Monthly Archives: October 2013

Know your wine grapes (3) — Malbec

Between the seventeenth and the nineteenth centuries, Malbec was the reigning grape in the Bordeaux region of France, when it was replaced by Cabernet Sauvignon. This grape is thin-skinned and needs more sun and heat than either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. It has strong tannins and the wine produced from it is one of six allowed as a blend in the creation of red Bordeaux wines. It is now primarily grown in Cahors in south-western France where it is known as Malbec_grapesCôt.

However, in Argentina it reigns as a queen, and is a veritable star, used as a single grape to produce superb varietal wines. This purple colored grape grows at the base of the Andes mountains, where the soil and the climate make for concentrated and rich flavors, producing high quality wines.

World Malbec Day is celebrated on April 17, to commemorate the day when president Domingo Faustino Sarmiento of Argentina officially made it his mission to transform Argentine wine industry. On that day, back in 1853, he tasked Michel Aimé Pouget, a French soil expert, to bring over new vines. Amongst his selection, was Malbec. Sarmiento went on to become president of Argentina and Malbec has become Argentina’s most known varietal.

Malbec wines have blackberry, cherry, plum, black pepper, chocolate aromas, and pair best with spicy dishes, especially with robust red meats!

Your comments are greatly welcomed — thanks in advance 🙂

 

Our true reality

In a beautiful verse, the Persian mystic Rumi says: 

“You were born with potential.
You were born with goodness and trust.
You were born with ideals and dreams.
You were born with greatness.
You were born with wings.
You are not meant for crawling, so don’t!
You have wings — learn to use them and fly!!” ~Rumi

I believe I have wings ;)! Do YOU believe that too? If not, are you willing to dare yourself to believe it? That which you can believe you have, you WILL have! It’s a spiritual Law 🙂

 

Nawlins, and all that jazz :)

This is how it all started! In the late 19th century, while the rest of America was stomping their feet to military marches, New Orleans was dancing to VooDoo rhythms.

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New Orleans was the only place in the New World where slaves were allowed to own drums. VooDoo rituals were openly tolerated, and well attended by the rich as well as the poor, by blacks and whites, by the influential and the anonymous. It was in New Orleans that the bright flash of European horns* ran into the dark rumble of African drums; it was like lightning meeting thunder.

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The local cats** took that sound and put it together with the music they heard in churches and the music they heard in barrooms, and they blew a new music, a wild, jubilant music. It made people feel free. It made people feel alive! It made people get up and dance. And they danced to the birth of American music. And nobody played it like they played it in New Orleans.

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New Orleans was a city already used to feeling jubilant, and expressing its jubilation. A city where you could dance down the middle of the street, in the middle of the daytime, in the middle of the week, and instead of people wondering why you weren’t at work, they’d be wondering how they could join you. The glory of New Orleans is that it’s still that way today. Everyone loves a parade. Everything is touched by the joyous anarchy called New Orleans Jazz. And everybody’s middle name is “Celebrate.” 

This above history of jazz, is from the website http://www.neworleansonline.com. The words not only describe the origin and growth of jazz in the city but also capture its very soul and spirit! Since my return, after the short visit of a weekend there, so many have asked me if New Orleans really lives up to its hype, and my unqualified response is ‘yesss…and yesss, again!’ To have a real and tangible experience of a profound feeling of true freedom, go there at least once, its aliveness will creep into your soul, and you’ll never be the same again!

*Horns – brass musical instruments

** Cat – a cool, trendy, confident person

 

A special dinner, at a very special resto

What a stroke of good luck it was on October 12, 2013 :)! On our guided tour, during a weekend long visit to New Orleans, my companions and I discovered that the restaurant Commander’s Palace, a well-known establishment since 1880, is one of New Orleans’ top restaurants for cajun and creole cooking, and they have a long waiting list for a table — typically, people make a reservation at least two weeks in advance. My daughter called them for a reservation, hoping to at least get on to the waiting list and we were delighted to learn that someone had just then canceled a booking and we could have the table. They also informed us of their dress code, that men couldn’t walk in without a collar or in shorts. This necessitated our going back to our hotel so my son could change into pants.

untitledLadies and Gentlemen — here it is in all its glory…The Commander’s Palace!!! The restaurant is located in the Garden District in New Orleans, the locality that balances the French side of New Orleans. In the beginning, the city had a French side and an English side, and neither side was welcome in the other — how weird we humans have been, historically ;)! It was a Frenchman, Emile Commander, who started this resto in 1880, in the Garden, or English, district, so that the English would patronize it, too!

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My companions and I started our evening with their famous cocktail ‘Lavender and Lemongrass Collins’ … wow!…what an explosion of flavors in the mouth that was! And it set the tone for the meal to come! I ordered the Soup 1-1-1, which is three demi- servings of their three soups, Gumbo, Turtle and Soupe de Jour, pictured on the left. To be sure, the Turtle soup is always served with a lashing of Sherry – yummm!

Not being too hungry, I actually asked for their entrée Foie Gras Deux Façon for my plat principale (entrée in the US, and main dish everywhere else), with a glass of sauternes — yummy!!! Reminded me of so many visits to Paris, where no matter where I go or what I do, I never return without a visit to the Café-Restaurant Les Deux Magots, where I always order their Foie Gras salad and wash it down with a glass of sauternes :)! Our dessert was none other than their world-famous Bread Pudding Soufflé, a variation of the creole bread pudding! Ahhh — every sense was tickled, and completely satisfied :)! Go, go, go — run, don’t walk, to the Commander’s Palace if you happen to be in the area. If not, make that your next travel destination!

 

The Charm Gates of New Orleans

Now, these aren’t city gates to walk through to enter New Orleans, but wrought iron gates at the entrance of the historic and world famous property known as the Court of Two Sisters! Today, 613 Royal Street, New Orleans, houses a restaurant by that name which serves a killer creole brunch.

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The restaurant has so much going for it — a courtyard for dining, which was reminiscent of the wedding scene in the movie ‘Godfather’ to me, when I went there last Sunday afternoon — the restaurant I mean…not the wedding in the movie ;)! Here’s a view, to the left, and see if you agree with me! There’s a wishing well, I dropped a penny in, with the hope of returning to New Orleans one day, soon; a fountain; plants and trees all you want; a wandering jazz trio who play their music as they walk about amidst the tables; a lively hum of conversation, as everyone but everyone there seemed to be having such a good time! But back to the gates…

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Legend has it that two gates, one is pictured to the right, were gifted to the two creole sisters Emma and Bertha Camors by Queen Isabella of Spain, and she had them blessed before gifting them. The plaque on them reads, “These Charm Gates were wrought in Spain especially for the Court of Two Sisters. According to legend, Queen Isabella had them blessed so that their ‘Charm’ would pass on to anyone who touched them.” Charm here, in this context, means a touch of magic :), or for those who pooh pooh such stuff, just plain good luck!

I don’t know when any of you will go or return there to actually touch the gates, but here’s a picture of one of them — let’s just be creative and ask you to touch the picture, then with your eyes closed, put all your intention into receiving the ‘charm’ these gates are supposed to bestow, and then BELIEVE that you received it! Go on…give it a shot 🙂

 

Here in the Big Easy :)

An affectionate name for the city of New Orleans is the Big Easy…kind of like the line from the song ‘Summertime, and the livin’ is easy’! I’ve been here all of 11 hours and have fallen under its spell — maybe they do put a hex* on the tourists! I said that because voodoo is supposed to be big here :)! There’s a museum here devoted to all things voodoo, but my companions and I are not into any of that and so will pass on a visit there.

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Our focus is the local culture and the creole cooking. We’re soon off for the first food sortie, to try gumbo, jambalaya, and ‘po boy’ (poor boy) sandwiches! Sooo looking forward… We’ve already done our tour with a guide and are so taken by the wonderful and delicate wrought iron panels and grills resembling lacework on most facades. This city doesn’t look like another American city at all.

The evening is going to be devoted to the experience of music, jazz and dixie…Yesss — let the good times roll…

* a hex is a magic spell

 

Chihuly – a world of sheer magic, in glass

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On his site chihuly.com, Dale Chihuly’s introduction reads:

“Born in Tacoma in 1941, Chihuly is regarded as the “Tiffany” of our day and has been exploring the plastic potential of blown glass for over fifty years. With fire, gravity, breath and centrifugal force, this accomplished master plays with colours, reflections and organic forms, using repetition, accumulation and layering arrangements of modular and singular elements to create unparalleled rhythms and visual effects.”

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A grand exhibition of his is on at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, on Sherbrooke Street in downtown Montreal. At the very entrance is his oeuvre, The Sun — the magic of which can be felt even in this little picture here! It’s actual dimensions are breathtaking — and you will gasp even if you’re just driving past! It’s dimensions are a mind-boggling 4,3 x 4,3 x 4,3 m!!! You have to see it to believe…

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To the right is his work, ‘Persian Collonade’, in colors and forms so enticing, once again it’s the word ‘magic’ that comes to mind — that someone could actually create this!

The exhibition was from June 8 to October 20, but the immense popularity it enjoyed, has led to it being extended to October 27 — don’t miss it!!! A chance to see work of such grandeur in our own home town is rare…go, and get lost in a veritable wonderland–of glass!

Dale Chihuly: “I’m obsessed with color — never saw one I didn’t like!”

 

The fear of suffering

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering

is worse than the suffering itself. And that

no heart has ever suffered when it goes in

search of its dreams.”

~ Paulo Coelho in ‘The Alchemist’*

A must, must read book, about searching for and finding your dream! 🙂

 

The pearl within

I have found, that the more obnoxious a person is, the more they’re hurting inside. We all know such people. They’re angry, reactive, blaming others and thus being a victim, and not ready to take responsibility for what isn’t working in their life.

337538_zhemchug_rakovina_rakushka_zhemchuzhina_marko_more_1920x1340_(www_GdeFon_ru)And unfortunately, the irritant inside them is not going to produce a pearl as it might inside an oyster! Human beings, sadly, are not like oysters — when they have an irritant inside them they must look to heal it, and heal the reason they attracted it into their life. Then only might a pearl form inside! Unless the understanding is reached that it is they, themselves, who attracted the problem, no healing is possible!

But the good news is that once we take responsibility for what is happening in our lives — once we understand that our life is just a mirror, reflecting to us what is within, everything gets better and better — we calm down, our bodies relax, and the outside world once again begins reflecting our newer, calmer inner state…and the pearl within grows, and glows, resplendent and beautiful! 🙂

 

Know your wine grapes (2) – Merlot

Merlot grapes are known in Bordeaux from ancient times. Although they’re considered a perfect blending partner for Cabernet-Sauvignon grapes to create the highly prized Bordeaux wines of France, these grapes are very popular in other parts of France and the rest of the world for blending and for drinking as a varietal wine (an unblended, single grape wine)! Depending on the region, and therefore the soil and the climate these grapes grow in, the taste of the wine they produce can be very varied.

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This dark-blue grape has a thinner skin and lighter tannins than the Cabernet-Sauvignon. It is considered softer and more supple of the two. This is what makes it perfect for easy drinking and complementing most foods. Some of its aromas remind us of red-fruit, cherry, plum, blackberry, raspberry, and also clove, vanilla mocha. As mentioned above, the aromas and the flavors are a result of the area it grows in.

It is believed that the name merlot comes from the French word for the little blackbird, ‘merle’, and merlot is a diminutive of that — either because the grapes are the color of the little bird or because this bird loves to eat these grapes.

It’s my personal experience that merlot wines pair beautifully with a wide variety of foods, and I believe, ‘When in doubt, buy /order a merlot!’