Another great event and so close to home.  Bon Appetite Magazine was the major sponsor this year - we had big celebrity chef names - Jacques Torres, Andrew Zimmern, Jon Ashton, Charlie Trotter and Alex Guarnashelli.  
We had big names in wine - Duckhorn, Banfi, Wildman, Krug, Charles Woodson wines, Clos du Val - WOW.
We had perfect weather - 60s with sun.
We had wine, food, fun, and great people running the show.....
Some highlights for me were -
Thursday night - I was one of the judges for the Chefs Challenge *Chef from the Horse and Plow won the Title...
Friday - Morning was Chef Demo with local talent Stefano from Trattoria Stefano - another sell out crowd with food that was by far some of the most delicious all weekend.  He talked about his recent trip to Italy and shared some recipes and secrets.  Hes always a crowd pleaser, his food and Staff is amazing and hes quite a charmer.  I paired up Castello Monachi Salice Salentino from Puglia with his food and we SOLD OUT of his wine - only chef demo all weekend to sell out!
We had Andrew Zimmerns Chef demo and he talked about some of his travels to india and made some great food - dumplings and crispy shrimp.
Alex Guranashellis made some rolls and some other tasty bites - Shes on the show CHOPPED on Food network.
The Grand tasting is a great place to taste and then buy wine at and had great attendance.

Then off to the Kohler Design Center to drink wine in a Toilet and Bathtub museum!  Taste of the Vine! Sounds completely crazy but they have all of their new styles to look at and full bathroom displays - pretty neat!  This is also the best event of the weekend to try wine that normally you dont get to.  All expensive and great quality wines - names like Insignia, Beringer Private Reserve, Pol Roger, Trivento RSVA GOLD malbec, Banfi Brunello, Duckhorn Three Palms Merlot, Goldeneye Pinot noir, Caymus Special Select, 24!  WOW.  They also have the Oprah approved chocolate station, and many other amazing foods.  Awesome night out!

Saturday - Duckhorn Family of Wine seminar - we tried through 6 duckhorn wines! great way to start the morning - I was buzzed by 10!
Andrew Zimmern again making chicken 2 ways, Alex again and the crazy Jon Ashton (he was a doll and had tons of energy)  the  whole place was dancing!!!

Sunday - The Amazing Charlie Trotter who had amazing food - Duck with asian influence (waterchestnuts, soy) and then langostines with pickeled pineapple and kaffir lime curry - WOW.
And the best part of my weekend - I was asked to have lunch with Charlie and his fun and crazy wife, ROchelle.  They ate their first cheese curds (deep fried)  I think she liked them and he wasnt as impressed.....Hes quiet and either is absorbing whats around him or thinking very hard constantly.  He intrigued me. 
A friend of mine was at lunch with us and had something amazing happen - long story short he makes gelato - he happened to have dropped off gelato that morning  to the place we were eating.  That chef sent out little espresso cups of his gelato and Charlie tried it and said - wow thats good.  My friend is not going down there on Saturday to drop off gelato to CHarlie Trotters restaurant in Chicago..   awesome.  AWESOME!
Great experience to cap off a great weekend.  Life is good with food and wine. Its hard work - but hard work that has tons of pay offs by chance.  I love life.....these are the moments we remember forever. 
I had a cat growing up named Pumpkin - She was orange.  She got hit on the highway one morning and died and my mom made my dad go out and peel it off the highway and bury it before I got up. Then my mom got me another one - I named it pumpkin.  I loved Orange kitties.  I had an alley cat stuffed animal - it was orange and I named it pumpkin.  Pattern here? 
I didnt have another cat until later in life - I had a cat that I thought was a girl for 8 years and found out it was a boy.  I should of guessed considering its name was Dickie but honestly it never crossed my mind.  Believe me I realize how stupid this makes me sound.  But anyway - I loved this cat.  It would hang by itself, hardly ever got sick, survived through a stroke, didnt need a ton of attention but when she (he) did, she would come up and massage you first.  knead you like bread dough.  Also, another great trait was she would go by the door and meow to be let outside to do her business.  She didnt need a cat litter box.  In the summer she would open up the screen door herself (a slide one) and go out.   I loved to watch her lay in the sun and stretch out- she looked so relaxed.  She would bring me presents (sometimes still alive) and act like it was Christmas and she was so proud to give me something.    She always had a way of knowing I was upset and would show up unexpected and rub against my leg and purrrr away saying "mommy its ok - see Im nice."  I would walk to get the paper, be in the garden, working outside, mowing the lawn - whatever it was - she would be close enough to see, following me around always - I felt like she was tailing me - staying far enough away to always be there if needed.  I liked that.  Her tail straight up in the air - her black body shining in the sun and her cute white paws prancing around like she was wearing booties.  Like most cats Im sure, Id find her sleeping in the oddest places - inside a car in the garage, on top of a hood on an outside car, in the tub ledge inbetween the 2 shower curtains....funny cat. 
My last great memory of her is that she never could eat alone.  You would put food in her dish and walk away - she would go find wherever you were and meow the wierdest wasnt like her usual meow - and she would NOT stop bothering you until you followered her to her dish.  Once you got there she would slowly go in to take a bite and then look back fast - like when a pitcher is almost ready to pitch but at the last second pulls back to look at the runner on 1st base to see if hes ready to steal a base.  She wanted to see if you were going to stay for a minute and really watch her eat.  Once she knew you were there, she would start eating.  Then you could walk away and she would finish.  This happened all the time.  Most times it was completely irritating and then there was the couple of times that I would think - "you know she just wants someone to eat dinner with - she loves us and wants us to accompany her to dinner - is that too much to ask?"    After that thought came, I rarely got too irritated with her.  I miss that crazy, loving, independent, smart, and awesome cat.  She went up to cat heaven this year and Im sure is out to eat everyday with many other cats....gossiping and sharing secrets about the next mouse, the best place to sleep and how to manipulate your owners into eating with you.

pussy cat pussy cat i love you - yes I do

I get asked this all the time - When should I drink this wine - can I save it for a couple of years?
You can - but it will probably taste like watered down vinegar with no fruit or any real body.

Dont save it - drink it.  Drink it on a Tuesday - why a Tuesday you ask?  why not?  Everyday is a good day to drink your special bottle or a just a good bottle.  I knew a man, a prominant lawyer, who had hundreds of thousands of dollars sitting in his cellar and do you know what he drank every day?  A $12 cabernet.  Now there is nothing wrong with a $12 cabernet but Why? i asked him.  He said if he drank it - it would be gone (and he looked at me like I was the devil)  - thats like the commercial that says -" I pick things up I put them down" - No shit sherlock it will be gone - you will have drank it - made a memory that forever you could think about and talk about.  Today is the day to live!
  Also - most wine (at least 90%) is made to be drank NOW.  Within a year or so anyway.  The pricey wine that collectors are "saving for a monumentous occasion" are usually wines that do last a long time - it is also wine that has a peak - all wine has a peak - and once that peak is hit it is DOWN hill from there.  The wine advocate and wine spectator tries to tell you when to drink it but how do they really know?  Bordeaux started this whole  "hold the wine tradition" but that was because it needed time to be drinkable.....It was too acidic and dry and as wine ages the tannins fall out as sediment so it becomes smoother.   
   Last night I drank a Silver Oak Napa cabernet with white chicken chili - and it was tasty - and I will possibly remember what i did in the future, maybe not - but It sure was a  nice night! And the Brew Crew and Packers won.
I also sometimes write on the corks what I did while I was drinking it. 
Cheers to picking an ordinary day and making it extraordinary just by a glass of grape juice!

Everyone put their glasses up and I drink to that
The Opera
Ive been listening to opera for years.  I used to love cooking in my old kitchen, opera screaming through the house, looking out the window - big lazy flakes of snow falling or the blazing sun cooking my sun tea.....Anytime was the right time for Renee Fleming or Andrea Bocelli.  I have it on in my car while I drive and it seems to help me keep my road rage at bay (kinda).  Every opera has its own story line and my favorite thing about them is they dont always have a happy ending.  Some love is lost.  We watch movie after movie in the theather - same thing happens - problem then the problem is fixed and everyone lives happily every after.  Opera is reality.  SOmetimes the love of their life dies, sometimes they know its love but they cant make it work so they walk away to always dream and long for the other.  Sometimes they live two lives, other times they are in different places in their life and sometimes its forbidden love.  And also sometimes it works out and they live happily ever after.  I like reality.  Hearts suffer and hurt and we need to see more of this so we understand how to handle it when it does happen. Instead we watch fairytale movies and expect our lives to be the same (wow that got dark quick) 
  I have seen Andrea Bocelli twice, the first time was my favorite  Picture it - December - He comes out in a searing white suit and the second he hits the stage there is a silenced audience.  35, ooo people waiting for this man to open his mouth so they can feel his insides in theirs.  You could of heard the scamper of the tiniest spider in this arena.  He walks up to his microphone and opens his mouth......what comes out made my entire body shiver - made my eyes instantly start to water, my head cock to the side and my chest feel like someone was sitting on it.  I wept from the second his mouth opened until he left the stage for the last time 2hours later.  He sang old classic romantic opera and then some classic Christmas songs.  I sat next to an husky Italian man who was there with his family and had to excuse himself 2 because he was weeping so hard he was coughin.  Ive never been to a concert in my life that the audience was as quiet as this one.  It was magical and magnificent.  His voice was crooning and smooth and he is so handsome he must have the ladies lined up (and hes blind - maybe he would pick me by my charming personality)
   A couple years back I went to NY just to go to the MET to see the opera - I saw Carmen which I recommend to beginners in the opera world.  THe MET is a stunning building with as much crystal as the state of Texas....chandeliers and ornaments and glasses.  ANd CHampagne - they serve real French Champagne.....THe seats are old red velvet theather seats and people still wear tuxes!
   WHy I got into this chat was to tell you to go to HOllywood Cinema - THey are all over the state and many other theaters have this program - The Met: Live in HD series 

You can see live performances of the MET Saturday mornings shown on the big screen - its 22 a ticket.  Ive gone at least 8 times....During the breaks (a usual opera has 2-3 twenty min breaks) you can go to the restroom, grab a snack or read a book.   I have seen Aida, Tosca, *La Rondine and THais (*my 2 favs) , La Boheme, Don Giovanni -
    I also.  of course,  have smuggled in half bottles of wine and sip on glasses as I watch it all unfold.  There is a core group of oldies that go and after my 3rd time of going, they would smile at me and wave. 

Its a great way to spend a winter saturday morning - I hope you go and check it out.  Maybe i will see you there
To get into it a bit - Pandora romantic opera while cleaning - I have it on now

You can feel the crispness in the air, the one that makes you grab a sweatshirt anticipating the cold  when the sun goes down.  You can smell that earthy, crushed up leaves smell.  You can see the trees slowly change their clothes to brighter colors, like they are attending a racey party event and then you see them lose their clothes all together like it had been a very good night out.  You can taste the squash, pumpkins, brussel sprouts, sweet potatos, beets and other late vegetables.  You can hear the birds crying out above as they begin their trek south to warmer weather. 
Its here people.  Autumn. 
The days are shorter, why does the night have to begin so early?  I used to love to be out at 9pm still working on my garden and just starting to think about what to make for dinner or trying to sneak one more game of bocce ball in before it got dark.  Summer - where do you go?
  I was walking through a store in June and they already had christmas trees up and chocked too full of this years themed sparkly items.  The fake pine scented candles were already on sale like christmas was next week.....Well, a quick blink of my eyes and it is almost next week. 
  Wisconsin is known for these beautiful days in September and October, where during the day it could be 85 and at night a shivering 32.  Its a time of year where you start nesting like a woman about to have a baby-making sure your yard is ready for winter, putting away all the fun lawn games, patio furniture, putting on your storm windows, and for us women the sad day where we put away our sandals and cute summer dresses (I guess a sad day for all of the men too) 
Our body can feel this change too and we start to crave warm soups and moms home cooked meals.  And for me caramel apples....anytime I am in a 3 mile radius of VandeWalls my car seems to get a mind of its own and I find myself sitting in the parking lot arguing with myself of all the reasons why I should not go in there and buy just ONE deliciously sweet and salty caramel apple.  My heart and stomach always seem to win this fight and within seconds of sitting in my car, I rip open the package (beware of that one lone staple that can do damage to an addicted hand waiting for its fix)  I look at it and always wonder the same thing - how do I get the first bite started?  There is no easy way.  I always end up with caramel all over my face and when I finally get out of the car peanuts fall to the ground like a small avalanche....
And lastly there is the "last ofs".......the farmers market, golfing but losing 12 balls because the leaves hide them under their blanket of beauty, the summer hamburger on the grill, driving with the top down, the perfect tasting tomato, California fruit, windows open to air out the house.....these will all come to an end soon.
Oh Fall.....beautiful and short lived......please stay and dont let winter bite at your heels!

I see  your lips and summer kisses - but I miss you most of all when autumn leaves start to fall