Friday, October 20, 2006

I HEART FOOD

I have several obsessions. Most are obvious (music, reading, watching television shows that get cancelled right away), a few not so obvious (shampoo is but one example - I currently have 10 bottles going right now and I bored with all of them). But two of my obsessions are colliding - food and clothes.

I love food. Anyone that knows me, knows that I love to eat - food of any sorts - high cuisine (mmm... someone take me back to French Laundry...) to low food (mmm...love me some Popeye's Fried Chicken...). I love to cook (for friends and family - I find cooking for AJ and myself a bit more of chore, though I enjoy cooking with AJ), and I love to bake (you're invited to my next dessert/baked goods party - whenever AJ and I throw one...probably in December)

But one thing that I do NOT like, is how food is making me not fit into my clothes. I've mentioned on and off how I am on a LFBFSF plan (Lose Fat Before Folsom Street Fair) and unfortunately that has not happened.

Folsom snuck up on me and arrived a couple of weekends ago. Strangely, AJ and I did NOT go to it. This is unusual for us, because we usually revel in the sordid events that Folsom brings. In fact, this year, due to circumstances (the midwest trip - yes the last midwest post will be up shortly, I finally finished it, but need to insert images) AJ and I missed the other leather fetish event of the year, Dore Alley. This made us sad, but Folsom and Dore Alley will always be there. And last year, both were a bit of a disappointment for us, so it is just as well that we missed it.

I do have to admit that I have been going to gym regularly, but despite AJ's assurances that the gym is working (he swears that my arms look bigger, but I think he's on crack) my pants have not started to hang looser on me, nor have I had to shift my belt notches in (the empirical evidence I need to show that all that sweat is paying off). I know it will take more than a month or two of regular working out for a noticeable shift in my body fat, but patience has never been one of my virtues.

I realized though, that my love of food has not been helpful in this endeavor. Losing weight is not just going to the gym, but rather, it's going to the gym AND eating well. And though I eat fairly healthy (I love my fruits and vegetables) I realized that I probably should cut down on my caloric intake ever so slightly.

That said, I gorged myself on the last weekend of September (the weekend of Folsom Street Fair). AJ and I decided to take a weekend away from SF and go up to Russian River. As all the leather bears migrated to SF for the Folsom, we did the reverse and went apple picking, wine tasting, and restaurant hopping. It was a grand time - and a very gay time - though gay in a very different way than going to Folsom.

Due to circumstances that are way too boring for even I to ramble about, AJ no longer had his car, and so we decided to rent one for the trip - specifically we decided to rent a convertible. Let me tell you, AJ and I have vowed to rent a convertible at least once a year from now on. The world is SUCH a better place when you are driving around in it in a convertible. With the wind whipping my hair about (as much as it can with all the product in my hair) we drove up to Sonoma to make our 2pm apple picking appointment.


I've been mildly obsessed with apple picking since my childhood memories of picking Golden and Red Delicious apples at Eckert's Farms in Missouri (actually technically it's across the river over in Illinois, but whatever) during the fall had reared up in the deep recesses of my mind. The crisp air and the wholesome fun remains nestled in my brain with sunny nostalgia. I believe the scenes that I remember are also hand tinted a pastel color, with vague outlines of ink, much like a Norman Rockwell painting. Of course, in my memories, I am also white, and wearing overalls, and have a baseball cap on.

But the memories of Eckerts Farm were actually quite sweet. The farm itself is quite a festival of activities. Not only is their apple picking but there was hay rides and cotton candy, and the shop itself that sold caramel apples, candy apples, apple butter, apple cider, and pretty much anything else you can make with apples. Eckerts Farm was where I had my very first funnel cake (and now that I think about it, it's very possible it's the only time I've ever had a funnel cake - I always say that I love funnel cake, but I never get it at street fairs. how odd).

The apple trees themselves were enormous. I'm sure they would be much smaller to me now as an adult, but as a child they towered over me - like the redwoods but with gorgeous dazzling enticingly tempting fruit hanging off their branches. I remember getting all excited about apple picking and going on a hay ride at the farm, and then arriving in the middle of the orchard, with the huge trees, and trying to reach up to get to the apples at the top.

The farm had these ingenious broomsticks with wire baskets at one end. Attached to the wire basket were two parallel 90 degree bent wires that acted as forks to pull apples into the basket from high above. I coveted these items but so did every other grade school kid. The best apples were high above, unreachable by human arms - and hence the apple picking sticks that everyone wanted.

Driving up to Gabriel's Farm in Sebastopol, Sonoma CA, I was excited. Last year I had brought up the idea of apple picking to a bunch of my friends, but alas no one seemed overly excited and thus the season passed us by. This year I dragged AJ up to relive my childhood.

The Farm was a bit hard to find (the Mapquest directions being a bit obtuse) but after many U-Turns, we found our way to the U-Pick Apples.

Turns out that picking at an small family owned organic farm in the middle of Sonoma County is very different than the huge Eckert Orchards in the middle of Missouri (fine, Illinois). The apple trees were barely 5 feet tall, and bursting with fruit within hands reach. The only other people in the orchard picking were a nice lesbian couple who seemed to want to keep their distance from us. AJ and I picked apples over the next hour weaving our way in and out of the trees and enjoying the bucolic environment.

The weekend we went up, Gilbert Blushing Golden Delicious were ripe (they had harvested the Rome and the McIntosh already). Sweet, crunchy and slightly tart, they tasted like all the best traits of Golden Delicious (sweet and sunny) and Granny Smith (tart and crunchy). We ended up with 16lbs. Luckily apples keep for months in the refrigerator. I have made an apple pie with them, but mostly we've eaten them straight from our refrigerator, and they are delicious. I keep on saying I'm going to make something else out them (apple cake? apple cinnamon muffins? apple dumplings?), but it's so much easier to just munch away at them out of hand.

We also bought a selection of Asian Pears (who knew that Asian Pears came in so many varieties?) which they had harvested earlier in the month. Apparently ripened Asian Pears are a bit more difficult to tell by the average person so they don't really let people U-Pick. Some of the pears were sweeter, some more watery, some with hints of rum, and some with touches of citrus lemon & lime. AJ was smitten with them all, and we left with another bagful of them.

After apple picking we drove over to the West Sonoma Inn in Guerneville where we had reserved a lovely room last minute (the night before). The Inn owner was totally friendly, and offered us a bunch of different rooms - of which we picked the one that had the king size bed, the kitchenette alcove, the sitting deck, and the fireplace that turned on with a switch. I love that. My parents had a fireplace that turned on with a key that you had to insert in the floor next to it. The switch is so much more convenient.

The Inn owner also ended up directing us to a few wineries that we had never been to, so we after dropping our stuff off, we hopped back in the car to see how they were.

In the end we only had time for two wineries (we left the Inn at 4:15pm) and the first one was Hook and Ladder. A relatively young winery (founded in 2004), the owner had previously helmed the De Loach Vineyards 30 years ago. A former fireman (thus the name Hook and Ladder) the wine tasted a bit young, but decent none the less. We ended up buying a bottle of The Tillmerman Red Wine, all the while amused that they offered a 15% fireman discount (meaning if you were a fireman and showed your ID, you got cheaper booze.)

However, it was the second winery, Suncé, down the road that was the real find. Most the wine we tasted at Suncé was delicious - but the best of the bunch was an amazing malbec wine that they made. AJ and I had become enamored with malbecs when we were in Argentina last year. The dark inky red wine is perfect with steak, and incredibly cheap over there, but malbecs are hard to find here in the US. Unfortunately 85-90% of the malbecs that are produced in Argentina are drunk domestically - in Argentina for the Argentines. So we were both excited to find a locally produced malbec that tasted great.

AJ ended up joining the wine club there. It was a good deal, as the malbec was quite expensive, but significantly more reasonable with the wine club membership. On top of that, they have wine bottling parties, where you can go up there for a day and help them bottle the wine. They cater a breakfast and lunch, and at the end of the day, they send you home with a case of the wine that you bottled. I'm all for working for my booze....

After driving back to the Inn we headed over to the restaurant GTO's over in Sebastopol. We got the recommendation from the people at Suncé when we asked where they would recommend for steak. After drinking all that red meat, we were in red meat mood. Well actually, AJ was in a red meat mood. Now that I think about it, he's always in a red meat mood. And when he's not in the mood for red meat, he's in the mood for sushi....

GTO's ended up being a Seafood House, with a cajun/creole twist. But they had a great filet stuffed with bleu cheese (which AJ had). I ended up getting some fried seafood sampler which was good, but probably not the best option. I could have gotten fried seafood pretty much anywhere. But it's hard for me to turn down something labelled "sampler"....

At GTO's we ended running into the farmer's family from Gabriel's Farm. They stopped at our table and said hello to us and asked us how our dinner was. AJ was a little concerned that they saw us, as he was talking about the farmer during our dinner, just before they came over. He and I were both amused with how much the farmer, who had gone to Santa Cruz to study organic farming, before taking over Gabriel's Farm was exactly like someone you would expect an organic farmer to be. Attractive, healthy in a natural sort of way (like she worked out in the fields all day - which she does - but not like she overworks herself in the fields), wearing overalls, slightly crunchy but not too Berkeley crunchy, friendly with a down home attitude. Hopefully they didn't hear us talking about them, but really, we didn't say anything offensive (I don't think)...

We also ran into the people from Suncé, the ones that recommended the place. We had only been in town for one day, and already we were meeting people that we knew! Sonoma is like that.

The next day proved that all of Sonoma was really small. AJ woke up early and ran out for coffee and ran into our friend David from SF. He was up in Sonoma celebrating a friend who had finally finished his thesis. Did no one stay in SF?

We jumped in the car and took a drive over to the coast, something we wanted to do with the convertible. We figured we could find a nice breakfast place that overlooked the ocean, but alas the coast was completely fogged in, and we couldn't find any place to eat. So we headed over to Bodega Bay for some grub. We arrived too late for the breakfast menu, but I had a faboo crab cioppino. It was delicious and AJ was highly amused at the waiter who insisted I wear a bib as I ate the cioppino (and in fact put it on me without even asking if I wanted it or not). Good thing though, as the crab was messy, and even with the bib, I was able to get a little bit of the tomato based seafood stew on my tshirt sleeve (which unfortunately was not covered by the bib).

After brunch we headed back to Guerneville and to check out the Wine and Food fair, but ended up skipping it due to sticker shock (we were feeling cheap - though we later been told that it is totally worth the price, so perhaps next time). We ended up heading over to our favorite winery in a shack, Porter Creek for some wine tasting.

Porter Creek is actually one of my favorite wineries. The tasting room really is in a tin shack, and it's probably the most down home winery you'll taste in. But the wine is tasty, and the person who pours is always amusing - and often drunk by the time we get there (usually around noon - it's the first one on the Westside Road that we usually drive on to go wine tasting). We were the only ones there on Sunday, so we ended up getting friendly with the pourer (is there a name for someone who works at a wine tasting room? Coffee Shops have baristas, don't you think that someone working at a wine tasting room should have a special name?)

The wine pourer (we still don't know his name) is a big old gay bear. But my coworker SWEARS that he is straight. I've argued with her on several occasions about it (because NO ONE in their right mind would EVER be able to peg him as straight), but she continued to insist that he is DEFINITELY STRAIGHT (even though he lives in Guerneville, and has volunteered for AIDS organizations up there in Sonoma County and, well, he looks like a big gay bear). My coworker was the one that found all this information out - but refused to let any of the information sway her. In her defense, I am sure that there are straight men who volunteer at AIDS organizations in Russian River....but I just haven't met them yet.

This time, I was determined to come back with some sort of unrefutable evidence for her - something even she couldn't deny.

So during the tasting, I was able to procur this vital information about the man: He moved up from San Francisco about three years ago with his dog. When he lived in San Francisco, he lived in the Castro. He had a significant other who had children, and they raised their children together. He is no longer with his significant other, but they are very close. His significant other is paying for him to go a cruise. It will be heaven for him (his words), as he gets his own room, along with 4000 other single men. The cruise is a gay cruise. His ex-significant other is male.

When I ended up presenting this information to my coworker, she weakly tried to argue that maybe... okay she finally admitted that he was gay. "But he wore flannel!" she used as a defense.

"Yeah, like the guy in the Village People who wore flannel."

*sigh*

It's obvious that her gaydar is complete off, as we all have suspicions about her boyfriend, the ex-chef, now massage therapist with an ever so slight speech impediment and a love of the color pink. But we won't go down that road.

After Porter Creek, we decided that we were done with wine tasting, but still wanted to drive down West Side Road - it's a pretty ride. I had to go to the bathroom pretty bad so we stopped off at Roshambo Winery. And, of course, we run into our friend Peter and Grant and a couple of their friends as well. Apparently none of the gay men that I knew in San Francisco stuck around the city.

We hung out for awhile at Roshambo, ate some crepes (delightful) and then took off for the city. The trip away from San Francisco was over.

I had originally wanted to go up to Sonoma to go apple picking and to relive my old memories. Instead, I had a great weekend, full of food, wine, more food, friends (new and old), and the love of my life AJ. I never really had a chance to relive my old memories of apple picking, but instead, I was able to create new memories. And if my waist is a casualty of those memories, so be it. I heart food. I always will.

4 Comments:

At 2:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hooray!! i appear to be the 1st person to read, or at least comment, on this entry. How exciting. That story about the bear pourer and your co-worker with no gaydar is hilarious.

your weekend sounds awesome. Do you always run into ppl you know while out & about in norcal?

apple pears that taste like RUM???

i'm like you re: funnel cakes. they're delicious but i think they would give me a heart attack. sizzle . . .

 
At 11:27 AM, Anonymous Megs said...

Hi boys, we need to have dinner soon or um really I want Irvin to make me some damn dessert!
megs

 
At 12:38 AM, Blogger jackhonky said...

I actually rarely run into people when I am out and about. That is because I know roughly 7 people in total in all of NoCal.

So yes, running into all 7 people up in Sonoma was quite amazing.

In truth, the Castro is like a college campus. I used to live in the heart of it, and now I live a good four block away from it - and I go to the gym there as well.

As such, I end up seeing the same people over and over again - and even if I don't know them, I recognize them (and vice versa). So, yes, I actually do meet a lot of people when I go out.

Which probably explains why I don't go out very much.

As for Rummy Asian Pears, if you have a chance, check out a Chojuro variety which has a distinct rummy/brandy/butterscotch flavor. It's delicious.

And Megan, Happy Birthday! We gotta get together for dinner sometime - I wanna taste Alex Joseph's cooking, and I need to bake you a birthday cake!

 
At 8:41 AM, Blogger Rita said...

"Of course, in my memories, I am also white, and wearing overalls, and have a baseball cap on."

HILARIOUS!!

Irvin, I had the most delicious molten chocolate cake last night. It was delightful. It was also ever so slightly burnt along the bottom edges (hidden in sauce), which I love but had no idea if the restaurant had done on purpose. This caused Damon to hound me into naming the "best" chocolate cake experiences of my life--something I make no effort to rank.

Anyway, there have been a couple cafe/restaurant instances that have stood out, but all the BEST have been by you.

Like those signature brownies of yours, too.

Save a dessert party for when we get back!! And we'll do a wine party in return.

Love,
r

 

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