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Archive for the ‘Food + Beer + Wine’ Category

This past Saturday I headed out into the woods near Strum, Wisconsin with my father-in-law Jim, there to hunt the elusive and expensive (presently about $32 a pound) morel mushroom. Meteorologically, the day was shitty: intermittent light to heavy rain, overcast, with gusting winds. Yet we pushed on. Inside his pickup truck we’d pull to the shoulders of country roads and inspect the forest floor after identifying telltale dead elms. In all, we didn’t find much. About a half to two thirds of a pound. Most of the weight coming in three big specimens.

Then today, out on an afternoon walk with Henry through suburbia, I glance across someone’s backyard and notice a morel protruding so tall and white it might have been a yard ornament. I looked around for witnesses, left Henry in his Chariot, grabbed my pocketknife and quickly poached the mushroom. A beast! Taller than a can of Coca-Cola and probably somewhere between a quarter to a third of a pound. I’ll have it tomorrow for lunch, possibly with sauteed onions or atop a pizza.

Currently reading Wells Towers’ “Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned” after finished Anthony Doerr’s “The Shell Collector.” Also just finished Thomas McGuane’s “Ninety-Two In The Shade.” So far, it has been a fantastic spring/summer of reading. I’m looking forward to more reading tomorrow, possibly some more mushroom hunting, and then a Twins baseball game on Wednesday.

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…this year or any other year for that matter, is the following:

1.) Superlative coffee. Don’t try any funny business. I KNOW GOOD COFFEE.
2.) Cigars, preferably high quality, but I also have uses for White Owls and Backwoods. My favorite being Dunhills.
3.) Beer, even bad beer which I can alternatively use for cooking. I’m partial to beers from: Lake Louie Brewing, Ale Asylum, Rush River, Rogue, or the old standby, Guinness.
4.) Photographs of family – perfect.
5.) Gift certificates to bookstores. Any bookstore.
6.) Wine, preferably high quality but again, I can use the bad stuff for cooking. I’m thinking Oregon, France, Argentina.
7.) Smartwool socks.
8.) Clementines – I am currently addicted to clementines.
9.) Postage stamps – I will use them.
10.) Original art from artists that I know or follow. You don’t know any of my favorite artists? Ask me. Don’t try to “turn me onto” something new. That might backfire.
11.) Expensive olive oil.
12.) Rare Wisconsin cheeses. Don’t mess around.
13.) Expensive balsamic vinegar.
14.) Long underwear.
15.) Antique panorama photographs.

This list looks exhaustive and maybe presumptuous. But who cares? Everyone in America gets gifts every year that they abhor. Useless things that get thrown away or that people have to tote around with them for the rest of their lives like anchors of guilt. I’m just being honest here. You want to give me a gift? Give me something that gives me pleasure. That allows me to a take a quiet moment and engage my senses. Give me something to eat, drink, or smoke. Because I will consume your gift.

And I will remember your gesture.

Merry Christmas. I am, at present (no pun intended), drinking a chocolate stout from Rogue Brewing. Case in point.

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Free Samples

Today was a good day. Spent inside grocery markets – me and Henry, trolling the aisles for free samples. Cupcakes, meatballs, squares of cheese. (Henry has four words: Mom, Dad, no, and cheese.) Henry was especially ticklish today, so I pushed our cart and tickled him, up and down the aisles, both of us giggling like mad. Spectacular.

Prepared a fantastic dinner tonight: oven roasted lemon chicken over a bed of vegetables, goat milk sourdough bread, white wine.

God, it is late already. I’m a little drunk. A lot happy. I head back down to Ioway City on Friday morning to proctor an examination. Then: dinner, drinks, and karaoke with good friends. Brunch on Saturday with Adam Soto.

Things could be much worse.

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It’s almost two o clock in the morning.  The house is quiet.  Henry woke once, around ten.  I tiptoed into his nursery and rocked him back to sleep.  Poor little man is sick.  How frustrating to be sick and not know how to complain.  To tell someone what’s wrong with you.

Workshop is on Tuesday afternoon of course but I wanted to sit down this evening and crank out two letters to my classmates who will have their stories discussed.  I thought that one of the stories, by Adam Soto, was fantastic.  Very brave and gutsy and different and there were elements of the story that I deeply identified with.  Our workshop is tight.  We’re all friends, all doing different things, with different voices and styles but we have so much fun together.  I can’t tell you.  And I feel that it is my somber duty, my happy honor to write these friends and writers good hand-tooled notes.  I know how hard they work on their stories.  How stressful it can be.  To sit around a table and pour your guts out.  To hope that the work connects with someone.  That they get what you’re saying.  So I wrote Adam a great letter.  He deserved it.

Two o clock in the morning is a good time to write a letter.  Soft music playing.  A bowl of popcorn.  Some cold black coffee.  A soda.  Glasses of water.  Time to think.  To unwind.  To reach out.

A divine dinner this evening.  Regina roasted a chicken stuffed with lemons over a bed of potatoes, leeks, carrots, etc.  My god.  The skin of the chicken was heaven.  The meat of the chicken was moist, citric, and the perfect accompaniment to an autumn evening.

Tomorrow: Ioway.

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Receive a paper bag of freshly foraged morels from friend and co-worker ADAM CASEY.  Wash thoroughly.  Slice in halves.  Dice an onion, a head of garlic.  Melt three pads of butter in a good pan.  Then melt more butter.  Add mushrooms, onion, and garlic and sautee slowly, being careful to coat mushrooms evenly with melted butter.  Add beer, white wine, or pepper to taste.  Serve alongside steak and salad.  Best eaten with good friends and family.

ADDENDUM: Hunted morels two days ago with friend Jeff Sartin.  Some luck.  Nice tall yellows, but the thicker patches we’ve seen in prior years seemed less vigorous.  Only one deer tick when I returned home.  Looking forward to hunting in Strum, where my father-in-law and brother-in-law had some luck recently.

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This past weekend, Dot the Matrix logged over 718 miles, most of which were accumulated between Des Moines, IA and Iowa City, IA.  It was a fantastic trip for the Butler family: an excellent and restful stay with the Meeks family, a great lunch in Ames with Dean Bakopoulos and Ben Percy (two of America’s best young authors), a fabulous day in Iowa City and at the Dey House.  After spending a goodly amount of time in Iowa City and really scrutinizing our options, I have decided to accept the University of Iowa’s offer and in the fall, I will be a member of the Iowa Writers Workshop (IWW) in fiction.  This is a startling reality for me.

On Wednesday I will return to Iowa City with high school chum Bill Hogseth to witness our mutual childhood friend Nicholas Terry Gulig read from his Masters thesis.  This is another amazingly rewarding reality for me: to see Nick grow as a writer and poet into a man graduating from the IWW, his art polished to a shine but ultimately retaining its sweet and heartfelt goodness.  This also makes me feel good about my decision.

I was impressed with Iowa, though its topography doesn’t hold as much magic for me as Wisconsin.  I enjoyed my time in Iowa City and Des Moines, and I am excited to explore those cities more profoundly.  But it was funny.  Crossing the Mississippi from Dubuque back into Wisconsin you are met with striking coulees and draws and undulating farmland.  Great sloughs and sandstone ridges, most of which carry you all the way to the suburban fringes of liberal Madison.  Wisconsin is a great state, my favorite state, and I will miss being so close to Eau Claire, the Driftless Area, and even the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

We stopped briefly in Mineral Point, which was my first visit there.  What an amazing town.  Spectacular downtown building stock all intact.  Great topography.  A very intimate village feel.  I want to go back there.

Worked at Star this evening slinging booze.  Tasted a new Crispin cidar brewed with Trappist yeasts, and also a new Capital Brewery offering.  Both were lackluster though not bad.  Tomorrow my writing group meets at our house and I am excited to see my friends again and talk writing.  That was one of the striking things about Iowa City: books and literature were on everyone’s tongue.  Everyone is plugged into the literary scene, attending readings, talking about poetry.  I think it will be a good place to land for two years.  I hope that it is a new beginning and the start of some new friendships as well.

Godspeed Iowa.  Godspeed Wisconsin.

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Another Dude Day, a fantastic day.  Spring is in the air, a tease: melting snow, bird calls, more sunshine.  Beside our back door a grape hyacinth is even breaking through the frozen earth, as are our Himalayan poppies.  Cleaned the house, the dishes, a load of laundry.  Henry kept me company in his bouncy chair.  Between his two naps today I punched out a 5,000 word short story tentatively called “Two Invisible Wolves”.  The trouble is always finding a publisher.

No MFA decisions made yet, despite an aborted change in the “ABOUT” section of this blog.  So far, only one official offer is one the table, from the IWW.  This weekend we head down to Iowa to visit Iowa City, Gulig, the Meeks family, and hopefully some friends in Ames, Iowa.  There is work tomorrow at Star and I hope to spend the bulk of Thursday writing.  My goal is to have a collection of short stories complete before September 1st.  At present I think I’m close to 100-120 pages.

If you get the chance, I highly recommend picking up a 4-pack of New Glarus Cherry Stout.  Sweet but big bodied.  A delicious dessert beer.  At present I am nursing a Lake Louie Kiss the Lips IPA.  Possibly my favorite brewery.

Also, big congratulations to Swanny for finishing the annual Birkebeiner cross-country ski race.  Very proud of him for that.

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