Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

Monday Mornin’ Comin’ Down

June 28, 2010
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So I’m a day off in the title. The feeling’s still the same: shellshocked, enormously tired, but also comforted by the fact that this level of discomfort is indicative of prior mirth.
As I sit in the Seattle airport, strangely welcoming a proper meal of junk food after being treated beyond my palate by the incredible bounty and exceptional culinary talent of Eastern Washington, my mind is swimming (maybe “doggie paddling”) with fond memories of the Wine Bloggers’ Conference, and how to best document them.

I have a lot of pictures. The Pacific Northwest’s beauty is stunning. Yet, I don’t feel mere photos can convey the incredible sense of gratitude I have towards everyone I finally connected with in person, as well as folks I met for the first time. To those who came up to me and told me they liked my blog; who told me I’m just like they expected I would be in person- a total validation that my personality, whether good or bad, has permeated my writing; who attended our panel session, which in itself was an incredible honor: I feel like baking all of you a batch of cookies. And no, not out of the pre-made dough. From scratch, kids, from scratch.
I drank great wine, and met the people who have poured their hearts and souls into those bottles, including existing friends, now living out an irresistible calling from the ministry of the grape.
I made comments that probably need to be expounded upon. While I am no critic, there is a value and a need for them. People need some sort of frame-of-reference…or maybe I’m just picking a fight and expecting to lose.
Most of all, I laughed as hard and as often as I ever have. If I’m to subscribe to my conviction that wine’s ultimate role in our existence is to jump-start conviviality, then this past week has been a resounding confirmation.
All that being said, I plan to expound on these thoughts: the wine, the places, the people. They just haven’t settled in my head, and my nose is distracted by the Monday smell of someone’s fryin’ chicken. Safe travels to all, and we’ll reconnect soon.

The Outtakes

June 23, 2010
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Like a band of half-witted P.T. Barnums, the “Top Gun Blogging” crew has geared into shameless self-promotion. Drew from Vineyard Vlog put together an excellent recap of what will be serving up in the Wine Bloggers’ Conference session, sans any semblance of cocky handsomeness akin to Val Kilmer’s “Iceman” character on the actual panel.
But making a polished piece of movie magic like this is not a task for the faint of heart. There are several takes that need to be filmed, B-roll footage, the duality of on-camera and off-camera persona, and the arduous task of dealing with the talent’s inflated ego.
I present…the outtakes, a study in absurdly sub-par acting:


June 21, 2010
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Like a master blender, putting together the assemblage for a perfect representation of one Champagne producer’s house style, 0r like a drunken clown trying to say his A-B-C’s backwards to a suspicious traffic cop (the latter probably better echoing my level of sophistication), I am laser-focused on two things this week:

1) The worldwide #PinotNoir Twitter event, hosted by Wine Tonite!, Sip With Me, and myself, on July 15. More on that later, but there are more details at
2) The 2010 North American Wine Blogging Conference. Clearly by some clerical error, I’ve been selected to host a panel on “Top Gun” blogging, along with Drew from Vineyard Vlog and Ben from Vinotology. Frankly, I feel left out in the fact that my blog title does not contain a single “V”. However, despite my delusions of exclusion, I guarantee all those attending “Top Gun Blogging” a humdinger of a time (or is it a hootenanny?), or no money back!
Why should you attend “Top Gun Blogging”? Here’s why:
See you in Walla Walla…

Undue Stress?

June 18, 2010
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Life’s pretty good right now. I’m managing a wicked 3-4 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, everyone at home seems healthy and happy, the wine cooler is filling up nicely with some soon-to-be really enjoyable bottles while the wife gets back into wine-drinking shape, and the anticipation of an unforgettable week in the Pacific Northwest hangs tantalizingly close to realization. I should be relaxed and ready to enjoy. So, why do I feel like Douglas Quaid, only moments ago jettisoned into the inhospitable Martian atmosphere, gasping for breath as my head is about to inevitably explode?
(for the record, Quaid’s head doesn’t explode, and all ends up happily-ever-after as the atmosphere of Mars is equalized to support human life. But you already knew that. I mean, who hasn’t seen Total Recall 25-50 times??).
So, knowing that things will work out (all my wisdom to-date comes from Arnie movies), it’s not as bad as it seems. In fact, the “stress” I’m feeling is the product of an incredible honor. A couple months ago, I was asked to participate on a panel for a breakout session at the 2010 Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Walla Walla, WA. Joining me are milk-drinking stallions Andrew Lazorchak of Vineyard Vlog fame, and Ben Simons of Vinotology (the world’s first Vinotologist). These cats have the chops. And then there’s me: some jerk who assumes everyone loves Total Recall (it’s still a safe assumption, right?) and who compares a Cab/Merlot blend to Larry Appleton of TV’s “Perfect Strangers”.
Basically, I’m charged with helping teach- yes, I think that’s accurate- teach other bloggers on how to make their blogs better. I think I might have some good ideas, but we’re talking about 300 of the finest web-based vino-verbiage slingers this side of Venusville.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m very excited about this opportunity, and very humbled to have it. I just don’t want to waste anyone’s time. I want to knock it out of the park. I think all comedians (if I can call myself one…maybe that’s comedy in itself)- to an extent- have an insecurity and a need for approval from the audience. I intend to give said audience the best damn show I can. So, a little stress comes with the territory.
Here’s the opus, neatly delineated on the Wine Bloggers’ Conference website:

Top Gun Blogging: A panel about you, the leader of your digital community, taking it further. A discourse on making your personal identity resonate, and how to establish a brand as a culmination of your behavior, thoughts and actions. A field blend panel attempts to tackle the many ways to intensify and add poignancy to your blog and your digital presence. Conversion, growth, and click-thru is a function of content + perspective + vision. What are you doing now, what can you be doing, and what should you be aiming for to pioneer your community through words and digital manifestations based on the real world around you? Panelists include Andrew Lazorchak of Vineyard Vlog, Ben Simons of Vinotology and Joe Herrig of Suburban Wino.

With that in mind, along with my neurosis to give the audience the very best, I’m going to go the route of the great Joe Roberts, and asking if there’s anything in particular you’d like to see discussed. The session is only as valuable as the audience’s level of attention, so I just want to make sure what I’m discussing falls in line with what you want to hear.
So- especially if you’re going to be in Walla Walla, and especially if you plan on attending this session- please feel free to drop some feedback here. Hopefully, I’m already on the right track, but I’m certainly not above gleaning some ideas from my smart and attractive visitors to my little piece of cyberspace…
C’mon, dear readers. Start the reactor.

It’s coming…

June 16, 2010
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GUEST POST! "Now is the time in Myrtle Beach when we eat!"

June 15, 2010
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As the wife and I settle into less-than-no sleep, some friends have stepped up and brought some entertaining guest posts to the table. When my neighbor Chris wanted to talk about some German restaurants in Myrtle Beach, SC, I thought, “South Carolinian German cuisine is really random…will anyone want to read it?” Then I realized that “random” is sort of the modus operandi of most blog posts here. Furthermore, after (finally…sorry, Chris) getting around to reading his draft, I must say that it is a really humorous take on an under-appreciated culinary tradition, all taking place in the Coney Island of the South. While the opinions stated do not necessarily reflect my own, I will say that I too am enamored with anything “Airwolf”. Prost! -Joe

Because Joe is busy with the little munchkin, I was asked to write a guest post in exchange for him pickup up my mail and watering my garden. I must say I was honored to be given such an illustrious task to become the Chief Foreign Correspondent. This post was a difficult one to write, considering the location being a culinary wasteland and devoid of wine that can’t be purchased at Wal-Mart. I bring to you fine lad and/or lass, a humble review of dining in the strange and foreign port city of Myrtle Beach located on the coast of South Carolina.

This isn’t a blog post about wine, because in Myrtle Beach there are two kinds, red and white. It is difficult to find vino made from muscadine grapes and that crap is produced locally! No my good readers, this blog post is about food and beer. With the hundreds of not-so fine eateries on the Grand Strand I had to focus my effort. The natural inclination would be to go for seafood. However, the seafood restaurants are nothing but Calabash (deep fried everything) buffets and chain restaurants such as Joe’s Crab Shack and Red Dumpster. I was determined to try some for the sake of journalistic integrity. So I summoned the courage to enter into one location (see picture with lobster fornicating with a mini-van) and after being greeted by the saddest looking pirate and a woman who was in shorts about 3 sizes too small, I took a look at the unholy offering before me (only $17.99 – a bargain in Myrtle), and did what any self-respecting human would do, turned around and walked out the door.

This experience left me with one other option to write about, German food! I had discovered on the internet that there existed two German restaurants in the Myrtle Beach area. Both claimed to be authentic but had completely different styles and atmospheres. The two contenders are Horst Gasthaus located in the suburban friendly North Myrtle Beach and Bodo’s German Restaurant and Pub, located in the heart of the Beirut-esque downtown of Myrtle Beach. Each restaurant has a distinctive nature that mirrors Germany of different eras. One is Sgt. Schultz from Hogan’s Heroes and the other is Dieter from Sprockets. Who will emerge victorious as the Kaiser of Myrtle Beach?

I took the family first to Horst Gasthaus. This quaint little restaurant is styled in the traditional Bavarian lodge. A good deal of the employees, including ownership and wait staff are from Germany. Every night after 6:00PM an accordion player performs music from popular polkas and other international tunes. I ordered the Horst Gasthaus Platte which consisted of Sauerbraten, Bratwurst, Knackwurst, dumpling, red cabbage, and sauerkraut. I must say I was not disappointed! The sauerbraten (roast beef in brown gravy) was tender and the Bratwurst and Knackwurst was terrific with the sauerkraut. The kraut was some of the best I’ve have here in the states, it was fresh but not bitter. The red cabbage was bright red and very sweet, a delight to eat. The potato pancakes my party ordered on the side were also delicious. And to top it off, I washed it all down with a half-liter of Maisel’s Weisse, a wonderful hefe that had a light, nutty, and clean flavor. It paired nicely with my meal. I also sampled the Bitburger Pilsner but found it a little two plain for my tastes but would work for someone who likes a lighter beer. Their menu selection of beers was small but of good quality.

After having a delightful experience at Horst, I set my sites on Bodo’s German Restaurant and Pub. I have to say I didn’t know what to expect, reviews of the place were mixed and without a website to visit, all I could gather was that it was “eclectic.” So as we made our way through downtown Beirut Myrtle Beach, we had no idea what was waiting for us on the other side. As we entered the restaurant, we were first greeted to a unique smell of mold, cigarette smoke, and broken dreams. Apparently “eclectic” in Myrtle Beach means crap collected from the past 30 years stapled up on the wall. Everything from beer posters, bowling trophies, and a bust of Jesus, was used to decorate the restaurant. I knew we were in for trouble when I was seated next to a memorial poster of Princess Diana. Looking back on it, it seemed as if she was trying to warn us from beyond the grave not to eat the food, just like she used to warn children not to play with landmines. While I am at fault for ignoring this warning, I do have to say the picture of Jan-Michael Vincent (star of TV’s Airwolf) caught my attention and 80’s nostalgia filled my heart until the food arrived. I ordered the sausage sampler with family sauerkraut recipe, German potato salad, and red cabbage. I can’t begin to tell you fine folks how disappointing the food was. The sausages were clearly from Johnsonville and Jimmy Dean, the family recipe for the sauerkraut tasted like it came from a can, the same goes for the cabbage, dull and flavorless. To make matters worse, the selection of German beers was thin (St. Pauli Girl doesn’t count because it is made for export) and the Franziskaner Hefe (a solid and dependable beer) was served slightly below room temperature, yuck!

There you have it folks, if you’re in the Myrtle Beach area (which I do not recommend), save yourself from fornicating lobsters and Sprockets America….enjoy the good ole fashion German food and accordion music at Horst Gasthaus. Sgt. Schultz would be proud!

What a week.

June 13, 2010
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Food and wine just seem to have gone out of focus. This experience has been beyond incredible…emotional, uplifting, trying, exhausting, rewarding, challenging, terrifying, and wonderful. If you’d told me a few years ago that I’d be a dad after Georgia barely squeaked out a win against South Carolina- where I was drinking 32 oz. mugs of beer quickly to bring the Dawgs “good luck”- and I would’ve looked at you squarely in your 8 eyes, laughed, said [gibberish], and tripped over my own feet as I went for a hug…upon which I would then try to fight you.

Not that this anecdote is indicative of how I live my life, but I just can’t see myself with this level of responsibility. One of the critical things that gives me strength is my family and my friends. While I’m so appreciative of all the great folks who have touched our lives thoughout the years offering their wishes, I was absolutely floored by the caring and support of- essentially- complete strangers…otherwise known as the folks I’ve met through Twitter and Facebook. Though many of these folks I’ve gone on to meet in person and build friendships, Heather and I can’t fathom that people from coast to coast knew about our pending parenthood, and were there to offer encouragement. Some, like Ben at Vinotology, even wrote posts to toast our new baby. Unbelievable. Ben lives in West Texas, and I’ve never met him, but I don’t think it’s far-fetched to call the guy a friend.
For this reason, while many forms of electronic communication can be impersonal, I think social media bucks the trend. If anything, it seems to only encourage personal contact, rather than limit it. I’ll be meeting Ben, along with hundreds of other “virtual” friends, at the Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Washington in a few weeks. Frankly, I would have little interest in leaving my beautiful baby daughter and miracle of a wife to hang out with a bunch of strangers. But, through building relationships via social platforms (and bolstered by the response this past week), I just look at the event as getting together with a bunch of friends I haven’t seen in a while. Cyberspace, bringing real people together in real life. Doesn’t sound impersonal to me at all.
To all of you who I’ve connected with- both online and in person- I extend a very heartfelt thank you.
Oh, and speaking of the conference, I’ve got a lot of work to do. Helping mediate a panel with Vinotology’s Ben and Andrew of Wine Soiree. Got a lot of ideas almost hashed out, but they’re currently lost somewhere in a pile of sleep deprivation, poop-laden diapers, yet-to-be sanitized milk bottles, and deep love and satisfaction. I hope to find them soon and put on the best show I possibly can…
…worst-case, I have about a million pictures that I’ll use to lull the crowd to sleep. And then I will yell at them for taking sleep for granted.

(wine’s) Out of Touch, (but food) Makes My (writing) Dreams Come True

June 9, 2010
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Admittedly, the posts lately haven’t been 100% wine-centric (often, they aren’t anyway…why be limited to one vice, methinks?). As wine is food, or at least a perfect companion to nourishing victuals, it makes sense to incorporate some.

Whatever the case, wine’s taken the role of John Oates to food’s Darryl Hall. The mustache cannot be ignored, but the lyrical prowess is relegated to the background. There’s been a very good, incredibly overdone (at least on this blog) reason for this perhaps disturbing phenomenon: pregnancy. While in the past, opening and perhaps finishing a bottle of wine a couple times a week was not uncommon, my crippled drinking buddy has made this guy think twice about popping a cork, especially if the contents within will not stand up to a few days of exposure. Then, flash forward to the past few weeks, when I cannot take the risk of having that second nip of wine, or whatever amount would compromise my ability to drive to the hospital at the drop of a hat or the shave of a sweet mustache. I can’t go for that (no can do).
So, while my access to wine hasn’t come to a screeching halt, it is limited to wines that will last for 4 days, or soirees with friends (though- incidentally- friends aren’t knocking down your door to party when you’ve taken on the metamorphosis from mirthful gadabouts to suburbanite baby-churners). However, we all need to eat, and tasty foods have filled that wine-shaped hole, hopefully slaking your thirst for consumption-centric entertainment.
To this end, I present ribs:

Posted in BBQ, food, ribs

Crabbin’ for a kid

June 7, 2010
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It was a hot one today. Muggy. Like breathing through a wet towel.

(“Muggy” is a word that has to do with humidity, California)
It was sticky. A day you would choose to spend in the cool embrace of a swimming pool, or inside, taking advantage of the modern convenience of air conditioning, which brought the South into the modern age.
So, why were we standing outside, amidst not only the ambient heat and humidity, but tenfold expelled from the crawfish pot and burner. Madness.
But, a wives’ tale says blue crabs are good to induce labor. And with Your Dekalb Farmers’ Market offering live dungeness crabs, we figured the blues’ bigger cousins might expedite the process…
…so, it’s 12:45 AM, and no baby yet. However, the wife is feeling weird. At the very least, it was a darn good meal:

Posted in crab boil, food

Fighting the Sea Monster

June 2, 2010
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If there’s one virtue of long holiday weekends that I feel is overlooked, it’s the movie marathons- namely, the bad movie marathons. Sure, all the tanned and toned must instinctively sun themselves by the pool like the cold-blooded reptiles that they are, but the subculture of pale and pasty Irish/German-rooted folk choose to seek solace from the sun’s freckle-inducing wrath. So, we turn to movies.

On this Memorial Day, I got hooked on the movies of the Sci-Fi channel. I know: you’re thinking, “but Joe, you seem far too cool and desirable to women to watch the Sci-Fi channel.” …
Anyway, the magnum opus of the day was a brilliant piece of film called Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, starring master thespians Deborah Gibson and Lorenzo Lamas. There’s not much plot to explain outside of the title, but here’s a screenshot to give you an idea of the pedigree of cinema we’re discussing:

I frankly don’t know how you San Franciscans drive across the Golden Gate bridge all willy-nilly with this sort of imminent danger looming below. Careless!

And- naturally- the other half of the equation in this film was an octopus of equal size and terror. Feeling the need to summon my own inner-giant shark, I sought out to dispatch the tentacled beast myself.

Octopus, although not incredibly prevalent on the American dinner table, is a popular and tasty critter in many Latin American, Asian, and Mediterranean cultures. I imagine the heaviest purchasing period in the States occurs when the Detroit Red Wings are in the Stanley Cup playoffs. However unusual as this food may be, most efforts I’ve tasted have been quite delicious (if not somewhat chewy).

Prevention methods for said chewiness vary greatly on the interweb: from overnight marination to boiling to using a meat mallet to repeatedly smacking the critter against the pavement, as is supposedly common in Greece. Having neither the time for marination or a meat mallet (or a desire to have my neighbors watch me abuse cephalopods in my driveway), I opted for the boiling method.

Once the critter was inspected for cleanliness (my local fishmonger thankfully took the initiative to remove the innards, ink sac, eyes, and beak), I dropped it into a pot of boiling, salted water with a squeezed lemon and its rind. I let it go for about 40 minutes, hoping tenderness ensued.

After removed from the water and allowed to drain, I placed my eight-legged pal into a marinade of olive oil, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, chopped garlic, salt, pepper, and oregano. I let it stew for about 30 minutes before throwing over hot coals to crisp up the edges:

The now flame-kissed beast was cut it up into bite-sized pieces (removing the still incredibly-chewy bits), drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt, and a squeeze of grilled lemon. Overall, much was still a little rubbery, but the mild flavor (sort of like a cross between calamari and scallop) was very pleasant, and the smaller tentacles were tender and crispy.

Since only a fool would eat Mediterranean-style seafood without a bottle of wine, I cracked open a bottle of Assyrtiko from Santorini (a Greek island), graciously provided to me by wine PR pal Constance. She’s always coming to the table with interesting wines from around the world (previously plying me with samples from Australia and Austria). Very cool. Maybe even cooler than a fictional battle between a giant shark and a monstrous octopus.

Brimming with confidence that a Greek delicacy like grilled octopus with lemon would fit the bill swimmingly with a Greek white wine, I was delighted that the Assyrtiko (a white wine grape native to Greece) proved to be a solid seafood match; very, very dry with mineral and lemon peel aromas, and it was fresh and clean. A little bitter on the finish (sort of like grapefruit peel), but a good complement to the octopus. With the mineral component so evident, I would probably pair this up with some oysters or shellfish in the future, yet the octopus had a mild enough flavor that- although not minerally- played nicely along the Assyrtiko’s subtleness.

However, I feel like the chewiness of a giant prehistoric octopus might be too much for the wine to handle…and where would I get a pot that big? Furthermore, I can’t even begin to say how inappropriate this would be with enormous shark filets. I saw that shark eat a Jumbo Jet, a U.S. Navy Destroyer, a Frigate, a section of the Golden Gate bridge, and a Nuclear Submarine. With all those metallic elements surely affecting the flavor of the meat, I think something with petrol aromas- like a Alsace or German Riesling- would suit such a meal more appropriately.

Come back tomorrow, when we’ll be discussing wines to pair with roast sasquatch, fricasse of ghost, Loch Ness Monster short ribs, and Deborah Gibson’s acting career stew.