With unemployment becoming a "national emergency," I am so grateful to have a job waiting for me out of college. Although I'll admit it's rather quick (I graduated two days ago and I start my new job on Monday) I have absolutely no room to complain.
Sadly, I gave my last bottle of Pinot Noir to a friend planning a romantic date (how Cupid-esque, I know) so for a celebration, I turned to a scrumptious alternative which I happened to have in my fridge - Amstel Light.
Now I know I promised this would not become a beer blog, but lately I've been leaning toward the bitter, bubbly stuff. I've seen a fair share of sour reviews of Amstel Light, but when I look at the calorie to taste ratio, I'll stand up for it:
There's no time for drinking wine when you're graduating college in a recession.
My to do list: Find a job.
I may have gotten a sales position with Norwegian Cruise Lines, which would be sweet. The amount of wine consumed on cruises is astronomical. Speaking of cruises, wine vlogger Gary Vaynerchuck of Wine Library TV is setting sail this weekend on his annual Thunder Cruise.
I'm more than a little jealous of everyone going, even the crew.
But before I start booking any cruises, I'm going to have to sell some. Or find another way to satisfy the only objective on my to do list.
To everyone enjoying this weekend's Thunder Cruise - bon voyage.
I'm sitting at a Chili's restaurant with a small group for my best friend's twenty-first bday. We're carousing the drink menu, chatting a bit. I make a comment about a wine I'd like, and one friend turns to me and says, "You aren't seriously going to order wine at Chili's!"
And I thought, Where the heck are you drinking wine, the Ritz?
OK, I'll admit that I've ordered wine at the Ale House before, and that turned out to be a disaster.
But should the dining venue really dictate the quality of wine? I am witness that it is perfectly possible to get an excellent bottle of wine at the supermarket for $10 or less. Those same $10 bottles are being sold by the glass at fine dining establishments like Chili's.
When you're a student, or just on a tight budget (which is the case for most of us today), chances are you don't have big bills to throw down on a fancy steak dinner. There's no reason you shouldn't enjoy a glass of pinot with your fajita quesadillas.
This was a dry trip since it was school-sponsored, so there was no drinking of any Thai wine. Although it would have been a mission to find any in the first place. We took a few trips to the local Carrefour (which is like a Wal-Mart throughout Asia and Europe) and the wine aisle carried only foreign labels, to my disappointment. It would have been neat at least to see some Thai wine.
Still, the flavors of Thailand did not disappoint. From fresh coconut ice cream (above) to fermented guava, my palate still enjoyed the non-alcoholic fruits of life. Most dishes were complex, mixing spices and sweets. Favs included the curry rice, iced cocoa, and especially Thai donuts (mmm).
Now I'm back on U.S. soil, and I am ready to get back into the swig of things (pun fully intended). I definitely see a trip to Total Wine somewhere in my near future.
I'm not a beer fanatic by any stretch of the imagination. To be honest, most carbonated beverages just don't do it for me. Beers have a tendency to leave me more thirsty (and bloated) than I started.
There is one beer, though (wine bottles, cover your ears) that almost makes me swoon.
It's classified as a "White Belgian-style" beer (which I read an entire page about on wikipedia, and still don't quite understand). The beer is a creation of the Coors company, which is interesting because I really don't like Coors or Coors light; but the two labels maintain their distance for a reason.
Blue Moon isn't the type of beer you wanna be pumping at a kegger. It's a sipping beer. Think more... summer BBQ, day at the pool, casual dinner party. It's light, airy, refreshing. Typically served with an orange slice, helping to pronounce spicy citrus notes. It tastes like sunshine, really.
It's good stuff, but don't fret. This blog is not about to turn into the Beer Nut anytime soon.
For most of the day, I was lounging at the Evian sponsor tent. I know, it looks like a scene out of a Philadelphia Cream Cheese commercial. But working for the water of the French Alps turned out to be... le boring. Mostly because Evian had models prancing around in very little clothing spraying people with water (which occupied the only job there was to do).
The lack of activity may have had some relevance to the failing economy (and what doesn't now-a-days?). Vendors told me that festival tickets, which usually sell out six months early, were still up for grabs all day Friday. The $200 price tag definitely made my eyeballs pop.
Yes, it was a boring and tedious day. But, I did get to take a bathroom break in one of the trendy South Beach hotels. The ceiling was wicked cool (picture left).
Anddd I snagged about an hour of time at the Robert Mondavi tent. I got to pop open tasting bottles while listening to Mondavi staff rave about the new seasonal selection, Solaire (which is now on my list of wines to try).
Moral? Volunteering is never a total loss. No matter how boring and useless you may feel.
South Beach is renown for it's tourist-luring white, sandy beaches. If you've never been to the beach, I highly recommend you go to see it. Beautiful people, thriving nightlife, and home to the annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
This festival calls famous chefs and winemakers from all corners of the world to Florida, and FIU students get the unique opportunity of volunteering because our university founded the festival, originally a fundraiser for the School of Hospitality.
My morning as a volunteer, or officially a "Student Associate," was off to a great start. I woke up on time (though painfully at 5:30am), drove to the beach without getting lost (a feat in itself for me), and hopped along my merry way to Ocean Drive and 10th Street, where the festival takes place. Once I got there, I stared at the white tents lining the beach coast with wide, excited eyes (my pre-boredom, over-excited face exhibited, right). At the end of the day there was no doubt I was exhausted from the experience, although that was not because I was working too hard. FIU had more student associates than they knew what to do with. Essentially, I was exhausted from boredom. The worst part of the day was standing around in the cold air (yes, 60 degrees is cold for me) wating around for something to do.I didn't even get a glimpse of Paula Dean mooning the audience of her demonstration show.
I haven't mention all the hullabaloo created with the presence of the Spanish King and Queen. More to come on that soon.
Midterms, papers, group projects, club meetings, chapter meetings, fundraisers...
This is the point in a college student's semester when it's too easy to become completely overwhelmed. This is when I became most thankful for my recent trip to Total Wine.
Yesterday I volunteered at the South Beach Food & Wine Festival (post to come soon). It was the end of a long day, an even longer week, and I wanted nothing more than to bundle up in sweats and a blanket, and split some vino with a good friend. The bottle of choice: Brand - Hermes Region - Nemea of Peloponnesus, Greece Varietal - Agiorgitiko Vintage - 2003
Apparently, Greece has been in the wine business for over 6,500 years (who knew?). I've never tried a Greek wine before, but I was feeling adventurous.
The verdict? Yep, they know what they're doing over there.
First swirl. Thick, dark, plum-colored wine left liquid sheets slowly sliding down my glass. Another a quick swirl before I inhaled the sweet, aged aroma of vanilla and oak. Another breath in added strong notes of black cherries.
First sip. Mmmm. A hint of spice. A subtle burn in the back of my throat. And, as I often experience with dry red wines, the second sip was better, smoother.
At $12.99 a bottle, this is one investment that paid off well. A perfect complement to Chinese brown rice and veggies. A perfect way to unwind from an exhausting week.
I found wine Disneyland. Have you ever seen such a place? It was overwhelming.I've heard these types of places exist, I guess my eyes had been closed to it before. I stumbled upon it like Brigadoon. Fate.
Driving home from the FIU North Campus, ironically returning from a South Beach Wine & Food Festival Volunteer Orientation, I casually glanced out the window. "TOTAL WINE," shouts the big red sign, making my head snap to the right. Immediately I make one big U-Turn and head back to scope it out.
This place was literally a warehouse, packed wall to wall, nothing but wine (and a little corner of liquor). I spent one hour cruising every aisle, picking up whichever bottle most interested me at that moment (not quite the place for attention deficit wine-lovers). Some bottles even came personalized with a colorful "Employee Pick" sticker.
So, it kind of felt like a Wal-Mart, everything so cheap, easy and accessible. But for my first trip, I think I made out well. My purchases (pictured right):
(1) My first Greek red wine! $13 (2) South African white, not my first, but I am no less excited. $12
Lots of good things come from Valentine's Day. Little worded candy hearts, warm fuzzy chick-flicks, annual performances of the Vagina Monologues...
Still, I'm not crazy about the holiday. For one thing, I find it to be a sorry excuse to make people buy each other things they don't need. Plus, everyone who's not in a relationship is constantly reminded of that fact, hourly.
And if you are in a relationship, you can't even try to go out for a nice dinner because the wait for a restaurant table is rid-ic-u-louuuuuuus. Half the time the joint is so packed that service is way below par, anyway. But, ahah, sparkling rosé. That is a way to celebrate being loved. And homemade fondue doesn't look that difficult, either.
My suggestion: skip the crowded restaurant trip. Don't sit alone pondering over your last break up. Grab a good friend or a significant other and a good bottle of sparkling rosé. Make something useful of your v-day.
In the world of wine, there are baby steps one must take before moving on to the next level.
1. "OMG I'm totally drinking wine!" 2. "Heck, this is pretty cool... aaaand legal." 3. "What are we waiting for? Pop open the Bordeaux."
At level one, we drink wine coolers or white zinfandel. Neither of which can actually be classified as wine. And neither of which we come to be particularly proud of. But it's just a phase, it shall pass.
Level two, it's the easy white wines. The ones that still kinda taste like a simple, chilled fruit juice. But they have a little kick in them.
Level three, we're down to the good stuff. The deep, complex wines that stain your glass. The ones that make your food taste better. The ones that make your stomach warm. The ones with that special something you detect on the nose; and though you can't quite call it, you know it makes the wine better.
I went to hibachi this week and ordered my tofu stir-fry and California Riesling, which used to be my favorite. Not anymore. It was like drinking apple juice. I was hardly interested. (And at $6.50 a glass, I really should have been.) I wanted something more intricate. Something that I had to work at figuring out. I wanted more than alcoholic fruit juice.
I always wanted to shake up a bottle of champagne, popping the cork in that celebratory, slow-motion movie kinda way.
Of course, I've never had the extra money to blow on a bottle of champagne just to spill half of it on the floor. But I did get to open a bottle of champagne recently, and to my surprise (and slight disappointment), the cork was a twist-off.
(I should specify that technically, I was drinking "sparking wine" since to call it "champagne" it would have to originate from the Champagne region of France. Fun wine fact.)
Apparently, opening a bottle of champagne the old fashioned way can be dangerous.
A twist off champagne cork. Safe. Innovative. The people of the wine industry never stop the wheels from turning, do they? Dom Perignon would be proud.
P.S. The wine itself: André, Calif.; extra dry, extra yummy. The cost is a mystery, as it was leftover and unwanted from my family's holiday stash (one of the best ways, in my opinion, to obtain wine). But I'm confident that it runs fairly low.
OK, I'll admit it. This may come as a shocker, but I am not a football fan.
Go ahead, call me un-American.
The sport is like war. Men dress up in several inches of thick padding so they don't KILL each other on the field when they tackle their opponents. I sit through the university games because I know a few of the players, and the school spirit makes it tolerable. But watching football on TV is like torture. I won't even sit through a game for the Super Bowl commercials.
Now, Super Bowl Sangria. That is something I am willing to sit through a game for. I don't know what exactly makes this Sangria more Super Bowl friendly than others, but I'll take it. On ice, please.
3 cups dry red wine 2 cups 7-Up 2 cups orange juice 2 sliced limes 2 sliced lemons 2 sliced oranges 1 sliced apple (sweet variety) 1/4 cup brandy 1/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup Cointreau 2 tbls grenadine 2 tbls lemon juice 2 tbls lime juice
I used to think wine from a box was juvenile. Wine, to me, is the epitome of class. Refined, elegant, cultured. Drinking wine makes me feel classy. And class comes in glass -- not cardboard and plastic.
But pro-boxers explain that the plastic bag in boxed wine, which holds all the liquid, is usually sealed airtight (unlike those classy bottles, where wine quality dwindles from oxygenation after a few days).
Well, I suppose that makes sense. Especially for lightweights like me who can't finish a bottle in just a few days; and what a terrible waste that is! Oh, I get such a guilt trip with every wasted ounce of wine I have to throw away because I couldn't finish it just one day earlier. Is it not better to sacrifice your vision of class? To swallow that lump of pride and reduce your wasteful ways?
Or is that compromise even necessary? Can boxed wine be... classy?
Genius. Brilliant. Everything in the world is right again. I can decorate my once-trashy wine box with rustic curled iron shaped in an "elegant scroll motif." I can serve guests Merlot from a plastic spout, relishing in the fact that it is raised 2 1/2 inches off the kitchen counter by a stand that "adds distinction to any boxed wine." I will sleep in peace at night knowing that I have retained my classy standards AND saved countless quarter-filled bottles of wine from losing their lives to the mean mix of oxygenation and low-alcohol tolerance. There is a solution. There is hope.
Sitting at the kid's table during Thanksgiving, year after year, I would stare longingly at the adult table. I watched with envious eyes as my relatives sipped on classy, long-stemmed glasses full of dark purple juice. I didn't necessarily like the taste of wine as a kid, but I forced myself to enjoy any bitter bit my mom could sneak me.
Thankfully, my palate has evolved since then.
FIU offers a wine technology course taught by Master Sommlier Laura DePasquale. It goes without saying that I jumped at the chance to enroll once I was legal; thus my love affair with wine took off. Taking wine tech was like opening my eyes – and my taste buds – to a universe I didn’t even know existed. Wine is a culturally uniting experience. Every taste has a thriving history and a life behind it. And the life of wine is a truly fascinating thing.
So I’m not drinking any first growth Bordeaux’s (blame my budget, not my taste), but I do know what I like. And that’s what I intend to write about here.