Future New Mexicans

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My Dad and Xavier standing on the site of our future home.

Our time here in Maryland grows short. Big transactions are taking place and in a few months our new house (from Clayton Homes) will be delivered to this land near the Manzano Mountains in New Mexico.

It is what keeps me going day after day.

I grew up on this land and it’s time to go home and be near my family.

I can’t wait to visit all the local wineries and be able to buy wine at Costco and Trader Joe’s (can’t do that in Maryland). Did you know there is a winery in Albuquerque that has both red and green chili wine?

Most importantly, Xavier and I want an actual home that is not an apartment. We want to have our own space, our own yard, a workshop; our very own hippie homestead with wind turbines, solar panels, and rain collection barrels. (And Wi-Fi… don’t forget the Wi-Fi)

But we want a certain type of lifestyle too.  We want to fly light.

That means living with low overhead. Buying a home that is easily affordable instead of barely affordable. We’re minimalist in that regard. We want to spend our money on adventures and experiences instead of on unnecessarily inflated bills.

At first we had planned to buy a tiny house but that proved to be impractical for a whole host of technical reasons, like zoning laws say for instance. As it turned out, it made a whole lot more sense to buy a manufactured home. It’s still small but not so tiny that it has a weed sprayer shower or an electric hotplate for a stove plus I won’t have to be hoisting my dog up a ladder every night when we go to bed.

I really didn’t want to hoist my dog up a ladder.

Anyway, New Mexico awaits, the wheels in the sky are turning and all we have to do is stay the course.

September

October

November

So long Maryland and hello New Mexico!

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Wine Review: 2015 Sea Of Stones Red Wine Blend, Layer Cake

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“Somebody’s poisoned the water hole…”

Confirming the theory that grapes don’t grow well in salt water and rocks, this Sea Of Stones Red Blend from Layer Cake is unfortunate to say the least.

Easily one of the worst wines I’ve encountered.

They say conflict occurs when expectations don’t match reality.

I wanted to like it. I expected to like it. I was fully prepared to like it.

Xavier said it tasted like a mix of Day and NyQuil.

I guess that’s one way to put it but first, let me ask a question. How do you know when sour cream has gone sour? I mean, it’s already sour so how do you know when it’s past it’s prime?

There was something off about this wine.  It smelled off. It tasted off. How do you know when fermented grapes have started cultivating something funky?

Now, to be fair, their own website claims that the Red Blend smells like pencil lead, the problem is that it tastes like pencil lead too.

This bottle, and $15, went down the drain.

I don’t know if the Sea Of Stones Red Wine Blend is just not a good ensemble or if I got a bad bottle but, in any case, I doubt I will be brave enough to try it again.


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Wine Review: 2014 Essential Red, Bogle Vineyards

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Supernatural: Eleven seasons of wine and demons…and Negan.

Xavier and I have been watching a lot of Supernatural lately. It’s what we do.

To celebrate Friday night I picked up this bottle of Bogle Essential Red. At $14.99, it cost a little bit more than I usually spend but it is immediately evident where that extra $4.00 went.

Essential Red tastes expensive. 

A step above what we’re used to.

Whatever they do, they do it well. This wine is fer-damn delicious.

A blend of Old Vine Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, extra Miracle Gro, and some kind of witchcraft, Essential Red combines the best qualities of all the varietals to create a masterpiece.

Velevet, leather, tobacco, chocolate, cedar, juniper and, you know, grapes.

Actually, it’s just grapes.  The other stuff is all in your head.

But damn, it’s fine.

The bottle survived three episodes of Supernatural and a romantic cuddle on the patio.

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Whatever wine you were planning to buy for tonight, put it down and go pickup a bottle of Bogle Essential Red instead.


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Wine Review: Old Vine Zinfandel, Bota Box

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It feels like fall in Maryland tonight and, to be honest, I’m not a fan. Summer is my season. That being said, the impending autumn brings with it significant and exciting changes. By the time the snow gets here, I’ll once again be a homeowner in New Mexico. So, you know, maybe fall isn’t so bad after all.

Admittedly, a glass of red wine is nice on a chilly evening. Or a hot evening. Or pretty much any type of evening. Hell, it’s doesn’t even have to be evening. Whenever is fine.

Anyway…

For the most part, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my explorations into the world of boxed wine. Bota Box did well with this Old Vine Zinfandel. We liked it. A lot.

Xavier has become fixated on the show, Supernatural, and since it is now in it’s 12th season of production that means there are eleven seasons available on NetFlix.

Wine disappears at an approximate rate of two boxes per season so, consumption being what it is, it will be necessary to find many more boxes to try before we get to the end of the show.

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Old Vine Zin and Iris kitty are almost the same color.

This is a dark and jammy Zinfandel. A lovely glass of plum, licorice, sage, and a whole lot of oak. I do love me some oakified wine.

Xavier, who is especially enamored with the Old Vine Zin, claims that this one has an upward inflection at the end and that drinking it is like conversing with a Valley Girl.

You know?

Because all statements end with question marks?

He’s funny like that.

I say it tastes like a whole lot of empty box because it disappeared posthaste. No red wine headache either, always an endearing quality.


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Wine Review: 2016 Rose’, Dark Horse

I keep trying to like Rose’ while also trying to be frugal.

Generally speaking, Rose’ and frugality don’t play well together, but this one’s not bad.

For $8.99, Dark Horse makes a Rose’ that maintains enough smooth and buttery qualities to make it perfectly drinkable.

Initially, a very bright and crisp wine, I noticed that it mellowed out considerably by the second day. I prefer second day Rose’ and it is excellent paired with a big spinach salad topped with Chipotle Ranch dressing.

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I call this my homework wine, for obvious reasons.

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Smooth and easy sipping, a little Rose’ helps to drown out the residual bad music that eight hours of stapling idiocracy has left in my brain. Even now as I write this on a Saturday morning, snippets of the insufferably bad music played all day at work still rattle around in my head.

Right now it’s Rachel Platten. Now, let me warn you, I only share this link as a cruel joke. Misery loves company and I think that if I should have to live with the ghost of this horrifically bad song in my head then someone else should too.

Thank you for calling the suicide prevention hotline. Please enjoy the music while your party is reached. And by the time a representative finally picks up the phone, there is only dead silence on the other end.

So anyway, back to the wine. Xavier did not like this one at all so that just meant more for me, which is fine because I have a lot of homework.

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Wine Review: 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Smoking Loon

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I picked this up on Friday night to celebrate another week of not killing anyone at the nations largest retailer of staplers. One can only take so much stapling idiocracy before it becomes necessary to turn the down the volume on the situation.

Enter stage left: Wine, wine, and more wine.

Xavier and I killed this bottle during the pilot episode of Game Of Thrones (we’re starting over from the beginning), which was so enthralling that I forgot to get any photos of the wine in a glass until the show, and dinner, were over.

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You can bet it was good though. We paired it with  bread-less cheeseburgers and asparagus.

The tasting notes describe it as having an aroma of spearmint but whoever wrote that was clearly chewing gum at the time. Give this Cabernet Sauvignon a few minutes to air out and open up and it is a wonderfully full bodied and smooth, slightly smoky, cab that tastes like gone.

To be clear, there is nothing minty about it.

Xavier said it gave him a bit of the red wine headache. I, however, slept the night away unscathed.

Smoking Loon is located in Chile as are many of my recent favorites. I think I’m beginning to see what Kricket was saying about other parts of the world tasting better than California.

In any case, Game Of Thrones reminded us that winter is, in fact, on it’s way and on Friday Xavier told the head Staplers that we are moving to New Mexico at the end of the year, effectively letting the cat out of the bag and bringing us one step closer to making our exit.

I won’t mind leaving this place before winter arrives.


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Cacique Restaurant: Comfort Food For A New Mexican Far From Home

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Steak Fajitas at Cacique

In the bustling historic district of downtown Frederick, Maryland there lies a little bit of home, sort of. I have been living on the east coast for almost three years now and if there is one thing this New Mexico native misses, it’s New Mexican food with our signature Green Chile. New Mexican Green Chile is known to many farmers as the Anaheim Pepper. It grows fabulously well in the hot and dry climate of New Mexico and southern California and, depending on ripeness at the time of harvest, the Anaheim Pepper may be served either red or green. During my time here in Maryland, I have discovered that most Mexican restaurants have never heard of Green Chile, but that doesn’t mean they have nothing of value to offer.

During my first trip to the east coast to visit Xavier (back before he was promoted to the rank of husband), he took me to Cacique in an effort to make me feel at home. I ordered the Chile Rellenos made with Poblano Peppers and asked the waiter if I could get them “with red and green”? He raised an eyebrow and asked, “Red and green what?” After an awkward moment of staring at each other, I said, “Never mind, the way you usually make it will be fine.” Our waiter did not know what Green Chile was but the Chile Rellenos he brought me were fantastic. At the end of our meal, Xavier asked if I enjoyed my food and I remember saying that, “It’s different than the Mexican food I’m used to but it’s very good in its own right.”

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Since this fateful first meal, Xavier and I have eaten at Cacique Restaurant many times, including on our wedding day, and it has become my favorite restaurant both because it reminds me of home and because of the unique dishes they offer that are not available at most Mexican restaurants in Albuquerque. It is worth mentioning that the front cover of Cacique’s menu reads “Fine Spanish And Mexican Cuisine” and, while they may not know what Green Chile is, they have some excellent Spanish offerings including an amazing steamed mussel appetizer that I wouldn’t expect to see on the menu at Little Anita’s or Taco Sal anytime soon.

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Every dining experience at Cacique begins with being seated either inside the upscale restaurant or on the tiny and crowded, but exclusive and cool, sidewalk patio. The streets of downtown Frederick are never boring and there is no better place to sip a mojito or margarita and watch the endless parade of interesting people, weird cars, and dogs in costumes than the patio at Cacique.

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The wait staff is always well dressed and polite and the most important dish they will bring to the table is the chips and salsa, which are made from scratch daily. I have enjoyed a lot of salsa in my day, most of it in New Mexico, but the one that stands out the most is the freshly made salsa at Cacique. With an absolute perfect balance of tomato, cilantro, onion, lime juice, and jalapeno, the only other salsa that may have come close was from the old Territorial House Restaurant that was operation in Corrales between 1972 and 1987. Like the Territorial House, Cacique also sells their salsa to go although they have not yet started packaging it for sale in grocery stores.

Cacique offers most of the same types of dishes that one would expect to find in New Mexico. They have enchiladas, chile rellenos, burritos, tacos, and chimichangas but, at Cacique, these dishes are just a little different. The most notable difference is the absence of Green Chile but the sauces they use are made of different types of peppers and are delicious in their own right. Another big difference is a conspicuous lack of corn tortillas. If you order enchiladas at Cacique, they are made with flour tortillas. I have never been a fan of the traditional Spanish rice, usually served as an obligatory space filler on standard issue plates of New Mexican food, but Cacique uses a completely different seasoning on their rice and it’s amazing! Speaking of obligatory space fillers, in New Mexico it is possible to order any type of beans you want so long as pinto is your bean of choice. At Cacique, many of the dishes come with black beans.

Tied with the salsa for first place, my other favorite thing about Cacique is their unique way of serving sopapillas. In New Mexico, sopapillas are usually brought to the table in a basket and many restaurants bring them automatically. Everyone knows the sopapillas are to be filled with the honey (syrup) that’s already on the table and enjoyed as a dessert of sorts. Cacique also serves sopapillas but they are listed as an actual dish on the dessert menu. The reason for this is because when sopapillas are ordered at Cacique, they are brought to the table on a huge plate, arranged around a hefty scoop of vanilla ice cream and topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Your dining companion may need to roll you back to your car afterwards but it’s well worth the caloric splurge.

Being a New Mexican living in a foreign environment can be tough, and even lonely at times, but comfort food is an effective way to feel at home. To my fellow desert dwellers, should you find yourself adrift in the foreign land of Frederick, Maryland be sure to get yourself a curb side table at Cacique and don’t forget the margarita!


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Wine Review: Merlot, Casillero Del Diablo

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Dinner at Cacique is always a delight.

Wine from the Devil’s Locker puts it over the top.

I don’t know why the waiter decided to tell me about the all the foo-foo wines first. I mean, I was trying to look grown up. I wasn’t even wearing a Hello Kitty tee shirt or anything.

He looked surprised when I said, “I’ll take the Merlot from the Devil’s Locker, please.”

Clearly, he knows not with whom he fucketh.

Anyway, I chose the Merlot because it was the only one on the wine list that I hadn’t already tried.

Fair warning, pull up your grown-up pants before indulging in this one. Made from Merlot grapes grown in the Central-Valley of Chile, it’s rich, deep, and clearly not from a box. That one glass made me walk a little sideways.

Absolutely excellent and velvety smooth when paired with a bold flavored dish such as steak fajitas.

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Vanilla, oak, smoke, and chocolate. Oh yeah, and grapes. A wickedly attractive concoction full of bad-assery and sophistication.

You’re gonna want some.

Oh yes, you will indeed.


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Wine Review: 2015 Red Elegance, Black Box

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Hold on to your hat, friends. This one is good, really good.

Xavier and I didn’t mean to kill the whole the box in 3 days. Personally, I blame the box. I mean none of this would’ve happened if it weren’t there in the first place.

In looking back at my notes, I wrote exactly this: “tall glass of chocolate milk”.

Xavier said, “a glass of Johnny Walker because it’s Dyn-o-mite”. Interpret as you will.

Plum, blueberry, chocolate, vanilla..  Finish is smooth like silk.

One of the very best boxed wines we’ve tried thus far.

And check out how beautiful it is in the candlelight.

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Wine Review: Pink Moscato, Gallo Family Vineyards

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It tastes just like… pink.

It’s been a pretty long time since I’ve had any Moscato wine. Once upon a time it was the only varietal that I liked.

I call it the gateway wine.  Believe it not, there used to be a time when I thought I didn’t like wine. I call it the time before wine, or B.W. for short.

Truly, this whole wine infatuation is Xavier’s fault. I learned it by watching him.

I said, “I don’t like wine”, and he said, “here, try this.”

See there, that’s how it started, but at the time I thought I only liked wine that was pink and sweet because I was naive and silly.

Last summer our idea of a good time was a bottle of white or pink Moscato in our wine glasses from Goodwill that had green cactus stems. I bought them because they were campy. We would sit out on the patio at night and kill a bottle of Moscato in our campy wine glasses and all was right with the world.

Then one of my personal training clients bought me a real bottle of wine for Christmas and, upon tasting it for the first time, I was like “Holy f*&king shit! How have I lived this long without wine?”

So anyway, about the Gallo Family Pink Moscato, it’s a simple, light and sweet, pink wine. It’s tasty. No oak to speak of, but pleasant notes of citrus and peach. 9% alcohol. For $5.99 it sure beats the hell out of a 2L bottle of Pineapple Fanta.

This is not the wine to turn to for solving life’s more significant dilemmas, but not all wine needs to be that heavy duty. Like making small talk with strangers, sometimes the situation calls for something light and casual.

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