Gouda = Good, and so is Jug Wine

This Saturday was the 35th Annual Jug Wine Festival put on by my friends Liz and Ray, old chums from the Bank days. Every year we gather at a local beach to drink cheap wine, nosh on great snacks and catch up on life with friends. Throughout the years our ranks have swelled and shrunk, we have added and subtracted friends and family members, friends have been lost and found, and we have matured, or miraculously stayed the same. This party is representative of a steady theme of life, tied together with the ribbon that binds us of love, good company and good wine. Or better wine, as our palates improved! In good times, or in bad, in fog, gale force winds, the occasional sunny day and even drizzle, like the post office, we gather.

The rules are simple: bring a bottle of jug wine, the ideal bottle is under $5 but this is by no means a requirement, same with it being in a jug and with a screwtop, and something to share food-wise.

This year I had found a rather curvy bottle of rosé from Provence from my local shop (on sale!). For my food offering, when visiting my parents recently I stopped off at Phillips Farms stand, which coincidently is the Michael David winery tasting room. There, in addition to rather lovely wines and wonderful local produce, I snagged a jar of their amazing fig jam. It is a bit different from the ubiquitous Greek jam found at good cheese shops everywhere. This jam is from our local California Mission figs, hardly sweetened, as they are so candylike themselves. One of my favorite appies is the s St. Andre cheese with a generous dollop of fig jam. However in a beach environment this concoction was not ideal, too much wind and too many yellowjackets. I conceived the idea of combining the two in puff pastry but knew St. Andre would not be suitable for baking as it was much too soft and creamy at room temperature and wouldn’t hold up to the rigors of baking.

Last week I paid a visit to the experts at Cowgirl Creamery in the Ferry Building. I explained my vision for the appetizer and tasted easily half a dozen selections before settling upon a goat Gouda. But I wasn’t finished tinkering with the dish. I wanted something to add to the flavors, something to elevate the flavors and play off the buttery puff paste, the tang of the Gouda and the sweet figs. I smelled every herb in the market and pondered a pinch of marjoram or perhaps oregano, then sniffed around the spice department and finally ended up in the cheese section at Whole Paycheck. They suggested Marcona almonds, and they were brilliant in the turnovers.

I gave them a rough chop and tried my best not to snack on too many.

Then I sliced the whacking great chunk of goat Gouda:

The puff paste, thawed in the fridge overnight, was given a quick roll out on a cutting sheet and kept cold on a baking tray:

After cutting the pastry with a sharp knife, I added to each square a chunk of cheese, a spoonful of jam and a sprinkling of almonds.

I dabbed the edges of the pastry with water, then folded them over and sealed them shut by crimping with a fork. Then, they were laid on parchment paper and popped into the oven at 375 for 25 minutes. So simple! The trickiest part was that The Roost is quite overheated in general so I had to keep chilling the trays of pastries as I was working with them to cool off. Puff paste can be quite uncooperative if too warm. But 5 minutes in the fridge firms up the pastry nicely and you can proceed from there. (I am not going to write this up recipe-style because it is just too easy of an assembly job. Just stay cool!)

At the beach my pals had already arrived and so I set up my tray of turnovers. A bunch of local red flame grapes set off the plate quite nicely and their juicy pop was a pleasant palate cleanser after the buttery cheesey sweet and tangy tarts.

The table was spread with delectable goodies, each were so delicious, and they were devoured in due haste: three bean and artichoke heart salad from Chris, Gail’s Best Food-winning mushroom empanadas with dilled cream and blueberry tartlettes, garlic, honey and mint spread from Ellen, leek asparagus quiche (and another quiche that I didn’t try, sadly) from Casey and Paul, someone brought chicken wings, hiding from the yellowjackets in a paper sack, and wine, lots of wine. Chris won Best White for the Elephant Chardonnay, mea culpa for my not remembering who brought the best red, Michael won for Best Rose with the Martha Stewart Rosé with the condescending label, “rosé is French for pink”. Really, Martha? As much as we rather loathe her now, the rosé was pretty decent. Darn her…

The tradition is to sign the guestbook upon arrival. The guestbooks and photos from past years are on display, it’s always fun to look back to years ago and think, did I really gild myself to that extreme? Why did I ever cut my hair and who is *that* guy??

Casey and Paul brought an intriguing liquid offering: raspberry Sparkletini with gummi bears. On its own the Sparkletini already tasted like gummi bears but popping one in the glass was irresistible.

We toasted Tom Synder! It was surprisingly delicious and we decided that in a large ice-filled glass with a chunk of lime and a glug of vodka the raspberry Sparkletini would make a killer cocktail! Look out friends, a Sparkletini is coming your way soon!

A while later, we noticed that someone had dug what looked like a grave in front of our picnic tables. We always knew jug wine would kill someone, someday*.

(*thanks to Ray for that quote)

Ana brought what was awarded later as the worst wine of the day: TJ Swann’s apple wine. Apparently it retails for an extravagant $1.75 but Ana found it at a garage sale in Washington State for a whopping $0.25. Let me tell you, it was overvalued.

My friends were gently teasing me about tweeting some of these pictures, but then Michael let me in on his secret:

How clever to hide the iPhone in a book, it was just the perfect size!

The aforementioned awards were given out, paperless as we have gone “green” this year per Liz. I won for best socks!! (My Socks of Pride in honor of my sis, in rainbow Kuryeon wool, 4×2 rib)

Finally the sun came out, for all of two minutes!

We were fascinated by the plight of one young man across the way from us. He arrived 30 minutes after Liz and Ray, and on his own, unloaded a brand-new barbecue (complete with price tag), several coolers, tanks of propane, a guitar and a bike and several other curious pieces of luggage. He sat alone, occasionally making a no doubt plaintif phone call, forelorn and unloved for at least six hours. At one point, he lay curled up in fetal position in the sand, closely observed by a small child from a nearby table, dressed in red from head to toe. It was like a live-action Fellini movie. Who was he? Who had he invited? Why didn’t anyone come? Why did he stay, without taking a restroom break even? How long was he going to wait? The park closes at sunset! And what was he going to barbeque? It was fascinating, in a sad way, like watching an accident on the freeway from the safe comfort of your own car. We made up fantastic scenarious, each more heartrendering and, dare I admit, more humorous than kindness should allow. In the end, as we were leaving, we chose not to insert ourselves into his solitude and to preserve the mystery of this poor guy. Maybe we should have brought him a glass of TJ Swann or a Sparkletini?

The wind was coming up, the shadows were growing long (had the sun remained long enough to display them) and it was time to toast Liz and Ray for hosting yet another wonderful day, for the 35th time. Cheers, my friends! Until next year!!!

(for more pictures, visit the fabulous photographer Ana Martin’s FB album here)


14 responses to “Gouda = Good, and so is Jug Wine

  1. Heather….Great recap! And so much fun to read.
    You might just have become our official cheap vino party blogger.
    And you just thought you have won an award for the socks!

  2. Oh thanks Ana! Sure was fun to see you. I would love to see your pictures of the day!

  3. Need to work on the pictures. Should have them ready by thei weekend.

  4. Pingback: Whine-Not Monday « Heather in SF

  5. That bottle of TJ Swann has not been made in probably 20 years. It was a good cheap wine back in the 70’s. You all could have gotten a couple of hundred dollars from someone who remembers that rotgut…….

    • Unfortunately we drank it. Really, really, unfortunate on oh so many levels… But I’ll let my friend know to keep on the lookout for more bottles!

  6. That bottle of TJ Swann might be worth a few dollars just do a search on it.

  7. HEY! I found another bottle of TJ Swann. Can you believe it? Any idea where I should put it up for sale? LOL! I ain’t drinking this one!

  8. So I am trying to list is on ebay, but I cannot find an area for the “reserve” part. This is the first time I have ever listed anything on ebay.

  9. TJ SWANN is listed on ebay!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Twittering always helps! LOL!
    Let’s see what happens. Maybe someone wants it as a collectible classic.

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