The tree and decorations are put away, the leftovers are (mostly) gone, and the Christmas music is silenced (for 6 months). Another holiday season in the books. A few parting thoughts for some holiday closure…
- One Piper Piping. I’m not sure Piper really gets Christmas, but she liked having the tree and decorations around. She likes Santa in theory (she waves to him in her Santa book, anyway), but not so much up close. And she loved her gifts. The big hits this year were a Zhu Zhu Pet (a little battery-powered hamster that she calls “kitty” and yells “kitty go” at when she wants me to activate it), the Fisher-Price Grow with Me Kitchen (she loves the blender and often removes the kitchen sink which, oddly, is not affixed to the counter), and a little baby doll that comes with a stroller, high chair, and bed (I’m somewhat surprised that she understands that the baby needs to be fed; I’m less surprised that she wants to climb into the high chair and stroller, which are way too small for her).
- How many prime rib meals is too many? In December, I believe I ate 5 different prime rib meals, not including 3-4 leftover meals. As much as I love prime rib, by the time I had my fifth such meal at New Year’s Eve dinner, I’d had enough. So the answer is 5 in any given month. It didn’t help that I ate a leftover prime rib slab for lunch earlier that day and had prime rib meal #4 at lunch two days prior.
- The best prime rib. In a previous post, I mentioned that the Rutherford Grill has one of the two best prime ribs I’ve ever eaten (with the House of Prime Rib offering the other). The debate is over, with a hands-down winner. I recently ate at the House of Prime Rib again and it was good, but not great. Prime rib meal #4 mentioned above was at the Rutherford Grill and it was fantastic as ever. Juicy, flavorful, and served with a coffee cup of their fabulous jus. I’d forgotten how good their jus is and when I mentioned that to the missus, she actually drank it directly out of the coffee cup. Awesome. I did the same. Undisputed champion of prime rib.
- Napa in winter. Winter is the best time of year to be in Napa: fewer people and no heat. Being out in the Valley on a crisp, clear, cold day and enjoying some of the finest food and wine on the planet is tough to beat.
- Irish Nog. We rarely drink eggnog, but decided to enjoy some this year. We looked up recipes for adding liquor to store-bought eggnog and found that most suggest rum/spiced rum or bourbon. Since bourbon is, um, readily available in our household, we decided on that route. I went with the Woodford Reserve, since that’s the sweetest of my bourbons. It was quite good (stir 3 parts eggnog with 1 part whiskey and then add a dash of nutmeg), but very bourbon-y. A couple days later, I decided that perhaps rye or Irish would be a better whiskey to use. So I made one with my newly acquired Michter’s US*1 Single Barrel Rye (which I highly recommend neat) and another with run-of-the-mill Jameson. The Rye Nog was very good, adding a darker, dryer taste to the eggnog than the Woodford does — but still unmistakably whiskey-forward. As I suspected, the Irish Nog was the right one. Irish whiskey’s extremely mild, smooth flavor lends itself perfectly to enhancing eggnog without dominating it. Erin go Nog!
- Mmmmm, fried chicken. We had our (almost) annual holiday lunch in the city with close friends. This year’s spot was Tyler Florence’s Wayfare Tavern. It’s a warm, hunting lodge kind of place (i.e., animal heads mounted on the walls) — perfect for a winter meal. We have a wonderful time: great food, excellent server, festive mood. I had an awesome hot buttered rum (think Irish coffee with butterscotch), followed by a good, but somewhat misguided bone marrow appetizer called “the Bone” (the quotation marks actually appear on the menu, so I ordered it with air quotes). As faithful san mateo pete readers know, I may currently be the world’s biggest bone marrow proponent, so I had very high hopes for “the Bone”. The presentation is impressive, with a massive bone sawed in half length-wise, such that the marrow can be easily scooped out of its natural environment. The marrow itself was delicious, but was overpowered by an über-sweet barbecue sauce. My main course was his famous fried chicken. Five pieces, no sides. Crispy (except for a piece at the bottom of the stack, which was soggy by the time I got to it), lightly seasoned. The dark meat pieces (drum, thigh) were juicy, the whites were on the dry side. Overall, quite good — better than any restaurant fried chicken I’ve had in a long time. But not as good as Nana Ellen’s, the yardstick by which I measure all fried chicken.
- Toys, toys, toys! As I mentioned in my last post, Molly and Piper gave me an iPad for Christmas. It’s fantastic and somewhat addictive: I stayed up ’til the wee hours of the morning three times during my week off playing around with it. Terrible idea in retrospect (Piper wakes up pretty early), but great fun in the moment. The iPad was my official gift, but I actually got another gift: Panasonic’s 50″ plasma 3D HDTV (plus a Sony 3D Blu-Ray HTIB to go with). I’ll dedicate a post to it later, but I can say now that it’s a spectacular TV: gorgeous colors, deep black levels, 1080p, 3D, practically all the bells & whistles. Of course, once again, I have to migrate the movie collection to a new technology…
- Top 10 movies (kind of). I will probably never be able to come up with a Top 10 movies list — just too hard. However, a good indication of what such a list would look like is the movies in my collection that I’ve prioritized for immediate Blu-Ray upgrading. The first pass (currently in transit from Amazon) includes Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, and Beauty and the Beast (available in Blu-Ray for a limited time only!). The next order will include The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II, T2, and L.A. Confidential. My two other must-haves are the Indiana Jones trilogy (not currently available in Blu-Ray) and the Man with No Name trilogy (I’ve read that the quality of the first Blu-Ray pressing is not so good, so I’ll wait for the next go).
- Holiday movies. Molly and I love holiday movies. 75% of our TV-watching time in December occurs on the Hallmark Channel, Lifetime, and LMN. There are so many great holiday movies, but I want to highlight two of them here. The first is certainly the most overlooked holiday movie: Trading Places. Super funny, great plot, Eddie Murphy at his best, Dan Aykroyd eating a salmon fillet out of his Santa beard…it’s got it all. No one thinks of Trading Places as a holiday movie, but Christmas & New Year’s play an integral part. The other movie is ubiquitous, but I find that I like it more and more as I get older: It’s a Wonderful Life. This year, we watched only the last couple scenes (starting from George & Clarence getting thrown out of Nick’s), but it still makes me tear up. I get the sense that a lot of people think it’s a lame, corny movie, but I think it’s an extraordinary, deeply heartfelt movie — a wonderful treatise to the power of family and friendship.
Happy New Year!