Goodbye 2022

And good riddance, I might say (not that I expect 2023 to be much of an improvement, at this point), but I’m trying not to be grumpy.

Just trying to send up a flare that I’m still here and had a typically quirky New Year’s Eve.

That’s the now-traditional New Year’s Eve tapas, strongly influenced by the friendship I formed with azahar here on WordPress in (checks watch) 2008. Little nibbles of this and that seem such a civilized way to celebrate; here we see goat cheese stuffed mushrooms, pate made from the mushroom stems, scallops in parsley and butter, Brussels sprouts pan-roasted with honey and cider vinegar, wasabi deviled eggs, a little French onion soup with Basque cheese, Manchego and Marcona almonds.

Just a light collation.

You will see there both champagne flutes and sherry glasses. What happened was, out of nowhere exactly, I heard from Izzy on Friday. He still tells me how not to screw up my retirement account, and something about my asking him an end-of-year question must have sparked a train of thought, because he sent a picture of a bottle of Chandon bubbly and asked if I would like it for New Year’s. Apparently, in our locked-down existence, he has been reluctant to open it because Mrs. Izzy has no head for alcohol and he had no intention of drinking the whole thing himself.

“It’s been in the wine cellar for decades,” he added, “so I should warn you it might not be any good. Let me know.”

We were game. I got the last of the food on the plates and turned to see the Cute Engineer deploying the pliers. This is not the usual tool for opening wine, but apparently the foil at the neck of the bottle had become one with the wire cage securing the cork, and had to be prised away delicately. (There is a story about why we keep pliers in the kitchen to begin with, but another time.) Shred by shred and twist by twist the disturbingly amalgamated mass of metal came away. The Engineer positioned the bottle and braced his thumbs against the cork.

It snapped like a balsa twig.

I’m really afraid to ask how many decades Izzy meant. We are both a half century out from legal drinking age. Anyway, we’re not sure what to do with this bottle; you can maneuver a broken cork out of still wine, but the projectile potential here is nothing to trifle with. Is there some kind of possibility it might explode during the weekly collection if we put it in the trash bin? Should we take it up to the glass recycling dumpster with all the other household jars and jeroboams, shot-put it inside and duck? Bury it safely on the property?

Izzy was piqued by my neither/nor answer to his question about the quality of the wine (there are apparently some things Mankind was not meant to know) and, generous as he has always been, slipped by while I was doing hill repeats today to leave a bottle of Israeli Cabernet in the porch. “I promise it will not explode,” he said in an explanatory e-mail.

We had a nice Lustau Amontillado (which had been chilled as a backup) with the tapas. Yeah, Az, I know it was supposed to be Palo Cortado. We hosed the shopping list. What can I say? It was still fabulous. Happy New Year.

Once Upon A New Year’s

Once upon a New Year’s (Reagan was President) I led a calisthenics class in a frightful powder-puff gym where the management were always getting after me about my retro music, Henry Mancini and the Tijuana Brass (yes), though the gym members were down with it, or as one of them said, “I’ve learned everything I ever want to know about the boogaloo.”

“Go out and have a fabulous New Year, drink some Moet, get crazy,” I think I said. Or something like that.

Before my shift was over a handful of the ladies were back with a split of Moet & Chandon from the snotty wine and cheese shop up the street, where I had also, for my sins, once worked, not that any of them knew that. God love ’em.

That split of champagne stayed with me through two house moves and a marriage and a couple of rebounds. I did drink it eventually.

Don’t wait so long for yours. If it’s in your hands, frickin’ drink it, whatever form it takes. And don’t be bashful if you like the Tijuana Brass, or the boogaloo. Whatever that is.


Kir is not as unusual in the States as Stone Ginger, but most people to whom I offer it say “Huh?”Kir

Even my engineer friend, an avowed student of the cocktailer’s art, reacted this way. I led him to the kitchen and lined up two glasses with a half-drunk bottle of chilled Chardonnay and another of cheesy mass produced Creme de Cassis. (I just don’t have a Marie Brizard budget. For demonstration purposes, this was good enough.) I am an instinctive rather than a measuring mixer; I zetzed the blackcurrant cordial into the glasses, then poured wine until I liked the color. It should be a mixture of flame and purple murex, transparent enough to percolate with random lights.

You taste the dusty acidity of the currants and the floral pungency of the white wine. You have to hold it against your palate with your tongue and let it drift back towards your gullet, on its own time table. If you make it Royale, with Champagne, there’s the added interval of feeling the bubbles fumigating your sinuses.

Seems the mayor of Dijon, Felix Kir, used to press this cocktail upon visiting delegations from “sister cities,” slyly promoting some regional products. Funnily enough this Sister City thing is a big deal in my hometown of Arlington. Our oldest Sister City is Aachen, Germany, who sent over their soccer team to check out the sister thing right on the weekend of Louis Farrakhan’s Million Man March. They must have gotten some lively impressions of life near the nation’s capital; it usually involves a whole lot of Porta-Potties.

Better to sip one’s Kir in the quiet of the domestic hearth. I used to carry a hip flask of Cassis to rehearsals of the Washington Saengerbund, the better to adulterate the tumblers of Rhine wine which they sold after rehearsals for a dollar (back in the late Seventies), but those were my salad days. Enough Wagner will drive you to reckless deeds.