Results tagged ‘ Wine ’

The Things We Do for Baseball…on Vacation! + Giants Take the NLCS

Two baseball nuts. One week’s vacation. 4th week of October. Two glorious getaway destinations. Zero televisions. Whoa. What’s wrong with this picture? How ‘d that happen? Yes, I know. The 4th week of October is certainly an odd time for baseball fans to go on a week’s vacation, unless said vacation happens to involve following one’s team to various playoff destinations, I suppose. Yet, this is where we find ourselves. My husband’s industry requires everyone to take one week-long vacation each year and our’s was supposed to fall in midsummer, a decidedly less playoff-y time, followed by a long-ish weekend, this weekend, at the Paso Robles Harvest Festival we so adore. But work and family commitments prompted some pretty massive schedule adjusting and, so, here we are. I am not complaining at all – our vacation has been lovely so far! – just explaining how two baseball nuts wound up spending this of all weeks in two places – my inlaws’ Cambria house and their Yosemite cabin – with absolutely no televisions.

With the Angels sadly resting for the month of October, Seth and I figured, eh, missing a week of the playoffs isn’t that big a deal. We’ll be so busy, we won’t even notice we’re missing it, so let’s not bother trying to make plans to watch the games…and this would have been absolutely true if some of the games were on during the day. Night time, however, is a different story. Not a lot of biking, hiking and photo taking going on after the sun goes down. And so we found ourselves catching the NLCS Game 5 in a steakhouse bar in Oakhurst outside of Yosemite. Catching game 6 at the Chili’s in Paso Robles. And enjoying the fine hospitality of the Moonstone Bar and Grill for Game 7, where the food was infinitely better than Chili’s and the bartender did an admirable job of pacifying the Monday Night Football fans with two to three minutes check ins, so the rest of us could enjoy the game that really mattered. Bravo, good Sir, bravo! And all I can say about the game is holy outrageous comebacks, Batman! Congratulations to the NLCS Champion Giants who return from the brink of extension to win the series even better than the Cardinals.

Of course, even when Seth and I have been happily engrossed in purely vacation activities, baseball has a wonderful tendency to find us. Quick commiserations with transplanted Angels fans in the tasting room at Barrel 27 winery. Shooting the breeze with a transplanted Red Sox fan in the tasting room at Clavo Cellars – No worries, no trash talk involved. We all wisely stuck to the safe topics of shared annoyance with newer fans who weren’t around for the losing years and mutual dislike of a certain team in pinstripes. And then there was Chicago Ribs Night at Midnight Cellars.

Midnight Cellars was one of the first wineries Seth and I tasted at on our honeymoon back in 1999 and it was the first winery whose wine club we joined, ensuring many, many years of great wine and outstanding parties. Midnight is truly a family owned and operated winery. Every year for Harvest Festival, the family brings their native Chicago to California, with racks and racks of Carson’s ribs finished on Midnight’s BBQs complete with all of the fixings, live blues and more wine than any mere group of people could possibly consume – though we did put forth a valiant effort and at a minimum put a serious dent in the ribs supply. The end result is delicious, spirited, fun and, while I can’t speak to authenticity as I have yet to travel that far north, I can say that a surprising number of couples from the Chicago area, not all of them friends of the family, are drawn to California for this ribs night before they begin their wine country adventure.

Seth and I were seated at a table with two such couples, four friends enjoying a quick adults’ vacation away from the kids. One gent was asking Siri for the latest football scores on his cell phone. I mentioned I seldom follow football, but love baseball and he then asked how the Giants did last night because ‘I just can’t stand the thought of the Cardinals making it to the World Series again…’ Ah hah, Cubs fans! And they were pleased that we recognized them as such and knew about the Cubs/Cardinals rivalry. As usual, baseball proved to be an excellent icebreaker among fans and we had a lot of fun talking about all sorts of things peppered in between the wine, the ribs, the music, the ribs, the library wine, more ribs, the tequila shots (with the winemaker!!) and more ribs. And I have a feeling the foursome greeted Monday’s win with a little more wine to celebrate.

Anyway, quite the week “off” from baseball so far, wouldn’t you agree?

 

A Somewhat Belated Angels Regular Season Wake & an Offer of Postseason Congratulations

Congratulations to all of the teams who earned playoff berths and many thanks to all of the teams (even those like the Angels, Rays and Dodgers who didn’t quite make it) who helped make this playoff race such an exhilarating, every single game counts right down to the wire, experience. Yeah, I’m actually even gonna tip my glass to old Bud Selig for the change in playoff formats. I don’t compliment Bud very often for obvious reasons, and I did initially dread the format change, but if the end result that every season ends roughly like this, then that is one worthwhile format change! (We’ll talk about this evening’s crappy call and Wild Card Game under protest later after I’ve noodled over it a bit, as a former manager of mine used to say. But, in general, even with that, my *cringe* compliment still stands.)

Special congratulations to the Nationals and the Orioles for defying expectations and recent history all season long and to the A’s for what – seriously, all rivalries aside – was an absolutely epic comeback. While, of course, I wish the Angels had been able to push even harder in September and come back even farther to take the playoff berth in their place (or in the Rangers’), as a baseball fan, I just plain tip my glass to the A’s achievement as well. And I have one more glass tip – to Miguel Cabrera, and in his case let’s respectfully amend that to a hat tip, shall we. Yes, naturally I know all about the raging AL MVP debate right now and the season’s hot and heavy race for the batting title between Cabrera and our Angels’ hero, Mike Trout. But I want to set all that aside for a little while. The first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967? Wow! Seriously, wow! That is a big deal. Congratulations to Miguel Cabrera on an achievement that adds his to a very select and impressive list of names.

Yes, of course, I am disappointed my Angels didn’t make it to the Postseason, but they took too long to gell as a team, losing too many games along the way, and even though their play in the 2nd half was inspired, they were flat out outplayed by the A’s. And you know what? Fie on all of this failed season talk from the analysts. That’s baseball. Sometimes you get outplayed. Yes, the Angels spent a metric F ton of money on the team this season, but since when does money guarantee success? Big payrolls and big free agent signings don’t work out – or, as in the Angels case, don’t work out right away – all the time. Besides, the Angels had a lot of be proud of this season with a no hitter and an epic, record breaking rookie season both high on that list. (And, if you’re of a mind, you can check out what else I had to say on this very subject on L.A. Angels Insider.) I tip my glass to the Angels twice – once in mourning for the season that wasn’t, and once in pride for the season that was!

Yes, I do read the fabled wisdom that is the internets. I am aware that Angels fans are rumored to be some of the whiniest, most “it’s always someone else’s fault,” overly entitled fans out there and I do understand that if you read it on the internet it absolutely must be true and all that. ;) Well, fie on all of that too – and since when are there rules for such things anyway and who gets to write them I ask? ;) The Angels were outplayed. I am disappointed but far from devastated. I offer my sincere congratulations to all of those who did the outplaying. (More tips of the glass…yes, the Postseason demands quite a few tips of one’s glass. It’s excellent practice for the offseason which requires even more to get through. Why do you ask?) And I promise to regale the lot of you with all of my hopes, plans and general armchair GMing for the Angels 2013 throughout the fall and winter. You have been warned. ;)

 

Of Angels Losses, Angels Wins, Good Food, Better Wine and Really High Socks

Thursday’s game. Angels vs. A’s. Our usual attempts to get to the ballpark at a decent hour actually worked this time and we arrived in time to catch the tail end of warm ups.

'So about these socks'...(which are completely awesome, by the way) Howie Kendrick, Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos warm up and chat before the game. Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

C.J. Wilson and Chris Iannetta warm up before the game - this looks a lot like what we do in Pilates. Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And in time to catch Erick Aybar’s Gold Glove Award ceremony…Murphy’s Law being what it is, of course this meant he was good for at least one colossal error this game and Murphy, sadly as usual, did not disappoint. Oh well, it was still neat to watch him get the award, especially on the day the Angels very smartly locked him up for four more years! Whoo hoo!

Erick Aybar accepts his Gold Glove Award and seems to say 'now, don't you break that while I'm gone.' Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Before the game begins, the unlit halo looms expectantly over the stadium. Sadly, the halo would remain unlit for another evening.

The Halo, unlit, before the game. Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Heading down the 57 for the game, I told my husband that I had a good feeling about this game, that I was sure the Angels were due for a win and that we would get to see Albert Pujols’ first Angels home run…personally, I don’t think I was so much wrong as just a game or two early. See, I don’t claim clairvoyance, I just see patterns and the Angels patterns say improvement to me.

Albert Pujols went 3 for 5 with 3 doubles! And one of them would have been a homer with about 5 more inches in height. Missed it by that much! Gotta love the Big A in the evening. Angels vs. A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I am love, love, loving Chris Iannetta! It started with his bat (namely the fact that he's a catcher who puts it to use, novel concept that), continued with how the pitchers seem to love him and was forever confirmed when he broke up that double play on Thursday with authority! Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo prepares to make things happen, once again, with his bat. I LOVE how he looks down his bat at the pitcher before he gets into position. For some reason it puts me in mind of an old west gunslinger about to take down the big bad. Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

...and the swing! Scioscia, we need to find a way to keep Trumbo in the lineup, alongside Kendrys Morales and, of course, Albert Pujols as many nights as possible. Make it so...please!!! Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Indeed, the Angels were improved over the previous evening, though still unvictorious and then this evening, they were even further improved – though we still seriously need to work on those LOBsters – and they won!!

Obviously, it’s more fun to be at a game where the Angels win, than one where they lose, but as much as I was annoyed with mistakes that simply didn’t have to be, we still had a fine evening at the ballpark – because isn’t an evening at that the ballpark better than an evening just about anywhere else? And the A’s fan gents behind us were a kick and a half. Be it at the Big A or the coliseum the opposing fans I tend to have the most fun with are A’s fans. I hope you enjoyed your trip, boys, and that we were as nice to you as your fellows were to us on our trip to Oakland last season – and the A’s fans were pretty darned nice hosts.

Honestly, one game is only one game so my greatest regret about the Angels losing this specific one game is the high socks. Note:

Clearly Peter Bourjos has been an excellent sartorial influence on Vernon Wells. (And speaking of Vernon, don't think I haven't noticed the plate improvements. I'm rooting for you!!...because of course the Angels have time and inclination to read blogs, LOL!) Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

...and on Erick Aybar too? Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Did you ever expect to see Torii Hunter in high socks? Apparently Bourjos is a good influence. ;) Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Heck, did you ever expect to see Albert Pujols in high socks? Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Yes, exactly, they all wore high socks to change their luck…well, except C.J. and the other pitchers. If the Angels had won this game, you know the high socks would be here to stay, and I do appreciate the neater, more professional look of the old school uniform.

Speaking of C.J., part of the impetus of my going online to find the $10 club section tickets for this game was the thought that I wanted to see Mr. Wilson’s home debut in an Angels uniform. Well, Mr. Wilson, as you have probably seen on Quick Pitch, SportsCenter or the like had some good innings and some not so good innings and one pretty bad inning – not his usual performance at all, though typical of the times the Angels did beat him. Hit C.J. early and he gets a little flustered. Still it was nice to help welcome him to the Big A properly and if his first two appearances and all of the times I’ve watched him kick Angels behind in a Rangers uniform are any indication, I expect pretty good things.

C.J. Wilson begins his pitch. Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

...and the finish. I never noticed the high leg before - one more interesting delivery to add to the Angels ecclectic collection. Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

You could see the bullpen well from our seats. They look so normal and harmless, don’t they? Well, by and large they are, or rather their harm is helpfully directed at the opposition. As for the rest of time, well, to paraphrase Wednesday, homicidal maniacs look like everybody else, don’t they?

The Bullpen waits...but for good or evil? Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

LaTroy Hawkins - one of the bullpen pitchers who absolutely does _not_ scare me. Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Still, they were more than acceptable on Thursday and pretty darned good on Friday and I so want to see a pattern there!

Friday evening’s game further confirms the pattern I thought I was seeing earlier – improvement. Yes, there are still a few issues, but I think that if we can just find a lineup, or even one lineup for groundball pitchers and one lineup for flyball pitchers, and that/those lineup(s) make sense, and we stick with it/them long enough for guys to get comfortable, we’ll really see something here.

And speaking of a return to consistency, after way, way too many day games, the Friday Night Ritual is back – that’s right Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels. This evening I made a spinach, tomato and mushroom paella with grilled Argentinean chorizo (it’s closer to a heavily paprika-ed Italian sausage than the chorizo you may be used to). It was everything the Friday night ritual should be – a delicious and gourmet seeming but budget conscious meal to enjoy with the game plus leftovers for the rest of the weekend. We paired it with a yummy (totally a technical/industry term ;) ) Paso wine – Clavo’s Collusion, a Cabernet, Malbec and Petite Verdot blend. Yum! Perhas the return of the Friday night ritual added a little luck? Okay, probably not. But that doesn’t make it any less tasty.

And if there seems to be a certain, um, disjointedness to this post, a, shall we say, joie de vin…well…there’s a reason for that. Did you not read about the ritual? It’s Friday!! The Halo is lit and so am I! Happy weekend everyone!

Weekend Gourmet, Wine Festival and Angels Blogger Spring Training?

A belated Happy Saint Patrick’s Day from the Emerald Isle!…

View of Paso Robes farmland taken from West Highway 46 looking out towards a completely mist shourded Morro Bay. The rock? I can't see it, but who cares with all this pretty. March 17, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

…Yeah, I wish. ;) Though as not-Ireland places for a St. Patrick’s weekend getaway go, Paso Robles, CA is plenty nice enough. And although the particular shades of green in this landscape are all wrong for Ireland, it is still quite lovely and the mist and rain were at least accurate. So what’s a diehard Angels fan like me doing in a place like Paso Robles when there are games going on Arizona, you ask?

Well, with Pujols-mania bringing folks out to Tempe in droves, hotel stays and such suddenly got more expensive and harder to book, so we decided to wait and go to Spring Training another year. Oh well, I was a little sad but that does mean more money for the regular season ticket budget, which certainly makes up for missing out…and, besides, it’s the Zinfandel Festival which means I just spent a lovely weekend going through my own little baseball blogger’s Spring Training, which came none too soon if you ask me. Between Albert Pujols heating up the lineup, the rest of the bats following right long, the starting rotation looking great and even more formidable with the addition of C.J. Wilson, and what is looking more and more like the very real possibility of Kendrys Morales returning to the 25-man roster, this could be a very special season in the making. A blogger’s got to prepare. Training and drills are a must.

Okay, training and drills. Fine, you say. But at a wine festival? Of course at a wine festival! Where else could I get all of this practice and prep in? Take photos, for example. If you read this blog last season – first off thank you! – you know I like to take photos when I go to Angels games so that I can pepper my posts with photos that are as much mine as the commentary. Well, taking baseball game photos can be tricky. There’s a lot of action. Your subjects are constantly on the move, sometimes in unpredictable ways. It’s all too easy for the rusty blogger to end up with a large collection of photos like this one, which I like to call Not-So-Still life with Aybar:

A blurry, bad Erick Aybar rounding first base photo that is only seeing the light of day per the Roger Rabbit rules: Only when it's funny! Angels vs. White Sox, May 10, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Or even this one. Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos were both well in frame and in focus when I started to take the photo…:

A blurry, bad Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos warming up photo that is only seeing the light of day per the Roger Rabbit rules: Only when it's funny! Angels vs. Mariners, September 5, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

You’ve got to warm up for tricky action shots. Practicing on things that don’t move but require a lot of detail and focus can be helpful, like this vineyard (I love the gnalred, wintery vines and the  lines created by the three distinct fields with vines running at three different angles):

Views like this are why I say if I could find a way to make money up here, I would absolutely move to Paso Robles. Anyone need a mortgage banking, copy writing couple? We would probably be fair hats at catering and he brews excellent beer! March 16, 2012, Red Soles Winery property. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Or this gorgeous tasting room:

Shale Oak Winery's absolutely gorgeous eco-friendly tasting room. Grab a glass of something bold and fruity and head for the fire pits on the patio. March 16, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Then you can move on to some simple action subjects, like these Paso Robles wild turkeys:

Why did these Paso Robles wild turkeys cross the field? Duh, to get to road of course. March 16, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I say a simple action shot because, although this is an impressive little dominance display here, with a lot of action going on, turkeys (the real ones with feathers at any rate) don’t generally muck up photos by adjusting themselves. Still, although no Spring Training can ever replicate the real thing I think I have gotten enough “innings” in with the camera to be ready for the regular season.

As for the rest of my blogger’s Spring Training? Well, I got to study plenty of tasty treats in preparation for my Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels nights, like this glorious roast pork panini and sundried tomato salad from Farmstand 46. They call it The Goat:

If you're ever passing through Paso Robles, Farmstand 46 is a must! Behold The Goat, a slow roated pork shoulder panini topped with pickled onions, salty gruyere and a homemade garlic aioi, accompanied by a sundried tomato salad and real macaroons. March 16, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

…or the Zinfandel sliders, the tacos al pastor, the paella or any of the other deliciousness I was too busy nom-ing to take a photo of. Would I really make a roast pork panini or paella just for our Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels enjoyment? *laughs* Will Mike Scioscia change the Angels lineup a minimum of 60 times this season? Hell. Yes.

Speaking of Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels, what better place to stock up the old wine cellar than at Zin Fest? Yes, I think it’s going to be a beautiful season:

Part of this year's Zin Fest haul. As they say in Paso Robles, 'Sip. Swirl. Enjoy!' Don't mind if I do. March 17, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I even got my usual pre-season gabfest in with some of the Giants fans at the Barrel 27 pick-up party. Not surprisingly they are every bit as thrilled to be getting Buster Posey back as we are with the positive Kendrys outlook. Not to mention it was fun talking rookies and just barely not rookies with them. The Giants have some great younger players in the mix or soon to be in the mix too – one gent I was chatting with is particularly enamored with Baby Giraffe, Brandon Belt – so our two fan bases have some fun things in common.

So, I have my trusty camera at the ready, my Opening Day tickets in hand…er…inbox, plenty of wine options (seriously if I actually showed you the full collection of options, you would laugh at me!) and my typing fingers limber and warmed up. 19 days until Opening Day and I. Can’t. Wait!

Musings on Baseball and Wine – Hey, It’s January. What Do You Want? ;)

All work and no baseball makes Kristen a sad girl…a most unacceptable state of affairs if you ask Kristen, I can tell you that. Lacking the ability to add baseball to the equation, clearly it was time to mix in a little playtime. It’s a three day weekend, so naturally Seth and I lit out for Cambria and Paso Robles the second we were both off work and packed up on Friday night. Yeah, it was a 4 and half hour drive starting at 8 p.m. So what? Brown footed loons are naturally nocturnal…and diurnal and crepuscular for that matter, whichever natural activity cycle is apt to lead to greater work productivity and/or a good time. We’re adaptable like that. Anyway, as we noted walking around town this morning, the Cambria/Paso Robles/long weekend/random weekend thing has been our thing for as long as there has been an us. Some years, I think we use the house more than his parents do…other years I know we do.

And after this many years of coming up here to California’s Central Coast wine county, I can tell you that that natural cycles of baseball and California wine mirror each other in so many different ways it’s a wonder they aren’t more closely associated than the more traditional pairing of baseball and beer. Just to name a few:

  • In California, wine’s biggest event, its Fall Classic if you will, is the Harvest and crush (literally what it sounds like) which occurs in October. And, much like in baseball, you really want to get it over with before you hit November if at all possible.
  • While wine blending, bottling and selling can occur all year long depending on what varietals a winery offers, the majority of the blending, the tinkering with the 25 man roster if you will, occurs in February and March and again in the early summer months.
  • Rookie wines can be excellent right out of the bottle, or take several years of aging and conditioning before they really show their stuff, and the aging almost always improves the end result.
  • Some winemakers rely on their own farm system, growing the majority of their own grapes. Others rely on the farm systems of their colleagues. Trades and outright “free agency” purchases are common.
  • Many amateur aficionados think they know almost as much as or ever better than the professionals…and a lot of them have blogs. ;)
  • Both the aficionados and the professional raters rely on often obscure numbers and statistics that are not necessarily what the actual wine makers, being more of a by taste, gut instinct and experience sort, rely on when putting together the finished product.
  • And then, there is the fickle finger of fate thing. Just as really promising rookies may fail to live up to their potential or excellent ballplayers suffer career ending injuries, sometimes nature says “nope, I don’t think so” in the form of a drought, or quite the opposite, or any number of other minor disasters and the grapes just don’t live up to their potential either.

This last bit really speaks to what’s happening in Paso Robles and I would imagine the rest of California’s winery regions this year. California didn’t really have much of a summer in 2011. And, while consistent balmy mid 70’s weather is wonderful for tourism and fantastic fodder for any number of movies, it absolutely sucks for grapes which need hot days and cool breezes at night in order to fully develop the sugars that eventually ferment into the delicious nectar we enjoy. That kind of weather was in short supply this off season, much like free-agent starting pitchers of quality.

And, much like baseball teams with said starting pitchers, wineries tried different things to insure victory, from leaving the grapes on the vines an extra long time, risking catastrophic rain storms, to stripping the leaves off to give the gapes the full benefit of the sun, risking malnourishment and, should the heat wave finally come, scorched grapes. Just as in baseball, some wineries lucked out and some did not (the Angels clearly falling in the former category here). And it’s safe to say that in both worlds a lot of teams/wineries have rebuilding years ahead of them. But here’s the thing about rebuilding years in wine or in baseball that a lot of folks forget. Rebuilding necessities can lead to unexpected levels of creativity and take us in directions we never thought we could go. And, every now and then, this leads to an even better result than anyone could have possibly imagined. I can’t wait to see how the fruits of 2011 and early 2012 work out for everyone, on the field and in my glass. Cheers!

Wine-ing Over Baseball…Or Is That the Other Way Around? Either Way, Yum!

For the last few years Seth and I have spent the second to last weekend of every October in Cambria and Paso Robles for the Wine Alliance’s Harvest Festival. Sadly, the Angels have either been out of it by this point or never in it to begin with so taking a trip away hasn’t been a tough decision. What will we do next year or in 2013 if the Angels are still in the thick of things? Well, suffice to say that is a conundrum I would love to have! It’ not like we’d have hotel reservations to cancel. We stay at his folks’ place. Yes, I know how lucky I am!

Random thoughts from the weekend:

1) Taking a trip up here in the middle of the post season doesn’t have to mean sacrifice for the baseball fan. There is usually someplace great to watch the game, a winery throwing a baseball party, like the one we attended last year, a local you hit it off with tipping you off to an open party somewhere, or something. Sights like this are not uncommon. Best. License. Plate. Ever…okay…maybe not ever, but still:

Cool folks abound in Paso Robles and you meet the nicest ones at bacon and wine pairings. Go figure. Photo by This is a very simple game...

2) Things are not always what they seem. I figured I’d get my tips on where to watch the game this weekend from the baseball winery. No dice. Because of the too mild weather, harvest is still going on instead of just finished and all of their biggest baseball fans are out working. No, I got my best tips – and excellent wine! – from the gentleman at the Pithy Little Wine Company, nestled in a gorgeous boutique looking tasting room in downtown. And thank you, good Sir, excellent tips they were.

3) There have been less bad calls this post season than I remember from other post seasons, but they’re still there.

4) I said it before and I’ll say it again, I miss having a Molina brother behind the plate.

5) Every time I sit down to watch Albert Pujols play I think, nah, he can’t quite live up to the hype no matter how good he is…only to be reminded a few plays later that, no, really, he is that good.

6) Even injured, Josh Hamilton is almost that good. St Louis fan walking into the bar for the first time in the 6th inning: What happened? How did Texas score that last run? Me: Josh Hamilton happened. St. Louis fan: Say no more.

7) Sitting down at the bar to watch the game, wherein you are rooting for St. Louis as your borrowed team, behind this sight is not as daunting as you might think. Hey, at least you know they’re all baseball fans and not going to start whining about wanting to change the station to football!:

Clearly these fine folks are disappointed Phillies fans, just latching on to another team for the rest of the month, LOL! True Texas fans the lot of them, great bsseball fans, and really nice folks. Photo by This is a very simple game...

8) Catching a ball I can understand. I would never lean out over the rail to catch a ball, even if I don’t agree with it, on some level I understand why someone might do this in the heat of the moment. But throwing a ball onto the field? Seriously? I can’t understand it at all. Kudos to the Rangers ushers for kicking him out…not that I expected anything less.

9) Cheese and wine pairing is wonderful. Small bites and wine even better. BBQ and wine pairing rocks. But a bacon and wine pairing is the best of all. Yes, bacon and wine. And I assure you, it was even better than it sounds, especially the wild boar bacon paired with rich cabernet. Yum! And it’s even better when you meet another baseball fan couple up from Los Angeles for the festival weekend. A Cubbie and a Red Sox fan – proof that two long standing curses (one broken and then some) can cancel one another out into a happy marriage.

10) I wished Mike Napoli all the best with the Rangers when he got traded and I meant it. But I have to confess, hearing the entire stadium chant Nap-o-li, Nap-o-li when he comes up to bat with runners in scoring position and seeing all of the signs that talk about how clutch he is makes me feel a little ill. Why couldn’t you have done some of that for us, Mike? I know you didn’t have as many opportunities, but you did have opportunities.

11) Regarding the previous bullet, I don’t know where this sort of October pettiness is coming from. I haven’t always been this childish about losing. They say adversity breeds character. Well, apparently, baseball “adversity” breeds the wrong kind of character in me. *sigh*

12) For a game where the final score was so darned uneven, it sure didn’t seem uneven in the middle. I swear Texas was on the verge of catching up every time they came up to the plate.

13) Cambria is small and internet access at the house is always sketchy and, in fact, non existent this weekend, but there are worse things. Spending the afternoon like this up the street at Moonstone Cellars, one of the wineries with free Wi-Fi while we plot our dinner and game viewing strategy (no TV at the house either), doesn’t suck. Tempranillo. Yuuuuuum!:

Wine, cheese, books, blogging _and_ the games on in 15! Is the heaven? No ma'am, just Cambria. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Friday Gourmet, Wine and…Cardinals??

I know, I know. It doesn’t sound the same without the Angels at all. But what’s a fan to do? Ignore the post season? Go into deep mourning every Friday night? I think not. So consider this Friday Gourmet: the Post Season Edition. And I have to say, even though I was sorely missing the Angels, having two excellent games for my viewing pleasure did make for a most enjoyable Friday. How cool is it that three of the four LDS match-ups went to Game 5 and all four match-ups were decided by 1 run? Pretty darned cool and extremely exciting. Suffice to say, this post season we’ve seen some good, close matchups.

I’ll admit it. I started my Friday a little early and snuck in the last two innings of the D-Backs game while I finished up a few things for work…hey, I also finally shut down the work laptop at home on Thursday just shy of midnight, so I think they still came out of this with the majority of my attention. ;) What a good game! I wanted the D-Backs to win. But it was so close and everyone played so well, that they should certainly go home with their heads held high and rest up for next season when I have no doubt they’ll pick up right where they left off. (Though hopefully a rebuilt Dodgers team with spanking new owners will give them a run for their money and wind up in the top spot. Sorry Gibby. That’s just the way it works with me.) And, in the meantime, Congratulations to the Brewers! At the same time I was sorry to see the D-Backs lose, I was also pleased to see these guys win. Hey, it’s the post season. That’s allowed.

As for the Cardinals/Phillies game? That was one heck of taut pitcher’s duel. Both teams were on and it really could have gone either way. It was very exciting! I am sorry to say that I didn’t have the appropriate appreciation for Chris Carpenter before watching this game. Consider my eyes opened. He and Halliday were very well matched. Oh to be a fly on the wall during their planned fishing trip this off season. The game was so good, in fact, that Seth had to jokingly remind me not to wait to time the dinner by smoke detector twice. In my rushing back and forth between the kitchen and the TV, I’d failed to notice the timer going off. (Given the option to watch a big game live I hate, HATE, to pause it for longer than one could logically catch back up during a commercial break if I can help it.) You laugh, dear reader, but timing a meal by smoke detector has happened to both of us before. Only when cooking under extenuating distracting circumstances, mind you, such as during a game. …Oh, okay. Or when blackening fish or chicken. But, seriously. Searing blackening spice encrusted meat is really just a culinary game of chicken with the smoke detector anyway, so I don’t think that should count. ;)

Yeah, I was cooking a little towards the beginning of the game. It was Friday after all. I baked a spicy chili, cheddar bread and toasted up thick slices of it with turkey, thick slices tomato, slivers of onion and homemade cheddar garlic spread melted over the top. Paired with a gorgeous Muscat Canelli from Eberle it was really, really good if I do say so myself. Yes, paired with a sweet wine. Okay, you’re forgiven for making that face. You’ve probably only ever had sips of some ghastly sugar bomb like Beringer’s White Zinfandel or the like before. Trust me, it’s all about balance and a good sweet wine paired with something pungent and earthy like blue cheese or camembert, or with something spicy like Thai food or, say, a sandwich made with bread that includes a fair bit of fresh diced jalapeño, and it is a thing of beauty. And, hey, an evening in with good food, good wine a great game? It doesn’t get much better than that.

Would that this evening’s ALCS game had been as good. I would be willing to be that Verlander could have recovered his command given a few more innings in a row with no rain delay, but that may or may not have been enough. And then after the first rain delay it was C.J. Wilson’s turn to get a little sloppy, but not enough so for the Tigers to take the lead. Oh well. That’s only the first game. So, tomorrow. Bike ride. Minor chores. Then brunch eventually and a heck of a lot of baseball, possibly accompanied by the Tigers friendly Rio Seco wine. (Rio Seco’s winemaker played in the Tigers minor league system) Now, who the heck am I rooting for in the NLCS?? I like ‘em both and would enjoy seeing either in the World Series, so that is the question of the evening. Any thoughts?

E Is for Errors, Elimination and Exasperation…But the Angels Got Better

Were you aware that, in addition to being MLB “berth” month, September is both National Wine Month and National Bourbon Month? Whether or not this is coincidence, I can’t help but feel it’s appropriate…unlike some of those other special monthly designations like National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Month (thanks, but weren’t we all aware of alcohol in college, like extremely aware) and National Pork Month (I’m not entirely certain if this is more of a food thing or an offshoot of National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness thing but I was hesitant to see what the internets would tell me if I looked it up. You understand, I’m sure.) I can really get behind this September last month of baseball/alcohol appreciation tie-in thing. Suitable for comfort or celebrations, alcohol pairs wonderfully with all of your September needs. But I digress…

A few of my favorite things! - with shout outs to Paso Port, Chronic Cellars, Mitchella Winery, Barrel 27, Bodega de Edgar and Cypher Winery because you are all amazing and more people should try your libations.

So, the Angels lost to the A’s and now have a big old E next to their name in the AL West, the last team to fall prey to the dreaded E, though time zone bias did play a role in that. After the loss to the Jays especially, I was expecting this eventually. I am even glad it happened early enough to avoid having to watch Texas celebrate on our infield when I go to the game on Monday, but that doesn’t mean I am happy about it in general, you understand. Even so, Friday night was a good night at the ballpark if for no other reason than aren’t they always?

Angels hangout on the dugout fence during their first inning at bat. Vernon Wells says, "Damn it Trout, I said _don't_ look. Gotta learn to be more subtle, rookie. Check out my trick with the bat."

Fresh off a start on three days’ rest, Jered Weaver was a little overly strong in the first inning, giving up a homerun to Jemile Weeks in the first at bat and hitting Josh Willingham before settling down for six scoreless innings. Really, with 3 runs, only two of them earned, on 6 hits and 0 walks with 8 strikeouts? Weaver pitched well enough to win.

At the beginning of each inning, just before his first pitch, Jered Weaver turns away from the mound and touches his toes twice, then turns to the mound and writes an N and an A in the dirt with his finger in memory of his friend Nick Adenhart... this sign of the kind heart within the bulldog exterior is one of many reasons Weaver will always be one of my favorite Angels. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jered Weaver begins his delivery. He pitched well enough to win if the Angels' bats hadn't been stuck in customs or some such. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The bullpen, shown here largely in goofier relaxed moments, was solid too with Rich Thompson coming in to record the last two outs in two batters in the 9th.

Rich Thompson joins the game in the 9th. Thompson walks up to Midnight Oil's "Dream World," a cute choice for our Aussie reliever. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

"What'cho talkin' about Chopper!" Rich Thompson indulges in the age old pastime of 'confuse-a-rookie' and judging from the look on Hank Conger's face, he's rather good at it. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Scott Downs chats with the bullpen coach and catcher. "I swear Downsy, his strike zone was *this* big!" Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Sadly, Gio Gonzales was on and, as usual, largely incomprehensible to the Angels while our bats remained…Inert? Immobile? Stuck in customs? Whatever the reason, the team only cobbled together three hits while stranding 10 guys on base, only one of whom (outside of Torii’s solo homerun) actually made it all the way to third. You don’t win ballgames that way, especially against the A’s who, regardless of what their record says this season, can and will make a team pay for mistakes…mistakes like our boneheaded fielding error in the 8th, for example.*face palm*

And Gio Gonzalez was his usual A-game self and stymied the Angels yet again. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Howie Kendrick takes a swing...sadly for naught. Howie was 0 for 4 for the night. But this season more often than not, HK47's bat had been a weapon indeed. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mike Trout takes a mighty practice swing...alas, Trout was yet aother 0-for this game. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

First baseman Mark Trumbo and runner Josh Willingham move with the ball off the bat...it was a foul. Trumbo had a much better ngiht defensively and was responsible for 2 of the Angels 3 hits. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game... (Seth)

I was disappointed with the loss to be sure, but accepted what was, at this point in the season, inevitable. I reminded myself that I had enjoyed a lot of the season, had enjoyed this evening out at the ballpark and that the Angels still had a small shot at clenching the wild card. And so I began to watch the final Friday Night Fireworks post game show of the season only somewhat deflated. And I was fine. Really adult about all of it. It’s only baseball, right? …right up until the bouncy Beach Boys soundtrack ended and the next wave of beautiful fireworks launched to the tune of Train’s Calling All Angels. Then the distinct explosions of glittering color blurred into an impressionist knock off of blue and red swirled with green, purple and yellow as tears welled up in my eyes and began to roll down my cheeks.

I am not proud of this fact. I am 35 years old and this was a baseball season, one of many near playoff misses I have witnessed in my lifetime. But…there was a wonderful quote that prefaced the broadcast of the 2010 All Star Game in Anaheim. I have searched and searched today, trying to find the exact quote, but the Interwebs have failed me. The gist of the quote is that baseball is a child’s game and when we watch the game we do so through a child’s eyes and with a child’s glee and so, for the span of a game, can remember however briefly the wonder and innocence of being a child. Baseball always fills me with a child’s excitement and glee, so looking back on last night I think it’s only appropriate that, for a few moments, it filled me with a child’s disappointment, raw and unencumbered by any need to put on a brave face and act the adult.

Ten minutes later and on into today, I have prospective and am back to disappointed but not crushed. Still, for those of us who do embody the quote I can’t find when around this pastime we adore, I think it’s important to embrace and acknowledge this side of ourselves. Even if it means admitting that all too often there absolutely is crying in baseball, this is also the side that allows us to experience unrestrained and darned near unreasonable joy over the feats of 25 men we don’t know on a field of grass, clay and chalk. The side of us that allows us to, for example, cheer again the very next day after a division elimination while we return to torturing ourselves with Wild Card elimination number math. I think it’s the child side balanced with the adult that allows me to laugh when I am happy and search for reasons to laugh even harder when I am disappointed or upset. To that end, I give you the rest of the photos I have selected from the game, all photos that made me laugh for one reason or another:

First basemen crack me up. Mark "Chatty Cathy" Trumbo and Jemile Weeks exchange pleasantries at first. "Damn, that Weaver is nasty. So, Trumbo, what's a good steakhouse down here?" Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Peter Bourjos, Mike Trout and Torii Hunter relax during a pitching change. Bourjos says, "Really Torii?!" while Trout is incredulous. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Peter Bourjos, Mike Trout and Torii Hunter relax during a pitching change. Now, Bourjos and Trout are both incredulous. "Come on Torii, you expect us to believe that?!" Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Josh Willignham, Coco Crisp and David DeJesus kick back during a pitching change. Coco says, "Hmmm...what about a steakhouse? Jemile said Trumbo told him about the great place in Brea." Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Beware of jazz hands! Peter Bourjos strikes a pose halfway bewteen Ichiro and Dancing with the Stars during a pre-inning warm up. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And, hey, good news this evening! A stronger Angels performance earned a victory while the Red Sox lost to the Yankees…and the Rays won too but what can you do? The Angels also announced their team awards. Congratulations to Jered Weaver for winning the Nick Adenhart Pitcher of the Year award and to Mark Trumbo for the team M.V.P. award – neither a surprise and both extremely well deserved!! So, onward to the last four games of the season and hopefully the last four wins of the season. I am all for the Angels finishing the season as strong as they can whether that means a miracle Wild Card Playoff berth or just a final record that’s that much better.

The Angels and Orioles Did Wha…La La La La, Not Listening!!

My husband just got a new job!! Lacking the ability to set off fireworks from my blog, execute a Nastia Liukin worthy tumbling run of joyous flips and whipbacks, or hire John Williams to compose an appropriately uplifting and celebratory musical score just for the occasion, I don’t think I can adequately explain the magnitude of our happiness over this news…so that extra exclamation point will have to suffice. He has a little bit of time in between jobs so to celebrate we headed up the coast for a long weekend at my inlaws’ place in Cambria.

However, just because I decided to take the weekend off from watching baseball games does not mean the Angels were supposed take the weekend off from playing them. Oh yes boys, I may not have been watching, so I missed all of the hit batsmen and other drama and will have to catch up when I return, but I saw those scores and can I just say? Yuck. Ouch. And what the hell was that?! And against a last place team too! Yes, this is baseball and in any given season the underdog pulls through a reasonable number of times but the fact remains that these are games the Angels needed to win. Good thing I am weekending in the land of relaxing views and copious amounts of wine!

Then on Sunday *poof* as if by magic, the bats reappeared (Hel-lo Erick Aybar!), as did the gloves and the arms. The pitching settled down. Our ace took the mound on short rest and, without the Texas heat compounding things, gave the team just what it needed. And ‘lo and behold we had ourselves a contending baseball team that actually played like one.

…which does , of course, raise the question, are the Angels still contending? After this weekend’s performance, salvaged on Sunday or not, do they still have a chance in Hell of making the playoffs? That’s a tough question…

I have a fantastic recipe for a chocolate mousse pie. It’s a deceptively simple recipe, just good bittersweet chocolate, butter, eggs, sugar and cream with splashes of vanilla and dark rum. The secret to the mousse is all technique and chemistry, so external factors like the weather or the temperature of the kitchen can ruin it all too easily. If something goes wrong and the chocolate in the ganache at the base of the mousse begins to seize, all you can do is whisk it for all you’re worth and hope you can get the whipped cream to blend in to make mousse. At this point, failure is almost certain and, chances are, all you will be left with is a sore arm and a lump of chocolate the consistency of greasy play dough sitting in a pool of thinning whipped cream. But every now and then, luck and just quick enough thinking are on your side, and everything whisks into a perfect suspension of chocolate in whipped cream awaiting only the addition of the meringue.

Honestly, I think this is where the Angels are right now. Whisking and hoping. They did a lot of damage this weekend and with only 10 games left in the season…I just don’t know. With Weaver pitching on short rest, we have our best possible pitchers lined up for the final series against Texas but more stars have to align on the way to that series for it to matter. We are 4.5 games out of first. It’s not just a matter of the Angels needing to win at this point, Texas needs to lose. A lot. But I haven’t thrown my cap – yes, the “ugly” one ;) – down in disgust and given up yet. Any chance, no matter how small, is worth rooting for.

So, boys, for this next series against Toronto, did you remember to pack your bats? Gloves? Arms? Clutch? Drive? Best pitching performances? Fantastic! I trust you made a list and checked everything off just to be sure? Wonderful. Hopefully you rearranged your bags so you could bring all of this on as carryon luggage this time. We don’t need those bats or gloves to get lost at the airport again like they apparently did in Baltimore, now do we?

Labor Day Weekend Brain Drippings – Angels Baseball and Otherwise

  1. From a baseball standpoint, Saturday and Sunday were as heartening as Friday was disappointing. Outside of baseball, the whole weekend rocked. I didn’t bring a single project home from work this weekend. Go team, me! Okay, I work from home for half the week so, technically, I didn’t bring a single project out of my computer bag for the weekend, but you get the general idea.
  2. Jered Weaver, fresh off the plane from his grandfather’s funeral in Oregon (My sincere condolences on your loss. Losing a grandparent is extremely difficult and the bruise on your heart may fade, but never leaves.) worked his heart out on the mound for five innings on Saturday but his control was, understandably, far from his usual precision. It was a thing of beauty to see the rest of the team, offense, defense and bullpen alike, pick him up and get Jered the win. It was an ugly win to be sure, but the guy’s had so many pretty losses that he more than deserved this.
  3. Food Truck Wars alumni Nom Nom Truck, Grill ‘Em All and the Grilled Cheese Truck too? Believe the hype, they really are worth spending 45 minutes in line. They fact that in doing so we also contributed to a fundraiser for the local high school band? Pretty cool way to kill a Saturday afternoon.
  4. Joel Pineiro looked amazingly like…well…Joel Pineiro on Sunday and I cannot tell you how gratifying it was to see that. My hat’s off to him for working his way through his troubles with such a good attitude and I hope this is a sign that his rough times are over.
  5. Holy Angels offense, Batman! Torii and Aybar and Trumbombs. Oh. My! Not to mention hard, clutch knocks from Bourjos, Callaspo, Conger and Wells! Keep it up, gentlemen. This is how we win ballgames.
  6. With 25 homeruns to his name, Mark Trumbo is getting closer to matching and perhaps surpassing Tim Salmon’s franchise rookie homerun record of 31 from 1993. Whether or not he gets there, that’s pretty darned slick. Go Trumbo!
  7. As distasteful as it was, I actually rooted for the Red Sox this weekend…which is probably why they lost. Stinky Red Sox. Hmmm. Do you think they know that my love was merely a matter of temporary convenience? *nods* It’s the only rational explanation. ;)
  8. While my husband tends to see the Aybar as half Gilligan (serious props to True Grich for the all too often spot-on nickname), I tend to see the Aybar as half highlight reel. But there’s no denying he could go either way in a given game. Flip a coin.
  9. Midnight Vineyards Malbec is an excellent tater tots wine…yeah, I cracked up typing that too, hear me out. Inspired by our food truck adventures, we made gourmet burgers on Sunday, topped with blue cheese, mounds of sautéed mushrooms and a veritable tossed salad of baby greens, red onions and balsamic vinaigrette. We paired it with tater tots accompanied by curry ketchup and siricha ketchup dipping sauces. So this was a wine worthy meal…that also happened to prove the truth of the initial statement.
  10. I’m going to the game on Monday! It’s the perfect way to cap off the last weekend of summer. And I wound up getting field box seats so cheaply, I’m almost embarrassed. Thanks guys, but this better just be just a holiday weekend vacation thing, because although my last post is still true and this will take work and luck, we’re still in this!
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