Well, it was fun at times, but all in all, I'm glad it's over.
The holiday season is generally overhyped and oversold. Don't get me wrong, I love my family as much as the next guy, and I look forward to seeing and being with them (for reasonable lengths of time). However, everybody needs to understand that there is a shelf-life for everything, and we have far exceeded that for the holidays now that we've managed to stretch them for a full 2 months plus some. By the time my wife and I turned onto our little mountain road and crept quietly back into our corner of heaven we were ready to hide out for a while. And I truly believe that most, if not all, of our fiends and relatives who found themselves ensnared in like traps felt the same when they were finally able to usher out the last guest, or wave goodbye to hosts as they backed out of driveways and turned toward home. Fun is fun, but enough is...
Having said all that, and probably ticked off at least one friend, in-law, or cousin, I have to admit that holiday travels do have a few upsides, one of which is the opportunity to dine in much-loved restaurants that you don't get to see often enough because of time and distance. One such eatery is Lemon Grass in Sacramento, Mai Pham's long-time Asian Fusion restaurant that serves as a neighborhood dining room for many locals. Situated in what used to be, many years back, a hamburger joint (A&W Root Beer, I think), the place is relatively small and unobtrusive; you can miss it if you're not paying attention. However, it's better if you don't, because the food is consistently superb: fresh, imaginative, immaculately prepared, and delicious. The only let-down for me, ever, has been the wine list, which doesn't measure up to the menu for imagination or depth, but is still serviceable. (It never fails to baffle me why so many good restaurateurs allow a second-rate wine list to detract from the overall experience of their clientele, but you already know that, so I'll leave it alone for now.) Anyway, the spring rolls were as light, fresh, and delicately delicious as always, and I had as good a seared ahi steak as I've been served anywhere, perfectly prepared and almost creamy on the palate, nicely set off by two sauces, the best of which was a black bean puree that was pretty close to genius. Didn't get a chance to ask question of our server since we were there on Christmas Eve and the dining room was slammed, but I would like to know exactly how it was made. Wonderful place, and you should try it if ever in Sacramento with a free evening on your hands; you'll be very glad you did, I think. It's restaurants like Lemon Grass that prove the point of quality enduring.
Two more items before I close this one out: first, as some of you know, my wife and I are lucky enough to have lived the last 8 years of our lives high on this hill in the very tip-top of the Sacramento Valley, with a wondrous view of both Shasta and Lassen from our home, the former to the far left (due north) and the latter to the far right (east-southeast). Being a mountain person, I've made an effort to learn as much about each of those 2 great peaks as I can, and recently, with time on my hands, idly Googled Mt. Shasta just to see what would pop up that particular day. Well, I can't tell you how pleased I was to see websites for a bunch of UFO-loonies glowing there on the screen; seems that Shasta is a portal (or wormhole, in their parlance) into another dimension from whence flying saucers pass from there (wherever it is) to here (here being here, where you and I live). Apparently this occurs on a fairly regular basis, judging by the number of people posting who claimed to have witnessed the act. I have to admit that this beats the hell out of me: I watch the mountain every single day under all sorts of conditions, rain or snow or blue sky, and I've missed all that. I'm skeptical. But who knows...I've been wrong before.
Second, for you wine lovers, another barbera. As you'll know if you read this letter on a regular basis (a few of you do, I'm sure of it), we touted a barbera from Boeger a few weeks back, and enjoyed it so much that we drank several more bottles in the following days and began searching out other examples of the grape, having neglected it in favor of more stylish varietals over the past few years. I'm ashamed to admit that, because barbera (Louis Martini 1970 sticks in my mind) was one of my favorite indulgences (at 4.99/bottle) during that long youthful time when I had no money but a lot of fun, not unlike now, when I have no money but am older and still having some fun. Anyway, I've fallen in love all over again thanks to Greg Boeger's heads-up, and have now discovered another beauty; maybe not as assertive and grab-you-by-the-scruff-of-the-neck as Boeger's, but really good, and from nearby New Clairvaux in Vina, near Chico. New Clairvaux's 2012 is a different wine than Boeger's, being softer and more fruit-forward, and drinking best as soon as the cork is pulled, while the Boeger benefits quite a lot from an hour's air, and both are excellent and well worth your time searching out. Boeger's wines enjoy fairly wide distribution even outside California, but you'll probably have to work harder to find the New Clairvaux; you might visit their website for some clues as to availability, or email the winery for help.
Okay, enough for now. Some guys with chainsaws are here to start taking apart an old canyon oak that came down during the recent storms and which is now lying across a small ravine separating our property from our neighbor, and which will almost certainly cause the run-off flowing through said ravine to back up and flood said neighbor's hillside when the next storms arrive if left where it is.
Until next time.