Even the wine I wanted to hate was outstanding.

Even the wine I wanted to hate was outstanding.

Let me start from the beginning. I put on a new set of clothes—I suppose I should call it an outfit—to go into the office. It was khaki slacks, a blue dress shirt, and a thin vest to keep me warm. Yesterday was quite hot and today was about 30 degrees colder and we even got some hail. I walked into the my office feeling like a million bucks and as I opened my email I saw a message congratulating me on landing an interview for a job I’m very interested in. Then I got the news that my dad was being released from the hospital today and I could go pick him up. He spent a few days in the hospital but is doing very well now. This was one fantastic day so I promised myself a bottle of wine when I finally made it back home.

So I uncorked a bottle of a 2016 Muga Selección Especial Rioja. I paid about $45 for it a few weeks ago—more expensive than my usual, but certainly nothing to write home about. I was at Total Wine and saw this Muga bottle and looked through my old messages on my phone. Wasn’t this the bottle a former friend of mine once told me was his favorite? It was. I was curious but not excited. I met this friend in Madrid years ago at the suggestion of a mutual professor. We had dinner and toured Madrid and continued our friendship for a few years after that. But boy was he a pretentious fucking asshole when it came to food and wine. So I bought the bottle to see what it was all about and tonight I had two glasses of it. Damn, the motherfucker was right! It is one of the best wines I’ve ever had. I am cringing as I write this, but I am now a Muga fan.

I should have probably played the lottery today because even the wine I wanted to hate turned out to be outstanding.

24. Patting myself on the back

24. Patting myself on the back

I can’t remember the number of times I’ve written on here about productivity and I would get annoyed reading someone write about it over and over. Today, however, was one of my good days on the productivity front so I will take the liberty of giving myself a virtual pat on the back in the form of this post. To round out my productivity-focused day, I will end it here and read my book on organization before going to sleep. 🙂

23. Wind-driven imagination

23. Wind-driven imagination

We had some very strong winds these last couple of days and last night was the last of it. The highest recorded wind speed in my immediate are was 78 miles per hour and 140 miles per hour up in the mountains. These were what we locally refer to as the Santa Ana winds—offshore winds that come in from the desert and speed up as they force their way around the mountains and down the passes. Some sources say that these winds were originally called Satanás winds (from the Spanish word for satan). They are definitely some hellish winds. In the summer they tend to fuel the wildfires, and other time like this weekend they bring down several trees and power lines.

They make driving a little more difficult and make you weary of tall trees. However, my mind being the way that it is had me imagining myself on some far off alien world with fierce windstorms and I was taking shelter inside some research facility as the winds howled outside. Not unlike what you see in those research outposts in Antarctica. That’s one experience I would have like to have had. Living on that continent for one year and see the sun circle around you just above the horizon during the peak of summer and to see the days where no day ever comes. It fascinates me think of places on earth that can be that otherworldly.

22. The Vox Kitchen

22. The Vox Kitchen

It has been a while since I tried a new restaurant because of its ranking. I stopped paying attention to reviews and ranking since the passing of Jonathan Gold. I loved reading his reviews and eagerly awaiting his annual list of LA’s top 101 restaurants (my roadmap to LA’s gastronomic landscape). Adding to this was a financial reset I needed to do, lost friendships, and new beginnings. I stayed away from social media for the most part and I had not posted anything food-related since I went to Dubai in 2018.

Last week, I felt the urge to post photos from my dinner at Napa Rose and I was surprise at the positive response I received from old friends. One of them was excited to see the my food posts were back. I felt nostalgic for times past, but I don’t regret stepping away from social media for a few years, and I certainly don’t regret taking a break from going to so many restaurants. It sounds counterintuitive, but the trust is that I’ve gained a much better appreciation for food after cooking from home more.

Today’s lunch at Vox is a prime example. I was able to identify far more ingredients in the bone-in short rib soup now because I’ve used many of the ingredients countless times. I would have never been able to identify the enoki mushrooms and would have had no clue on where to buy them. The lychee lemonade would have merely been delicious in the past with not much thought as to what lychee could be. Now it’s one of my favorite fruits and I know how to look for good ones when they’re in season.

I’ve been enjoying my last few posts about food—both on here and other social media—and perhaps it is time to start doing this again regularly.

21. An ordinary day and an extraordinary keyboard.

21. An ordinary day and an extraordinary keyboard.

Today is just one of those days where I really have nothing interesting to write about. It was normal, uneventful and I love it that way. The most exciting thing is probably the new portable folding keyboard I had delivered today. It’s about as long as an iPhone and not much wider when folded and can be paired with up to three devices. I mainly got it to use with my iPad for quick I bought a new hight adjustable stand for. The whole set up now looks like a tiny iMac. The keyboard also has a built-in trackpad. I can now fold everything and pack lightly. For even more portability, I can pack only my new keyboard since I can also use it with my phone. There are so many people that use their phone to reply to emails, but not me. 80-year-old me (at least I feel that way in these cases) prefers a full physical keyboard. Now I can reply to everything to my heart’s content without having to suffer through the software keyboard.

So there you go. I’ve typed this all using my new keyboard. I should probably take a picture, but it’s late and I don’t want to turn the lights on.

20. Chile guajilla, epazote, y tomatillo

20. Chile guajilla, epazote, y tomatillo

These are just a few of the ingredients I used today. All very authentic Mexican ingredients. It was for a meatball soup I did today that turned out very flavorful and it was a joy to make. I’ve come to develop a deep appreciation for the raw natural ingredients that go into making a dish and love shopping around different stores to source the very best.

It’s a bit hard to believe I would be excited about vegetables, but they can be quite amazing. Beyond their flavors and nutrition, there’s a story of where they originated from, what cultures domesticated them, what cultures adopted them, etc. Even the names tell a story. Take tomato for example: Tomato comes from the Spanish word tomate, which in turn comes from the Nahuatl word tomatl. The tomatillos above are the native variety the Aztecs called tomatl. The Aztecs then cultivated this fruit to be sweeter and red and called it xitomatl which we know today in English simply as tomato. Many Mexicans today will refer to the green ones above as tomate and the red ones as jitomates.

Isn’t food and language beautiful?

18. I’m nobody! Who are you?

18. I’m nobody! Who are you?

I’ve obviously been terrible at keeping up with my writing, but I swear I have a rough draft for each of the days that I’ve missed. I’m just looking for a quiet opportunity to plug away.

I decided to publish today’s before the other ones because I stumbled upon a piece of poetry that I identify with so well. There are few things I love more than being a nobody. I always strive to attract as little attention to myself as possible and be lost in a corner somewhere.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us – don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To and admiring bog!

-Emily Dickinson

8. Bacchanal in Las Vegas

8. Bacchanal in Las Vegas

The pandemic has in as sense gotten a bit worse. The number of cases has skyrocketed, but the silver lining is the vaccines and the less sever Omicron. Although sometimes I feel that all of this can be false hope as the available information is always changing. So with this in mind, we braved a day trip to Las Vegas to eat at a buffet.

I remember I used to hate the drive to Las Vegas when I was little because it was such a boring landscape especially at night. Then as I became older I learned to appreciate the desert landscape. The huge mostly virgin expanses during the day and the beautiful abyss during the night with a blanket of stars above.

We stopped at this rest stop to take advantage of the free charging and of course to use the restrooms. I love this rest stop because there is nothing else around it in the desert except for the road.

And finally we made it to the buffet, Bacchanal, at Caesar’s palace. The price for the buffet is a little pricey, but well worth it if you eat a lot of the awesome food it has to offer. To get our money’s worth, we had a very light breakfast and fasted for the rest of the day to make sure we arrived HUNGRY.

7. Travel nostalgia and M. Butterfly

7. Travel nostalgia and M. Butterfly

It wasn’t my idea to eat at this Hong Kong style restaurant, but it got me reminiscing about past travels. I felt nostalgia for the Asian cities I’ve visited and in particular Hong Kong. I am grateful that I least I live somewhere where I can fantasize that I’m in a foreign country when I’m feeling a bit of wanderlust. As you can see, this restaurant doesn’t cater much to the English-speaking crowds. In fact all of the surrounding area is like that.

A few days ago, I was reading up on the operas that will be performed at the Santa Fe Opera. I was excited to see that they would be performing M. Butterfly. Madama Butterfly is an opera that is very dear to my heart for many reasons. As I read more about the planned productions, I noticed that they were very excited to be presenting the world premiere of M. Butterfly. World premiere? Did they mean this particular production of it? No, they mean the entire opera.

Then I realized my mistake. I assumed they were merely abbreviating Madama, but it turns out that it will be an opera that is based on the play and movie titled M. Butterfly. A story based on true life that draws heavily from Puccini’s opera. So it will be an opera inspired by a play inspired by an opera.

I rolled my eyes and though about skipping that opera. However, curiosity got the better of me and I looked up the soundtrack to the movie. It is so beautiful! It obviously draws heavily from Puccini, but its score sounds very classic Hollywood. So I decided to buy and I planned on streaming it at a later date.

That later date turned out to be today once I returned home from the restaurant hungry with nostalgia. I watched M. Butterfly and loved the story. There’s a big element of surprise, so I won’t go into any details other than to say it is a love story between a French diplomat in Beijing and a Beijing opera singer. This is based on a true story so I’m curious find more books about this affair.

6. Día de Reyes

6. Día de Reyes

I didn’t really set out to write a post every single day again, but it kinda turned into it. This time–because I missed a few days–I’m going to give myself the flexibility of writing something about each day even if it’s a few days after the fact. With that said, this post is about Día de Reyes, and of course the end product of my first attempt at making the rosca.

To my surprise, it came out quite good. Some people in my family even said that I’m now on the hook for baking one every year as part of a new family tradition. It took a bit of work and lots of preparation, but I couldn’t agree more. I had so much fun baking this and I was filled with joy to see everyone enjoying it.