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I never dreamed of building a house. Yet, when I visited my brother, earlier this week that is exactly what I did. Well, not exactly a home, but I did assist, hammer, drill and all, in building an elaborate two-story kid house in the backyard on my day off. It was an industrious Monday, packed with errands (unexpected and planned), a much-needed burger break, and a Ducks game.

I arrived early in the morning, punching the clock as soon as I stepped into the backyard. The sun was beating mercilessly as I found my brother and sister-in-law working diligently on the playhouse. I had no idea that this is what was on the agenda but as soon as I spied the hundreds of pieces strewn about the grass there was no other choice but to lend a hand. We worked for a couple hours, completing the first story of the house before breaking for lunch.

My brother had plans to take me to Douglas Burgers, in nearby Whittier. We walked into the burger joint and ordered accordingly: burger, cheeseburger, fries, onion rings and some waters. We took our cue from the simple furnishings that our order should follow suit. The mustard-colored-vinyl seats and dark mosaic tiles provided a dated aesthetic. With unrelenting heat, the wicker curtains were being drawn to keep the restaurant’s interior a little cooler and consequently a little darker. Everything was focused on flipping patties and hospitality, taking attention away from the drab surroundings. We talked about my latest trip up north and other recent happenings before our food was called.

The sandwiches were nestled tightly in paper and shared black trays with mountains of sides. I grabbed some condiments and peppers as I fetched the trays before returning to the booth. I spied a thin patty on my hamburger, abed shredded iceberg lettuce and nearly swallowed up by the bun. The portions were ample considering the price (almost five dollars for the combo). That distinctive charbroiled flavor electrified my palate after the first bite but there was a significant tail-off. I could have used some more onion (if any?) and seasoning on the meat. The hot banana peppers would help me wade through the mild flavors. We left full (and content considering the quality-to-price ratio).

After our lunch, it was back to the house and after nearly six more hours we had successfully assembled the roof and were beginning to put on finishing touches before the remaining sunlight waned. Close to complete, after spending the better part of a day building, it was time to depart. My nephews were ecstatic over the development, playing in and around the home as we did our best to keep them away from the construction site until it was safe.

On the drive back home it was fun to reflect over the building process. I became considerably more comfortable with a power drill and other tools, and it was just fun to bond over a hands-on project with my family. The burger paled in comparison to the day’s events but was fun to try. Once back home, I watched the Ducks rebound against the Oilers. Teemu Selanne tied his idol (Jari Kurri) for career points with a masterful assist to Bobby Ryan and then inched a little closer to suspending disbelief as the team pushed closer to the playoff picture. Monday was eventful, surprising, and rewarding. It was not what I bargained for in the least, but it definitely upped the ante on what I believed possible for the beginning of the week.

New Tools

It has been a while since I have last written a post, interrupted by a brief flirtation with the LSAT—an arduous exam I prepared for by studying two months straight—and focusing the remaining time on work and the quotidian. I underestimated the difficulty of that exam, fooling myself by thinking that I could maintain the blog and play hockey as much as I was before I had embarked on my exhaustive prep work. Therefore the blog was neglected and even my hockey to some extent began to diminish. Though that was last year. I am happy to say that the exam is behind me and the blog is trained in my sights.

Not too much (other than the LSAT) has transpired since our last exchange, my favorite team, the Ducks are still floundering, displaying fleeting signs of greatness only to be supplanted by mediocrity. During my absence I still found the time to frequent my favorite burger joints and taste and explore all kinds of bottles of wine from Santa Barbara to Rioja.

The holidays came and went punctuating the end of a great year. Going forward, I will have some surprises along the way and starting immediately, some new tools to better operate my blog: a shiny flask, a funnel, and myriad new bottles of wine in my cellar to pair with my favorite foods (thanks parents). I am eager to expand this blog by incorporating music and hockey, or rather personalizing this web address and look to make a big splash in the 2011 calendar year. So everyone, lift your flute to the Maverickpalate!

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Wine of the Month

Roumier Morey St. Denis 'Clos de la Bussiere' 2008

Eatery of the Month


Jesse's Camarones Restaurant

Musical Accompaniment

Glenn Kotche’s ‘Ping Pong Fumble Thaw’  by The Brooklyn Rider Almanac