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East Coast USA, United States
Lowcountry porch sitter. Appalachian Mountain lover. Finger Lakes dreamer.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Attaching a Tradition in Different Ways

I recently reminded a friend that the individuals and occasions we consider holiest to holidays must at times shift their emphasis from some past rendition to a currently relevant condition. 

Thanksgiving has as much a certainly historic point of view for those of us in the United States as it does a familial focus.  For me, the holiday is those things, but also a symbolic calendar notation of when my family tree grew to create me.  My parents were married on Thanksgiving Day some fifty odd years ago and no matter where I find myself in life, my thoughts turn to my parents and their union this particular day.  A day when two families gathered to celebrate a union, but also to enjoy a very large traditional holiday meal. Obviously I was not there, but there are photos capturing the essence of what transpired, just as all wedding photography tends to do in making a moment linger into perpetuity. 

Some years we were able to celebrate this Thanksgiving/ Anniversary together as a family, some years we were not.   The later more true after my mother passed away. If I was honest with myself we'd not found a way to reconfigure ourselves as a family successfully after my sister died just ten years prior. So in some ways the familial Anniversary/Thanksgiving I cling to so reverently is but a fading memory of what I wished it to be, the original two plus their offspring, under different circumstances and all in good health. 

However sad that may sound it actually has provided a leaping point to establish new  traditions over the years that incorporate many outside the familial bloodline.  Thanksgiving is more about friendships and the family-like structure they provide when your own is disconnected or deconstructed.  David Brooks, New York Times Op-Ed columnist expressed it best in a recent column The Age of Possibility, "We are inevitably entering a world in which more people search for different ways to attach." I would add to Mr. Brooks well crafted words, that attachment may for some not come from a mind set of keeping their options open, but from a strong desire to resemble what they hold dear.

So I gathered with friends at Thanksgiving with my cranberry sauce contributions: 1) Mingled (cutie oranges, blueberries, craisins~dried cranberries, Agave syrup, Cointreau and cardamon); 2 & 3) Homemade berry relish and jellied (prepared from a grocer fresh berry bag, mashed and strained); as well as 4) Ocean Spray's canned.  A single Thanksgiving side dish prepared in multiple ways intended to appeal to an assortment of personal desires.  In other words, multiple options to attain that singular cranberry sensation.  

Thankful for attaching in meaningful ways.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Craft Beer Pairing, The Lodge/Wise Guys

I've been to many craft beer and food pairings in our market over the last five years.  And I have enjoyed each one them, but I have to give a loud applause to Chef Clayton of Wise Guys, Hilton Head and Orchid Paulmeier of The Lodge, Hilton Head for delivering what I consider the all time BEST menu pairing of beer and food.  The offerings accented the flavors of the food (some of which were enriched with craft beer) while at the same time complimenting the attributes of the beer.

3 stand out pairings in a 5 course offering...

Spicy Greens with Victory Whirlwind Mustard Vinaigrette with Smoked Pork Belly Croutons and a Fried Egg
Paired with Lazy Magnolia Pecan Brown Ale

Hot Asian Pork Tureen in Steamed Buns with Jicama & Carrot Slaw
Paired with Victory Hop Devil

Porchetta with Reasy Peasy (Carolina Gold Midlands & Sea Island Red Peas) and Stone Arrogant Bastard Collard Greens.
Paired with Stone Smoked Porter

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Body Double at a Wine Tasting

Once in a while I get lucky.  That was never truer than this past Monday when a good friend rang me up to say she had the flu and that she needed a "body double" to stand in for her at a local wine dinner.  Essentially I was being asked to attend the event with her husband because she was sick and wouldn't be able to taste the wines.  (I was sorry to hear she was feeling poorly, but I may have in my own elation on the prospect of attending fail to tell her that in the course of the conversation. I'll be sure to mention that in my follow up note to thank her!)

Needless to say in a small town such a switch up could create quite the buzz, but when it comes to my "standing in" at a wine, beer, or liquor pairing dinner no one's going to question the logic behind that call (I'm the right gal for the job).  I was requested to arrive promptly at 7:00 o'clock for the occasion held at Saltus River Grill in Beaufort, SC and told that my "date" would meet me there.  It is important to note that I didn't even ask what wines were being poured.  First of all, the restaurant rallies beautifully with a new executive chef so the food is going to be divine and second, this friend would never lead me astray, especially when it comes to wine from California.  It is appropriate for me to point out that the spouse of my requester is also truly entertaining, knowledgeable about wines and fun to hang out with (just like his wife)!

I arrive 15 minutes early and watch as the obvious couples attending the dinner make their way toward the seating area designated for the wine tasting.  At this point I'm solo, standing out like a sore thumb waiting for my "other half" to arrive. The house wine buyer does everything she can to ignore me standing there. She loathes me, is most likely confounded by my presence as I don't appear on her guest list...she goes out of her way to simply cast aside my presence, but I'm not deterred. I eventually present myself as a substitute for one member of the Jenkins party to which she seemed to take a deep sigh of reluctance. Lucky for me the winery representative notes that I've not been introduced to her as the other couples had been and quickly makes her way to me as I join the group (I immediately like my new friend, Tracy Smith, Marketing Wine Club Manager from Terra Valentine Winery, Napa, California, but later in the evening when I learned she was 27 years old doing what she loved for a living I fell in love with her).  Several minutes go by, still no date, the house wine buyer now irritated because my better half's late arrival implies holding up a timely start to the occasion, "When will "he" be arriving?" she asks. Noting her irritation I indicate it would be alright to pour the first wine without him.  At this stage I just want the first wine poured so I can get past this awkward solo moment and the disdain seething from the wine buyer.

And no sooner did the first wine go down, my date arrives. The courses flowed with exquisite service throughout the evening.  A first course crab bisque with the Sauvignon Blanc was perfect.  My favorite course, the second, a skillet browned crab cake, house-made chow chow, pickled mustard, chives and buerre blanc paired with a lovely Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and a Cab Franc. The entree course a sirloin cooked sous vide and wood grilled, creamed spinach, truffle parmesan pomme frites, natural demi glaze paired with two lovely Cabernet Sauvignons, Spring Mountain and a Yverdon.  Memorable, best word to describe what I mention here, both the wine and the food, but also the people who sat in close proximity.

That's the thing about wine tastings, no one's a stranger by the time its all over, wine being the elixir for merriment, but also the common denominator for discussion (no small talk in other words). No luck needed.

Life Enrichment is like a travel and learn program...offering infusions that make every day life thereafter far more interesting! ~ Ann-Marie Adams, Reflections on a Meaningful Life