Story Time… PAZAZ™ Style!

First of all let me start off by saying, “I love people from Kansas!” I haven’t met a stadium full of people from Kansas but I’ve met enough to know that they are good, hard working people, very warm and friendly. But the best thing I can say about people from Kansas is the fact that out of all those wonderful people I’ve met, there hasn’t been one of them that didn’t keep their word.

My mom was from a small town in Kansas called Bison in Rush county that now can boast a population of 255. My dad lived in Hutchinson or “Hutch” as the natives called it, with a current population 40,623.

My mom was a school teacher and concert pianist, smarter then a whip and very talented. I don’t think without my mom’s help I would have passed from grade to grade. I possibly could have still been in the 7th grade trying to figure out why in the world they put letters into math equations with the sole purpose of trying to figure out what the number was. English and Science were completely baffling and the way they taught history (my nap time) could have put the most studious person to sleep.

All of that torture with the understanding that we had to also learn a foreign language (although my own language completely stymied me) which in this case was Spanish. To this day I only remember a small portion of dialog three which states, “I’ve been in this country for three years.” That and “Bano” which means bathroom could possibly ingratiate me to the local Spanish people for less than ten minutes.

Where I excelled was in the “extra curricular” studies which were all things related drama, music, and sports. This trinity of art and sport connected me to the school in a way that could have never happened without the influence from my mom and dad.

Many times after a barbecue my parents and friends would retire to the living room. Then my dad would break out the cordial cart and intoxicate his friends further. Pretty soon they’d be pounding on the tables wanting my mom and dad to play music, yelling out requests, and pontificating about their favorite songs.

My mom played the piano and accompanied my dad (whom played the violin). They most certainly made beautiful music together. My dad would lower that violin and sway to the music while my mom (ever the consummate musician) would roll her elbows from chord to chord exacting a precise execution of phrasing and interpretation to perfectly perform the piece.

In some cases this would lead to a medley of an artist or genre with both my mom and dad playing by ear their favorite tunes as per the request from the audience. The audience in many cases were friends they’d known for a life time, most of them from Kansas. I would sit on the couch in awe hoping some day that I could have the same affect on others as my parents did in that very special moment.

I could go on about the impact my parents had on me (as I am a violinist) in so many different ways but I will leave you with this. My mom’s name was Dorothy and she was from Kansas and my dad was a teacher as I mentioned, also from Kansas. My parents gave to others their whole lives instilling that it’s always better to give than receive. Together, as a team, they epitomized the love, truth, and honor that made our house a home.

Beautiful Experiences and Wonderful Places, PAZAZ™ Style

Have you ever had a moment that you wished could be frozen in time? Have you had a place, an experience, or a single occasion that you go back to when you want to smile?

Of course for most it might be the birth of a child, a marriage (or divorce), or an escape to a place that checks all the collective sensory boxes. Today, in this blog I will focus on a place, a wine, a meal that speaks to an internal conversation that ultimately creates a wave (for me) of endorphins whisking me off to a wonderful place where there’s no space in time.

To create this envelope of satisfaction and pleasure you must be able to dream. The dream can be an experience you’ve had or one you can imagine. I will give you several examples that reflect all the above.

When I was in high school I worked at the Caprice restaurant in Tiburon, California. It still exists today and can be found next to “Elephant Rock” across from Angel Island with views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Belvedere, and of course, Tiburon.

The hidden gem in this restaurant lies below the main dinning room and consists of a fireplace (carved out of the California coastline), portholes from the USS Texas, and a bar and wine cellar. The ceiling is covered with treasured old French wooden case boxes dating back to the 1950’s. But the real “Wow” is the fact that the wine cellar is chilled when the waves from San Francisco Bay come crashing underneath the restaurant to perfectly chill the wines in the cellar.

The owner felt it necessary to educate all employees in fine wine and port. On this particular occasion he pulled out of storage (beneath the seat cushions that provided seating around the portholes) a bottle of 1945 Quinta do Noval port wine. I didn’t know it at the time but that vintage was one of the top five of the 20th century. I remember as I tasted it (one of my first experiences tasting fine wine) the flavors of chocolate, spice, dark cherry, a gentle herbaceous-ness and a whisper of mint with a long elegant finish.

This single experience provided me with the impetus to learn and study fine wines, Ports, Madeiras, and my single favorite Burgundian pinot noir. It seems to me, that looking back, there could not possibly be any finer example of a wine and environment for launching my career in the food and beverage business.

The meal I will never forget took place (of all places) in Gualala California in Mendocino County. This amazing moment was captured at an inn called, St. Orres. The restaurant attached to this beautiful inn is designed like a Russian Mosque. A forty foot vaulted ceiling with stained glass and a view of their gardens is the perfect place to unveil a spectacular meal.

This meal was highlighted by the entree which was eloquently described by a passionate server. I asked the server,”Why should I order the lamb you tout as being the best in the world?” His reply, I will never forget…” The lamb is grass fed from organic grass on land that is the same longitude and latitude as Provence in France. This lamb is a breed called Cheviot which provides the most succulent and flavorful lamb in the world. Because of the cool breeze from the Pacific Ocean the lamb is weathered to provide a mouthwatering aroma and a sumptuous consistency. Sir, this will be the best preparation of the most perfect lamb you have ever tasted.”

Roasted to perfection in its own juice with fresh rosemary and thyme from their garden the display on custom plates to accentuate the dish also consisted of roasted organic potatoes, sauteed beets and beet stalk’s to give the plate a sense of elevation.

The place I’ll never forget is when I lived in the Thousand Islands of upstate New York. I lived in Alexandria Bay on the border of New York and Canada. I was the food and beverage manager at Bonnie Castle Resort and my room looked out to an island shaped like a heart that had a castle on it. The castle was built at the turn of the 20th century by George C. Boldt to reflect his love for his wife which is why he shaped the island like a heart.

I lived in a castle looking out to a castle in the Thousand Islands of upstate New York. I would upon many occasions marvel at the beauty that surrounded me and thank God how blessed I was to live in that experience.

Enjoy your experiences to draw upon during these troubling times to remember the beautiful memories that transcend any place where there’s no space in time.

What The World Needs Now…

…is love sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. Not just for some but for everyone.”

These are lyrics from a song composed by Burt Bacharach in 1965. It seems that certain songs and lyrics are timeless in their composition and message.

I look around today and it seems there is so much division and strife. It would be nice if the world could take a step back and remember what is truly important. Our coveted relationships with family and friends, the natural beauty of places and experiences that make up our collective lives, and the random acts of kindness that go unreported but not unappreciated.

If time was a curtain we could pull back to reveal the future it seems in most cases it would acknowledge the wasted time spent on worrying about things we can not control and the opinions we could not change.

The social evolutionary ladder of life suggests that certain rungs of connectivity are missing. Shouldn’t all of us be judged on our individual merits (which should include but not be limited to, love, truth, honor, respect, courage, intelligence, contribution to those whom need our assistance and guidance, and the love for our God, Family, and our Country) and not that which fits into a convenient packaged racial and social narrative?

I’m sorry but I’m missing the point of the constant droning on of negativity in a time, which (to change), we need the positive reinforcement that comes from forgiveness and the focus on the blessings that can be shared by all with a nuclear family, good education, and of course a faith based religion.

Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech that resonated with the majority of Americans on August 28th, 1963, “I have a dream.” Not one rock was thrown, not one police car was burned, not one business was destroyed… and yet this speech and this man literally changed the world.

If in some small way we can contribute through positive thoughts that doesn’t seclude or isolate our family, friends, and neighbors but propagates a new message that “What the world needs now, is love sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”

Pairing Brings A Big Smile… And A Reward!

From the depths of 2020 comes a smile projected across a vast spectrum of art forms that will take you to a place you’ve never been.

To pair art forms requires knowledge, heart, and a soul that touches the framework of an experience never to be forgotten. This is a lofty goal but remember that if the dream is big enough… the facts don’t count.

Another important factor in putting together a pairing is this: “It’s not how much you know… it’s how much you care”. I know my audience and I know that you are a group that cares intimately about those you call friends and family.

This excursion into the unknown begins with a plan and then the execution of said plan. Each dish is served with wine, a specific song played during the enjoyment of that course, and a specific poem to be read after serving the dish while the guests are enjoying their course.

This will be a sketch with a loosely provided schematic to transform a special dinner into a memory. And so we begin:

The First Course– Cauliflower roasted and blended into a soup with baked apple, cinnamon, and caramelized onions accompanied with Havarti cheese melted over a soft sourdough roll.

      • Wine Pairing – Dr. Loosen Kabinett Riesling
      • Music – Diana Krall -“Bye Bye Blackbird”
      • Poetry – Pablo Neruda “Your Laughter”

Second Course – Organic Butter lettuce salad with a cranberry/pear vinaigrette topped with roasted beets (Yellow and Red) served with Laura Chenel goat cheese and finished with a sprig of fresh basil and cilantro.

      • Wine Pairing – Domaine Chatelian, Petite Chablis (French) 2018
      • Music- Gregory Issacs – “If I Don’t Have You”
      • Poetry- Robert Frost – “The Road Not Taken”

Entree Course – Wild King Salmon topped with a mango salsa with an escort of scallop potato, marinated cucumber, in an organic blue berry ponzu sauce.

      • Wine Pairing- Torretti, Pinot Noir 2016 (Los Olivos, Ca.)
      • Music- Nat King Cole- “Unforgettable”
      • Poetry – Dylan Thomas – “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night”

Dessert – Bananas Foster

      • Wine Pairing- Far Niente Winery, Dolce 2018 (Napa)
      • Music- John Klemmer- “Touch”
      • Poetry – Bobbye S. Goldstein – “Sweets and Treats”