July 16, 2009

How does it feel to return from the exotic Orient with its fantastic foods, adventuresome traffic, suspect air, and nonstop activity?

Pretty damn good, actually.

Back to a budgetless land with little water, few jobs, and a dismal economy. There are, however, a few positives. Taft Street wine is widely available (if you know where to look); the first tomatoes, blackberries, gravenstein apples, zucchini, strawberries, cukes, potatoes, onions and carrots are ripening; blue skies, clean air and cool nights are the rule; plus, there are free concerts in the square. The above combinations goes a long way in soothing the soul.

Last minute takes on China. Took the MENGEL (high speed train) from Shanghai city to the airport. At 432 kph, the smooth and very speedy ride was spectacular.

With time to spare at the Pu Dung Airport, I spotted two bottles of Chinese wine I hadn’t seen before. Despite the time (10:00 a.m.) my professional curiosity took control and I tasted the two offerings by Imperial Court: an oak aged white in the “burgundy” style, and a Cabernet Sauvignon. The oak aged white was as awful as anything I had tasted recently, but the Cabernet Sauvignon was very drinkable. Not a memorable wine, but not bad at all. There is hope.

Just finished The Sacred Willow – Four Generations in the Life of a Vietnamese Family by Duong Van Mai Elliot; a family history from the late 19th Century through the aftermath of the Viet Nam War. I have usually looked upon Viet Nam as either a symbol of United States foreign policy run amok or as an exotic tourist destination. This book pointed out the rich, complex and often horrific period the last 100 years have been. That Viet Nam today can be such a serene and friendly place says a lot about the resiliency of its culture, and is a hopeful sign for all of us.
I read with sadness the closing of Red’s Recovery Room, and truly great dive bar in nearby Cotati. Years ago my late brother in law, Arleigh Sanderson and I undertook a quest of visiting as many dive bars in Sonoma County as possible – true Herculean task. With the possible exception of Monte Rio’s legendary Pink Elephant, Red’s Recovery Room reigned supreme. Great name, great vibe, cold beer. Great loss.
The weekend is approaching, Kathy is returning home, friends for dinner, and out of town guests next week. Time to get out the cookbooks.
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