Each year since moving to Connecticut, I’ve made the trek down to New Jersey to spend Thanksgiving with my cousins, the Garlicks. Under normal circumstances (i.e. the drive home in the evening), the trip takes just over two hours. Driving down on Thanksgiving morning, though, is like “traveling through another dimension… you’ve just entered the Twilight Zone.”
The first year, 2007, my friend and occasional wine trail buddy, Maree Prendergast, also joined us for Thanksgiving, so my first stop was Jersey City where she lives. The drive down the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut was both lovely and a breeze, until I hit the Bronx and the parkway became a parking lot. After 45 minutes of almost total inertia, I decided it was time to move – and by this point didn’t really care which direction I headed in. So I hopped off the parkway and made my way over to the Queensboro Bridge, figuring crosstown traffic on Thanksgiving afternoon couldn’t be that bad. Whoops – forgot there was that little thing called the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade (which in my defense had finished hours before), forcing me and everyone else in Manhattan to head downtown and cut across the impossibly narrow streets of the Village and Soho to that traffic nightmare more commonly known as the Holland Tunnel.
Needless to say, we were several hours late…
Last year, 2008, Maree skipped Thanksgiving at the Garlicks in favor of spending the holiday with her parents who were visiting from Sydney, Australia, so I decided to cut across Connecticut and drop down into New Jersey from the north – thus avoiding Manhattan altogether. Great plan until I hit a 15-mile backup caused by an accident on the Tappan Zee Bridge, forcing me to detour down to I95 and that traffic nightmare more commonly known as the George Washington Bridge.
Needless to say, I was several hours late…
This year, I informed my cousin Andrew before Easter not to expect me for Thanksgiving. Instead, I’m spending the day close to home with my friends David & Deirdre, their three kids, and the various and sundry people that come for the weekend or just wander in off the street. In some ways David & Deirdre remind me of my own family – they collect people, all kinds of people, and have the most interesting dinner table conversations. I anticipate a lively Thanksgiving and a 20 minute commute.
I called Deirdre several weeks ago to ask her what I could bring. We actually have a bit of a routine: if one is hosting dinner the other calls and says “what can I bring,” only to be answered with “nothing… except maybe a bottle of wine.” But this being Thanksgiving, and Deirdre now having three children (the youngest born a scant 2 1/2 months ago), I figured if I nagged her every few days like one of her children (what can I bring, what can I bring, what can I bring…) she would break down and tell me something – anything – to get me to stop calling her.
It appears her children broke her first, because I had barely gotten the words out of my mouth when she laughed and said “I was just going to ask if you’d mind bringing dessert?” I just about fell off my chair. Good thing I wasn’t asking just to be polite. We settled on my bringing a Cranberry Upside Down Cake and a Chocolate-Espresso Volcano Cake, which when joined by the Deirdre’s pumpkin bread pudding and David’s childhood favorite strawberry and pretzel dessert will make a nice dessert buffet for the roughly 20 people coming for Thanksgiving.
And what better to go with a dessert buffet than a selection of local dessert wines, especially if they are seasonal wines that evoke that lusciousness of Thanksgiving? So along with the desserts, I’m pulling a few bottles of Connecticut wines from the cellar:
Digrazia Autumn Spice I can only describe this as “pumpkin pie in a glass.” White wine fermented with sugar pumpkins, honey and spices (including nutmeg and cinnamon). Yum!
Land of Nod Chocolate-Raspberry Wine I first tasted this in August of ’07, just before it was released and loved it so much I went back and bought a case last Thanksgiving to share with friends (and hoard for myself). Not too sweet and the chocolate and the raspberry are perfectly balanced.
And to round out the mix, I’ll bring a more traditional dessert wine, but am still trying to choose between Hopkins Vineyard’s Night Owl, a lovely late-harvest Vidal Blanc, and their Ice Wine, one of the best non-Niagara region/non-German Ice Wines I’ve found. Decisions, decisions…
Of course I can always have the one I didn’t choose chilling at home for a late-night Thanksgiving toast in front of the fire…