Great post g-man. I haven't visited the forums much lately but this was a treat to read. I remember going to work dinners at my first job after college where the partner would order some high end in your face napa cab that I felt I had to drink when all I really wanted was a cold beer. It wasn't until a friend told me about Bordeaux until I had my first moment with wine. Then I started getting into food and the wine was just a natural add on and that really kicked off the journey. In my late 20's/early 30's I was going to offlines 2-3 times a week which often came with big meals attached. A great learning experience and I met so many fun and generous people along the way. Late 30's I had my first child and also took a more demanding job and the number of offlines really started to slow down. I also started to notice I couldn't recover as well from those big nights as I used to.
Now at 42 we have 2 kids, still a very demanding job and while I still get invited, I probably only go to a handful of offlines a year. I still enjoy them when I do go but just don't have the time or the desire to make the time for them that I once had.
Yesterday was an example of the perfect way I like to enjoy food and wine these days. I woke up in the morning and made pizza dough. While it was doing it's thing we took the kids out to the beach for a few hours. Came back to the house and after a negroni (maybe 2) to get things going, we opened a lovely rosato from Terre Nere in Etna and started making pizza as a family. First my daughter who is cheese and olive oil only, then with my son who is classic red sauce, cheese and pepperoni and finally my wife picked some squash blossoms from the garden that morning so we did that with a little goat cheese and roasted garlic. Some good food, a nice crisp wine and watching the kids run around is better than any offline or fancy meal I could think of these days.
That said I am going out Wednesday night for the first time in a while. I think some high end burgs and steaks are on the menu. I'll try to report back.