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Monthly Archives: July 2019

Baseball and Trees: Day 6

Baseball and Trees: Day 6

Sun. July 21, 2019:
San Francisco, California to Toronto:

Brent woke me up at 6:45am but I wanted 5 more minutes, it seems I was starting to adjust to the time difference. In the night it had looked like the TV was on, so I tried to turn it off, except then I actually turned it on and it was a scramble to turn it back off. Oops. I had packed up everything the night before to make life easier.

We went to Sears Fine Food diner for breakfast. Apparently, they are renowned for their mini Swedish pancakes and lingonberry jam (at least according to the menu and the 1001 Foods book). And of course, you can’t go wrong with sourdough French toast with house made strawberry preserves. The pancakes were tiny and not to thick, they were perfect. The French toast was too much, in the end I ate just shy of three of the four giant slices. They were thick. The mark of a good diner is that your coffee always gets refilled.

We walked to the BART stop that was the next one over from our usual station, it was equidistant and saved us a bit of time. Even still, we got to the station plenty early. When the train runs every 20 minutes, it really sucks to miss it. When we got to the airport, the line for security was so long. They opened up another line and I went for it. Brent and I had split at customs because I didn’t realize we could go up together. My line was way faster and I ended up having to wait.

Our gate was at the tail end of the terminal, down some stairs. Because there was another flight leaving at about the same time, the area was crammed and there were so many announcements. I volunteered to be the one to go get us food. The options were very limited: Napa Valley farm (sandwiches and pizza) or Vietnamese food. The Napa stored turned out to be a gem. The sandwiches were on bread from the same bakery that Chez Panisse uses. I had the Cuban pork, Brent had the chicken BLT. It was a long time before I got back though. While in line I spotted a drinks cooler and was intrigued. Sandwiches need soda. Once I got there, I hit the jackpot: artisanal sodas with new bottle caps and cans of beer! Pretty sure that won me wife of the year. The orange cream soda tasted more like a creamsicle (the raspberry ginger ale I am saving for mixing). I also stopped in at Duty Free and got some 50% vodka for home-liqueur-making and two small bottles of gin from Isle of Islay. I couldn’t find anything for a souvenir for work people, as I could get Ghirardelli chocolates at home.

Genius that I am, I had gotten mesquite-flavoured kettle chips for snacking on the plane. I also misplaced my gum so i desperately ate Oreos with the hopes that my ears wouldn’t pop. We were all the way at the back of the plane this time. I watched Crazy Rich Asians and then we watched the first five episodes of season 5 of Broad City.

All in all, a great trip.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2019 in 1001 Foods, Fooding, Travel

 

Baseball and Trees: Day 5

Baseball and Trees: Day 5

Sat. July 20, 2019:

San Francisco to Oakland to Yountville, California:

I was rudely awoken due to poor design. The bathroom door was all frosted glass. So, when Brent went in there and turned on the light, it lit up the room. Who designs something like that?! I thought surely it was the middle of the night, nope, it was almost time to wake up. I was so comfy in my cocoon in bed though. Thankfully I still had an iced coffee left so I didn’t have to wrestle with the capsule coffee machine. In my tiredness i had forgotten to shave my legs the night before and there was no way I was going out like that. Not in my fancy clothes. We looked like we were going to a wedding. When we exited the BART station near Cait & John’s house a lady remarked that we were going to church. As we were walking, John pulled up and gave us a ride halfway through the short walk (he had gone out for supplies).  We had mimosas before heading out to Napa Valley. Lunch was at The French Laundry in Yountville. Our Uber driver was clearly a first-timer, she was very unsure of herself. It didn’t help that her minivan was kind of on the crappy side. It was stressful when we hit traffic.

Walking past the parking lot of The French Laundry I noticed some people standing around. One was in chef’s whites and I immediately was like OMG that is Thomas Keller. Brent and John took to searching Google Images to confirm. But by that point the man had turned and we couldn’t see his face. The restaurant was in a beautiful house on the corner of the main street. It was surrounded by beautiful greenery.

We were seated in a small alcove, with a window behind us into the wine cellar and an exposed stone wall. There were only two other smaller tables there so it was a nice intimate setting. Before getting started we asked about the bathrooms. Instead of napkin rings, they used clothes pins with The French Laundry branding (we all kept them at the end). The server led John and I, they were actually outside through the courtyard in a smaller building. On the way, Thomas Keller passed us by, smiled and asked how we were doing. My heart was racing and I mouthed OMG to John and the server, she smiled and confirmed that yes, that was Keller. I couldn’t believe it.

The wine list was on an iPad and it was extensive (over 100 pages). We looked at the list by glasses and when I tried to go back to the main menu, I saw that they had a beer list. What luck! They had Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus! Brent and I were both keenly aware that a sour raspberry beer would not pair well at all, we did not care. It was Cantillon! John also ordered a half bottle of Frog’s Leap chardonnay for the table and Cait had a glass of riesling. We all shared sips. The table looked hilarious, we had so many glasses spread out before us.  When Brent tried to order the beer, the server took a second, like what? Beer? And then they brought us Cantillon Gueze- the wrong one-  and for the first time ever, we actually had to send it back. It was a Cantillnon but still, the rose one is just so damn good.

Cait had the vegetarian menu, which worked out well for Brent and I as we got to steal bites and sample more options.  Looking at the chef’s tasting menu I was worried, I didn’t see the salmon cone. It was the thing I was most excited for! No sooner had I started worrying, the server came by with a tray with the salmon cornetts. It was easily one of the best things I have ever eaten. Salmon and cream cheese and everything bagel spice. Every bite was heaven. We were off to a very good start. None of us ordered any of the supplementary menu items. The Wagyu beef was from somewhere in America- not worth it. The starter had caviar in it, so it was not worth it to upgrade to a different caviar (especially given I doubt I would notice the difference). The oysters and caviar dish was so good, plus it was fun to eat with the mother-of-pearl spoon. The server later told us it is a material that doesn’t react with the caviar (otherwise the taste would get tainted). The pot roast was unbelievable, it had the consistency of steak but tasted like cured ham. It was amazing and we relished every bite. I was not a fan of the beets on the side. Beets always taste like dirt to me. I did eat a carrot earlier in the meal and enjoy it, so the problem with the beets owed to them just being a terrible excuse for a food. The cheese dish was a bit too heavy and no matter how you slice it, I am not a fan of goat cheese.

Our server said that the dessert was like a second mini-tasting menu. We laughed. She said, no seriously. John ordered tea and when the server started telling him about his options and how everything is grown in the garden, I jumped on board and also got tea. He had the lemon verbena, I had the ginger geranium. She was such a fan of the chocolate mint that she brought that one as well. It looked really pretty, the full leaves floating in the clear glass teapots. The mint was better than the ginger but the best one was by far the lemon verbena. She wasn’t kidding about dessert. It was a massive spread: jelly roll cake, mini doughnuts with accompanying cappuccino mousse for dunking, salted caramel macarons, matcha chews, whoopie pies (which were really more like chocolate covered s’mores), sorbet with a cookie and honey from the garden apiary, and a chocolate covered macadamia nut. Just when we thought we were done: they brought out a wooden box and we each got to select a truffle. When they brought the bill (printed on a large laundry tag) they also brought us each a tin of shortbread cookies. The bill had been brought back while I was in the bathroom and apparently in that time they had offered us a kitchen tour. I knew this was a possibility but i thought you had to request it, I didn’t expect it to be offered. Maybe it was because of my excitement earlier at having seen Keller? Who can say? It was a definite highlight of the day, getting to see the working kitchen. The chef was busy with paperwork. Just as busy was the kitchen at Per Se in New York City, there was a live feed via cameras between the two restaurants. We snapped a quick group photo in the kitchen and then headed out. Back in the front of the restaurant we were given copies of the menu and a booklet about the restaurant. She said we could tour the garden across the street- and pick and eat anything we wanted!! I was over the moon at this point. We took a few pictures outside with the sign and headed over. It was really cool to see where the ingredients for our meal had been sourced from. The strawberries were delicious. The apiaries were very busy. It was easily the best dining experience of my life and it was perfectly timed. It lasted four hours but not once did it feel like it dragged on. They timed the courses so well, with a long break before the main and another short break before dessert. There was never a moment of it dragging on, i had lost all concept of time. I remember the first time I looked at my phone, actually being shocked at the time.

We walked the main stretch of Yountville. Passing by Keller’s bakery, the line was out the door and so long. His bistro restaurant was also packed. We had a 4pm reservation at the Stewart tasting room. The way the street was set up was that all the nearby wineries had storefronts where you could enjoy wine tastings without having to trek the distances between the farms. Alas, it meant I only got to see one set of vines that were probably just for show. Brent had the more varied flight and I stole sips. I ordered a glass of Russian River Pinot Noir because it reminded me of Pliny the Elder (the brewery is called Russian River). I was getting tired and my feet were starting to ache. A whole day in heels is tough and I had blisters. We were all tired, John fell asleep on the car ride back.

We decided to hang out a bit more and open the bottle of wine we had gotten from the hotel. We took the drinks outside to the front lawn outside of their building, overlooking the water. We had a blanket and camp chairs and it was nice and relaxing. We didn’t plan it, but we happened to be out there during the dog walking hour. It was a lot of fun calling the dogs over and playing with them.

On the transit ride back, I realized I was actually getting hungry again. I did not think it was possible but there we were. We had just emerged from the BART station in San Francisco and I saw the McDonald’s sign. We split a quarter pounder with bacon and a buttermilk crispy chicken sandwich. It really hit the spot. That had to have been one of the crappiest McDonald’s we’d ever been to. No ordering kiosks, no promo banners. The menu was TV screens that kept changing over, so we couldn’t see what the promotional burgers were. I would have totally ordered the Taste of the World Spanish burger with bacon and some kind of cheese if I had known about it. I cracked open the ice cider and was disappointed to find out it was more of an apple juice wine. Not good. I also still had to pack and it was already 10:30pm.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2019 in Fooding, Life's Goals, Travel

 

Baseball and Trees: Day 4

Baseball and Trees: Day 4

Fri. July 19, 2019:
Yosemite Valley to San Francisco, California:

It was a rough wakeup, not just because it wasn’t even 6am yet- I was also in the middle of a dream. I chugged the half bottle of iced coffee I had left over from yesterday. Caffeine was my friend. I had packed up everything the night before to make the morning easier. Breakfast was given to us in a cooler bag that we got to keep. But it was too early in the morning for me, all I wanted was more coffee. I made do with the black coffee they gave me to go. Towards the end it was too much for my stomach to take. The sun was already starting to come up so we didn’t have to worry about navigating the park in the dark. We stopped at a gas station to top up and i watched, half asleep, as some deer foraged in the dumpster.

There was no traffic on the way into the park, which was a good sign as we were headed for a very busy attraction: the road that runs through the valley. It was frustrating because the car ahead of us was slow, and rather than go off onto the shoulder to let us pass, they just kept on. It’s not like they didn’t know they could do that, even slower people ahead of them were doing it. We yelled and gestured to no avail.

We didn’t get to enjoy the (apparently) spectacular Tunnel View because the sun was right at the dip in the valley between the two mountains and it was blinding. We stopped in a parking lot to get some good views, I got mad at the terrible map. It was hard to figure out a route, it was so poorly designed. We got back in the car and continued on to the Yosemite Falls trailhead parking. We got the perfect spot off the side of the road. It was near the trailhead but far back enough that we could easily walk to lunch later. Plus it led us directly to the exit road we needed to take.

We hiked to Lower Yosemite Falls. Ok, no, we walked. It was not a hike. It was stunning to see from afar, the waterfall peeking out between the trees. It had been a short walk. We looked at the map, Upper Yosemite Falls trail was long. It said that the full loop was 6-8 hours. Apparently along the trail there was a nice lookout Columbia Point which was a more reasonable distance. Gatorade, soda, chocolate bars and Pop Tarts in tow, we set off. As we climbed, I kept stopping for all the beautiful views, but also to catch my breath.  I kept myself motivated: at Columbia Point I get a Pop Tart. That was the plan. As we kept climbing, the views of the valley would change ever so slightly. We thought we had gotten to the point, it sort of seemed like a point. We stopped, I sat down on a rock and ate my Pop Tart. Then some people passed us and we overheard their conversation. Not only were we not at Columbia Point, our pace was also much slower than Brent had initially thought (thanks to yours truly). On we hiked. I did not enjoy the sandy slopes, my calves were burning. By the time we reached the point my butt had joined the fray and was hurting. It was well worth the effort, the views were stunning. We could see the meadow down in the valley, we could see Half Dome and so many trees. On the way up we had seen a lizard and a woodpecker. I sat down on the rocks and tore into the Milky Way. The way back down was more stressful. I was unsure of my footing as I had to climb down the sand-covered stone steps (which were tiny in some places!). I inched my way down. Eventually we caught up to some people who were descending as we had approached Columbia Point. The lady pointed out Brent’s “We Want Beer” shirt and she was like YEAH! THIS GUY! I don’t know how she had so much energy. My legs and butt were really starting to ache now.

Back at the car I changed into my skirt and sandals and swapped out for a lighter purse. We were done hiking around 10:30am and still had time before our 12:30 lunch. While I repacked, I also ate some of the yogurt and granola- it was so damn good! We walked over to the Yosemite museum. It was cool to learn about the management side of the park and how they had to actually maintain the scenic views and make sure it’s not super overgrown. We also watched some of the wildlife camera highlights- given all we’d seen were squirrels, birds and lizards. They had photographs of Yosemite on display and from afar you could tell which one was by Ansel Adams, it was almost unfair to all the other photographers. I was expecting more of his work, maybe his camera, in the Ansel Adams Gallery. I was not expecting a glorified gift shop. I wanted to see his negatives and original prints! Maybe one of his outfits? We walked into the wilderness centre expecting to learn about local flora and fauna. I guess we still could have learned if we bought the little info identification cards. But no, it was an actual wilderness centre: they sold gear and permits and there were rangers.

Walking to Majestic Yosemite Lodge I, once again, regretted not putting on sunscreen. There was not nearly enough shade to protect me. The meadow was even more beautiful from ground level, with the mountains and the dip to the valley off in the distance. It was still kind of hard to fully enjoy it, with the sun still blazing and making it hard to photograph. At least it wasn’t nearly as blinding as it had been that morning. We were early for lunch but it wasn’t that busy so we got in. Lunch was a letdown at first. We split an order of deviled eggs, Brent had never had them before. The appetizers menu differed drastically from the mains, which were just burgers and sandwiches. I had the French onion soup. I was not impressed, and when it came time for dessert, I was honestly thinking id rather eat Oreos in the car. People around us had ordered cake and gotten massive slices, so we at least had to glance at the dessert menu to see what that was all about. Each person was shocked at the towering slice of layer cake. But when you looked at the menu, it was 2-3 times as many calories as the other offerings. No one should have been shocked. Brent suggested we get the lemon meringue pie. It was incredible, far and away the best dish we had. It stood in stark contrast to the rest of the lunch food. As if we had eaten at two completely different places. The thinking is that the dessert menu is part of the dinner fare, which is fancier (jackets required) and less cafeteria-quality.

It was a slow drive out of the park. We stopped to look at El Capitan and marvel that the guy climbed up it, seeing it in person is just nuts. It also hurt my neck to look up at it. I had left the Butterfinger in the car and it was a sad melted mess. I put it in the cooler bag in the hopes of reviving it, but the food in there was not faring much better. The cheese had melted and the meat was warm. The grapes were alright but a bit warm for my liking. The only winner of the hot car was the marshmallow Oreos. You could say they were out of this world.

We had just enough time- after dropping off the car and taking the (very slow) train to San Francisco- to check in to the hotel, do a quick change and head right back out the door. Oracle Park was just down the street from our hotel and we quickly got caught up in the crowd. Except they were so bad as pedestrians. No one was jaywalking! Once we got to the stadium, we were unsure where to go, there were people everywhere. We saw a lineup that went through metal detectors so we queued up. A lady came up behind us and asked if it was the line to get in. We said maybe, unsure. She laughed and asked someone else who said yes- she was like 80% sure. Then a guy came by and said it was the line to get into the merchandise store. We joined the huge crowd slowly making its way inside by the main entrance. We still had not heard from John’s friend Dave who might get us into the suites. We walked half the main course, noted where the Gilroy’s garlic fries stand was, and made our way to our seats. There was no point in getting food or drinks if we might be going to the suites. The most insufferable people were sitting behind us, talking anime and ignoring the game. One girl moved closer to her friend (i.e.: closer to us), good we thought, maybe she won’t be as loud. Nope, she was just as loud (actually louder, because she was now closer to us) and so high-pitched and just all around horrible. Thankfully Dave saved us during the 2nd inning, he came down and whisked us away to the Cloud Club.

We got wristbands and were told there was a buffet and it was open bar. Apparently, there was also a former Giants pitcher milling about, taking advantage of the offerings. We got to sit in comfy leather seats with a view of the whole field, and most importantly, the wall over which i needed the Giants to hit a home run so i could cross “see a Splash Down Home Run” off my things-to-see list. At the very least, they had to hit a regular home run and get my hopes up. What do people in fancy suites at baseball games eat? Hotdogs! For dessert: a brownie, a terrible cakepop (who makes a cheesecake cakepop?) and of course, a bag of Cracker Jacks. The plan was to go around the world, and have all three feature cocktails. All well and good, I went one more and had a spicy Paloma. Turns out it actually is a good drink, that lady at the A’s game was right. While getting my second drink at the bar, the baseball man (Jeremy Affeldt) had put his drink down and was signing a kid’s jersey. Afterwards he turned to me and jokingly asked if I’d put anything in it. I laughed, blushed mildly and said nah. And just as quickly, he was whisked away to meet & greet with more people. It was amusing how drunk he was. While getting drink #4 I met two guys who asked what I was getting. We high-fived on our shared goal of going around the world. They laughed and said of course, everyone would like to see a home run but his tone implied it was not going to happen.  Of the three cocktails, the clear winner was the strawberry and prosecco one. I should have guessed that because everyone had one. The violet one came in a close second. It was the prettiest of the three. The watermelon one was dead last, it was tasteless and the only saving grace was the alcohol. Eventually they turned on the heat lamps by the seats and it was perfect.

The game was going really fast. Not great when you are in the suites and have an open bar and a buffet. We went back down to the concourse during the 8th inning but by then everything was closing. Thankfully I had eaten some popcorn on my third round of the buffet tables so I wasn’t too hungry. Walking the concourse, I posted another video to Instagram demanding a Splash Down Home Run. Blame the open bar. The game was still going so we went down to our seats. It continued into the 10th inning when the Giants finally won, on a walk-off non-home run. It was the lamest end to a game of all time. It also ruined my streak of seeing every home team hit a home run. It just meant we would have to come back again someday. Back in the hotel room I was too tired to even write it all up in my book.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2019 in Travel

 

Baseball and Trees: Day 3

Baseball and Trees: Day 3

Thurs. July 18, 2019:
Oakland to Yosemite Valley, California:

There was no noisy construction to wake me up this time, i got to sleep in until 7am. Brent had heard my previous requests and gone out to get me a mango-dragonfruit refresher from the Starbucks down the block. It’s a much easier order than a custom coffee and it isn’t time sensitive because it’s already cold. Genius plan. Even though we were in no rush to leave, the car rental place was around the corner and the In N Out burger where we’d be getting lunch in Merced, CA didn’t open until 10am. By the time we were picking up the car I already had to pee. I went to the Mariott next door and thankfully I looked enough like a tourist that staff gave me the code number for the bathroom.

It was a two-hour drive to Merced. Our first stop was Walmart to top up my supplies. I hit the jackpot: berry Sour Patch Kids, moon marshmallow Oreos, chocolate peanut butter pie Oreos and my beloved DD coffee. I was all set. Once were in the parking lot, I was able to connect my iPod via Bluetooth. It wouldn’t allow me while the car was in motion because it was “unsafe” but come on, what about the passengers?! Really? And it was all for nothing because it was too hard to navigate without the nice map voice lady. We listened to 13 Minutes to the Moon podcast while the nice lady told us where to go. Lunch at In N Out was perfect. It was just as good as I remember it being but I came to a sad conclusion: animal style, while great in theory (special sauce and cheese and onions) actually makes for a soggy mess. No more animal-style for me, it was good to try it though.

Finally, we were on the road to Yosemite Valley National park. Except, I could not for the life of me stay awake. I kept drifting off. But I couldn’t sleep. Brent’s phone had stopped connecting via USB to the speakers so i had to help navigate. We switched back to listening to my iPod via Bluetooth.

Even after having lunch, eating Sour Patch Kids and cracking into tomorrow’s iced coffee (I could get more when we stopped for gas was the reasoning)- I STILL couldn’t stay awake. I’d be looking at the landscape, dry desert on one side of the highway, lush greenery on the other… and my head would start to dip forward, my eyes heavy. The GPS said it was three hours until we got to Mariposa Grove even though it was only 120km away. There was just no way that was correct, no traffic was shown on the map, no detours. It was just plain wrong. In the end it took us half that estimate.

Driving into Yosemite Valley National Park we were greeted with beautiful scenery and lots of trees. We were barely in the park and already I was enamoured. We arrived at a parking lot near Mariposa Grove but had to leave the car there. The lot at the trailhead was closed and we had to take a shuttle. We briefly considered trekking out there, but it didn’t make any sense seeing as the shuttle ran often and we could spend more time on the trails in the grove itself. We did the “Big Tree Loop” trail but it was much easier and shorter than the info board back at the lot had led on. We started on the “Great Grizzly Tree” trail and figured we would go see the named tree and then turn around and head back. The sign said that one would take 2-3hrs and we still had more stuff to see. Our tip off should have been that the trail is in fact only 2 miles and the board was being overly conservative in its estimate. The whole thing took us maybe an hour. We had also gone in with the assumption that forest = trees = shady coverage away from the sun. Turns out Mariposa Grove wasn’t as dense in some parts. We should have packed the sunscreen, especially given it was early afternoon. Early on I got frustrated with my new polarizing filter and I quickly gave up and bailed on it.

The tree lived up to half of its name, it really was great. We could spot it from afar by the giant crowd around the base, who looked tiny by comparison. By that point we had so little of the trail left (we were at the halfway point, where it started to loop back) that we figured we may as well complete it, rather than backtracking. The California Tree Tunnel was everything I had hoped it would be: a tunnel through a tree that I could pass through. I had always wanted to see the Wawona tunnel tree but that one got knocked down in 2017. Stupid nature. This tree tunnel was a nice surprise, I had not been expecting it. It was awesome, despite the insufferable guy making Moses jokes to his kids (telling them to let people pass by them). It was also really cool to see the parts of the forest that had burned and the trees that had fallen over. They were massive and the really tall ones only had branches high up. Now that we were further along the trail it was much quieter and more peaceful. The only wildlife we saw was a squirrel. Bringing the Gatorade with us was a brilliant idea, as it was actually quite hot in the forest.

It was an hour-long drive to Glacier Point. Along the way we pulled over at a shoulder for slower cars and looked at the views down the burnt mountainside forest and into the valley. The views were beautiful and I finally felt like I was getting back into my photo groove after the earlier debacle with the polarizing filter. If only I knew what awaited me.

Glacier Point was incredible, epic, unbelievable really. We had views of the whole valley and the mountains across the way. We could see the Yosemite Falls, where we hoped to hike the next day (assuming we could get a parking spot). We could see Half Dome across the way. Down below we could see the road snaking through the valley, a parade of cars really. It was beautiful and I ended up alternating using the polarizing filter and not, to ensure I got at least a few good photos. On the way back to the car we stopped in at the gift shop. I had not gotten enough postcards and needed two more for my parents. (Fun fact: I have since been unable to find those two postcards).  From the moment we arrived, every few minutes I would hear someone talking about getting ice cream there. I get it, the weather was really hot and sunny. But it was crazy how many people were talking about it. It was well worth checking out, the Butterfinger ice cream bar was one of the best I’ve ever had. I stole a bite of Brent’s Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich but it just didn’t stack up.

Driving out of the park, I couldn’t even pick up the GPS signal. Thankfully it would be at least an hour before we needed the map. We listened to NPR’s How It’s Made with Alice Waters talking about Chez Panisse. A little after the fact but still a good listen. We sandwiched it between two episodes of Stuff You Should Know (“How Yellow Rain Works” and “How Sand Dunes Work”). We stopped at 7-Eleven for gas. I took the opportunity for more iced coffee and more Gatorade. I also found strawberry peanut M&Ms and a Hershey’s mint cookie bar for my sisters as souvenirs. For us I got a Butterfinger Crisp and a Milky Way fudge bar. They could make for good hiking snacks, in addition to the s’mores Pop Tarts. You could tell I was a pro hiker and this was not my first rodeo. We went to the liquor store across the street. At first the selection seemed paltry. Until I found a Lindeman’s apple lambic. I also got an Angry Orchard ice cider, aptly named Ice Man. We stopped at CVS near the hotel, I was looking for stamps but the lady told me I’d have to go to the post office next door. Tomorrow. They were already closed. At least I finally found Sprite lemonade! We also got chili cheese Fritos- I was much less excited about that.

We were staying at the Chateau Sureau because there were no spots available in the park hotels. This place was uncomfortably fancy. When we got buzzed in we just assumed we could park the car and go in. Nope, the drive led us to the front of the house where we were greeted by three staff members. They offered to take our bags, it was embarrassing, like please, just me carry my plastic bag of alcohol by myself. In the lobby they had mini macarons and chocolate chip cookies. In the room we had a free bottle of wine from the hotel winery, free cookie and a free pastry. The pastry was by the fireplace and I almost knocked the cloche off it as I swung my backpack down to the ground. Brent had initially made a 7pm dinner reservation, and there was no way we’d be ready to go in 15 minutes. We tried to bump it to 7:30 but they said next available was at 8pm. We also placed an order for breakfast to go the next morning. She said it was part of the experience and she didn’t want us missing out because we had to leave early.

I had left my notebook in the glove compartment of the car so instead I improvised and wrote out all my notes on our old maps printouts while drinking the Lindemans. For once Lindemans didn’t cause me any problems. Every time I get it I always forget, it has a cap AND a cork underneath. There was a wine bottle opener on the dresser. We debated opening the wine, but to drink an entire bottle of red wine seemed a bit much. We would save it and drink our beers instead.

When we got to the hotel restaurant, Elderberry House, it was really weird. There was only one other couple seated and they were finishing up. Was it going to be just us? We couldn’t get 7:30pm because those people had it, or did they get our 7pm time slot? It was a seven-course dinner, the menu was custom printed greeting us as the Wilson family. I ordered a glass of zinfandel from a Napa Valley winery. The server came back with a comically large wine glass, it made me feel silly. It was borderline a novelty glass. It was a really good wine and we even got free top-ups on our wines.

The amuse bouche was a berry granita with lemon clouds (read: foam) and it was surprisingly refreshing and palate cleansing. We munched on lemon rosemary baguette and five-grain poppyseed bread, debating which of the two was better. So simple, topped with just butter and a sprinkling of salt, yet so good. The shrimp with reduced watermelon sauce was wacky, the sauce was a dead ringer for BBQ sauce and I would have never guessed it was watermelon. The portobello mushroom soup was outstanding (in my notebook it says AMAZING and WOW). It was so rich and filling and easily one of the best things I had ever eaten. I wondered (jokingly) about getting it to go for breakfast in the morning. From here things started to dip a bit. The beef short ribs were alright but nowhere near as good as the server had implied. The mission fig salad was just confused. There were parts that went really well together, the arugula and the blue cheese dressing, the oranges and the citrus foam but getting one bite with all the elements was a cacophonous disaster. Things picked back up with dessert. The apricot Bavarois was delicious. Before it arrived, we debated what exactly it would be, a cream of some sort (we were equating it with Bavarian cream). It was more like a mousse. And you can’t go wrong with chocolate cake. Before leaving we were given a small bag of loose-leaf tea, finally some elderberries!

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2019 in Travel

 

Baseball and Trees: Day 2

Baseball and Trees: Day 2

Wed. July 17, 2019:
Oakland, California:

I woke up around 5am because there was just so much noise outside, blaring in through the window. It sounded like a construction demolition crossed with a garbage truck. At first, I thought it might be a truck, but no way could it be going for that long. It seemed endless. Also: who does that at 5am?! Common decency says start at 6am!! They were lucky I had not adjusted to the time difference and as far as my body knew, it was actually 8am. Which, come to think of it, is still an ungodly hour. Hence, the grumpiness. Not helping matters, my allergies were in full swing and my face was puffy. Eventually I gave up and woke up at 6:40am, which was about when the noise stopped.

We walked to Arizmendi bakery for breakfast. I held off on getting coffee because the only placed we passed on our walk was a Peet’s Coffee that was inside of an office building and hence too much of a detour for my tired self. It was only a 40min walk, I could wait for coffee. On the way we walked around Lake Merritt and saw more Canada geese than I have seen back home. A guy sitting in his car shouted “nice skirt” at me, except I was too enthralled in conversation to notice until Brent told me later. My original plan was to get a cheese bun but when I laid eyes on the cinnamon bun all bets were off. I could not resist. In the end I kind of regretted it, there was too much icing and I was left wondering what the cheese bun was like. Brent had a bun with chocolate chunks, it was alright. We also got a brioche braid and a sourdough baguette for later. By later, I mean the walk back. We needed something to distract us from the grogginess and dehydration from last night. The brioche bun was a fail, it had raisins and was dense. The real winner was the baguette, it was poking out of my elephant bag and we just kept ripping pieces off. The walk back was more pleasant: we saw so many dogs by the lake and some pelicans just hanging out.

Back in the hotel we desperately chugged water in an attempt to rehydrate before heading out to the A’s game to meet John. After catching up in my notebook, I caved and took a nap. I was full-on napping, complete with drool and hand-twitching. I woke up but apparently, I could have kept sleeping because we did not need to leave as early as Brent had originally planned. By that point though I was awake and I did not want to risk another round of grogginess. I watched Friends and South Park because I could not stand the new The Price is Right, it was just too modern for my tastes. And the Pioneer Woman show was insufferable. Why is she telling me about a salad she is going to make while she drives her car?!

It was a short train ride to the Coliseum. I was actually really excited to see it, one of the last concrete donut stadiums still standing (I had listened to an episode of 99 Percent Invisible on the topic). It was easy enough to find our way there, we just followed the crowds from the train. I was kind of surprised at how many people were there given it was an early afternoon game on a Wednesday. We met up with John and got a tour of the stadium. We were also given credentials so we could go down to the field. In my head I imagined myself being able to run to the pitcher’s plate and goof off. I did not expect the strict rules about not being allowed onto the grass. It should be called being allowed “beside the field” not on. It is misleading. Groups of day-camp kids were going around the perimeter of the field and one kid shouted at us that we were awesome. It made my day and that kid is totally going to be a future politician, he one-upped baby-kissing.

John had given us seat upgrades, now we sat 8 rows from the field. On the way to our seats we got drinks. I tried to order a margarita and the lady tried to convince me to get a paloma instead (same price). I have no idea what that was all about. It was an eventful game, there were a lot of home runs. I was not impressed with their home run celebration, it was just a sign in the outfield that lit up and said “Holy Toledo.” Pretty weak if you ask me. There was a desperate lady a few rows ahead of us to the left, she wanted to get on camera so bad with her birthday sign. Clearly, she does this every year, she had many crossed-out numbers on the sign. It did make me wonder if every year she was this desperate and ignored? Adding to the desperation, children kept running down to our section to try and get a free baseball and then walking back really disappointed and empty-handed.

We lasted about two innings before we had to get up. We were roasting in the sun. We retreated to the shade of the concourse in search of food. We were on the lookout for a few things at the ballpark. I had my eye on alcoholic popsicles. I found the vendor: a tricycle, but it was unmanned. At the Launch Test Kitchen my fears were confirmed: they were still serving the spam-sushi dish, hard pass. We could not find the Texas toast grilled cheese place. In the end we got garlic fries (a must), Roundtable pizza (a mini, we are not crazy) and chicken tenders. The chicken had been on my list as a backup but it worked out great. They had little plastic cups and six different dipping sauces at a self-serve station. We ate the chicken tenders while we waited in line for the garlic fries. While we ate, we guffawed at the people who waited in line, were one away from the front and left. Or the people who didn’t get garlic fries. Why were they even there?! You can get a hotdog anywhere! The honey sriracha sauce was the clear winner, followed by the buffalo and hickory BBQ. The boom-boom sauce was just weird, kind of like mayo with but with something else in it. Genius that I am, I went back to get more sauces for our fries. The honey sriracha was so damn good. And the ranch would pair well. The pizza was alright, but the base crust was way too thick for my liking, I couldn’t even dip it properly. Plus, by that point I was quite full so it did not get my full attention. It was still hot out in the sun but I felt a little better, being distracted by fries and pizza helped. The Stella Artois cider also helped. The fizziness just felt that much more refreshing. The A’s won and once again we got swept up in the crowd, trusting that they would lead us in the right direction.

We followed the crowd a little too closely and got on the wrong train. As we were getting on a guy was yelling at another guy and was all up in his face, screaming “get off this f*cking train.” Looking back, we should have taken his advice. Thankfully we noticed and were able to get off a few stops later and catch the correct train.

I needed a shower so bad. I was covered in sunscreen and so sweaty. Apparently though I did not have on enough sunscreen. Back in our hotel room I noticed I was starting to get a bit red in spots. I had just enough time to get dressed and ready for dinner. We had a 5:30 reservation at Chez Panisse and I was so excited! Finally! I would get to eat at Chez Panisse! I was a bit nervous but mostly excited- even if it didn’t show, it was a bit tamped down by tiredness.

It was a short 20-minute train ride to Berkeley and then a nice walk down the main stretch of town. Unfortunately, we did not get out of the right BART exit to see the Papa John’s where i got dinner last time we tried to eat at Chez Panisse. It was kind of odd doing the same walk and trying to remember what was different and what was the same. For sure that McDonald’s was not there last time, otherwise there was no way I would have suffered through Papa John’s.

Even with the leisurely walking pace and stopping in at a store (they had a chalkboard advertising craft soda, I wanted to see if it was true- it was) we were still early. We tried to walk in but were told to wait in the foyer. Looking at the passersby on the sidewalk, you could tell who was coming to Chez Panisse for dinner. The restaurant itself was very beautiful, even though we didn’t get to see much of it. We were seated near the entrance. I had kind of been hoping for a table in the sun room. At least we had a view of the kitchen.

No sooner had we sat down, we were offered an aperitif: a glass of prosecco with elderflowers. It was so refreshing and sweet and just what I needed. The server asked us if we were here for a special occasion and Brent mentioned we had tried to eat here a few years ago, five or so?– but alas, the kitchen fire. He was like yeah no, that was six years ago. The amuse bouche consisted of an olive, pickled carrots, onions and leeks. In my notebook, regarding the olive it just says: how was it so good?! I don’t like carrots either and it was delicious. The bar was set. Every dish was delicious and across the board it was consistent and high quality. This was the most consistent dinner from start to finish of all time. There were no lows. Everything was delicious, especially the duck breast. It was a wow dish for me, borderline for Brent (who doesn’t even like duck). Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, the dessert course was rolled out. The apricot sorbet was incredible, the almond cake amazing. Even the berries, a simple garnish, were so much better than any berries I’ve previously had. How is this possible?! After dinner we were given mint and lemongrass tea (fresh from the garden) and candied orange peels. It was the perfect end to a perfect meal. I took the paper menu as a souvenir. Brent had ordered the wine pairing and we split it. This worked out nicely, neither of us got smashed but we got to enjoy some fine wine.

It was a slow and tired walk back to the BART station. We stopped in at Safeway to try and save some time the next day. But the selection was so crappy that really it did nothing. There were no wacky Oreos and no Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. We got Gatorade, iced coffee and Pop Tarts which was only half my list. On the train we got an invite from John if we wanted to come over. Brent said no, we are tired and should go to bed early. And then 5 minutes later texted back saying we’d changed our minds. Realistically, how often do we get to see them? Getting a bit of extra sleep was not worth missing out. We dropped by the hotel so I could leave my purse and grab my Lulu sweater and the (very nice) wedding card that Brent had made for them. It was nice to hang out and talk. On the walk back we discovered we could have had a much nicer walk along the waterfront through Jack London Square. But we had no way of knowing that previously.

Back in the hotel I was getting deliriously tired, trying to write in my notebook when my body thought it was 2am and my sunburn was still developing.

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2019 in Fooding, Life's Goals, Travel

 

Baseball and Trees: Day 1

Tues. July 16, 2019:
Toronto flight to San Francisco, California:

This trip had been a long time coming. We had not seen Brent’s sister in years and we had both our wedding and hers to celebrate. Plus, despite two trips to San Francisco we had yet to go to a Giants game. It was due time.

Because I was coming to the airport straight from work (morning half-shift), I got to the airport four hours early. I assumed that I could find a place to sit at Starbucks in Terminal 3 while I waited for Brent. Nope. The whole airport was crammed and I ended up sitting outside on a low ledge. It was not ideal for my knees but at least I could read in peace. That did not last very long. Some guy had decided that this was the place- just outside of the airport doors- to clip his nails. While standing beside a luggage cart. I bailed and went inside, doing another lap looking for seats. Still no luck. I went back outside but this time sat outside a door closer to Wendy’s and far away from the gross guy. There was a guy standing in the road looking at his phone. A truck pulled up and honked at it him, like get out of the way! He looks up from his phone, clearly annoyed and walks back to the sidewalk- then continues giving the truck the stink eye and keeps making like he is going to go over and yell at them. Because they honked at him. Because he was standing in the road. In their way.

At Wendy’s we split an order of the bacon jalapeno cheese fries. They were good but they quickly got to be a bit heavy and too much. It would have been nice to have a half portion of that and a half portion of regular fries to alternate. When I had checked the status of our flight online earlier it said that the wait at security was 2 minutes. I thought surely that had to have been a typo. It was not, we were through so fast. And then it all came to an abrupt halt as we inched towards customs. That line was about 30 minutes waiting. Meaning neither of us won the bet, I had said 20min, Brent had said 40min. we also bet on which border guard we would get and of the three, it was the one neither of us had chosen. In my defence I did not know he was an option as at first it seemed like there were only two and I swear he was a late addition.

We had been at Terminal 1 just a few weeks ago and now I was all set to go and find that Sprite lemonade I had seen. Except it was nowhere to be found. I did manage to get another new soda flavour so that tamped down my fomo a bit. The cherry sorbet Coke was like cherry coke and vanilla coke mixed together, but it was too heavy on the vanilla for my enjoyment. We were lucky to have no delays, despite a momentary downpour that seemed like it would cause trouble.

We had seats in the exit row. At first it seemed great, so much leg room and it’s only two seats so no strangers! Except we only had one TV and it was too far to reach. I rotated through reading a chapter of my Patient H.M. book, listening to CrimeTown podcast and playing Mario Odyssey. We soon discovered another annoyance to exit row seats: the bathroom people. They saw fit to use our extra leg room space as a waiting space. One lady asked if she could sneak by us to look out the window. It is a tiny can’t-see-anything-out-of-it window on an emergency exit! Worse still were the periodic whiffs when the bathroom door opened. Once again, we were not given snacks on our Air Canada flight. Where’s my little bag of pretzels?! I had sort of anticipated this after Cuba, so I came prepared (overprepared?) with Bulk Barn snacks. The peanut butter M&Ms were a disappointment, I couldn’t find the Reese’s Pieces so I got those a substitute but it brought the whole mix (regular M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces peanuts) down.

Once in the airport, the BART was easy enough to find, despite the misleading signs pointing us to an out-of-order train. It was about a 30minute ride to Oakland and thankfully we did not have to switch lines. Our hotel was two streets over. We dropped our stuff in the hotel, remarked on the hamster-cage smell of our room and immediately headed back out. The plan was to meet Cait & John at Beer Revolution for one drink. It was close to 9pm, we were on East coast time and they both had to work the next day. The walk over was quite sketchy. A (cute) brown rat ran across our way. Things got way better once we cleared the underpass, it was completely different and more gentrified on this side.

Beer Revolution was everything I had hoped it would be. I found out about when I googled where to find Pliny the Elder beer. It did not disappoint and I even picked up some home decor ideas (a bar top of beer caps encased in polymer resin, a keg used as a table with a matching top). You can almost definitely tell a bar is going to be good if they have a giant chalkboard with an overwhelming amount of hard-to-read beer names. They didn’t have Pliny on tap… but they had it in bottles in the fridge! The bartender gently and skillfully removed the caps with minimal damage and I was able to add to my collection. I had a guava cider, aptly named You’ve Guava Be Kidding Me. It was nice and refreshing and totally hit the spot. One drink quickly turned into two. No complaints here, they had a blackberry sour from Almanac brewery on tap. It was decidedly not that sour, yet still really good. Was I starting to like beer? What’s a third drink if you’re already comfy and settled in? Seven Stills had a gimlet beer on tap with cucumber, lime and juniper berries. I never in my life thought I would have this complaint about a beer, but it was too cucumber-y.

The walk back felt far less sketchy. It may have been all the liquid courage we had imbibed. By the end I’d had 3 beers and Brent had 4.5 (he helped John finish his second Pliny). A girl hopped off her skateboard and it rolled towards us so Brent pushed it back to her. The beer combined with the lack of food and time change gave us a walloping. In the night Brent was asking me if I was “Ontario OK?” and I was very confused.

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2019 in Travel

 

Blech

Blech

It is kind of surprising that I had never eaten at Terroni. It is one of the few restaurants that I remember being part of the downtown Queen West walk and it has just always been there. It was on a list of top restaurants for Toronto tourists to eat at, and so ti was on my list of places to eat at. There was a 50-50 shot that Brent had eaten there for a business meeting. We opted for the Adelaide location as it was the most touristy and that was the one on my list. Before Brent got there I ordered a gin & tonic. I am really coming around on the drink when made right. It was nice because at Terroni you could choose the type of gin, type of tonic and the garnish. It is how I ended up with a rose gin and elderflower tonic garnished with a cherry. It was delicious. My only complaint is they gave me an entire small bottle of tonic, so the drink got watered down as I sipped and added tonic (who is going to drink tonic on its own?! Come on!).

So far so good. We ordered a charcuterie platter, the cheese and meat option. Brent ordered a salad. I was a little weary of the salad, this place seemed a little too not-fancy to do a tiny salad. Apparently this applied to the salumi as well. I have never in my life had this kind of experience: a giant, table-consuming, platter of meat and cheese and not one word of what was displayed. It was placed in silence. Be that as it may, the soft cheese was some of the best cheese I’ve ever had. No clue what it was though. It was way more food than we’d been expecting. This kind of worked out for the best.

Brent had ordered a pizza. It was delicious. So I ate some more. I was hungry. Why didn’t I eat my pasta dish you ask? It was terrrible. Godawful. Horrible. I was expecting tomato sauce and sliced sausage. Not dry-ish noodles and blobs of ground beef. A housemade spicy sausage sounds delicious. Ground beef not so much. The bites of pasta with mushroom were somewhat OK. But it was just so awful. What about the parmesan you ask? It was piled in a corner of the plate under everything. WHO DOES THAT?! Cheese goes on top! Given the quality I did not even want to touch what was probably just “parmesan” anyways.

This went down as one of our worst meals of all time. Which is too bad given the pizza was really good. What the f*ck?

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2019 in Fooding, Uncategorized

 
 
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