Wednesday, September 30, 2015

It's Only 8 Miles: Hiking the PG&E Trail, Rancho San Antonio after Chez TJ

Last weekend, SMS and I had a pretty epic weekend with an incredible Saturday night celebration dinner and a very intense Sunday morning hike!  There was also a failed attempt at a Blood Moon sighting but hey, at least we tried!

Yes, we ate this.  All of this!
So, last Friday marked the first full work week for SMS at his new job!  Hooray!  As a result, we decided to celebrate.  I made a reservation at a restaurant that we came upon during one of our walks and it piqued both of our interest.  It's a one-star Michelin restaurant called Chez TJ.  It's a converted house, one of the oldest buildings in Mountain View (I'll take our waiter's word on that).  The restaurant features two tasting menus, one locally sourced within ~100 miles to the restaurant and the other a global menu full of the "world's finest foods."  Well, who needs local when you can have the world!?!?!
Fois gras, so arty!  Look at the cherry china!

We had so many wonderful courses and really had an amazing time together.  My favorite dishes were the Osetra caviar, which was served with homemade potato chips that transported me back to being a kid in Spain and getting potato chips in a twisted paper cone fresh from the park vendors.  So, yes, one of my favorites was a very expensive dip for a potato chip.  But it was so delicious!!!  There was also an incredible Japanese sweet potato (yakiimo!) mash that was delicious, as was the scallop and Wagyu beef.  It was a very decadent meal and very much a special occasion.  It was fantastic.
New friend offering up his good side for the photo.
On Sunday, SMS was in the mood for a hike and I heard great things about a nearby county park so off we went to Rancho San Antonio.  There are 24 miles of trails and we ended up hiking 12 of them. I may have told SMS that we were only doing 8 but by the time we got to the top of the PG&E trail (steep!), I really wanted to finish the hike to Black Mountain, which added 2 more miles each way.  We had water and snacks and made it through, although I was starting to feel a little sore at the 10 mile mark (and the next day!).  On the way back, we stopped in at the little Deer Hollow Farm where I took a picture of my new little friend.
Moffett Field Blimp Hanger
After the hike, we were hungry!  We went to Tres Potrillos, which SMS had found on his way to the rock climbing gym one day.  I had a California burrito (well, half of it) and it was fantastic! Then we headed home and waited around until it was sunset/Blood Moon time.  Unfortunately, there was a huge cloud cover in the exact area of the moonrise (and only there!) so we didn't get to see it.  We even drove to Redwood City to try and get a little farther North but no dice.  Oh, well.  I guess we'll try again in 18 years!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Nashville Notes

The theme of this blog sometimes I think...
Last week, I had the amazing opportunity to go to the Temporal Bone Dissection Course at Vanderbilt University.  The course program was amazing and I feel really lucky that I got to go.  Actually, I feel lucky that I found it online and all the stars aligned that allowed me to go.
This place seems classy, but only 4 M&Ms!?!

After the OR Wednesday morning, I had a quick lunch with SMS before heading to the airport.  I thought that San Jose airport would be sleepier than it was and I had a mild amount of alarm when I saw the TSA line but it all worked out.  I arrived late in the evening and since the course started at 11 the next day, I was able to sleep in a bit.
I went for a ~4 mile run from my hotel to Music Row.  It was great to multi-task: exercise and sight-seeing.  Then it was off to the showers followed by walking over to Vanderbilt for the course.  The entire course was amazing but probably of limited interest to anyone reading this except me, but I included the link above if you're interested!  Afterwards, I walked over to Jeni's ice cream where I had a brown butter almond brittle and bourbon salted pecan cone.  Yum!  Because I am an adult, this was my pre-dinner amuse bouche as I headed over to Edley's BBQ.  Yes, I'm the epitome of sophistication!  I use French words incorrectly!

Fan-girl-ing Dr. Galsscock.  Please note, the dress code said jeans and I believed it.
 Never again!
I wasn't very hungry but that was ok since I ordered the ribs (so-so) and was informed later that one does not order the ribs at Edley's, one orders the chicken wings or brisket :(  I also had the pickle chips which I shared with my neighbors at the bar, who were an interesting and fun bunch.  I was sitting at the L-shaped part of the bar so got to talking with several people.  There were two women who were insurance adjusters/artists and the mayors of the bar.  Seriously, they knew everyone.  Then there were two guys next to me, one a drummer with a famous band and the other a well-known producer.  None of us talked about work too much but it was really a fun time.  I also talked to a Nashville historian who was pretty interesting as well.  Then it was off to the Extended Stay so I could rest up for another awesome day of class and dissection!

Friday was all business, mixed with a little fun.  The course continued to be incredible.  That evening, Dr. Haynes and his wife hosted a dinner catered by Hattie B's hot chicken.  Oh my word.  The food was everything that Thursday's was not, Jeni's and fried pickles excluded.  The chicken was amazing and the sides delicious.  There were different heat levels of chicken, collard greens, macaroni n cheese and an incredible key lime pie bite at the end.  Oh my goodness.  I am hungry just typing this! The company was also great.  The Vanderbilt department are my new professional idols- they are so smart, accomplished and personable all at the same time.  They were so nice to put on the course and share their expertise.  I was really impressed and very grateful to be there!
Queen B!  Ok, this picture is zoomed in but not by much!
On Saturday, the course finished up and I walked back to the hotel after getting my second Jeni cone. This time, I got darkest chocolate and honey chocolate with smoked almonds.  I thought I would take a nap since I was tired from the time change but I went to Centennial Park instead because I heard live music.  The Americana Music Festival was finishing up that day and they had a stage/food truck event going on.  I wasn't hungry but hung out for the music and heard a great band called the Carmonas.  I also listened to several musicians during a Les Paul tribute.  The music was great but I headed back to the hotel to change before heading downtown because I wanted to go the Ascend Amphitheater and see the final Festival show, which featured Loretta Lynn!  Yes!  I ended up seeing Loretta Lynn and she was absolutely fantastic.  Her voice was amazing, her stage presence intact and it was really awesome.  I also lucked out because as I was walking in with my lawn seat ticket, a woman gave me her Ticketmaster printout for a seat 8 rows back from the stage!

Other artists that I saw included Steve Earle, Gillian Welch and Valerie June.  It was pretty spectacular.  The concert ended around 11 and although I wanted to check out the Bluebird Cafe, I didn't think I would get in so I took in the S. Broadway scene for a little bit.  There are so many bachelorette parties in Nashville!  I went to Acme Feed and Seed before grabbing a piece of pizza, where I met even more new friends including a guy who loved his nickname Sandwich (his given name is Reuban).
Breakfast of Champions!
On Sunday, I ran ~6 miles to the 12 South neighborhood, which is a very cool part of town.  Edley's is there as are many cute restaurants and shops.  After showering and checking out, I bought a pass to the Nashville bike program and biked over to Hattie B's for chicken and waffles.  Yum!  Then I headed back to 12 South and bought a coffee and looked in several of the shops.  Next, I took an Uber ride to Parnassus Books, the shop co-owned by one of my favorite authors, Ann Patchett.  No Ann sightings, but I did buy a signed book!  At that point, it was time to start thinking of heading back.  I made a quick stop in the Hillsboro area to check out a shop I thought had an awesome dress when I ran by it the other day but I couldn't find it.  I called Uber and after stopping by the hotel to pick up my luggage, we went to the airport and I headed back home to see SMS!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Mellow Weekend!

This past weekend, SMS and I had a pretty mellow time.  Well, I think that I was the main culprit for the mellowness since on Friday night, I had mentioned an ambitious Saturday Japantown adventure.  At some point, to SMS' disappointment, my energy fizzled out and I was excited to just hang out PLUS I had made a reservation to Outerlands that I was really excited about and that, to me, was enough excitement for one day since I had been waiting weeks!  So, the morning was mellow leading into the early afternoon.  Then we headed out to check out a coffee house in San Francisco.  We got slightly distracted when we heard music from Castro St and we ended up strolling through the tents set up for the Art & Wine Festival in Mountain View.  We also picked up some kettle korn- yum!  The highlight was watching kids in these reverse vacuum-blown up bubbles that got pushed into a really large wading pool.  The looks on the kids' faces were hilarious, especially when they got pushed into the pool from a slight drop.  As SMS points out, I tend to find kids being scared (in a harmless way) hilarious!

Inside Andytown
Then it was off to San Francisco.  We went back to my favorite neighborhood- Outer Sunset!  First, we went to Andytown coffee.  The menu had a "Snowy Plover," which SMS had read was a real highlight.  I looked it up on Google and noticed that a Snowy Plover is my favorite beach bird!
My favorite (beach) bird!!!  So kawaii!
Well, at Andytown Coffee, a "Snowy Plover" is two shots of espresso, sparkling water and whipped cream.  The whipped cream is amazing and the whole drink is pretty good.  I told SMS that I would definitely order it again but not necessarily make a pilgrimage for it.  Does this make sense?

Another Snowy Plover
 After Andytown, we walked a few blocks over to the Trouble Coffee shop and then enjoyed a brief sit-down in the patio of The General Store.  There are beautiful succulents and dried driftwood- it's just gorgeous!
The General Store Patio/Back Yard
Then, we started walking over to Golden Gate Park in order to pass the time before our restaurant reservation.  On the way, we checked out 3 Fish Studio which had awesome prints with the originals made from linoleum.  I wasn't in a total shopping mood but I will definitely go back in the future for a little SF/California print.  I recommend checking it out!  I didn't take a picture inside since the art was displayed everywhere and it just seemed a little rude.
3 Fish Studios
 Outerlands was pretty wonderful.  The menu is quite small but everything is on point!  SMS had their famous bread with incredible butter, cheese and strawberries; a melon & patrons chile salad with fingerling potatoes, feta and greens; smoked trout on salad; and an amazing chicken dish tomato panzanella, castelvetrano olive and charred gems.  The food was terrific.  I never order chicken but because the menu was so small and I love castelvetrano olives (my favorite, for those who care!), I went with it.  The reason I don't order chicken and most pastas is because I feel I can make a pretty mean meal of those things myself, recent rubber chicken courtesy of Williams Sonoma's Fast Weekday Meals excepting.    I was wrong and I have le sads because this chicken was like nothing I've ever made before.  It was spectacular!  I think though, my favorite dish was the butter I had with a side of bread.  It was really delicious.  I mean really, butterfat, butter and fat...what's not to love?

Shoreline Park
The next day, I still had the lazies.  I read a book and in the afternoon, SMS and I decided to get out of the house.  We heard a great salsa band at the Wine Festival and then headed out to Shoreline Park where we went on a really long walk along the bay.  It was really beautiful.  I usually don't think much of flat topography walks, but this is one I'd highly recommend!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Quality Time Weekend!

The past weekend was awesome!  On Saturday, SMS and I headed to San Jose after a delicious ramen lunch at Orenchi ramen.  SMS had gotten recommendations from two separate people so Saturday was the day to check it out.  It was delicious!  We both got the house special, which is a tonkotsu-broth ramen with slightly thicker, curly noodles.  My favorite part was the depth of flavor in the broth and the perfectly soft-boiled egg.  I've had a few better bowls in Japan but this place really held up against our previous ramen experiences.  SMS was also a fan.

Robot-san, v. 2
 After feeling slightly swollen after so much salty broth goodness, we hopped into the car for downtown San Jose.  We went to The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Diego where our admission + IMAX movie was free with active duty id.  Yeah!  The museum was cute but definitely geared towards kids and exposing them to mini-projects and experiments in the STEM fields.  That didn't stop us from trying out the robot station though!  After SMS' adventures in robot building at home, we wanted to check out how the museum curated the experience.

Going to the museum was also nice because SMS thought we were going to the art museum, which is usually more my speed.  So I got to accumulate awesome wife karma for thinking of a fun destination.  After the museum, we went to the San Pedro Market Square.  We decided to walk since the day was gorgeous and I decided to get lost and over-extend our walk by quite a bit.  Oops.

Part of San Pedro Market Square
Once we finally arrived, I loved the place! It's two large buildings with multiple sections with many different restaurant/stationary food trucks/food court-type options.  We got coffees and dessert and it was really a treat.  There's a huge picnic table area between the two buildings and the whole place and vibe were just delightful.
We love brunch!
Beautiful friends!
On Sunday, SMS had a conference to go to while I went into the city to have brunch with Brady and Rosa.  We went to the Mission Beach Cafe at Rosa's friend's suggestion and it was wonderful.  Brady got the French Toast for us all to share, I got the egg sandwich and Rosa got the winner dish of classic Egg Benedict.  There are several Bennies on the menu and I will definitely go with one next time I go.  The egg sandwich was good but messy, plus it was on a biscuit which made it slightly too heavy for my tastes.  I still ate it though!  The French Toast was also good, but it's hard to beat my Mom's so that's that.
"A Sunday Afternoon in Dolores Park" by Daniel Doherty '09

The Women's Center
 Afterwards, we walked around the Mission District.  We went to Delores Mission Park and then went to look at a few murals.  First, we walked to the Women's Center on 18th St and then we walked through Clarion Alley.  The last time I had been was in 2010-ish and it's amazing how the murals have changed to reflect activism against rent increase and the "Evils of Tech."  It's awesome to see how dynamic art can be and reflect current issues and controversies.
Clarion Alley
Then we dropped Rosa off and went to the de Young Museum.  We really wanted to see the Turner exhibit and it was really awesome.  I was worried it would be crowded and while it was, I was still able to feel like I saw the paintings in an intentional, measured way rather than feel jostled and rushed.

Brady in front of one of my faves
My favorites were the two Roman paintings of ancient Rome and modern Rome that are paired paintings but currently held by two different institutions so often not displayed together; the "Blue Rigi, Sunrise" which is a watercolor with razor-sharp lines, an amazing technical feat; the "Snow Storm- Steam-Boat Off a Harbor's Mouth" a action-filled swirl of stormy sea; and "Peace- Burial at Sea" which has amazing reflections off the water's surface.

After the museum, we headed home where Brady packed up and the three of us went out to dinner. We went back to San Pedro Market Square (yeah!) where we had Mexican food to mark Brady's last dinner in California, at least for a little while.  We dropped her off at the airport and while it was sad, it was such an awesome visit and she's off to do such great things that I felt really lucky to have had this time with my favorite sister!

[Edited to add: The weekend was a three day fest thanks to Labor Day!  SMS and I headed out to Castle Rock Park and did a lot of climbing.  Well, SMS climbed a lot and I belayed quite a bit- the routes were hard!  Afterwards, we went for a hike which was really beautiful.  Then we went to a local deli for lunch.  It was a great day!]

Friday, September 4, 2015 have a sister?

Has anyone noticed the insane amount of marketing/merchandise recently released for the upcoming Star Wars film?  It's pretty nuts although Christmas shopping will be easy for any Star Wars fans in your life.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised since I saw the Lucas films sponsored extravagant Star Wars tableau ice sculpture in Sapporo last Winter.  Anyway, just something I noticed.

So, yes!  I have a sister!  Ha, ha.  We had a lot of fun this week going out after work, especially when I left work early.  On Monday, we went to Palo Alto where we had oysters for Happy Hour at Gravity Bistro and Wine Bar.  It was pretty good but no Shell Shock.  We had the oysters, calamari and eggplant bruschetta.  It was tasty and we had fun but it's not my favorite restaurant.  We decided to move on and try to find outdoor seating somewhere.  We ended up at Local Union 271 where we almost missed out on an outdoor table after we were waiting for it to be cleared and someone almost swooped in even though we were first.  That would have been a bummer but SMS saw what was happening and secured our table.  Hooray!  B and I shared a beet salad and chicken tacos.  It was all very delicious.  We then took a long-ish walk to the Stanford campus and went to the main courtyard, saw the Burghers of Calais installation and strolled through the Rodin garden.  It was really nice.  To make sure we didn't incur a calorie deficit, we bought ice cream at the Scoop "microcreamery."  The flavors there are subtle- not overwhelming sweet but really delicious.
Half Moon Bay
On Tuesday, we hopped in the car and drove out to Half Moon Bay.  We saw sandpipers and took a long walk on the beach.  This walk was made slightly longer by a closed trail and my erroneous map reading.  But, it was beautiful and we made it back!
Half Moon Bay
We went to the Half Moon Bay Brewing company for dinner, which was a cute place near the point where people watch the Mavericks surf competition.  We ate outside which was a little chilly but it's so hard to choose indoor seating on a Summer's evening, even if it is becoming a little more Fall-like.  We drove home and were stuck in a massive traffic jam from an accident ahead of us but we didn't mind too much.  It was an opportunity to rest and digest!
Wednesday, we went into Oakland for dinner and a concert.  Dinner was absolutely heavenly.  B read up on the area we were going to and there are a lot of awesome restaurants, bars and clubs.  It's the Uptown section of Oakland and really cool.  We ended up going to Hopscotch, an awesome restaurant with a farm-to-table, American cuisine with distinct Japanese fusion elements- miso sauces, yuzu flavoring, etc.  The restaurant bills itself as an "upscale diner."  I'd argue that it's more upscale than diner other than the one of the seating areas which does look like a nice, old-fashioned diner or ice cream parlor.  We sat in the other dining area two doors over and it was exquisitely decorated with several tables set against a comfortable tufted, pale yellow leather bench.  I loved it.

Dinner was pretty epic.  We ordered a lot of dishes and ate everything. The portions were moderate and we were hungry.  SMS and I each had a Yonsai oyster, an oyster with urchin, roe and citrus soy. It was delicious!  The three of us shared the Kakiage appetizer and the Greens and Shrooms (broccolini, king trumpet, shimeji and mung sprouts).  The Kakiage was fried goodness but the greens dish was amazing with a really good miso sauce binding all the veggies.  Plus, I love king trumpet mushrooms.

For mains, we shared again.  SMS ordered the black garlic gnocchi, I ordered the salmon and B got the mussels.  I loved the first two and didn't quite care for the combo of mussels and miso broth. Brady and SMS did so it was just a personal preference issue.

As good as dinner was, could things get better?  Yes.  We had desserts that were so awesome.  We had homemade donuts with an amazing butterscotch custard and an almond mud pie.  There was also a dessert drink menu and we ordered a Uptown Egg Cream, which was outstanding!  The drinks at the restaurant are really on point.  I had ordered a maple old-fashioned and Brady had an incredible Kentucky daiquiri with bourbon, strawberry, lemon and ginger beer.  I was leary of it initially because I thought the strawberry would be fake and cloying but it was real and awesome!
Set-up at the Fox Theatre
So yes, I highly recommend Hopscotch!  Afterwards, we went to the Brandon Flowers concert.  He was really good and I recommend any BF or Killers show.  I'm a little bit of a fangirl.
BF in action
Thursday and Friday were a little light on Brady QT since she went to Monterey on Thursday and into the city on Friday afternoon.  We're going to meet up for brunch on Sunday and hang out until her flight Sunday evening.  *Sniff!*