Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's Weekend Miscellany

  Sometimes you just need to ramble so this is going to be a quickly written, unedited, rambling post. Valentine's Day, officially tomorrow I guess, is to this old curmudgeon a made up holiday, like Easter and Halloween, designed to pick the pockets of guilty suckers, who spend more than they can legitimately afford on fleeting pleasures like roses and chocolate, in a vain effort to make up for a full year of complete emotional negligence. Uh huh, feel all better now? It's secondary purpose is to cause angst among tween and teen boys and break the heart of every girl over the age of 10. An added benefit is lots of business for dentists. Humbug I say. Every day is Valentine's day at our house. Just ask Mrs. Goatherder....wait, maybe you better not. Anyhow, this weekend turned out pretty nice and since the Missus works tomorrow, we had a great time together as she was off all weekend.

  We had good friends visiting from the Frozen Wastes of Terre Haute Indiana, wherever that is, somewhere in the east I'm told. Mike and Terre are old friends who we don't get to see very often. Mike and I went to high school and college together and have had more than our share of misadventures over the years. They came out so Terre could run in the Sedona Marathon on Saturday morning. While Terre and Mike's son's girlfriend were huffing and puffing up the hills of Sedona, we were having breakfast at The Coffee Pot Restaurant, "home of 101 omelettes". Not a bad breakfast. It included the added feature of a case of heartburn. I never get heartburn. I did yesterday. Also included was a visit with Mike's first wife and the mother of his oldest son. She lives in Sedona it turns out. He has lots of sons. Lana was not only Mike's first wife at an extremely tender age, she was a crush of mine in the 6th grade. I used to walk her home. We hadn't seen each other since. Pretty strange but amusing none the less.

  Our pals went back to Flagstaff to spend the day with their son Devin. Devin works for Nackard Distributing, the 800 lb. gorilla of liquor distributors in N. Arizona, and he knows and has ins with all the restaurants. They spent the day eating and drinking too much. Kate and I came home and after a rest and a big slug of pink stuff, we went over to the recently re-imagined Casey's Corner, now known as Desert Market. You can look at their new website here. They were having their wine tasting. This wine tasting, as I've mentioned before, is the best tasting deal in the valley. They now charge 2 bucks for the first taste, and a dollar per taste after that. Taste 3 wines, it's 4 bucks and you get to keep the glass. One thing Desert Market has that you won't find at ANY other tasting: Beer. For the price of admission they'll also have usually 4 microbrews that they're featuring. No charge for samples. I had a chance to talk further with owner Mike Anderson and we are definitely going to work together. I'm going to start taking a few tastings a month and doing some private events for him. We'll see what develops after that.

  When we came home, I decided to put together an elk stew. Browned two pounds of floured, seasoned elk meat with a big sweet onion till they were caramelized, then added half a bottle of Bitch Creek, a handful of mashed garlic cloves, lots of pepper, some jalapenos I roasted on the grill, and the basics of celery (including the leafy tops, don't throw out the leafy tops, ever) carrots and whole baby yukon gold potatoes. Topped it with stock and stuck it in the oven for about 4 hours. The celery and onions melted down completely and it thickened into a real dark, tasty ragout. Went nice with a bottle of Malbec we picked up at Desert Market, followed by a few tiny bites of  artisanal chocolate confections that are being sold there, made by some very talented hippy girl from Cottonwood. Or Clarkdale. Or somewhere.

  Today, we met back up with Mike, Terre, Devin and Devin's lady friend Lindsay, who is a first year, rookie middle school psychologist in Flagstaff. God bless her. We went to the Camp Verde Wine and Pecan Festival which had been going on since friday. This festival gets better every year. Hundreds of people enjoying the sunshine, the antiques, the barbecue, the vendors of arts and crafts and cigars and of course, the wine. The valley's wineries were well represented, with the notable absence of Merkin and Caduceus. Nobody seemed to know why Maynard had decided not to sample his wines in Camp Verde. He missed a bet is all I can say. The booths were doing land office bottle sales. Mike and Terre took The Stronghold's reserve Chardonnay back to Indiana with them. I would suggest to anyone who wants to spend a pleasant early warm-up February day, this is the place to do it. A fine time all around.

  For those who aren't aware, Cornville has it's very own mission. The mission provides free food to all comers, and these days it comes very welcome by many who are struggling in our community. The mission is the single-handed success of Greg Roeler, who took it upon himself to fill this need a couple of years ago. In that short time he's managed to gather food donations from all over the northland, has opened a very nice thrift store at the corner of Page Springs Road and Cornville Road, and today, managed to pull off what Cornville has always been known for: a fantastic community come-together for a good cause.
  Greg organized a community dinner to benefit the mission. A seven dollar donation got you a very nice dinner prepared by noted retired chef Al Kramer, former owner of The Manzanita Inn, a Cornville landmark. The dinner was held at the Living Water Retreat Center, a place I often refer to cynically as "The Jeezus Hotel" at the end of our road. Josh has worked there bussing tables since he was 13. Finally, when they realized what a great kid and sterling employee he is, they quit trying to proselytize him. He never got the "Another Boy For Jesus" T-shirt. Recently, he became a prep cook there. He assisted Al Kramer in the meal tonight, all volunteer. He spent 8 full hours busting his backside and loved every minute of working for a real chef. Kramer is notoriously, shall we say, brusk. I had suggested to Josh that he practice saying "yes chef" and "right now chef" and it paid off. When we got there for dinner Kramer had nothing but praise for him. Well done son! It turned out that Greg had sold only 57 advanced tickets, but in typical Cornville style the whole darn community seemed to show up. There were at least 300 people there by the time we arrived, and the food ran out early. I forsee a yearly event. Greg was beside himself.
  We're now closing out this Valentine's weekend watching romantic comedies. I keep hoping we can watch a movie that has explosions or cowboys in it, but I'm betting it's not to be. Better get another Bitch Creek open and settle in. Salud!