Sunday, August 30, 2009

The "411"

Yesterday , I was on the phone catching up with my Dad, and I mentioned to him that I would need to call him back the next day with the “411”. There was a pause, then ”The what?!” In return, I paused, and treaded lightly, “Um…you know…like when you dial 411…and you ask for information on phone numbers and etc, the 411…” I waited for the backlash. Instead, my Dad burst into laughter, and told me about an article he read recently where “kids nowadays can't even write cursive, or spell, because they are too busy taking shortcuts”. You’ve seen it, you’ve texted it- replacing the English language with abbreviations. For, example: “ U enjoy DTL loose lea teas because its tasty and also good 4 you!” Easy enough.

My favorite pastimes are definitely reading and writing, but do I take short cuts? There is nothing better, than steeping a cup of tea, grabbing a book or journal, and settling into one of my favorite nooks, and drifting off to another place and time. Reading to me is an adventure, and should be treasured, no short cuts taken, here. Writing, on the other hand, is different. Its much easier to type on your computer, as to writing in a journal. Its faster, neater, and besides you can use spell check! Cruising the Internet is unlocking the door to information mania. The 411. Its immediate, jarring and exciting all at the same time. You can google any question that comes to mind. Why is my black Balloon Molly behaving strangely? How do you make paella? At what temperature do I steep green tea ? , just to name a few.

Here are some of my favorite “411” blogs/sites. Information at your finger tips.

Eater – This blog provides basically the scoop on restaurants, chefs, nightlife, and all things related to finding your favorite grub. Currently Eater covers SF, NY, and LA, and is updated several times a day. The news covers the spectrum from top restaurants to dive bars. Follow celebrity chefs, and their latest whims. Perfect for me, since I am obsessed with restaurants, chefs, and food. And I am fortunate enough to travel to these cities, quite often, too. Its the ultimate 411.

Daily Candy- Now this site is fun, whimsical, and packed with information. It’s the insiders daily guide to what’s new in travel, gourmet products, gadgets, and fashion. They cover 13 cities, and you can sign up to receive update on any or all of them. I am trying my hardest to get them to feature Drink the Leaf. Stay tuned….

Twitter- See my previous post, What's all the flutter about Twitter? . Follow people on twitter that you admire or what to learn more about. Find out if they are still interesting in 140 characters or less! Currently I love reading Ruth Reichel’s posts. She is the editor in Chief of Gourmet magazine, and gives daily insight to what she is eating, and drinking. Tony Robbins, Life Coach Guru , posts great one liners on staying upbeat in every day life. Today’s line: “Put your guts on the line every day and your dream will come to life" . My husband, the Tea Drinker, is pretty entertaining , too. I usually can find out where we are going to dinner by following him…Today, looks like we are going to Boon Fly or Model Bakery for breakfast…

LMK about UR Fav 411 sites, and they better be good. LOL!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Walkin' Mr. Chai

Our next door neighbors have two dogs: Fritz, a bark less dachshund, and a small bear-like Blue Chow Chow, named Chai. Yep, named after the tea. Roy & Patricia did not exactly name Chai after the tea per se ,but after their fondness for my husband, Dan, and his favorite passion- tea. So, as of late , the Tea Drinker has been taking Chai for his morning walks. Yesterday, I decided I would take the small bear for a walk around the neighborhood all by myself. Keep in mind, I have a cat- who basically has two positions-lying down and lying down. I admit, I was not prepared for this adventure.

Yesterday, I popped my head over the fence, and announced to my neighbor that Dan was at the Farmer’s Market peddling Drink the Leaf teas so he would not be able to take Chai for a walk. However, I would happy to do it, all by myself. Then, I confidently stated that I would be over in 15 minutes. I peeled Little One from her favorite resting spot in the backyard, under the Japanese Maple tree and put her in the house. Then, I grabbed my water bottle, put on my sneakers, did a few knee bends, and headed out the door. Oops- forgot one essential item- the plastic baggies. Ugh. Maybe, I should rethink this adventure ,after all.

As I made my way up their walkway, Chai came bounding down the path, and leaped at the gate, just above the sign that read, “beware of dog”. Hmm. He smiled or maybe leered at me, as Patricia, wrangled him and put his leash on. As Chai dragged me down the walk, the last thing I heard her say was, “Do you know how to hold the leash?”. I quickly tripled wrapped the leash around my wrist, and thrust my arm triumphantly into the air, and vanished around the corner. The first challenge was trying to keep up with Chai, as he pitched me forward on my tippy toes, and steered me down the sidewalk. All I could see in front of me was a huge tuff of black fur, and an occasional view of his blueish black tongue, lapping at the air. I held on for dear life trying to remember all the basics of dog walking. I peeled my eyes for any small animals or children, and prayed that parents kept them in side for the next 3o minutes.

As I started to relax, I realized that Chai was on a mission. He definitely knew his route, and was very polite and stopped at all crosswalks. I was impressed. And I was extremely impressed with his efficiency in marking trees on the fly. He was a Chow with direction, and hit the mark every time. Every once in a while, he would look back at me, to see if I was still attached to the other end of the leash, then he would take off with abandon. Maybe I could convince my Boot Camp instructors to implement this form of exercise into our routine. ( Move at mock speed, perched on the tips of your toes, your arm tightly stretched out- switch arms every few minutes, when pain sets in, and repeat for 3o minutes).

I knew a couple of things about Chai- he loved squirrels, or should I say he would love to have one for lunch. And, that he did this funny dance when he had to go, if you know what I mean. Dan had told me about the “poop zone”, near the park, so, I was prepared. On a side note, the Tea Drinker, is not amused that our yard is the poop zone for every other dog in the neighborhood. So, beware. Back to Chai, he is not like every other dog, he's choosy. He picked his spot, and I began to look over my shoulder, and to my dismay I had an audience. As one of my neighbors watched me try to hold Chai, and at the same time maneuver picking up the present that he left behind, I am sure he was thinking , this girl does not have a clue. Mission accomplished, Chai and I proceeded on, but now both of my arms were stretched out long- one with the leash, and one with the bag of goodies as far away from me as possible…

Then, my armed jerked suddenly, as Chai spied a squirrel or was it a small lap dog? Not sure, and I was not sticking around to find out. We turned back towards home as a young boy walked by, and stated: “Nice dog”. I proudly said, thanks. Then, a young couple rode by on their bikes, with their child trailing behind in a caboose(at least he was enclosed), and yelled, “look at that beautiful dog”. Yes, I was truly proud. I marched home feeling good, handed Chai back over and happily reported that I would be back tomorrow!

Drink Organic Chic Chai and live dangerously.

Photos: Baby Chai- 2007, Adult Chai 2009.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Summer Time, Paella Time!

One of my favorite summer time dishes to prepare on the grill is Paella. Truth be told, I actually watch the Tea Drinker prepare this tasty meal, as I sit on my bum with a glass of rose in hand. Nonetheless, this dish is a perfect choice for a party. It’s a beautiful edible centerpiece. Take the time to prep your ingredients during the day while sipping your favorite Drink the Leaf ICED TEA , chill down a variety of Spanish wines, call up your friends and family, and let the fun begin.

Paella is a traditional Spanish dish that hails from Valencia using chicken, rabbit, snails, and fresh beans. I am happy to report that ours is quite different- no snails or rabbits here. What we love best about this dish is how versatile it is. Pick and choose the ingredients that you like and add them to the pan. The main ingredient is rice and you build from there.

Shopping List:
-Paella Pan we own two- one small for about 4 people, and a larger one that can feed up to 8. I love Paella pans, I am tempted to start a collection!
-½ cup of rice per person, Arborio works best
-1 cup of chicken stock per ½ cup of Rice
-5 threads of toasted saffron per person, dissolve in ½ cup of white wine. Saffron is expensive, but it is a necessary flavor component for this dish.
-Olive Oil
-1 chicken thigh per person, cut into 2 pieces
-½ spicy sausage per person, such as chorizo- we use spicy turkey Italian
-½ tsp Spanish paprika per person, a lovely sweet, smoky spice
-1 clove of garlic per person
-¼ cup of chopped onion per person
-1/8 cup of grated tomato, person
-2 Shrimp per person
-3 clams per person, manila
-2 mussels per person
-Red piquillo peppers cut in strips. We use jarred roasted red peppers.
-Frozen peas- couple of handfuls
-Lemon wedges
-Sour Cream- our secret ingredient
-Chopped Italian Parsley

We find that it’s easiest to prep all of your ingredients ahead of time, and then stage them in order of going into the pan. The most important ingredient that I left out above is: PATIENCE. So, pour yourself a glass of Spanish wine, visit with guests, and watch the show.

1) Heat Chicken Stock, keep warm
2) Toast Saffron in pan, slightly, add white wine, bring to boil, then remove from heat
3) Heat Paella pan over medium heat, add olive oil, enough to coat pan, add chicken pieces- cook until golden, and juice runs clear
4) Add garlic and onions – sauté until translucent
5) Add sausage, until just cooked through
6) Add rice, stir well until coated with oil.
7) Add paprika, grated tomato, stir in saffron wine, and hot stock.
8) Bring to boil, scraping up bottom of pan
9) Add red piquillo peppers, and peas
10) Bring to slow boil and let the broth cook down. Should take about 15-20 minutes. Do NOT stir the rice. You want to achieve the lovely caramelized flavor that occurs as the rice on the bottom of the pan creates a nice crusty layer. Considered by some, myself included, to be the best part.
11) Add seafood about 5 minutes before rice is done- al dente. The shrimp will turn pink, and the clams/mussels will pop open.
12) Remove from Grill – garnish with chopped parsley, lemon wedges, and a dollop of sour cream
Recipe adapted from various Spanish cookbooks.

Need an appetizer idea: Set out Spiced Spanish almonds, mixed olives, Manchego cheese and slices of fresh bread.


As a side note, if you visit Napa Valley, and you are hankering for great paella- head to ZuZu. It’s a local favorite of ours.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

True Bliss- Thirteen Years

The Tea Drinker and I are celebrating our 13th Wedding Anniversary on Monday, August 3rd. Thirteen happens to be my favorite number. It’s probably because I was born on the 13th of May just over forty years ago. Thirteen is not just any ordinary number –it has a certain mystic to it. Being unlucky and all….As a young child, I loved bragging about my birthday number. I felt brave and edgy to have been born on the 13th, and if my special day landed on a Friday, it was even better! Double scary. So, here we are celebrating our 13th anniversary, and I happy to report I don’t feel scared at all. Just thrilled that I made the right choice thirteen years ago, when I said YES, looking over Lake Ontario, as our family and friends surrounded us with love.

We have had quite the adventurous time together. We are partners in this journey. Mutual respect, deep friendship, unwavering love, and lots of laughter have kept us solid these past thirteen years. And this is exactly what will bring us right through to our golden years, too. Our married life has been filled with lots of travel- our first adventure together after a year of dating was to drive across the country from Buffalo to California, we ended up back tracking to Colorado, and making that our home for seven years. Finally, a lucky number in the story! That first adventure revealed to me that Dan was the one. And, shortly after we first met, he took me to see the Phantom of the Opera in Toronto, which was telling to! Especially since years later I have learned that he would rather stick a sharp object in his eye than go to a musical. Ah well, at least he is still traveling with me.

So, it’s no surprise to us that our anniversary weekend involves a getaway to the Coast. Some years back, we were introduced to Sea Ranch. A lovely community that sits just right off HWY 1- near a small town named Gualala, which is north of Jenner, and south of Mendocino. I’ve read that Sea Ranch was quite popular back in the 50’s with the Hollywood crew- movie stars would trek to this area for downtime. The majority of the homes are rentals that are furnished, and most are equipped with a hot tub. We usually choose a home located on the Bluffs or Oceanfront with easy access to the many beaches that line the community. We love the notion of leaving our driveway, and 2 ½ hours later we are pulling up to a beautiful home located right on the Pacific Ocean. We unload all of our goodies, put them away, and immediately go for a walk down to the water. We return and start cooking! Paella, lobster rolls, chicken poblano chili are all on the menu for the weekend. The wine, tea, and conversation are flowing, and we are truly relaxed. A perfect anniversary filled with lots of love and laughter.

Pour yourself a cup of Drink the Leaf Red Peony, my favorite travel tea, and browse the rental website. Try to figure out which vacation home the Tea Drinker and the Wife chose this time. Email me your guess, and if you are correct- I will send you a package of this wonderful travel tea, gratis!