Cava / Jamon and Peas Fared Well in Debut

If you know me you know how I live. My life is nestled very comfortably on the receiving end of a beautiful relationship with my best friend. Not unlike Secretariat in his ’73 Belmont Stakes, she, too, moves like a tremendous machine. However her track isn’t The Big Sandy, it’s our kitchen.

Her name is Stacy and she has more cookbooks than anyone I know. Constantly trying new things, new dinners, appetizers, drinks, whatever strikes her fancy, if she comes across something new that causes her to raise an eyebrow, it’s usually on our book shelf within a week.

Her latest? Wine Food by Dana Frank and Andrea Slonecker (Lorena Jones Books).

It is a wine course in a cookbook for those of us with an interest in learning more about wine the best way there is: by drinking it. Their hook? Recipes that are not typically partnered with wines but deserve to be.

Frank is a sommelier and Slonecker a “wine loving recipe writer” who combined their expertise to give us nearly 70 wine and food combinations worth trying. Categories range from brunches, salads, picnics, cozy nights in and so much more.

Our first venture was from the “Prefunk” category. The wine, a Spanish sparkling white called Cava.

Made mostly in the NW region of Catalonia, it’s generally composed of the grapes macebeo, parellada and xarel-lo. Bubbly like Champagne but not as expensive. Both however are made the same way. The second fermentation – the one that makes the wine sparkling – occurs in the bottle itself.

Cava goes beautifully with Spanish ham. The Spanish jamon and Cava are, as the authors put it, “old friends.”

The ham is a bit gamey, but also salty and fatty and the authors believe it is the perfect compliment to Cava.

They weren’t wrong. They paired beautifully.

The Cava impressed Stacy more than it did me. She smelled baklava but didn’t feel the wine was sweet.

Me? The citrus and baked apples were all I smelled. Perhaps to those with a better nose they would have smelled the pastries (Stace did) and the honey. Stace caught a whiff of that also. But not me.

Along with the ciabatta bread (with a dash of olive oil), the jamon, prosciutto, Parmesan and machego cheeses was a spread put together with sweet peas, mint, lemon zest, salt, pepper, a bit of mancehgo cheese and lemon juice. Very refreshing and light.

Not to my particular liking as the mint played a more prominent role than I would have liked, although the refreshing aspect of the spread paired really well with the Cava; no doubt. Not the case with Stacy, however. She was really pleased with the sweet pea spread, putting it on toasted ciabatta and also water crackers.

Overall, a fun debut into our Wine Food adventures, with so many more to try. We are excited to try them all and although we have not yet decided what is on next week’s menu, we do have three bottles of wine suggested by the book to choose from.

Can’t wait to try something new again and to share it all here with you.

A 52-Year Old Bug Boy

It was unexpected, really. Getting bit by the horse racing bug again. In June I went to Kentucky to spend a three day weekend with two wonderful friends. One of those days were spent at Churchill downs. 

Two of my favorite humans, and me

I met both of these friends of mine at race tracks in Portland Oregon 17 years ago so there was already a horse racing connection here. When I got home at the end of that weekend not only was I invigorated and re-charged from time with amazing human beings, I found myself missing the grandeur and the thrill of horse racing.

Fast forward a couple of weeks to a weekend in July when my fiancé Stacy and I joined our neighbors Mike and Trish for a day at Monmouth Park. I spent some time working at Monmouth Park in the late 90s stood in front of the wire when Serena’s Song won the Haskell. That evening I had drinks with Bob and Beverly Lewis. I loved it then, and over time, slowly lost interest. I became disenchanted.

After spending time leaning on the fence of the walking ring, watching riders getting their instructions, the leg up, the walk around the ring and then out to the track. Well, it felt special again.

I got the bug again.

_______________________________

In one of those post parades we looked up and saw a female rider that we were not familiar with. Stacy went and plunked a couple of galleons on her and she rode  this 12-1 horse to victory like it was 9/5.  After she took a winner circle picture and weighed back in, we called to her and asked if she would take a picture. Kind and gracious, she immediately said yes. 

With no pretense and a smile as big and beautiful as the game we love, Ferrin Peterson smiled for the camera. On our way home we wanted to find out more about this rider we had never heard of. What we learned left us in shock.

Ferrin Peterson the jockey is also Dr. Ferrin  Peterson the equine veterinarian. 

I have been around horse racing for a long time. I cannot tell you a single solitary person that I’ve heard of who works for a living as a jockey and had an advanced degree. I certainly cannot name a single rider that is ever been referred to as Dr. before. 

Dr. Peterson and Stacy

I immediately have become fascinated by this person’s education, career path and the trajectory she is setting for herself. 

What a day.  It gave me goosebumps again. I cannot tell you the last time I got goosebumps at the racetrack racetrack but as my buddy says “If it gives you chills, it should be in your life.”

That’s some good advice right there. 

When I got home after the races I turned on the TV and watched the replays on YouTube. 

I went online and found the Saratoga Special newspaper from thisishorseracing.com, downloaded their most recent additions and familiarized myself with some names I’ve known in this game for a long time. It was so much fun.

From childhood through into my early 30s I love thoroughbred horse racing with a passion. Then, for a myriad of reasons, I didn’t. That daily passion left me, leaving an interest only in the big days.

Well, after a couple of trips experiencing live racing again, that passion seems to be coming back slowly and surely.

I got the bug again.

Seven Years. Already? Honestly?

I cannot wrap my brain around the fact that my Mom left us seven years ago tomorrow.  Seven years. Jesus. That’s a long time.

Let me clarify what I mean. When Mom left us, she died. She didn’t skip town.

IMG_4665But when she was alive she loved the number seven and quite frankly that is probably why I’m sitting here writing something. Playing on seven. She loved it. Probably more than anyone I’ve ever known anyone to love a number.

So, one day, I asked her. “Why seven? ”

She always said it was because she had seven kids.

“Oh.  OK.  Makes sense.”  Then I realize a small detail.  She didn’t have seven children.  She had nine children! Nine, people.  Nine.

Well, you know, lovey … “ she would say.

No. No, I don’t know. How does a mother get that wrong?

I mean, she had nine different human type creatures make their way through her vagina or via a cesarean section.

How do you lose count of the number of humans evacuating from your vajayjay? Can you lose count of the number of humans evacuating said vajayjay? I wonder how pissed she’d be with me if she were alive and read this, and my use of the word vajayjay in the context I have … particularly it being hers.  She’s probably kick me in the wonkydoodle.

But, nevertheless, seven was her number. Roulette. Daily Doubles. Kids. Any form of gambling that may have been combined with the number seven, and Mom was on it.

Now, at the risk of being a complete butthead I will concede – and I say this in her defense – there were two of her nine children that she lost as babies. That may have accounted for the whole seven instead of nine business. If that’s why, then fine. I get it. I’m not sure I like it though.  I mean. She’s completely discounting 22% of her children.  She is.  But if she lost two, then she lost two. It is what it is. That said I do feel I should clarify here, too, so there’s no confusion. When I say she lost two babies they didn’t vanish or get mislaid. They, too, died.  Granted, she may not be able to know the difference between seven and nine but for heaven’s sake, she wasn’t irresponsible. Give her some credit, will ya?

And besides.  I’M THE NINTH KID!

Furthermore, don’t try and convince me that I, as the ninth child, wasn’t anything but an oops.  After Greg and John were born as premature kiddos her doctor told her NO MORE KIDS!

Well, the calendar changes by four years, add a bottle of Dubonet and a little sweet talking from Ray and voila … Bob’s your uncle, here comes number nine.

But, seven kids or nine, it didn’t matter because she loved us all and we laughed together, a ton.

That’s what I am thinking about most this year as the anniversary of her death approaches. The movies we watched and laughed at together.

Blazing Saddles had the woman in stitches. Me too.

Jim: Why Rhett! How many times have I told you to wash up after a weekly cross-burning? See, it’s coming off.
Bart: And now, for my next impression… Jesse Owens!

Every joke in Airplane had her number. Mine too.

Rumack: I won’t deceive you, Mr. Striker. We’re running out of time.
Ted Striker: Surely there must be something you can do.
Rumack: I’m doing everything I can… and stop calling me Shirley!

Thirty minutes into Airplane I would see her wiping tears from her eyes, she’s laughing so hard.

Lest I forget our adoration for the incompetence of Lt. Frank Drebin in Naked Gun, too:

Mayor: Drebin, I don’t want any more trouble like you had last year on the southside. Understand? That’s my policy.
Frank: Yes. Well, when I see 5 weirdos dressed in togas stabbing a guy in the middle of the park in full view of 100 people, I shoot the bastards. That’s my policy.
Mayor: That was a Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar, you moron! You killed 5 actors! Good ones!

We loved that line.  I shoot the bastards.  That’s my policy.

That was her humor. That was/is my humor. I miss that about her the most. Sitting at the kitchen table with her and dad, just talking, just laughing. Quoting movies.  Making some sort of joke we may hesitate to make outside the confines of our home. We all have those. But when she laughed and joked she did it as well as anyone I have ever known. Never crass or blue. Just silliness and great timing.

That leads me to the one movie that I always associate with her.  Support Your Local SheriffThat was our movie. James Garner, Harry Morgan, Walter Brennan, Joan Hackett, Jack Elam and others. It is the story of a gunslinger (Garner) who comes riding through some fictional town in the old west with the idea of doing a little prospecting before he makes his way to Australia. However, with the prices of room and board as outrageous as they are in this town he needed work and took that work as sheriff.

It was the first movie I can remember which I studied the lines and the jokes. Made Mom laugh every time, without fail. Every time I made her laugh, I loved life a little more. So I made it a point to remember many of the lines.

Pa Danby: Now I’m gonna take a little trip tomorrow and I want you two to behave yourselves while I’m gone. I don’t want nobody to make no martyr out of this here sheriff.
Tom Danby: What’s a martyr?
Pa Danby: Oh, I’m sorry. They didn’t use words like that in the third grade, did they?
Tom Danby: Well, how would I know? I didn’t get that far.

Then there was …

Joe Danby: You expect me to sit here in this lousy cell on that…
[notices the red paint drippings on the floor]
Joe Danby: What is that red stuff all over the floor there?
Jason McCullough: Oh, uh…
[waves his boot over the paint]
Jason McCullough: …that’s the poor fella that crossed the line earlier today.

She LOVED that scene. Loved it.

But the one I’d fire at her, the one whose punchline she would finish before I’d get a chance was this:

Mayor Ollie Perkins: I wanted you to meet my daughter, Sheriff. She’s a good cook, a mighty fine looking girl. Takes after her dear, departed mother.
Jason McCullough: Mother died, huh?
Mayor Ollie Perkins: Nope, she just departed.

It is in that spirit I make the “she lost two – er, uh, died not misplaced” jokes.  I’m certain she would have laughed.  She would have shook her head with a genuine degree of disgust, but she’d laugh.  It’s the laugh I always wanted.

Sigh. Where does the time go? How has it been seven years? It feels like yesterday.  It feels like a lifetime ago.  I guess it really does feel like seven years.  That’s a good piece of time.

I do find some consolation in this though. If there is a Heaven – and I believe there is – she could very well be laughing right now while drinking her Doubonet, perhaps in the company of Leslie Nielsen, Gene Wilder or James Garner.  If she is, I do hope she is laughing.

I love you ole girl. I miss you more than I’ll ever be able to say. I am so glad I had 43 years with you and I love and miss our times laughing together. It is my prayer you have been, and will continue to forever, rest in peace.  Better yet, I hope you are laughing joyfully through the rest of eternity.  You deserve to.

Welcome to The Bigs

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Yesterday I received a Google Alert that AAA Rochester Red Wing pitcher Zack Littell will make a spot start for the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday in one of their two doubleheader games.

This news is of little consequence for many. For some others, like those who don’t follow Minnesota – or Zack’s career for that matter – the news is background noise.

For the residents of Mebane, NC however, this may be as big a day as they’ve had in a generation. Their hometown boy – who five years ago signed with the Mariners organization right out of high school – makes his major league debut. Small town kid on baseball’s biggest stage.

Pretty darn cool ain’t it?

But why, in Heaven’s name does a Yankee fan from Jersey care enough to write about a kid he’s never met, from a town he’s never visited let alone heard of, about making a start for the Minnesota Twins?

Because outside of NC, I think I may be one of this kid’s biggest fans.

Last year I saw him pitch several times for Trenton (Yankees AA affiliate). In one, I got to see him strike out 10 in a game, and in each effort carry himself as a seasoned professional.

So when the Yanks traded him for Jamie Garcia last summer I was disappointed. I would have LOVED seeing this kid in pinstripes. But, it wasn’t meant to be. That week I wrote a blog about his trade and the next day I get a tweet from … HIS MOM!

From that day on Allie Littell and I have been baseball buddies. Baseball family, might even be closer to the truth. She ought to be a sibling of mine. One who loves the game and gets it like I do . Texting and tweeting about baseball and both of us rooting feverishly for Zack’s success. She, clearly, having a far greater vested interest.

One thing I find kind of funny is, in the year we have known each other, texted and tweeted and Instagramed about baseball, Allie and I haven’t ever even spoken. But she knows all about me, and the most wonderful person to enter my life, Stacy. She knows about our dog Rocco and my affinity for team mascots.

I know about her 3 (four in real life) kids, her raising them as a single Mom and her dreams of one day owning an RV to travel the country so she can “baseball” at fields from coast to coast to see her favorite MLB team … that being whomever her son is employed by.

She knows there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for Stace and there is no one I love more. I know there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for those kids of hers and there is no one she could possibly love more (Tim McGraw not withstanding).

And even though we have never spoken let alone met, when she tells me the latest about her kids accomplishments I swear I sometimes feel the same way I do when I hear good news about one of my own sister’s kids.

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So when I got the Google alert that Zack got the call, I felt an unparalleled rush of excitement. He is going to The Show. Holy Mackerel. This kid I watched pitch, became an immediate fan of, and followed through his AA and AAA journey will stand on the mound in Target Field.

If me, an outsider who is just a fan is so pleased with the news, I can only imagine how those who do know him, and are an actual part of his true family, must feel. The pride. The joy. The sense of accomplishment after so much sacrifice.

Yes. Its a spot start and he will go back to AAA. But there is only one way to be sent down to AAA … you have to have been called to play in the big leagues first.

So tomorrow, Tuesday, June 5th 2018 Zachary Littell will step over the baselines, onto the infield grass and up the 10″ bump that is the pitcher’s mound. He’ll toe the rubber, and take a deep breath. His Mom and girlfriend will likely be squeezing each others hand tighter than what you or I would consider comfortable. Neither will notice any pain over the anxiety and excitement. Littell will fire his first pitch as a Minnesota Twin. His mom, his girl, his siblings and everyone from Mebane who could make it to Minnesota will be in attendance. I will be tuning in on my AtBat app.

This is going to be a cool moment.

I will say it again. I never even met the kid, but I still feel so proud of, and happy for, him.

And for Allie.

And Kait. And Jake. And Autumn …. And Mebane, NC.

Have fun out there Zack. You’ve earned it bud and, uh, the rose goes in the front, Big Guy.