Monday, April 28, 2008

The Quasi-Outdoorsy

Overlooking the simple pleasure of a getaway is far too easy.

The Sweet Partner in Crime treated me to a weekend vacation at Natural Bridge State Park to celebrate my birthday. We had a rough agenda. Sleep in on Friday, get up at our leisure, and head down to Lexington to catch the last day of Keeneland. (I ended up breaking even on the day, thanks to a strong ride by a 10-1 longshot from Devil Eleven Stables bred by an old classmate of mine.)

After good times at the track, we headed down the Mountain Parkway to Slade. We stopped at Miguel's, one of the best little pizza joints you'll ever stumble across and unofficial community center to the "climber's commune" behind the place. We picked up a pizza and a salad there and headed for our cabin in the park.

We had a little mix-up at check-in. We opened up our cabin -- only to find someone else's bags already in the bedroom, newspaper in the kitchen. We called the front desk. I explained to the high-schoolish sounding attendant the situation and (after she asked "Are you serious?" and "Are you sure? Did you just check in?") said that she could get us another cabin. We went back to the lodge and received an apology and new keys from the manager. We ended up, by chance, in the same cabin where we did the Riesling tasting last year.

We settled in, finally able to enjoy the yumminess from Miguel's. Our need for bubbly with pizza is well documented, so we'd brought along a bottle of Royal St. Vincent Brut for the occasion (Usually around $15, found on sale for $10). The bubbly was crisp, dry, and had a little yeasty character. It tasted wonderful after a day in the sun and was simply delicious with the pizza.

The SPinC and I are what you might deem "quasi-outdoorsy." We love being outside, enjoy taking hikes, and think of ourselves as relatively adventurous -- but at the end of the day, rather than pitch a flimsy tent and sleep on roots and rocks, we'd much rather return to our cabin, shower, and cook a good meal in a fully-equipped kitchen. Some of you might consider that cheating, but's our vacation!

So, what did we bring along on this little jaunt of ours? Well, for general consumption after hikes and the like -- our old standard Redcliffe 2006 Sauvignon Blanc found its way into the fridge. For our evening chocolate consumption, we had a bottle of Benjamin Tawny Port from Australia ($10-13). An inexpensive port, it's got a strong but not overpowering sweetness, lots of flavors of vanilla and fruit, and a delicious finish. At the price, you probably won't find anything that can touch it.

The port also played itself into the meal we cooked on Saturday. We fired up the grill to cook some cardamom-and-balsamic marinated ostrich steaks. The ostrich was free-range raised by a colleague of mine at work (who, sadly, is getting out of the business). I'm a huge fan of the stuff, and if you haven't tried it -- it tastes like steak with the fat content of chicken. We did foil packets of vegetables and some boiled new potatoes. As a side, we diced a big apple and cooked it down with beef broth, the port, some honey, and more balsamic. Unearthly good as a chutneyish topping. Dessert was a couple of grilled pineapple rings, topped with more of the apple and port sauce.

To drink, I rolled the dice and tried a California meritage called Beauzeaux from BV ($9-12). 2005 was the first year of this blend, which has a Zinfandel base and includes juice from seven other grapes. It was nothing fancy -- just a straightforward, somewhat juicy red wine. Honestly, I wouldn't have wanted anything overly complicated with this dinner. There were so many fantastic flavors in the food that I was happy for the wine to stand at attention in a friendly fashion. For that purpose, it worked well enough as a complement. (Although I wouldn't recommend it with the pineapple.)

The rest of the weekend when we weren't eating? Other than a couple of wonderful walks in the woods (and with the slow spring we've had, we were right in the "wildflower wheelhouse" -- just beautiful colors) -- we didn't do much. We sat on the porch and watched the wind blow. We napped. We channel-surfed mindlessly (although the SPinC was fascinated by "Flip this House.") We talked and laughed. We relaxed. We slept like babies.

No email. No Internet. No cell phone service. We noticed that this was the first time in a long time that we weren't doing something. Both of us are really busy in our regular lives, and even when we have time at home -- we're usually doing something social, or catching up on watching shows, or we're checking email, or doing things for work, or running errands, or writing, or something that requires one or the other of us to be focused on something.

This weekend stood in stark contrast. Doing nothing, not plugged in for a couple of days -- not feeling the urge to be connected to people outside the room and the moment -- that peace was a luxury and a gift. No, we weren't completely "off the grid," but it was enough. The weekend gave us both nice recharge and a powerful reminder of just how easy it is to get caught up in the flow of what we find important in the "real world."

When did solitude become hedonistic?


JettieSatellite, The_Wizard of Covington said...

When people became compulsive about information.

I blame Reagan.

The Naked Vine said...

Does that mean he doesn't get to be the fifth face on Rushmore anymore?