More cheese, please… with a wee bit of honey

Rabbit: “And help yourself, Pooh. Would you like condensed milk, or honey on your bread?”
Pooh: “Both. But, never mind the bread, please. Just a small helping, if you please?”
Rabbit: “There you are. Is uh… something wrong?”
Pooh: “Well, I did mean a little larger small helping.”

 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Twice a year it would happen. I could not breathe, and hives would gradually creep up from my calves. When they finally began to stretch up for my neck, where they would show, I would finally give in to the discomfort and go see my allergist for a steroid shot.

Now he is a well-respected allergist, and he ran all those stick-you tests. Cedar elm was one of the largest culprits, and they completely surrounded our home in Olmos Park. Red wine (Inner Pooh voice repeatedly interrupting the doctor’s words: I’m not listening.). And dairy products (Inner Pooh voice: I can’t hear you.). You mean as in milk, right? No, you can’t mean cheese?

So what’s a girl to do but give up drinking milk and live with periodic outbreaks of hives?

I had never been much of a fan of honey. But that was because I had never had a dab of it dribbled on the ideal vehicle for it – cheese. And we had to travel to Sevilla, Andalusia, Spain, last year to make that discovery.

The cheese plate at this beautiful restaurant we loved came with a nutty, orange-flavored honeycomb in the middle. Hold the bread; no need for it. Just pure cheese and honey. I feel guilty about not remembering the name of the restaurant in Sevilla, so am trying to atone by including photos of it as well.

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A year later, only a month ago, we were wandering the streets of Perugia, Umbria, Italy, in search of a bite for lunch. I was feeling virtuous for not being seduced by the stunning chocolate confections in the window of Sandri Patisserie on Corso Vannucci.

We settled instead at Ristorante Gus, pleasantly shaded in the middle of the pedestrian-only Via Mazzini. According to a New York Times article that came out while we were in Italy, Gus is new. The locals seemed to love it and were all ordering sushi, but we were too recently de-planed to want that.

Good intentions still intact, I ordered a smoked trout salad, and Lamar had a vegetarian panino and chickpea soup. Everything was great, but that pesky little inner Pooh voice started singing about the bees once I spied the cheese plate. This bountiful cheese board came with a palette of eight different honeys to dabble on the cheese.

Now I am hooked. A comb full of honey leapt into my cart at Mustafa Asian and Middle Eastern Grocery Store. And from there, the blame’s all on Central Market with those banners tempting me with “For the Love of Cheese” every time I drove by.

Since vacations are not around every day, I’m resigned to letting Central Market shop around the world for me. Although I wish CM’s blog did not mention the word “dairy” and then this:

While cheese is a good source of protein, calcium and vitamin D, let’s face it: Fat is what gives cheese its beguiling texture and depth of flavor.

(Inner Pooh voice: I can’t hear you.)

To go with the honeycomb, I selected some rosemary Asiago, blue Stilton, Bucheron and some other powerful blue-veined, ancient-looking cheese. Sorry, doctor, but such behavior would be great for your business… if I had not moved away from all those cedar elms.

And sure wish I had a bottle of Umbria’s Montefalco Sagrantino to go with that cheese and honey.

So Pooh ate, and ate, and ate, and ate, and ate, and ate, and ate, and ate… and ATE! Until at last he said to Rabbit in a rather sticky voice: “I must be going now. Good-bye, Rabbit.”
Rabbit: “Well, good-bye, if you’re sure you won’t have any more.”
Pooh: “Is there any more?”

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

What would Eeyore think?

“I’m just telling everybody. We can look for the North Pole, or we can play ‘Here we go gathering Nuts in May’ with the end part of an ants’ nest. It’s all the same to me.”

Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne

Eeyore was not much of a party boy, but that has not deterred celebrants in Austin for the past 48 years. Most years, Eeyore’s Birthday Party conflicts with King William Fair, so, despite hearing about it forever, we had never been. This year, however, five Saturdays in April comfortably separated the two on the calendar.

With Austin friends as our guides, we found our way to Pease Park and began wandering around. An “Eeyore of Liberty” with a bubble-blowing honor guard greets attendees. What we found in the way of organized activities was a costume contest, an egg toss and a tiny children’s area containing one appropriately gloomy in the Eeyore tradition burro representing the birthday boy. Freestyle hula-hooping, drumming and pot-smoking comprised the rest of the entertainment, which means the focus is on the people.

The people-watching was great, with costumes resembling the Haight Ashbury look of 1968. But, like us, the vast majority of the party-goers were party-poopers – no costumes and fully clothed – falling into the voyeur category.

Not sure what the Austin undress-code is as defined by law, but it appears looser than San Antonio’s, or more loosely enforced. The topless and near-nude emerged from Hippy Hollow to invade the park. But hey, Eeyore only wore a hat for his birthday.

Austin police must have the same attitude as that adopted by New Orleans police on the episode of Treme last night: “Let Bourbon Street be Bourbon Street.” Regard revelers as only “momentarily underdressed.” Think Austin police also are instructed to ignore any whiff of “eau de maryjane.”

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 What would Eeyore think?

“Everybody crowds round so in this Forest. There’s no Space. I never saw a more Spreading lot of animals in my life, and in all the wrong places.”

Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne

I say, “Keep Austin Weird” and “Keep San Antonio Lame.” Happy to have celebrated Eeyore’s Birthday this year, but will be more than content to be locked in the middle of the King William Fair next year. It’s one of this city’s “quills” I love.

Update on August 21, 2014: Bed time story actually read by A.A. Milne courtesy of Brain Pickings