Today, I bring you a tale of a Christmas miracle. It involves gin.
Bill, my step-(may-as-well-be-my-)Dad, lives in a small (tiny) town in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. He is a spry 82, still teaches one class each semester at Trinity College, has a lady friend who lives down the road and around the corner, regularly goes to the gym, prefers movies without gore, blood and sad stories, and generally, wants for very little. Exchanging gifts is not necessary, but can be nice. If I can, I like to get a sour cherry pie to him for his July 10 birthday. (My friend Christine actually baked him a pie once, delivering it to his front porch and startling him. Whoops.)
Bill always gets cookies at Christmas, of course.
A few weeks back, Bill called to talk about an article in the New York Times. In his youth, Bill was a gin drinker, usually with tonic, but sometimes with just a whisper of vermouth. While wine is more to his taste these days, he admitted a fascination with the idea of a barrel aged gin. He asked if I knew where he could get something like this gin.
I took this as a challenge. Little did I know what a challenge it would be. Starting with the fact that liquor cannot be shipped into Massachusetts. I asked the world of Twitter to help me find a liquor store in Massachusetts and either Maggie Battista (@mizmaggieb, who curates the gorgeous Eat Boutique) or amazing photographer Brian Samuels (@myfoodthoughts) suggested Social Wines in South Boston.
Social Wines is a newish store, and the Very Helpful Elaine answered my telephone call. Yes, they had barrel aged gins, in fact, there is a distillery next door (!) making some. Good. Yes. We worked the details, Bill’s address, what the card should say. We two were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. I thanked her and sent out a tweet with my compliments.
Four days later, a sheepish Elaine called. There were some details. Some problems. Some legalities. Massachusetts is a complicated place for liquor dealings. But Elaine had worked it out. One of the distributors working with Social Wines lived near enough to Bill and said he would DROP IT OFF!
Is this a Christmas miracle or what? These were the nicest people doing their best to make sure Bill got some barrel aged gin.
When Bill got wind of the plan, he said he would drive in to Great Barrington after all, and pick it up at Domaney‘s, his favorite liquor store, which just seemed easier. But I know that Elaine and the distributor were ready to drive those small back roads and for that I am enormously grateful.
All’s well that ends with a barrel aged martini.
If you happen to find yourself in Boston please do give Social Wines your business. And say hi to Elaine. And of you are in the Berkshires, head on over to Domaney’s. They have superb wines and Berkshire Mountain Distillers Ethereal Barrel Aged Gin.
It’s been a big year in Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s kitchen. Over 1000 jars filled with food, hundreds of pounds of meat, gallons and gallons of milk and cream, more sugar, vinegar, salt and woodsmoke than seems possible. Several reams of paper. Dozens of red pencils. Plenty of sleepless nights and, yes, a few tears.
We are spending the holidays at home in DC. The tree is up, the lights twinkle on the front walkway and over the windows that look out on the garden. It smells like evergreen and butter and sugar and gingerbread spices. Dozens and dozens of cookies have been mailed, handed out and consumed. Our last cookie party is this weekend. My hips are grateful.
As usual, Dennis and I have planned a quiet time between Christmas and New Year’s. We tend to tuck in, watch TV, sit around the tree and go for dog walks. This year, we’ll end the holiday week with an open house party. I’ve got a multi-culti menu planned and look forward to catching up with friends.
The big news is the kitchen renovation. We have been in this house for 15 years, and while it may seem to casual visitors that the kitchen is a dream, the fact is, it doesn’t function very well. The pantry is ridiculous. (Ironic, right?) We never really use the dining room which is small, cramped and cold. We love the breakfast room but it’s too long and not deep enough to be truly comfortable. And, the worst part, the cupboards, which, at first glance, seem numerous, are not at all functional. Most of my cookware lives in the basement and making a meal often involves five or six trips up and down the stairs for ingredients, tools, cookware and pantry items. We have hired a local architect and today I saw the first designs and I am very excited. I will be reporting regularly on the design process, selecting all the itsy bitsy things, and the joy/pain of contractors in the house.
There are big plans afoot for this blog. I have a super team of WordPress designers working on a new and improved site. I hope to be up and running by the middle of January, back with all sorts of new features and a bunch of new recipes.
I’ve been tinkering with the book for the last few weeks, all while the manuscript was in the capable hands of star copyeditor Judith Sutton. Today, that manuscript returned to me with “heavy” edits (ahem). I have 20 days. So I am saying farewell for a few days.
Sending oodles of love and thanks for being here, for reading, cooking along. Wishing you a very merry Christmas and the happiest New Year. 2014 is going to be so exciting.