PEANUTS AND WHAT?

It sounds weird, but the prospect of spending a week sailing on the vast expanse of Lake Superior is when I most channel my inner New Yorker.

It's no wonder Michael Chiarello's flirtatious Coqueta has been such a hit on San Francisco's waterfront. Tapas, gintonics and glorious water views are a potent recipe for happiness. It's also one to inspire a Spanish-style summer fete of your own.

Alice McKeehan of Elkhart, Ind., wanted help locating a recipe for making a Twinkie cake. Her friend who used to make it has died, and McKeehan cannot find her copy of the recipe. All she can really remember is that it was an easy, no-bake cake that had Hostess' Twinkies as the base layer.

Gardening is slow going. Drop a seed; harvest a carrot. In between there's watering, weeding, waiting. No chase scene, no explosion, no big reveal.

The day before we were to leave for a long weekend at the beach, my neighbor Larry came bearing a gift: 5 pounds of crabapples picked from another neighbor's tree.

The sun is blazing. The sweat is dripping. The air feels as if it is sticking to your skin.

The cheeserati tell us to never wrap the pricey artisan Kentucky Rose or Humboldt Fog we've just bought in plastic wrap. But what's a cheese lover to do when the wedges come home in that plastic?

This old vine field blend from Enkidu's owner and winemaker Phillip Staehle is 60 percent zinfandel, 24 percent carignane and 8 percent each alicante bouschet and petite sirah, a proportion that reflects the way vines were planted in the three vineyards that go into this appealing, rustic blend. One of them, Bedrock Vineyard, clocks in at 125 years old.

It's amazing how much sugar we eat, even while we think that we are not. Many prepared foods contain sweeteners (look for ingredients ending in "-ose") and contemporary cooking is replete with sweetness (tropical fruit salsas; balsamic reductions; meats stewed with dried fruits). Sweetness in food requires the same level of sweetness in wine. That's always made sense with desserts - for instance, pairing an apple tart with a medium-sweet muscat - but it also holds for any course of a meal. This soup, because of its cream, will be doubly well served by bubbles in a non-dry wine.

When you work at the White House, you leave your politics at the front door.

This is a quick lamb kabob with linguine in a mint pesto. The meal is made even quicker using prepared pesto sauce mixed with chopped fresh mint.

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