New Years Eve

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  New Years Eve

“Rituals are the formula by which harmony is restored.” Terry Tempest Williams

I have a confession to make. I have always hated New Year’s Eve. Even when I was really young, I hated the exhaustive energy and resources spent on Dec 31. The overwhelming social pressure to go out and have the best night of your life in a skin tight, can’t breathe dress and painful heels in the freezing cold  (yes even in LA) was never my thing. 

For those of you who are thinking about becoming parents, having children is the best excuse to stay home on Dec 31. Throughout their childhood, I used my children as human shields to avoid what I considered the worst, most overpriced night of the year to go out. 

We created Family New Years and celebrated with champagne and caviar, movies, Chinese food, played celebrities, danced and watched the ball drop.  We kept that going for a long time.

 But the kids grew up and one Dec 31 morning my ex husband thought that would be a good day to leave. Talk about the pressure of making it the most memorable night of the year.  I was in shock and I didn’t know what to do so I did what we always did.

I went to Wally’s to buy caviar and champagne. I hate New Year’s  Eve but I love caviar and every year I buy a decadent one. I sat in the parking lot for a while before I went in.  I finally got out of the car and walked into the store wondering if everyone there would know that this time I would be buying it for myself. I went home and put a movie on. My children and my new therapist called at midnight (probably to make sure that I hadn’t killed myself). 

 I did the same thing for the next couple of years as I struggled to adjust to my new reality.  Being alone on holidays is difficult and scary.  One year I sat in the parking lot of Wally’s before I went in talking with my daughter. She was trying to decide whether to spend New Years with the boy she was obsessed with or the one she just met and would later marry. 

I learned not to rely on other people for happiness around the holidays. I scheduled me  days – massages, foreign films and art. I planned trips in early January so New Year’s Eve would never be too big of a deal and I could focus on caviar, champagne and packing.  I learned that just because you are alone one New Years Eve, doesn’t mean you will always be alone.  I didn’t spend many more New Year’s Eve’s alone.  But I always do the same thing. 

There is always caviar and champagne from Wally’s, Chinese food or pizza, this year – hot dogs and movies.  Every year I take a moment and reflect about the previous year in the parking lot before I go into the store.

This year Wally’s closed their Westwood location ( https://www.wallywine.com Beverly Hills and Santa Monica)  and I didn’t know. I sat outside the parking lot for a few minutes and thought about how great my life is these days. Then I drove  to Wally’s In Beverly Hills and bought caviar. The boyfriend is bringing the champagne.

Happy New Year and Fly Safe,

JAZ

Things That I Have Learned In The Napa Valley

Things That I Have Learned In Napa Valley

 “God made water, but man made wine.” –Victor Hugo

I’m not the right person to be writing about Napa wine or any alcoholic beverage. I’m a one drink one drunk kind of girl and wine just tastes like wine to me. Truthfully, I was much more interested in eating my way through the Napa Valley.  I do like the wine culture and the quiet beauty of the vineyard landscape.  I have visited them in many countries so it was fun to see it here. I learned a lot.

Four per cent of all the wine grapes grown in California come from the Napa Valley.

Ninety-five per cent of all Napa Valley wineries are family owned.

There are more than three hundred stone arch bridges in the Napa Valley.

Winemaking history began in Napa Valley in 1838, when George Calvert Yount, founder of the town of Yountville, planted the first commercial vineyards in the valley.

Napa Valley is one of the most renowned winemaking regions in the world, but it is also one of the smallest. The valley floor spans across five miles at its widest point and 30 miles at its longest point.

Napa Valley was once a little-known wine region, and nobody thought that its homegrown wines could beat the dominant, classic French wines. That all changed though in the Judgement of Paris, a competition where wines were judged through blind-tasting. Two Californian wines — Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon — overwhelmed the renowned Bordeaux and Burgundy, and won the top honors.

A Mediterranean climate is characterized by long hot, dry summers and warm, wet winters, where rainfalls are most scarce. Only 2% of the world’s landmass has a Mediterranean climate which is conducive to growing wine grapes.

There are over four hundred wineries in the Napa Valley.

The most popular grape in Napa Valley is Cabernet Sauvignon,

The sloping vineyards on rolling hills make up at least a dozen microclimates in the Napa valley  all known for being amenable to certain varieties of grapes.

Robert Mondavi had their first grape harvest in 1966 and has produced fine wine ever since.The wine is rooted in family generations, passion, knowledge, and experience. Robert Mondavi Winery Tours were some of the first to exist in the region.  There are a few different tours you can take. The signature tour includes a behind the scenes look of a well-known large brand. https://www.robertmondaviwinery.com/

Most of the wine being produced here is for premium or reserve bottles and we got to taste a few. The tour guide was knowledgeable and fun and clearly loves her job.

Calistoga’s Schramsberg Vineyards is a historic estate in the forests of Diamond Mountain and home to the oldest hillside vineyards. The tour will take you through the history of Schramsberg and its 125-year-old caves. These are the first caves dug in Napa for wine storage. You’ll learn about the method of producing Schramsberg wine as well as the fact that their sparkling wines have been served at official state functions by every US presidential administration. Perhaps you’ll find someone “riddling” the bottles to move the spent yeast into their necks, or catch a glimpse of the bottling process. Schramsberg is the first U.S. winery to commercially produce sparkling wine in the traditional method developed in Champagne. http://www.schramsberg.com/

K. Laz is a by appointment only, private sit down wine tasting experience in downtown Yountville.  It appeals to a high-end crowd. There is a personal lesson/tasting geared to your knowledge and what you want to learn and try. https://www.klazwinecollection.com/

 I made it very clear that I was just company on this tasting and was quite intimidated when I walked in. My lack of wine knowledge was very evident here. Garrett made me feel completely at home. We didn’t just taste the wines but heard the stories and back stories. I ended up buying some. I highly recommend this tasting for those interesting in learning about hard to find interesting wines.

Choosing a restaurant in the Napa Valley can be a tough decision with so many wonderful choices. Luckily the daughter made me a list. We got to some of them – Farm, Redd Wood, Oxbow Market, Cook and Ad Hoc – all good. For me, Ad Hoc was the standout.

Ad Hoc is in Yountville and from what I  can see, Yountville is Thomas Keller town.  There is Bouchon, the always crowded Bouchon Bakery, Ad Hoc and somewhere on that road is an unassuming ivy covered cottage which houses the French Laundry.

We couldn’t get into the French Laundry so back to Ad Hoc. https://www.thomaskeller.com/adhoc

For 55 dollars you get a price fixe menu of Thomas Keller’s food. It changes every day.

The delicious food is served family style with generous portions. – tomato fruit salad, steak, barley risotto, mixed green beans, cheese plate and milk shake with an oatmeal cookie.

The most important thing I have learned about wine is that decanting, swirling and sniffing wine does not make you a pretentious Ahole. Decanting really does make most wine taste better. It is important to swish but not like you are on spin cycle in the dryer. Swirling your wine is scientifically proven to increase aromas and improve flavors.  Sniffing the wine enhances the flavor by enjoying the scent first. Sniffing with your eyes closed and a fake gratifying smile while you inhale for a weirdly long time is not as scientific. Pulling out your phone and posting a photo of you holding the wine can have the pretentious Ahole look on Instagram and Snap Chat. 

If you buy a cork screw in Napa depending on if there is a knife in it, the rule of thumb is whoever is doing the screening at the time your bag is going through will decide if it will be confiscated. if you have a strict, observant TSA screener or “paratrooper’ it will be confiscated or checked. I didn’t see that it had a knife.

I came back from Napa relaxed, refreshed, replenished and totally glad that I had gone.

Fly safe,

JAZ

What To Bring Or Not Bring To Someone’s Home In A Foreign Country

What To Bring Or Not Bring To Someone’s Home In A Foreign Country

“What you consider gross—dead rats—I consider considerate gifts.” Jarod Kintz

I’m a person who always likes to bring the right gift so having dinner in foreign country at someone’s house always requires a bit of research for me.

To the Japanese, gift giving is a way of communicating respect, friendship, and appreciation. It is good to be ready for the gift giving ritual that has been deeply rooted in the Japanese culture for centuries. Everything should be beautifully wrapped and ripping open the paper is bad form. Downplay the importance of the gift. This is typical in all Asian cultures. Always present the gift with two hands.

Do not give wine as a hostess gift in Argentina because it is considered common. Champagne or hard liquor is fine. Don’t bring scissors or knives because that means you want to sever the relationship.

What can you bring to someone in China? They make everything there. First off gift giving is not easy. They don’t open their gifts in front of you and they refuse them several times. You have to be persistent but not pushy. It’s a delicate balance. Again no knives or scissors to break the relationship. I am missing something. When people in these countries get invited for dinner is the go to gift a pair of scissors? Why do they have even have to say that? Also no clocks or anything in sets of four. Four is an unlucky number in Chinese because it sounds like death. This is true in most Asian countries. Avoid white chrysanthemums because they are used at funerals.

In Malaysia pay attention to the Muslim culture. Avoid pork, knives, alcohol, and highly personal gifts. Present gifts in the right hand only. In Indian sections of Malaysia, avoid black and white colors. Instead, opt for yellow, red or green which symbolize happiness.

Israelis have a tendency to overdo gift giving and put a lot of thought into choice and presentation. If you are going to the home of Orthodox Jews or Muslim Arabs remember that the gifts must not violate any of their religious beliefs. Candy, flowers and gifts for the kids are always appreciated.

If you are invited to a Quechua home in the mountains of Peru, coca leaves are an acceptable gift. Coca leaves have always been present at all important moments of community life. Today, the history and traditional use of the coca leaf in Peru are a solid part of ethnic and national identity.

In Korea, generosity is a highly valued personal trait. Give expensive gifts if possible.

When invited to a home in Russia, bring something other than vodka. If you bring flowers only present them to a woman. Avoid yellow flowers (unless you picked them yourself in the countryside). White flowers should be given with caution. Same with red as they usually mean love. Fine chocolates are always appreciated.

In Italy, it is nice to bring cakes for coffee when invited to dinner. The cakes have to be of a special kind, bought in a pasticceria by weight. These delicious cakes are placed in intricate patterns on a golden paper tray and wrapped in paper nicely folded with carrying handles After opening the present the hosts and the other guests will take pains to point out which cakes, they each do not like. In the end the cakes are pushed aside in the assumption that nobody can eat another bite after having partaken of a full delicious meal.

You must bring a gift if you are invited to someone’s house in India. Chocolates or flowers is acceptable. Different flowers have different meanings in India so always check with the florist about what is a proper choice. When in doubt red roses usually work. If they have children (and many do) it is nice to bring something for them. If you are visiting during a festival always carry a box of sweets with you. Be cautious in giving leather as a gift. The cow is sacred in India and many Hindus are vegetarians.

In Ethiopia a traditional gift if you are visiting someone’s home is coffee. However a chicken from the market may be well appreciated. They cost anywhere from $5-12. The average weekly wage is around $25 a month in a government job. So a chicken is quite a gift. If they have room the family may keep it for eggs. If not then it will make the next meal. To transport them, just pick them up by their feet. When chickens are upside down they do not move or make noise. They are very easy to handle. See this is where they lose me, I feel bad to carry an upside-down chicken around.

Fly safe,

JAZ