Yesterday, my runners did a recovery run from the meet the day before on their own. With no practice to get to, I took the opportunity to revert to my once-normal routine of swinging by the grocery store for fresh food, picking up the kids from daycare, and then coming home to cook dinner. I’ve had a great time coaching, though I didn’t shy away from this rare opportunity to do something I enjoy. I picked up the ingredients for Pad Thai at Wohlner’s, then snagged the kids from daycare. Zooey has been especially happy to see me lately, which is wonderful, and Titus has a little cold which Sonja says makes him “snuggly” — also a pleasant thing.
When we got home, I started preparing vegetables in the kitchen. Pad Thai is a fun dish to prepare, as it demands most of my foresight, coordination, and thought — as well as all four burners on the stove top — in order to get everything done at the same time. I chopped up red peppers and fresh leeks, as well as three heads of broccoli and some snap peas. We had some farm fresh eggs, a gift from a friend of Sonja’s, so I snagged a couple of those. After I seasoned the chicken and got the water boiling, we were good to go.
Sonja would usually take the kids somewhere else to play while I cooked, but after Zooey got angry we strapped her into her high chair to give her Tylenol for her gums and feed her a snack. Already in the kitchen, Titus sat down on a stool and watched me cook, eating little pieces of red pepper I passed his way, and soon Sonja sat down beside him. It was truly idyllic; I loved having the family together and getting to be around them all, rather than cooking in isolation. And while I was cooking, Sonja and I took the opportunity to share a glass of wine.
Grgich Hills Estate is an important winery in Napa for several reasons. Foremost, it is the winery that Miljenko (Mike) Grgich opened when he left Chateau Montelena after making the famous 1973 vintage Chardonnay that won the Judgement of Paris. I feel like there’s a lot more to say about this, so below I’ll offer a few additional resources for those who are interested in learning more. For the purposes of this blog post today, I’ll stay focused and say that this Chardonnay, five years young, is exceptional. Napa Chard was once an oaky, buttery, hyperbolic mess when not made by folk like Grgich. Lately however, there has been something of an overcorrection, and we’re seeing more of the varietal that doesn’t taste like the varietal, aged in stainless steel and made to taste more like Viognier or Sauvignon Blanc or… something else. This wine from Grgich Hills, which Sonja and I picked up at the winery a while back, walks the line well. With a golden hue and an unmistakable roundness in the mouth, definitive buttery notes — and then, and equally, the commanding presence of fresh fruits, honeysuckle, a touch of caramelized pear, and almonds, it’s Chablis in style, but as you might suspect, even better in my opinion. It is crisp and acidic while round and bold at the same time, a testament to the Napa Valley, and to Mike Grgich, his family, and his craftsmanship. Sonja and I had a special visit to this winery years ago, and we enjoyed revisiting the place as we shared this memory together last night.
If I’m being honest, cooking is not much like riding a bike. I slightly overcooked the rice noodles, which didn’t hurt the flavor but also didn’t give me the texture I was going for. Worse, I forgot fresh cilantro, sprouts, and limes. Sonja assured me that the acidity of these things would not have complimented the peanut sauce I was using, but in the end they were a pretty serious oversight. (I think she was just being nice.) The meal was good, far from great, but the experience of making it with my family around was great, bordering on perfect. And pairing this incredible wine with my only slightly above average food made the dining experience far more enjoyable, the roundness of the wine easily tempering the red chiles and peanut sauce.
This weekend holds a lot of promise. The team has practice this morning and then breakfast at my house. Afterwards, the Huskers get another shot at our first win of the season. It will be a day to spend with my kids and my wife, and tomorrow I’m pacing the Omaha Marathon — the half, actually. I hope wherever you are and whatever you’re up to, you have a terrific weekend. Oh, and if you’d like to learn more about wine and wine history, in particular the Napa Valley and Mr. Mike Grgich, see a few more bits of my writing pasted below.
Cheers to the weekend, and to firing on all four burners!