Saturday, May 24, 2008

Root Beer Floats

On Fridays, my company has a TGIF gathering: They bring in beer and food, and we play the latest video games on the HD television nearby. It’s a descendant of the “beer bashes” that technology companies had in the boom period of the mid-90s, company-sponsored thank-yous for the hard work the staff had put in during the week. Those parties ended as funds dried up in the bust cycle of the late 90s and early 2000s, but Maxis has kept a modest version.

At some point in the past, my new team started its own Friday event. One member of the team brings in a pairing of a beverage — usually alcoholic — and food. This week, I volunteered to bring in root beer floats.

Melissa went shopping for ingredients — I haven’t been getting home in time to make it to the store — and I dug the Glace-A-Tron 6000 from its hiding spot in the basement. Thursday morning, I woke up early to make the custard base; Thursday night, I made the ice cream so that it would firm up overnight.

Everyone loved the throwback to their childhoods: digging spoons into the ice cream and then guzzling down the creamy root beer. Next time, I joked, I’ll make the root beer, too.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

1998 Michele Chiarlo "Cerequio" Barolo

I planned the meal for five years.

Actually, it only took me an hour or so. We had just bought a bottle of Barolo, the tannic wine of Italy's Piemonte, at a wine shop in La Morra. We knew precisely when we would drink it: April 25, 2008. Though it ended up being April 26. The wine would be 10 years old by then — just about coming into drinkability &mdash and we’d be celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary.

Barolo is the Piedmont’s greatest wine. Osso buco is one of its greatest dishes. I couldn’t resist pairing them: The wine’s tannins and complex flavors could stand up to the braised veal shanks and the risotto milanese I planned to serve with it.

I conveniently forgot that late April can be scorching hot in the Bay Area. After all, it had rained on our wedding day.

So how appropriate that the weather was, once again, all wrong for the plans we had made. Fortunately, our part of Berkeley cools down quickly with the evening breeze off the Bay: Even if it wasn’t the dead of winter, we could enjoy the tender meat, creamy risotto, and rich sauce.

Any time you hoard a truly special bottle of wine, you fret about how it will be when you open it. And it turns out we had good reason to be nervous. At some point in the bottle’s life — presumably before we tucked it into its temperature-and-humidity-controlled storage unit — the cork had pushed out slightly. The cork was also soaking wet.

That’s not a good sign. It suggests that large amounts of oxygen have wormed their way into the bottle, probably ruining it.

But Barolo is a tannic wine, and tannins act as a preservative. Though we prepared for the worst, the wine had a heady aroma of spicy fruit and a rich flavor. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot better than it could have been.

A warm day for osso buco and a special wine that went awry. So what went right about our fifth-anniversary dinner? The only thing that really matters: my date. Before we ate, we clinked glasses, and I said, “To five years I wouldn’t have spent any other way.” Melissa and I have eaten together, drunk together, bought a new house together, traveled together, and more in the last 5 years, and I still say today what I said three years ago: She is the person I always want to see on the other side of the table.


Post Slackage

I apologize for the slack in posting. I’m working a lot at my new job, which has not one but two looming deadlines. And Maxis has reawakened my videogame love, since the latest games are my office’s water cooler chatter. (In fact, if you’re on XBox Live, I’m oenoscribe.) So bear with me as I adjust to the new routine, and, as always, thanks for reading.