My Favorite Things, PAZAZ™ Style

My favorite things include what most people enjoy; for example, surprising experiences at restaurants, unbelievable sunsets, wines that take you to the stratosphere of oenological enjoyment, and everything else that stretches your senses and expands your horizons.

But one of my favorite things is any situation that occurs when elements of nature converge to produce an amazing event creating a memory that places energy, substance, and magic into the arena of, “It’s a small world… but I’d hate to paint it.”

One time in a land far away I was on vacation in Puerto Vallarta. I was enjoying this beautiful seascape view from the balcony of some high rise on what is referred to as the “gold coast”. I decided I would go for a walk up the coast of Puerto Vallarta to a little spot called the “Iguana”. The “Iguana” had been the commissary for the movie “Night of the Iguana”, which starred Richard Burton and Ava Gardner.

The “Iguana” now consisted of a few thrown together tables and chairs with a wonderful view of the beach and the glistening water below. The bar was not frequented by too many tourists because of how far away it was from most hotels and restaurants.

The bartender was a amiable person living off the grid, convinced that he had the greatest job in the world, off the beaten path, and far from the maddening crowds. Because of this self made assertion and absolute love for what he did… he made the best margarita (in my opinion) in all of Puerto Vallarta.

I was enjoying the adult beverage when in strolls a family wearing the loud Hawaiian shirts, flip-flops, and those weird straw hats that are a cross between a sombrero and a cowboy hat. Anyway, after they had a few margaritas they moseyed over to my table inquiring,”Where are you from?”

This launched us into a variety of subjects and then, after a “few more” margaritas they asked me who my favorite musician was. Well, I had just finished a gig in Tahoe as a DJ. I was given an album of this obscure musician, Richie Lecea, who (at that time) became my favorite vocalist and songwriter. His music transcended all the major artists and took acoustic guitar and vocals to a whole new level.

When I told them this the wife of the husband I’d been conversing with looked at me with the strangest look and said, “That’s my brother in law.” Out in the middle of nowhere I meet a person who was connected to one of the most obscure musicians (I’ve never seen his name mentioned anywhere) by blood…

And that my friends is one of those moments when you say, “It’s a small world… but I’d hate to paint it.”

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Today It’s Madeira, PAZAZ™ Style

Madeira is one of my favorite fortified wines. When I was a general manager at Mason’s restaurant located in the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco I brought Madeira into the restaurant as a compliment to our port selection.

My immersion into Madeira wine began at a tasting hosted by the Wine Spectator featuring the legendary Michael Broadbent. I was introduced to Michael Broadbent as a wine writer. I read his book “The Great Vintage Wine Book” which has 6,000 tasting notes dating back to the 17th century. His tasting notes are estimated to number over 90,000 in more than 140 notebooks. He has received the acknowledgment of “Master of Wine” and has lectured on the subject of wine since the mid-1950’s.

In the early 90’s I went to this “Madeira” event to find out more about the subject from this legendary wine expert. I went not knowing what to expect but found out that this beverage would become my favorite “fortified” beverage.

A brief history of Madeira includes the fact that Madeira was poured during Thomas Jefferson’s toast at the signing of the declaration of independence in 1776. Madeira was also savored at the inauguration of George Washington. Madeira was so ubiquitous that it perfumed ladies handkerchiefs; was given to military personnel for serving their country; and was frequently recommended for sick and overworked people.

Madeira is a fortified (fortified with brandy) wine aged under heat and produced in the demarcated region of Madeira located off the northwestern coast of Morocco composed of two inhabited islands, Madeira and Porto Santo.

There are five distinct grapes: 85% of Madeira is produced with the red grape, Negra Mole which is a crossing of Grenache and Pinot Noir. And you are also introduced to four other “noble” grapes which are white wine grapes including Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, and Malvasia (aka Malmsey).

There are four levels of sweetness marked on every Madeira wine bottle label:

Sercial – Dry

Verdelho – Medium Dry

Bual – Medium Sweet

Malmsey – Sweet

Another layer to add to this tapestry of flavor is the fact that Madeira is unique not only due to its wonderful sweetness and textured palate, but also for its ability to endure. Madeira doesn’t change in any way when left open. I’ve tasted Madeira open twenty years and the flavor was alive and full of the same structure that was so engaging when first opened.

Which brings me back to my Broadbent tasting. When I tasted the different styles of Madeira and learned of its history coupled with the commitment to produce a world class beverage… I was transfixed on the quality and mouthfeel of this transcendent wine. That is why I purchased for the Fairmont a case of 1873 Madeira to be enjoyed by the aristocratic clientele frequenting this beautiful restaurant, Mason’s, atop Nob Hill in San Francisco.

When patrons would ask about the 1873 Madeira I would simply turn to them and state, “Personally, I drink no wine made this century”. Of course that wasn’t true but it certainly got their attention.

This blog is sponsored by PAZAZ™.

Please go to my web site and purchase my amazing kitchen tools at

“The Magic of Cooking”, (Kitchen tools for the discerning chef) which includes the following:

Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat

Heavy Duty Aluminum Baking Sheet Pan

Steel Mesh Cooling Rack

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Unparalleled Beauty

There are many places in this country that afford the traveler wonderful vistas. North, East, South, and West provide a myriad of different climates, rivers, oceans, lakes, bays, creeks, mountains, forests, desert scapes and of course man’s contributions… the cities, towns, and hamlets form the domestic infrastructure that defines our local resources and the specific time frame of our cultural disposition.

Within the framework of man’s contributions we see dams, bridges, towering skyscrapers, ornate statues, and the homes that provide the introspective look into ones own psychological composition. Within this “psychological composition” we reflect the past, present, and sometimes futuristic view of what’s important to ourselves and those we love and care about.

Man’s contributions in most cases is a distinct reflection of his environment, education, and the ability to pursue endeavors despite life’s many twists and turns. As we plan for the future, depending upon our age and circumstance, we are the architect of our dreams and the craftsman that molds our life into the sculpt that shapes our legacy.

As we get older the music becomes softer, the lights become dimmer, and the pursuit of material things pales in comparison to what’s really important. Family, friends, and the appreciation of all that is beautiful steps past the technological barriers that are advertised as bringing people closer together but seem to have pushed us farther apart. People seem to be talking more but communicating less.

Recently I had the opportunity to visit a state that addresses some of the above observations. Idaho is a state that is comfortable within its own skin (not always the potato). From Coeur d’Alene, McCall, Lewiston, Boise, Moscow, and Idaho falls, the rivers are clean, the land is pristine, and most importantly the people I met reflect a refreshing attitude that realizes the importance of community.

The vast expanse of agriculture in Idaho defined as dairy products, cattle, potatoes, wheat, and hay speak to communities that rely on a network that has created teamwork going beyond the semblance of a job. This lifestyle provides for others while carving out a difficult living for themselves appreciating the values passed down from generation to generation.

As you drive through the cities in Idaho inevitably leading to the countryside one is overwhelmed with the beauty that incorporates man’s agricultural endeavors and that of nature as they co-exist within the panoramic setting that is Idaho.

A Poem… PAZAZ™ Style

“Beginnings and Endings”

By Jack Jenkins

I went to a place I’ve never been,

down a road I’ve traveled again and again.

I’ve seen the faces of those I’ve loved,

the past, the present, and up above.

They’re expressions give witness to memories adrift,

a lightning strike ensemble playing a short jazz rift.

And through the kaleidoscope we are taught how to feel,

an emotionless narration from a colorless wheel.

As the stories we create become our lives,

a lone cloud bursts into pastel skies.

These envelopes of hope are wrapped in a gift,

the illusionary voyage of a lost ghost ship.

This dream is a symphony played out through our life,

a heavenly excursion ending in night.

Alone but together we fall from site,

an enigmatic journey to the afterlife.

This poem/blog is sponsored by PAZAZ™ “The Magic of Cooking” kitchen tools for the discerning chef.

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Fall, New York… And Other Stuff

August is the gateway to fall. August is hot with unannounced thunder storms, strangely overcast weather patterns, and your last chance to take a summer vacation. Pile those kids in the car and travel to theme parks, beaches, or any number of state or national parks.

After the kids go back to school and your household returns to “normal” enjoy the most beautiful time of the year… the fall. If you’re lucky enough to be an empty nester then you should travel to the east to see the vast spectrum of color that blankets the whole northeast.

I used to live in the northeast. I came there by way of Florida and was hired for a Food and Beverage position at Bonnie Castle Resort in Alexandria Bay in upstate New York. I lived in a castle (Bonnie Castle) and looked out to Heart Island (shaped like that at the turn of the century for the groom’s bride) with a beautiful castle on it (Bolt Castle). If I hadn’t been working there it would have been perfect!

Located on the St. Lawerence River, Alexandria Bay looks out to some of the most amazing homes in the thousand islands between upstate New York and Canada. The 1,864 islands (during the spring, summer, and fall) back in the day was a colony retreat for the wealthiest Gilded Age industrialists, including President Ulysses S. Grant.

The millionaires bought their own private islands and enjoyed some of the most amazing natural beauty in the United States. The mansions are spectacular and deserve a trip on one of a few ferry boats touring the thousand islands in the summer to early fall. Watching the trees turn from pale yellow to bright red with a backdrop of rivers, mountains and lakes is worth the journey.

Just outside of Syracuse New York is a small town called Cazenovia. Close to Cazenovia New York is the town of Chittenango New York. That is where the famous author Frank Baum (whom wrote “The Wizard of Oz”) lived. He got the idea for the “yellow brick road” from viewing the road that connects his home town, Chittenango, with Cazenovia New York. In the fall the road was covered with yellow leaves and that is where he stretched his creative license to form an iconic picture in a legendary film.

Most people think of New York as simply “New York City”. However, the vast beauty that is the state of New York can not be understated. From Niagara Falls, the Finger Lakes (wine country), Hyde Park home of the CIA (Culinary Institute of America), New York breathes a passion for life that stretches from Broadway to the Canadian border.

Just one more thing… if you’re thinking of going to New York, go in the Fall. Not only is it the most beautiful time to go but its one of the few times you won’t suffer from the oppressive heat or the freezing cold. Trust me… I know.

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