Posted by: East and West | 2011/01/07

Closing the Book on 2010

2010 is over. We’re glad its over. That said, there were moments, people and places we don’t want to forget.

I used to arrive at work in Dublin before 6:30 in the morning. The view from my window was, at times, spectacular.

Winemaker Noah Taylor hosted a zinfandel release and barrel tasting event at his family’s winery in Livermore, Retzlaff Vineyards. The zins were the stars, but fresh, Washington-state oysters sang a great counterpoint.

Fort Mason in San Francisco is an interesting place to visit. Add more than 300 wineries, all award-winners in the annual SF Chronicle Wine Competition, and the old base springs to life.

My wife, son and I discovered street food, a trend that built significant traction in the Bay Area this year. We made our way to Fort Mason (outdoors, this time) to join the crowd at Off the Grid, a collection of food trucks (once referred to as roach coaches) and carts. The variety and quality of foods from around the world made our heads spin and our stomachs full.

Tut mannequin (Photo source: SF exhibit web site)

The traveling King Tutankhamun exhibit found a temporary home at the DeYoung Museum. Though the artifacts were different from the Tut exhibit that visited the Bay Area more than 35 years ago, the new collection was fascinating and educational.

We host Easter dinner every year and we serve a traditional spiral-cut ham. This year we added a twist: a crisp-skinned roasted duck. Our family and friends, as always, graced our table and celebrated the Catholic Church’s biggest holiday.

We host Thanksgiving as well, and usually have a larger crowd than Easter dinner. Two turkeys (one traditionally oven-roasted with butter and sage, another spit-roasted with olive oil, lemon juice and oregano), homemade dressing and cranberry relish, fresh steamed haricots verts, marmalade carrots, and potatoes au gratin were the heart of the meal.

We discovered Shanghai soup dumplings last year, and this was the year the Bay Area appears to have discovered them. A very well-informed critic (my brother, who visits Shanghai at least four times a year) placed the dumplings we tasted in Saratoga as the best he had tasted outside mainland China.

My wife’s best friend and our son’s godmother had never had anyone throw her a birthday party. Imagine her shock when an invitation to a quiet dinner turned out to be a small surprise party for her.

A cousin whom I had not seen in decades and now lives in Houston visited the Bay Area. Emon had met my son in Manila in 2007when he was attending the school at the Ateneo, but she had never met my brother, his wife or my wife. The reunion made for a great evening, during which she surprised us by noting that Mexican food in California was superior to Houston’s.

Another cousin, Tess, also came to visit the Bay Area. She lives in Southern California and had never met any of us until my eldest brother’s funeral in December 2009. It was a pleasure to get to know her and her family better over dinner and dessert.

Christmas Eve dinner, for several years now, has been celebrated with my wife’s cousin. The tradition of that evening is a first course of spiedini (petite Italian meat rolls) and a main course of crab cioppino. And Christmas Day dinner is hosted by my brother and his family. They traditionally serve a prime rib roast (smothered in salt, pepper, fresh grated horseradish, and parsley) and ham. No one leaves either table hungry.

So on we march into 2011. The year has already declared that it won’t be a walk in the park. However, a friend has already laid down a bigger challenge: To learn that everything I am and everything I give to others is valuable, and that for me to be happy and fulfilled I need to accept that I, too, deserve happiness and abundance.

Happy New Year!

Retzlaff Vineyards, Livermore

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