Home for the Holidays

I've spent the past week in Washington State with my family having the most wonderful holiday break. We met the Mayan Apocalypse with an Aporkalypse; I've been naughty and nice; I've been brewed, wined, dined ... and yes, I've fallen in love

Here's hoping that your holidays are chock-full of love and good cheer! Merry Christmas and have the happiest of holidays!


Holiday Notes:
  • Aporkalypse. On 12.21.12, we trekked to Salumi in Seattle and braved the rain and chilly temps for a taste of those fabled meats and sandwiches. We were second in line for Salumi's last day of service for 2012, and were rewarded with freshly baked ciabatta overflowing with hot and tender pork cheek (the day's special) and flavor-soaked porchetta, as well as a plate loaded with salumi, cheese and olives. We were drunk on pork fat by the time we got up, but as far as last meals go, this was a winner!
  • Naughty. Like a sneaky little devil, I planted ideas in my Mom's head about cooking a Filipino-style porchetta—one flavored with garlic and lemongrass for that Cebu lechon taste. Mama happened to indulge me on Aporkalypse day, causing us to tempt cardiac arrest for a taste of that fragrant and flavorful Pinoy porchetta!
  • Nice. On a crisp and misty Washington morning, I suited up for a run with my sisters and my cousin on a paved path by a picturesque creek. It was nice to get in a work out with my now very health conscious family and find out that my baby sister turned into a speedy gazelle while I wasn't looking! After a respectable run, we had breakfast at Le Rendez-vous Cafe, where I miraculously resisted digging into a tempting pile of Nutella brioche.
  • Brewed. According to Wikipedia, there are 146 active breweries in Washington State—which explains why my sister never runs out of new spots to take me with every visit! This time we went to Snoqualmie Falls Taphouse And Brewery, where we enjoyed a crisp Belgian-style Wit beeer and their deliciously creamy special version of Copperhead Pale Ale on nitro. We also took home a growler of their seasonal Avalanche Winter Ale. Next, we visited Black Raven Brewing, where we took two beer flights to get to taste all their standards and "rare birds." Again, our top pick was a velvety Morrighan Stout—it seems 'tis the season for nitros!
  • Wined and Dined. In what is becoming something of a tradition, the cousins got together to spend a day winetasting in Woodinville Wine Country. There are over 90 wineries in this pocket of Washington State, and we visited two of my cousins' favorite haunts. We had a lovely tasting at Kestrel Vintners, where my cousin generously got me a bottle of the rich 2009 Cabernet Franc from the Winemaker Series that I liked the most. Then, at Patterson Cellars, we sampled special tastes of their great Forbidden wines (not part of the tasting, but a perk that comes with my cousin's membership) together with some fabulous pizzas from The Station Pizzeria next door. My sister got me a bottle of the 2011 Patterson Cellars Late Harvest Roussanne, a sweeter white that I really enjoyed.
  • Fallen in Love. Yes, dear friends, it has happened. I laid eyes on my adorable little lamb of a niece and fell head over heels! The last time I was this crazy over someone was when my little sister Katie and my little niece Nikki (both not quite little anymore) were born. Like everyone else in my family, I am smitten by her smile, tiny little hands and feet, and sweet baby smell. It is pure joy to hold her and I know that my heart will ache when I leave to go back to New York. But for now, I am cherishing every minute that I have with our little angel. She is the most precious Christmas gift anyone could ever ask for!

Christmas Spectacular: BG Follies of 2012

For my last evening in New York before Christmas, I took a walk down a misty Fifth Avenue to soak up the holiday cheer. Fifth Avenue can be punishing during the holidays with tourists and shoppers four deep on the sidewalks. But on a chilly Monday evening lightly dusted with rain, Fifth Avenue was all but empty, allowing me to enjoy the delightful displays to my heart's content. I made my yearly pilgrimage to Bergdorf Goodman to take a peek at their windows and as always, they blew me away.

Themed BG Follies of 2012, they are stunning celebrations of Art Deco ...
Ziegfeld follies ...
Vaudeville revues ...
... and all that jazz!
This Christmas has been marked by far too much anguish, from the families still rebuilding their lives after Sandy to the thousands of Filipinos devastated by Bopha to the unspeakable tragedy at Newtown last week. In the face of so much pain, I think we all feel some guilt for celebrating when so many are unable to do so. While we should, without a doubt, do everything that we can to help those who aren't as fortunate, these events should also serve to remind us about how short and fleeting life can be and how we should squeeze every bit of joy out of it while we are still able to.

Count your blessings. Hold the ones you love closer. Soak up everything wonderful that life has to offer. And my dear readers, please have the happiest holidays that you possibly can.