Sunday, May 04, 2003

Now, journeying to Ms. Winepoetic's hermit cave in Napa is no easy task. There are certain rites and rituals one must pass that involve eagle's feathers, coded words, and full moons. And once you enter, it's easy to become disoriented by the fog that eminates from her smoldering cauldren (yes, it's real!). You feel as though you may have entered another world, time switches gears from super fast to slow and back again, you wonder if this must be what it's like to enter the Twilight Zone.

Which is why I needed to arm myself. And I do know that the smell of Filipino foods tends to tame Ms. Winepoetics temperment as well as block her mouth from speaking any spells. But even that wasn't enough, so I brought in Mom. Mom is not easily fooled, plus she cooks fabulously well!

We pick up our Car Share reserved car, a flourescent green VW bug and load it with ammo: oxtail, shrimp paste/alamang, garlic, peanut butter, banana heart, and numerous other items. On the way, for good measure, we pick up a box of Manila mangoes. I think we're ready.

We arrive there early. Tom 'the Giant Killer," greets us at the gate and allows us in. The gate opens to his magic words. It's still a ways away. The road turns and tumbles overitself on the way, yet another way for the Long Lashed one to divert your path, while she watches you ascend from the steaming pot. You can hear her cackle at each turn.

But seriously, Ms. Winepoetics is really the most gracious host you could ever meet. And just as gorgeously vivacious as she describes herself in her blog. The rainy Saturday brought upon the glorious wildflowers and grasses pregnant and heavy with seeds to be planted. The hillsides spilled with spashes of purple, golden yellow, and lush green. In another month, most all of it will be golden brown.

We unloaded our flourescent green VW bug, to which Ms.Winepoetics squealed, "It's so adorable I could squish it!" It was an adorable car. Though small it fit quite a bit of stuff plus got us up and down from Oakland in only half a tank of gas.

For lunch we headed into town to a Pizzaria, which served a kind of salad sandwich. The salads sat on top of warm flat bread which were trifolded into a pita type meal. I had the Bistecca with the goddess dressing. How can you turn up goddess dressing?

Then down the street to the wine market to go shopping for a wedding gift and who else better to go wine shopping with! Next door to Flora Springs celebration fo their new wines including the 2001 Sauvignon Blanc which went decadantly well with raw oysters. The Wild Boar Cabernet Sauvignon had a story. As it goes, in this field, a wild boar had a taste for wine and dug and ate up the Cabernet vines and left the Sangiovese vines alone.

We managed to dodge the raindrops under the store canopies to make it to Lolo's consignment. We all wondered who Lolo might be, since lolo in Tagalog means grandfather. There was even a wooden relief of a Filipino woman in traditional dress.

For more Philippine item hunting we headed to Calistoga to a market there that sold doormats made out of old rubber tsinelas/slippers. $19 for a small, $35 for a large. I had seen these before in Manila, where they get maybe 50-100 pesos for them. I'm sure they'll sell them out if they ever become chic, like the wicker basket on wheels from France priced at $190 down the street.

One last stop to go visit Dutch Henry's open house. I got a taste of the olive oil made from the olives handpicked by Ms.Winepoetics and the Giant Killer. Very nice! We tasted the Zinfandel and bought a bottle for my sister, who told me she didn't like Zins, but hoped this one would change her mind.

I personally, had only really been an occasional wine drinker. Actually, I am an occasional wine drinker. And I still can't quite tell all these smells and flavors they say are in the wines. Then again, most Filipinos don't drink much wine. I drank some wine from the Philippines once and it looked more like a spritzy wine cooler. Considering wines need to be kept in relatively cool and dark places, it makes it that much harder to keep them in a tropical environment. But like other complex flavors it takes some time for the brain to figure out its synapses.

Back to the house at 5. Washed our hands and broke out the sculptures, cutting boards, knives and chopped like mad. We must have used about 4-5 burners at once and had to crank up the ventilation when we stirfryed the shrimp paste with garlic. One fraction of a taste from it and the flavor melts over your mouth. Since we had forgotten the pressure cooker, time was against us. 2 hours to boil the oxtail so it falls off the bone. But all in all, it ended up being a wonderful meal: 3 entrees, with fresh sweet mangos, and dessert.

For dessert, along with the suman (sweet rice in banana leaves), was also a bag of goodies fresh out of my grandmother's balikbayan box: polvaron, and tupin (in Tagalog) or etemtem (in Pangasinan) - this is young coconut wrapped in banana leaves then cooked under the coals.

After cleaning the dishes, we head to bed after a full day with full stomachs. Life is good!

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