Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Life Sans Microwave

So when did you buy your first microwave oven? I’m sitting here trying to remember, but can’t quite. I’ve been going through each of my apartments in my mind over the last several years, trying to recall in which dwelling I can “see” a microwave sitting on the counter. It appears in my memory sometime in the ‘90s, although I can’t pinpoint the year.

Never mind. Leaving aside the trip down memory lane, let’s just say that like most people, I’ve probably owned a microwave oven pretty steadily for somewhere between 10 and 15 years.

And now I don’t!

I was rarely one to cook entire meals in my microwave oven. However I had been accustomed to using one daily, whether to boil water, defrost frozen foods (if I was in a pinch), or to quickly heat up leftovers. Ever since I bought my first microwave oven, it has been a standard kitchen appliance, seemingly as necessary as my coffee pot.

However now, lovely though my new kitchen is, I don’t have room for one. Counter space is at a premium and I’m unwilling to relinquish an inch of it to a microwave. And I suppose I could buy a small stand for one, as I have done in the past. But floor space is limited as well, and I’m loath to make my kitchen feel any more cramped than it already does.

So I’m living without one, and you know what? I’m managing just fine! I’ve reverted to using the same methods I used before microwaves were inexpensive enough to own and I bought my first one - whenever that was!

I boil water (infrequently as a matter of fact, not being a tea drinker) in a pan on the stove (no, I don’t have a teapot either – note the non-tea-drinking thing). I defrost food the old fashioned way – time. And I heat up leftovers in the oven, or in my Creuset saucepan on the stovetop, covered with a bit of liquid (stovetop is faster, I find). It takes a bit more time. I have to plan ahead a bit – leftovers aren't hot in 2 minutes; it takes more like 10-15, depending on the food item.

I'm a bit surprised to find I’m not missing that microwave, and I have no plans to buy one in the near future!

I feel like a pioneer or something. You know, a homesteader. Stage coaches and what not. I think my family thinks I’m a bit nuts (as if they needed another reason :)

And I’m feeling a bit smug about it!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Planting Party & Wine Tasting

As I have reported in the past, CornerStone in Sonoma is a fun collection of gardens, wine tasting rooms and shops focused on design. An added plus is the frequent community events they host, such as this weekend's Fall Planting Party.

So I showed up looking forward to creating a pot full of bulbs that will brighten up the little balcony of my new home! The event featured a lovely (and well priced!) selection of bulbs, planting pots, and CornerStone's own horticulturist, Dawn who assisted participants in creating our own pots full of bulbs that will bloom from late winter through spring, year after year.

So I headed off to visit my friend Tom at Potter Green & Co., and selected a beautiful celadon colored pot for my bulbs, plus some worm casings for fertilizer. Then I came to the Planting area.

I selected a variety of bulbs - some narcissus, some tulips, some crocuses and muscari and anenomes - and brought them over to a work table to build my planter.

I added rocks on the bottom, soil and fertilizer, and a row of the tallest growing bulbs, some more soil and the shorter bulbs, and then topped the planter of with some violas, since I wanted the instant gratification of Color Right Now. Here is the end result!

But no visit to CornerStone is complete without wine tasting, and the Fall Planting event included complimentary tastings. How great is that? So my first stop was Meadowcroft tasting room, a relatively new addition pouring a selection of wine labels under Meadowcroft's ownership.

I got two free samples, and selected the 2009 Thomas Henry Verdelho, as it was unfamiliar to me. Verdelho is a varietal from Portugal, and this one was grown in Lodi (Borden Ranch AVA). It was floral in the nose, with notes of white peach and a pleasant though not exactly crisp acidity, and I found it quite enjoyable. I also tasted the 2006 Magito Cabernet Blend, with grapes from Chalk Hill and Alexander Valley in Sonoma County. It contained 60% Cab, 20% Merlot and 20% Cab Franc, had a jammy nose, Big Black Cherry flavor and some cassis in the finish. Very nice!

My next stop was the Keating Wines tasting room, also a relatively new addition.

I really enjoyed these wines! First I tasted a 2008 Sonoma Valley Merlot, with a berry nose and notes of red and black cherry and rasberry. I found it young, and dare I say it, a little thin. However, the 2006 Rockpile Malbec was much more impressive - very soft with cherry and blueberry notes. Better still was the 2007 Rockpile Petite Sirah - a rich wine with notes of blackberry, black cherry and cassis. My server John and I thought it would pair beautifully with grilled tri-tip.

Last were two cabs. The recently released 2008 Montecillo Cab was a bit young and tight, with some red current notes. I am curious to see how this wine will develop as it ages. However, I really enjoyed the 2008 Napa Beckstoffer Georges III Cabernet Sauvignon - a 100% cab sourced from the Rutherford appellation which officially hasn't even been released yet. A lovely claret color, an herbaceous nose with hints of eucalyptus, and notes of red current. I really loved this wine, and savored sipping it while I chatted with my server about things to expect from this year's challenging vintage.

All in all, a very enjoyable afternoon of planting, sipping and chatting with friendly folks! And here is the end result of my adventure on my little balcony.