August, 2003

Wine on Mars

mars.jpgMy housemate Guillaume is a winemaker from the Burgandy region of France. He’s working at Clos Pegase in the next town over. The other night we were having a spontaneous late-dinner at the counter in the kitchen (well, I was eating ice cream and he was having an original potatoe stew creation) and we remembered that the once-in-a-lifetime-Mars-sighting was going on (this was on Wednesday). Clos Pegase was hosting a special Mars event with tons of telescopes and celestial gurus that night–so we decided to go check it out! SO HOT! We got to see the ICE CAP on MARS through this one telescope!! The woman working the scope would adjust the lens and then you had about a 45 second time window during which you could see the cap. It was very interesting and educational! Plus Guillaume (whose name I hope I’m spelling right…) gave me a private tour of the wine cellars, bottling department and caves. And as special guests we got a free tasting of the 2000 Cabernet and the 2002 Port that they released for the first time that night (in celebration of the Mars spectactular). Sidenote: I found it interesting that they served miniature macadamia nut cookies as palate refreshers. Usually you just see a plain cracker, this was a nice change, but I think left you with an overly powerful flavor on your tongue that interfered with the tasting. I was so exhausted yesterday as a result of staying up late, but it was very fun and refreshing night.

Clos Pegase (ring any bells Latin Scholars??) is a beautiful winery–they have some very nice modern art pieces displayed about the grounds, and the building itself is gorgeous when all lit up at night. We learned that it takes 45 minutes to get your night vision! Que interesante. 🙂

This getting up at 5:15AM everyday is quite an experience! I’m looking forward to the long weekend–ding! Going out with girls from school tonight (lookout Downtown St. Helena!!), homework, studying and paper writing tommorrow, hiking Mount St. Helena and having picnic breakfast at the top on Sunday morning, then hitting up some outlet malls. And on Monday heading to the vineyards for some local tastings! Action-packed weekend. Happy Labor Day everyone!

Recent discovery of the Pacific Ocean

coast.JPGLast Saturday (August 22nd), I made a pilgramage to the coast. I forgot to regal you with details in my excitement about school, so here’s a brief outline of my exciting mini-trip!

First stop: gas station. I stopped in Calistoga to fill up Beatrice’s tank (which is much easier after the trip cross country during which we accidentally left the gas cover on the roof. I’m sure it’s started a happy new life somewhere along the Kansas highway…). At $2.29/gallon of regular, it was a bit of a torturous first stop.

Next I followed Petrified Forest Road to the famed Petrified Forest, where I expected to be awed by a dense forest of petrified and crystalized trees. Alas, this park was a major let-down! Hello! Since when does a petrified forest = 6 trees that look like rocks?!? The PF did have some interesting living trees, which I enjoyed (and photographed: soon to appear in Photo Gallery). I made three loops around the trail to get my $5’s worth, and quickly headed out in search of saltier waters.

beach.JPGAfter the forest, I headed west over mountains and down valleys and boy did I find the Pacific Coast! If you check out this map you can get a better idea of where I was. Starting at Goat Rock Beach I drove South to Bodega, stopping at just about all of these beaches (in the opposite order):
4. Bodega Head
5. Bodega Dunes
6. South Salmon Creek Beach
7. North Salmon Creek Beach
Rocks.jpg8. Miwok Beach
9. Coleman Beach
10. Arched Rock Beach
11. Carmet Beach
12. Schoolhouse Beach
13. Portuguese Beach
14. Gleason Beach
15. Duncan’s Landing
16. Wright’s Beach
17. Shell Beach
18. Blind Beach
19. Goat Rock Beach
The Beaches here are very rugged and wrought with various rock formations. I have to save some exciting tidbits for the upcoming photo album page, so I won’t tell you exactly what happened at the beaches just yet, but it was definitely a cultural Californian experience!!

On my way home (around sunset), I stopped in Santa Rosa for some crackers and peanut butter (and to check out the city a bit). Had fun getting completely lost downtown and decided I better get back before the roads became horribly dark and treacherous.

Box.jpgSaturday Night Fever struck and I decided to walk down to the grocer’s and hit up the local video store for some Personal Party supplies! Queen Motifa says: When you don’t know anyone else in town, throw a party for yourself! Ding! I purchased some tasty California garlic and chicken white pizza, some Mike’s Hard Lemonade, a sampling of Ben and Gerry’s Frozen Yogurts and How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days. I kicked up the pizza with some baby heirloom tomatoes from the St. Helena Farmer’s Market I had gone to the day before, and some leftover chix I had in the fridge. Pizza.jpgYummers!! It was quite an enjoyable and relaxing evening! (Don’t bother renting that movie though, it was deplorable! The only redeeming feature was that Matthew McConaughey starred, and he’s frickin’ H-O-T. But, I can’t believe he accepted a role opposite Kate Hudson, whose performance was TERRIBBBLLE).

Secret Agents at the CIA

Let me introduce you to Mr. John Allison: in charge of campus security, transportation, worker’s compensation, and just about anything else you can think of. Of average height, looks like he’s enjoying the cuisine of the school, dignified grey locks, and he’s got a Scottish brogue like he’s worn a kilt his entire life. Introduced himself to our class yesterday with a wink, and detailed us on the ins-and-outs of the university with utmost seriousness. A sort of grand-fatherly type with a flair for drama and a twinkle in his eye–he assuredly takes the safety of each student to heart (“You have any problem, you come to me–I’ll take care of business”). At our Welcoming Celebration today I had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Allison further, and I have never in my life met a more interesting man. A former Secret Agent, Allison has lived in Thailand, Malaysia, and in several other parts of South East Asia. He worked for the Sultan in Bangkock (in charge of all Palace security and bodyguards) and organized and instructed intense guerilla warfare tactic bootcamps in South American jungles! Most recently, he was Master of security for aa chain of 26 hotels in Miami and Maui, and just retired from his position as Danielle Steele’s private director of security in San Francisco. What an accomplished, cultured, mysterious man. I plan on getting to know him better so stay tuned for more exciting stories!

School is going EXCELLENTLY! At our special party today we met the entire staff and they are the friendliest, most positive, passionate group of people I’ve ever met! Each individual is so excited and in love with their career–it’s inspirational! I hope that all of you who are in the process of choosing a profession will be equally fullfilled with your choices! And that those of you that are already in a profession have felt this intense passion for your Industry. (And if not, I urge you to find it!! Find it again if you can!!).

My only frustration at the moment is my dire lack of internet access. I have LOADS of creative energy going into wonderful updates for and no public outlet! AGHAIGHIA!!! This is an almost tragical situation because the site is one of my prime methods of keeping in touch with everyone on the East coast! Does anyone know about wireless ethernet cards/ wireless service?? The only computer-ish store in the area is Office Max, and after talking with the “Manager in charge of electronic operations” there I am still desperately confused about the entire wireless situation. Is there such a thing as satellite internet? Please help!

Many exciting plans for the weekend are taking form… a possible visit to a wine bar in Sebastapool, a night on the town with the BP girls, and extensive tours of local vineyards in celebration of Labor Day.

Greystone: Hogwarts in Disguise

My first two days of CULINARY SCHOOL have been ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!!! GOSH, I just love it here so much!!! I wish I could take a video and put it up here so you could all see the great people I get to be around all day. (I’m actually working on getting some live video stream from our trip cross country and may actually be able to show video from school eventually, but for right now you’ll have to be satisfied with the pictures I paint with words…).

We begin with the Family Meal at 5:45AM. All classes and teachers assemble at massive wooden tables on the third floor of the historic Greystone Cellars Winery. With the clang of a huge gong that’s in the center of the kitchen/dining room, breakfast begins. The gourmet continental breakfast typically includes fresh fruit, assorted pastries (soon baked by yours truly!), breads, jam, jelly, marmalade, yogurt, cereals, and juice, coffee, teas. Not at a bad start! And the great thing is that everyone seems to migrate seats a lot, so you can meet and eat with new people at each meal (that’s right, we get lunch too!!). For example, yesterday Chef Jorin, recent winner of The Gold Cup for the baguette at the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie (World Cup of Baking), sat right at our table!! Tres exciting! And I’m sure that there are plenty of other very accomplished chefs in our midst that we’re not even aware of yet! OH, the possibilities!!!

After breakfast the B&P (Baking and Pastry) Students head down to the Simi Room for a few hours of lecture interupted every fourty-five minutes or so with a 10 minute break. (These breaks are a CIA tradition which we are proud to be a part of. Harvard university in conjunction with the CIA did a study on memory trends and learning curves that concluded that these short frequent breaks increase the amount of information students remember). After lecture we have another Family Meal, created by the students in the Advanced Culinary Program. (Oh darn!) You should see this stuff!! (And you will, if I ever get connected to the web again!) Today there was shrimp, andooooleey sausage, dates stuffed with goat cheese, three kinds of salad….I could go on for paragraphs! Every lunch typically has tossed salad with vinaigrette, a protein, such as fish, chicken or red meat, vegetables, starches, such as potatoes, grains, legumes, fresh bread and rolls, and an assortment of desserts provided by the BP students. It’s really quite nice. And then we’re done! And it’s still only 1:30pm, so we’ve got the whole day to go to wineries or the beach (since it’s always hot and sunny!) or what have you. This is the way all colleges should be, I feel.

And tommorrow, the CIA is hosting a special luncheon in the Piano Lounge in celebration of OUR arrival! I don’t mean to brag, but does it GET any better?? I feel a bit like I’m living in Harry Potter’s world–the school looks just like Hogwarts, there are all kinds of Proud Traditions, everyone eats together at big wooden tables, there’s one wisened Chef who looks very similar to Dumbledoor, our professor at the moment (Chef Issac) is constantly talking about The Code (and I quote “Always act with Pride, Honesty, Integrity and you will be that shining star!”), and we heard stories today about the Greystone Ghost. Pictures and more stories coming soon!

First Dinner in my new home

dinner.JPGMy first dinner in St. Helena: Field Green salad with oil & vinegar dressing and grilled chicken. Accompanied by a slice of local artisan bread and a glass of Shiraz.

The Party’s Ovah… or perhaps just beginning!

Hey everyone–long time no see! For the past week Dave and I have been driving cross-country, enjoying life, and having an absolutely fabulous time of it! Finally arrived in St. Helena today — this is where I’ll be living for at least the next 8 months! WHOOOO! Of course there are loads of pictures from this summer and Roadtrip USA coming–as soon as I get the computer situation here figured out.

Classes start next Monday (AIEEEEEEEEEE!!!!). Lots to do before then, lots happening in the next few weeks, months–more to come soon!