Random Appetites: Chautauqua Vineyards

December 16, 2008

One of those places you find just off the highway, Chautauqua Vineyards is something you don’t expect to find along I-10 in the Florida Panhandle. I first noticed the sign several years ago on my way back home for a visit. The next trip I took was, unfortunately, for my grandfather’s funeral, but on the way back I wasn’t in a big hurry so turned off at Exit 85 purely out of curiosity. The Winery is a medium-sized building on a hill that you get to by a service road–it’s not hard to find. They offer both “tours” and tastings as well as a full retail shop. The tour is actually a 3 minute video in their viewing room that overlooks the huge tanks, etc. that make up the main operations there at the winery. But don’t skip that room just because you don’t get to actually walk though the vines: it’s a good place to start your shopping. Lots of little wine knick-knacks interspersed between various sizes and shapes of wine racks, wine totes and picnic baskets. I was sorely tempted by one of the very cool baskets that featured real glass and stoneware (no plastic!), including 4 petite […]

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Random Appetites: the Hostess Gift

December 9, 2008

What’s the first thing most of us do when we receive an invitation–even a casual one–to a friend or colleague’s home for dinner or a party? “Can I bring anything?” Don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong in asking; I do it, too. The important thing is to listen to (not just hear) the answer. If a hostess declines your offer to contribute, by all means do not show up with a tray of something for the party. But this only counts for offers to take part in the preparations. A hostess gift–which is separate from the festivities in question–may still be appropriate. Notice I said appropriate, not mandatory. After all, etiquette does not exist so that we can tell others how and when to act but so that we can educate ourselves on how we should behave. That said, when is a hostess gift a good idea? Anytime you are invited to a dinner in someone’s home, certainly consider bringing a little something for you host(s) to enjoy later. Casual parties are less appropriate, but if you feel led and know “just the thing”, by all means (open houses fall into this category unless it’s a housewarming, in which case a […]

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Random Appetites: the Holiday Open House

December 2, 2008

It seems like everyone turns into a host or hostess when the holiday’s come around which can really make a body’s schedule hectic when it has a large social circle to deal with! That’s what makes Open Houses so wonderful whether you are the host or the guest! Here are some tips for both sides of the party-going coin: For the Hostess: * Create a warm, inviting environment with open doors, well-lit rooms and music playing in the background * Make sure there’s room for your guests to move around which may include moving excess furniture into a bedroom for the duration of the party * Food should stick to the one bite rule (two at the most) and be easy to replenish; individual items are easier for guests to manage while mingling than dip-ables, not to mention less messy * Be careful serving alcohol to folks who are coming and going rather quickly, stick to a low-alcohol punch rather than straight cocktails if you choose to serve it at all For the Guest: * Pay attention to the posted times for the Open House and try not to overstay your welcome * A hostess gift is a nice gesture, […]

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Random Appetites: Hangover Cures

November 25, 2008

Ah, yes, we’ve all been there, haven’t we? Had a little too much fun at a party or just a night with friends at home and you find yourself a little green around the gills the next day. I know I’ve been there, but thankfully it’s a rare visit. Now, most of us know that the biggies that cause that icky morning-after feeling are dehydration and stomach acid (oh, wait, you didn’t? now you do). Which is why the guidelines for staying safe are to drink a glass of water for every cocktail or beer you consume and then an extra glass or two before you turn in for the night (morning). That (and a couple of aspirin or ibuprofen before bed) will do a lot to prevent that splitting headache and squinting at the light the next time your eyes open. The other issue, the sour stomach of too much sugar sent down the pipe (again, alcohol is sugar, folks, all breaks down to the same carbs, carbs, carbs in the final equation), can be both more or less difficult to manage, depending on your point of view. A lot of party-goers know that a stop by the local […]

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Random Appetites: Drinking Songs

November 18, 2008
Random Appetites: Drinking Songs

Continuing along the somewhat reaching path of writing-related food and alcohol (no, I don’t blame you if you didn’t catch the theme), today let’s investigate some songs that center around or are sung while enjoying various libations. Now, it’s totally a coincidence (no, really, it is) that as I compose this post I’m just returning home from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert. Before I continue I just want to say that if you live in a place they are coming to and enjoy live music, laser light shows, pyrotechnics and some frickin’ sweet rock and roll/classical/Christmas music fusion then do yourself a favor and get tickets NOW! How is this not off-topic? Well, they have a song that, while not directly about drinking, takes place in a bar (Old City Bar (LP Version), from Christmas Eve and Other Stories). So there. The next tune that comes to mind when I hear “drinking songs” is Alcohol by the Barenaked Ladies. Just a nice, fun, kicky song about booze to sing along with on those nights when you’re driving home (preferably not having been drinking) from somewhere way too late at night and you’re trying to stay awake long enough to get home. […]

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Random Appetites: Foodie Movies

November 11, 2008
Random Appetites: Foodie Movies

So last week we talked about writers and booze, this week we’ll switch to movies and food! Some of my favorite movies are ones that use food as a central theme. The first that comes to mind is Like Water for Chocolate which, despite the need to “read” the movie (subtitles make it difficult to have movies in the background), is a wonderful story about passion. Even though it’s fictional, it’s still one of the best examples I’ve seen about the power of emotions and how they can affect food. Seriously, two people cooking the same dish from the same recipe with the same ingredients in the same kitchen can produce two different results; the reason being the intent or involvement of the cook. Okay, okay, metaphysics aside, a more recent favorite in the same cuisine region is Tortilla Soup starring Hector Elizondo and a host of other true talents. Supposedly a Latino-version of Eat Drink Man Woman (I wouldn’t know firsthand, having not seen that one yet, but it’s on the list) it’s a fabulous look at family dynamics both around the dinner table and elsewhere. Speaking of the dinner table, Soul Food is another feel-good family-dinner movie that […]

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Random Appetites: Literary Libations

November 4, 2008
Random Appetites: Literary Libations

This is the first November in a number of years where I am not struggling for word count each evening or spending every Saturday at one local Library or another hosting write-ins, otherwise known as participating in (and acting as Municipal Liaison for) NaNoWriMo. I must say, the freedom is glorious. Granted, I haven’t abandoned my literary pursuits, I’ve merely refined them a bit. But I feel tremendous sympathy for those who _are_ participating this year, which brings us to today’s Random Appetites. It is a long-standing stereotype that writers are also drinkers: the more “important” the work, the more heavy the drink. Or so it would seem. I actually avoid alcohol if I’m trying to get something done, but will occasionally imbibe when a deadline is met. One of my favorite books on writers and cocktails (and I think I’ve linked to it before) is Hemingway & Bailey’s Bartending Guide to Great American Writers. Including quotes, brief biographies, excerpts and recipes it really is a must for the enthusiast of both writers and mixologists. Speaking of writers, those who know me will not be surprised to find that I adore what I know of Dorothy Parker, she of the […]

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