Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Local Weekend

After a few out-of-town weekends, SMS and I relaxed around Mountain View this past weekend.

On Friday, we went to Morocco's Restaurant, featuring Moroccan food with belly dancing at 730.  The belly dancer didn't seem to have the best rhythm in the world with her little cymbals but it was still festive.  The food was pretty good and SMS and I enjoyed sharing several dishes.  Our favorite was the Briwatt sampler.  Briwatts are sort of like samosas with phyllo instead of dough.  They were delicious- beef, crab and veg.  The eggplant salad was good although almost chutney-like, which actually went really well with our lamb tangine to give it a little more flavor.  I don't think we'll be rushing back to eat there again (especially since we've found a new favorite- keep reading!), but I would recommend the place.
These birds were huge!  Picture from the long run and since the weekend was light on photos, this is what you get.
 On Saturday, Jyotsna and I met up for our 20 mile long run.  I'm glad I ate carbs the night before!  The run went pretty well and we kept up a pretty good pace.  I slowed down a lot the last 2 miles because my legs felt so heavy but I'm confident that on race day, I can just push through and suck it up for whatever remaining miles are left when that feeling hits.  I mean, unless of course that feeling hits at the 3 mile mark.  Then I think I'd be pretty screwed.

I got back home, showered and took a mini-nap.  Then SMS and I headed to Palo Alto where we bought an office chair for him and then grabbed a late lunch at Sushirrito.  SMS ordered my favorite, the Geisha's Kiss.  I ordered a salad because I had eaten a big early lunch after my run and wasn't too hungry.  But then we treated ourselves to ice cream sandwiches at Cream.  I had a half sandwich, which is an off-menu item where I probably saved about 5 calories from a 600 calorie dessert by only having one cookie cut in half instead of two.  Ha, ha.  It's ok, I wasn't really doing it for the health benefits.  A half sandwich just sounded like the amount I felt like at that time (clearly, I must not have been right in the head.  When would anyone voluntarily choose half an ice cream sandwich?).

After Palo Alto, we went to Trader Joe's to stock up for my planned vegan Super Bowl feast.  A lot of our friends are veg and since we had invited them over for the Super Bowl, I wanted to make food everyone could enjoy.  I used recipes from OhSheGlows and ChefChloe to make sliders, enchiladas and cupcakes. It all ended up turning out really well and everyone really enjoyed the food the next day.

Our party was more successful than these game day Skywriting Doritos, I think.
Yes, we had a Super Bowl party!  It was a lot of fun with Jyotsna and her family and a friend, some neighbors and a SMS co-worker.  People mingled well and seemed to have a great time.  I missed the second half because I was socializing too much but basically, a football game was on while people focused on talking, eating and drinking beer.  Perfect!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Russian Gulch and Pt. Cabrillo and Pt. Arena Lighthouses

On Sunday, SMS and I continued our Mendocino County adventure.  After we packed up, we walked around Mendocino Highlands for a bit.  It was so windy and I think SMS was a little over it, but I wanted to check out the Northern part.  Yes, it did look the same as the rest but it was all so beautiful that I couldn't help but want to explore.

Russian Gulch Waterfall
On the way to the hike, I wanted to stop at Pt. Cabrillo lighthouse.  It was cute and we toured the museum, a preserved assistant light keeper's house.  The lighthouse was only open on the ground floor.  The views were spectacular and the lighthouse and surrounding buildings (including cabins you can stay in) were very cute with their red roofs.
My best picture of the day- with a real camera, not an iPhone!
Our main focus for the morning was the Russian Gulch State Park.  I had read about a 36 foot waterfall so we decided to check it out.  There's a pretty easy hike along a fairly level trail.  The loop is about 6.4 miles but we took the shorter part of the loop in-and-out for 5 miles total.  While the forest is pretty and it was nice to hear the creek along the way, the highlight was the waterfall.  It was very beautiful.  It was pretty amazing that such a seemingly small creek could cause that big of a cascade.  We took a few artsy photos since SMS had his camera gear.  That was actually pretty fun because we were iPhone-less for the weekend so I had to count in my head to measure his exposure times.  He hasn't developed his film yet so I'm not sure how well I did, but I hope it turned out alright!
The blowhole
At Russian Gulch, there's also a blowhole.  It's basically a big sinkhole with a fence around it to protect people from falling in.  It wasn't as dramatic as Hawaiian blowholes I've seen, but it's probably pretty cool during high tides and storms.
A banana slug!  SMS spotted it and I was very excited to see one!

A tree overgrowing the stump of another, older tree.  It reminded
me of a Cambodian temple!
After the hike, we stopped at Frankie's Pizza.  Despite glowing reviews I read before the weekend, I thought it was fine.  Nothing special but since it's pizza, it was still a pretty nice lunch!  Frankie's also has a sugarcane mushroom ice cream that's worth trying for the novelty.  It tastes a lot like butter pecan.

Pt Arena Lighthouse and our Prius!
Then we started along Route 1 on a meandering trip back home.  We stopped at Pt Arena lighthouse, just making it before 3:30.  This meant that we could go to the top of the lighthouse although our squeaking in under the wire earned us an eyeroll from the docent.  Who cares!  We ran up the 151 stairs and got a nice 5 minutes up in the tower where we heard about local history from a local Native American and just kind of looked out on our own.
CAPT SMS, up in the lighthouse keeping watch
After that, we just headed home on a beautiful scenic road.  North of Jenner, the hills were a vibrant green and looked beautiful in the golden hours.  No pictures except mental ones but it was really beautiful.  We stopped in the Marina district in San Francisco for dinner.  We were a little wishy washy about where we wanted to eat but then we saw Saiwalk.  It's a Vietnamese street food restaurant and after so much time in the (not so) chilly wind, pho sounded awesome.  It was pretty tasty, filling and reasonably priced so we were happy.  Then it was homeward bound.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Road Trip to Mendocino!

Last weekend was a call-free weekend and I was determined to go somewhere with spotty cell service.   Since my call weekends are based on being able to answer the phone, a few places are off-limits most of the time.  I watched the weather forecasts during the week and due to the high chance of Sunday evening snow, Yosemite and Tahoe were ruled out and Mendocino ended up being the winner!

I have done a few Route 101/1 road trips but I've only lightly traveled north of San Francisco.  SMS and I have gone to Tomales Bay twice and even made it up to Jenner once, but I was really interested in going further towards the true North Coast.  
Mendocino Beach, picture taken at that unfortunate moment
when a nice smile suddenly spasms.
We left around 7:30 on Friday evening.  I had a patient who came in after hours for a "small" bleeding issue that was easily resolved.   Since I need to maintain a modicum of professionalism, I can't get too into a "Crazy Stories From the Work Place" submission- that was a Reader's Guide section, right?

Anyway, SMS and I got our respective tasks done and hit the road.  The trip took just over four hours which was a little long for the end of the work week but I wanted to have Saturday free from any major driving.  We pulled up to the Sweetwater Inn, retrieved our key from the porch, settled in and passed out.

The next morning, we enjoyed muffins delivered to our door in addition to some passable coffee made in the little four-cup in our room.  Then it was off to walk through the Mendocino Headlands.  It was an absolutely gorgeous place!   The ocean was so powerful and waves would pound against the rocks with huge breaks and spray.  The shoreline was getting pummeled and it was just incredibly impressive how much power lies within the ocean.
Totem against Sleeper Waves?

Little Alter
We went down to a little beach, which was sheltered but I couldn't completely relax since I had read so much about sleeper waves.  No, these are not waves that love naps!  They are powerful, sneaky waves that want to drag unsuspecting morons with their backs to the sea into the ocean deep.   Fortunately, this did not happen (yay!).  SMS and I enjoyed exploring the beach with the little waterfalls and lots of driftwood.
SMS showing off his fancy Japanese umbrella- the print only shows up when wet.

After our State Park hike, we decided to walk through town and grab an early lunch since the muffins were not high-satiety items.  We walked into the Mendocino Market, where SMS said we should listen to our noses ("Bacon!") and we ordered delicious sandwiches.  I had a tuna melt on sourdough (amazing!) and SMS had a BLT.  I wasn't as big a fan of the BLT and I have decided in my cooking mind that there should be a Winter BLT for when tomatoes aren't Summertime awesome.  Maybe a tomato jam with amazingly paired cheese plus the BT?  I may work on this idea...don't steal it!
Guess which trail we took?

So pretty!
After lunch, we headed to Ft. Bragg.   We checked out Glass Beach, which was pretty cool.  There was a lot of seaglass, some in pieces you could collect (if it wasn't illegal!) and others so small that it was part of the pebbly sand.  I really wanted a piece or two but I didn't care enough to flout the town's rules so I partook in the "Leave No Trace" ethos (boo).
After Glass Beach, we walked around the central shopping block that seems to cater to tourists- lots of galleries, knick-knack shops and boutiques.  Then it was off to the North Coast brewery where we each had a few samplers.  SMS tried the different styles of the Red Seal Ale and I tried the Belgian-inspired beers and two stouts.  My favorite was Old Rasputin but after the sampler and a bottle later, I think I'm stouted out for awhile.  Beer that dark takes a certain amount of fortitude that I can only muster up every so often!

We headed back to Mendocino and went to the hotel spa.  Unfortunately, Japan has ruined American spas for us since people here are gross and don't bathe very well, which could be overlooked except for the gross foamy bubbles that result.  Yuck.  The hot water felt great but still...yuck.

After our short spa experience, we headed out to take sunset pictures.  We went to Patterson's Pub for dinner.  There were a few nicer restaurants that sounded great but I wasn't hungry enough to justify a high $20s- low $30s entree so off to the pub we went.  I had fish 'n' chips and SMS had a Reuban.  It did the job and the place had a nice atmosphere.   It would have been fun to hang out, but we had big plans for Sunday so we headed back to the Inn.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Pebble Beach, CA

Sunset at the tide pools in front of the Inn
Take two non-golfers and a world-famous golf resort and what do you get?  A great weekend!  SMS and I headed to the Inn at Spanish Bay this weekend after my boss gave us the stay as a gift.  Apparently, he and his golf partner each had a room through an event they were playing but his friend wanted to stay in the house he owned in the area.  Based on the houses around Pebble Beach, I'm sure it was a real dump.

Well, we were very happy and appreciative and off we went, battling rain and end-of-rush-hour traffic to get to the hotel.  The room was really nice.  The main room had a gas fireplace with two armchairs across from the two double beds that had really luxurious bed linens.  The bathroom had a separate vanity/sink area and an inner toilet/sink/shower and bath.  The bathtub looked like an amazing soaking tub but I didn't check it out because, despite all the recent rain, CA is still in drought status.
We saw a Chinese woman feeding the seagulls.  It looked dangerous.
We woke up in the morning and noticed that are room was a partial ocean view room- beautiful!  We lazed around until the siren call of pancakes became too great for SMS' stomach.  We headed over towards Sticks, the small restaurant by the first tee.  We shared blueberry pancakes and poached eggs and hash.  Fortified, we headed off to the Coast trail, where we walked 2 miles each way between the Inn and Bird Rock.  It was high tide and the ocean waves were pretty turbulent.  It was so beautiful.  It was nice to walk because I've driven on 17 Mile Rd before and it's hard to sightsee to my heart's content while driving.

After our walk, we split a club sandwich by the outside fire pit.  It was so delicious- lots of turkey on sourdough toast (yeah!) along with perfectly ripe avocado and cooked bacon.  So delicious, in fact, that seagulls tried to join our lunch (boo!), so we moved inside.  One gull was tolerable but then it opened its big mouth and called all its friends.  I know a flock of circling seagulls may not sound as scary as, say, hawks or vultures, but it was still disconcerting.  I was not about to share my sandwich!

Then we went upstairs and I laid down on the bed for 5 minutes.  It ended up being a two hour nap that even SMS participated in, which has never happened before!  It was awesome!  Unfortunately, the one experience does not seemed to have converted SMS to the love of naps but hey, maybe I can work on him.

I went for a quick run and cut it slightly short when I saw how beautiful the sunset and the light was on the nearby dunes.  I ran and got SMS and we walked along the shoreline, exploring the tide pools and walking on the boardwalks among the dunes.  It was fantastically beautiful.

After our sunset walk, we headed back to the room to get ready for dinner.  I thought it would be nice to eat in one of the Inn's restaurants so I had made reservations at Peppoli.  We had a great Italian dinner.  The highlight was how amazing the pasta was.  It was super fresh and homemade.  It was the best pasta I've ever had.  The sauces didn't quite hold their own against the pasta, but they were still pretty good.  We ended with a shared almond cake for dessert and it was really a great meal.

On Sunday, I slept in.  I woke up at 7 but then started dozing until after 9!  Usually when I'm up, I'm up but I guess I was getting into the resort lifestyle.  We ordered room service because I've loved room service ever since ordering it with Jenny and Theresa one New Year's.  It felt very luxurious and I'm glad we did it!  SMS had the waffle and I had scrambled eggs.  After breakfast, we headed over to the tennis courts where we played for about an hour.  SMS was a total ringer since I didn't find out until we were there that he had been on a tennis team for two years.  Unfair advantage!
The Lone Cyprus
After tennis, we headed over to the main Pebble Beach Inn to check out the famed Lodge.  Along the way, we stopped at a few 17 Mile Dr. sites to include the Cyrus Lookout and the Lone Cyprus Tree. 

At the Pebble Beach Lodge, SMS wanted to see the clay tennis courts, which were waterlogged and closed but still interesting to see.  We ate lunch on the terrace even though I was completely underdressed.  Whah.  I like meeting attire requirements but apparently, they're loosened during the day and lunch was delicious so it was worth looking like a slob, I guess.  We went all out and started with a  dozen oysters (yay!) followed by an artichoke and a hamburger, which we shared.  It was really awesome and the view was spectacular.  We were overlooking the bay with Carmel across from us.  Even though they were setting up tents for the AT&T Pro-Am in mid-Feb, there was still plenty of beautiful scenery to take in and enjoy.
The Lone Cyprus' not-famous cousin, Pt Lobos
Whale watching!
 After lunch, we headed out to Point Lobos State Park, which was stunning.   We hiked in the Cyprus Grove, where the Monterey cyprus and other local trees are in their natural element.  We talked to a nice older couple manning the Park Service Info Booth and after turning over our car keys (yikes!), we got a pair of loaner binoculars.  I'm glad we had them because we got to see whale spouts and the backs of gray whales!  I was really hoping to see a tail or a whale flipping through the water like the old Echo the Dolphin Sega game, but I wasn't that lucky!
Near China Cove, Pt Lobos Park
After the park, we headed back to the Inn.  We decided to head back and be responsible adults.  No snow days for us unlike so many people on the East Coast!  It was a great weekend and a beautiful setting to stay and explore.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Mountain View Weekend

Picchetti Barn
After so much travel the weekend before, SMS and I were pretty mellow this weekend.  The weekend started off early on Thursday with an elongated Happy Hour(s) with two of our friends at Shellshock.  We had a few drinks and delicious food, including many oysters.  And ok, ok, we had mac 'n' cheese balls which were so tasty and totally J's fault for ordering them!

Friday was a mellow day at work and that night, SMS and I went to Blue Line Pizza.  We got the deep dish pizza and it was tasty.  I think I'll eat deep dish pizza about once a year because it is a heavy meal, even when I don't eat all that much of it.  SMS and I didn't even make it through a shared small although never fear, given how dense the dish is, we still had plenty of food.  Then, we headed over to Shellshock for dessert- a strawberry ice cream with puffed pastry delights called the Marilyn Monroe.

The next morning, all my carb loading paid off because it was time for our long run.  J and I ran for 16 miles and even though it was slower than before my injury, I think I'll catch up pretty soon to my projected timeline.  I was pretty sore afterwards but I'm just so happy to be back, I don't even care!

Saturday evening, SMS and I went to downtown Palo Alto to go furniture shopping (crazy and wild Saturday night!).  We at dinner at Curry Up Now and had some delicious takes on Indian street food.  I had some chaat and SMS had a roti burrito-style dish.  Yum!

A lot of coordination goes into a pony ride
Sunday was a rest day and SMS and I were lazy in the morning.  He even brought me coffee in bed *swoon!*  I finally got out of bed and we did some yoga to get our stretch on.  Then we headed out to Cooper-Garrod winery to meet up with A, J and their cute little son Ish who went on a pony ride like a champ!  We hung out for a bit and then we all headed over to Picchetti winery, which has the most beautiful picnic grounds.  It was drizzly so we couldn't take full advantage of it but we'll be back!  I'd also like to go on a hike from there since there are several trailheads.  Since we didn't go on a hike, I chased chickens with my new best buddy Ish who now thinks I'm the coolest adult he knows (poor delusional little kid!).

This is a chicken.

Supposedly, this is not a chicken.
Our elusive prey!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Napa Monday

After a good night's sleep I woke up to go to work Napa!  Yes!  I had the day off because my favorite godmother Auntie was in town with two of her friends.  Although their plans had been flexible (and good thing since the weather (boo!) had forced some outside activities cancellations), the Monday plan was pretty firm so we decided to meet up.

I'm so glad we did!  It had been a few years since I saw Maria and we had so much fun!  First, I drove up early in the morning to beat traffic (success!) and then I went to the Oxbow Market, which was closed for cleaning (fail!).  I did get a breakfast sandwich from Model's Bakery in order to try their famous English muffin, which was pretty good!  Then I headed up the 29 with a quick stop in Yountville to see Bouchon Bakery.  Unlike the last time I was there, the line was non-existent (yay!). I ordered two macarons for SMS and, almost unbelievably, they made it home without me eating them!  I also tried a small amount of croissant which was good, but it's been awhile since I've tried a croissant that I thought was truly sublime.  Maybe that's too lofty of a standard for a pastry or, at minimum, a little over-the-top for any kind of foodstuff?
Cardinale Tasting Room with a cool time-lapse photo of a single vine
Then, I went to the Cardinale winery and pulled up to the guesthouse where my aunt was staying.  Ok, ok, I may have also driven on a field road since I took my aunt's instruction of private road a little too literally, but fortunately, I didn't get stuck in the mud or end up in a ditch so all's well that ends well...
It's a warehouse!
The guesthouse was gorgeous and huge!  It used to be the winery owners' private residence and it was really amazing.  The views over the vineyards were incredible. Oakville is the center point of the valley so there were great views of the two mountain ranges and nearby wineries.  Immediately behind the house was a field with several small brown huts.  It's actually a disguised barrel cellar with a grass roof.  The huts are the vents and even though it's obvious that the grassy field has some sort of purpose, it's pretty neat how circumspect they've managed to make a storage facility.

We had a great tasting at Cardinale, sampling Mt Brave, La Jota and two Cardinale cabernet sauvignons, 2008 and 2012.  The most exquisite, sophisticated wine was the 2008 Cardinale but I really liked the Mt. Brave wine.  It was full of blue notes and tasted like the mountain.  *Sigh* Someday, I will be able to pull off wine comparisons.  I'll be honest- I stole the descriptors from our lovely and knowledgable guides since to me, it just tasted delicious!

After our tour, Maria and I headed to Mustards Grill for a great lunch with two of her cousins.  The food was delicious and we all talked a lot!  I had such a fun time and I hope I see my second cousins again soon!
The "cottage!"  My aunt is in the far left background.
Then, it was chill-out time at the "cottage."  We made a quick stop at Oakville Grocery, where we bought a delicious Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam cheese.  We made a significant dent in it when we got home.  Then it was time for me to head back to the other Valley (Silicon).  *Le sigh!*  But I couldn't be too sad because I had such a wonderful day and to see my auntie was a (too) rare treat!
Warehouse view at twilight- end of a great day!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

San Diego Sunday

East Village with very retro-looking trolley
SMS and I had a wonderful Sunday in San Diego.  We saw so many things over the weekend, it made me wonder what I did when I lived in San Diego.  Oh yeah, work.  Not that I was terribly overworked but residency was busy.  Moreover, it's different to vacation in an area than to live in it.  Example A: All the people who live in San Diego and rarely go to the beach!

On Sunday morning, we were a little lazy.  Then we decided to grab a pre-brunch snack.  We were thinking of Hillcrest but ended up in Little Italy due to parking issues.  We went to Cafe Zucchero, where SMS bought the heaviest doughnut I've ever picked up.  It looked light but the middle was stuffed with dense, delicious cannoli filling.  It was delicious.   We split the doughnut (so restrained!) and had an espresso each before heading to Bottega Americano for brunch.
Bottega Americano

Beautiful sugar cookie, looked better than it tasted :/
The whole family was there for Rip's birthday brunch.  We had a great time.  The brunch got off to the perfect start with present opening.  Who wants to wait in suspense?  SMS and I went the classy route with a bottle of wine but we got beaten in every other way by his sister and Michael's gift.  Starting with the unicorn card, the present ended up being a squatty potty.  And in looking up the link for all of you gentle readers (you're welcome!), I realize even more how awesome the present is.  Especially when opened up in a public place.
Smoking Salmon
 We had a delicious leisurely lunch.  The food was awesome and everyone was really happy with their choices.  Afterwards, SMS and I went to the Hillcrest Farmer's Market.  I wanted to see if the handbag maker was still there, but I didn't see him.  There were also amazing food stands (poke bowls, uni, Thai food, BBQ, smoked salmon) but we weren't hungry at all.
Torrey Pines

We went to Torrey Pines and walked the beach and then into the cliffs along the path.  It was a really beautiful day and we had a lot of fun.

We went back to the house, had chili with a tamale and after our last Mexican food meal of the trip, headed to the airport to head back to San Jose.  I had such a great time and I feel very lucky to be able to head down to San Diego for a weekend!