I like to cook, and I love to cook for loved ones ~ people will tell ya, I'm a helluva cook. But I rarely enjoy cooking for myself . . . I guess because the secret ingredients, a pinch of lotsa-love and a dash of laughter, feel wasted when I cook just for lil 'ole me, table-of-one. But on Saturday, after a beautiful 2-mile hilly-as-hell walk around the Claremont Neighborhood in Berkeley, I decided to pamper myself and make a Lentils with Game Hen stew, along with a fabulous bottle of wine, and simple watercress and Clementine salad. . . all, just for me. Yeah, just me. I guess because it was a brisk, sunny, beautiful day; or maybe because I was still high off the sight of the posh houses and the breathtaking views in Claremont; or maybe because my friend Sara and I sipped chai and cocoa at Peet's on Domingo Avenue while we watched people stroll by ~~ whatever was in the air, it inspired me to cook . . . and eat ~~ and when that inspiration hits, well, you can't really ignore it, can you?
The great thing about the Bay Area is that you can get so many amazing, organic, beautiful ingredients ~~ I could call "Matthew" over at Whole Foods and ask him to pull out a couple of Cornish Game Hens so they can start thawing out; and I could find the perfect, crispest watercress; and the tiniest, tangiest, most-luscious Clementine oranges. The great thing, too, about the simple recipe I used [*pdf] is that it called for only 8-9 ingredients, some of which I already had ~ which means I could shop at Whole Foods and not break the bank. The best part was that when I was in line to check-out, there was a case of wine that said, "perfect for game and stew" . . . for like $5 a bottle! Oh yes, the wine was good, very good ~ if you can, find yourself a bottle of Riven Rock's 2002 California Shiraz ~ like their label says, Riven Rock Shiraz "greets you with the rich contrasts of ripe plum and pepper, chocolate and vanilla." Hey, I'm no wine-snob; all I'm sayin' is the damn stuff was delicious and perfect for the stew. ~~ :)
I searched all over the Internet for the Riven Rock vineyard (the bottle says it's in San Martin, CA) and for more information on this wine but found nothin' ~ so you'll just have to take my word on it: get a bottle !
Anyway, the thing about cooking for myself is, well, often, yesterday included, I end up not eating alone. As the stew was simmering, my computer decided to implode and I needed to get tech-support fast. So after I was jilted by SBC and Dell tech support, I decided to bring in the expert so I called an old, sometimes-grumpy friend who happens to know a thing or two about computers. The stars must have been aligned correctly because his dinner plans had fizzled and the timing was just right and I called just at the moment he was crossing the Bay Bridge, and so he came by to fix my computer problems and to enjoy a warm, hearty meal. And I guess that's what the universe is all about ~ warm, hearty connections, even awkward ones laden with technical difficulties.
After dinner, we watched "True Colors" a so-so movie from 1991 starring James Spader and John Cusack. The acting was great but the 80's music was painful ~ still though, the best part was watching James Spader do such a damn good job of playing the Good Guy to Cusack's sleazy and politically ambitious character. There is a great line in the movie, near the end, after Spader puts his friendship with Cusack on the line in order to "Do The Right Thing," where Spader's boss tells him: "You don't own it 'til it costs you something." And I thought about so many of the difficult things I have been dealing with this past year ~ law school, existential angst, the Bar Exam, more angst, and painful personal enlightenment. These things have cost me, and continue to cost me, a lot . . . and I guess I should remember that only then are they worth it . . .
Anyway, I digress, as usual. The best part about the damn stew is that I had enough left over to treat my neighbor Sara to the same dinner Sunday night, and she brought along the documentary, "Great Day in Harlem" about Art Kane's first photograph: the 1958 group photo of 57 jazz legends in Harlem. The film is only 60-minutes long and a must-see ~ it was so amazing, and funny, to see how it was that Count Basie ended up sitting on the curb with the kids in the photo, or how prankster Dizzie Gillespie got Roy Eldridge to turn around just as the photo was snapped ~ oh man, some of the show footage of Rex Stewart, Stuff Smith, and Jo Jones was amazing.
Anyway, who knows why I am rambling at such length tonight ~ I guess it's the good food and good wine and good movies and good friends from this weekend ~ maybe this blog posting is my version of a photograph of the nice memory I experienced this weekend ~ so maybe "ME" was the theme of this posting, maybe I want this one just as a personal reminder to me about the things I did and felt and saw this weekend . . . and my apologies if it bored ya . . .but hey, you did get some good cooking and wine recommendations out of this, right?