Top Shelf Tequila

patron-blue-agave-highlandsTequila used to be known as the drink of cheap thrills and bad choices.

Pour yourself a tot of something like Gran Patrón Burdeos – aged in French and American oak, finished off in ex-Bordeaux wine barrels and sold in a custom-engraved crystal bottle for around $500 – and you realize the traditional spirit of Mexico has come a long way from spring break shooters.

“Consumers have become a lot more educated on exactly what tequila is, and what a good tequila is,” says Jasmine Breedlove, Bar Manager of ThinkFoodGroup’s Oyamel Cocina Mexicana in Washington, D.C., and a certified Master Mezcalier. “It’s been really fun having been an agave lover for so long to see how much people have grown to love tequila.”

Click here to read more of this story, published by Palate Press.

The 5 Career Lessons I Learned from Monty Python

Some folks meditate. Others rely on daily affirmations. My life coach? Monty Python.

Here are some key career tips I’ve gleaned from studying the master.

Never give up on yourself. Shake off those career stumbles and setbacks. When you’re down is when you discover hidden talents. Remember, you’ve always got something left in your repertoire of marketable skills.

Details count. Don’t forget to do your research! It’ll help when you face the tough questions.

Stay positive. Every cloud really does have its silver lining, if you look for it.

Keep it professional. Because you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Know when it’s time to quit. Give up on yourself? No. Give up on impossible people/situations? Sure. When you’re in over your head and you know it, it’s OK to think with your feet.

Five worst things to say to laid-off friends

FullSizeRender (2)A rash of layoffs in the media biz in recent days has reminded me of my own abrupt exit from sweet, sweet Salaryland.

I feel bad for the bereft, whether they were new hires setting out on their journalistic adventures or old hands like myself. But there’s not much I can do for the jobless except to assure those who are feeling raw that the sting will fade. You may be broke as hell by then, but at some point you’ll wake up and realize it really was about them not you.

What I can do is disperse some gentle advice on what NOT to say to the recently laid off.

5. Any sentence beginning with the words “You should.” So, “You should have taken that job you interviewed for last summer,” Nope. “You should have specialized in (list subject name here).” Nope. “You should have sucked up to X more.” Nope, nope, nope.

4. Ditto sentences beginning with “You shouldn’t.”

3. “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to you.” No, no it isn’t. Yes, a person can survive being laid off, can learn from it, may bounce right into a new job, may claw their way into an entirely different line of work they end up liking much better. No, suddenly being left without financial stability and sans health care still isn’t as bad as falling ill or having someone you love become seriously ill. But being escorted out of the building at the orders of a company you’ve dedicated months, years, decades, of your life to absolutely bites and that is all there is to that.

2. “Everything happens for a reason.” I can feel my teeth grinding just typing that. Not all of us believe that some cosmic force has drawn up a detailed road map to our lives. Bonus tip: If you are on the receiving end of this platitude, here’s a response that I found worked quite well. “Yeah, and the reason is I got royally screwed.” Except I didn’t say screwed.

1. “Say, too bad about what happened. Can you give me your replacement’s email address? (smiley face)” Yeah, I know, you’re thinking surely someone wasn’t as crass as to send you an email like that, Michelle? And you’re right. I didn’t get one of these charming requests. I got half a dozen.

Although in all fairness not all of them had smiley faces.

P.S.: Want to know the Six Best Words to say to the Recently Laid Off?

“Let me buy you a drink.”

Cheers, commiseratingly.

Sip-n-step with wine country hikes

hikeHere’s a wine country secret that can help you raise your glass and your heart rate. Along with the Napa Valley’s famous wine-tasting trails, there are miles of scenic trails of the hiking variety, beckoning visitors who want to exercise more than their palates.

“There are so many great places up here,” says John Conover, partner and general manager of Odette Estate winery and an avid hiker.

From the mellow stroll of the Napa Vine Trail on the valley floor to more rugged hauls into the hills, hiking options have expanded in California wine country, and so has interest in wine country walking.

“It used to be people would come to Napa just asking about wine and food,” says Conover. Now, tasting-room visitors frequently ask about outdoor options as well, something he attributes to the general interest in staying fit.

Here’s a sampling of some wine country trails:

Click here to read more of this story, published by the Associated Press.

Undiscovered Uruguay

bodega-garzon-overviewHarvest is under way and internationally known enologist Alberto Antonini is giving a master class on the coming vintage. Behind him, framed in the large windows of the new winery, a landscape of terraced vineyards unfolds under a lacy blue sky, a view reminiscent of his native Italy.

But these vines are most definitely not under the Tuscan sun.

This is Bodega Garzón, brainchild of global vintner Alejandro Bulgheroni, and the newest addition to Uruguay’s emerging wine scene.

“What we have got here is a beautiful environment,” says Antonini.

Click here to read the rest of this article, published on

Wandering Aran

inishmore-blow-holeGive up Paris, the Irish poet W.B. Yeats told fellow writer J.M. Synge, and go to the Aran Islands in order to “express a life that has never found expression.”

The budding playwright took the advice and traveled to the Aran Islands off Ireland’s West Coast. He returned full of ideas, incorporating island ways and dialect into works such as his lyrical play, “Riders to the Sea.”

Things have changed a bit since Synge made his pilgrimage in 1898, but even today this rocky outpost in Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way remains a place to find respite from modern life and move to a simpler rhythm.

 Many visitors treat the islands as a day trip, taking the ferry or flight from Galway. But to really experience the islands’ charms, consider spending a few nights. Multiple B&Bs offer reasonable rates.
Here are some basics on planning your trip.

Click here to read this story, published by the Associated Press.


Happy St. David’s Day!

leeksIt’s March 1st, which is the day we celebrate St. David and all things Welsh.

Why the leeks? St. David, a sixth century Welsh bishop, advised the Welsh to wear leeks in their caps when fighting the invading Saxons so they’d know who was who. Allegedly. A slightly more believable legend is that Welsh archers fought bravely in a field of leeks under the Prince of Wales, Edward the Black Prince, at the Battle of Crecy in 1346. I am very sorry to tell you that when our teachers at primary school told us children this back in the Year of Our Lord A Long Time Ago, we made very immature jokes about killing the French soldiers with bad breath. In fact, some people over the years have found leeks a little too pungent to be really festive and switched to daffodils, so you’ll see a lot of those in Welsh imagery, too.

Since daffodils are hell to pair wine with, however, here’s a link to wine-and-leek pairings from the fabulous Fiona Bennett.

And here’s a nice story from The Telegraph on places to visit in Wales.

Would you believe that your humble correspondent used to dress up like this on March 1?

welsh girl

This is a super cool flashmob video of Welsh rugby fans singing the national anthem at London’s Victoria Station before a big Wales-England game last fall. It worked because Wales won that match in one of The Most Exciting Games ever. I thought the commentary guys on Radio Wales, who did not do anything silly like pretend to be objective, were going to have heart attacks.

Here is a very awesome picture of Prince William, the future Prince of Wales, looking rather chuffed about the win and Prince Harry, for England, looking fairly put out.


Here is a tweet the fellows at English Rugby sent out today.

Nice try, boys.


Oscar Cocktails

920x920Silver shakers and the silver screen go back a long time. Think French 75 from “Casablanca” and Agent 007’s dry martinis.

So for those of you planning to drink along at home for the Feb. 28 showing of the Oscars this year, now might be a good time to get your cocktail act together. And Tim Federle, author of “Gone with the Gin,” has a few ideas about that.

From The Moon-Shining — moonshine, ruby red grapefruit juice, rum, that’s right, red rum — to Tequila Sunrise Boulevard (probably best NOT served poolside), the best-selling author has a line-up of cinematically inspired cocktails meant to be shaken, stirred and sipped with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

Bubbly as a Champagne cocktail, “Gone with the Gin” nonetheless has serious underpinnings. Federle worked with talented bartender Cody Goldstein, founder of Muddling Memories, a craft cocktail and bar consulting firm in New York. There also are useful sections on tools, techniques and even some fun food recipes.

“The approach was humorous and, yeah, they’d better taste good, too,” said Federle.

Click the link below to read the rest of this article, published by the Associated Press.