Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Summer Celebration of Everything Cypriot: The Pilot

It's a hot summer day and most Nicosians drive away from the sun-scorched desert towards The Rock's southeastern coast and its crystalline beaches. On route, temperamental drivers flash their lights at those slowing down the flow of traffic, while youngsters on motorbikes slalom their way through the automobiles at death-defying speeds. Passengers sway their heads to the Greek pop or laugh at the political talk shows that blare from within the air-conditioned cabins. Others engage in banal banter. Twenty-five minutes into the journey, the Mediterranean sea and its shades of blue emerges as backdrop to a few church steeples and Larnaca's harbor. Exit left. Thirty minutes later, the crowds disembark in Agia Napa and Protaras, the capital's weekend playground.

Once this multifaceted conglomeration of drivers reaches the beach, it splits into three groups. First are those who show up for the show, the allure, the flash. Second are those who embrace their working-class traditions and all that is practical. Then there's a third group, which includes The Wife, Ph.D., et al, that falls somewhere between show and tradition but in reality couldn't care less about either. Albeit, it's a boring hybrid of the first two so I will spare you a detailed description of its modus operandi.

Those for show only go to the "popular" beaches to see and be seen. Girls in small bikinis don makeup, their hair is up in fancy buns generally reserved for the catwalk or a wedding, their eyes are covered in sunglasses emblazoned with D&G, Gucci, Armani or Versace on their hinges or temples, and their arms carry handbags that if sold on the black-market could feed a Bolivian village for a week or two. They are suntanned and sinfully skinny and gossip endlessly about other women just like them, many times studying them from head to toe just to spot more flaws to add to the already scathing review of their persona. And when they go for a swim their heads bob above the surface like buoys because (God forbid!) the salty water smudges their mascara or renders their coiffure useless or ruins their expensive beach gear. The boys, who hang around waiting to impress the gals with their semi-sculpted bodies and luxury cars and Villebrequin bathing suits, sip on overpriced Corona or Smirnoff Ice or Bacardi Breezer or iced coffee and talk about football or investment banking or cars and play on their iPhones and flirt only with those girls who approve of their status, bank accounts and handsomeness.

The second group arrives prepared for the end of the world or (at least) a long-lasting war. From the back of their pick-up truck or SUV, they pull out folding chairs and tables, water coolers stuffed with sandwiches, watered-down beer, soft drinks, fruit, cookies and potato chips, promotional towels and umbrellas, rackets and balls, floating devices, shovels, rakes and pails to build sand castles, water guns, head wear, a deck of cards and a backgammon board, magazines and newspapers, a radio, and an extra change of clothes. The bolder ones also unload a grill, some raw meat and a sack of charcoal to cook up some lunch. They set up their camp with great agility (in essence moving their living room, dining room and kitchen to the coast for a day or two) and then sit their asses down to soak in the rays, splash around the water like carefree dolphins, and mind their own business, totally unconcerned about what others might think of their weekend beach bunker.

So last Sunday, to the chagrin of Minnie Mouse and The Wife, Ph.D., the Disney-obsessed man child and I decided to stage the 1st Annual Traditional Cypriot Sunday (ATCS), a celebration in honor of this second group of beach revelers. Decked in over-sized wife beaters, we strolled down to a relatively uncrowded beach carrying two folding chairs, a Rothman's cigarettes promotional umbrella, Nivea and Omonoia (the leftist football squad on The Rock) towels, two coolers stuffed with refreshments, a battery-operated frappe (iced coffee) maker, cake and cookies, plastic cups, comic books, beach rackets and ball, a giant floating device for two, a quarter of a watermelon (which if we had brought whole we would have put in the water to keep chilled) and a liter box of KEO white wine. Of course, the wives were totally embarrassed and asked us to sit as far away as possible. Of course, we refused and promised them we wouldn't forget to bring along the pick-up truck, grill, meats and fancy friends the following year.

Boxed KEO White Wine - A slight hint of fresh cut apples. Absolutely no caudalie. Not much else. We drank it on the rocks and in plastic cups as per the rules of the event. For the 2nd ATCS, we might do a horizontal tasting of boxed wines. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sweet Mother of Jesus

Sweet mother of Jesus, Carles Puyol's head is made of steel. That was my first reaction after the shaggy central defender belted a header past the high-flying German goalkeeper and into the net.

Instead, The Wife, Ph.D., and My Zolpidem Supplier celebrated as if Cesc Fabregas had just laid eyes on them and offered to teach them how to juggle a football (in bed). Like teenage girls, they laughed and shrieked in unison. They took big bites into a cookie or a slice of banana bread and grinned wide. Dozens of crumbs fell onto the parquet floor to the bewilderment of the local ant population, which must have confused the ladies' clumsy happiness with a showering of gifts from their insect Gods. And then, in some sort of cleansing ritual, they both washed it all down with a long swig of sweet wine.

Keep in mind that The Wife, Ph.D., is obsessed with Spain's Number 10 and wouldn't think twice before leaving me for his coiffured look, youthful physique, flawless technique and seven or eight-digit bank account. If this ever happened, though, every Fourth of May she would be reminded of her betrayal. You see, Fabregas and I share the same birthday and that would be enough to get me through all those lonely, cold nights stuck on The Rock. Unless, of course, Eva Mendes showed up for an overnight session of scantily clad Twister. I wouldn't say no to that.

2006 Ayia Mavri Mosxatos (Muscat) - This is probably The Rock's best wine, having won a Gold Medal at the 2009 Muscats du Monde competition. Beautiful deep amber color. Powerful bouquet reminiscent of dried apricots and figs, quince, orange peel, honeysuckle and brown sugar. Full bodied, long and luscious, very thick to the mouth. Sublime if you enjoy dessert wines. 93/100.

Overall Football-Watching Experience: 1.5 out of 5 only because sweet wines and football mesh as well as Lindsey Lohan and sobriety.

Final Tally: 1) Rose; 2) White; 3) Red, and; 4) Sweet. Or we simply had more fun watching Ghana's National Team instead of 2010 World Cup Champions Spain.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Palms of God Are Pink

On Friday I decided to chuck the playbook out the window and improvise. Two wines instead of only one. A small yet festive group of co-tasters including the Disney-obsessed man child, his wife Minnie Mouse, and The Wife, Ph.D's best friend, My Zolpidem Supplier. A thirty-seven Euro can of French foie gras. There were also other foods (dates wrapped in bacon, brie, prosciutto, chorizo, salami, smoked ham, gorgonzola, tabbouleh, baguettes, black olives, chocolate mousse, etc.) but who really gives a damn when the centerpiece involves the pricey livers of force-fed ducks. Cypriot men only wish they were so lucky to be stuffed with kebab by some cute French farm girl.

To keep things even more interesting, we placed a few bets prior to kickoff. Gambling is legal and sickeningly pervasive on The Rock. Brave its streets for a few days and on every corner you will see a betting shop or casino, their schizophrenic signs an eyesore to some, an open invitation to waste away to others. The Wife, Ph.D., gambled in favor of the South Americans while I put my five euros on at least one homesick Uruguayan fan confusing a vuvuzela with a bombilla and sucking instead of blowing. Not that there is much of a difference when it comes to other endeavors but, in this case, it is one thing to contribute to noise pollution and another to feel the steamy, sweet, herbal nectar of the Pampas sliding down your throat.

In the end, improvisation (like the foie gras) was the night's brilliant centerpiece. Just ask all those future generations of Ghanaian children who will be tormented in their sleep by a rabbit-toothed, sleepy-eyed white man dressed in sky blue slapping their footballs away with the bright pink palms of his hands. Luis Suarez is a God in Uruguay but in Ghana he is the closest thing to the bogeyman.

2009 Zambartas Rose Cabernet Franc/Lefkada - This wine was commended by Decanter, the UK's premier wine magazine. A beautiful cranberry yet slightly cloudy color. A lovely bouquet of fresh-cut roses, strawberries and pomegranate. Somewhere between tart and crisp to the mouth, very flavorful and refreshing. Slightly acidic. 90/100.

2009 Ezousa Rose Maratheftiko -Unique aromas pop out of this very interesting wine made of Maratheftiko, The Rock's most promising indigenous red grape. Imagine a freshly-baked banana, peach and caramel cake. Medium-to-dry, very smooth and flavorful. 87/100.

Overall Football-Watching Experience: 4.5 out of 5 as a result of the match's dramatic finish, the foie gras, and the Disney-obsessed man child ending the soiree by calling the blog's author "fat and funny."

Final Tasting: July 7, Germany vs. Spain
Wine: 2006 Ayia Mavri Mosxatos (Muscat)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Red Fury

I expected this tasting to be glorious. Cyprus's purported best wine, Spain's tiki-taka, Cristiano Ronaldo's cocky petulance and The Wife, Ph.D., all together in one giant gift basket waiting to be unwrapped. To be honest with you, an hour before the match my pores were oozing with excitement. I could not wait.

Boy was I wrong. Saturday's tasting was lesbian pornography starring the Eva Triumvirate (Mendes, Green and Herzigova with Longoria-Parker coming off the bench) compared to what went down on Tuesday night.

First, The Wife, Ph.D., was craving pasta. What her highness wants, her highness gets. Even if it disrupts my pseudo-diet. Conchiglie with prosciutto, ricotta and peas. Boom goes the dynamite.

Second, once the meal was served and I called out her name (not in a good way), she showed up at the table with globs of anti-acne cream all over her nose, left cheek and chin. The Little Miss Giggles pijamas she wore were short and sexy but that was not enough to distract my attention away from the match-the-dots game that had taken over her usually lovely face. Nice.

Third, she took a sip of the Shiraz and said it matched football quite nicely. Then she spent all of the first half and a significant portion of the second on her cellphone blabbing away. She hardly acknowledged the match, let alone comment on Fernando Torres' firm buttocks, Xabi Alonso's thick thighs or Carles Puyol's haircut. During this time, I drank most of the bottle, checked my Facebook page ten times and finished reading George M. Taber's Judgement of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting that Revolutionized Wine, while watching what ended up being an unexciting performance by both teams. Not even the rumor that CR7 had taken out his frustrations on a poor journalist by hocking a loogie at his camera lens saved the night.

2008 Domaine Vlassides Shiraz - Deep, dark burgundy appearance. Spicy bouquet with hints of freshly ground black pepper, nutmeg, cloves, coffee and blackberries. Full body, good balance between the fruit and tannins. A tad too much alcohol (14 percent) though. 90/100.

By the way, Sophocles Vlassides is the man when it comes to wine here on The Rock. He was recently profiled in The Boston Globe. Check it out.

Overall Football-Watching Experience: 2 out of 5 and only because the wine's high alcohol content made me slightly gleeful by the end of the match.

Third Tasting: July2, Uruguay vs. Ghana
Wine: 2009 Zambartas Rose Lefkada/Cabernet Franc