It is 3:20 AM in Sonoma, California, the dogs are barking, and the house is lit up as if there were blue and white strobe lights in every corner. From the window you can see flashes of light jetting across the ground, like spazzed out snakes with blue disco balls for head lamps. Someone has misplaced the house. We are now sitting on top a bundle of clouds, experiencing severe sheet lightning.
My closet doors slammed against the wall, over and over again. My five foot mirror, carelessly leaning against the wall, rocked back and forth, and my dresser slid across the room. I notice the walls. The right is higher than the left. No. The left if higher than the right. The house is at 45 degree angles and the pool is throwing water at the house. I am still sitting in my bed wide-eyed, surfing this roaring wave through my bedroom.
The lights continued to flash, switching between blue and white. Everything around me was grinding, clinking, and clacking, as if the house was being shaken inside a box. I could see my reflection in the mirror as it crashed to the floor, hitting the edge of my bed. The silence and darkness that followed was the scariest part of it all. Did San Francisco still exist?
As a Californian, I am no stranger to the earth shaking, but the lights were more War of the Worlds than an earthquake. I continually told myself the lights were caused by the fallen power lines that did not exist outside my window, ignoring reality.
Almost a week after the earthquake, our neighbor sent us an article talking about ground lightning sometimes seen at rift lines during earthquakes. I was excited to regain my sanity, but slightly disappointed that my earthquake UFO theories would have to come to an end.
Apparently on flat, dry ground the grinding of the earth can cause electricity to surge across the ground. The lights are thought to originate where rifts in the ground are tearing apart. Luminescence in the sky during an earthquake is common, but seeing the source was something else. In 1906 similar lights across the ground were recorded in the San Francisco Bay Area two days before the big quake. The ground lightening I witnessed also occurred before the shaking, although only seconds before.
The day before the earthquake I took my Aunt, Michelle, wine tasting in Sonoma, California. The wine that stood out to us the most was Homewood Winery’s Cabernet Franc. Since my father introduced me me to their wines over a year ago, I have become a huge fan of Homewood Winery, often taking visitors to their tasting room. It is a one man operation, and the owner can be seen actually making the wine all by himself, during harvest. The amount of work and dedication he puts into his wine is overwhelmingly impressive. Although, as a cellar rat myself, a one man operated cellar seems like a disaster in the making, but he always puts together amazing wines. He makes very drinkable wines, specifically made for food pairings.
When Michelle and I tasted the Cabernet Franc, my first thought was a cherry balsamic reduction. Thus, I turned this inspiration into a last minute barbecue sauce (the recipe may still have a few quirks). Inspiration from the garden had me grilling a four pound beet, until the outside was nicely caramelized pairing well with the sweetness of this red wine.
I had originally planned a rather large barbecue to celebrate my last few weekends before harvest started, but the earthquake had most of my friends cleaning up broken glass, praying for power, and intact foundations. Despite the intensity of the earthquake, my house did not experience any significant damage, so we continued on with our Sunday. My good friends Chris and Brianna, whom I traveled to Argentina with, were able to come for dinner.
CHERRY BALSAMIC BBQ SAUCE
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbs olive oil
1 cup fresh cherries, diced
1 tsp rosemary, fresh
Add 2 tbs of olive oil to a small pot. Once hot, add diced cherries. After coating the cherries in olive oil, immediately add the balsamic. Add the rosemary. Simmer on low heat until the 1 cup of balsamic has been reduced to 1/2 a cup.
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup ketchup
In a separate medium sauce pan, mix together the ketchup, mustard, red pepper flakes, and brown sugar. Heat on medium heat. Once hot, add the reduced cherry balsamic sauce. Simmer on low heat, stirring occasional for a couple minutes until the two sauces are homogenous.
Coat chosen meat in the sauce before cooking. I coated small cubes of flank stank that were cooked on the barbecue via skewers.
BEET SALAD PIZZAS
This creation had to happen after my sister discovered a four pound beet in the garden. I knew I had to create something that showed off the giant diameter. There was no way I was reducing this master piece by chopping it into pieces. The end result was a beet and arugula salad in the form of a pizza. When life gives you giant beets...
1 giant 4 pound beet
salt and pepper
This recipe was another very last minute improvisation, thus I don’t have exact quantities for the ingredients.
Cut the beet to create large circles that preserve the center of the beet. Coat with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill the beet until the sugars on each side have caramelized, become slightly browned, and the beet is soft to the touch. Dry the beet with a paper towel so that it does not become soggy. Sprinkle the top with chopped walnuts and crumbled goat cheese. On the very top add arugula. I love all of these ingredients, so I tried to fit as much of each on to each beet. It was a bit of a mess, but utterly delicious. Top with salt and cracked pepper, to taste.