Ever since Steve and I got back from our quick trip to Sonoma earlier this week, it has been rather challenging to get back into a regular groove. Getting away and escaping the routine – even if it was only for three days – was exactly what we needed. Warm, sun-filled afternoons; brisk, starlit evenings; local, spring produce; walks in the vineyards at Peter Michael Winery; and too much wine for our own good. I can only imagine what an entire week out there would do for my soul! I just might not come back home.
Along with eight other sommeliers from across the world, Steve and I were invited to attend Peter Michael Winery‘s annual Sommelier Summit. This particular year was exceptionally special, however. Wine Spectator recently declared PMW’s 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Au Paradis, “Wine of the Year.” The excitement there was, as you would expect, palpable and contagious. I’ll definitely share more about this memorable trip in an upcoming post.
We managed to find some time for relaxation, while we were there, despite the packed schedule of tastings and lectures. Making a couple of visits to our favorite Healdsburg watering hole, Spoonbar, was non-negotiable. One of the things I love most about this bar is that they choose a spirit for the season and create myriad twists and iterations using it. Gin is their current obsession, and there are nearly ten different gin-based cocktails on the list, all crafted with spring flowers, fresh herbs, ripe fruits, and just-picked vegetables.
Chocolate and peanut butter. Doughnuts and coffee. Netflix and pajamas. Rosé and poolside sunning. Gin and juice. There’s a strong theme going on here: perfect pairings. In fact, these are some of my personal, favorite pairings, especially the part where gin and juice come out to play. I love gin’s herbaceous, complex character, and it meshes so beautifully with botanicals, fruits, and fresh herbs. It’s the OG, garden-to-glass mixer, in my opinion.
I also make a green juice or smoothie on the daily. Pairing these two loves of mine – gin and green juice – is a natural fit. While I’m not suggesting enjoying these two things together first thing in the morning, I’m all for this combination by at least mid-afternoon. Mondays are a different story, though. Am I right? This combination of flavors is fiercely tempting me this particular morning.
It’s a cozy, gloomy Sunday afternoon here at the house. Little pops of pink are peeking through, amidst the few remaining brown leaves from last fall that, for some reason, still want to cling to winter. Some part of me does, too. The colder, darker winter months demand us to don multiple layers of insulation and protection. A hibernation of sorts. A time to reflect and center ourselves or, perhaps, to hide and retreat.
Spring’s arrival signals an energetic shift. Longer days shed light on dormant soil, beckoning sleepy seedlings and perennials to emerge with renewed vigor. I feel that pulse within myself, but like those lingering, brown leaves in the garden, I am also a little stubborn to embrace the change. There is something satisfying about being able to blame the winter season on any lack of energy or delayed starts on projects. I even revel in avoiding tedious tasks in the colder months – like not shaving my legs, for example. It’s another chore I can put off and cover up with layers and boots. Maybe that’s TMI, but you see the parallel of avoidance here.
Aside from shoveling about a foot’s worth of snow this morning, today is getting better by the minute. Over the years living here in Denver, I’ve learned to doubt the weather forecasters’ calls. They’ll predict rainfall, and we’ll get nary a drop; they’ll suggest a blizzard, and we’ll wake up to an inch of slush. Today was shockingly different. I was amazed when I cracked the blinds and spotted a beautiful, glistening, snow-covered wonderland.
The crabapple trees are buckling under the weight of the heavy, spring snow, the wind is howling, and the precipitation shows no sign of slowing. I think the entire city of Denver took nature’s cue and basically shut down. Even the reservation count at the restaurant dropped from an already low count of 130 to just above 50 covers overnight. Thankfully, a call was made to close for the evening.
I don’t think I’ve yelled that loud or jumped that high in a long time. Even though Steve and I work alongside each other, we rarely get actual days off together. Now we have two, consecutive days off with no plans but to cozy up, cue up extended editions of The Hobbit, and maybe catch up on some computer-related work.
I’m celebrating extra hard because I survived Valentine’s Day at the restaurant. It was no small feat. We served over 500 guests each evening last weekend. I am still tending to my battle wounds. Couples lingered a little longer than we anticipated, so our reservations ran behind by almost an hour each night. In order to appease the anticipation and impatience of awaiting guests, we ended up having to pour nearly eight cases’ worth of complimentary Prosecco.
I’m still asking, where’s my complimentary case of bubbles?!
Today I’m changing things up a little and hosting Emilie Raffa of the Clever Carrot here on the blog. Emilie has been a longtime favorite blogger of mine, and she recently released her first cookbook, aptly titled, The Clever Cookbook. I’m giddy with excitement! It’s filled with get-ahead strategies and tips for “stress-free home cooking,” and it is quickly becoming a favorite resource in my kitchen. It was also recently named one of Epicurious’ Top 30 Most Exciting New Spring Cookbooks! Get it, Emilie!!
Emilie is kindly letting me share with you, one of my favorite recipes I’ve tried from her new cookbook, a spice-roasted carrot and avocado salad. Of course, I couldn’t resist pairing it with a bottle of wine. So, to celebrate Emilie’s cookbook release, I’m giving away a copy of her cookbook, along with a bottle of wine from my cellar that pairs perfectly with this particular salad! Simply share one of your favorite time-saving tips in the kitchen down below in the comments OR clue me in one of your favorite springtime rosés.