Wednesday, December 05, 2007

El Camino Sushi

I love sushi, but I don't eat it all that often for two reasons: the first is that the sushi joints I like are either too far away or too expensive for daily use, and the second is... well, if I put the second reason in print, I'll get smacked when I get home.

Since we moved to Pacifica, we've been on a quest to find local places to dine. Nona's, at Lindamar Beach, is a favorite, as is Toto's Pizza. And we've started to find some others in the Sunset District, like The Pizza Place on Noriega (no really, that's the name). After two-plus years, we're only now finding a good selection of places that we'd try for a second time. Lately, we've been heading to West Portal, but that's a subject for another post... On to sushi!

When we look for places to eat, we usually drive up and down El Camino Real, and usually between Westborough Blvd. (the main feeder to our house) and Millbrae Ave. (near Yumy Yogurt...). That stretch of El Camino is littered with taquerias and Chinese restaurants, and surprisingly, sushi joints. I always laugh to myself, or make a comment to Sarah, that it's so funny to see sushi joints - where one likes to see operating-room cleanliness - sandwiched between so many random, not-so-clean strip malls, vacuum repair shops, and wig stores. And on a street named "El Camino Real." (Just FYI, that's Spanish for "The Royal Road" or "The King's Highway.")

So, I finally decided to give them all their fair shake! You know - don't judge a book by it's cover and all that crap. I need sushi. I crave sushi. And some of the greatest sushi joints that I've tried in the past haven't looked all that special from the outside. Maybe I'll find a diamond in the rough? Maybe I'll find that little place that no one knows about, that's run by some 90-year-old master sushi chef who gets line-caught fish right off of the boat every morning at 4 AM! Or maybe I'll just get a bacterial infection that cleans me out like an industrial bottle of Draino.

First thing's first - map out the plan. On the map below, you'll see nine push pins within the sushi corridor, as we're going to refer to the shaded area. The seven pins in green are the legitimate joints with El Camino addresses, while the two outliers in blue are close to the route, so we'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Click Here to View Larger Map

Here's the list, from north to south:
  • Mijouri Sushi Bune Restaurant
  • Sunny Sushi
  • Sushi House
  • Ichiban Sushi
  • Kobe Sake Japanese Sushi Restaurant
  • Okane Sushi
  • Wast Wast Sushi House
  • Sushi Kei
  • Osho Japanese Cuisine

Being someone who thinks in Excel, this has to be a quantitative exercise. I mean, I just can't eat at each of these and then expect to remember if it was good or not. I need a score, a measurement. So, here's the plan:

  1. Each joint will be sampled for dinner, not lunch. I want to be able to relax over the fish, not just scarf it down.
  2. For the most part, I'll get the orders "to go." But, I will order them in the place and wait for my order while I absorb the scene.
  3. I'll order a selection of "standard" items at each place, and then add on an additional roll and a few additional nigiri items that are specialties, either listed on their daily board, by menu highlights, or by asking the server for "what's good today."
  4. The standard items will be (pretty normal stuff, but I'm sure some places will be out of a few, which is why I list so many):
    • Hamachi (Yellowtail)
    • Hirame (Flounder)
    • Maguro (Tuna)
    • Saba (Mackerel)
    • Sake (Salmon)
    • Uni (Sea Urchin)
    • California roll
    • Spicy tuna hand roll
  5. For the "special" items, I'll go for one of their signature rolls, and one or two selections of Nigiri that they recommend. I'll try to stay away from Toro, since I'd like to stay on a budget, and from any shellfish, veggie rolls, crazy-ass $20 rolls, or salads. This is pure sushi!
  6. For the full taste of the establishment, I'll use their included chopsticks and soy sauce. Plus, that'll save me like 18 cents per joint from not using my own soy or imparting wear and tear on my personal chopsticks.

Judging the food will be equally rigid:

  1. 30 points - Fish Freshness, Texture, and Taste - It better be fresh, firm, and tasty.
  2. 30 points - Rice Texture, Stickiness, and Taste - I have to admit that I like my rice sticky, but I also like it to have some flavor, and I like it to be a bit warm.
  3. 10 points - Nori Taste and Texture - Since rolls are in the mix, they'd better be good.
  4. 10 points - Creativity - Their specialties better be special.
  5. 20 points - Vibe - This covers cleanliness (the Sarah test), crowds (are other people eating there), waitstaff (were they nice), etc. Basically, would I go back with someone else.
  6. I'll also post the total price, and the price for the standard items (if I remember to write them down... I should buy an iPhone for this project!)

Hopefully, I can get started this week. But, with nine joints and the pace at which I eat sushi, this may take a while. Stay tuned...

Let the soy sauce flow!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Multimedia message

Today's view from my home office! I love California!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Birthdays are great – especially mine!

Ah… Another year wiser, another year closer to death. Well, at least now my golden years will be in FULL HD! But let’s start at the beginning…

Birthdays are always great, and when Sarah is involved, they tend to be even greater. While it would be hard for her to top last year’s present to me of a surprise trip to NYC for great food, drinks, shopping, and shows, she really outdid herself this year!

It all began on Sunday, when I proved that I’m not so old by running the San Fran US Half Marathon! That’s 13.1 miles of beautiful scenery from Fishermans Wharf, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and back. Our buddy Ted (of “Jen and Ted” fame) and I share the same birthday, and the duo were coincidently in Frisco for the marathon/birthday weekend. I’d like to say that I ran the marathon “with” Ted, but since he finished about 50 minutes ahead of me, that would be a lie.

After burning about 2,500 calories, and having two birthdays to celebrate, Jen, Ted, Sarah, and I all headed to a phenomenal dinner at Restaurant Gary Danko! Five of the best Michelin-star-awarded courses that you will ever consume! I started with the foie gras and it got better with every course and every bite! The scallops with butternut squash puree were amazing, the beef tenderloin was perfect, the cheese course was over the top, and the passion fruit panna cotta was sublime! And that was just
my dinner!

But let’s get back to the gifts…

It all started last Spring, when the real Steve Jobs announced the iPhone. Being a gadget geek, I haven’t been able to get enough info on the device over the past eight or nine months. But, the key item that kept me from actually purchasing one on my own was the inbred frugality coded into the DNA of all Western Pennsylvanians. It wasn’t so much the $599 original price (softened to $399, but still steep) as it was the “first year” cost. After AT&T released their iPhone rate plans, some other geeks did the math and found that the cost of the iPhone plus the required plan was over $1,900 in the first year! And, you were locked into a TWO year contract! As my grandmother would have said, “That’s dear!”

Even with the cost, I talked about the iPhone a lot, and Sarah correctly identified that as a great birthday present for me. But, as is usually my ADHD case, about a month before my birthday, I went on an exhaustive search for a cheaper alternative, narrowing my choices down to several phones and screwing up Sarah’s plans in the process.

So, what’s a resourceful, thoughtful, generous gift-giver like Sarah to do? Go for my #2 obsession these days - HDTV! That’s right, high definition television. FULL high definition television! 1080p baby! The holy grail of all things entertainment, or so I’ve been told by every guy I know.

I’ve struggled this season to watch yet another round of Steelers football on standard television, and I have to tell you that I die a little more each week. Not seeing the individual blades of grass or the beads of sweat really diminishes the entire sport. How have we survived as a species on such a low technology form of entertainment delivery? Even Darwin would be perplexed.

But, as is usually the case with Sarah, she does everything better than expected! I’ve had my eyes set on a 46” LCD, and Sarah did me one (inch) better and surprised me with a 47” LCD! If Sarah’s thoughtfulness could be measured in distance, it would be defined by that extra inch! That’s an extra 4.4% of viewable area, and an extra 4.4% that I love Sarah today!

But that’s not all! Sarah upped the birthday ante by including a spanking new PS3 with Blu-Ray DVD plus Spiderman 3 on Blu-Ray, and a few other movies! Wow!

And, to top it off, Sarah made my favorite meal – homemade pizza! One with REAL pepperoni (as I was beginning to think that turkey pepperoni was the only thing available in these parts), and one with thinly sliced potatoes, rosemary, and lemon puree (Try it! It’s fantastic!).
For the finish, Sarah made a very cool, and very beautiful, giant cupcake cake (since cupcakes are another one of our recent obsessions)!

All in all, it was another fantastic birthday, but only because Sarah made it so! It wouldn’t have been so perfect without Sarah planning and stressing the entire day, and I loved every minute of it! And I love my new HDTV as much as I love Sarah. In fact, it’ll probably being a tear to my eye now every time I “shhhh!” her when I’m watching television!

Aww, that makes my heart hurt…

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Rubies Don't Seem Quite Right

Today my parents are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary. It's really quite an accomplishment given all the divorce you read and hear about. I'm not sure exactly what's gotten them through all those years together, but generally speaking my Mom talks a lot and my Dad pretends to listen a lot! Whatever it is, kudos to them for being a great example to my sister, brother and I, of what it really means to be together "for better or for worse."
Their anniversary reminded me of a project that Jason and I started on our honeymoon. Since Jason was bored by Day Two of our trip, he got us brainstorming on how we'd like to celebrate our future anniversaries... which got us laughing about the traditional lists of what gifts go with what anniversaries (ie, first year anniversary = paper.... puh-lease!). We decided those lists need some serious updating in order to fit how people really live (and celebrate) today. For example, my parents 40th would traditionally call for rubies, but I'm quite sure my Mom is more eager for that trip to Greece she's currently planning. We never finished our "welcome to the real, modern world" list (I think the 11 am happy hours were to blame), but had we made it to 40 year anniversary I imagine it would have been something like: Full week at couples health/fitness spa.

Just for kicks, here are the others we came up with... what would be on your list?

1st year=dinner out to five star restaurant in city of your choice

2nd year=pricey tech item for home/home theatre

3rd year=sports/outdoors/hobby equipment
4th year=learn something new together (i.e., cooking classes or dancing lessons)

subsequent years=long weekend trips; every 5 years=major trip (ie, Galapagos); and so on... yes, we have lofty goals but hey, my philosophy is that these things are often like self-fulfilling prophecies so why not shoot big?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Calm Waters

This might seem like an odd title for a posting about a whitewater rafting trip, but I have to tell you that after two days on the water, I feel so much more serene than I did before we left! In a last-minute attempt to take advantage of the long weekend, Jason pulled together a trip to the American River - and like so many things we do, this unexpected adventure turned out to be one of the best.

Jason & I picked up Marissa at the extremely unnatural hour of 6am on Sunday morning - despite her love of the snooze button, Marissa was ready to go and even stayed awake in the car the entire trip. For those of you who know Marissa well, feel free to congratulate her on this accomplishment the next time you see her. Meighan & Hobbs and Joanna & James met us at the outfitter's very toasty parking lot where we quickly assessed our combined inventory of sunscreen, alcohol, and baby wipes (Meighan can provide details on this upon request!). As we made our way down to the river on a rickety old bus on a bumpy and twisty road, James & I had to fight to keep our respective breakfasts from finding its way back up...

The girls decided to take a boat for ourselves, leaving the guys on their own to be manly or whatever it is they do when girls aren't around. After successfully getting through the tunnel chute rapid (the rapid with the biggest "consequence") we joined the other boats to find that Jason was significantly more soggy than his friends. He calmly let us know that he had "fallen out of the boat." What we later learned via James - an exciting and dramatic storyteller - was that Jason was pitched from the boat about halfway down the tunnel chute (around the exact point where the guides had said "whatever you do, don't fall out there!"). After getting tossed around in the rapid and spending a little too much time to be comfortable underwater, Jason eventually popped up downriver where Hobbs hauled him back into the boy boat. The rest of the day was filled with jumping off rocks, hiking to waterfalls and hidden caves, and of course more rafting. That evening we hung out along the shoreline skipping rocks, talking about Owen Wilson (what, you wanted us to discuss something deep and meaningful?), and the magical power of a cold beer after a long day on the water.

Day two was as much fun as day one (minus a near-death experience) and gave us all a chance to really admire the beautiful scenery... somewhere along the way one of the boys said something to the effect of "wouldn't it be great if you could get just five minutes of this every morning" and I couldn't agree more. It's all about perspective and spending a weekend rafting and camping with my friends was just what I needed to get back on track.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mmmm - Grilled Salmon with Pineapple-Citrus Salsa

As we promised, we're going to write a bit more about food. (We figured that if we wrote more about alcohol, cocktails, and wine, someone would have an intervention...)

Oh, by the way, today was bottling day for our CrushPad pinot - Three Graces! If you recall, it's a Russian River Valley pinot noir from the Amber Ridge vineyard, the same source of grapes for such notable wines as Kosta Browne and Siduri, and is immediately adjacent to the famed Gary Farrell Starr Ridge vineyard. Amber Ridge vineyard was also recently sold to Nickel & Nickel winery for $130,000 per acre! So, apparently it's pretty good stuff. Here's a pic of bottle #1 coming off of the bottling line. Yeah, it's a terrible photo from my Razr, so send your complaints to Motorola, not us.

We have 4.75 cases, plus two magnums. That's equivalent to 59 bottles, so if you invite us over for dinner in the next 18 months, you know what we're bringing!

OK back to food, because we're not obsessed with wine, we're obsessed with food...

A week or so ago, we had a hunkerin' for some salmon. So, we scoured the 'fridge, pulled out some ingredients, and came up with our newly-famous Grilled Salmon with Pineapple-Citrus Salsa! Mmmm, it was yummy! For the accompaniment, we also scoured the 'fridge and came up with something different. Both recipes are below. Next time, we'll take fancy pictures and liven this blog up a bit!

Grilled Salmon with Pineapple-Citrus Salsa

Ingredients (or, "what we found in our 'fridge that wasn't rotten")
  • 1 cup diced pineapple - Sarah had purchased some pineapple for a previous "grilled veggie extravaganza," and these were the leftovers. We're estimating one cup, but it would be more accurately described as "whatever was left in the container."
  • 1 orange, diced - Jason found an orange, about three weeks old, that was previously leveraged for an orange twist for his old-school Manhattan (therefore, about three turns of rind were absent).
  • Juice of 2/3rds of a lime - Sarah was having a gin-n-tonic to soothe away the turmoil of another day schlepping ink, so we used whatever hadn't been cut into cocktail garnish.
  • 3 tbsp fresh mint - As if. Mint would have been perfect in the salsa, but none was to be found in the crisper drawer. But we did find cilantro. So, feel free to substitute cilantro for mint in this recipe.
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger - Ha. Again, we looked and looked, but 'twas not to be. So, as we did, feel free to substitute powdered ginger. But don't be happy about it!
  • 2 tbsp olive oil - Yum-o! In our kitchen, olive oil is a requirement in almost everything.
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar - Just because.
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 servings of salmon - Obviously. And obviously splashed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.
  • Mix everything together (other than the salmon...) and let fester (or, "let the flavors meld at room temperature for an hour or so").
  • Grill salmon. If you need more direction than that, you'd be better off going to Applebees...
  • Put half of the salsa on each plate, top with the grilled salmon, add the side dish.
  • Consume!
For the side dish, we've been big on roasted veggies of late. What we found in our 'fridge (maybe that should be a theme?) was one yellow zucchini, 1/2 head of cauliflower, and 1/2 of an onion. We sliced it all up, mixed it with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted it at 425F for about 20 minutes. It's amazing what a little roasting will do to three white (i.e. "devoid of flavor") veggies!

Well, there you go. Easy to follow?

Let us know how your version turns out!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Next in Line...

A few weeks after Jason and I returned from our honeymoon, we were off to Bend, Oregon for my friend Annika's wedding. Bend is an adorable town about 3 hours from Portland. We even picked up real estate flyers while we were there - it was quaint but not too small and had a very independent vibe; and, there's rafting and fly fishing in the summer and skiing in the winter.

Annika and I have spent a lot of time being single in SF so it's kind of cool that we ended up getting married within a month of each other. It also meant we had someone to compare notes with along the wedding-planning journey so that others didn't have to listen to our "woes."

Annika & Brian's wedding was amazingly beautiful with the mountain backdrop -the reception was held in a canyon with Smith Rock as the focal point. Everyone's gaze shifted however, as the sun went down - leaving clear dark blue skies for the full moon to make its entrance - it was a scene out of a Hollywood movie and all over the grounds you could see people stopping and just staring as the moon rose over the rocks.

One of the things I liked most about Annika's wedding was that it was very engaging... in the sense that there were lots of things to do that got people moving around and interacting with each other. There were activities for the kids, horses in an old-fashioned corrall needing to be fed apple slices, etc. The most fun was the self-portrait area - everyone, from young to old to shy to outgoing - participated in this activity. Annika had a photographer build a self-portrait station, and then people used the pics to add to their guest book message. People got really creative and as the night wore on, the photos got funnier and funnier (imagine sevral tipsy girls in fancy dresses trying to spell out "Gonzaga" to honor Annika's alma mater!). Here's a set of shots that we did with Julie and Rob (Annika's sis and bro-in-law). We saved this one for ourselves b/c it's a great memory of a fantastic weekend - the photographer running the station printed copies for everyone as they exited. It was like being at really-well-run, high-class theme park!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

FOOD (and drink)!

We LOVE food!

Not in a creepy way, but in a foodie, San Francisco, obsessive, epicurian kind of way. And, it's gotten stronger in the past few months. Yeah, the caterer tastings and the cake tastings leading up to our wedding definitely kicked us up a few notches. And, the His & Her cocktail trials definitely got us going on the cocktail front. But, this isn't a new thing.

Sarah has been on a gin-tasting quest since... well, pretty much since she graduated from wine coolers and into gin at age 16. (OK, age 21. But it was funnier with "16.") In fact, at a recent wedding in Bend, OR, Sarah tried Cascade Mountain gin and Desert Juniper - both distilled in Oregon! (But her fav is still Bardenay, from Boise, ID.)

And Jay, well, among other things, he's on a quest to make a good pugliese loaf (still going...), and make a good pizza dough (like A16!), and a killer cupcake (like Sprinkles!), and the ultimate steak (he thinks he found it in last month's Saveur, but his brother disagrees).

Anyway, we've been reading a lot of food blogs lately to help stoke our gourmet fire, including Coconut & Lime (which has what looks like a fantastic recent lamb recipe), and Vanilla Garlic (which has a semi-focus on original - and we mean original - cupcakes, like maple bacon and rosemary lemon). In addition, our friend Frank, who's an amazing cook, continues to pass along recipies and tips to keep us going, including his recent pizza dough recipe, which he referred to as "the BOMB!"

With all that reading, and with all of our experimentation, we were thinking, "Hey, why don't we start blogging on our food exploits?" It's not like we're not trained in the kitchen arts...Jason took a four-hour pie and tart baking class, for goodness sake! So, we've got kitchen cred!

So, stay tuned for some food-centric blogs to supplement our usual drivel (or, maybe a second, food-specific blog?). We're making roasted salmon with carmelized onions and figs right now, Jay is drinking a cucumber gimlet (you see who wears the apron in this family!), and Sarah just came home with "artisan chocolate cake" from Safeway for $2.99 (although, she get's HP props for working until 1 AM last night and prepping for a 10 PM conference call tonight (damn those Austrailian scientists!))!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Shades of Blue

It's no secret that I'm a fan of the color blue. I like it in all shades (just take a look at the walls in our house) - I don't discriminate. In fact, my wedding dress was even blue. What really blew (no pun intended, honestly!) me away though, was the variety of "blues" found in the waters around Bora Bora. I never knew blue came in so many lovely options - I may have to repaint the walls, yet again!

During the honeymoon, Jason and I took some time to REALLY relax... not your garden-variety lounging, we did some serious my-butt-is-sore-from-not-moving-in-six-hours resting. And when not reading a book or examining the insides of my eyelids, I stared at the water and constantly wondered how it got so blue (deep thoughts by Sarah). When I (rarely) chose to come back to reality, it was usually due to some enormous fish (in shades of blue, purple and green) that caught my eye, or even an octopus or sting ray, depending on the day!

If anyone reading this thinks they need a vacation, I'm here to back you up... go make your reservations and find your own shades of blue! There's nothing like time away from your normal routine to make you realize what's important in life... mostly, living it.

Here are my favorite "blue" pictures from the wedding and honeymoon...

See more pics from Bora Bora on our Flickr account HERE.

Friday, June 08, 2007

What do a baby, a Slinky, and a typewriter have in common?

Believe it or not, these are all things that captured the interest and attention of my sister's three kids for almost an entire week. Now, that's not to say that they didn't get bored from time-to-time while visiting my parents - but the truth is that they really were fascinated by all three... but mostly their new cousin! I have to say that it was so refreshing - I mean, honestly, that a Slinky can still entertain kids with all of the other things out there for them to play with, that's pretty cool. It was so sweet to see them do all kinds of wacky things to try and make their new cousin Pierce smile and laugh. And it wasn't just a passing thing... they kept at it for hours, trying to get a reaction out of that baby. Luckily Pierce delivered in adorable baby fashion and encouraged Ty, Jake and Alli to keep going night after night! And the typewriter? My nephew Ty discovered that over Christmas... and searched it out again this trip so that they could write stories and just play with the keys. It's amazing how entertaining my Mother's typewriter from college can be - who knew?!

The kids happily watch the Slinky make its way down the stairs...

Friday, June 01, 2007

Logging time on the East Coast

I don't think I've ever blogged about work stuff (typically it's even more boring than my personal life, if you can even imagine) but today I'm finishing up a week in NYC and somehow just couldn't resist. A lot of people have no idea what I actually do for a living so I thought I'd give just a tiny peek into that world.

First, I thought I'd share the coolest part of my trip - arriving a few days early and getting to meet my new cousin Alex. She's the cutest little thing - with long and thin fingers and toes (she definitely has big feet which apparently run on all sides of the family tree!). And her parents seem so normal about the whole thing, it was almost encouraging (oh, except for the dreadful and incredibly painful sounding details about the pre-birth, birth, post-birth, and breastfeeding). For all the gory - I mean beautiful - details of the birth checkout my cousin Michael's blog. Here are a few pictures of my own...

So why am I writing about work... well, I'm still not entirely sure but I do know that I work with some pretty amazing people and that we just finished up a really exciting week. We took over the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park and hosted a bunch of press and analysts for the week sharing news and information about the company. The team I work on did lots of amazing things from developing "the story" we shared at the show to logistically pulling off what is an incredibly intense week of keynotes, breakout sessions, 1:1 meetings, and evening activities (which somehow always migrated up to the 14th floor bar, where you could overhear on a regular basis... "(insert favorite curse word) - wait, it's 1 a.m.? I have to be downstairs at 7 a.m.!"). During one of the offsite events, I even learned how to cook some yummy Italian food (well, I may have possibly done more wine-tasting than cooking, but I did pick up a knife a few times - a dangerous combination now that I think about it!). I didn't have a lot of time to take pictures, but here are a few that turned out good enough to post (still figuring out that new lens that Holly gave me for xmas!). These are from the "war room" which sadly no longer resembled anything that might have been a plush Ritz Carlton anything by the time we left it today! And yes, since that room is gone, I am in my very comfy Ritz bed right now making this post. Yay for wireless!

This is my friend Sherri (aka Bossy) telling Jennifer what to do while Leah talks on the phone managing crisis number 1,112 of the day.

This is my friend Jennifer telling Sherri that in fact, no, she doesn't agree with her assesment of the situation. Just kidding girls, you know I love you! (Jennifer - stop rolling your eyes at me - and wait, was that a sigh i just heard all the way from West Chester?!)

This is a cute but almost scary pic of Katie (with Rob keeping his distance, smart guy)... I think she's up to no good but who knows. She's probably just bitter she had to work 20 hour days, slacker ;-)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The best wedding task ever!

One of the many chores of planning our wedding is selecting the appropriate "signature" his & hers cocktails. It ranks somewhere between stuffing boxes with fake grass and, um, well, it was a lot more fun than most of the wedding chores. And it continues to be...!

The process began a few months ago when Sarah exclaimed, "My drink is going to be a Watermelon Mojito! What's yours going to be?" Um, ah, hmmm, um...

Jason started his quest by picking up the January issue of San Francisco magazine, which was titled "Cocktail Heaven." (Ahh, if only...) Anyway, they reviewed a bunch of cocktails from local bars and restaurants, and he honed in on the cocktail featured on the cover, the Añejo daiquiri from Coco500 (yes, it's very manly with that little ~ above the "n," isn't it?). Although his brother balked at a "his" cocktail with the word "daiquiri" in it, he persevered.

But let's start at the beginning.

Jason is a Manhattan man. No, not the island. The drink. He likes bourbon. He once coordinated a guys weekend in Kentucky just so the boys could travel the bourbon trail - Kentucky's answer to Silverado Trail. But, would a Manhattan - all bourbon with a splash of sweet vermouth - be appropriate for an afternoon, outdoor wedding? Probably not, unless we wanted everyone sleeping by 6 PM. So he persevered.

How about a gimlet? That refreshing (nutritional?) combination of gin and lime juice. That's a good drink, but it has to be different. A plain gimlet as a "signature" cocktail isn't a signature at all. It's an "X" written in crayon. Pedantic. Pedestrian. What adds that "refreshing" quality to a drink? How about cucumber?

Jason started a science project in the kitchen to develop the best cucumber gimlet known to Pacifica, CA (OK, probably the only cucumber-based cocktail in Pacifica!).

There were three variations:
  1. gin, lime, sugar, and muddled cucumber
  2. gin, lime, sugar, and cucumber juice (puree cuke then strain)
  3. gin, lime, and cucumber-infused simple syrup
As you can imagine, the differences were massive. #1 was fine, but with little cucumber flavor transfer. #3 took way too long to make, and the cucumber simple syrup had a fuzzy crust of mold on top by day two, and although some of our friends could probably use the extra penicillin, we had second thoughts. #2, however (after four or five glasses) is now firmly planted in Jason's drink repertoire for all of eternity! It was fantastic! But, was it good enough for the big day? Unsure, Jason persevered.

When it comes to cocktails, Jason is also a martini man. (Well, a vodka martini man, which, in some circles, is better know as a martini woman.) There's nothing like a crisp, clean, cold shaken (shuck?) vodka martini on a warm summer's eve. But, a suitable wedding cocktail can't just be a plain old martini, especially when paired against a watermelon mojito. It needs some punch, some pizazz. So Jason persevered.

Currently festering on our kitchen counter is both lemongrass vodka and cucumber vodka. One recipe called for 48 hours of steeping, another called for three weeks! So, after about two weeks of steeping, you'll have to check back later to see the results of that experiment.

But let's get back to the daiquiri.

At first glance, Jason was smitten. (Kind of like he was with Sarah, only more so! How fitting for our wedding cocktail!) The aged rum is reminiscent of bourbon, but lighter and less alcohol-ish. The lime juice adds that summery tang, and the sugar sweetens it all up.

Now, we should let the record show that we didn't have ground evaporated cane sugar and had to substitute powdered sugar. But we did have freshly squeezed lime juice and 12-year-old rum!

Mmmmmmmm! Fantastic! But could it be better? Well, we just had to go to Coco500 and try the real thing. Yeah, we had to sit through asparagus salad, duck liver terrine, spice-rubbed pork tenderloin, and braised beef cheeks, but we persevered.

You know, it was disappointing, - like seeing the wizard behind the curtain. Coco500's version of their own drink wasn't as good as our homemade version. Hmmm. What kind of screwed-up Pittsburgh math is that? We're not sure, but maybe it's the rum, or maybe it's the Safeway powdered sugar vs. the ground evaporated cane sugar. Jason thinks that we need to test out another rum-bottle's worth at home, just to perfect it...

See the recipe below, straight from San Francisco mag. Click here for the full article, and 11 other Frisco cocktails (all worthy of experimentation, we're sure).

And we continue to persevere! Don't forget that we have some vodka infusions going strong. And, we had one basil gimlet that we felt was too close to a mojito, but which our buddy, Frank, highly recommended that we revisit. And there's always IC Light!

Ah, the lengths to which we go to make sure our wedding guest are happy... ;-)

Añejo daiquiri at Coco500

Bartender: Scott Baird

Inventor: Jennings Cox, Daiquiri, Cuba, 1896. Cox ran out of gin while hosting a group of prominent Americans, so he mixed rum with lime juice and sugar, creating the first daiquiri. Over the years, lighter rums have unquestionably been the rums of choice for the drink. Baird, in a smart leap of faith, altered over a cen­tury of tradition when he made his with aged rum.

1¾ ounces Pampero Aniversario rum
¾ ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
4½ teaspoons ground organic evaporated cane sugar

To make ground sugar:grind organic raw sugar (avoid turbinado and other dark varieties) in a standard coffee grinder until it turns into a fine, soft powder.

Add sugar and lime to a mixing glass and stir with a bar spoon for approximately 20 revolutions. Add ice and rum and shake hard for 10 full seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lime wheel.

Tip: “When I say shake hard, I mean it,” says Baird. “Don’t throw your back out, but use two hands and give the cocktail a healthy mix.”

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Who Needs Whales? I've got Sea Otter!

After waaaay too many weekends filled with wedding planning, Jason and I skipped town for a quick overnight trip to Morro Bay. But before we got on the road, Jason had to hit the dirt first... don't we all like to start our Saturday mornings by getting up at the crack of dawn, driving 20 miles to Marin, and racing hundreds of other people on a 6-mile, narrow, hilly dirt trail? No? Well, your name must not be Jason!

Actually, despite my sarcasm (I think I've made it pretty clear that I'm not a morning person, so I won't belabor that, really...) - I'm quite proud of my man. For someone who for the most part, despises running, he really pushes himself and keeps entering these races. Being a good (but did I mention groggy?) girlfriend, I trodded along ahead of him and had my camera to capture all of the special moments... like all the people who missed the turnaround point and I had to yell after them "hey, comeback, you missed the halfway mark!" That part was actually kinda fun, heh.

So, after Jay was done replenishing his electrolites, we loaded up the car for the drive South. The sun was shining and Jason didn't even complain about my driving - a perfect day! We camped for the night under incredibly clear skies - the kind where you can see all the stars AND the satellites (Jason loves that part). The day was complete with a campfire, S'mores and some wine (hey, this is California afterall).

On Sunday morning - man, were the winds blowing - we were a little worried about our paddling power but decided to give it a go anyway. We launched our boats and had a spectacular day on the water - in Jason's words "it's like a zoo at the beach." We saw a little bit of everything (except for whales and condors of course, which continue to elude us) - white pelican, sandpipers, white and blue heron, seals, deer (totally serious) and several sea otter! On the way home we found some great tide pools along a deserted stretch of beach - and we had three or four seals following us as we traveled the beach, here's one checking us out!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Whale Watching? Um, no, just looking...

This past Saturday, we embarked, with Mike and Christina, on a whale watching trip. We climbed aboard the Salty Lady {that's what I said when I climbed on your mom last night! (sorry Christina)}, anyway... We climbed aboard the Salty Lady and headed out on an
unseasonably warm and clear Half Moon Bay February morning. (It was 8F in Pittsburgh, making the 60+ weather that much more enjoyable! Hee hee!)

The sea was angry that day, my friends, as we headed out over the crashing waves. Like an old man trying to send back soup at a deli. (OK, "gently rolling swell" may be a better description.)

Anyway, we headed out on our whale watching trip, excited to catch a glimpse of the humpback and gray whales that were spotted the weekend prior. Luckily, Jay brought along his GPS to chronicle the longitude and latitude of each and every sighting.

As you can see on the map, we took a heading of SSW at about 12 mph (or about 10.4 knots, for the sailors out there) and basically never touched the wheel. We went straight and never made even a slight bank left or right. As the passengers searched for life, we finally (after and hour and a half of our three hour trip) slowed to check out the seagulls, murres, and comorants.) Gee, that's fantastic. Weren't those the same birds we saw at the dock?

Anyway, the "guide" mentioned something about "abundant sea life" and "schools of sardines below us," but because those sardines weren't Wonder Twins and didn't form "the shape of a breaching whale," we didn't see nothing.

So, the Salty Lady turned around, and full-steamed it back to the dock. Yeah, we made a nice figure-eight on the way back. But, basically, it was 90 minutes straight out at SSW, and 90 minutes straight back at NNE.

What did we see? A few birds. A few chunks of seaweed. A lot of water.

Our whale watching trip was not to be. Our whale looking-for trip was, unfortunately.

Check out the photos, below, but please don't look for whales. They must have been off that day. :-(

Alas, there were no whales to be watched...

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Super Bowl or Super BOAT?

Two events happened today: one big, one HUGE.

Obviously, today was the Super Bowl, and, although the Steelers weren't involved, apparently it was a big deal. We're not sure why, but we don't question tradition.

The other event was the arrival of the Queen Mary 2 in San Francisco - a "maritime marvel!". This may sound ho-hum to most of you, but listen to this: The Queen Mary 2 is the largest ship to EVER pass through the Golden Gate! Now that's worthy of missing a few quarters of football, don't you think?

Well, we did. So, with an expected "under the bridge" time of 3:00 PM Pacific Time (27 minutes before kickoff), we figured that we'd hurry down to Crissy Field and snap a few pictures. But, we were totally unprepared for the thousands - yes, thousands - of spectators waiting around the bay.

Here in Frisco, "Fleet Week" is usually the biggest spectator event, followed by the Independence Day fireworks. But, this rivaled both of those, for sure. We were in traffic from 2:30 through 3:00 (and we started 2 miles from Crissy Field!), but luckily the QM2 was about one hour late (um, 33 minutes after kickoff). So, we were well-positioned to watch as it sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge with only 30 feet to spare! That's amazing! These photos don't do it justice, however. Although it looked big as it went under the bridge, our vantage point was a bit askew. As it passed us, however, its ominous size was apparent. It dwarfed the sailboats, fire boats, and Coast Guard ships that escorted it into the bay. It was a sight to behold, for sure.

For more details, and to read about it's 'round-the-globe trip (last stop was Alcapulco, next stop is Honolulu), check out this story and this story and accompanying photos at The Chronicle.

(Kinda makes our kayaks seem itty bitty...)