, and petite mache
Fish #6 - Grilled Main lobster tail with buttery leeks, shaved black truffle, and chanterelles

Michael's turn for another white that pairs as perfectly with the fish as the previous choices. The scallops are plated like delicate sculptures, looking very much like the netsuke display at the MFA. Caramelized on top, they melt away from the fork in a way I have never seen in seafood and I swallow mine with as much gusto as the baccala. "This is my favorite holiday tradition!" Kelly beams and Michael smiles wide. "That's eight," he says and the rest of the wine geeks applaud Cordelia for her guess. "We had a pool going to see how many times he would say that," Karen explains to me as Kelly faux-fumes.

Fish #7 - Roasted monkfish with shellfish brodetto, roasted tomato, and olives

Kelly's indignation is cut off by the last fish. At this point, I am a human aquarium with the devoured fish swimming in the perfect whites. Cordelia makes the last wine choice and I look down at my monkfish. The last serving on the plate, it's heaped with vegetables and looks nothing like the monster it came from. Drinking a generous helping of the new wine, I plow through the fish before foisting my shellfish brodetto onto Kelly. The other people at the table, however, are in a similar state...nursing their wine glasses and looking down at the ruins of their plates.

After the "Merry Christmases" and drunken hugs, Kelly and I load up into a cab back to Cambridge. Content and lit like a Christmas tree, I drunkenly hug his arm the whole ride back. "And just think," Kelly says with an evil smile, "You get to do the meat feast tomorrow..."

To be continued.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

'Tis the season to get really fat

The entire apartment smells like nutmeg and smoke. I crack the oven door, gag on the dragon's breath curling out in gray wisps, and slam it shut as soon as I'm sure that nothing is really on fire. I have had this new oven/apartment for a few months and this is the first time it has fought back. Have I been using it too much? I did a few items for Thanksgiving, a pie here or there, dinner...nothing too strenuous. In fact, it has been training with me these past couple of weeks. We've gotten up early everyday, downed a glass of raw egg yokes, and worked out for hours until we're sweating/rusting. It's Christmas/Hanukkah, which means cookies.

For the past few years, or rather for the past few years that I had steady employment, I have been baking cookies for the girls at the office. Virginia, Baxter, and Peggy have been putting up with my crap all year, and I show my appreciation by adding to their waistlines. I usually wait until the cookie tins go on sale at the local craft store, and then I plan on how to fill them [the tins and my co-workers]. Last year, the girls and I came to the idea of an informal cookie swap for the department if only because (1) it is cheaper than gift cards and (2) we were already doing one unintentionally.

Last year, I cranked out:
  • Chocolate cherry squares
  • Mexican wedding cakes
  • Eggnog cookies
  • Peppermint snowballs

This year, I decided to up the quality instead of the quantity [and I actually have a S.O. to shop for, which adds a whole person to budget for]:
  • Port brownies
  • Eggnog cookies
  • Kris Kringles with dried cherries
I pull the first batch of the eggnog cookies out of the oven, but smear one with a stray thumb. Moving them from the sheets to the cooling racks, I pull the smooshed cookie off and pop it in my mouth. Richer than a normal sugar cookie [from the generous splash of eggnog], it tastes like Christmas/Hanukkah. The whole kitchen smells of cinnamon and nutmeg instead of the strange smoke from my tired oven. As it catches its second wind, I add the second batch and rinse out my mixing bowl. Looking down at the neat rows on the cooling rack, I decide to smoosh two more to make the rows even and check to make sure these, too, aren't poisonous.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Let me count the ways...

It is usually this way many a morning. I wake up with my alarm pulling at my ears, punching me in the face with each shrill beep and squeak. I pull myself from the comforting arms of the bed (and often Kelly) to stare my reflection down in the mirror and dare him to say something. My hair is a mess, smooshed down along some strange plane that I can't pretend is a chosen style. My entire face hurts from the pressure building behind it and being forced to squint in the angry sunlight. I remain in my inhuman state until my third cup of coffee, where I start to return to the self I abandoned the night before.

On the mornings after that Kelly gets up with me, he is chipper from the get-go. Shiny and excited in the poisonous way that only morning people can be, he chatters at me, goading me to answer something more than "ugh," "meh," or "I will kill you" in a bleary, raspy monotone. Unlike most of humanity (leading me to believe my boyfriend is a gay robot), Kelly doesn't suffer from hangovers.

Before dating him, I didn't really drink that much. In college, yes...but only on weekends and the stray Thursday that I didn't have a meeting at one of the magazines I interned at or with my thesis advisor. I also am a fairly small man, or as Samantha likes to say, "You're too damn skinny." My mother also gets giggly from just smelling wine, so the fates are against me for having any sort of tolerance. Where most would be happy to have such a "cheap date," Kelly is slightly embarrassed and surprised the times that I manage to keep up.

One morning at brunch, he watches me sit silently, sip my third or fourth cup of life, and scrape at the remains of my pancakes, before saying "You know, you should write about the downsides of dating me." I arch an eyebrow. "You always brag about the free food, drinks, and going to these great parties and things, but you never tell them about the other stuff."

And he's right. Therefore, let me include my list of top three things that I do not enjoy about dating a foodie...

1. "Why hello Mr. Scale..."
Since I have started dating Kelly, I have gained a lot of weight. When we first met, my doctor was concerned that I was a little too thin and wanted me to try and go from 140lbs to at least 160lbs. At this time, my pants were too large and I had to start wearing a 30-inch waist. Now, eight months later, I am heavier than I have ever been. With all the rich foods, alcohol, and constant eating out, I have shot past my doctor's desired weight by 10lbs. My old pants that were too big are a pinch too tight in the waist and I have already begun trying to remember my old work-out schedule.

2. "Stupid, vile Daystar"
As mentioned above, Kelly has an iron liver that refuses to let him be punished. I, on the other hand, can't have more than a glass of wine before I have to start chugging water to combat the effects. I also have a caffeine addiction, which means that I am not safe for human consumption in the mornings until I have emptied a coffee mug. Kelly doesn't share my habits and likes to test how far he can go each morning by putting his hands in the lion's den and grabbing the tail.

3. "Could you sign it 'to Sherry, love Kelly'?"
It doesn't really matter where we go out, it is inevitable that I will be subjected to another foodie who must talk about X while Kelly and I are waiting for our entrees. Boston is a small city and the industry is even smaller. Burger joints, bagel shops, even a hole-in-the-wall donut shop in Allston all had someone in them that recognized Kelly and wanted to talk about this person's list at such a place. At first it wasn't an issue, and I actually thought it was cute to watch him geek out with another wine buyer or chef. Now, I just want to eat my bagel in peace and not have to worry about contributing to a conversation that was only half in English. "Beaujo-who? No, never heard of him...pass the cream cheese?"

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gobble gobble

I'm physically and emotionally exhausted. Work has been running me ragged even more so than usual. I walk around the office wearing what Virginia so eloquently refers to as "badger face" and chew out someone for throwing in the history of document outsourcing into their analysis for the sole purpose of padding their piece. The stress only adds to my frustration and makes it very difficult to function. I have no drive to blog, my attempt for NaNoWriMo is nowhere near the word count I should have (I might be able to get 25,000 of my 50,000 words written this year), and I couldn't want to do really anything beyond escape into someone else's life [read as books and TV].

"You have Thanksgiving plans?" Kelly asks as he tries to massage the cold steel knots out of my back. His thumbs dig one out of my left side and I have to turn my head to keep from speaking into the pillow. "We're not really a big Thanksgiving family," I tell him.

For as long as I can remember, Thanksgiving has always been a sort of meh holiday for me. It's the one holiday that my family doesn't really go all out for. We do the turkey, stuffing, and the rest of the expected menu, but beyond a special grace and a jigsaw puzzle the day could be any other out of the month. My mother's side, which dominates most of the East Coast, keeps to itself and we all do our own things. I may see my grandparents, but they usually have other plans. All in all, the day is observed by my father watching the Game while Mom, D, Ej, and I look for edges and curse the artist who decided that a reflection was needed for the puzzle to really shine.

This year, however, it was something that I was truly thankful honest to God holiday. A day where I don't have to argue with imbeciles, decipher broken English, or explain for the umpteenth time that no, punctuation is not optional or subjective to your style of writing. I drive from Kelly's apartment to my own and begin whipping up my expected sides. This year, Mom had mostly everything under control...and by that I mean she remembered last minute and decided to go ultra-simple. Green bean casserole and her grandmother's potatoes were made the night before. The rolls were bought from the grocery store's bakery. The turkey was already thawing in the fridge. All she needed was a little help.

I originally planned to do a pumpkin pie (I bought an apple pie for my siblings, who don't care for the pumpkin version) and two sides, but in the end was told by mom to just do the sides as Grandma was swinging by on the way to some other function and was bringing a pumpkin pie of her own. To keep with mom's theme of simple sides, I stole two recipes to work with. Kelly's roasted brussell sprouts with bacon took minutes, but I ended up getting distracted by multitasking and burned one side of the bacon. Stella (of Bravetart fame) provided me with her savory apple tart, and I used it to make her tart's hillbilly, bastard cousin. Where she uses fresh, home-made dough, the perfect produce, and the right amount of cheese, I did everything I could to cut corners. Pre-made chilled pie dough? Check. Left over onion from the previous week's chili and stir fry recipies? Check. McIntosh apples that I settled on after I couldn't find golden delicious or galas? Check. Check. Check. The only fresh thing that resembles something close to her recipe is the block of Gruyere that I shave and melt in small blobs of delicious salt along the top.

I get everything assembled and cooked in an hour. I shower as the tart cools and prepare everything for the traffic-choked car ride to my parents' place. Although we don't really celebrate, the day is already providing me with more relaxation than I've had in weeks. I slowly creep along 93 with everyone else in the state, but I find the Smiths on the radio. I sing along and realize as I pass the exit for the Ponkapoag Trail/Houghton's Pond that the apple pie is still in my fridge. "And if a double-decker bus crashes into us/ to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die," Morrisey sings and I join back up with the next verse. I refuse to get upset further, not when the day will be spent doing nothing and I won't feel guilty about it. The pleasure, the privilege is mine.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

It's like making toast, apparently...

"Oh, I just threw it together." It's a phrase that I use with sketches, casseroles, baked goods, and (in the most recent case) Halloween costumes for work. With Kelly and his friends, it's for things that take me hours to make.

"Oh, I just threw it together," Kelly said the night he first cooked for me. This was in regards to risotto with spring vegetables and sausage. A meal that I would have to SLAVE over. It was perfect in that the grains were tender, the vegetables still retaining some crunch, and a wonderful sauce that accented the spice of the sausage. "[Blank], please," Samantha said the next day during our usual get-togethers to rehash the evening in HD detail. "You do not just throw that [blank] together."

But Kel isn't the only offender. "Oh, I just threw it together," Kelly's friend Tawny said as she welcomed us into the apartment she shared with their friend Mara. Her "it" ended up being cod hushpuppies, lobster tails in clarified butter, avocado salad, and some sort of bruschetta/pizza-esque item. I have never made lobster anything...let alone in clarified butter (which itself takes me a good 10 minutes to make sure that I don't burn it). And, of course, everything tasted as if it came out of the sea dressed in parsley with lemon juice dabbed behind the valves.

The funniest thing about all of this is that Kelly doesn't understand how ridiculous it sounds when he tries to defend it. "It's just a standard dish," he said when he defended his supposedly easy risotto. "I make it all the time." And I make forgeries of Seurat's "A Sunday Afternoon" during commercial breaks. It really all comes down to the fact that I'm not an industry person, which he seems to forget except for instances where he "just threw it together." But it works other ways, too. I was apparently the lucky charm for charades, having won every round. I can wrap gifts and embellish them with ease so that Martha might see me as a threat to her sharp cornered empire. And like every other intelligent person I have ever met that is numbers orientated, Kelly can't spell with confidence. Confidence. C-o-n-f-i-d-e-n-c-e. And I didn't even need it used in a sentence.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Baby it's cold outside

It's usually around this time that I start to bring out my autumn recipes. The sweet smell of rotting leaves, the bite in the air, the mounds of apples in every market and grocery store...I start bringing out the stuffed apples, the gingerbread, and anything with cinnamon in it. But one of my heartier meals that I do quite often is chili (see what I did there?).

Mom really would only do chili every once and a while. I'd have it in college, but no one really likes their cafeteria. It wasn't until I started living with Lou that I began to really appreciate it. She never worked Mondays, so it was usually on those days that I would come home from work, exhausted and not wanting to cook, and find the house smelling sharp and red. Lou's chili was always simple and easy to replicate...beef (or turkey), red kidney beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, tomato soup, chili powder.

When Lou moved back to the West coast, I took up her recipe. I added my own touches...cumin, red pepper flakes, garlic, diced onion, cilantro, crushed tomatoes. Eventually, I cut down the bean count from three to two after Virginia at work saw my chili lunch and her only response was "Wow, that's a lot of beans..." instead of the usual "Ooh, that looks good."

Recently, I had dinner with Karen and Michael with Kelly making his chili. The wine was served, of course, and then Kelly went to work. As I chatted with Karen about going back after maternity leave, I watched him add the usual fare with tomato paste, cheese rinds, pork stock, chicken stock, beef stock, sausage, the baby...but it was Michael's addition that caught my attention. After cleaning them, he chops up a few large potatoes and roasts them in the oven. Once they had a cracked, crisp skin, Kelly makes a bed of potatoes in each of the bowls. It is one of the best batches I have ever eaten. I wonder why I haven't thought of doing this a long, long time ago.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A cooking crossover

I watch the butter melt into gold, three thin strips of the remaining bars bobbing in the saucepan. I'm careful to keep the temperature low per Stella's instructions. As an actual foodie, I have some comfort that, out of the two of us, someone knows what she's doing.

As the proprietor of the fun BraveTart (, she runs her own blog as an actual chef...with a pro photographer friend who does the food shots. She's also a good friend of Kelly's. Hoping to make sure the recipes that she includes for each blog post are easy to use, Stella (via Kelly) asked if I would be interested in trying some out to help her troubleshoot the instructions.

After visiting her blog and returning to my own dog-and-pony show, I decided that the Port Brownies would be something close to my speed (I am a baker in my own right...ish). I run to the grocery and sigh at the darkened signs of the two liquor stores I pass along the way. Damn dry states shutting down alcohol sales on Sundays... I get the rest of the ingredients that I don't already own and resign myself to substituting coffee for the Port (a legal substitution in Stella's eyes). I hate to admit it, but I'm a little nervous.

I've been baking for decades now. I would cook with my mother and eventually became the go-to guy for desserts. Tiramisu, cakes, brownies, cookies (a specialty of mine, if I can brag a little) all became standard on my weekends. I eventually graduated in High School to side dishes on Thanksgiving and the odd dinner when Mom couldn't step out of her office. In college, I did everything but the Turkey at Thanksgiving and several desserts for the holidays. "You should really sell these," my cousin Andy said one Christmas as he swallowed another one of my Mexican Wedding Cakes.

But Stella's recipes are well beyond me. "12 ounces butter, clarified" Stella tells me after her charming introduction. Well [expletive deleted]... I see that all the "normal" ingredients in the usual list have been replaced by their scientific cousins. For every teaspoon, there is an ounce of this or that. I wipe the dew from my forehead, grateful that I don't have to weigh my eggs. I take a deep breath and read through the entire list again. In one moment, I turn from Julia Child into Betty Crocker. I search the Internet and stumble into "" and cross my fingers. I copy the conversions into cups and tablespoons, scribbling everything down and praying that everything comes out right. A full cup of cocoa powder seems like a lot (esp. since there already is 12oz of unsweetened chocolate already in the recipe), but there are six eggs so I make a small prayer and follow my new E-Z Bake Oven instructions.

The brownie batter becomes fudgy and thick, an oily slick of brown that tastes delicious as I lick a few stray blobs off of my knuckles. I smear a streak along my jaw and spill flour onto the counter top. I regress back to being six and making chocolate chip cookies under Mom's ever-vigilant attention. I manage to get the batter out of the mixer and into the prepared pan. I follow Stella's tip to line it with tinfoil for easy clean-up, but panic and smear a little grease along the exposed sides to keep them from sticking. I stick it into the pre-heated oven, letting go and letting God.

I wipe down the counter tops and wash my hands for the fiftieth time. Checking the brownies in the oven, they look like every other batch that I have ever made. I laugh at myself and look at the clock on the microwave. Kelly will be getting out of work soon and heading over here. A willing test subject.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Meal of champions

Note: The lack of posting has been due to a move into a new apartment. I just got the Internet back a mere few hours ago.

Kelly and I hover at the bar. He sips at a bloody mary (something he was craving), but I shake off any offers for a drink myself. We're on a mission. I am so hungry, I can find kinship with the Donner Party. The two healthy looking girls tucked in the corner look like they would make amazing sausage.

"Mark? Party of Two?" the hostess calls and I give the sausage girls one last look before I follow her and Kelly to our table. We've been up for hours, but haven't gotten anything to eat until just now. The waitress comes, a cheery girl I recognize from our many trips here, and we order without looking at the menu. There was never an option to what we would be getting. For the past few months, every Sunday brunch we went, Kelly and I ordered a drink (cocktail for him, sweet life-blood of the gods [read coffee] for me), pancakes, and a side of bacon. "You know, I think breakfast may be our thing," Kelly says as I stare the waitress down until she flips my mug over and fills it. I doctor it with the smooth movements of an addict and take the first sip to regaining the humanity I lost overnight. "Most couples do dinner, but we seem to do breakfast and brunch the most."

I try to justify it, but my brain isn't quite working yet. Breakfast has never really been a major meal for me. Growing up, it was pop-tarts or toast before the bus (Mom letting my siblings and I sleep-in as long as possible). In college, it was coffee, a cigarette, and maybe a bowl of soggy cereal. I quit smoking my junior year and increased my caffeine intake (against doctor's orders), to the point that breakfast was several cups of coffee before my latest temp job. The fact that it's "the meal" I have with my boyfriend is surreal (think less melty-clock Dali and more nude with a backbrace, nails driven into the flesh, and a rotting stone column where the spine should be Khalo).

Our order arrives as the folk band starts up another song. Kelly and I do the small talk thing for a moment, but the conversation fades into the clink of forks and knives on plates, ice sloshing in glasses, and my spoon stirring more cream into my coffee.

(The art references are "La Persistencia de la Memoria/the Persistence of Memory" by Salvidor Dali and "La Columna Rota/The Broken Column" by Frida Khalo.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Untitled #10" or "Mildstone"...

"Oh c'mon!" Kelly says as we walk to the Central T stop. "It's great...get it, 'cause it's not really a milestone." "I don't know, hon'," I say, trying to think of a better title. I always hate titling my blogs because they sort of need to be intuitive for me. I was the same way when I was doing my poetry thesis in college...changing the titles as often as I changed my hair (hot pink to shaved to afro to red to shaved again...). We catch the 82 bus and then take the T to Park for dinner.

The restaurant has a retro vibe and antique tchochkes piled in the corners. As soon as we get down the stairs to the actual dining room, Kelly spots two or three people he knows. BFG, who I met at a Gin Event, gets us cocktails as we wait for our table. "Happy anniversary," I say and we clink glasses.

I still cannot believe that we have been together for six months. It seems like only a week or so ago that he was introducing me as "Matt" to impress me with his connections and spilling full glasses of water square into my lap. I can still see his face as he moved with those practiced steps earned in the industry to pat my crotch dry and then freeze with his hands only inches away. "I'm gonna let you do that," he said and hovered by his chair, too embarrassed to sit back down and more shades of red than what is found in the produce aisle.

Kelly orders a rose for the table, goes through the motions, and looks down at his menu already too aware of what he was getting. On our second date, I was told it would months before we could come here because he wanted to make sure I was the one before he "made sweet, sweet mouth-love to a platter of buffalo wings." I agreed whole-heartily because, really, you can't come back from that after watching the person you [insert sex act here] with suck the tender bits off of a drumstick, their face and fingers Oompa Loompa orange with sauce, if you're not committed.

We order a couple of platters of comfort food (one being the mythical wings, which are worth all the hype) and I enjoy the low-light and the choreography of dining with Kelly. Among the talking, pausing to eat when the other person takes up the conversation, I let him take both his water glass and mine ("Yours is nicer 'cause it still has ice," he says and moves my glass closer to him.) and watch as we move from wine stem to water glass to a double wine stem straight to water glass. The conversation dwindles a little and Kelly checks the movie times on his phone. Having done the uber-comfortable couch marathons for the past few dates, it's nice to do something special for our anniversary...even if it's as heteronormative as dinner and a movie.

Kelly pays understanding that I would grab candy and the movie tickets. I wet-nap my hands and the corners of my mouth as he begins the teasing over what I will inevitably grab from the nearby CVS. "You going to get your Werther's Originals?" Kelly asks behind my water glass. "They're bull's-eyes," I defend. "Afraid they'll break your dentures?" "Oh no, I made sure to use my Poli-grip for tonight." Kelly laughs and signs the restaurant copy. Taking my hand, we walk back up the stairs and into the balmy night.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The smell of baking spices in the air

It's raining and gray. The slightly humid air has the effect of a drunk's breath blowing against the back of your neck while you're wedging yourself up to the bar. But in all of this blandness, the oak tree outside my kitchen window has started turning school bus yellow.

Although autumn and spring are transition seasons that my body hates (spring pollen = sinus headaches; autumn mold = sexy phlegm), they're both seasons that I love. Spring is visually stunning with the new red growth on the trees and the first flowers pushing through the crusting ice. Autumn, however, has the best foods. Growing up in New England, autumn meant apples, cinnamon, ginger, cranberries, pumpkin, allspice, molasses..."Baking spices," Kelly says when I enthuse at the dropping temperature. "Cinnamon, ginger, they're a part of the so-called baking spices." I call them wonderful.

My love for autumn flavors expands from the normal (apple pie) to offensively fake (pumpkin spice latte) to the strange. Virginia, one of the few people I actually like at work, gushed with me during a necessary break from our respective computer screens. Together, we break down the logistics of making an unholy abomination of pie sushi. "You could use the pie dough as a nori roll," she says with her eyes alight, "and shred some apple for the rice. Ooh! You should wedge in raisins or walnuts in place of the veggie pieces...make one of those rolls where they make flower shapes when it's cut!" I don't know where the idea came from or how we got side tracked onto it--I just know that there are several golden delicious in my fruit bowl and a pre-made pie crust de-thawing on my counter.

Top 5 Autumn flavors that I will overdose on for the next three months:
5. Maple (I did go to college in Vermont, after all...)
4. Molasses (Boston Molasses Flood or no)
3. Pumpkin
2. Apple (Pink ladies being my favorite for snacking; Macintosh, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith for baking)
1. Cinnamon

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

No. 9

Evie's boobs are so exposed that they are almost the fourth member of our dinner party. Her hair is still salon shiny and she nurses three drinks: a cocktail, an aperitif, and a glass of ice water. "I don't look too Housewives of Jersey, right?" she asks. Kelly and I assure her that she has stopped from reaching the HoJ point-of-no-return, but I can't help but keep looking down at the blue leopard print straining over her chest.

The day has been long and I'm a little cranky. Work hasn't been my favorite thing for a while, and I manage to go another day without (deservingly) eating someone's face or bursting into hysterics. Kelly rushing me to get from work to home to back into the city in record time didn't help, but (as always) he has the best intentions. I would have felt horrible making everyone late for our dinner plans...the nine-course chef's tasting menu. The idea of so many plates makes my head spin and I think it is one of the major factors keeping me from said face-eating (I wouldn't be able to do all those courses if I filled up at work on face marinated in idiocy).

Course #1 - Cocktails
Although not an actual part of dinner, I have come to learn that liquor is often a parenthesis to eating. Taking a seat with Evie at the bar, she flirts casually with the bartender who pours the same aperitif for Kelly and I. For Kel, he makes a bubbly tequila concoction. I get some strange, frozen potion with lemon and absinthe...a little green fairy for the fairy.

Course #2 - Chilled Maine Lobster with matsutake mushroom, Burgundy truffle, and corn jus
We take our seats and stare out into the park. Just before the Statehouse, the street is gorgeous in the late evening and the city blinks to make up for the lack of stars. The waiters, who all know Kelly and Evie, charm us with some stories of a past wedding they all worked together and bring over rolls. "Don't fill up on bread," Kelly warns, but I'm starving. I down my cocktail, a roll, and watch as something bubbly and pink is poured into our flutes.

Course #3 - Roasted codfish with artichokes, preserved lemon, and pickled peppers
The lobster is okay, but shellfish have never really been my favorite. The plates are cleared and I'm asked to approve the white. I stare up at the waiter. "You're kidding, right?" I ask. It's like having someone colorblind assess a Degas or Monet. I try to remember all the steps, but Kelly giggles to himself when I take the four quick, successive sniffs so I know I've forgotten something. The white is poured ("It tastes like fresh band-aid," the wine geeks agree and I shrug. I think it's great.) and the codfish is served. I stuff it quickly into my mouth and use the flake of skin along the top as a pita for my artichoke "burrito".

Course #4 - Whole wheat bigoli with littleneck clams, heirloom tomato, and bottarga
I have no idea what a "bottarga" is, but the pasta is nice. Set into a massive bowl, the center that holds the carb nest topped with tomato is no larger than my fist. I've been dreading not being able to finish, but I polish off the pasta and (like a good Sicilian boy) tear another roll to wipe the sauce off the bowl.

Course #5 - Prune stuffed gnocchi with foie gras, toasted almonds, and VinSanto
There's a choice for some for the fifth course, but I saw "gnocchi" as soon as I sat down and it was decided for me. "The chef here is known for her gnocchi," Evie says. "They switch everything off, but there was almost a riot when she tried to take it off the menu." Our waiter returns and begins to decant the red for the evening. Baring a bright orange eye (representing an apparent fire that ravaged the vineyard) Kelly is called to approve it. He goes through the motions and smiles wide. "Black tar!" he calls. "Oh I have to smell," Evie says and extends her goblet. The wine, a splash of red fresh from the vein, stains the glass and she swirls it expertly. "Black tar!" she calls back. The wine geeks call scent markers back and forth as I fend Kelly away from the gnocchi plated before me with my fork.

Course #6 - Assiette of rabbit with pistachio, baby carrot (kind of sick, right?) and vincotto
The plate seems huge since the rabbit pieces are each no larger than a quarter. The waiter kindly points out the belly (essentially rabbit bacon); loin (agreeably the tastiest part); and the ribs, which look like miniature pork ribs. It takes me a whole two minutes to suck the rabbit off of the ribs and all but lick the plate clean.

Course #7 - Calotte de boeuf featuring petite frites, arugula, and braised short rib
Another huge plate with teenie meat, I can almost hide one of the calottes under the stack of frites. I pop the entire bundle in my mouth as Kelly and Evie's eyes widen. "It tastes like raspberry compote!" Evie squeals as she sips the now sweeter red. I try to see for myself, but the liquor has caught up to me and my small portions. I sit as straight as possible, convinced that if I give just an inch that I'll be a giggling mess under the table. Kelly assesses me with an arched eyebrow (I hate that he reads people so well) and shares a secret smile.

Course #8 - Artisanal cheeses
The cheese expert, Brie, (I can't recall if they have an official title, but I'm sure they do) is a long-time friend of both wine geeks and our dinner conversation degrades to Kelly singing "I think we're alone now", much to the delight of the woman next to us who claims that particular song as her Karaoke jam. The three of us each pick a cheese and two others are selected by the professional Brie. "You know I used to go to school near the Von Trapp Farmstead," I slur to Brie, who claps my shoulders in a hug and laughs. "Too cool," she says and moves her cart onto the next table.

Course #9 - Chocolate marquis with roasted white chocolate, basil, and anise hyssop
The dessert is a little strange, but I drunkenly shovel it into my mouth. As it is a belated birthday celebration for Evie and Kel, theirs come with knobby candles that they blow out carefully as to not smudge the chocolate writing on the plate. I down the rest of my ice water, hoping to end the inevitable hangover before it comes, and give myself the hiccups instead. The night ends and Kelly and I kiss Evie good-bye, slinking back to the Park St. station giggling and satisfied.

2007 Panevino Ogu Isola dei Nuraghi - A delicious red that actually does have a slight asphalt taste that softens as it aerates. I feel the need to point out that one of the scent notes discussed was baby diaper (not here, but it has apparently appeared in the past). To quote Kelly, "Poopy diaper is the best!" Who'd have thunk it?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sari, I thought that was my plate...

"Do you want to go back to my place, or go out?" Kelly nudges me with his knee. "Let's go out and eat quickly," I say with a sigh, "So that way we can come back for wine and not have to burn down your apartment afterwards." He smiles wide and gives me another jostle of his knee. "That's why I love you," he laughs. We gather our things, he straightens his spine--steeling himself--as he locks the door behind us, and we walk down to the restaurant. I hold his hand to keep him calm, and Kelly takes a deep breath to prepare himself. It had been his suggestion, true, but I know deep down he was hoping I would say "Oh no, hon', we don't have to go there." Outside, he composes himself quickly and holds the door open for me.

I have eaten a lot of weirdish things before and after I started dating Kel. Quail, rabbit, goat, pheasant...okay, well, weirdish for me and other non-foodies. (I know plenty of people who don't like lamb, let alone billy goat's gruff in a tangy yogurt sauce.) I've had raw shellfish every way possible. I've eaten skinny steel-colored fish deep fried like fish fries. I've expanded my pallet extensively and gotten a chance to feed my tongue's travel lust. By this point I've eaten most of Europe, some of the Middle East, and a large portion of Asia. Central America has been visited by way of Mexico (chocolate covered ants and bad take-out), but I haven't gotten a chance to expand into South America despite the Brazilian barbecue in my neighborhood. After I seriously started dating Kelly, I thought that it'd be a chance to find the perfect places for my wander-taste...and it's been true for many. Best sushi places, great steaks and cheeses, his friend Myra Ellen runs the best sandwich shop I've ever been to...but my favorite cuisine has been brushed over until that night.

Despite the rampant poverty and other less-than-savory issues, I've always been fascinated by India. The language, the religion, the customs, the culture...and the food. I understand that, unless my friend Shyam is making it for me, the samosa that I'm eating isn't really Indian, but it's close enough. I almost put out a personal ad for an Indian boyfriend just so I would be kept in naan for the rest of my potentially carb-overloaded life. His mother could have called me the "white devil subverting my precious beta, may he burn in hell for all eternity" to my face...I would have gladly answered to it and still washed the dishes so long as she threw a buttery slab in my direction.

According to Kelly, many industry people have issues with Indian because of the strength of the spices used. Cumin, cardamom, exotic smells that I think are heavenly apparently burn out any wine-person's nostrils and make their eyes water. It makes sense, I suppose, if you focus your senses to a laser focus that a handful of curry could be a bad thing...but I just can't see it.

The restaurant is fairly new and set up a little cramped. The two women speaking Spanish at the table touching ours sniff as we sit down and complain loudly about the girl dining behind us talking about the Swiss economy and human rights violations. Kelly agonizes over the least offensive item as I switch from staring down the entirety of India in every meat offered. I finally pick the lamb Vindaloo and rub Kel's knuckles across the table. "Thanks for doing this," I tell him and he nods. Suddenly, a light hits his eyes and he licks his lips. "What's that?" he asks the waitress, pointing to the bright orange, creamy drink someone at the Swiss violation's table sucks through their neon straw. "Mango lassi. You want one?" He nods excitedly and I smile, glad to have found at least one offensive item to bribe him with at a later date.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Kept company

"Hey sailor, looking for a good time?" Kelly calls out the window to his friend Liam. A tower of a bear (or wolf, rather...I need to check my gay field guide), Liam smiles wide and calls something back that I can't hear over the radio. Kelly parks the car and gets out to do the gay greet (a kiss on the cheek and a sassy back-handed compliment). We get his bags into the car; shift from one topic to another, all of which I wouldn't be able to repeat without changing the security settings on this blog to "mature"; and head off for what Kelly has described as "Iron Chef with booze".

The dynamic changes as soon as Liam and Kelly start to catch up. In our relationship, I'm an Ionic column...pretty in a simple way, but mostly I'm just there to be supportive. With Liam, Kelly fades a little himself, becoming more reserved (if only by a breath). He blushes at some of the more off-colored comments and looks at me as if he expects me to be offended. (He clearly hasn't gotten to know Samantha very well...) "I told you he'd be like this," Kelly says with a half-hearted sigh. We get to the restaurant/bar/hotel (?) and Liam manages to say "hello" properly. He lifts me three feet off of the sidewalk and squeezes me in a bear hug that breaks everything from T1 to L5 of my spinal column. "It's so great to finally meet you, dearheart."

Inside, we do a shot of something banana and cognac (much to Kel's disgust) and Kelly orders the first round: gimlet for him, aviation for me, and something bright pink and fruity for Liam. After introducing us to a few groups of people, Kelly gets sucked into industry talks and I get prepared to do my usual people watching. Liam grabs my neck in a buddybuddy squeeze and I almost forget that for once, I'm not alone at one of these things. "Oooh, take a look at that one!" He hisses, pointing out a man in a button-down done from the top button down, khakis that hit two inches too high above the knee, and shoes that are only appropriate to wear as you lash your sailboat to the dock. "Very J.Crew," I tell him and roll my eyes, snickering into my drink. Liam snorts and sips his, shaking his head. "J.Crew has more style than that."

In the course of drinking too much, I found another non-foodie to add to my list of foodie friends. For all the wonderful things I can list about Kelly's friends, they all have the same item that could go in the center chunk of the pro-con Venn diagram...they're all foodies. Michael and Karen (the first two members of Kelly's "family" that I've met) are another pairing of foodie/non-foodie, and my first introduction into the Wine Widows Club. "I swear, sometimes it's like another language," Karen once told me. "You pick it up after a while...but still, I remember sitting there with all of his wine friends and not knowing what to say."

I lose sight of Kelly within an hour (a new record), but still have Liam to keep me company. "It's such a small town," he says and orders us another drink of something that I can't name but belongs on Carmen Miranda's head. "I can't go anywhere without running into someone I've boffed." I laugh, if only because Kelly has run into some industry person at almost every night/morning we've risked outside his apartment. "You have no idea," I tell him and wave to two more of Kel's friends that I've come to know over the past few months...two more of my new foodie friends.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


It feels like 11pm. It's really only 7 or 8, but it feels like 11. Work has been a nightmare and I have spent the past week coming in early to rewrite a 200+ page multi-client report worth at least $50,000 in four days. I sag into the booth, stare into the pickled broccoli, and listen to Kelly ramble about salt. "It's the reason China was able to build the Great Wall They had a monopoly on salt and iron which was needed to process salt This actually allowed people to start raising cattle and horses domestically in the first place..."

The waiter returns with miso soup and two stone bowls. They remind me of the metal and wood steaming platters that keep fajitas warm. The bowls are huge and filled with rice, vegetables, and a half-cooked egg arranged on the top. I break the egg and let the yoke color the rice. Kelly's ramblings have turned into some strange cousin of scat.

"I'm sorry, hon'. What'd you say?" I ask him. "It's bibobop," he repeats. "I'm sorry, what?" "Bi-bim-bap. Bibimbap." He scrapes the rice crusting along the inside of the bowl and mixes it so the rest has a chance to turn into crunchy sheets. "It's Korean comfort food." I shovel some into my mouth, careful not to burn myself on the bowl. Despite the strange name and presentation, it might be the most normal thing I have eaten with Kelly. (It's essentially fried rice from the local Chinese Take-out.)

"You should write more about my birthday," he says, a little miffed I haven't explained the bone marrow story in more detail. "I don't know, Kel," I say and stab at a zucchini. "It's sort of in the past." "Well, David Sedaris writes in the past." I don't argue and wonder what the brown tendril is that I have wrapped around my chopstick. It's almost vegetable in appearance, but I've learned that you can't really ask questions in Chinatown. (Well you can, but the answers aren't what you want to hear.)

My first "weird food" incidence was going for dim sum in Chinatown with Samantha, Sean, and their friend Ashley. The walls were blood red and covered with gilded mirrors. The tanks were filled with live fish and waiters ( I suppose you could call them that) pushed their carts between tables. The four of us were the only people in the entire restaurant that were not Asian. Sean had been several times before, so I trusted him when he picked out rice balls wrapped in lotus leaves. "What's this?" I asked him, pointing to the meat inside the rice ball. Sean shrugged and continued to shovel tripe into his mouth with glee. I decided not to ask any further questions when a cart went by with phoenix claws.

If dim sum was my formal announcement, then Kelly's birthday was my debutant ball of weird food. Going to Evie's restaurant, we sat at the bar and picked at cheese platters, duck, and sweetbread. "It's cow thymus," Kelly says as the bartender puts down the plate. It looks like a giant hushpuppy soaked in gravy and sprinkled with peas. "Grammy always says that you can't say you don't like it if you don't try it." I finish my glass of something pink (I assume it was a rose, but Kelly has pointed out mistakes in past posts) and scoop out a bite with my fork. It's softer and spongier than what I expected. The gravy is super savory and sharp, cutting through the strange texture of the sweetbread. I manage to eat it without freaking out, but think twice for going in again and decide to stick with the duck.

A few more glasses and Kelly and I go off alone to get drinks. This begins the infamous "Bone Marrow Incident". Taking a taxi, we take the first seats empty at the bar and I let Kelly's friend (he knows EVERYONE) make us cocktails that have as much liquor in them as a Long Island. "I'll also get an order of fries and the bone marrow," Kelly says. The words "bone marrow" are said as if they were some luxurious treasure...the Tut's tomb of food. His order comes with the bones arranged in a neat row, a pile of cut baguette pieces set up artfully behind them. "You have to try it," Kelly said and spooned some of the marrow straight from the bone onto a slice of bread. I've never been a hungry drunk (sometimes I'll snack, but I never had a "I must EAT!" moment), but I remembered Grammy's advice and copied his movements with only a little hesitation. The marrow was good, but reminded me too much of a savory jello. It had a grainy texture and taken straight from the bone was a little too ghoulish for my inebriated mind to grasp.

"So what do you think?" Kelly asks me about the bibimbap. I pop the brown tendril into my mouth carelessly, relieved it's a vegetable of some kind. "It really is Korean comfort food," I tell him.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wine: a study

"Sorry, the place is a mess," Kelly says as he opens the door to his apartment. There is a half-empty suitcase on his couch, the cat is gone, and his bed is torn apart. The mattress is naked, the surface picked out in ugly flowers, and piled with clothes.

"Come on, I need help picking out a suit," he says half in the closet. He grabs his dress shirts in bunches and lays them out on the already cluttered bed. The colors are all bright blues, purples, and pinks done in stripes, checks, plaids, and some patterns that are a mixture of both. His nightstand (a collection of wooden vintner's boxes) is broken in half and opened to show his collection of ties. It's another jumble of bright colors and patterns.

I have been helping him prepare for his Advanced tests for the past month. Well, by helping I mean going with him to study groups and calming him down as he worries about something I'm sure he already knows by heart. ("What if they ask me to name all the [insert grape] in [insert country/region]?" "Kel, you have an IQ of 300, you know that stuff." "What if it's all French? You know I'm an Italophile..."). I've watched him and his fellow sommeliers sit in front of glasses of wine and play the drinking version of Guess Who?! I've seen a full, formal table service performed step-by-step...even using a wine basket (which, apparently, is a useless piece of wicker/wire that no one uses anyway...sort of like taking advanced Calculus and being an English major).

Kelly matches shirts and ties in patterns that make my eyes hurt. Stripes with plaids in a giant swath of various purples. I match a solid blue shirt with a paisley-esque tie, but he vetos it and pulls another shirt to replace the blue. "That's too boring," he says. I sigh and step aside, offering a few comments when I can and watch him pack.

He'll be gone for the week and returning Saturday night. I keep trying to be as helpful as possible, but I know I'm just a blanket...something comforting just to have around. He pours two glasses of a pinot noir from Napa (a rarity in Mr. Old-world's fridge) and I drink as he finishes packing. In the morning, he will rush to grab his three bags, thrust a few CDs into my hands that he needs returned to the library, and empty the few items in his fridge into my car: two cheeses from our Othello picnic, a quarter gallon of whole milk, and the half-finished bottle of pinot noir.

Monday, August 2, 2010

As free as the elements

The Common is perfect and I can't stop staring at the stage. I manage to pull my eyes away to grab at the picnic spread in front of us, but I keep going back to the monolith on the stage, wondering what it could possibly be. Huge and looking as if it was made from worn stone or steel, I have been to Shakespeare on the Common a few times now, but I don't remember a stage as spartan as this. Well, considering the play is Othello...I'm not too surprised.

Kelly and I had prepared to do the MFA and Indian the night before, when we were a tangle of limbs on his loveseat and watching TV. "The weather's supposed to be nice tomorrow," he says. "You want to go to Othello and picnic instead?" I mull it over as the theme song for the show plays. "Yeah, why not? It could be fun." I had only asked for a lazy Sunday, so spending it in the park sounded just as good. With the cooler weather, it would be perfect.

Kelly's friend "Evie" (who I consider to be a friend of mine as well, "by proxy" as Kel puts it) and her friend "Hannah" have grabbed us a spot far from the stage, but not too far that I can't tell that Desdemona is the woman in white. Evie pours a rose carefully from its hiding place, her eyes looking about for the policeman that passed us not too long ago.

"Dig in," Hannah says to me. In the middle of our blankets, Kelly is cutting up two baguettes on a plastic board. Hannah opens up a second tub of hummus and offers me a pita chip. We also have four different kinds of cheeses (the closest to what would pass for "normal" [read non-foodie] is a sweeter blue cheese that doesn't make my mouth purse), organic blueberries, cherries, diced watermelon, and duck liver pate. I assess the spread again and look at the watermelon. Remembering camping trips and picnics from my childhood, the watermelon is the only thing that looks familiar.

The play starts and I spread one of the cheeses onto a slice of baguette. By the second act, we have taken it on ourselves to be the Mystery Science Theater 3000 of Shakespeare. "Othello is such a pimp!" Hannah snickers. "Beat a ho!" Kelly calls. "He's just like Mel Gibson," Evie says (the only comment to make the two older women sitting next to use to giggle).

By this point, I'm the only person that hasn't tried the pate. Desdemona begs for her life as Othello throws her to the bed. The pillow covers her face and she thrashes, falling to the floor...only to be dragged and drowned in the tub. The play is almost over and Kelly has his head cradled in my lap. I smile to myself and smear a little pate onto a slice of bread. I almost could make it a symbol of the play as a whole: brown on white, decadent and savory with a strange sweetness that would not be expected, and created by a violent act. It's not what I would have pictured for a picnic, but just as good nonetheless.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

One of these things is not like the other

I can feel the sweat trickling down my spine. I would love to take my vest off, but I'm afraid of any dark spots that might be showing underneath. A part of it is from the heat, but another part is the spotlight my boyfriend, Kelly, keeps shining on me. He tells another story to the crowd in front of him, waits for the polite laughs to fade out before using me as another example in his wine talk.

I usually wouldn't mind, but the people around me are in a whole other social scene. Food writers, editors, critics, and the like all turn to me each time Kelly says "my boyfriend". They're wearing designer dresses and suits. Their jewelry shines in the overhead lighting and reflects against the sterling silver merchandise of the boutique we're borrowing. I am doing all I can not to sweat through my clearance rack dress shirt, pinstripe slacks, and vest (which is too damn hot for the summer, but is cooler than a blazer). Their conversations all surround the latest food trends and whether or not it was a good soft-shell crab season. Do I know if kumquats are a making a comeback? I would be hard-pressed to tell you what a kumquat tastes like...

The food editor running the tasting with Kel asks about pairing. He pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose, smiles, and tells the crowd that you don't have to match reds with red meat and whites with white meat (it's apparently an outdated trend from the '60s...who knew?). Someone else asks why the sparkling wasn't served in a champagne flute. "It's all about finding what you like. It doesn't matter what the vintage is or what glasses you use...Your job when you go to the restaurant is to remember the last wine that you liked. Mine is to find something else like it you'll enjoy."

I mingle with the crowd while Kelly pours. By "mingle", I mean I hide along the wall and make small talk while wedged between a sterling silver table display and a decorative column. I pick at the delicious cheese platters and the skewers of olive, prosciutto, and pickle. I answer the same questions from all the industry people. "Yes, he is great. Four months. No, we don't. No, I'm a technical editor." I spare them the details of my work, but punctuate my ignorance of wine with the same joke. "Sometimes, when he gets really geeky, all I hear is muh-na-mo-na." I sing like a Muppet to the food editor of a prestigious magazine.

Out of nowhere, a woman approaches me. She's dressed up like the others, but she's a little tipsy and has a rougher edge to her voice. "So I hear you're the boyfriend? That's great. I get dragged to all of my girlfriend's office events, too." She slurs a quick history of being at the event with a few friends (one her ex-girlfriend) and says it's great that the gays are getting more visible. I swallow the rest of my white and nod innocuously. The ex is a WASP with wounded doe eyes, watching carefully for the tipsy lesbian to make the transition to drunk and scene-causing. She gives me a hug and disappears with her friends to another event, only to be replaced by a man in a polo, khaki shorts, and same slippery speech. He tells me what a wonderful time he's having, mistaken that I either had a hand in planning the tasting or that Kelly and I could pass praise to each other through osmosis.

As he left to find his buddies (he'd return for a handshake and an odd hug), I began to feel more comfortable. I had the same number of glasses as they did, but I was vertical, clear-headed, and the redness in my face could have easily been from the heat and sunshine. For all their gusto and vocabulary (One day, I'll ask Kelly to explain the importance of the cru to me), they were really there for the same reason I get a little slippery and meet some interesting people. In the last 15-20 minutes of the tasting, I was told the same story twice by the woman I Muppeted, hugged again by the man in the polo, and invited to New York by one of the boutique's Manhattan representatives.

(Usually, the tastings provide you with a list of all the featured wines, but Kelly said that it was too formal for this particular event...and since I don't speak French and couldn't discern what was the vineyard and what was the grape, I have my assessment of the night's wines in a numbered list. I'll bother Kel for their names later...).

French #1 - Sparkling (not champagne); sharp and dry with a clean taste
French #2 - White; sharp and sweet with a hint of peaches in the background
French #3 - Rose; softer and almost savory with a mineral aftertaste
French #4 - Red (Beaujolais); earthy and peppery with a basil-like taste
French #5 - Red (Beaujolais); sweeter with a slightly floral taste (but only in the sense that you hear "oh it has floral undertones" and think "well, I guess that's what that is...")

Note: #4 and #5 were chosen specifically by Kelly because they were in the same region and only two years apart to show the variety of Beaujolais.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A start

This whole experiment is because of one man's obsession with wine and food. Not mine, although I have a deeply rooted sweet tooth that I can blame my mother for, but rather my boyfriend's. We have similar tastes in music, TV, movies (to an extent), but our jobs couldn't be further apart. At the moment, I am the technical editor for a market research and technology consulting firm. My beau is the sommelier for a restaurant in the city.

Sommelier. That's pronounced som-me-eh. I have told my family and friends his title for months now and I still think I say it wrong. My basic understanding of his job is that he runs the restaurant's extensive wine cellar and bar, as well as makes suggestions to patrons on what to have with their roasted artichoke hearts or duck a l'orange. Where my job involves thousands of pages about digital camera parts that have names straight from sci-fi novels (XLR-550 anyone?), he gets to go to wine tastings and lunches to see if he should be adding white wine A or such-and-such gin to the collection at the "resto".

After telling my co-workers about our nights out at this bistro to eat god-knows-what with some wine I can't pronounce for the life of me, I started playing with the idea of keeping a diary of sorts about being my beau's "plus one" to industry events and tastings. He, of course, was thrilled with the idea, but the man also ordered bone marrow and fries one night out so his tastes are a little suspect.

Along the way, I plan to try and learn as much as I can and hopefully give a little insight and knowledge for anyone else interested. Who knows? We might actually be able to order a glass of wine without wondering afterwards if its called Cha-bliss or sha-Blee.

Bon appetit!