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What with one thing and another, it looks as if ol’ Robbo is going to be doing the Easter Dinner cooking at the port-swiller household.   And it’s never too early to start planning things out.

Recently I happened to come across a rayther intriguing Greek marinade/grilling recipe for goat.  I’m not going to bother trying to track down goat meat, but there’s no good reason I couldn’t use the same recipe for lamb, right?

UPDATE:  The port-swiller emailbag has quickly filled with hundreds of inquiries along the lines of, “So what’s the recipe, already?”  Now that I have the original in hand, I pass it along:

Grilled Goat With Retsina

2 ½ pounds goat meat, cut into 2-inch pieces (remember, I’ll be trying lamb)

Course ground black pepper

1 tablespoon sel gris (whatever that is)

1 tablespoon sumac (wherever I’m going to find that)

 ¼ cup olive oil

4 cups retsina (With a few extra swigs for the cook, of course.  I wonder if Total Bev carries it?)

1 yellow onion, cut into thin half-moons

10 cloves garlic, finely sliced

1½ tablespoons dried wild Neopolitan oregano (Pahdon me, I’m off to play the grahnd piaaahno!)

3 stalks rosemary

Fine sea salt

In a nonreactive dish, season meat with pepper, salt and sumac.  Pour in retsina and olive oil.  Add onion, garlic and herbs.  Stir to evenly distribute ingredients.  Marinate 2 to 4 hours.

Prepare grill.

Pour marinade into small pot and set on grill to reduce.

Grill meat for 10-12 minutes on each side.  Meat will be slightly charred and a reddish gold.  Brush with marinade several times.

Strain marinade and serve with meat.

Serves four.

– From The Bad Catholic’s Guide To Wine, Whiskey and Song.

This seems well within ol’ Robbo’s modest culinary talent and experience.   Now I need to think up some good things to go with it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!  Yes, Ol’ Robbo is back from his jaunt and just bursting with gratuitous travel observations:

♦  I will be mighty glad when the last of the Bombardier CRJ-200 series regional jets is retired from the domestic fleet and sent wherever it is hand-me-down planes go.  The thing is chunky, clunky and very cramped, and the windows are so low relative to the seats that the only way you can look (if you choose to) is down.  But the two aspects that bother me most about it are: a) the unusually prolonged nose-down landing approach that always makes one wonder if Mr. Kamikaze is at the controls; and b) that the landing gear is deployed by simple gravity instead of hydrolics, so when the pilot puts the wheels down one is startled by an almighty GRUNCH!

♦  On the other hand, there’s not really much wrong with the 700 series, although I am morally certain that Bombardier stole the design from Embraer, as it bears a striking similarity to their ERJ 145.

♦  Canadians, eh?

♦  I understand that the folks at the Cincinnati Airport wish to promote that city’s symphony orchestra out of civic pride, but it seems to me that when full-length orchestral recordings are blared throughout the concourse in direct competition with all the myriad broadcast announcements, to say nothing of the ubiquitous CNN bloviation (Is there no escape? None whatsoever?), the kulchah really isn’t served that well.

♦  Speaking of Cincinnati, is hyper-aggressive friendliness some kind of residency requirement? I’ve noticed this before.

♦  I quite like Lexington, Kentucky, although I’ve a sense that at the height of the basketball and horse-racing seasons, the place must be something of a zoo.

♦  I must have logged something better than 650 miles flitting about Kentucky this week.  It is an apparent custom in those parts to regularly pass on the right, even when the left lane is wide open and the right lane is clogged by trucks lumbering up the grade.   Go figure.

♦  Regular friends of the decanter may recollect that the last time I was out driving on biznay travel I got caught in a prairie snowstorm?  This time it was a mountain hailstorm, complete with scary ground-strike lightning bolts all about.  Call me Foul-Weather Robbo.

♦  My apologies to the poor counter-gal at the Micky D’s in Grayson.  She had such a thick Appalachian drawl and I was so tired as to have fallen back on my Mumbles impersonation, that it took us about five minutes to finally sort out that all I wanted was a medium cup of coffee.

♦  If you happen to rent a white Chevy Cobalt from Dollar and find Disc 2 of Musica Antiqua Köln’s performance of Johann David Heinichen’s Dresden Concerti in the CD player, consider it my gift to you.  D’oh!


Ol’ Robbo’s off to the land of bourbon, banjos and bluegrass for a bit.  Back at the end of the week.

In the meantime, feel free to talk amongst yourselves and to help yourselves to the decanter and the walnuts.  And, as always, the Stilton is over there on the sideboard.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter (and former camelidophiles) are familiar with ol’ Robbo’s perennial spring griping about the fact that the short hedge of forsythia that anchors the northwestern side of his garden never produces more than a paltry, token flowering each spring.  (As for the rest of you, take my word for it – this is one of my evergreen grumbles.)

Anyhoo, this year is no exception.  The golden yellow buds which ought to cover the bushes in their thousands are, once again, scarce as, oh….. similes fail me;  scarce as elite law school students who genuinely can’t afford condoms.

However, what separates this year from previous anni floribus horribile is my radical response.  You see, last year I noticed a sturdy young sapling starting to shoot up in the midst of the hedge, a sapling that I believe to be an offspring of a nearby pear tree.   It was already so thick about the trunk when I spotted it and so firmly rooted that I couldn’t bother myself to try and dig it out.  Not wanting it to interfere with the forsythia, however, I cut it way back along with all the bushes around it.

Not this year.  Oh, no.  The young tree is already shooting forth again in a blaze of fresh, young green.  So be it!  This year, I’m going to let the tree alone and hog the forsythia round it back all the way to their very foundations.  Whether said forsythia then choose to simply turn up their roots and die, or whether they decide to come to the aid of the party, well, that’s their lookout.  I wash my hands of them.  (Or will, once I finish cutting them back.)


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter may recall my mention a couple weeks ago of the twelve year old’s  desire to sing Fiordiligi from Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte?  Well, one of the things about this gel is that once she gets an idea in her head she doesn’t tend to let the grass grow under her feet.  Unbeknownst to me, not only did she download a performance of the opera on to her iWhateveritis™, she also hunted up an old vocal/piano score that used to be the Old Gentleman’s and had made it into my own collection of sheet musick, the better to study the words.

Thusly armed, with a big grin on her face she sidled up to me after dinner last evening and asked if we could perhaps run through a couple of the bits she’d been working up.  The first was Fiordiligi’s great piece of indignant puffery, Come Scoglio (The gel hadn’t tackled the recitative that comes just before, but I’m sure we can remedy that):

I think ol’ Gangrl dropped those voice-cracking jumps in to suggest that Fiordiligi is going just a wee bit over the top in her conventional protestations, a subtlety missed in this performance.

 Then, we went on to her lovely (and much more, well, genuine) rondo of anguish at what she’s about, Per pietá, ben mio:

Yes, I got to imitate all those nifty little horn passages in this one.

What fun! What fun to be able to bash my way through un po’ di Mozartino with the gel!  Both of us, if I may say so, have enough talent (barely enough on my part) to stumble along and, more to the point, to appreciate what we’re about.  More than once I couldn’t help thinking to myself, “Wow, we’re really….making musick!”

Of course,  I’m sure we are violating just about every canon of professional musick instruction and development by hot-dogging it like this, but so what.  If she doesn’t make the Met because of the bad habits she developed messing about with her old father in her misspent yoot, well, too bad, I suppose.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has been thinking lately of one of his very favorite lines in literature, that said by Gandalf when he reveals himself resurrected to Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli in The Two Towers:

“Be merry! We meet again.  At the turn of the tide.  The great storm is coming, but the tide has turned.”

It’s just a feeling, and you can take it for what it’s worth, but……Be merry!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo doesn’t find himself particularly inspired, blogging-wise, today.  Perhaps it’s the pollen ramping up again, perhaps it’s the tummy thing.  Whichever way, I can’t bring myself to anything more than a few bits of random at the moment.

♦  One of my first acts upon establishing myself as Emperor of the World will be to make “walk the walk and talk the talk,” or any variant thereof, a flogging offense.   Ditto for expressions such as “drill down” or “unpack” when used in anything other than the relevant petroleum industry or shipping context.

♦  Speaking of which, I used to know a woman from Iowa who pronounced industry “in-dus-stry.”  Is this a particularly Midwestern thing?

♦  You know the state motto of Iowa? Gateway to Nebraska.

♦   No, I’m not picking on the Midwest.  (I’ve been to Des Moines a couple times and rayther like it.)  And in the spirit of balance, I will note that my favorite state “motto” remains that of Connecticut, told me by my former co-blogger Steve-O many years ago:  Left lane closed next thirty miles.

♦  And let us not forget that the favorite Mainer term for certain neighbors to the south is “Massholes.”

♦   Speaking of travel, I can almost, almost I say, understand the reasoning behind clothing large groups of seedy high school kids in identical, brightly colored tee-shirts and hats when they come a’touroning here.  But when it’s just five or six middle-aged adults doing it? No justification whatever.

♦   On a more positive note, I can’t recall Metro putting cherry blossom stickers all over the turnstiles during the season before, but I must admit that I rayther like the effect.

♦   Something I was reading the other day made passing reference to Evelyn Waugh’s novel The Loved One.  This immediately put me in mind of the character Mr. Joyboy, which name always makes me start snerking.

♦   My beloved Nationals have rolled out a new theme for this season, “Ignite Your Natitude.”  See what you think of it:

I dunno.  The team is definitely hungry, and expectations are running higher than they ever have.  (Wildcard dreams are not a’tall out of the question.)  But this, to me, seems perilously close to the kind of cockiness that might awake the wrath of the Baseball Gods.   I remember the fate of oarsmen back in college who gave themselves Mohawks before big races and then got waked by their opponents.   It isn’t a pretty thing.

So that’s that.  Ol’ Robbo will be hitting the road against next week on biznay, but I will probably posty a bit more between now and then.

Monday Night:  In the course of reviewing a poem the eldest gel had written for school about Pontius Pilate, she and I got into a discussion of such weighty matters as free will vs. predestination, the dual nature of Jesus and God’s existence outside of Time.

Tuesday Night:  This same gel, who 24 hours earlier had been wrestling with questions worthy of Aquinas, was in a sullen, incoherent fury because I made her go to running practice when she wanted to duck out.

Ah, teenagers……

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

One of ol’ Robbo’s Lenten abstentions is the giving up of listening to musick, but I would be remiss if I did not point out the fact that today is the anniversary of the birth, in 1685, of Johann Sebastian Bach.

The older I get, the more I am convinced that Bach was, simply put, the single greatest musickal genius in the entire history of Western Civilization.

So there.

Happy Birthday!


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

For those two or three among you who still pass the port to the left ’round here, you may be interested to know that ol’ Robbo came through his endoscopy without any problems this morning.  He’s now spending a lazy afternoon at home, mostly asleep.

As it turns out, I do not have a peptic ulcer.  Instead, the docs inform me that I have something called a hiatal hernia.  This is a fancy way of saying that the blast door in the diaphragm between my tummy and my chest won’t close all the way, allowing stomach acid to splash up into the ol’ esophagus, thus causing Self a certain amount of discomfort.   There does not seem to be much to do about it, other than treating the symptoms as (as they say) needed.  (One of the recommendations is to give up wine and coffee.  All I can say is damn that.)

So there we are.

However, since this was the very first time ol’ Robbo had ever had anything at all like a genuine medical procedure, a few hospital-linked observations:

♦   I know I’m in the minority when I say this, but having a large teevee blasting CNN at me  in the waiting room is no more calming or comforting than is receiving such treatment in an airport lounge.   At what point did it become mandatory to place a boob tube in every single place people might be expected are required to sit for a while? 

♦  My intake nurse was a very nice older lady of some kind of Eastern European background.  While she was generally eager to comfort me, there nonetheless arose a protracted debate between us when she misread the note on my paperwork that said I exercise on an elliptical as reporting that I was subject to some kind of epilepsy.  It required quite a bit of reassurance on my part in order to straighten things out.

♦   The only moment I felt the least twinge of anxiety was not when they wired me up, IV’d me and put oxygen tubes in my nose (or, for that matter, when they put the somewhat kinky round thingy in my mouth to keep it open), but when they made me take off my glasses.  How can I fight off the saber-toothed tiger if I can’t even see it?

♦  The high point, so to speak, was the anesthesia.  Ah, sweet, sweet, drug-induced sleep!  I never even heard anyone give a warning:  One second I was rolling over onto my side as directed, the next it was bye-bye time.  I do recall dreaming at one point of driving down a tree-lined road.  The next minute, I was in the recovery room feeling at great peace with the world.

♦  I thought it was ridiculous that an elderly lady should have to wheel-chair me all the way down to the parking lot when I was perfectly capable of getting there under my own steam, but the old dear got a bit huffy after my first couple of attempts to suggest this.  Regulations, I suppose.  The Mothe does this kind of volunteer work at her local hospital: Had she been pushing the chair, I’d not have hesitated to make a run for it.


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March 2012