First lesson in Kindergarten: Share

One of the first things we are taught - probably long before kindergarten  - is to share. It's a simple rule/concept: if you have something that someone else wants or appears appealing to someone you're near, let them have part of it. 

The Spanish have nailed this concept. It's called "TAPAS". In Italy, it's called "family style". What is it? It's a group of people coming together and ordering multiple small dishes. The dishes are then placed in the middle of the table and everyone enjoys a bit of all of them. It's communion. It's camaraderie. There was a show on The Travel Channel a while back where reporters and chefs would bring people from opposing sides of....whatever they opposed ...to discuss over a great meal. The premise being that so much can be solved and healed when two or more sit at a table and dine together. (There's a famous guy in a painting done by a famous guy that depicts this same premise.)

http://www.travelchannel.com/shows/breaking-borders/articles/breaking-borders

I've noticed many who come into the cellar aren't aware of the "shareable plate" concept. It's fascinating to watch...each person around the table orders their 'entree' with the intention of eating it all for themselves as if in a regular restaurant. Then, as the plates come out, everyone starts to pick from all of them. A desired moment to want something someone else has becomes not only a deliberate action, but a welcome one. Sharing erupts. Then toasts. Laughter ensues. It's dining chaos at its finest.

Wine is wonderful. Food when shared with others... is transformative. Life is really, really freakin' good. 

 

 

The Queen of the Awkward Moment 

As many of you know, I have a great day job. I am a Client Business Strategist for an app called "Towny". If you haven't downloaded it yet, do it!! It's in the app store under "Towny Rewards". My day-to-day job entails visiting the businesses who are listed on the app and making sure they have everything they need. Easy, right? One would think. But I am the Queen of the "Awkward Moment." For those of you who frequent the cellar, you have most likely encountered me when I walk up and say something that was absolutely hilarious in my head, but when it comes out of my mouth, it is met with a confused stare back. 

So I walked into Hardhat Gear in Ozark. It really is chalked full of hard hats. Hard hats in every color, size, shape...there are hard hats that look like baseball caps. Hardhats that look like Cowboy hats. Hardhats with airbrushed eagles, crosses, American flags...everything you could think of. So I ask to meet with the owner. Nice guy. I introduce myself and he says he's been waiting to see me. And this is the point where the conversation goes so south, the south pole doesn't even see it. 

Me: Well boy have I got a deal for you today.

Him: stare

Me: Whoops!! Wow, that sounded really 'salesy' didn't it? Didn't mean to do that!!! 

My brain: shut up mary

Him: stare 

Me: But seriously, what's it gonna take to put you in this car today? 

My brain: Are you kidding me? Shut up. He doesn't think you're funny. He's staring at you like you have 9 heads, one of them being Java the Hut. 

Him: stare

Me: But if you order now, you'll get the set of steak knives for free...in just 3 easy payments. 

Him: stare

My brain: this is seriously funny stuff. nothing?? 

I finally stopped and got the meat of the conversation...only after sweat started to pop out on my forehead and trickle down my armpits. Yes, Queen of the Awkward Moment. 

If you come into the cellar and get caught in a moment like this with me...please just tell me to shut up and drink my wine. 

Until then, commune with one another, with great food and great wine. Make today count!! 

 

 

May Flowers bring june joy

There's so much going on in June, it's crazy! We will be doing the Drag Queen Brunch again. It's so exciting to have a room full of people from all walks of life, all generations celebrating one another. For me, this is the definition of joy. 

When was the last time you saw a group of adults become kids again? For us, it was April. Invite a handful or two of adults, give them a bowl full of flour, some water, eggs and a rolling pin and tell them to make pasta. Giggles, laughter (and flour) are suddenly everywhere. This event is back by popular demand this month. 

As I'm sure you're aware, it's BBQ season everywhere. We wanted to see just how well some of France's greatest wine bounty would pair up against one of America's greatest past times. Join us for Burgundy and BBQ. 

There was a guy sitting at the bar the other day. He is from Spain, I believe. He began to tell me about how they approach food in Spain. He says for dinner, they don't sit down to eat until late in the evening...like 8 p.m. Several small plates are put on the table - often a beef, a seafood and a vegetable dish. Everyone passes around. This is done over and over again. No one is in a hurry. No one is filling their plate with mounds of one thing. It's a sharing event filled with a carnival of flavor from the mixture of dishes. It's a celebration of  the food, the wine, the company...and they day. Here in the Midwest, USA, we are not accustomed to eating this way. I hope to change that. Come into the cellar and slow down. Order several dishes. Get a glass of wine or a cocktail. Talk. The day has ended and life is good. 

Who am I? Sam I am, Green eggs and ham...wine and cheese. 

My little great nephew, Mason Guccione, passed away last night at the ripe old age of 5. So I've spent the morning reflecting on the journey that he took his parents and the rest of the family...and half of Missouri and part of Pennsylvania...on. It led me to think about the idea of being 'chosen' for a thing. I wonder if part of finding happiness in life isn't nestled in the idea that we are all 'chosen' to do something or be something...and once we stumble upon that realization, then we move into acceptance and then embracing.

Realize. Accept. Embrace. 

I have no idea what God has planned, or his parents for that matter, but I can't help but believe that this is just the beginning of a journey for them...toward something greater. 

I realized a few years ago when my 4th child kept bringing kids home with various socio-economic situations and issues, that it was all for a reason...when those kids passed thru the threshold of my doorway, they had been brought there for a reason. That reason? They needed us. They needed our house. Our safety. Our comfort. They needed our food and a hug. I've carried that same thought into cellar+plate. I know that when you walk thru that door, you have been sent. You need the quiet, the conversation, the bonding, the soul-quenching food/wine/laughter. It's not lost on me or Doug. So when I say: "come into the cellar", it's more than a catchy tagline or marketing ploy It's an invitation to something. What that 'something' is..only you know. I just provide the space (okay, and a hug if you'll let me). 

Realize. Accept. Embrace. What have you been called to be today? 

Come into the cellar. We'll pour a glass and ponder over it. 

Until then, Ciao Bella, baby!

 

 

 

White before Easter? My grandmother would lose her mind. 

I get asked the question alot: Is it too early in the season to drink whites? 

Here's the answer (and I take this from Doug Frost, Master Sommelier, who has had the fortunate and unfortunate task of giving me both of my Sommelier exams): Drink what you like, when you like, regardless of the season or what you're eating. 

Is there an art to pairing wine with food? Yes.

Will the right pairing blow your mind, like when Michone and Rick finally got together in The Walking Dead? YES! 

Should you explore the other side, even if you don't love it much? YES! 

Doug and I are red wine drinkers. We love it. For me, the eathier the better. I explain earthy like this: take some really ripe cherries, blackberries and plums, roll them in dirt, sticks, rocks, mushrooms and other debris and pour in a glass. Yeeesssssss. (It's 7:15 a.m. as I write this and my mouth is watering.) But I digress....

In studying for Level 1 and Level 2, I pushed myself into drinking more whites. There are some gorgeous whites out there that I strongly suggest you try. Right now, Rose is Queen. Perhaps it could act as a mediator between you and the world of white...like Judge Judy and uh....the rest of humans making bad choices in front of a camera. 

There is a Rose competition every year in Healdsburg, California. We spend a few days there last June. It was amazing. Here's more about it: 

http://rosewinetoday.com/and-the-winners-are/

I love Rose's because the contact with skin to juice, which give Rose their color, also adds a bit of flavor and tannin to the wine. There are some absolutely beautiful Roses coming out of France, Italy, Spain and of course, America. Wanna learn more? 

We will be hosting a ROSE TASTING event next Saturday - April 8 - beginning at 11 a.m. There will be 5 wine vendors present, offering 4 of their best Rose's to taste. There will also be a preview of food we plan to offer for Saturday Brunch beginning May 1. Tickets are $25  per person (that's tasting 25 wines and food...uh...$1 a taste. Wow!!) You can purchase tickets by coming into Cellar or calling. 

To learn more about all things Rose and how it's affecting world trade, production and the Stock Market, read here: 

http://usatradetasting.com/blog/the-rise-rose/

Until then, I hope to see you grace my cellar door. Take a moment every day to commune with someone. It feeds the soul and mankind. 

Ciao bella mi compade. 

 

 

And then there was more

when I was trying to come up with a name for the wine bar, I knew it needed to be about wine first, food second (hence, cellar+plate) but my tagline needed to really explain what I was trying to accomplish: creating a space for communion. In this age of social media and being overly plugged in all the time, the art of conversation is in danger of becoming extinct, I'm afraid. Yeah, I know. I sound like an old lady (back in my day ...{insert story with fist pound on a table}. But really. Let's talk. So many things can be discussed, resolved and discovered over a good glass of wine and a plate of cheese. Last Saturday night, two women came in and sat at one of my tables. They talked and talked. Drank wine. Talked. Ordered food. Talked. I went past them to see how they were doing and they told me that they had not seen each other in over 35 years - they went to High School together back in Pennsylvania. One had moved away. They had reconnected and one came to visit the other here in Springfield. And where did they come to reconnect? Cellar+Plate. They were amazed at how easy conversation came for them...as though no time had passed at all. I watched them over the course of the next couple of hours. They laughed, giggled, held each other's hands when talking about the more difficult moments of their lives. The communed. For those two hours, life for these friends was perfect. 

I work a day job. I have a couple of freelance marketing gigs. And I do C+P. When people realize this, they always respond with: "That's crazy! You work too hard. You're a glutton for punishment! You just can't sit still!" 

All of those may be correct, but here's the deal: Any day that I can open a space and provide the elements for two friends who havent' seen each other for 35 years to come together and create that perfect night, I'm so there. So I may be crazy but I'm okay with that. 

Until next time, drink a good bottle bottle of wine. Create food you think is going to be hard. Sit down (minus a TV or cell phone) with someone and create that memory. 

Come into the cellar. Your liver and your soul deserve it. 

Ciao bella. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

empty nest = wine glass full 

as I write this, I'm sitting in the passenger seat of my car while my 18-year-old drives. She is singing country music at the top of her lungs while I try to work. We are headed to Fayetteville to look at the college. In a few short months, she will be packing her room and headed into her the next phase of her life. Her stuffed animals will be left behind. her closet will be empty save anything deemed unworthy of dorm life. She waffles between bursting with excitement and paralyzed with fear. I am trying to recall all these events in my life that scared me to death but did them anyway. I think the first memorable one was going to college. Walking on campus that first day, trying to find my classes and desperately hoping I make a friend. The next would be marriage, followed too quickly by giving birth. Having a baby was absolutely terrifying but it was nothing compared to raising them. Raising children, for me, is comparable to riding a roller coaster. You want to giggle and vomit ...sometimes at the same time...sometimes not. But those emotions are never far off. I've dived into careers and jobs that have been scary..but those pale in comparison to taking my Sommelier test. I had no idea what I was doing but did it anyway. People ask how far do I plan to go? I plan to pass Level 2 Certified. After that, we will see. If you haven't had the chance, watch the Netflix documentary "SOMM". it gives a pretty good insight into 5 guys trying to achieve their Master Sommelier status. For now, I just want to survive this car ride and the campus tour. When those are done, I promise you there will be a glass of wine in it for me. There's always a glass of wine in it for me. And for that, I am eternally grateful. 

 

 

 

 

 

no animals were harmed in the making of this wine bar. people maybe. 

One of the things I have built my business plan around is the hunt and capture of the unique. There are literally millions of wines out there, so why on earth would I sell the same stuff that you can get at the grocery store up the road, the other wine joint across town or the restaurant down the street? I want to offer patrons the unique, the wild, the amazing at an affordable price. You don't have to be a wine connoisseur or an enthusiastic drinker like myself. You just have to wander in and be willing to listen to myself or one of my business associates talk...and of course, taste. 

This weeks unique wine is the Gran Reserva Envero. It is 90% Carmenere, 10% Cabernet from the Colchagua Valley of Chile. The Mediterranean climate of this area is perfect for growing this wine. This is the kind of wine I'm talking about!!! The nose is all about vegetation - fresh green pepper and jalapeno mixed with dark cherries. This is a circus for the mouth and I love it. It's dark ruby - clear and gorgeous. It's the kind of wine to get easily lost in on a cold January night in the middle of great conversation. Huh. That sounds like a great wine bar I know. 

Here is some information from their website. I love the passion that is present when they talk about how they make their wine. 

Vinification
Our grapes are harvested by hand in April when they have reached optimal maturity. The harvest is done very selectively in order to ensure only the best grapes from our 60 year old vines. In order to extract color and aromas, the must is interfused with its skin for three days at low temperatures. The must is then fermented for seven days in stainless steel tanks with selected yeasts at temperatures ranging from 28° to 30° C (82° to 86°F). The wine is then left to macerate for two additional weeks in order to extract its fruity characteristics. Afterwards, 60% of the wine is aged in American and French oak barrels and 40% in stainless steel tanks. The wine is then aged in oak for 10 to 12 months. Finally, the wine is cellared in bottles for six additional months before its launch on the market.

Climate
Colchagua Valley has a Mediterranean-style climate with a cold and rainy winter and a dry and warm summer. Marked temperature differences between day and night make ideal conditions for the growth of our wine grapes.

Vinification
Our grapes are harvested by hand in April when they have reached optimal maturity. The harvest is done very selectively in order to ensure only the best grapes from our 60 year old vines. In order to extract color and aromas, the must is interfused with its skin for three days at low temperatures. The must is then fermented for seven days in stainless steel tanks with selected yeasts at temperatures ranging from 28° to 30° C (82° to 86°F). The wine is then left to macerate for two additional weeks in order to extract its fruity characteristics. Afterwards, 60% of the wine is aged in American and French oak barrels and 40% in stainless steel tanks. The wine is then aged in oak for 10 to 12 months. Finally, the wine is cellared in bottles for six additional months before its launch on the market.

Curious? Then come into the cellar. Commune with one another, with us, with a great bottle and some food. 

 

 

an uncorked life 

starting a wine bar. who knew? 

For the most part, I was raised by my grandmother...with the help of a few siblings. The last of 8 children to a couple of incredibly talented artists saddled with their own demons, our grandparents' home (formerly at 819 East Walnut where the parking lot of University Plaza is now, thank you, Mr. Hammons) was a place of refuge, safety and happiness. Before it was torn down to make room for the hotel, six generations of my family made it a home. 

For me, the three-story 1800s-Victorian held two places of mystery and intrigue: the attic and the basement...or 'the cellar' as my grandmother called it. 

The attic housed old books, forgotten furniture, Civil War uniforms, guns and even a bayonet. It always carried a strong sweet/musty smell that I will forever cherish. My favorite days to venture up the two flights up stairs into the dark and quiet rooms were rainy days, much like the one I'm experiencing as I write this. I wish every child had an attic like this to get lost in and build their own fantastic stories. 

Seven flights down was the cellar. Like the attic, it held many great mysteries and even better stories. The main room was where laundry was done. It held a door in the ceiling for the laundry chute. Another room was similar to a sitting room or living room and the room off of it was my grandfather's work room. Here you would find tools to fix anything. Sprinkled thru these rooms were items similar to the attic - discarded furniture, yard tools, books, metal army men that my uncle cast and hand painted when he was a boy. These little soldiers would never be played with again. My uncle, a pilot in the Vietnam war, was killed when his plane crashed during a mission. Off of this room was a tiny room tucked in the corner, behind the large heating unit. It was the coal room - the place where coal was stored to feed the heat prior to modern heating. It was also the room, as my grandmother would tell me later, where my grandfather would store his homemade beer and wine - safe from anyone looking to destroy alcohol during Prohibition. These valuable bottles would be given as Christmas presents every December. While I never saw him there, I have carried a picture of my grandfather in my mind...a kind, warm and generous man with a big smile and twinkling eyes...sitting in that coal room counting and filling bottles. 

The irony here is not lost on me. The fact that decades later I would come to live in Springfield, make a home, raise my kids and at the age of 50, decide to open a wine bar called Cellar + Plate. 

My hope is that the wonderful memories I have of the old cellar, combined with my passion for wine and my husband's and I love for food and entertaining will flow into the space at 2916 S. Lone Pine Ave. So much so, that when you walk thru the door, you feel all of it and it becomes a second home for you as well. 

Come into the the cellar, won't you? 

 

 

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