Musings about life on Earth in all its aspects…

Month: December, 2021

Advent Day 24 – Completion – December 24, 2021

Day 24 – California Sparkling Wine, Brut Cuvee and Gouda Cheese

Here on Christmas Eve, the final Day 24 of my Wine and Cheese Advent Calendar, is a mirror image of Day 1: A white Brut Cuvee Sparkling Wine in place of a Rose, a Gouda in place of Edam. But a fitting close, bubbly to toast a fun and educational exercise, a simple Gouda that fit with a day of otherwise extravagant tastes like dark chocolate dipped cashews, spicy Lebkuchen cookies, chocolate chocolate-chip cookies, Aged English Stilton Cheese and Aged Cumberland Cheese from the hills of Tennessee.

Turned out canceling our in-person Christmas Eve festivities was appropriate as two of our grandsons tested positive for COVID this morning. Here’s hoping their youth and healthy vigor will see them through this (both are vaccinated). Prayers and positive thoughts on their behalf will be much appreciated. Pat and I did our little driving tour of Riverside this evening to take in the Christmas light and holiday decorations; we were pleased to see at least eight manger scenes in evidence. Three or more years ago we would have seen one or two in addition to ours at most.

To all our friends and acquaintances we wish you all the joy and love of the Christmas Season. Here is a link to a wonderful Dallas, Texas acapella quartet, “Kings Return,” singing their captivating and lovely arrangement of Ave Maria, which is certainly an exquisitely appropriate song for Christmas Eve:

~Roy Beckemeyer, December 24, 2021

Advent Day 23 – December 23, 2021

Day 23 – California Sauvignon Blanc and Red Leicester Cheese

Here, on the penultimate day of the Advent Calendar, we find to our utter amazement, that one of Santa’s prescient ALDI Elves, tongue in cheek or simply prognosticator par excellance, decides to repeat Day 13, which just happens to be the day of this series’ most pleasing and fulfilling pairing of the products of grapes and cows milk: California Sauvignon Blanc and Red Leicester Cheese! Just as fine as ten days ago, and a suitable Christmas gift. Danke schön!

As the Omicron variant of COVID 19 has surged and spread these past days and weeks, our confidence in the safety of spending Christmas Eve in the company of our daughter’s family and Pat’s sister and her husband Lori’s home (as has been our tradition now for many years, after missing the experience in 2020) has waned and we have once more postponed the pleasure of that treasured tradition. Jay and Shelley will be staying in Illinois, and we will relegate our Christmas Eve this year to a masked, safe-distanced, open-air porch visit sans hugs, sans kisses. As 80 year-olds with chronic illnesses, we opt for waiting once more (please, God, only once more) putting off tradition for safety. We will still bask in the sight of loved ones and the knowledge that we do indeed love one another: enough to forgo momentary satisfaction for future reward. Here is another Christmas card watercolor rendering for Christmas Eve, 2021:

~Roy Beckemeyer, December 23, 2021

Advent Day 22 – December 22, 2021

Day 22 – California Sweet Rosé and Mediterranean Gouda

Mediterranean Gouda and Pinot Grigio on Day 5, Med. Gouda and what is called a “Sweet” Rosé on Day 22. I actually found there to be just a residual sweetness to this wine, and it surprised me somewhat. I suspect that this cheese, with what my daughter called a “pizza” flavor (which does capture it rather well), would fare better with a hearty red wine, this pairing was not great, not awful, but definitely ok. And the calendar is winding down fast. Just two pairings to go.

No snow in the forecast this year, no white Christmas, not even a good chill wind – so, let’s go back two years ago, pre pandemic, when our dog Jenna was still with us (our daughter has her now), to see how happy Labrador retrievers are when snow graces us with its presence. After all, who can resist a smiling dog and snow at Yuletide? Happy Christmas to all the cats and dogs and their humans, too!

~Roy Beckemeyer, December 22, 2021

Advent Day 21 – December 21, 2021

Day 21 – California Cabernet Sauvignon and Gouda with Mustardseed

On Day 17 Gouda with mustard seed was paired with red blend, a generic but hearty red. Today we meet it with Cabernet Sauvignon, and they each bow in respect, salute one another with raised epee, and join forces with me as the Three Musketeers of wine and cheese. A pleasant interlude, neither daring nor boring, but perfect for a winter day posing as anything but winter. Here’s to the Advent Season and all it implies, to the beginning of winter and the end of another year. Sláinte!

One house on our block brims over with Christmas exuberance every year. Nancy and Kevin spend days putting together their display of ebullience and magic. It is a kid’s dream of Christmas cheer, and attracts visitors constantly during these weeks at year’s end. Here’s a brief video to dazzle your eyes. How could Santa resist?

~Roy Beckemeyer, December 21, 2021

Advent Day 20 – December 20, 2021

Day 20 – California Moscato and Double Gloucester

Continuing our swing back through cheeses, here we find Day 10’s Double Gloucester paired with a white Moscato in place of the earlier Riesling. This Moscato again sweet and fragrant, white rather than the Red of Day 14, but finding in this cheese what the Red Moscato discovered in Mature Cheddar. In any event, the great texture and feel and the substantial depths of the cheese contrasted and complimented the swish of Moscato sweetness cascading over the tongue, each sip like the waves washing up on the cheese’s shores. How’s that for a salty metaphoric serenade to Advent?

Short day length, long nights don’t seem to make Christmas come any sooner when you are a child awash in the Season’s magic. The neighborhood has turned all atwinkle in the night, a lesser but perhaps more comforting display than the local botanical garden’s Holiday light show. Illuminations is truly spectacular and worth anyone’s time for an unhurried visit. Just watching the children’s reactions is heart-warming and a reason to take in the abundant visual and aural gifts of the Christmas Season. Here’s a family photo shot that was taken 5 years ago by our daughter, Lori, of Pat and me and Lori’s family at Botanica for the Christmas light show – four generations, from us to great-grandson Daxx (Koe was still just a twinkle in his parent’s eyes). Enjoy this time of family and faith and reflection and hope. May blessings and God’s grace befall us all.

~Roy Beckemeyer, December 20, 2021

Advent Day 19 – December 19, 2021

Day 19 – Winter Wonderland California Chardonnay and White Cheddar

Interesting fact for those inclined toward numerology or those tracking their Advent tastings of wine and cheese. On Day 19 we repeat the pairing of Day 9: Chardonnay and white cheddar. Fortuitous? Yes! If one had to be repeated, this was a wise choice! Significance of the 10-day spacing? The base of our numbering system? So glad we don’t use the hexadecimal system, as we would never have gotten back to this combination (any programmers out there who can recall making their way through dumps of hexadecimal numbers trying to debug a piece of code?). Enough of this hocus pocus hiddeley-piddeley wandering. It was great to repeat this pairing.

Especially after we went through the long and lovingly but almost endlessly detailed assembly of our batch of 2021 Lebkuchen. We have been making these cookies every year for over 30 years now. The dough is made by bringing molasses or dark syrup almost to a boil, dissolving brown sugar in it, then mixing in a whipped egg and lemon zest and then combining it into flour and cinnamon and nutmeg and cloves, then letting that dough age in the fridge overnight or a couple of days. The dough gets cold and stiff and needs to be that way to keep from flattening out as the cookies bake. So we pry a quarter of the dough from the bowl at a time, put the rest back, roll out a circle a quarter-inch thick, then cut rounds. Back they go into the fridge until we are ready to place them on a cool cookie sheet, adorn them with candied cherry halves and five blanched almonds each, turning them into little Christmas flowers, then bake them to a turn Then they cool on the sheet and rest 5-10 minutes until they can be lifted safely from the sheet. They cool some more, then we mix the glaze: Powdered sugar and white rum. Carefully glaze the top. Let it dry. Turn them over. Glaze the bottom. Let them dry. place them carefully into a tightly sealed container and then they go out to the breezeway where they can stay cool and protected from us until closer to Christmas Eve. An entire evening for two-dozen cookies. But Oh, So Worth It!

Pat turning dough rounds into flowers, Lebkuchen preparation 2021.

~Roy Beckemeyer, December 19, 2021.

Advent Day 18 – December 18, 2021

Day 18 – California White Zinfandel and Jalapena Gouda

Oh No! Not Jalapena Gouda again! Gone the “Reindeer Red” of Day 11, and in the wings to try to last at least one round with this hot cheese is White Zinfandel, that rosé that was very popular as a cooling quaff oh so many years ago. And, it turns out, a tougher competitor as well. The strawberry/cherry flavor hints and the natural spiciness of the zinfandel together did a better job of holding up against the hot pepper flames of the cheese. Still not a match made in heaven, but at least one that made having this cheese with wine tolerable. I would rather have it with one of the tamer goudas if you please.

And, again, to reward myself I repeat the Burgess Cabernet Sauvignon and Lasagna of yesterday again this evening, with a side of braised spinach with orange zest. Voila!

~Roy Beckemeyer, December 18, 2021

Advent Day 17, December 17, 2021

Day 17 – Red Blend California Red Wine and Gouda with Mustard-seed

Last nicely paired on Day 6 with a Cab, Gouda with Mustard-seed is paired today with a tasty generic red wine, “Red Blend.” The red was fairly hearty and the pairing seemed of a kind with the earlier one. The red stood up to the mustard seed’s assertions and replied in kind: Result, a draw.

A pause for some dental work this morning. Then another wine pairing for dinner to make myself feel better. I made a large baking dish full of lasagna, the filling a mix of ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan, hearty meat and tomato sauce spiced with basil, and a lovely Burgess Cellars 2015 “Hillside Vineyards” Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a magnificent match, and the most wonderful thing is that I get to do it again tomorrow. Although Tom Burgess is no longer active at his winery, I recall good times spent with him on a week-long visit to Burgess Cellars 30 years ago. I have consumed many great bottles from there and hope to get in more than a few in the future. Salute!

Here I am at the Napa Valley VIntners’ Association “Crush ’91” about to be given a tour of his vineyards by air by Tom Burgess. Pat and I stayed with the Burgess family for a week and became quite partial to Burgess Cabernets.

~Roy Beckemeyer, December 17, 2021

Advent Day 16 – December 16, 2021

Day 16 – California Pinot Grigio and Gouda with Red Pesto

The last tasting of Pinot Grigio was with Mediterranean Gouda on Day 5; Gouda with red pesto was previously tried with Chardonnay on Day 3 and with Raspberry wine on Day 8. So this is another match-up. Fruitier than the Chardonnay, much less sweet than the Raspberry, the P. Grigio was a fine match as well, sort of bridging between the other two, the fruitiness enhancing the sweet tomato and red pepper notes of the cheese, but not bringing them to the fore the way the sweeter wine had done, so this was an interesting group of pairings.

Tomorrow will be a week before Christmas Eve, our family’s traditional gift exchange day, so we will begin the cookie baking, a batch of labor-of-love-intensive Lebkuchen, and a batch of chocolate chip cookies, especially for brother-in-law Jay. The Lebkuchen dough needs to spend a day in the fridge maturing (a molasses-based heavy dough), so it will be assembled on Friday, then all the baking will be done on Saturday. Other specialties under prep by our daughter Lori and her husband Chris, lots of homemade cookies and candy, then our family tradition of pizza for Christmas Eve. Here is a photo of Lebkuchen from previous years just to whet everyone’s appetite. And a copy of the recipe just in case.

~Roy Beckemeyer, 16 December, 2021

Advent Day 15 – December 15, 2021

Day 15 – California Pinot Noir and Gouda

It appears we are now rearranging previous cheeses with previous wines. Interestingly enough, although the wine choice here, Pinot Noir, was nicely varietal in nose and taste back on Day 4, this one (Day 4’s was “Shimmering Lights Series Winter Wonderland” whereas this one is “Oh, Reindeer Series Winter Wonderland”) was back to a more generic Central Valley red with no varietal character at all. The Gouda, paired with “Merry Red” in Day 2’s tasting, was just as good, but I don’t feel this Pinot Noir was as friendly as that generic red. So, a dissatisfying pairing, although the Gouda was still very tasty.

After the awful tornado that ravaged parts of Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky this week, we had a thoroughly frightening (but thankfully considerably less harmful) day across Kansas, with a haboob in Tribune, 80+ mph straight-line winds, gusts all day in the 50s and higher, wildfires scattered about, and dust and smoke-filled skies. Temperature in the 70s as well made this quite untraditional Winter Holiday weather. Now that the cold front is through, the wind calmer, the temperature more seasonal, perhaps things will settle for what remains of the year 2021.

Well, gloomy tasting notes, gloomy weather, the least I can do is include another watercolor Christmas Card effort to add a modicum of cheer:

~Roy Beckemeyer, December 15, 2021