Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Tribute To Gunnar



I struggle to come to terms with his death. Unlike thinking someone was going to live forever, I pretty much was at peace that my grandfather had passed his golden years and was progressing towards a peaceful sunset. With dementia and stomach cancer ravaging his mind and body, the old man still went on his daily walks, ate his forever treasured Swedish food, and stacked the wood stove full every morning at my great Aunt's farmhouse in Vigaker, Sweden. He was far cry from the juggernaut and pillar of human strength he once was, yet his lucid spells made you wince with agony I hear. Just when you were ready to say goodbye and write the old man off, he'd poke back in for one more round, one more story. As if saying, "I'm still here, lucky as hell, and I'm not sure what I did to deserve it."

The old man mirrored the long in the tooth retired champion horse, his barn filled with old medals. Not the participation medals, but the ones that weigh a few pounds, no longer attached to their ribbons as their weight and purity outlived the fragile ribbon. When shined they look new, but their tarnish remains, somehow adding to their legend.

In his latter years I always pictured him out to pasture, happy to have his belly rubbed, his ears scratched, a good meal, and happy for a saunter with his iconic cigar. Old, yet proud and triumphant at all of his accomplishments. He was the retired stud, and though his eyes grew grey and cloudy, they remained sharp, and that impish youth still shone it's innocent twinkle until death.

Gunnar deDon is the inspiration to my life. Born above the Artic Circle in Kramfors, Sweden, he transcended poverty. His father died of Tuberculosis when he was a child, and thusly he was seen by many as a bastard child. His formal education was in carpentry, let's just ballpark it equilvalent to finishing 8th grade.

He, like so many of his generation did what was morally and ethically necessary to succeed. And through luck and fortitude he immigrated from Sweden to Canada, and from Canada to Florida only to live the impossible and improbable dream of a life and death done on his own, yet only to be helped by so many along the way.

He was and will forever remain handsome and resolute. He was a Maverick and innovator, and the first to teach me what the word meant. At ten years old, I spent my first week away from home with the Grandparents and I was bored out of my mind. My BMX Bicycle could only take me so far, and away from cable, forced to play outside, I rode that sucker till the chain fell off. Unable to fix it on my own, he showed me how and said, "Boy, you know, you need to be innovative, do you know what innovate means?" In hindsight and maybe at the same lock step in time, I knew that standing before me was the definition.

Father of four, having no idea how to build pools, or houses, he started as a jeweler and ended up helping to set the crown jewels for the queen of England when she visited Canada. Then, by happenstance the first house he built with his wife, some passer by liked it, so he sold it to them. So why not build more, make a profit, and take his craft down to Fort Lauderdale. Why don't you start developing neighborhoods, building pools, start a pool company, and later buy and develop a community in Cashiers, North Carolina. That community in Cashiers is where our mountain house sits. Oh yeah, he developed the ~40 acres by himself, known as "The One Manned Band". Our family mountain house sits there today, finished as he turned 70.

There was not much he touched that didn't end up shining. Roughly, he could step into shit, and come out smelling like roses.

In his older years he used to say, "You know, I don't know what I have done to be this damn lucky?" And after hearing his stories about surviving a solo plane ride/stall out/crash where he jumped out of it and landed in Lake Ontario unconscious, starting brush fires that got a little out of control during droughts, and the countless adventures he had with his adopted brother, you had to scratch your head and just shrug your shoulders in reply.

Was it destiny? God always protects drunks and fools. Neither a drunk nor fool, the man had Teflon protection right up until the day he died. Anyone who met him could agree there was just something special about the man. To put it the way I can see it, Gunnar deDon had a plan, he wasn't sure what it was, but when he figured it out, it always ended up working. Call him the forever bumbler, call him God's court jester who entertained the hell out of him until the day he passed with a sweet smile on his face. I can see God looking down, smiling for 87 years saying, "This one, he's special, he makes me laugh, his heart is pure"...and on November 5th, my lovely family in Sweden gathered around his bed singing old songs and telling old stories as he finally slept that final sleep...smiling, happy to go home. God has a another entertainer finally in his court. And if God is anything like me, he could hear those stories for an eternity, knowing they will never get old, perhaps just a little more embellished.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Henlopen City Oyster House/Salt Air and Why Bar Seats Are Better

Our good friend and part time chef/cook Michael Mooreland (known on past episdodes of "Michael Does Tapas") directed us to the Henlopen City Oyster House. Experienced to a good time with shellfish and happy hour drinks we hapilly accepted the challenge and rousted our butts for another adventure.

Happy hour starts at 3pm, can that be wrong? The Red Sox playing and beating the Yankees soundly while I slurped a variety of oysters next to the 5 women in the catty entourage of our party? The fact the smallish bar was jammed to standing room only and we nailed six seats within 5 minutes?

I am a believer that no matter how good the food, the ambiance makes or breaks a place. The bar room to the wonderful establishment is clean, bright, and is a shade of beige beachy brightness with weathered beach house planks comprising the walls. It's a place that feels high end and clean, but the cleanliness of the place drives it to that bright uplifting raw bar that instantly becomes a local "Cheers" joint.

Next door, Salt Air. Is it true we visited these establishments more than once? How else could we have known we could easilly water ourselves at the Raw Bar, take a break, and hit the happy hour next door? We will blame it on the bartender...

Habitually we tend to sit at the bar of any establishment. Call it my perpetual nature to kill a pint in less than five minutes, we like the availability of the savvy bartender. It's an upside. There is no awkward introduction from the waitstaff, or awkward waiting time. More importantly, there is not a long wait between drinks. Most importantly however, I feel we get the lay of the land in a new place. Hot spots, places to eat, places to go, things to do. The cadence of the talk is abrubt but generally warm with a New Yorker type attitude of pragmatism. And I dig pragmatic. I don't want to hear your fucking life story at least not for a few more pints...but I like to interact with you on a level that works for both.

At Salt Air, we hit the farm style table high top. Following suit that house made and homemade is the vogue rather than "Store Bought Chic" in the 1980s, we dove into tapas.

Paprika Grilled Wings

Watermelon, Pistachio, Mint, Tomato Salad

Mustard Cream and Country Ham Mussels (Warm bread for Sopping)

Tomato Salad with FRESH Bluecrab Dip

Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese

Scrupulously at each station of happy hour stoppage, our needs were attended, smiled upon, and quickly moved on as to say, "Welcome, thanks for coming, happy to have you, gotta roll". It's like many of our interactions in life. While we navigate with our small cadre of closests, we nimbly go the back and forth between our acquaintances. Bar seats, are the happy acquaintances in our busy life and are the reasons we dine and discriminate accordingly.

The Ode To Tracey and Backstory To Rehobeth

I live a Rock Star life because my wife, and her mother are connected with friends. And these friends have stuff. And thankfully these friends have decided to keep me in the fold. When I tell the stories of the galavanting and charmed adventures, my parents forget I actually work for a living. I'm telling you, it's all in who you know. Enter Tracey Brebner, colleague and mutual friend, and lover of food, travel, and fun. The friend you want your wife to have because she is a strong woman who is unfazed by my penchant for flatulence, and off centered comments. It all means I too get to tag along, I get to be one of "The Girls". And the place where all of this happens is at her house in Rehobeth.

Tracey's house is HUGE...located two blocks off of the beach, it has been in her family for umpteen years. It's a special place because it is a) Huge b) Has a huge fenced in yard(our dogs love to play there) c) She still lets idiots like me visit d) Her family has adopted us as their family as well.

Last year, during the winter, this 1890s home was flooded immensely by leaky radiators. Thusly, it was gutted and quite an adventure to stay in through the summer in which we had nothing but beds and a few walls amongst a ton of rafters. To see the house transform itself back into a modern working beach home has been hardly describable. Albeit, I'd have to say staying there has been much more comfortable now that there is a huge leather man chair with a great flat screen tv and ESPN. As a side note, Matty generally is "one of the girls" whenever we visit. Seriously, it's usually 5:1 girl to guy ratio...the new addition has helped my cause immensely. No longer feeling boxed in by girly girl drinks and manicures, I'm able to open a few beers in the solitude of the leather couch and shut off the world.

Adventure is the name of the game with every visit. Paddle boarding on the Delaware Bay, bumming beers from people moored on boats, raw bar happy hour, and even the tromps in the bushes after a few too many, my hat goes off to a great friend from a benefactor of such a rad place.

Redeem Yourself Rehobeth

Face down in the bushes, expelling the last of the poison, narrowly missing being arrested for trying to sleep in parked cars, I vowed to change. The hangover hurt so much. The wife frowned, laughingly I must admit, but embarrassed by her lush husband. The details we all tried to sort out...where did it all go wrong? Why did it get so blurry? Was it the fact we imbibed a shit ton of liquor while eating a steady heap of happy hour shellfish?

And there I was again, left by my wing man at midnight, my wife roused herself out of bed to find me barely conscious at the bar, some old lady hitting on me, and me completely unaware of anything.

That was Rehobeth. Guests of our friend Tracey, to her family beach house, those were some painful memories that no longer are excusable or "funny" at thirty two years old. July 3rd, 2011 was when my wife and I had our talk of how Matthew Jacobs can be a better human, and more importantly husband. That was when I decided wine and beer are fine for me, but liquor is the source of every silly story that ends up with me being an idiot. At thirty two, I'm afraid being an idiot could one day prove fatal. My column of self worth along with my vitality are too much at stake, thusly I have decided to change.

Visiting painful memories and reliving the bad times is something a Hedonist hates to do. And instead of this being a diary of psychobabble and self help for me, and pain for you, I feel it best to move on...

Inspired by my wife, and best friend of almost seven years, I decided to not dwell on my failures, and get back on the horse. Last week, shockingly, our dear friend Tracey emphatically invited us back to her place of solace. I wrote her a long email apologizing for my past behavior of one too many drinks and dives into the bushes. Unfazed she quickly replied, "I don't care how drunk you get, it's your hangover in the morning"...well said and I nice segue way to the roads of redemption.

For a week we tackled Rehobeth with gusto and vigor. If given the grace to change and make happier memories, this hedonist begs you to take full advantage. And heavens to betsy, it's not like I went to church and got up every day at 5am. Hell to the no! Instead, for an instance in my life I actually practiced self control while enjoying the shit out of our trip. No dives in the bushes, plenty of beer, daily cigars, and no blackouts...

Quite a sober entry that begs the question, where did you go, where did you eat, what did you actually do?

That my friends is the next adventure.





Monday, August 1, 2011

Ken's Back Porch Cafe

Bottom line is you have to go. As "Annapolitans" I am ashamed to write we finally went. The experience was expected...informal atmosphere overlooking Back Creek, comfortable staff, on a back porch with ceiling fans blowing...giving way to the star.

Food, bottom line the food was the star. "Best Crab Cake In Annapolis", yes, I would have to say so. On special however was the stuffed back fin soft shelled crab sandwich". Sauteed to perfection, crispy, tender, buttery...paired with a cup of coffee that had nuts to it and a virgin Bloody Mary we collapsed in our king sized bed and dreamt of crabs jumping into a steam pot filled with Natty Boh and Old Bay.

The Crab Cake took the back seat to the special of the day. Relaxed, not pretentious, kind of a Cheersy no fuss it is what it is type place. By the way, it's also B.Y.O.B...note to self, next time at 10:30am, I'm gonna have to have a brown paper bag with something...yep, with something...

Tapas

I love that anytime you tell someone not in the "know" about a "Tapas" restaurant they automatically say, "Topless Restaurant"? I giggle...and with the globalization of everything less and less people have this reaction.

Small plates...or as far as I am concerned, snacks with drinks. Done well, Tapas are the perfect bar snack as you plow through different wines. If the portions are correct, you can imbibe with little consequence. Done poorly, you drank more than you ate. Call the cab, don't rochambeau it, trust me.

Our latest tapas experience was with the wonderfully talented Michael Mooreland. By day he plays around as the C.F.O. of some muckity muck company. By night and by fun, he cooks, drinks, and enjoys the finer things...fox hunting, traveling...he's a man after my own heart, a fellow brother in the renaissance of what life's meaning truly is.

We had the pleasure of winning a night with Michael and his partner Michael at their residence in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Fashionably late we arrived at the door greeted by their sweet foxhound Kennedy. Michael was dressed in his chef's whites and invited us to sit along the kitchen island. It was a big beautiful kitchen, airy, spacious, yet well decorated and homey. Nothing was too big, your comrades were well within sharing distance and the wine bottles easily could exchange hands without getting up and walking across the table.

Michael introduced his aim that he planned tapas for two reasons. Reason number one, my mother-in-law requested it. More importantly, reason two, it was intimate, fun, and interactive. The mise en place was done thank goodness. Basically, at his request, we too got to put on aprons and fold little dish towels at our waist, and stuff empanadas, jalepenos, or portabello mushrooms (Meghan kept her apron on and ate, I think she was happy just to wear an apron and be involved).

The evening started with cold succulent sherry, toasted and well seasoned marcona almonds with Manchego and another Cow's Milk cheese. It again progressed while our glasses kept being filled and we digressed. Items on the menu were simple things like:

Carmelized Onion Biscuits

Bacon, Cream Cheese, and Onion Stuffed Jalepeno Poppers

Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp with Garlic and Paprika)

Stuff Portabello Mushrooms with Onions and Chorizo

Scallop Ceviche

Langostinos

Roasted Pepper and White Bean Dip

The list probably goes on...and it was done amazingly as bottle after bottle of easy drinking Spanish wine evaporated into the recycle bin. We tried a really great 10 dollar Verdejo and an equally wallet friendly Rose made from Garnacha.

Sweet Kennedy sensing our jubilent mood went from lap to lap as his height was perfect for laying his sweet head on your trousers, looked up, and hoped for a bite. Michael and Michael joined in the fun and we all ate and imbibed with a relaxed sense that recapitulates why it is why I write about food. It's the people, it's the story, it's the enjoyment. Tonight, tapas were done right.

When I Found Time to Write...

I hunger to write, and I hunger to eat. As a self proclaimed artist who enjoys the finer things in life I find if I get out of a habit, I tend to fall off completely. It's my all or nothing soul constantly embattled by excess while trying to stay within the lines. It's a bless, a curse, and I often find myself the maker of my own disaster...again, the dumbest smart kid I know.

I find myself wondering what new food and experience to write about. Especially when I find them so meaningful. Perhaps the meaning of food has reached its point in my life. Instead of taking it for granted, I find myself savouring each bite much like I find myself fantasizing to always enjoy life. And as happenstance, my readers have fallen as innocent bystanders saying, "What the fuck happened to your writing...go drum up some business and get in the kitchen"...

I sit, finally, finger to keyboard, and my thoughts immediately fall on my last few really nice experiences with food:

Crab, Crab, and More Crab

My dad loves to poke fun at us Marylanders and our affinity for crabs. He tolerates crabs and actually enjoys picking them. My mother on the other hand could care less. She has no desire to pick, and when/if you are generous enough to give that jeweled backfin, picked in all of it's glory...standing out like a beautiful crab lollipop, she feigns little interest, dips it in butter and says, "Thanks"...

Dad gets a couple of beers in him and says, "I'm happy as a crab in Maryland". After a few beers myself, I get all weepy and think about the meaning of picking crab, the social collateral you have just gained with your hardy party of picking persona. Crab is a religion. It's a right of passage and a cultural phenomenon. It's where battles are sorted and relationships galvanized. The fun of it, you start chugging beers with each delicious dip and slurp of buttery sweet crab. In fact, you're drinking at a rate that will damn near make you pass out if you keep it up. And then your brain says, "I'm sated"...and your hands keep working each crab, extracting everything the little bug has to offer. The beer stays the same height in the bottle, and it starts to warm. Usually it's beer number three for me...or two and a half...and the beer has smudges of butter and Old Bay all over it, the label has started to peel from the condensation.

This summer has been no exception to crab picking madness. The people have changed, but the experiences remained the same. We last picked a few weekends ago at a beautiful spot in Sheperdstown, West Virginia. Picturesque, private ranch on a mountain right next to their pool. It was a friend of the mother-in-law (I swear she knows everyone). We sat in 98 degree heat under a flimsy umbrella and banged our mallets on a spare table held together with duck tape...crabs brought in by us from Annapolis.

And there we were, three beers deep, the remnants warming in the bottle, hands pickled by Old Bay, and glistening in butter...bellies full, and relationships cemented, totally at peace, and Happy as a Crab in Maryland.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Why Not?



It's like the title of Miles Davis's "So What" from "Kind of Blue"...

So What? Why Not?

Discipline has been my new mantra this spring/summer. Drink less, exercise more, try to indulge less with everything that might be bad. Yesterday we happened to pass by soft shell crabs. Could it be the season? Watching those cold little buggers in our fishmonger's case foaming at the mouth had me thinking I was looking in the mirror. Well, at least Grandma Burton would think so (As a backnote, Grandma Burton should have been the daughter of a waterman, she adored crabs, loved softshells, and loved everything of shellfish origin). As a whimsical wishlist I said, "I sure would do anything for one of those crabs, mmm, with butter, pan fried"...

Three years of marriage feels like twenty-five...not because of the hard assed labor and bitterness...but because it's like she has known me for twenty-five years and just seems to cater to me at every damned turn. Viola, here I come home to the picture featured above.

Thanks Mario Batali, Sauteed Soft Shell Crabs with Broccoli Rabe, Sundried Tomato Pesto with Capers, and Balsalmic Vinegar.

Discipline slipping out of the door, my wife said, "What should we drink with this, it's a special meal?"

Shield up, focused, head held high, "Sel..zer...(my voice cracked), it's a weekday, gotta get up at 4:30am and I didn't work out to...day(cracking again)"...

"Sigh....Lemme see what's in the cellar"...I trudge (only in my subconscious), okay, I run downstairs and unearth a sweet little bottle of Virginia Viognier from Pollak Vineyards...

Nice balance of acid with peachy apricot and honeysuckle notes...really balance out the buttery crab...

It's Wednesday night, boring night, diet night...

Does it really have to be mundane?

Skip breakfast, do a few sit ups, and no, it doesn't...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Wedding House (Dana and Tom's Wedding Weekend)

Our latest adventure was something I had never been a part of...a wedding house. The goal of the bride was to bring the "band" back together again (all the kids from med school) and have them live together for 2.5 days. Throw in a wedding somewheres in between and there was the recipe for something...

Typically I HATE brides...they get all ooey gooey for THEIR day where everyone lavishes them with attention. Then they get uber bitchy and uppity and super proper (especially when you know they used to get railed in the local bar bathroom), pop out some pups, and well, you know the rest. Yuck, yikes, that's just what I HATE. H-A-T-E...those brides make me scared of marriage and children.

Over the years (early twenties until now) the weddings have come and gone and I have gotten a little more domesticated and used to the ideas of marriage and family. Only a few weddings have been stinkers (usually there is no alcohol and too much Jesus involved)...so this one piqued my interest because it was with good friends and this really neat idea actually housing the wedding party.

Success! Genius Success! I mean totally and amazingly awesome...here's the rundown/back story/sprinklings of fabled fame.

So the bride rents out a HUGE McMansion in Reston, Virginia....like 5,000 square feet, totally furnished, heated pool, man cave, pool table, huge kitchen...like we hit the lotto on this one. And then everyone flies in from all corners of the earth. Partying, eating, and silliness ensues.

Friday: Wedding party arrives, everyone gets their own room. The bride announces their is no rehearsal dinner, just casually catered dinner with drinks. Whawhawhat? You heard it...

Then the bride's in-laws appear (all fifty thousand, think Irish Catholics), and they are all a hoot. Happiest people on earth. Drinking, talking, reuniting. EPIC I tell you, damn epic. I got the chance to get drunk, not drive anywhere, and hang out with a ton of cool people. Can we repeat that Saturday? Funny you might ask that...

Saturday: It's wedding day, I am required to do NOTHING. Seriously, the girls sit around getting their hair and makeup did. The bride asks one favor, "Can you put the warm beer in the fridge to make cold beer?" Done and done, I go for a run. At 2pm the limo picks us up. I opted to hang with the girls all day...so there I go, hopping into the limo with beers and wine bottles. At one point in the ride a bridesmaid tells me it must be hard to hang out with the girls the whole time. I reply slyly saying, "Not that bad in a limo with a lot of upskirt action". My wife giggles...best wife ever!

The wedding takes place, a lot of beer, a great menu (believe it or not, generally wedding food sucks)...seriously a medium rare fillet and crab cake. Then the DJ just rocks it and our good friend Rob did the worm. He always does the worm, like a worm expert. Honestly, he's an orthopedic doctor/worm dancing fool. Being that he's built a little like Cecil Fielder(little chunky but damn athletic). So everyone sits there puzzled saying, "How does that guy with the belly do those athletic feats?"

Everyone danced, even our friend's granny who is 90 cut a rug...then we got all the free accouterments(flowers baby flowers)...then we jumped on the mega bus and headed back to the wedding house for the after party. The youngest 20 somethings started shotgunning beers, and the 30 somethings attempted to replicate. I had NONE of that.

Saturday 10pm....Bus rolls home, sleepy I find my second wind. Flip cup, me repeatedly denying to play flip cup saying, "I can get mighty drunk here at the bar by myself, I don't need to chug".

11:30pm: Someone opens up the pool...drinking + swimming, not a great combo, oh well, what the hell...there are a ton of doctors here right? And one of the doctors used to swim competively in college? No problem.

Things ended for me at 1am, too tired, too much beer, time to sleep.

Next day, brunch...me still doing nothing except relaxing and eating. We all leave, no drama, no cleaning up, and a great reunion and wedding with wonderful friends.

Who knows if the house made the weekend better, or the people in the house? But the idea, think about it...one stop shopping. A wedding house to host parties all weekend? Yes, of course, why did I never think of that?

Accommodations Part 1

Instead of doing something expensive, we elected for five days and four nights of camping in celebration of our 3rd wedding anniversary. The goal, set up camp in Luray, Virginia (nestled in the beautiful Shenandoah's) using the camp as home base for cooking gourmet treats by night. All the while exploring the region's offerings by day. Included, a blow by blow storyline with general insights, praise, and warning for current and future offenders of hospitality.

Day 1: Lift off...Arrival

When you are in Annapolis and need a great steak, hit up "My Butcher". For our final meal camping we chose porterhouse. Yes, there is a Wal-Mart in Luray, but I would rather have a fresh cut Porterhouse from a reputable butcher. "Mike the Butcher" is that and some. Although his store doesn't open until 11am, we banged on the door and begged them to open early...done and done, we hit the road, off to better lands.

What says AMURCAN (but made in other countries) more than Wal-Mart of Luray, Virginia, our first real stop before camping. After getting my fishing license from the skinhead working in the hunting section, we jetset with our new wares straight from child labor camps for cheap. Meg gets winks and stares from all men wearing Camouflage...I get hate filled looks as I'm dressed in Madras shorts with a t-shirt saying, "Mr. Strong"...might as well say "Mr. Fruity"...shaking my head and happy I have teeth we move on.

Safely and securely we arrive at "Outlanders River Camp" which is completely empty but in a good way. We found this spot last year and it's a beautiful one. Nestled at the bottom of the valley, ten feet off the Shenandoah river, and bordered by a beautiful pasture, we are isolated from everyone. The constant theme each night was good cocktails, stories of old, music, fire, and food. I don't suggest you go here on the weekend in the summer unless you would like to hang out with the Wal-mart crowd. I dunno, everyone is into something different I guess.

Day 2:

The Splendor of Luray Caverns...

Seriously cool to hike 1.25 miles underground while carrying the dog. Note to foreigners traveling in this here country...

1) When the Ranger says "DON'T touch the rock formations, they are old and will decay with touch", please don't act like you can't speak English. I can see you know it's wrong because you touch the rocks and look around to see if anyone is looking (Your Headphones are also saying that in your native tongue). And your dad who should have a cane because he can barely walk upright, please make him use the cane, the rock formations are not hand rails.

2) Please wear deodorant

3) When the Ranger is talking, it is impolite to talk over them, especially while wearing your Eurotrash shoes...they call us rude?


The Wasmund Distillery, Sperryville, Va

So the whiskey maker/helper wasn't too keen on giving us any free tastings, and after thinking about it, it made sense. But we got a killer tour at a Single Malt Distillery literally housed in a barn. Scotland just ordered 150 cases from them...remember, Scotland is Single Malt Mecca. The secret behind their hooch? Cherry and Applewood Smoking their grain. You can taste the smoke in the drink. And it was a blast going from the grain growing room seeing the grain all raked out and germinating, then to the smoke room, climbing the ladder to the vat and getting a HUGE whiff of a 2 day ferment...nearly took our heads off, and then to the finishing room. I kept saying, "Seriously, in Sperryville?" This is world class whiskey, and it's being done in the middle of nowhere. The maker said, "Why not, have you looked around at the beauty of this place?" Check em out, Copper Fox Distillery, they have a Single Malt Whiskey and a Rye. Equally great depending on your mood.

The Rappahannock Disaster

Matty: "Where to next?"

Meg: "Let's find some wineries in the area"...

Matty: "Well, 25 miles later, here's one, Rappahannock Cellars, I hear it's supposed to be pretty good, haven't we been there before? Maybe not...hmm.."

Matty: (Outside of the entrance), "It says we have to leave the dog leashed in the courtyard, go in an see if we can maybe have a tasting outside".

Meg: "Okay, sure thing"

Meg: (Returning, steam starting to shoot out of her ears) "They wont let us taste outside, they wont let her inside, and it's too hot to leave the dog in the car. I'm not tying my dog up in the yard like a redneck in order to taste their wine."

Matty: "Was the lady snooty?"

Meg: "No, but she was totally unaccommodating, we are THE only people here, we're leaving, I will NEVER taste their wine".

THAT is how to lose our business. Yes, we respect everyone is a small business owner, and there are rules. But if you like to make money and run a successful business, go the extra mile. Had you actually tried to accommodate us, we would have stayed, we would have probably spent money. Meg and I are both suckers for customer service. We received none, thusly we left.

Remember, Virginia wine still isn't that great...it's tolerable, and I've given it very favorable reviews. But your bottles are 22 dollars and up...I can buy pretty killer stuff for 30 from reputable well established places like Napa, or OTHER COUNTRIES...why waste my money on Virginia wine sentiment out of nostalgia and pride? I like your wine, I yet don't love it. Please don't take me for granted, no matter how many po dunk medals you won at the county fair last year. Henceforth, the title of this blog is called Accommodations in tribute to your lack of service.

Thirsty and hungry we headed back to Luray. And we land at this placed called "Victoria Inn Wine Bar". It has a porch, it's perched on the top of Main St, but I was not having high hopes after Rappahannock. Meg was steaming mad, and I was starting to smolder. At first glance, I saw this: Small menu, small wine list...losing hope fast.

As we walked on to the porch the owner was smiling, happy to have us. "Sure your dog can hang out on the porch" She says. As we sat we find out the following: This place is under new ownership...new blood coming out of Orlando. Husband/Wife team, he cooks, she runs the front of the house. They just opened 2 weeks ago, so already she's apologizing for the small menu and small repertoire of wine. Oh, and she spent hours upon hours on the play list for the music playing in the background? Let's also mention they have Thomas Keller quoted at the Mast Head of their Menu...these people have balls and as we delved into our first glass of wine, we start realizing we found something special.

BLT: Local Pork Belly Braised in goodness with a beautiful sear, Tomato Jam, Micro Greens

Crab Cakes: Jicama Slaw, Chipotle Mayo, Fried Lightly with a nice Florida Crab Cake style to them

Shrimp Fry Rice: Pure Goodness, flavor profile well developed, not greasy, but greasy enough

Pork Chop: Roasted Medium, Sweet Potato Hash

Chocolate Mouse Cake, Toasted Pinenuts, Creme Anglaise

Bill: $108...and we had 4 glasses of wine, that's a deal.

Literally we ran out of this place telling everyone we could find to go here. I could potentially see them on Food and Wine in the "Best New Chefs" category in the popular trend of better food gracing smaller towns all over the USA. Thank you!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Marterella Winery...

As we packed our bags and left our Redneck campground (winding our 3rd anniversary trip to a close), we knew we had one goal in mind. "Wood Burning Pizza Oven"...We had to visit that winery...we just met the owner yesterday, and we felt so chic. It was like meeting a celebrity. Hell, I think it was even better than meeting a celebrity. We had no idea what we were in for...

After navigating a great coffee house, Central Coffee Company in Sperryville, Virginia (Honest to goodness best coffee ever, greatest lesson in coffee tasting, and all certified National Wildlife Refuge for safe practicing of ecofriendly planting and disposal), and checking out a neat little winery called Narmada in Little Washington, we wound our way through a few pig paths to find Marterella Winery in Warrenton, Virginia.

One word, Home...

Going there was like coming home. Katherine Marterella was our kind of people. And that day, she was frazzled, stressed, all over the place. She instantly recognized us and graciously thanked us for coming. We told her we were hungry and looking forward to pizza and wine. She grinned, looked around, and ran out saying, "Shoot, I gotta get the oven going, gimme a minute"...her daughter stepped in to help pour wine and Meg and I started laughing. The girl, right out of college was not the local wine expert as she awkwardly read from the tasting notes...but something about the place stuck with us.

This was natural, and this was real. This was probably what Napa was like back when it was just honest farmers trying to make something special. It reminded me of watching "Bottle Shock". Sure there was swirling and spitting and discussion of floral accents with roundness and balance...but there were no airs. This, was the winery we wanted to open and run. This, was like Cheers.

Katherine came back to the counter and said, "Thank you so much for coming, you all truly made my day, it's been one of those days, kind of a bad day". And she kept moving with whirling dervish speed, pouring, making phone calls, and coaching her daughter on the finer points of running a business. Generally I'd find this off putting. I don't want to know if your day is bad, just serve me wine, do your job, I could care less about your life. Yet we were both strangely sucked in and felt at ease. It was like stopping by unannounced at your friend's parents house for a chat. While they were always busy, they always took time and never missed a step in running their own lives.

This was a lady running a business, making pretty good wine (The Reserve Rose and Pinot Grigio were my favorites), and giving lessons in hospitality by just being herself.

It was her house, it was a spacious sun filled room where everyone there was smiling, drinking, and laughing. Turns out, everyone there were regulars, they were all "her friends" as she said. I cannot imagine anyone going there and not being her friend (Should we move closer, we would be regulars and need help from Betty Ford herself). Katherine's personality is infectious, it's her spirit, organized, smart, businesslike, yet sometimes frazzled, sometimes all over the place. In the perfect place we all try to go and try to be, she was a reflection of what we could be if we had our own way...if we could get away with it. Casual, yet pragmatic.

As the day drew to an end, my shoes were off, Fenway was running around with the vineyard dogs, Meg was basking in the sun, and I was actually cooking the pizza in the oven. Katherine looked over and said, "Gettin' the hang of it, I think a lot of people enjoy doing that".

That, Yeah, I think we do, and I hope to be able to do a lot more of it.

Accommodations Part 2

Some of our trip has to be montaged in time based format. These snippets hold high comedy and remind you of what life would be like if you were as dumb as my wife was to marry me. That, and the fact that I cannot rage all damned day on one bad experience in customer service. Fun to note that we all can easilly dwell on the 1% that is bad, get riled up, and lose sight of the good...

Day 3:

11:30am: Johnsonville Cheddarwursts and a cold Natty Boh. One cannot say enough about meat in tube form. Sure it might be 11am, that's why we go hiking after a lunch like that. Back to happy thoughts...cheese, grease, beer...

Onward and Upward to the Jacobs's Death March on Skyline Drive. If you haven't driven Skyline Drive, do so. We hiked about 5 miles of breathtaking gorge/mountain/trail. I spouted off story after story of nostalgia camping/camp counselor memory while Meg said, "See, I like hiking, but this is a frekkin death march"...

5pm: Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Rice and Peas done on the grill accompanied with a nice cold Pale Ale or Pilsner.

7:30pm: Getting misty, this was really a week of telling Meg how much I loved her, loved everyone, and overindulging in alcohol.

8pm: I really love this awesome new whiskey from Copper Fox Distillery...let's pour another on the rocks. So smooth...ah, this Cigar is great...everything is just GREAT!

9:30pm: Due to the campfire starting to spin, I have one of the following:

a) Vertigo
b) Too much to drink
c) The Rapture is coming and this is how it happens

Still not sure on the answer...

3am: Why did all the sheets on the air mattress get rearranged? We both wake up shivering and my wife complains I smell of cigars and booze. I blame the dog for all of our troubles (The dog continues to snore and exhale loudly at the mention of her misdeeds).

Thursday, May 5th

Feelin' a lil' rough we decide to quell our misery with more sampling of the Virginia Wine Country.

Here are the wineries and their profiles:

Fox Meadow Vineyards: First winery of the day. Nice service, nothing memorable, a fine start (Remember, it was 11am, and I was just starting to wake up, shake off the cobwebs as well as the tremors. My palate was in no shape to sample wine, but my spirits were a little improved after the first whiff of fermented fruit.

Phillip-Carter: Awesome director Mark Parsons, GREAT Rose. Mark KNOWS food, and wine, and we were totally at home. Dog ran around the tasting room and he gave us good suggestions on where to eat for lunch. Coulda sat there for hours talking shop...yet we had to make good on his suggestion to eat at Forlano's in The Plains, Virginia.

Forlano's....Grilled Meatloaf on house made panini, Meg went for the BLT...had a nice Viognier from Delaplane Cellars with lunch. Across the porch were two ladies stopping for lunch with their Golden Retriever. Naturally, I introduce Fenway and we learn one of the ladies owns a winery. "What's the name of your winery" I call as they head towards their car. "Marterella" she calls back. "Stop by tomorrow for lunch, we have a wood burning pizza oven." Spirits renewed with that post food coma wine buzz, I elected for a nicely brewed coffee for a pick me up. Listen, there is an art to riding the line when mid-day wine tasting.

Naked Mountain Winery: Drink Naked! Under new management, sweet locale on a Mountain. Really liked their Reserve Chardonnay. Dog ran around, bright sun, vineyard, certainly awesome new young owners. Although none of the wine blew my mind I would always go back. Again I find it so interesting that I can write such scathing things about things I dislike. However, when it comes to something that was rather enjoyable and it met our expectations, I sit here typing these little one liners.

5pm: All set for our Porterhouse, we put it aside. Too exhausted for MORE gourmet, we did it all day. Leftovers would suit us just fine. Three nights of camping was starting to get to us. It was time to go home...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Liberation

Spring inflicts the nostalgia of grilling. For me, there is nothing like getting home early from work only to steal the rest of a sunny day. It's like getting tax free money from the government. You mean I can drink a few beers, grill on our porch, marvel at the yard I scaped and since it's early I can be ready to be back at work free of hangover the next day? Fuckin' A right man!

Within my internal clock, the lengthening days and plentiful sun provide the nostalgia of grilling with dad, miscounting beers, and waddling to the kitchen table, grinning because mom only thinks we drank 2 beers and is satisfied we insist on water with dinner(We are merely biding time until we can go back outside and start being boys again).

Time and time again, whenever I get that early slip out of the office, I find myself grabbing the $3.22 package of Chicken Thighs, Bar-b-que sauce, a can of baked beans, and a six pack of suds. It's a ten dollar meal with leftovers that spawn instant happiness. I slink outside, blaring music that was popular in the mid 90s thinking that was only a few years ago, and I get happy. It feels good, I feel free, the dopamine washes through my system and I think this is why we live to eat.

There are those however who find no adventure in food and often find new and unfamiliar food scary. "I don't like that, ewwww"...

Why?

The responses are predictable ranging anywhere from "It sounds gross", "I don't know, I just don't like it", "Long story, bad memories", or the tale of someone lovingly throwing together a Insert Name Here "Special" that ends up looking like dog shit twice passed and 48 hours old, generally with a pale yellowish color.

Regardless of personal reason, the intuitive central theme of disliking certain foods involve a negative memory. Instead of conjuring pleasure, food can cause pain. Fear, sadness, the deep rift in your soul you push away merely to move on to happier times.

For my father, Asparagus conjures up his wildly abusive step-dad making "Canned Tuna Fish with Canned Asparagus Omelets" and forcing them down the hatch with the gusto of a tyrant conducting mass genocide. For my wife, Bar-b-qued chicken resurrects the bad times in life...single mom, broken home, working 15 hours a day, and fixing the same meal of "Dry Chicken, Bar-B-Que Sauce, with Broccoli Cheddar Rice". My cousin once barfed all over the dinner table because her broccoli casserole touched another food on her plate. "EV-ery-THING needs to be separated on the plate" my Aunt reported, defending this heinous action (thanks for the heads up, and I still HATE Broccoli Cheddar Casserole).


Every time my mouth waters for bar-b-que'd chicken thighs, my wife denies with a child-like "Yuck". I feel like that secretive overly obese person who buys McDonald's and sits in their car crying in an empty parking lot as they eat...similarly I wait for my wife to work a night shift leaving me home alone...all the while I greedily lick my chops, happy to be alone and indulge in my own filth. I keep checking through the closed blinds, sneaking another juicy bite, making sure she isn't coming home early to catch me with bar-b-que face, dirty neck napkin, and bar-b-que hands (Remembrances of watching The Playboy Channel when I was 14).

Observantly through my posts you discern I'm an adventurous eater. But why? Was it because Mom and dad MADE me try everything at least once? I used to sob and gag at the table when dad would yell at me to finish my omelet (dry, cheese all eaten, nothing but bland grossness), often compromising at going hungry and sitting in my room as punishment. What made me change in some ways yet still abhor Broccoli and Cheddar Casserole?

Our preference for food is a microcosm of our life. Regardless of negative memory, some cope and thrive while some never recover. For me, the bad memories weren't all that bad and my palate changed. I grew to appreciate my father's berating at the non-appreciation of my mother's dry omelets and I pressed on to enjoy new ventures, appreciative that they always encouraged/forced me to try new things. Other fallen citizens never got up the gusto to conquer new territory, thusly falling into the category of eating the familiar for whatever comfortable reason it invoked.

Regardless the category of eater ("New And Exciting", vs "Just The Familiar Please"), I am convinced we all Live to Eat. And I still contend that when done the right way, in the right setting, and with the right person (just like anything in life), the fear of the dreaded ingredients can be changed. Thusly pushing away the fear, darkness, and pain, only to liberate our hearts with the pleasure of something new.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The New York Diary

Blow by blow, a tribute to the New York food scene is tedious and overdone. I don't want to be that New York hipster sneering at the latest craze. Instead, I will give you the running diary of the Jacobs's latest sojourn...

Thursday, April 7

4:45AM: Wake up, pack car, yell at wife, make coffee, need coffee, feed cat, apologize to wife.

5:55AM: Hop train, Meg goes right to bed. Me, I'm wired, delve into a book that inspires me to write in diary fashion (Thanks Bill Simmons).

10AM: Arrive at Penn Station, charge back into city life, check bags, head to David Chang's Momofuku Noodle Bar.

12PM: After telling the cabbie how to get there (this is a recurring theme and I don't understand why they need directions, they are fucking cab drivers in effing New York), we arrive at this little noodle bar. You can read your own reviews. But what transpired there was something new for us.

We have always wanted good Dim Sum, and in San Francisco we were sorely disappointed with greasy, salty, bloaty, and oft blandish lacking direction Dim Sum. Step in David Chang and we were welcomed with a soy soft boiled egg with onion crispies (a snack), move on with steam bun pork belly, pickled cucumber and kim chi, duck confit salad with poached egg, and blast your socks off ramen with poached egg and pork belly.

I'm an egg slut, he seems to be one too as just about every dish had poached egg on top...top that with a great regional pilsner/lager list, and we needed a nap.

2pm: Goaddamn this hotel, nothing but slack jawed small towned Americans and deer in the headlight foreigner tourists, neither really speak English and have no sense of being self aware...they are in my way, I am very sleepy, and they wont let us check in until 3....

2:05pm: To the bar for a few more nap inducing cocktails?

2:55pm: After an act of congress, license, passport, credit cards, and promise of naming our first born Olga, the lady at the front desk is convinced I am actually who I say I am, and can stay with my wife and we get our room.

3pm: Did they really just give us a room directly outside of the elevator? Eh well, at least we're tired.

7pm: Woke up thinking it was 7am, disoriented, feeling a bit unpolished after those harmless cocktails, time to rally to the rooftop bar. We meet up with Meg's friend from Driver's Ed and proceed to imbibe a cocktail and head up to "The Plaza Hotel" for cocktail lounge/jazz action.

8pm: We just went through an airport style security check to see jazz? Guys are walking around with ear buds on and sunglasses, still remains a mystery as to who was there. Nonetheless we enjoyed some "great" 12 dollar Sam Adams (Budweiser for 10 bucks, what a deal) and a nice lounge act by a band named "Lapis Luna".

10:15pm: Again, the cabbie needs directions to "Babbo" which infuriates our friend Tina who is now a local. Take the fact that his culture's norm is to treat women as 5th class, and the fact that she was kind of raised in that setting and now she is all independent and shit...we have an old fashioned melee in the cab about why he shouldn't be driving and we should. I love how he keeps silent as we keep jabbing about how cabbies should know where they are going especially for the fact that they are CAB DRIVERS for cripes sake...love it how he suddenly became deaf or forgot how to speak English...

10:45pm: Tina heads to Brooklyn, we head into Babbo where our flamingly gay waiter "Vinnie" happily helps us and makes eyes at me. Nothing wrong with gays, it's just that my wife loves to watch the flamboyant ones make eyes at me due to the one mishap years ago when I was date rape french kissed after a night of platonic male bonding...she still giggles, I still cringe (I guess I know how a ton of girls felt in college when I pulled that same trick).

10:46pm: Meg still making Vinnie and Matty jokes...

11pm until...

Round after round of pasta, clearly indicating we were searching for that amazing comforting 11pm and a few cocktails later comfort dish. Yes, the Lambs Brain Ravioli were great, sure the Beef Cheek Ravioli were great....indeed so was the Guanciale(Pigs Cheek Braised with Ramps). And actually, at one point into the Guanciale, I reminisced about my grandmother's pot roast (When you do that to me you're doing something). Mario Batali has to be given respect, look at what he did for food over the last ten years. However, nothing blew us away. We can't wait to taste more Batali places, and we adore the book "Molto Mario" as it has opened our eyes making Italian food accessible to the home cook. He is a hero and forever will be in my mind as one, I just didn't love the food...such is life.

1am: Wobbly, I pose for a picture with my wife by the centerpiece of the restaurant. I saw the picture the other day and said, "When did we take that?" Oh Vinnie, you sly little devil you with your "half glass" pours.

1:20am: Drunkenly I take lobby furniture next to our door and place it in front of our door as if it will act as a noise buffer and double as a "Do Not Disturb Sign"...it's my eff you to the hotel for their crap service and my annoyance with their tourist patrons.

Friday, April 8th

The point of the trip was to not eat at status fancy places and do New York on the cheap...er....Day one, New York 1, Jacobs 0...

9:30am: We vow to try and do it on the "CheapER"....

10:15am: My wife and I walk outside of the room and she says, "Ugh, who the hell would put this furniture in front of our door, effing hotel"...I shrug...

10:30am: (After an hour of my wife getting ready and me growing steadily hungry and staying steadily hungover) Ess-A-Bagel. You want New York in a bite of breakfast go here...surly yet helpful New Yorkers making and doing the Lord's work....Lox, Potted meat, Bagels, Pickled every kind of fish possible, Kosher, Non-Kosher. Two quick Bagel Sandwiches, couple of coffees, and we decided to kill time till our next meal.

11am-1pm: We proceed to walk about 5 miles exploring people, sights, and Central Park. I realize no one speaks English in this city, which really isn't bad since my Grandparents started that way. But I realized that it's not just American tourists who are dumb and inconsiderate...it's the whole fucking human race. Wanting to go into a crowd like Neo from "The Matrix" and start throwing elbows on "Mr. Smith"...

1pm: Salumeria Rosi...aka Meat Heaven. Lardo, Prosciutto, Pasta, Wine...Cesare Casella is a genius and god to me. We walked 2.2 miles home to make room for the next indulgence. Feeling less perturbed about tourists...

2:30pm: I just saw Kelly Kapowski from "Saved by the Bell"...she was pushing a baby carriage, looking a little plumper than I remember, hair a little longer, and wearing house slippers...but there she was. She froze and took an escape route when she saw me whip out the iPhone and probably loudly say, "It's Kelly Kapowski" (Hey, I just went to meat heaven and had a few glasses of wine, who cares).

I could give a shit about taking her picture, I was only calling Nicky Freitag, my old high school buddy and co-chair of the self appointed "Saved by the Bell Fan Club", devastated he didn't pick up I left a rambling 3 glasses of wine into the afternoon tall tale story of my run in with fate....he texts 5 minutes later his disappointment that I didn't accost her with one liners from the show like he did to "Mr. Belding" when he met him on a golf course.

Meg happily commented, "She looks a little busted, that makes me feel better as she was the standard of "Pretty" in high school"...true, but c'mon...she's Kelly Kapowski busted or not. I once dreamt she and I got married in place of Mark Paul Gosselaar on "Saved by the Bell Vegas Wedding". I think I was in my mid twenties then...

4pm: Nap

6pm: Collichio and Sons Tap Room...Ricotta Cavatelli, Brocolli, Parmesan, and Soffritto....that is what we were searching for...THAT was the comfort pasta dish. Drunken Onion Jam and Bone Marrow on Toast Points...and one of the best burgers ever with pickled ramps and bread and butter pickles (Burger = 70% Chuck, 30% short rib).

8pm: Dessert = Zepolle With Banana Malt Ice Cream & Butterscotch. Zepolle = Doughnuts of a higher calling!

10pm: Carnegie Club for jazz...imagine my delight when we find out it's a cigar lounge as well (Meg thinks I totally planned that). So we have a seat, light a stogy, and shoot the shit. All the while a semi familiar looking gent walks in with his wife and shares chat about just seeing the Charlie Sheen show/wreck/debacle, living in New York, and wanting to visit Annapolis.

We share some similar stories (food travel, etc), and I am temped to ask if he is a celebrity (cause he looks so damn familiar), especially after being on such a roll with my Kapowski sighting. Suppressing the urge, we hang out a little more and our new friend hands us his card and says, "Since you guys live in Annapolis and we've never been, shoot me an email of where to eat and go, we are looking to travel there in the near future." They exit stage left...five minutes later the bartender tells us we should make friends with this guy as he just picked up our tab.

Not a celebrity as far as we know, just a great and generous guy...less agitated about the idiots touring New York at this point.

12:30am: We decide to give it a rest, anxious to chase the night, but wise enough to let it go...you can't chase a good night out. When someone pays your tab, you now are playing with house money. Fold the deck and move on...

1am: Back at the hotel, wreaking of poorly ventilated cigar bar, I proceed to go "Cookie Monster" all up and down my Carrot Cake Cupcake from "Crumbs".

1:30am: Still picking crumbs out of my hair.

Saturday, April 9th

10am: We too shall be tourists, after arguing and nearly having a hypoglycemic meltdown we settle into Grand Central Station and find solace in burnt coffee and Falafel from one of the many market vendors. What is it about street food that makes me really hungry even as I write?

12:30pm: We simulate the immigrants coming to America circa 1800/1900s by buying tickets to Ellis Island and The Statue of Liberty. Here are the similarities, no English spoken, throngs of people, lines out the wazoo, people panhandling for money...just a little cleaner and less impoverished I bet. We sell our tickets to someone as we have no time for this (seriously the line was too long), snap some photos of our nation's landmarks and head up-town to "Craft Bar" by Tom Collichio with whom I'm in love with after last night's meal.

Nothing blow your mind good, but all around solid. Snacks, meatballs, drinks...

2pm: Let's walk to our hotel, grab a cab, and head home

3:45pm: We wait for a cab to take us a mile...

4:15pm: No cab...??? Oh, we are told it's change of shift, so we start walking and see a couple of the black Lincoln Town cars that love to gouge you and enjoy doing so without lube.

"How much to Penn Station?" My wife asks, "15 dollars." He replies..."Fifteen dollars, seriously? That's ridiculous"....The he starts with a condescending "Women are inferior" tone that sets my wife and me over the edge, "Fuck Off!" I say as we walk on...

Meanwhile it's now 4:30....25 minutes till train time, still not a mile within the station...enter warp speed walking, pushing foreigners out of the way, becoming ugly Americans and loving the adrenaline...

4:50pm: Hop on train

4:55pm: Train departs

5:05pm: Sam Adams, book, New York City Esq Pie as soon as we reach our doors.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bromancing The Stone

I cannot tell you how much a bromance can make a marriage stronger. I am at the point that every time me and the boys hang out it's all about the finer things...cigars, great Bourbon or Scotch, Wine, Steaks...anything that is great...but this more than about food today.

I just wanted to shout out the boys who helped me grow up, cope, regress, and grow stronger.

In your darkest times and in your best, things are always better with people. Lots and lots of people. Call it being dependent, or just call it the need for social. Me, I left rural for city...and I am convinced I am always "CITY". I always need that college community. Is that why Facebook happened? As much as my mother says, "Your father and I never grew up in the dorm life"...I'm glad I did. Loneliness is the balls in life, and in all honesty, I am deathly afraid to be alone.

So many times in life my friends have bet the odds on me and taken their losses. And when things kinda came sour on my manloves, I kinda bowed out...most of the time for the best..but sometimes a little too chicken.

I have never bet on someone who was down...I always bowed out. Or, if I bet, I hedged.

This weekend I decided to bet on the off horse...and...I think he was the better horse, it just wasn't his race.

It inspired me to write this post to everyone who bet on me, and those who made my life better,
and I think it was worth it.

If it's not, the money I laid down was worth it in itself. Because, hats off to my wife, she made me take risks, she made me open my eyes to the terror of bad happen, and she made me cope. Deal with this MattyJakes she said, you can lose, but you will live an epic life in trying.

0% chance she is wrong, 100% chance she is right.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bros, In Different Area Codes...


















In college it was man city. I once passed out with my best friend spooning, and pissed the hell out of the girl trying to sleep with me. I thought it was classic, hell we all did in some homoerotic manly way. Now I look around, single night, no wife around, and there are no dudes to hang out with. Literally, last night I sat at home drinking Rum and Cokes, watching March Madness, and stalking my cat in order to Furminate. Honestly, I would sneak up on her, hold her down, and de-fur our bad little Maine Coon Cat.

Meg got home at 1am and literally all I could talk about was grooming our cat. "Look at all this fur! Oh My God!"

What has happened to me?

What the hell happened to those nights of male camaraderie? Where did the dudes go? Are you telling me that until I have kids I will be spending Mantown with my dog and cat, Jack and Coke? Surely I can't hang out in bars as a married dude. I've tried that, it's weird, And I don't really like it. Just like in the dating world, you generally don't meet your future wife in a bar...meeting reputable guys in a bar who don't already have a manlove? Next to impossible. Should I start going to church? Maybe cool guys hang out there...

Did all the good guys get married, start popping out babies, and reform? Do I have cooties? I have married the hottest woman in the world, surely if I can pull that off, can't I get a Mandate? In five years one bromance fizzled out(his wife was the pits), and I have one budding romance with my buddy JP...but he travels due to work...so it's like a long distance relationship. So, all of my bromances live in either Chicago or North Carolina. I got bros in different area codes (Rest in peace Nate-Dogg).

We talk of moving down to North Carolina almost on the daily and are making strides towards that goal and the little kid in me gets excited that he might get to reunite with his man friends once again...

Until then, and until I find the answer regarding what happened to all the quality brohams, I will continue to sit home, sip cocktails, and chase our cat around as "The Furminator". Yes, I do pretend I'm Arnold Schwarzenegger...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lobster...and Head on Shrimp


This will be quick, no pictures necessary, but I'm totally gonna plug Rick Moonen's Book "Fish Without A Doubt".

Rick Moonen is a god to the seafood world and has a great restaurant in Las Vegas. Have I been there? No, but my wife has, and she met Rick, and yeah she got his book and he signed if for me saying, "To Matt, Best Wishes, Enjoy the Ocean One Fish at a Time".

He is the beatnik chef who preaches sustainability and teaches the same. His book is a compendium on how to purchase, clean, and prepare fish any style. Don't know how to debeard a mussel or shuck and oyster...there is eduMAcation for that. Wanna know how to butter baste or butter poach? Sure...not a thing.

He thinks like an ocean creature...recreate the cooking environment to how they lived...example...Lobster.

I got no pictures, but I do have something new...

Salinity. Maine Lobsters live in salt water...if you're gonna steam them please, I beg of you try this out.

For every quart of water you use (Preferably 3 quarts for two 1.5lb lobster), throw in a 1/4 cup of salt (So that's about 3/4 a cup, seems like a lot, but this really works). We're all used to steaming this bad boys and girls, and we always see that whitish albumin looking stuff after the steaming. Do it this way, and you will be amazed. No white coagulated stuff, and they seem to come out of their shell easier.

Bring the water to a rolling boil, throw in the Lobsters, wait till the water rolls again and keep them for 1 minute, take them off the heat, and let them hang out in the hot water for ~10 minutes...drain, dry, eat till your are content (might need more lobster).

I have never had a better lobster, the salinity and clean taste was unprecedented.

Next preaching point, head on shrimp. "Ew, heads, yuck, you guys are so adventurous with your eating"...Not really, ball up guys, try something new.


1) Head on Shrimp are generally cheaper
2) The flavor the head gives changes the dish to something way better than the Cost- Co Shrimp Cocktail.
3) Prepare them with a little garlic, lemon juice, and butter in a pan after cleaning them.
4) Pull the head off and suck...

Bon Appetit

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Double Rainbows and NOLA Cooking...



After the rain finally subsided, Meg and I needed to get out of the house. We had brought our P90X workout video and bands, but were so tempted to go hiking. Like always, we made a game of it...

1) Hike new trail

2) Find good place to eat, have a post hike beer


Okay, Gorges State Park...Rainbow Falls..."Wonder why they call it "Rainbow Falls"?"













Yup...that's why, and once we topped the falls and returned back down, the rainbow was gone...effing cool!

2) Thirsty, must have post hike beer to replace valuable burned calories...must find decent place to eat...

Meg pulls out the iPhone app "Vicinity" and starts naming places off of Main Street in Brevard, NC...we can't find half of them, and as Main Street is starting to fade into residential oblivion, we spy "Hobnob".

The husband/wife team are from Buffalo, NY, and NOLA...the chef is from Maryland and trained in San Diego...sounds like a pretty good resume of culture. Combine that with a healthy list of local beers (Asheville NC, right around the corner was named the top beer city in the US...imagine my excitement).

And imagine our excitement when we saw "Po Boys" on the menu. Unfortunately in New Orleans, we were disappointed with our Po Boy experience as the first was closed, and the second was BYOB and they were out of their signature MEAT (Roast Beef). Alas we settled for Catfish and Shrimp Remoulade...not bad, but we wanted fried Shrimp and fried Oysters.

And there it was...Po Boy bread imported from New Orleans, seafood flown in daily...even the owner felt she got better seafood in landlocked Western North Carolina then she got on the coast....

Here here!!!







Shrimp and Oyster Po Boys!



Oh Boy!





Food Buzz...

And you bet, better than we had in New Orleans!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cypress



Can we call the James Beard Foundation? Seriously, I want them on line 1!

You all have read my blog, and know I come from a strange religion, wore glasses as a kid, and hated the south for the small towned mindedness it exerted on my freewheeling soul. My wife now talks of moving to North Carolina...yeah, we live in Annapolis, I know it's not technically the north, but I have reticent feelings on going back home...

"You a Yankee now? Think you're better than us?" (Say it in Southern...cringing)

The south = my worst nightmare...cold sweats, nightmares, banjo music....ughghghgh!

Then we went to our mountain house. "The Hillbillies" my Swedish Grandfather called them...."Mountain People"...back in the day, Cashiers, North Carolina was never the bustling center of culture. Even the surrounding areas, you couldn't hope for much. Now you can see where this blog is headed. And I am eight years too late, as that was when Cypress opened. Cypress gave me hope, quelled my night sweats, it is the Ambien with a Valium chaser to my horrific flashbacks of ridicule.

The shit has changed, and I was the one who was small minded. Cypress is the beacon of hope that has helped open my eyes to see I am now 32, not 5 years old with glasses and unable to keep Christmas and birthdays. As I have changed so has everything and like the mountain terrain, Cypress is perhaps that seed that somehow sprouts into a beautiful tree growing off the side of the cliff. "How did that grow"? Everyone says? It had no chance...we have all killed more plants in our back yard with the best fertilizer and soil...how the hell did that tree grow?

Chef Nicolas Figel had a dream just like everyone I guess. He consummated that dream in Highlands, North Carolina...about 30 minutes from our mountain house on Lake Glenville. Listen, before I start telling you about his hopes and dreams let me just say he cooked for us, and we sat at the chef's table of sorts...an open aired kitchen. Between artful dances with his staff and sous chef as he cooked, he talked with us, shared philosophy, and got jazzed that we took pictures like Japanese tourists. We didn't ask him soul searching questions like Matt Lauer and Larry King. But what he told us, he spoke with his food. We said, "We would be honored to have anything you would fix us, you have Carte Blanche to make us what you like."

He makes peasant food from around the world. That is what drives my wife and me. Comfort food...the chef's eyes lit up when I told him my last meal on earth would be my grandmother's pot roast or Swedish Meatballs. That is my blog. I don't have much more to add. Chef inspired me through his example of cooking for "Small Minded Mountain People"...he said, "Hell, I'm taking a chance, maybe just maybe this place will fly".

He opened in 2002, and he stayed open through the "Twitter" and "Facebook" era...wireless, direct tv, digital...you get the point. A pioneer, a hero who makes me feel about this big when I think about how small minded I have been about where I come from.

We walked into the restaurant and the ingredient du jour was featured. Fresh Tilefish...clear eyes, red gills, julienned green papaya (How the hell did they get that into Western Landlocked North Carolina?). The dishes were completely complex, something reminiscent of any great James Beard award winning restaurant we have ever been to. However, that seems like such a left handed compliment. This was different, original, clean tasting and a concept we have maybe thought of in dreams, but have never seen it carried out.

Okay Okay...here's the deal, this is what Meghan had, in pictographical order:

Malaysian Coconut Dumplings filled with Spiced Beef on Grilled Mango














Tilefish Over Lobster Salad with Green Papaya, and a Mint Cashew Sauce














On to my dishes: Spanish Tapas; Calabras Blue Cheese, House Made Spanish Flatbread, Roasted Roma Tomato, Olives, Serrano Ham














Korean Hot Pots....Tomato, Thai Basil, and Mint Broth, Beef Jerky set with Smoking Oak Chips, Jasmine Rice and Fried Shallots (Oh my god, mini Onion Rings!)






































Not Pictured because we ate it too fast:

Lavender Ice Cream, Shortbread Cookies, Drizzled with Honey

Mexican Chile Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Sauce...this is a horrible description to the beauty we ate, it's like saying, "Yeah, the Mona Lisa is a picture of this plain looking lady from a long time ago." The slow burn on the back side of the throat as we ate this cake was amazing...holy shit...I wanted to be on television...in my mind we were on television...the meaning of finding this gem and the epiphany it gave me was something that comes around a handful of times in someones life.

A peasant food menu? A skeptic would say, "That's too many dishes...it's like a restaurant with 50 menu items, but only 3 things are palatable".

I'm sure they are the same skeptics who thought things in the south would never change...

God Bless you Chef Figel for giving me an insight to a bigger world.

Foie Gras Dogs, courtesy of Maiale



All hail the Salumeria!

Years ago when learning about Mario Batali, and his voyage to Italy in order to learn and hone the Italian Craft, I learned about his parents. They have a Salumeria in Seattle, and people line up outside of the store daily. Mario's mother as well as other meaty crafters will slice treats for the patient patrons and bring "strip mall" Esq samples around the line that oft winds its way around the corner.

I have longed to go, I have urged and begged friends making the trip to please sample their weirs. No one has even taken the bait.

Then came Maiale (My-All-Ay).

Last summer, in Rehobeth, Meghan and I found Billy Rawstrom, proprietor of Maiale. He was searing some of his sausages on a portable burner at a local Farmer's Market. Tentatively I sampled his creations. My mood was kind of down...rainy colder day at the Beach, not really into shopping, and when I heard "Chicken, Spinach, Red Pepper, and Sharp Provolone Sausage", I was kind of bored. I have had that sausage before (never with sharp provolone). And to be honest, it had always given me the shits, and the taste was a salty muddled flavor, blah!

Not this time. Fresh, clean...that sharp Provolone just killed it, and in a good way. He also had a North African spiced Lamb Sausage...bingo bango as dad would say. I took his card, and serendipitously kept it. A few months later, after we consumed the meat, talked about how AWESOME IT WAS and how we wanted more, I cleaned out my wallet. And there was the card...it had an email address, it had a website.

50 dollars later we just received a HEAP of different sausages shipped on dry ice.

Today we climbed the mountain, today we had the "FOIE GRAS DOGS".

It's a rich smokey meat bomb that needs a little and sweet to counter the savoury. We paired these meat tubes of love with a local grilled baguette, slaw of homemade green cabbage and carrots (mixed with a little honey, olive oil, salt, and pepper), then we thinly sliced a Granny Smith Apple and sauteed it with sweet onion (seared in olive oil), just enough to caramelize the sugars.

Paired with a local deli Mac and Cheese, and more importantly with a Petit Manseng (Charlottesville, Va, Whitehall Vineyards) and Aprihop Ale from Dogfish Head Brewery (you could go with a good IPA and/or Reisling or Gewurztraminer)...

www.mailaecuredmeats.com

I have nothing left to say except I finished the meal and ran to blog, it was that good I had to share.

An Ode to Special Friends...




Beef, Bacon, Dirk, and Alaina...

Now that is a hot title for a porno. Alas, read the title of my blog...you have to know it refers only to the special meat associated with the two aforementioned friends...wait a minute...that too could insinuate porno, damnit!

Well, doulbe entendres be damned, Dirk, and Alaina broughteth the Berkshire Pig and the glorious bacon and ham it provideth, along with a tasty steer comprising 70/30 ground beef...and of course, with good friends, they brought so much more.

The story of Dirk and Alaina Barth in our lives started at our honeymoon in the Ambergris Caye in Belize. Coincidentally, we all were married on the same day (in different places), and they showed up to the resort twelve hours before we were hit with two major tropical storms. I remember meeting them in the bar/lobby of our resort...they were checking email and fretting about the upcoming weather...I said something like, "Email and Weather.com isn't gonna save you here, we're going to town to explore and shop for a suitcase (ours busted on the flight in), wanna come?"

The rest of the friendship was cemented via duck and dive eateries and bars, one shady cigar shop (Dirk and I both swear the cigars were laced with Cocaine, Alaina just thinks we're both pussies), an even shadier place to buy a suitcase, and home made trash bag ponchos. In such instances we shared stories about our love for travel, eating, drinking, and in general having a good time through thick and thin. As the storms grew closer, we did too (amazing what booze, food, and shady establishments do for friendship).

The randomness of meeting complete strangers on our honeymoon, and the unlikeliness of remaining close and perhaps growing closer perhaps mirrors every danged thing that happens to me...Generally unplanned and random, yet somehow great!

True story, every time we get together, bad weather ensues for about a day...hence our most recent visit.

Unbelievably, Dirk and Alaina agreed to drive out to our mountain house 5 hours in order to stay overnight and leave the next day(due to work constraints). Alaina is in her second trimester (most of my friend's wives would have nixed that trip due to hormones and the general distaste that their husband would booze it up with MattyJ and his dad while she painfully watched sober), so her okaying the trip was unprecedented. And of course, as they drove in, torrential downpours had ensued. We had planned to go boating, and or hiking. Yup...Belize part two, except we couldn't all booze it up with abandon with the baby on board. Alaina is special, I cannot emphasize that enough.



Instead, we went for a quick walk on the beach shielded with more than trash bags this time, though Dirk and I thought about fashioning out some old ponchos for posterity sake. Armed with random nostalgic stories and some good cigars, Dirk said, "Though it's shitty weather, I can see why this place is special". After about 45 minutes of soggy walking we headed home.

Prior to embarking on the soggy voyage of Gun Point (the coined name of the point our house is located on), we had planned an election of eatings. Dirk and Alaina had purchased a quarter of a steer and a quarter of a Berkshire Pig from the local 4-H in Ohio (where Alaina is from). It was like being on Iron Chef with the secret ingredient of "4-H MEAT"! Literally I was excited about planning this menu for about 2 weeks prior.

The Menu:

Fresh Guacamole, Red Pepper Cream Cheese Dip, Truffle Mousse Pate, Cheese, Homemade Cheese Dip, Fresh Roasted Peanuts, Homebrew (Dogfish 60-Minute IPA Clone, Sam Adams Cherry Wheat Clone)

Farm Burgers (Sweet Beautiful Beef, Alfalfa Sprouts, Herbed Goat Cheese, Toasted Onion Roll, Topped with a fresh Hen's Egg laid at my parent's friends house)...and the most beautiful thick cut Berkshire Bacon...some of the best I have consumed. It was like candy, sweet sweet candy.

Parmesan Truffle Fries

Swedish Sunday Cake (Much like Strawberry Short Cake with fresh Whipped Cream

And Snoots....and more beer....prior to his first snoot, Dirk said, "What's a snoot?"

Snoot: The coined phrase for a shot of liquor, and a requirement for all guests to partake in upon their arrival (excluding pregnant women and teetotalers).



After such a wonderful dinner we all engaged in some card games, watched dad go into an epileptic fit as UNC beat DOOK, and proceeded to imbibe more. The girls all went to bed and the guys had "Man Town Campout with Gas Passing Action" on various homemade cots, couches, and air mattresses. The testosterone was magical, there were no complaints about cigar breath, "drunk leg", or snoring. Even awaking at 6:30am due to my mother and father's incessant need to eat breakfast that early could not keep me down.

For breakfast...Russet Potato Truffle Hash, Pan Fried Berkshire Ham Steak, and Easy Over Eggs

Oh God...I pause, grasping for words. I could go on and on and on. I still have visions of taking that steak and sopping up the creamy yellow yolk.

As Dirk and Alaina packed up to go (leaving the bacon, what great friends, woulda snuck it out of their bag had they not), we got a call from our caretaker that the dirt road was washing out. Knowing the road and the detours, dad and I set out as escorts in his pickem' up truck(man town in full effect), steering our friends to safety!

Two hours later the downpour subsided and the sun came out.

Seriously?

Yet somehow, we keep and remain friends with these really special people. Good friends hardly come often, and we find ourselves more and more frustrated that as we grow older, it's harder and harder to find people willing to look outside of their own worlds to share a laugh, dinner, similar interest, crappy ass hike in the rain...or even their Berkshire Pig and Special Beef. Yet here they are, Dirk, Alaina, Beef, and Bacon...

Matty and Meghan...

Cheers!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Mountain House...

I feel like such a turd every time I tell people, "We're going to our "Mountain House" this weekend, yeah, it's located in the Smokeys, it's our family's house." But that's what it is. My grandfather is a legend and when looking up the phrase "American Dream", his picture sits next to it.

Born in Tuberculosis Era Sweden, he lived through a lot of shit. His dad died of T.B, leaving his mom to raise he and his brother. 8th grade education, yadda yadda yadda, immigrated to Canada, then to Florida, eventually to North Carolina, he stepped into so much shit along the way and always smelled like a rose.

Thusly, this house is his legacy and testament to a lot of who he is and was. It's located on a lake, next to a couple of ponds, and I've been going there since I was four. Oh could I bore you with sentimental stories of learning how to fish, crashing my bike while humming the "A-Team" theme song while careening down a mountain road...

But what I find even more compelling is that I have gotten to be part of something so special all of my life. I get to sit there and pretentiously say things like, "Oh we'd so like to get to our mountain house more, but it's just such a far drive"...and inside I laugh about how absurd that sounds, and how I'm not meaning to be absurd at all. It's like a big guard saying, "There is something bigger to this, the smoke and mirrors of saying, "Mountain House" is just to distract you from the bigger picture of what this place is." It's the part of me that never grew up, or old, it just grew along with me. Everytime we go, I get giddy for all of the nothing we actually get to do. The smell of the woods floods my mind with magic nostalgia and all of the things in my mind's eye blurs with color and pleasure.

It's the shenanigans my dad and I have pulled, "Feats of Strength, Who can Knock Down the Dead Rotted Tree"..."My dad's black eye from drinking too much and hitting his eye on the deck railing" (how do you do that?)...my Grandfather giving me life lessons through our daily walks...taking my wife and sharing such a special place in my heart...it has been my Walden Pond...and as I pack our bags for our trip this weekend, the colors start to blur, and the smell of goodness starts to fill the air.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Food..




Terrible always comes in threes right?

And it's been a shitty year last year right?

First my father-in-law, next Meg's grandmother...

And then my cousin Kate. Lord, c'mon, I guess you can take the older ones, it stings like hell, but seriously? You gotta take the one who just graduated college?

Yeah, no rhyme, no reason. Slick icy road, spun out car, traumatic brain injury, close curtain. I briefly grieved, sobbing in my living room by myself. Thank god for our puppy who licked away my tears, thank god for our kitten who purred her little heart out to make it better. And I've remained stoic, and angry, yet accepting this is what happened. C'mon...seriously?

With heavy hearts and armed with a good cookbook (Molto Mario, James Beard Award winner...don't leave home without it), we headed to North Carolina to provide some reprieve. My Aunt Linda and Uncle Paul share the same birthday, and painfully, their birthday is about 2 weeks after their daughter died...ugh.

But you know how the Jacobs do...and since you read my blog, and if you wonder where I get my kindred spirit, look no further than my father, and his brother Paul. When in need, drink...celebrate...lottery, funeral, birth? Drink more! Their birthday was coming up? Well...let's....

So we cooked from the soul...an old Italian standard one pot meal...Chicken alla Vin Cotto (Chicken in cooked red wine), Cheese Bomb Polenta, Arugula Salad with Fried Goat Cheese Balls (thank you Carla Hall), and a yummy orange/Grand Marnier vinaigrette, and Orange and Olive Oil Cake with a Grand Marnier reduction.

My favorite part of the meal was the hand holding prayer before we broke bread. My Uncle Paul always did that before good meals. He is such a GREAT cook...he always says the BEST prayers hinging on sincerity mixed with some great theatre...his wife Linda is a great artist and potter and has made us some of the nicest pieces for our wedding and for Christmas...and their daughter Kate could bake...man could she bake some good stuff. I shared that Meghan and I channeled Kate, putting all the love we could into their early birthday meal.

Grief really has no bounds, and I'm not sure how to grieve especially at this tragedy. And I guess sometimes grieving doesn't deserve tears. A thoughtful meal, a holding hand, or a listen to someones prayer. In our case, on that very day, we laughed, ate, drank, and came together to celebrate what we had.

A Weekend of Luck...






Life gives the ebb and flow of tragedy, triumph, good luck, bad luck...

Last year, ebb...no flow...bad luck...not good luck. Anytime someone goes to the hospital in my family I casually say, "Okay, looks like another funeral to attend eh?" Call me a morose motherfucker. But that's how I see it...if it's your time, you're generally not ready. We don't make plans to die or check out, or get sick for that matter. Henceforth, you see why I enjoyed New Orleans so (err, too) much.

But don't forget that tragedy is part of life's great adventure, the great story we all get to live in triumph as it all passes us. There is plenty of SUCK in life, but goddammit there is plenty of good stuff too.

Enter our most recent weekend.

Set the scene...two days off...gala to attend...some errands to run...so here we go.

Saturday was like the epic deal day. Seriously, there are some days when you go to the store and they bend you over without any lube. You know you're getting soaked, and you just take it. But there are days like Saturday...

On our way to pick up our new Breville Elite Juicer, we take our Cuisinart Wine fridge hoping for a return. We received the wine fridge for our wedding, 11 bottle capacity. Within a year, it burned out, got replaced for free and upgraded to a 12 bottle fridge. Burned out as well...sat in the basement for 6 months and pretty much exceeded the warranty send back rule.

Two words....CRATE AND BARREL...okay, three. Register here for gifts...they took our crapped out wine cellar, and upgraded us to a 16 bottle fridge..no cost...SCORE! Fuck Macy's is all I have to say...worst and dumbest employees we have ever dealt with...they put the IN in INCOMPETENT. Move on from the wrath...walk slowly, deep breaths...ok.

Breville Juicer, check, fruit, veggies...check, new wine fridge, check...tux pants altered and some new AWESOME fox head gold studs with ruby eyes for my tux shirt...check (Thank you Mary Ellen for such a BEAUTIFUL gift for my birthday, they were her husband Mike's...so it's an honor).

Top that off with a new find called "Punk's Backyard Grill" for lunch, and we were rockin. By the way, Punk's Backyard Grill serves all the local fresh stuff and made to order with a sick selection of microbrews. Hell, they even have beer tasting/pairing classes. The owner makes his own brew, so there is your seal of approval!

Got home, unpacked all the new goodies, went for a 4 mile trail run with the dog and got ready for our gala. The gala was absolutely spectacular and an honor to attend. Our bosses were really nice to invite my wife and allow her husband (me) out in public...I even got to change underwear, shampoo, and shower...epic. Phenomenal party band playing anything from Michael Jackson (the black years) to Black Eyed Peas. So you're reading this and saying, "sure you had a great day, things went your way, good for you".

You're damn right good for us because here is the kicker..."Mr. Buzz" started kicking in, and they made the announcement that the silent auction was closing in 10 minutes. Like any good husband I requested the ability to scout a few of the items to see how much damage they could do.

And I found the 5-night, 6-day trip to Chile...the Andes mountains, to a posh little ski resort valued WAY MORE than it had been bid on. One flick of the wrist and bid number was chicken scratched as the highest bidder. With minutes to go, the CMO of the hospital outbid us and I said to Meg, "No way we can win now"...at that moment he looked back and said, "Oh my god...you guys are bidding on this? Oh, I'm so sorry, go ahead, we've been, it's lovely, you all take it"...

When the dust settled our little bid number stood alone, and we were high fiving each other at the randomness of winning a trip to Chile...such luck...such fortune.

Our night and entire weekend has become known as "The Deal Weekend"...just when you think there is no customer service left, or kindness, or cooler side of the pillow, your faith gets renewed. The little things, so lovely, so great. And by the way, did you see how great my wife looked in that dress?