Monthly Archives: December 2014

California Sojourn Part II: Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach

Okay, to continue where I left off in my last post . . .

After spending a few hours in L.A., exploring the Grove and the farmer’s market, we decided to drive down to Laguna Beach, where I would be spending the next three days on my own. It was only lunchtime and Michael’s flight didn’t leave until 8 p.m., so I thought it would be fun if he could see the bed and breakfast where I’d reserved a room and maybe grab something to eat at a restaurant with an ocean view.

The wine course for which I was in Laguna Beach was held at the Montage, an immaculate hotel with rates to match. After doing a little TripAdvisor research, I opted instead for more the more reasonably priced but no less charming Casa Laguna Inn. It isn’t right on the beach, but it’s just across the street, and it has all the little luxuries you’d find at a swankier hotel but it feels much more quaint and personal. More

California Sojourn Part I: Santa Barbara and a Brief Stop in L.A.

Santa Barbara

I recently decided to shift gears from “frequent drinker of wine whose tastes are just barely in the zip code of ‘discriminating'” to “serious oenophile with a thorough knowledge of the wine-producing world and the ability to both navigate the wine aisle and order a bottle for the table with confidence.” To that end, I’ve spent the past six months or so going to more wine tastings, trying wines outside of my comfort zone, and having my husband administer blind tastings on me. Basically, I love wine and everything about it—not just its admittedly anesthetic properties, but everything, from the history to the terroir to which glass will best reveal a Burgundy Grand Cru in all its glory.

In hopes of further formalizing my education, I started looking into various wine courses, exams, and certifications. There’s a community college in Dallas that offers a twelve-week sommelier course, and there are a few other programs in the area as well, ranging from single-day crash courses to months-long intensive training in all things vino. After much investigation and speaking with a few industry insiders, I realized that “all roads lead to Rome,” as they say, but for my purposes, all roads pointed toward the Court of Master Sommeliers.

I’ll save the nitty-gritty details of the CMS Introductory Course and Exam for my next post, but suffice to say, I was eager to take the Level 1 exam (the Court has four levels, the fourth being one of the world’s most notoriously difficult exams) and since it wasn’t being offered in the Dallas area anytime soon, I decided to look at the cities where it was being offered and pick one where I’d enjoy spending a few days. I spotted a December date in Laguna Beach and it was a done deal. I registered for the course and decided to build a weekend getaway for my husband and myself into the trip. More

Recent Reads: Time Was Soft There

Time Was Soft ThereShakespeare and Company is the bookish tourist’s equivalent of Times Square. I first went to Paris in 2007, but, ingenue that I was at the time, I hadn’t yet heard of this glorious little literary Mecca. But by the time I went for my second time, about a year ago, it was at last on my to-go list. Though my husband and I attempt to seek out the truth of a city and avoid the biggest tourist traps, I couldn’t resist the lure of paying a visit to this storied and historic Left Bank book shop. Shortly thereafter I came across Time Was Soft There, writer Jeremy Mercer’s memoir of the year he spent living at Shakespeare and Company, and I was bewitched.

In case you aren’t familiar with it, Shakespeare and Company was first opened in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, an American expat and a member of the “Lost Generation.” The original English language bookstore was located first at 8 rue Dupuytren before moving to 12 rue de l’Odéon. It survived the Great Depression, but Beach was forced to close it down after the German invasion of France. Per Wikipedia, “Ernest Hemingway symbolically liberated the shop in person in 1944, but it never reopened for business.” (Fun side note: Hemingway mentions the shop in A Moveable Feast, a book for which, as you might have guessed, I harbor a certain fondness.) More

Eggnog Hot Chocolate

Eggnog Hot ChocolateEvery year, I start seeing eggnog at the grocery store shortly before Halloween, and I have to stop myself from buying it immediately because I always end up drinking one little glass of it and then the rest of it goes bad. I love eggnog. It tastes like Christmas. But I only like it in small doses.

This year I made it until last week before I caved and bought a small bottle of eggnog. Luckily we had a few friends over last weekend and, with the help of a little rum, we were able to put a decent dent in it. But I still had about a quarter of the bottle left today, so I decided to invent a warm holiday cocktail. I call it Eggnog Hot Chocolate, and a quick Google search reveals that no, I did not actually invent this. But this recipe is my own, as far as I know. And it’s wicked tasty. More