Silas hates when other dogs are on his turf. In Silas’ world, his territory extends a hundred yards from wherever I’m standing. His sworn enemy is the one-eyed dog with the curly tail; honestly, I can’t blame him - who knows how that dog lost an eye.
This morning, Silas spied a Great Dane that was giant even by Great Dane standards. Typically when Silas encounters a dog on his turf, he freezes and watches it carefully, barking if it gets too close. But today, as soon as Silas got a good look at the Great Dane, he turned and tried to sprint away, taking me with him. Looks like we’ve found the limits of Silas’ bravery.
Fall started suddenly this past week. The weather went from 95 to 75 overnight. The only peaches left at the grocery store are white flesh California peaches and organic peaches. No standard issue, pesticide blasted, yellow flesh Georgia peaches. The organic peaches were half off because they were a day away from being overripe, so I decided to make a cobbler.
Peach cobblers are my favorite. Here’s the recipe. It’s probably the only recipe I know from memory besides Kraft mac & cheese and crescent rolls from the can. It’s that simple.
Ingredients: 4 cups peaches (about 6 medium peaches) 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) 3/4 cup sugar 3/4 cup self-rising flour 3/4 cup milk
1. Spray a 8x8 or 9x12 glass pan with cooking spray. 2. Turn the oven to 350. Put the stick of butter in the pan and put it in the oven to melt while the oven preheats. 3. Mix the sugar, flour and milk. 4. Peel the peaches and chop them into big pieces. 5. Once the butter melts, pour the batter in the pan, then the peaches. Do not mix. 6. Bake for 30-40 minutes. 7. Resist the urge to eat it for like 10 minutes, fattie, jeez. Do you want to burn your mouth? 8. Scoop out a corner piece before someone else gets to it. Vanilla ice cream optional, but encouraged.
On our last day in San Francisco, Ben and I slept in and met Mom and Dad for lunch at a dim sum restaurant. I’d never had dim sum before, but I think all restaurants should be set up similarly.
We stopped by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for an hour. It made me think of when Mom and I were at the Tate Modern, staring at a giant rusted metal triangle hanging from the ceiling with little copper squiggles on the floor. “It’s a triangle… with turds?” Turns out it was Lightning with Stag in its Glare.
Then we headed over to the Mission District for a Foodie Adventure tour with Chris Milano. It was a combo walking tour/ sociology lesson/ food extravaganza. We visited all these little family-owned delis and bakeries and supply stores and taquerias. It was a really cool way to see a neighborhood that would be intimidating to explore on my own.
After that, we were all stuffed and headed to bed early. It was a good way to end an awesome, food-filled vacation.
Our third day in California was packed. First on the agenda was an olive oil tour and tasting at Round Pond. I was really excited about this because (a) olive oil nom nom nom and (b) it’s definitely unique. The mill tour was brief because the mill is literally one room.
For the tasting, we tried Italian oil, Spanish oil, lemon oil, and orange oil. First we tasted the olive oils by sipping them out of little round blue glasses that looked like votive holders. Blue glasses are used for official olive oil tasting competitions (who knew that existed?) because you’re not supposed to judge olive oil by its color. The citrus olive oils are interesting because they make them by tossing the lemons/oranges right into the press with the olives. Most flavored olive oils are infused after the olive oil is made.
We also tried two wine vinegars by pouring the vinegar over a sugar cube. The sugar neutralizes the acidity and allows you to taste the flavor of the vinegar. I was not a fan.
Then we tasted all the olive oils with bread, mozzarella, a hard cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, strawberries and grapes. And by tasted, I mean we sat at a high table, ate a mountain of food, and poured (no drizzling here) fancy olive oils over the whole thing. I think Round Pound lost money on my family.
After that, it was off to the BIG TREES! Or, as I insisted on calling them, the Twilight trees*. Or, as everyone else calls them, the Muir Woods. The big trees are big business. The small parking lot filled up early, so we parked several miles away and took a shuttle just for people who want to look at trees. The drive was steep and winding and the guardrails looked inadequate. Dad said it reminded him of when we were doing a mission trip in a town in Costa Rica that was so remote it didn’t have a name, just a highway marker. Fortunately, the big trees did not disappoint. The trails were full, but the crowd was in an uniformly happy mood. It’s hard to be around such big trees and not be blown away.
We then hustled to check in at the Omni in San Francisco and change for a night at the theater. Beach Blanket Babylon was certainly different from any other night at the theater… ever. I don’t know how to begin to describe it, but a typical scene was Snow White dressed as Madonna flying through the air singing a song about plastic surgery to the tune of “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. It was uniquely San Francisco.
We finished the day at Trattoria Pinocchio. I found the food underwhelming, but they made a delicious Irish coffee. Ben and I sat against a wall with a mirror on its top half. Across from us was the kitchen, open to the restaurant. I kept catching Mom and Dad looking over our heads to watch the chefs at work.
After such a busy day, I fell asleep at 10pm despite the fact that Ben was watching True Blood on HBO.
*If 2010 was the year I self-actualized like a boss, 2011 is the year I started owning everything that is embarrassing about me. I finally moved my Twilight books out from under my bed to the living room bookshelf.
Today I went to the Decatur Book Festival to see Victoria do a panel discussion with other authors with witches in their books. She was so cool and poised, and I was sitting in the audience resisting the urge to say to strangers, “Did you know Victoria and I are friends from high school?” I didn’t want to be that girl, but I so wanted to be that girl.
I think it goes without saying that the panel was a huge success. The room was packed- I’d say 150 or 200 people- and another 25 were in overflow seating. Every last copy of the The Near Witch was sold. It was positively surreal to see hordes of teenage girls holding their copies and waiting in line for Victoria’s signature.
I brought my copies and, as requested, Victoria signed Ben’s book “To Ben- the one who got away.” I really, really hope that one day Victoria is the sort of author scholars research, and one of them finds Ben’s copy, and it’s the talk of the academic world at conferences- who is this Ben? When did he get away?
Other than that, it’s been a quiet day. Silas and I have been watching Mad Men and Covert Affairs and eating a delicious ripe cheese from the Dekalb Farmers Market. I broke a wine glass. Matt bought a grill so I expect to spend the fall on the patio, especially once the mosquitoes die.
On our first full day in California, we got up bright and early for a wine tasting at Robert Mondavi. I only knew of Robert Mondavi’s Woodbridge, the wine you can get in a magnum for $12 at CVS, so I was prepared to be unimpressed. Turns out they make non-shitty wine, too!
The vineyards were gorgeous. We got to taste chardonnay and pinot grapes. The chardonnay grapes were really tart but addictive. I kept sneaking grapes while the guide was speaking. They tasted like Warheads, the hard candies that boys used in 6th grade to prove how tough they were.
The tour was really interesting and informative, but one piece of info in particular blew my mind. Here it is: Red wine glasses are supposed to be held by the stem. WHAT?! Thus the wine glass holding dilemma: Hold a red wine glass by the stem and all but the very most educated wine snobs think you’re doing it wrong; hold a red wine glass by the bulb and just about everybody thinks you’re right, but you know you’re wrong. Given that I’ve never spent more than $10 on a bottle of red wine, I don’t think it really impacts the taste of what I’ve been drinking, but it is quite the dilemma.
We had lunch at the Culinary Institute of America. It’s set up with the kitchen in the middle of the restaurant so you can see what’s going on. The atmosphere was cool, but the menu was not terribly Kate-friendly. By which I mean the food was complex and no white meat was served, but I patched together a meal of appetizers and was content. Everybody agreed that duck fat is the new butter.
We were supposed to go to Spring Mountain Vineyard in the afternoon, but the boys were sucked into the CIA’s shop. After that, Dad wanted to go to Dean & Deluca. So we spent the afternoon looking at fancy food and fancy cooking supplies, and I fell in love with but couldn’t justify buying a set of measuring spoons that including a teeny spoon labeled “pinch.”
After a nice nap before dinner, we ate at Angele. Our table was on the patio next to the water. Big stand-up heaters were on, which was a funny sight for August. I had the pork loin and stole from Dad’s cheese plate. Ben and I shared mac & cheese, too. Everything was delicious.
I flew into LA and got on a teeny little plane to Berkeley. Mom and Dad had gotten in the night before to pick Ben up from his summer classes. I was pretty loopy from getting up at dawn and not eating any real food. One of the nice things about a family vacation is that they instinctively knew this and left me alone until I’d eaten. Dad drove around Berkeley and Ben told us about his summer and pointed out his favorite spots and I sat in the backseat and said “Food?” until I was fed.
We ate at Saul’s, a traditional deli that had Dad raving. I had a big Cobb salad and everyone else had enormous sandwiches. As soon as I had some food in me, I instantly loved everyone and everything.
After that, we drove to Napa. My whole family loves to share info and be in the teacher role (it’s in our blood), so we were all talking about wine and Ben’s business classes and everything else. Mom was looking through a guidebook and said, “Did you know Napa is a region?” in her most helpful voice. Everyone spent the reason of the weekend going, “Hey, did you hear Napa’s a region and not just a town? Who knew??” We love our mama, but couldn’t let her live that down.
We stayed at the Westin and it was great - nicer than my apartment, for sure. The hotel had free wine tastings (what uppp). We walked around town before dinner. Downtown Napa is both bigger and nicer than I’d expected. It was charming and very clean, like one of those giant outdoor malls that’s basically a fake town - say Easton, Ohio. We had dinner at Grace’s Table; I had risotto with scallops. Our waiter looked uncannily like the lead in White Collar. I couldn’t place him, but Ben totally called it.
….My laptop is back! That explains the lack of updates, dear readers (hi Katy, Amanda, and maybe Matt. Matttt? Hi Matt!).
While my laptop was vacationing with Geek Squad, I went to Napa and San Francisco with Mom, Dad, and Ben. It was incredible. Thanks to Mom’s carefully planned itinerary, we had an action-packed long weekend. I want to recap everything but I’m going to break it down by day so it’s not one Iliad-style epic. I have photos, too, but I can’t find the cord. One day! Maybe.