Archive for the 'Social Commentary' Category


Mailbag Wednesday – is 9 the new 10?

Question: OK, this is more of an etiquette question rather than a food question.  If a restaurant advertises their dinner hours, say something like 5pm to 10pm, what exactly does the 10pm represent?  Does that mean that they stop making food at 10pm, will happily seat you if you walk in at 10pm, or they will seat you but might do “questionable” things to the food that they serve you because they are ready to go home? Brian, Sacramento

Answer: This is a classic question! Technically if a restaurant posts open hours until 10pm, you should be able to arrive just before 10, be seated, served, and welcomed to stay until your meal experience is complete. That being said… HA HA HA!!! I actually did a google search on this question and came up with multiple hits – Waiters ranting about late comers, owners lamenting controlling costs beyond a normal shift, kitchens needing to close down at some point, etc. My normal practice in late dining moments is to get a read on the restaurant. If it’s still busy and feels active, you’re probably safe to stay. If it’s quiet and the staff seems like they’re closing up shop, probably not such a good idea. If the restaurant has a busy bar, sometimes the bar offers a more limited late night menu – it’s best to engage your better judgment, you can always ask what the kitchen schedule is, and often times the service staff will tell you that the kitchen just closed, or certain items are no longer available, etc. And yes, I’ve heard horror stories about the service and kitchen staff who are handling your food not being completely above board because they’re irritated with you for coming in late. On that note, I’d suggest you never irritate a fast food worker!!!

I’d love it if all ya’ll would weigh in with your experiences with this???


If the Greeks could do it, why can’t we?

I don’t (as a rule) plan to get political in this blog, but if using wine can help our country regain some civility, and achieve progress, I’m all for it!

It’s been said that the ancient Greeks realized that debate under the influence of alcohol was more open, honest, and truthful. They had elaborate rituals called Drinking Parties-Symposiums. After all, it was much easier to speak one’s mind while somewhat inebriated (they never allowed full-on drunkenness though), and valuable information was much easier to gather – I’m sure we can all attest to our somewhat uncensored actions from time-to-time while under the influence.

“The symposium basically had a serious purpose. The purpose was serious conversation. In the midst of all the drinking philosophical questions were examined: What was the purpose of life? What is justice and truth? Can we live under unconditional loyalty? Are the gods to be trusted? Are women really inferior? Is drinking the answer? Many of Plato’s dialogues including the symposium were first conceived in a drinking party when questions asked and the tongue freed by wine would speak.”  – Christopher Xenopoulos Janus

I say, let’s gather all our elected officials together. Let’s put them in party togas, give them comfy reclining couches, let the wine pour freely, and pose all the critical questions swirling around us today: Why it so hard to pass healthcare? Should corporate America really be the ones calling all the shots? Is there really a problem with allowing civil rights to every American citizen regardless of race, age, gender, or sexual orientation? Is it better to invest in improved incarceration for our criminals, or improved schools for our children? The list goes on and on…

The current system doesn’t seem to be working to well, maybe this is worth a try, if nothing else, it sure would be interesting to hear what they have to say with their filters turned off! Even better, it should be broadcast uninterrupted like the State of the Union address is. This would beat any carefully moderated political debate in helping me make my voting decisions! What do you think?


It NEVER rains in Souther California… HA

Whenever we have storms, severe weather questions inevitably arise regarding vineyards.

Is this weather bad for them? Will it change the crop next year? Etc, etc…

The simple answer is – sort-of. It all depends on what time of year it is, and what’s happening in the vineyards. Wine grapes are hearty, they thrive in stressed and harsh climates. Right now in California there are no worries – the vines are dormant. Rain is only a problem when the vines have lots of fruit hanging, and it becomes a greater problem the closer to harvest it gets.

The biggest threat rain brings is mold. If too much moisture gets on the grapes, and they don’t have time to dry out, mold can start to form. To combat this, most vineyards are sprayed periodically with sulphur to kill the mold. The problem arises when the rain comes close to harvest and sulphur needs to be sprayed. If the grapes are harvested too soon after the spraying, sulphur (smelling like rotten eggs) ends up in the wine. It’s not harmful, just off-putting, and very difficult to eliminate. Who wants to discuss the merits of rotten egg in their wine bouquet?

Another problem with lots of rain just prior to harvest is the fruit can become water-logged. If this happens, the concentration of the fruit is weakened and the year’s vintage may not be as big and complex as expected. Basically Mom (the vine) over feeds her babies (the fruit). We’ve all seen fat, overfed babies… get the picture?

Of course there is the good mold too. It’s called botrytis (noble rot) and will be reserved for another post… suffice it to say, this special little mold helps create the perfect storm for the world’s great dessert wines.

So if you’re in Southern California right now, and watching the rain pummel the region (the  “flood plain” creek I view from my office window looks more like a raging river at the moment… I’m watching carefully), you needn’t worry about the grapes, nor next years harvest. However, if the vineyards all wash away and we have to start all over, well that’s another story all together.


Win the War on Fat

Set Your Inner Wino Free!

January is almost over! And for many of us the annual tradition of New Year’s resolutions is upon us. The panic time to lose the weight gained during the “’tis the season” eating orgy is in full bloom – I know, I actually had to wait for equipment at the gym last night for the first time ever!

It seems there are millions of different ways to begin your resolve (or is it resolution?), most with a financial caveat: “Lose all the weight you want in just 30 days—for a small fee!” “For only 49.99 a month you can find the new you!” “Join Jumping Jack Gym today and get a free personal trainer consultation!” You know the drill.

The problem with all these plans is the sacrifice they require. Believe me, I know. I’m from a genetically weight-challenged family – does the word obesity ring a bell? Clearly I have strong motivation to resolve… and bet many of you, my gentle wine lovers, do too. But before you hunker down for the long haul, let me offer a piece of advice: DON’T do it! At least not until you’ve read this column.

Continue reading ‘Win the War on Fat’


To abstain, or not to abstain…

“Abstain from beans.”

I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation – but do we really need it? Isn’t the proof in the pudding? And for the record… I don’t (abstain that is!), just take a look at that picture… doesn’t it inspire you to want to do something fun with the simple lugume?

Today, I’m going to help make chili – not my recipe (will mostly be chopping), but I’m assuming it includes beans. Will keep you posted, although maybe not all the resulting effects!

Just curious, what’s the must-have ingredient/spice in your chili recipe?


Sip into the perfect friday night!

Have you ever found yourself at the end of a long week feeling giddy when it’s finally nearing an end? Duh, of course you have!!!

Today is Friday, and for most of us, the weekend is brief and precious at the same time. It’s like we work all week, and once Friday night arrives, we have to figure out what we can do that matches the feeling of “finally, the week is over!”

Well, I’m not normally a cocktail person – excluding the perfect martini, manhattan, or foamy/fuzzy cocktail I can’t remember the name of – but on Friday night after a long week, nothing sounds better than something in an icy glass that’s been measured, shaken and poured into a pretty little cocktail glass. Be it a tumbler, martini, or flute I’m holding, that first sip is so good, it reminds me/us that we’ve made it – that we have time to let go, be indulgent, do something totally self-serving. Even if we have a commitment laden weekend looming, that Friday night cocktail gives us pause… a moment to simply sip, and surrender to the bliss of the moment… at least that’s the best way to explain how it makes me feel! Add a bowl of chips and salsa, or a piece of cheese and some crackers and WOW…

So, it’s mid-winter, for most of us (well maybe not those of us in Southern California) the winter chill is ever present, take a moment, make yourself that perfect cocktail (even if it’s just cranberry and soda in a pretty glass), sit back and let it all go for a moment… recharge, re-invigorate, restore your wit! We only have this life once… and it’s ours, good, bad, or indifferent!

Here’s to you, and whatever you plan to sip tonight! Oh, and forgive me all the run-on sentences in this post, I can’t help it, it’s the way I talk… write… emote… oh, you get the point!

BTW – I’d love to know what your perfect Friday sip is???


Mailbag Monday…

Question: What is hummus? Is it difficult to make? Is it healthy? j4kesutter, California

Answer: First, let me say, I’m listening to Depeche Mode, sitting at my desk, looking out the window – blue sky, palm trees swaying, and mid 70s – WOW! And now about the hummus – a Mediterranean staple akin to chips and salsa! It’s the perfect easy-to-make, healthy, tasty dip! Hummus is made using garbanzo beans, tahini (sesame paste), garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil. What’s wondrous about this simple dip is its universal “comfort food” appeal. You can make the basic recipe and embellish it to your heart’s content.


Ingredients: (measurements are approximate – follow your taste buds!)

  • Garbanzo beans (15 oz can organic canned are perfect)
  • Tahini – 1/2 cup
  • Lemon juice – splash, or two or three – to taste
  • Olive oil – 1/8 cup or to taste
  • Garlic – 2 or 3 cloves
  • Cumin – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Chopped parsley – 5 sprigs
  • Salt to taste (probably won’t need much)


Using a food processor, blend together the first six ingredients until smooth and creamy. Adjust with salt to taste. Finish by drizzling a little extra olive oil, and chopped parsley.  Serve with pita bread, tortilla chips, sliced baguettes, sliced bellpeppers, cucumbers, carrot sticks – whatever strikes your fancy.


Make basic recipe and add anything that your taste buds desire, for example:

  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers
  • 1/2 fresh cilantro
  • Kalalmata Olives
  • Any fun flavor you think will work

Add any of these to your ingredients and blend with the basic recipe.

And yes, hummus is healthy, and a staple for vegetarian diets. It’s a fun party dip, and great to make a batch and keep in the fridge for healthy snacking!

Got another question? I have a mailbag menu tab to make submitting your questions easier! Have I said lately, how much fun this is???

Patrick Bartlett

A conversation about food, wine, and the art of living well!


May 2018
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