Thursday, September 9, 2010

there and back again

i have been gone for a long time.
i have been working late or
weird hours and
occupied on the weekends. i have
been committed to a time consuming,
one hundred percent
self-imposed project.
i have been
falling asleep really early
and for at least two weeks, i didn't
even take my camera out of its bag
once. and, i'll be honest with you:
for a little bit there, it was nice.

i didn't make fancy or interesting
things and i didn't feel guilt. i got
our simple dinners on the table
in less than an hour most nights
and when we ate, our food was hot
or cold because, well a lot of times,
it was just a salad.

but, as someone has
taken to reminding me, i have a blog
and i have been ignoring it. so, while
now, i kind of wish i had taken
the time to talk about my mom's birthday,
the delicious roasted grapes i made one evening
or the red bank farmer's market we've made
an effort to frequent on some weekends,
i'm skipping them. instead, opting to
get back on track with our vacation to
san diego and temecula last week.

the san diego part of the trip had been
planned for over a year.
one of larry's oldest friends,
joe was marrying his girlfriend, jen.
larry is one of those lucky people whose
high school (or maybe i should say
elementary school) friends have sustained
the test of time. six of them attended different
colleges, followed varied careers and some
have moved to different parts of the country.
but still, their friendship has stayed a top
priority to all of them. everyone came together
two years ago for our wedding and we finished
off august by meeting in san diego for joe's,
a couple years after he had moved to the west coast.

the weekend turned out to be just as much
about time together as it was the wedding
and from thursday, at the margaritas and taco
party at joe and jen's apartment building
to sunday morning at brunch, that's what
we did. but, saturday.
saturday was all about the wedding.

hanging out
very concerned about pj's vest
at the edge of the cliff
the head table
holding hands

all together

after, the wedding, we took a few days to ourselves,
traveling to temecula, southern california's answer
to wine country. originally, we had been torn
between hawaii and sonoma, but becoming
homeowners had made our decision significantly
easier: three days and driving distance.

i treated these three days with little respect.
as the trip neared, it became apparent
that this was an awful time to travel, work-wise.
i was hesitant to spend the money to go
somewhere for even three days
and truth be told,
i just wasn't so interested in any of it.
suddenly, it was the 18th of august
and i realized that even
though we had owned our plane tickets
for months, we were leaving on the 26th
without a second hotel reservation.

this is not me.
i research. like crazy.
i read reviews. like crazy.
i find the perfect-fit funky restaurants
that we absolutely must visit and even
if i won't quite admit it, i have the days
mostly decided in my head.
like, maybe, i'm a little crazy.

but this time?
no reservation.
no research.
no restaurants.

a friend of the family had recommended
temecula a few weeks before. i looked at
a couple hotels, skimmed a couple opinions,
shrugged and booked.
kind of disrespectful.

and, now, we were in the car,
driving to this temecula place,
with only a little extra information:
there was a winery famous for
almond champagne, the vineyard
we were staying in allowed
eating grapes off the vine and
the town housed a casino.

it was beautiful and we were
blessed with gorgeous weather,
a welcome change from the sweltering
east coast heat we had been
battling all summer. the area wineries
and streets proved charming enough
that i rarely let go of my camera the
entire time we were there.
but, it turns out that
temecula, proud of its old town,
westernish charm, is not known for
its food.

luckily, it doesn't matter how behind
i get: i'll never stop loving my research.
if you can imagine me, sitting on a bed,
facing a vineyard reading
yelp on my cell phone, you'll understand
how i spent a good part of the trip,
determined to not regret the fact that
we weren't in hawaii. we didn't.

just before leaving san diego, larry and i stopped at urban solace, a restaurant that i had read about on chowhound, for bloody marys, a quinoa-flecked veggie burger and beef cheek hash.
bloody mary
monster lettuce (and, um, a veggie burger)
larry's beef cheek hash

south coast winery was a bit of a larger operation than we usually go for, but luckily they're quiet during the week and our small villa in the back made it very easy to never see anyone. this was our view.
the view from our room in temecula
the vineyard at dusk

we really tried to take advantage of our surroundings, joining a vineyard tour and tasting that turned out to be a tour for four: us, a very friendly german couple from arizona and a very, very perky guide. we ate grapes from the vine, sampled different wines with different cheeses and afterward, we stayed put, eating lunch only a few feet away.
merlot grapes
golden grapes
first pour
white, sweet, red and bubbly
avocado tuna melt with tomato and shallot marmalade
candied pecans, tomatoes, avocado, apple

we visited public house, the only place i could determine was worth the effort of finding, and the restaurant did not disappoint. it was, however, quite dark and the only redeemable picture was of this "appetizer" that would have served a better purpose as a meal. regardless. call it dinner, lunch, a starter or just delicious, this was one of the tastiest things i have eaten in a very long time: goat cheese toasts drizzled with a reduced balsamic and brown sugar tomatoes, all surrounded by arugula.
public house
goat cheese toast with brown sugar tomatoes

and we used the last day to eat a very cheap, unexpectedly good breakfast (larry's, below) and to see a few of the other wineries, finally sipping the almond champagne at one and stopping by another that had been deemed, quirky and unpretentious.
larry's waffle
the view from hart winery
two tastes left

we tasted (and bought!) olive oil and smoked salt, drove past a place for honey that, in retrospect, i would have like to have visited and on the last night, we enjoyed a cheese plate and a bottle of riesling on our little deck, falling in love with the quiet, the peace and the oozy piece of honeycomb that sat just beside the humboldt fog.
olive oil tasting
local honey
pouring the riesling

and, we relaxed. just a little bit.
larry, with wine


Anonymous said...

These photos are INSANE. Seriously beautiful.


brooke said...

thank you! that means a lot coming from you.