The month of March hosts many happenings. There is bud break in the vineyards (lovely), the Ides (scary), the first day of spring (good), college students in Cancun (stay clear), a wedding anniversary (ahh), and a trip to France (Mais oui, non?).
Here is a quick tour of what follows in this month’s Field Notes.
I catch up with a dear friend, Sarah J. Halstead. She is a wine-savvy comedian and actor in Hollywood. Her most beloved role was the officiant at our wedding five years ago, March 18th. You’ll get a peek into the mind of a funny girl in the chitchat that follows.
Jeff and I are meeting our friend Stan in Paris this week. In addition to a slew of restaurant reservations (on mange bien à Paris), I have made time for some new obsessions.
My friend and performer in New York, Corvette Le Face, made a few recommendations for the City of Light. We have reservations at Le Crazy Horse to not only see a burlesque show but to spend some time backstage. I was informed by email that a performer would give us a tour and tell us, “…all about the underside of this emblematic place.”
Internet research and planning brought me to a storied European house of magic, Le Double Fond. It is where we will not only see some action but also get some.
Speaking of eating well, we cook up a Spanish version of French croquettes, ¡Croquetas! These little fritters can stand in as a simple snack, fancy hors d’œuvres, or a light meal with a dressed green salad. Paired with a glass of rosé or Chardonnay, it makes for the next best thing to a sun-kissed getaway.
Thanks for reading, tell a friend, on with the show.
In sorcery news, my application to the Society of American Magicians was reviewed and accepted. I am now a card-carrying member of the oldest fraternal magic organization globally. I have sworn an oath to elevate the art of magic and uphold some obligatory ethical stuff; no dark arts, raising the dead, messing with the time continuum, etc.
One perk the society offers is “…liability insurance at a low discounted rate for [my] magic endeavors,” upbeat news for Jeff and my nascent “sawing the man in half” trick.
Now that this magic thing has taken a life of its own (no, it didn’t take someone’s life, see sworn oath), I face the reality that I need to improve my game if I’m going to make it as a serious magician.
I reserved seats for us to see magic up-close with cocktails at the famed magic house Le Double Fond in Paris. I also signed up for a couple of hours of private magic instruction at this institution. There is also a supplément option for an additional hour of instruction in Showmanship. I am curious. Who wouldn’t want formal training in being a canny showman?
Notwithstanding apprentice ringmaster, soon I will be able to drop nonchalantly, referring to the gems they will teach me at Le Double Fond, “This is something I picked up when I studied magic in Paris.”
Sarah J. Halstead is an old friend. We met in 1999 when she was living in an NYC SoHo apartment, oddly with a working shower in her kitchen, kindly allocating wine to deserving restaurants and retail.
Fast forward a few years, and she docked in Miami Beach, working with legendary brands such as Perrier Joët, Georges Hermann Mumm, and Laurent Perrier.
Add a few more turns around the sun, and we find she had traded Florida for Southern California, taking on LaLa Land as an actor and comic. She is known for her comedy special, “RVs and Cats” on Amazon Prime, and her popular podcast “Drinking During Business Hours,” the latter a hint on why we are good friends. She performs regularly at the Hollywood Improv, Flappers Comedy, and The Laugh Factory.
Sarah was our officiant when Jeff and I got married in March of 2017, where she announced, “last call for these two single guys” and made honest men out of us. I figured my fifth anniversary married would be an excellent time to catch up with the one that made it happen, Sarah J. Halstead.
Catch her on the Insta @sarahhalstead and the interwebs at www.sarahjhalstead.com, where you can see upcoming performances and listen to her podcast (yours truly was episode 25, worth a listen if you ask me).
Lights, camera, and ACTION.
Sarah J Halstead: Hi Joey!
Joey Wolosz: Hola Sarah, thanks for agreeing to indulge my curiosity, letting me pry into your private life, and put it all in cyberspace where it will live forever. I’ll try to do this in one take. Tell me, what brought you to Los Angeles?
SJH: I came to Los Angeles to reboot my acting and comedy career, which I had left behind quite some time ago for the wine industry. Once I had discovered wine, I didn’t think I would have time to pursue the entertainment world. Now I know the wine industry like the back of my hand, so being an entertainer in conjunction has been a nice balance.
JW: What brought you to comedy?
SJH: As a kid, I was completely entranced with SNL, In Living Color, and heavyweight standups like Ellen Degeneres, Joan Rivers, and Moms Mabley. These iconic shows and performers brought so much joy to the world, and I had the realization that making people laugh was the ultimate endeavor.
JW: Aside from comedy, do you have any other creative outlets?
SJH: I also write, act, play the piano and attempt to upload videos for TikTok (the latter being the most challenging).
JW: Friends and family excluded; who are two people you’d like to share a long and lingering meal with?
SJH: Jason Sudeikis. I would invite under the pretense that it’s a dinner party and when he arrives it will just be us. It will be awkward at first until he realizes what a beguiling and engaging personality I have.
JW: Handsome man. What would you serve? What do you enjoy cooking?
SJH: I would serve Omelette aux truffes at 7 pm. The cuisine of Provence is my favorite because it’s so clean and simple. It’s also my favorite destination to visit so I suppose there’s some nostalgia as I’m prepping the Provencal herbs, aïoli, and wolfing down Côtes de Provence Rosé (while laughing with Jason).
JW: Was there a moment when you first connected with wine and food?
SJH: Back in the day, I was a server in various restaurants while pursuing acting in NYC. Through the restaurant scene, I had befriended a little group of cool and sophisticated upcoming somms and chefs. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we were rich in culture and would pool our earnings for the night and frequent the late-night foodie hot spots after our shift. This group taught me everything about the dynasty of wine and food.
JW: What is your spirit animal?
SJH: As trite as it may seem, I must be true and go with a cat. I’m not the crazy cat lady; I only have one, ok? Per Ernest Hemingway, “A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.” I don’t really like Hemingway, but I think this is an accurate quote, and my admission of not liking Hemingway only validates cat as my spirit animal.
JW: And from the Proust Questionnaire, question #35: What is your motto?
SJH: Don’t walk away from the sun after it sets. The sky is just getting interesting.
Love you (these last two words are directed at me, not you, dear reader, and I am loved!).
Occasionally, I like to pair wines with some sort of snack rather than an entire course. I have been playing with making croquetas and croquettes, the former hailing from sun-soaked España, the latter being the serious French cousin, sometimes with the whiff of pretense.
I love them both: today, I’ll share my version of croquetas.
To make the béchamel, I use olive oil instead of butter and swap out nutmeg and clove, favoring paprika and cayenne.
These are lightly breaded fritters, fried, and served snack-like. They are a popular tapa in Spain and work so well with the acidity and sunny disposition of our Rosé.