Monday, July 7, 2014

RETURNING TO THE LAND OF SUN AND WINE

CHANGE

Tess pounced on the crowded aisle, practically pushing others with her excitement to be back in San Francisco, the land of toilet seat covers, regular showers, wifi, and organic vegetables. Her 5 weeks with me in Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia were finally over. Her endless rambling of all the things we were going to do back in the Bay continued all the way into the airport, until she turned around looking for my response. I wanted to be excited with her, but, as soon as I stepped through the gate, all the changes that had occurred in my 6 months of working and traveling in Argentina finally decided to set in. I thought I could hold it together, but as I watched her expression of excitement switch to concern filled with genuine love, my mouth began to involuntarily scrunch and my eyes tore themselves apart. 

I stepped off that plane as an independent person for the first time, as my wonderful, yet dependent five year relationship had ended while I was in Patagonia. After hitching Southern Chile, making friends with people from Luxembourg to rural Argentina, living solo with a community that did not speak English (and I no Spanish) for three months, discovering the southernmost city (Ushuaia, Argentina), renting an apartment in Valparaiso, Chile, and surviving Bolivia, I was confident I could handle what the world had to throw at me (especially as we now spoke the same language).  I had even emerged with an actual career in the wine industry, complete with a new job in Napa, California. Despite the positive nature of these changes, I was staring at the place I called home, but did not recognize myself in present company. 

My little sister held me, and smiled. She was proud of the person I had become. The best change I had encountered was our relationship. Twenty-four hours a day, for five weeks, battling everything from high altitude Argentinian hangovers, food poisoning, language barriers, dismal sanitation, Bolivian border control, eighteen hour bus rides without toilets, and bed bugs, is a great way to get to know someone.

GRATEFUL

One of the first things Tess and I did together back in Sonoma, California, was hiking around the Bartholomew Winery. We started early, while the vineyards were filled with workers not yet puckered out from the heat. Less than three days ago, I had been experiencing a brisk Argentinian winter, and, now, here I was surrounded by grass that tickled the toes like velvet feathers. Everything here is so ridiculously beautiful. I don’t know what to do with myself anymore. 

I have an actual closet, instead of backpack full of wrinkled, smelly clothes. There are reliable, clean bathrooms, with toilet paper and soap. I can drive! My clothes are clean, and actually fit. I have phone service, wifi, a dishwasher, and a working oven. I am never farther than ten minutes away from a winery or tasting room. I have regular access to a pillow, and not just any pillow, but a feather pillow. Last, but not least, privacy. Life here is incredibly easy compared to my time backpacking in Argentina. 

I have never been so grateful for the comfortability of life in Sonoma, California.

PAIRING

After our hike, we ‘rehydrated’ with a tasting at the Bartholomew Winery, which was founded in 1994, and became organic certified in 2005. I love visiting this winery for their beautiful grounds, and their museum that enlightens visitors on the history of the Sonoma Valley Wine Country. Their wines can only be bought through their wine club or at the winery. This 37-acre estate is located one of the first vineyard locations in California (1857). The Hungarian nobleman who started the previous winery, may have had passion, but lacked business skills, and was forced to close the winery in 1867.  

Bartholomew Winery had a wide selection of white and red wines, that had me craving all sorts of foods. Their 2011 Estate Zinfandel had my mouth watering for a mushroom burger, and their 2013 Sauvignon Blanc screamed for balsamic glazed peaches. I settled on the 2013 Sonoma Valley Rose with a light prosciutto pasta dish, and an arugula berry salad, in mind. This Rose stood out due to its heaviness, which was pulled from its Syrah base. Behind the light summer flavors of grapefruit, orange, cherries, was the undeniable meatiness of Syrah. 

The 2013 Sonoma Valley Rose had me craving something light, simple, and salty. The simplicity of a pasta dish combined with complementary citrus, and the saltiness of prosciuttio, to subdue the meatiness of the Syrah base, created a fantastic pairing. To accentuate the sweet berry-ness of the rose, I added a berry based salad. Blueberries were chosen primarily because they were on sale (Can’t blame me, I spent all my money in Argentina). The nuts and blue cheese helped offset the sweetness of the wine and blueberry combination. The red velvet cake was brought pre-made by a friend. 



BLUEBERRY AVOCADO SALAD

The blueberries could be subsituted with raspberries or blackberries, or another fruit variety, but the bleuberry and blue cheese combiniation has grown on me. 

Serves 5
Total time 10 minutes

  • 6 0unces of mixed arugula and spinach
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons blue cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dressing

  1. Wash and spin the arugula and lettuce. Wash the blueberries.
  2. Chop up the pecans, slice the avocado into one inch slices, and crumble the blue cheese.
  3. Mix together the greens with the blueberries, avocado, pecans, and blue cheese, but keep a little bit of each ingredient for garnish and asthetic purposes.
  4. Right before serving add the salt and pepper, and lightly dress the salad with olive oil and balsalmic vinegar. Mix. After mixing, top off the salad with the saved blueberries, avocado pieces, pecans, and blue cheeses.  





ANGEL HAIR PROCIUTTO PASTA

The success of this dish relies on your olive oil. I opted out of a traditional cream sauce with prosciutto, because I wanted the lightnes of fresh olive oil. Use the kind of olive oil you might be tempted to drink out of a shot glass. Don't use the olive oil you usually use on the frying pan. Also, I suggest adding slightly more salt than you are comfortable with, but make sure you taste as you go. You don't want the first thing you taste to be salt, but an extra hit of salt offsets the meatiness of the Rose. 

Serves- 5-6
Total time- 20 min

  • 1 pound angel hair pasta
  • 4-6 ounces of prosciutto, torn
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup fresh, high quality olive oil
  • 2 cups peas (thaw, if frozen)
  • Parmesan, black pepper, and sea salt to taste

  1. Cook pasta according to packaging instructions. 
  2. While pasta is cooking, zest and then juice the lemon,  and cut or tear the prosciutto into 1/2 inch cubes. In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Since this dish does not have a sauce, the quality of the olive oil will greatly effect the flavor of the dish. 
  3. Strain the pasta. In a large serving bowl, immediately coat the hot pasta with the olive oil and lemon mixture. Mix in the peas. Mix in two thirds of the prosciuttto. Add salt, pepper, and parmesan, to taste. Top with the rest of the prosciutto. 





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