Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Friday Five

Editor’s Note

Yes, I am behind. To my credit, I did in fact say that I would have trouble posting over the last couple of weeks. I don’t have a good excuse for this past week, but the two prior were a bit of a challenge as Karin and I were in Australia for two weeks. I promise a posting and pictures on our adventures down under in the near future, but for right now I’m going to focus on doing a posting for this past week just to get back in the saddle.

The Week

Because there’s no rest for the weary, my flight schedule has been rather insane lately. I flew straight from New York to Australia without a stop at home, with Karin meeting me at the airport in LA. Upon our return stateside, Karin went home and I went straight up to San Jose. Despite the long flight from Australia to LA, I was able to still figure out the way to San Jose.[1]

IMG_0706 My week in San Jose was rather simple. It consisted of my rather typical sleeping, running, and working. However, I did treat myself to a trip up to San Francisco[2] with the express purpose of trying Manhattans. In my favorite posting, The Perfect Manhattan, I referenced a San Francisco Gate article that talked about the history of the Manhattan and how best to craft one. In it the author listed a few bars in San Francisco that offer unique versions of the Manhattan, and I’d been wanting to take a trip up to San Francisco to do some sampling. This week afforded me just that opportunity. It was also just nice to be able to explore San Francisco, a city that I do love.

The highlight for Karin, however, came when I arrived home on Friday night. Mind you, the highlight wasn’t me getting home. Instead, it was our trip to Cucina Urbana. Having not been there for over a month I was craving a fix. We decided to stop by a cocktail bar I’d be wanting to check out for quite a while first and do dinner afterwards. Because we were running just a little late for our reservation, when we walked into Cucina Urbana I made a beeline for the hostess stand to check us in. When I turned around, Karin was engaged in a very pleasant conversation with Jerry of Jeff and Jer.

IMG_0721For those you not from San Diego, Jeff and Jer were longtime hosts of a morning radio show and Karin’s favorite. In fact, her devotion to the show was the specific reason she bought a shower radio. Unfortunately because terrestrial radio is going through a bit of turmoil, Jeff and Jer are no longer on the air in San Diego.

In any event, upon walking in Karin noticed Jerry in the lobby area and just simply walked up and said “Hi, Jerry”. The two of them started a very pleasant conversation, and eventually Karin and I wound up meeting both his wife and mother-in-law. I’m not normally the type to ask a celebrity for a picture, but since Jerry was so happy to be talking to Karin it didn’t seem inappropriate to ask for a picture.

The Travel Note

A few notes that I’ve collected over the last few weeks.

  • Five weeks was the longest stretch I’ve been away from home for. By the end of it I was very ready for my own bed.
  • To answer someone’s question, yes I did remember the way home from the airport. Although I think the car could navigate that drive on its own.
  • Australia allows liquids as carryon, which worked to our advantage simply because it made transporting all our wine that much easier.
  • I set a new personal record by clearing security 4 times in a single 24 hour period. I had to clear security when leaving Sydney, when I transferred to my flight to LA in Auckland, when I went to board the flight in Auckland, and finally in LA to catch my flight to San Jose. There is a special extra screening area you need to go through after clearing normal security if you’re flying internationally to the US, which is why I had to clear security the extra time in Auckland.

The Restaurant

The first place I stopped on my exploration of Manhattans in San Francisco was a restaurant named Pebacco. Pebacco is in the middle of the Financial District, with a rather small facade that belies the size of the restaurant inside. I of course situated myself at the bar and, after introducing myself to the bartender, mentioned that I heard they do a great Manhattan. With pride he replied, “We absolutely do”, and he put one together for me. The Manhattan was very good; it was well assembled, but it didn’t have quite the level of bite I was looking for. The best way to describe their Manhattan is it’s one with training wheels; if you’re new to classic cocktails and are just looking for somewhere to start, this would be the Manhattan for you. It was mellow, approachable, but still tasty.

IMG_0710 For dinner I decided to start off with the pesce crudo. Frankly, I had no idea what it would be, but the ingredients included hamachi, basil, ginger and a little jalapeƱo, which all sounded good and I took a chance and went for it. I’m glad I did. The flavors all came together perfectly, and the jalapeƱos were sliced thin enough that they brought just a little heat to the party but didn’t overwhelm the dish. I went with IMG_0711 the scallops for my main, which was served with corn and pearl onions. Scallops, like shrimp, are very simple to do well, but also very easy to overcook. I’d say that a good 80% of the time when I order either one in a restaurant it’s rubbery and overcooked. These, however, were cooked to perfection. The wine the bartender recommended (a sauvignon blanc) matched nicely. With great food, service and cocktails Perbacco is the perfect place to start off any evening.

The Five

Recently I’ve been asked the same questions by multiple people so I want to do another FAQ Five section. Those of you who know me well probably already know the answers to these questions, but just in case here you go.

  1. Do you enjoy the travel?
    I don’t know if the word “enjoy” is the correct word. I think more than anything I have accepted the travel. Certainly there are great weeks like trips to Seattle or New York, but then there are others where I’m stuck in San Jose or Killeen, TX. I think the hardest part of the travel is simply trying to maintain friendships; being on the road so often doesn’t afford me the opportunity to visit with friends as often as I would like.
  2. How do you and Karin deal with you being gone all the time?
    For lack of a better way to put it, we just do. We have spent quite a bit of time over the course of our marriage apart for one reason or another, either because of my travel or working different shifts. We make sure to spend quality time together when we get the chance, and just accept the fact that we’re apart a lot of the time.
  3. Wow, that sounds so glamorous!
    I can assure you it sounds much more glamorous than it actually is. When you’re stuck overnight in a fleabag hotel room near the Houston Intercontinental Airport[3], I can assure you it’s the farthest thing from glamour.
  4. When are you going to cut back on the travel?
    It’s a long story, but for right now things will pretty much be the same for the foreseeable future. The issue is I love training, and right now doing what I love to do requires I be on the road fulltime. There may be a situation where I can start working more in San Diego in 2011, but that’s still tentative. As of right now it’s still pretty much all travel all the time.
  5. Have you visited all 50 states?
    I have not. My rule for counting a state as being visited is that I have left the airport. Driving through the state counts. I have yet to visit Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, South Carolina, and West Virginia. I’m not sure about Maine; I think I visited there as a child, but unfortunately I don’t remember. Of the states listed, Hawaii is the one I want to visit most.

[1] I went a long way for that one, Brenda. Hope you appreciate it.
[2] Not San Fran or Frisco.
[3] Not International.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Friday Five

The Excuse

As I mentioned before, the next couple of Fridays were going to be a challenge for me in regards to getting a post done. As it turns out, I was prophetic. Although to my defense I was at a conference last week, and as at least one reader will attest it’s hard to accomplish anything at a conference.

The Weeks

In an odd switch, I started last week at home, well at least for the weekend. While I wasn’t home long Karin and I made the best of our time together. The theme of the weekend turned out to be “favorites”.

We started off by doing dinner at Cucina Urbana on Friday night, which is officially my favorite San Diego restaurant. Having not been home in a few weeks it was nice to be able to reconnect with Karin away from everything and everyone.

IMG_0632 Saturday was a treat from start to finish. Karin and I did dinner at Parkhouse Eatery, our favorite breakfast place. Then we took in the San Diego showing of [title of show]. I’ve mentioned [title of show] in the past – it was a small Broadway production that was a semi-autobiographical story about how they went from entering a simple contest to eventually making it to Broadway. Karin and I happened to see it on its first preview night in New York and fell in love with the show. It is my favorite musical. The cast the theatre assembled for the show was nearly flawless; they hit not only the look of each original character but also their personalities and voices. Fantastic show and Karin and I were thrilled to have been able to make it.

That night we closed it off with a simple dinner party at our house. It was a shame that I wasn’t able to spend more time with my friends while I was home, but it was still good to share some good times, good laughs and good food. And yes, dinner at home with good friends is probably one of my favorite ways to spend an evening.

The weekend could have set me for the week, but the hits just kept coming. That Sunday morning I flew up to Seattle for a conference. I may have mentioned it before, but I do love Seattle. Downtown is very accessible, plenty to do, and a great vibe. No less than two of my favorite cocktail bars are there, and my favorite (bar none) restaurant is there. It’s also a great chance to catch up with friends I only get to see at conferences. The week wasn’t quite what I was expecting (see the restaurant review below), but it still turned out to be a fantastic time.

Tini Bigs 2 At the end of the week Karin made the trip up to Seattle. While she was there we were able to make a trip down to Tini Bigs to meet up with Shane. For those of you who’ve read the blog in the past you may remember Shane – he’s the one who made Karin the Blue Dolphin at the end of the night last time we were there. There were four of us the first night (Neil, Susan, Karin and myself), and just Karin and I the second night. And yes, Shane took great care of us, and every cocktail he put in front of us was a homerun.

IMG_8201 The week was capped off by a trip to Pike Place Market and Elemental. Karin loves Pike Place Market, and was more than happy to stop by nearly every stand and, of course, walk into the dog store. That night we met up with our friends Matthew and Ren for dinner at Elemental. IMG_0654 Again, I’ve mentioned Elemental in the past. Elemental does a prix fixe menu all of the chef’s choices, and the chef is just brilliant. The company was almost surpassed by the food, which is a statement about how great the food is and not an indictment of the company.

Because this is my life, that Sunday Karin flew home and I boarded a plane for New York City. Have I mentioned before how much I’d love to live there? In case I haven’t, I’d love to live in New York City. This trip in particular was an absolute blur. I was able to meet the newborn of an old college couple friend and enjoy a great dinner with Megan, an good friend from San Diego.

IMG_0669 In the middle of the week Abram came down for a visit. When Abram visits there’s a couple of trips that must happen. The first is to Lombardi’s, which makes the best pizza in the world. The second stop that must happen is the Pegu Club, which we visited both nights he was in town. They still do the best manhattan I’ve ever had. The bartender that took care of us was Scott, who’s a bit young and inexperienced but shows great promise.

And really, the above doesn’t begin to capture what an amazing two weeks it’s been.

The Travel Note

Two items this week.

One – I’m still a firm believer that if you don’t see a weirdo in your subway car then you’re it. On one of my trips I had a guy next to me shucking corn on the train. I figure I’m in the clear for that trip.

IMG_0672 Two – I’m just fine enjoying a good beer from time to time. But I don’t know that I’m all that comfortable with a pilot in full dress uniform advertising a beer on his luggage. Or at the very least, he could have picked a better beer.

The Restaurant

Susan, my “conference wife”, and I have a standing date for every conference. At least once every trip we go find somewhere to have a great dinner, which affords us many things – the opportunity to enjoy a great dinner (we’re both foodies), the chance to get away from conference food (ugh), and the chance to escape the bustle that is a conference. We got a recommendation from someone to visit a place called Avila. We were both very excited to visit, right up until the point when we arrived at the restaurant to discover it had closed not 5 days before our reservation.

Because of the way the day had gone we laughed the experience off and roamed over to another recommended restaurant a couple blocks away named Joule. Joule is a Korean fusion restaurant. We wound up sampling a good portion of the menu, including the lamb dish, the shrimp, and a corn bread with gouda. We found most of the dishes good but not great, although the lamb was dynamite.

This will not be making the list of must visit restaurants. There’s a very good chance we were still a bit disappointed with Joule because we weren’t able to go to Avila, but I think we were disappointed just because we were disappointed.

Friday Five

I know I’ve already spoken quite a bit about the last two weeks, but there’s still plenty more to tell. Here’s a list of five things that didn’t make the cut above but I really wanted to mention.

  1. I met Murray. Outside of a couple people that probably means nothing to anyone. Murray was recently voted the best bartender in America. Having met him I can say I can understand why. In fact, it was amazing the amount of respect every Seattle bartender had for Murray.
  2. The location I was teaching at in NYC is right at the southern tip of Manhattan and on the 23rd floor. It offers an amazing view of The Statue and Ellis Island.
  3. I had dinner at a great vegan place called Blossom Cafe on Columbus between 81st and 82nd.
  4. It’s not the best hotel around, but the Club Quarters by Wall Street is very affordable for Manhattan.
  5. Next time you see me remind me to tell you the story about the gyro guy.