This is the time of year when I would normally throw away all clothing items except sarongs and bikinis, and head off to the tropics. But this year I had to go and open a bar. Instead of packing my dive gear, I’m spending my days tasting through wines and beers, and looking at quesadilla analytics in my till system. Tough life, I know, but still I’m feeling a bit nostalgic for my dive life in Mexico! So here’s a piece I wrote about lionfish safaris, spear-fishing with my huntress friends to rid the reefs of this invasive species.
I’ve always had a tenuous grasp on reality, I trust my imagination more than my senses. Before I started my sommelier training I used to think that they were mutually exclusive. In the past I’d go to wine tastings and wait for the host to tell me what I was experiencing. I was too afraid of getting it wrong to contribute to the conversation. Forest floor? Oyster shells? Wet rock minerality? I’ve been to enough forests, oceans, and rivers to let my imagination fill the gaps for my senses. I’m familiar with the taste of raspberries, mushrooms and plums; and the smell of violets, leather and tobacco smoke. I just never trusted those sensory notes in the wine unless someone told me they were there.
My sister Lauren picks me up at Los Angeles Union Station and makes fun of me when I stress about where to pay for the airport shuttle. “People here just don’t care,” she says. “This is the frontier. We’re the easternmost city in Asia and the northernmost city in Latin America. This is your soft entry to Mexico.”
Having just come from New Zealand winter, it’s not just the warmth of the temperature that’s shocking but also the overt warmth of the people. Complete strangers will give you advice about which juice to get while you’re in line at Jugo Azteca, or discuss which model has the nicest butt at the Mapplethorpe exhibit at LACMA. In NZ you’re seen as slightly crazy if you talk to strangers, in LA you’re seen as crazy if you don’t.
This is the best of the best, the top five things to do on Waiheke Island. Thanks to the lovely Carmel / George Sand Studio for helping me out with all that eating and drinking, I relied heavily on her expertise when I put this piece together. Carmel and I met at a restaurant where she was Maitre ‘D and I was bartending. Before we reconnected on Waiheke, a mutual friend asked if Carmel was ‘still the same, like some magical creature?’ I can answer definitively, yes, she is still a magical creature.