Milestones

I think it fair to say I’ve hit one. Longtime readers may note that I have long desired to publish a piece with TCS. This is one of the truly outstanding magazines on the web today–and widely read. It is real, honest, straight, intelligent thought from a variety of Libertarians and Center-Right Conservatives on a host of subjects. It has been a dream of mine for some time

Well, I am really pleased to announce that I got word today that they will publish a piece of mine on education. Be assured that when it is up and running, I will link to it and shout it from the mountaintops.

Meanwhile, through TCS’s editor, I was introduced to Michael Strong, a revolutionary education innovator and someone with whom I hope to begin a decent correspondence. Please visit his site (one of many) and read a few posts if education fascinates you at all in any way.

H.R. 710

Well, here it is. H.R. 710 is a bill being introduced in Congress by a Democrat from Ohio by the name of Kaptur (appropriate for a lib, yes?). I jest because I love. Now, I’ve read the whole bill which takes all of about 4 minutes or less. It’s a pretty straight forward idea. To wit:

Essentially the Federal Government would be able to provide low-interest loans and occasional grants, even, for the purpose of promoting new or rehabilitating old farmer’s markets throughout the United States. Tom is up on it over at Fermentation and Adam Mahler was the one who called my attention to it.

Having read the whole thing, and being a supporter of local food, I confess that this center-right leaning teacher and writer feels that this is a worthwhile bill. My conservative friends may disagree, I am not sure. However, the fact that the majority of the bill is in the form of loans–to be paid back to the government–make it more attractive. I can see the government giving the occasional grant as well. Now, again–some conservatives may balk saying that it isn’t the Fed’s job to promote local food, produce or farmers. Well, that may well be–but the Feds have been propping up farmers for so long with blatant pay outs and other silliness, that this little bill seems to do far more good than harm. In essence, local farmer’s markets will have the ability to build and maintain either facilities or marketing revenue to promote healthier eating and local food. As a foodie, I agree with the approach.

Now, I know many conservatives will again balk and say “why use my money to do this…I’m a big box market shopper, and couldn’t care less about farmer’s markets.” Point made–but the other side here is that this is not a huge tax break, grant or giveaway. These are mostly loans made to people who might be able to provide an alternative, albeit smaller and with less revenue, to those big box stores. They will then pay back the loan and either live or die in the market. It’s rather like a Small Business Administration for local food producers.

I like the idea–and I back it.

Heads up, Foodies.

Adam Mahler is asking all us foodie writers to take a look at h.r. 710 (no link, yet) which would provide funding for a sort of nationwide network of farmer’s markets. I have not yet read the whole bill, but I intend to. Adam is a good friend, an honest soul and a deeply demented liberal with whom I disagree on many issues. However, he’s smart as a whip, a serious foodie and he happens to be my mentor as a sommelier, though he is younger than I am. Still, I take him at his word that the bill is worth looking over and I will. Tom over at Fermentation is on the trail as well. If Tom Wark and Adam Mahler are for this bill, and I come out against it–it had better be with sound reasoning. These are two of the smartest, wittiest and best wine people I know or have had the privelege to be associated with. So I urge you to their sites–and I will post more here tomorrow as I read more about the bill.

Jonathan's

I put up a post over at the brother’s site. Since I don’t handle too much in the way of politics here, it’s a nice outlet. May I humbly refer you to that site?

Last night’s dinner with Tom and Jayme was a wild success. Jonathan’s continues to be perhaps the finest example of fine dining in all of Ventura County. It has some pretty close competition–but for ambience, service, cuisine and wine, you’d be hard pressed to do any better. I have to dig in and do some research, if just calling Chef Jason at the restaurant, because I did not write down our wine selections last night. We had a Chianti, which was inexpensive and delicious–but I was more than blown away by Chef Jason’s personal choice of a Malbec from Argentina. It’s name began with a ‘t’, but I don’t remember the name. If you know Argentinian wines and can tell me, drop me a comment here, please? I remember the first part of the name is “Trai…” something or other. Wow, it was stupendous.
UPDATE: I FOUND IT! THAT’S THE WINE—AND IT IS A BARGAIN!

I had one of Jason’s specials called “Sausage Wellington” which was stellar. Fresh sausage in a puff pastry shell with an apple chutney, spinach and brie cheese. I’ve no way to compare it to anything–it was incomparable. Really, one of the finest things I’ve ever eaten. Tom got a filet with gorgonzola cheese and the filet was so tender that it seemed to melt in your mouth as quickly as the cheese did.

Sue had a salad dish with pad thai noodles, tender beef slices, pistachios, arugula and various kinds of sprouts. It was dressed with a fruity vinaigrette. Jayme had sausage and chicken paella which, after I tasted it, I thought I should have gotten. Saffron in generous amounts, tomato broth, fresh sausage and chunks of chicken. It was a dish that could have fed 4 people with ease.

I’ll get to those wines when I can and post them here…

Weekend Wines

Woke up with an intense desire to enjoy a true Saturday. You know something’s wrong when you wake up with a whole day in front of you to do with as you please, and all you’re really thinking about is dinner.

Such is tonight and I’m sure I’ll write more about it after it happens, but as February crawls to a cool and crisp end, my thoughts are with a springtime of fresh aromas, dazzling colors, soil and tending the garden. No–not flowers or vegetables. Wine, you fools, wine!

I still cannot get over (and I have no reason to get over) Trader Joe’s incredible offering at $11.99 of Lane Tanner’s Lano Rouge. It’s a blend of syrah and pinot noir that truly satisfies. Oh, stop—I don’t have pearly white adjectives to give you. It tastes like fruit with some herbs and an ever so subtle hint of oak.

Meanwhile, there is also a Trader Joe’s offering for a dollar more that I found alluring. From the Sierra foothills, as I’ve written about before, comes the French Hill Sierra Foothills Grand Reserve Barbera. It’s absolutely wonderful with the real balance of oaky vanilla and light, strawberries and cherries.

Now, if you can get a hold of it–and you may still be able to, Midlife Crisis Winery has a knockout Sangiovese. This San Fernando Valley couple took some high-tech earnings and went shopping for grapes up in Paso Robles. They own a small plot of land up there and they grow as well as make some pretty good wines. This Sangiovese is another Italian beauty with that really great strawberry fruit as well as some cherry. It’s got a really rounded flavor to it and a long finish that really lasts.

OK–enough. Sometimes, it’s just fun to write about.

Too tired…

To write much. There is good discussion on a couple of issues over at brotherblogger—and I urge you to check there. I commented on the UW flap over Greg “Pappy” Boyington and the Dubai Ports World hulabaloo as well.

Enjoy your weekend–as I intend to unwind, destress–and smell the roses. Ask my students, they’ll tell you that I need to do that—-quickly.

Returning to my roots

Have you forgotten that I’m a sommelier? Well, I haven’t, but I have been otherwise occupied. However, there are some things coming up worth mentioning:

The World of Pinot Noir, chaired by Chad Melville of Melville vineyards is, I believe, next weekend–I cannot believe it’s already here. But I’ve been invited to one of the tastings by my friend Barbara Smith at Treana, one of the great Paso Robles wineries. I am trying to get there–and think I may work out the schedule.

Some changes up in the Santa Ynez valley with some organic and biodynamic shifts in growing at some high profile places. As I write this, I feel awkward because I have pitched the story to a magazine and await a response. I am in hopes that they’ll let me write a piece on it and if they do–I cannot really divulge anything here, so I will refrain from doing so.

With winter ending, the wine-tasting season and the real marketing push by wineries is back on. Crowds are becoming more common on weekends up in Los Olivos and my sources are telling me business is booming. Sue and I made several trips over the winter and it was so very nice and slow that we got a lot of personal attention. My guess is that this is changing–as it should, and as it does every year this time. There is some beautiful wine up there.

The biodynamic and organic stuff really enthralls me and has almost become a niche for wine writing for me. If you look over at the articles section, you’ll see at least 3 pieces on this topic alone: Fetzer, Presidio and the Central Coast Vineyard Team are over there and I wrote them all for Wines and Vines Magazine and California Wine and Food magazine. It really is apparent to me that this is the wave of the future–and in a way, it’s a sort of back-to-the-future mentality. The future of winegrowing is in its past in that sustainable practices dictate moving away from herbicides and pesticides–at least chemical ones–and moving toward more environmentally friendly practices.

It makes sense, really. Vineyards can last longer, grapes can be more concentrated, more focused on juice and taste and the overall health of the vineyard is less in question. There is, however, a lot more to say on the subject and I would refer you to the Central Coast Vineyard Team as well as to Fementation for more information.

Wow. A wine post. I’m proud.

A Simply simple Tuesday

It is the witching time of year. Things have bogged down considerably at work–the seniors are now in full blown senioritis and are having a devil of a time caring about their work. Grades are falling, work is suffering, quality is disappearing. It’s sad.

So, of course, goes my own mood already fouled up by the incessant darkness that my psyche finds itself in. I try to get hope back, but all I come up with is a desire to bury my head in the sand and make it all go away. Long days of grueling through stuff that I should find captivating, enthralling and interesting–and I don’t. I wonder if I keep reporting this stuff if it will appear clear that there is a meme here—-are you witnessing the throws of a career mid-life crisis? It could well be. I’ve often thought that is what it is, but I love education so much. I still get passionate about Shakespeare, Poe, Miller, Fitzgerald, Hurston–all of them. And I try to share that—but it is in late February when the downhill run starts. Perhaps that is all it is, though—just the time of year, a recurring theme–one that will break when spring breaks with the fresh promise of summer around the corner. Easter is coming, after all. New life awaits us, doesn’t it?

Well, anyway. It is, perhaps, nothing at all. There is still longing in the voice I hear so as long as that is the case, I shall plunge forward.

Be happy. The post could have been more bloviating about the crud. I’m out of it that far, at least.

Wine posts coming this weekend, I hope.

Literary sense….

Sick kid, new puppies that visit here everyday (belonging to my sister-in-law–see below), rain, cold weather–life is not dull. It changes every instant.

Sick kid is turning the corner, we think–and so hope that tonight is a better night for her than the two nights past. The usual stuffy head, runny nose, sneeze, cough, feel like dreck stuff that I had not too long ago. She’s tired, too. But all shall be well.

I’m sitting here staring at the page wondering what to write which I know is never a good idea. I thought I had something to say, but apparently I don’t. Whether because so much of what I have to say is far too personal to put here or because somehow, whatever I have to say isn’t all that interesting to anyone, I don’t quite know where to go. But as I always tell my students, there is no such thing as writer’s block–it is a figment of the imagination, actually–quite literally. There is always something to write. The problem is that since we equate writing with thinking, we assume we should think first, then write. In actual fact it is the opposite. One should write first, think later. That’s why there are revisions to writing. That’s why the first draft is never the best draft. There is always a way to make it better. Always.

What’s fascinating about that is that years of research even shows us that poets go through laborious drafts on even the shortest of poems. Students, particularly of the secondary ilk, don’t think that way. Indoctrination that their feelings are OK has set in and so they set down to write a piece of poetry and knock one off in five minutes, rife with cliche, oozing with hackneyed phrases and images and usually titled something like, “life.” Oh, gawd–it’s awful stuff. One tries reasoning with them and that never works, so I’ve worked my way around the process by giving them the option of writing poems after doing copious amounts of literature research. Seems to help. They have to dig into a poet they like and then attempt to emulate that poet, while still being original in using their own words. This is paramount–for it is not poets I am trying to make–but critical thinkers. And poetry can certainly spawn critical thinking, if done correctly.

Meanwhile–still listening to Big Country. It’s fulfilling all my necessities of bleakness. I’m in that bleak mode, which is a little better than the ugly depression mode. The u.d. mode is responsible for some hideous stuff, actually–but the bleakness can be rather fun. It tends to be the stuff of creativity, at least for me. I note that when I am particularly happy, I don’t write as much–except here. But it’s an odd cycle, too–because writing in general comes out of that bleakness and writing makes me happy, so then I get to a happy point and sort of, slow down on the writing–sort of like a car, you know? You fill it up and now you can go where you need to go. But as you drive on the trip to getting to the place that will make you happy, you have to keep filling up. The writing is the filling up, I suppose. It keeps me happy.

Write now. Think later. If you need evidence of this, rent Finding Forrester with Sean Connery and Rob Campbell. A fine film and one with that very advice in it.