Passport Day

Diane and I are back from Passport Day in Aptos. Three wineries visited, six wines acquired:

  • Pleasant Valley Vineyards – a beautiful backyard winery (well, it’s a 5-acre backyard) with an amazing stand of redwood trees. The wines were rather pricey (mostly north of $40), but quite tasty. They specialize in Pinot Noirs, which were very drinkable, but we really liked their Syrah and Zin, both of which were on the spicy side; we bought one bottle of the 2009 “Sean Boyle” Syrah, which will go well with a well-spiced steak.
  • Nicholson Vineyards – this was a slightly larger operation than Pleasant Valley, but still small and friendly. Their wines are made for drinking fairly soon and were considerably less expensive than Pleasant Valley. I wrote my tasting notes on their order form, which I seem to have left with them, so I’ll just list the wines we chose to purchase:
  • Finally, we visited Alfaro Family Vineyards, an even larger operation than Nicholson (they sold wines under three different labels, in fact). They had seven wines available for tasting, but we decided, in the interest of safety, to skip the Chardonnays; all of the wines were interesting, but we only picked up the Corralitos 2012 Syrah, which was pleasantly spicy, with a long finish and a relatively low price (hmm, I guess I can’t bring this one to a party now that I’ve written that!).

Three wineries in the space of 2.5 hours is a pretty brisk pace, and I’m sure I didn’t do Alfaro justice – I guess we’ll have to return.


I’m pretty sure the statue of limitations has expired, I was a juvenile then, and I’m not in Virginia any more, so I hope it’s safe to admit that back in 11th Grade Honors Chemistry, I knew about the class still and the making of Ol’ Innertube. Actually, pretty much everyone in the class was in on the secret (and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that the teacher knew, too). I didn’t drink the stuff, of course, but it was a fun, if illegal, project.

Tonight, Diane and I blended our own wines at Cinnabar Winery. It was fun, and completely legal – and this time, I absolutely plan to drink the product!

We had three reds to use in our blending:

  • 2008 Sonoma Syrah, aged 29 months in Hungarian Oak, 30% new
  • 2007 Solana Vineyards Paso Robles-San Miguel Petite Sirah, aged 40 months in French Oak, 30% new.
  • 2008 50/50 blend of Paso Robles-Templeton Gap Grenache-Mourvedre, aged 29 months in American Oak, 20% new.

I tried each wine separately and decided I preferred the Petite Sirah to the other two; then I tried a few combinations before settling on 80% Petite Sirah, 12% Syrah, and 8% Grenache-Mourvedre as the recipe for Traffic Calmer.

Traffic Calmer label

Diane went for more balance, ending up with 55.5% Petite Sirah, 40% Syrah, and 4.5% Grenache-Mourvedre in her After Work Red.

We have to wait a few months for the wines to marry and mature…maybe for Thanksgiving!

A quick note about Jason’s 4 minute tuna steaks – Yum!

As we were leaving the house yesterday morning, Diane noted that she’d picked an extra lemon earlier in the week and we might want to use it soon. We’d already had lemon chicken this week, so I wanted to try something different — tuna seemed like it might be a good idea, so I Googled for “recipe lemon tuna steak” and the top hit was Jason’s 4-minute tuna steaks.

The “4-minute” part sounded good — of course, that was just the cooking time, but when I looked at the recipe, the prep didn’t seem too onerous, so I Sametime’d the URL to Diane to look at and she said “yes”.

I didn’t follow the recipe exactly (our lemons are oversized, but I cut everything else by 50% because I was only cooking for two — and I substituted crushed red pepper for the chili flakes), but it was very tasty and I’d happily make it again. More to the point, I’d happily eat it again, so I’m posting about it so I don’t lose the pointer to the recipe.

Thanks, Helen!

Eating our way through New York

Tonight is our last night in Manhattan, at least for this trip. I’m not ready to go home, but circumstances (like the need to earn a living) leave me no choice.

The original plan for the trip started when the National Trust for Historic Preservation sent Diane a flyer for a Hudson River Leaf-Viewing Cruise, optionally preceded by a five-day trip to “New York City: A Work in Progress”. Diane’s been a member for a few years, and we normally toss the travel brochures, but this one caught our eyes — and we realized that:

  1. I had to be in Orlando for the IBM Academy of Technology meeting the week after the New York City tour, so the travel made some sense, and
  2. We could go, because Jeff was going to be away at school.

So we sent our deposit in and waited for more information.

The deadline for final payment passed with no word, so I called the travel coordinator, who said that they were having a hard time getting enough people together for the trip, and asked us to be patient. It’s fairly easy to be patient keeping money in my hands instead of sending it away.

Finally, they called while we were in Denver for Worldcon — the trip was almost certainly on. So we did some research on flight options and when we got home, they confirmed the trip and I booked Diane’s flights both ways and my flight to New York — I had to wait for the Academy travel information to book the rest of my trip, though. Eventually, that came in, and we were all set.

Then the credit crunch hit, and the Academy meeting got cancelled. So I had to scramble to book my flight home to match Diane’s (if I’d been thinking, I would have tried to move to a later flight home, but at least our flight is at 9:45am and not a really early flight). All was well.

Until Diane got an infected toe the week before we were to leave. Her doctor put her on antibiotics and wanted her to come back in a week — when she told the doctor about the trip, the doctor was dubious. And two days later, Diane returned, because her foot was looking worse, not better. But the doctor doubled the dose of antibiotics, and Diane improved, so we flew out last Sunday.


Since we had to leave a day early to meet the first activity on the trip, we decided to take advantage and go visit Diane’s mom’s grave at Calverton National Cemetery, out in Suffolk County. And the smart thing seemed to be to stay at the Marriott Long Island in Uniondale; Marriott hotels are always reliable.

Not this time. We had to change rooms at 3am due to noise and a bad bed, after arguing with the night supervisor who wanted us to repack so we’d only have one room. I finally won that argument, and eventually, we got to sleep, but I am not a happy customer, and have a letter of complaint to write when I get home.


The trip to Calverton was uneventful, fortunately, and we even got a cache in after the visit. That ate into our time, though, so we didn’t make the other pilgrimages I’d planned, to Ralph’s or to Diane’s old house (though I have to admit that I was slightly worried about the latter, given the difficulty the buyers had had in getting a mortgage — I didn’t want to see the house vacant). We did manage a diner for lunch Baldwin Coach Diner, but it wasn’t anything special. A quick dash to JFK to return our car and a quick taxi ride later, and we were at our home for the next week, the Roosevelt Hotel.

And a short time later, we met our group in the lobby for our first activity, a walk to and tour of Grand Central Terminal and the surrounding area.

Then back to the hotel for a welcome reception — the wine and cheese were tasty, but insufficiently filling, so we took one of our companions’ recommendation for a quick, cheap, fairly tasty dinner at Curry in a Hurry; naturally, we walked both ways.


Tuesday dawned early, and we had our first of many breakfast buffets at the Roosevelt. I’m glad I didn’t have to think about the bill (it was included in the cost of the trip), but the food was good, and there were many choices — in fact, I never did try everything I wanted (the lox and bagel were just too good to pass up). Then it was into our “private motorcoach” for the longest day of the trip.

We started with a failure — we were supposed to have a tour of Masonic Hall, but the volunteer guide never showed up, so about all we saw was a waiting room, the restrooms, and this plaque.

Our guide never showed up so this was all we saw!

We couldn’t wait, because we had an appointment with another volunteer guide, this time for a tour of City Hall and the Tweed Courthouse. Fortunately, this guide volunteers for the city, so she showed up. But first, we wandered around City Hall Park, where I saw the day’s first reminder of 9/11:

City Hall Park was very pleasant; I especially enjoyed the fountain.

City Hall and Tweed Courthouse were interesting, but not terribly picturesque. Then we walked down into the financial district and had lunch at Les Halles. This was the first of our group meals, most of which had semi-set menus in the interest of speeding the meal along (not really rushing us, but keeping on schedule). I’d go back happily.

Lunch was well-timed, because it had started to rain just before we got to the restaurant, but the storm was over by the time we left for Federal Hall, Trinity Churchyard, St. Paul’s Chapel (where we saw the 9/11 exhibits), and finally a tour of the area around Ground Zero with volunteers from the 9/11 Tribute Center. One of the volunteers had worked on the 102nd floor of the South Tower but had changed jobs a few weeks before 9/11; he still lived in the area, and suffers from respiratory problems as a result. Of course, that wasn’t the most moving part of his story, but it’s all I can relate without distortion.

By the time we’d finished, it was 6pm, and our “private motorcoach” had a lot of traffic to fight on our return visit — I’m not sure but that the subway would have been a better choice. We got back to the hotel far too late to go to a show, so we went to dinner instead, at Angelo’s Pizza on Second Avenue, choosing the place by its four-star Yelp reviews. I wasn’t terribly impressed, and added my own review to help others in the future — there was nothing wrong with the pizza, but I was sure we could have done better.


We started Wednesday with a tour of the Tenement Museum, which included an interactive interpretive session; I got to play the role of the paterfamilias of a turn-of-the-20th-Century Ashkenazi Jewish immigrant family, asking questions of a teenaged Sephardic Jew who’d been in the country for a couple of years. It helped me appreciate what my grandfather had gone through when he came to America.

Then we walked down Rivington Street to Schiller’s Liquor Bar for a “light lunch” (only two courses); the neighborhood was a bit on the quiet side because it was Simchas Torah (Ashkenazi spelling deliberate, given the area), so some of the stores were closed. Schiller’s was fun and filling, but not so filling that I wasn’t interested in making a stop at Economy Candy, where I bought more than I should have but not as much as I wanted to.

Back on the bus for a trip up the East Side to Gracie Mansion for tea (and dessert) and a tour. We just missed the Mayor, who’d been there for a reception for the Consular Corps. Gracie Mansion is worth the trip; in previous years, the tour omitted the upstairs private quarters, but since Mayor Bloomberg decided to live in his own home instead of at the Mansion, the whole house is shown. And now that New York has lifted term limits, the odds are good that there will be four more years where you can see the whole place.

We returned to the hotel with plenty of time to visit TKTS and score tickets for Spamalot. They’d announced that they were closing in January earlier that day, so I’m glad we went when we did (I hadn’t known about the closing until I saw it printed on our ticket). On the other hand, I have to say that comparing the play with the movie shows the value of a limited budget — I far preferred the movie.

We tried to go to Akdeniz Turkish Cuisine before the show, but they were full, so we went next door to McAnn’s, which was a perfectly serviceable bar, with decent food and beer.


Thursday was downright chilly and windy, which was a shame, because our first stop was outside, at Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens.

Micheal Berens gave us a great tour of the exhibit (EAF08: 2008 Emerging Artist Fellowship Exhibition) there until March 1, 2009); his comments and energy added a lot to my appreciation of the exhibit and kept me out in the wind until we were dragged away to join the vast majority of the tour, who were waiting patiently on the bus for us.

We made a quick stop in Astoria Park to admire the underside of the Triborough Bridge.

We then continued on to the Noguchi Museum, where we had a low-energy tour.

Lunch was at Taverna Kyclades in Astoria. It gets rave reviews on Yelp and in Zagat, but I thought they were only average; being in a group didn’t help, I’m sure, but the salmon was overcooked, and that didn’t jibe with their reputation. I might try them again, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to do so.

And that ended the organized portion of the day; we had decided to go see The 39 Steps if we could get tickets at a decent price. The lines at TKTS were long, but we’d found a half-price flyer on the way over, so we hiked the extra three blocks to the box office and took care of our business that way. Then we took advantage of IBM’s corporate membership in MoMA and went in for a short visit (because two museums just aren’t enough for a day in New York). After that, we cast about for dinner and ended up following a Twitterpal’s recommendation for Bukhara Grill, which was quite tasty but more expensive than I expected (note to self: if the menu in the window has opaqued prices, beware). I wish we could have brought our leftovers back, because they were too good to abandon — but without a refrigerator, abandonment was the only option.

The 39 Steps was great fun, though a bit hard to follow at times; I guess it would have helped to have seen the movie or read the book first.


Friday was the northern day of the tour. We started at Van Courtlandt House in the Bronx, not far from where the subway ends; then we visited Poe Cottage, which is about to undergo significant restoration, and then the Bronx Museum of the Arts where we had a well-guided, but too short, tour of the “Street Art/Street Life” exhibit.

After that, we journeyed to Harlem for lunch at Londel’s. They failed badly on the service side (Diane didn’t get her meal until 20 minutes after the rest of us were served, which was about an hour after we’d sat down), as well as not having the sweet potato pie that had been prearranged. And the food wasn’t very exciting anyway. I did enjoy the “local” Sugar Hill Beer while I waited for my food!

The slow service cost us the chance to walk around Striders’ Row, but we finished the afternoon at a high point, the Morris-Jumel Mansion, including an interesting ghost story.

Then it was back to the hotel to rest for a bit before the grand finale, a trip to Top of the Rock and a farewell dinner at the Sea Grill in Rockefeller Center.


We had our last “tour” breakfast at the hotel and said goodbye to a number of folks who we saw there, then set out for a day of touring Manhattan on our own. There was much geocaching in the morning, not all of which was successful.

Lunch was at an old haunt of mine from my 1980 trip to the late, lamented IBM Systems Research Institute. Well, almost. In 1980, it was known as the Electra Coffee Shop; now, it’s the Morning Star Cafe, but it’s still a great New York diner.

After lunch, we walked up to Central Park for more geocaching, and then to the Metropolitan Museum (thanks, IBM!) to admire some European paintings and the current Chinese landscape exhibit, along with some quick trips through the Egyptian collection, the “New York, N. Why” exhibit, and some shopping.

Then we walked over to Beyoglu for another shot at a Turkish dinner; this time, we had no deadline, so, of course, they seated us immediately. This was another Yelp pick, and it was a winner — the vegetarian meze plate was great, as was the doner kabob. I’d go back cheerfully.

We decided against baklava for dessert in favor of Pinkberry for Diane and Sedutto for me — that was probably a mistake, because it had started raining while we were at dinner, and the rain really picked up while we were at Pinkberry. It eased up by the time we left, and wasn’t too bad on the way to Sedutto — but then the wind hit. My umbrella didn’t survive, and I wound up throwing it away before we got back to the hotel (sure, we could have taken a taxi — there were plenty available, despite the rain — but what fun would that have been?), and we were quite soaked. But it was fun anyway, and I felt virtuous, having walked over 30,000 steps for the day (which probably didn’t make up for the caloric intake).


Today, we decided against the hotel breakfast; instead, we walked a block to Smiler’s, where Diane and I had breakfast for under $10. Total.

We had another reason for eating at Smiler’s instead of the hotel; we were having brunch with an old friend at Noho Star. After Saturday, we didn’t want to walk quite as much, so we picked up a MetroCard Fun Pass for the day and took the subway to NoHo, arriving early enough to do more geocaching (again, not all successful).

Brunch was very pleasant, as was catching up; Ed said that if the day was clear, we could do worse than to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, and so that’s what we did (with a not-so-quick detour to the hotel to pick up my jacket).

I took a ton of photos on the bridge and in DUMBO, posting many of them on Twitter as they happened; Ed saw my tweets and arranged to meet us again, giving us some very useful tips on the local area, including the suggestion of having pastries at Almondine.

After that, we made a brief visit to Bloomingdale’s, and finished the evening with stops at two pizza places, Portofino on Second Avenue and Two Boots in Grand Central. Portofino was much closer to “real” New York pizza, at least given my choices (mushroom slice at Portofino, “Earth Mother with cheese” at Two Boots). And then a little Ciao Bello sorbetto to top off the evening.

Tomorrow, we get to see JetBlue’s new Terminal 5 — it’s going to be the first Monday the facility has been open. I hope security there works better on a Monday morning than it does at San Jose.

Oregon Wine and News

When we went college shopping in Oregon last May, we did some last minute wine shopping at the Made in Oregon store in the Portland Airport.

One of the bottles we picked up was King Estate 2006 Oregon Pinot Gris, which we had with dinner recently. We liked it a lot; it was crisp, with lots of fruit (I’ve gotta get better at writing down descriptions of wines while drinking them instead of waiting a couple of days!).

Sadly, we only bought one bottle. But we should have the opportunity to buy more; we already have planned a trip to take a closer look at Willamette, and now Jeff’s been accepted at the University of Oregon. We’d bought the Willamette tickets before hearing from U of Oregon, so it’d be expensive to change them; I think we just might have to make another trip instead.

Saint Clare Marlborough 2006 Sauvignon Blanc

Recently, I’ve been putting my wine notes on Cork’d. But I made a mistake with tonight’s wine and forgot to tell the system whether I was entering it to review, to add to my “cellar”, or to add to my wishlist — and then when I tried to fix the problem, it complained that the wine was already in the system but couldn’t find it. So I’ll review it here…and that means I don’t have to use the compressed 100-point scale, either. Not all bugs are harmful!

At any rate, the wine we had with dinner was Saint Clare Marlborough 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (probably purchased at Costco). Both Diane and I liked it (more than half the bottle vanished); it has a good bit of acidity, a medium finish, and lots of grapefruit notes (with a little kiwifruit mixed in). We had it with a spicy spaghetti sauce and Indian vegetables — it didn’t really hold its own against that competition, but it was still pleasant enough for a cool evening.

Oxygen at work

I hate having to do research during dinner, but it was necessary tonight. We brought some wine with us to dinner, having been impressed with it on our previous encounter — but when we opened this bottle, there were purple crystals at the cork, and the wine was flat, lifeless, and raisiny.

A quick trip across the room to the computer, and the verdict was in: oxygenation. (And I bookmarked three more links on, too.)

I’ve reported the problem to the place we bought the wine; it’ll be interesting to see what kind of response I get.

Red Skye 2004 Ruby Hill Zinfandel

When I tasted this wine at the winery last weekend, I thought it would go well with beef. But we rarely have beef at home — basically, only when Jeff’s not going to be eating with us. Like tonight, since Jeff was out celebrating the successful conclusion of the production of The Tempest at school. We got beef brisket sandwiches from Sam’s, opened a bottle of Red Skye Zinfandel, and enjoyed.

The beef was nicely spicy, complementing the wine well — more of the bottle vanished than is our wont, too. Even more might have vanished if I hadn’t known I’d have to drive up to Palo Alto to pick Jeff up soon after dinner. Definitely worthwhile.

39 Degrees Lake County 2006 Sauvignon Blanc

So, after going wine tasting this afternoon, we looked at what was already in the wine fridge to accompany dinner (Indian take-out from Royal Taj) and found a bottle of 39 Degrees Lake County 2006 Sauvignon Blanc. It was a good choice — definite strong lemon aroma, reasonable acidity, medium finish, not much mouth feel. I thought it went better with the spicy vegetables than it did with the chicken tikka, though.

I’m pretty sure we picked this wine up at BevMo on their 5-cent sale; I’d buy it again.

Wine tasting: An afternoon at Silver Mountain Vineyards

A few months ago, the JCC had a wine tasting featuring local Santa Cruz Mountain wineries. It was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, but, as I recall, there were no wine sales that day, only chocolates and other goodies. We did, however, sign up for some email lists — and one of those wineries, Silver Mountain Vineyards, had a tasting today. The weather was lovely, so after services and lunch, we left Jeff at home with his homework and headed into the hills.

We decided to skip the Chardonnay and the Rose of Pinot Noir, so the first wine we had was the 2004 Miller Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir. I’m not sure it was the ideal wine to start with — it was chewy, with lots of mouth feel and a very long finish. It went well with the Beemster XO Gouda they were serving, but by itself, it was rather overpowering.

The next wine on offer was the 2004 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir. That was a different story — lots of fruit (plum, in particular), good by itself or with the munchies on hand, and very good with 52% cocoa dark chocolate slivers.

After that, we sampled two of their Bordeaux-style blends: Oscar’s Wild Red, which didn’t impress either of us very strongly, and the 2002 Alloy, which was pleasantly spicy, with a medium finish.

More cheese, crackers, and cashews were called for, and then it was time to hit the Zins. They had two available, both from the same vineyard in Lodi, the 2001, which was light and fruity, and the 2000, which was tarter and had some definite clove flavors.

More munchies followed, and then, despite our general disinterest in Chardonnay, we were persuaded to try the 2004 Chardonnay (I could hear John Cleese’s voice from Wine for the Confused suggesting it was not a good idea to tar all wines made from a particular grape with the same brush). I’m glad we did, because it was a very pleasant wine — slightly minerally, very soft, and nicely fruity.

We left with a mixed case (Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, the Alloy, both Zins, and four bottles of the 04 Chardonnay), and memberships in both their wine clubs. Fortunately, IBM’s alcohol policy has changed over the years, and I can have them ship the wine to work instead of having to drive up into the mountains to get it (the last mile, on Miller Cut-Off, was unnerving for someone who lives in the flatlands) — but if the release happens during good weather, there are worse ways to save a few bucks on shipping.

We probably shouldn’t visit too many more wineries for a while. But it sure is a nice way to spend a weekend afternoon!

Tweets from a trip to Tesla Vintners (Livermore)

The Northern California chapter of the Rensselaer Alumni Association sponsored a lunch and wine tasting at Tesla Vintners in Livermore. I tweeted mini-reviews via iPhone as I tasted:

  • started with “singing winemaker” Sherzando – nice and sweet, would be better with dessert than as the first sip of the day
  • Red Skye Sauvignon Blanc – nice, lots of body, long finish
  • Singing Winemaker Raspberry Sparkling – I could easily drink too much of this!

Then it was time for lunch. All I could eat was the pasta in Alfredo sauce and the bread, since everything else had pork, which was a shame, because there was a lovely garlic aroma that wasn’t in my food. But the wine and the tweets kept flowing:

  • Patty’s Passion goes well with pasta
  • Red Skye Chardonnay – good for a Chardonnay, unoaked, but not gonna make me a fan
  • Red Skye Zinfandel – smoky, would go nicely with beef. Long finish, nicely tannic.
  • Patty’s Passion is good without pasta, too – I think the trunk is going to be loaded on the way home. I’ll have to wait to be sure I’m not!
  • Singing Winemaker Framboise – good by itself, but even better with the chocolate tasting cup.
  • The “serving size” on the chocolate cups is 2 cups, but I’ll restrain myself

After the raffle (we didn’t win anything), we adjourned to the tasting room, the cash register, and home:

  • Con Amore port – tawny, 4 years barrel-aged, being released on the 19th…we shall return!
  • Home again, with a case of yummy wine (1 Raspberry Sparkling, 2 Sauvignon Blanc, 2 Sherzando, 2 Zinfandel, 4 Patty’s Passion, 1 Framboise)

Definitely a nice way to spend the day, and writing my notes via Twitter meant I didn’t have to worry about losing them! (Though I’m not sure they got posted in exactly the order I sent them, which is odd)

No Leopard for me!

I had it all figured out. We were going to meet some friends for dinner in downtown Los Gatos this evening at 7pm — that would give me enough time to pick up Leopard beforehand.

So we left home just before 6, expecting to be parked by 6:05. But the traffic on North Santa Cruz was horrible, and going over to University didn’t improve matters. Finally, I detoured to the secret parking lot between Santa Cruz and University on the north side of Hwy 9, several blocks from the restaurant, let alone the Apple Store.

But that was OK; I could easily carry the Leopard box around. For that matter, it’d be easy enough to carry a new Mac mini.

But first we had to get to the store. And even the sidewalks were rather crowded. With dogs. In costumes. And their owners. And people giving the dogs treats.

Yes, it was Howlin’ Halloween in Los Gatos.

We pressed on. And as we crossed Bachman, I noticed something else odd — the stores and restaurants were dark, including the place we had reservations. And they stayed dark all the way up Santa Cruz, past the Apple Store. Most of the stores were closed, but not the Apple Store — they had a long line of people waiting, and every few seconds, someone would leave the store with a bag and a smile.

Since part of my hidden agenda for the evening involved having Diane try out an iMac, I decided to skip the store (somehow, much of the system’s charm would be lost if it was powered down) and accompanied Diane and Jeff to Borders in Old Town, which was brightly lit.

I tried calling the restaurant, but they didn’t answer their phone. So I called our friends, and we decided to try somewhere else, Di Ciccio’s in San Jose. As we left the bookstore, I saw that the lights were on again on Santa Cruz — I called the restaurant we’d planned to eat at and cancelled our reservation. They said, “but the power is back on”, but it was too late.

I hadn’t been to Di Ciccio’s in more than 15 years — not for any particular reason, but then again, there was no good reason to go there, either. The ownership had changed in the last couple of years, and I’d definitely be more eager to go back now. The food was quite tasty, even if the portions were too large; I’d rather have had a bit less food and saved a couple of bucks. We had a Clos la Chance 2005 Pinot Noir, which was very enjoyable, and which was priced quite fairly ($32, versus $30 at the winery or $25 from K&L).

And then we came home. I thought about going back downtown and getting my copy of Leopard, but on further reflection, a walk with Diane seemed like a better idea. And that’s what we did.

(Of course, I haven’t given up completely on Leopard — I’m making a backup of my existing disk so I’ll be ready for the upgrade. Tomorrow. Or Sunday. As John Gruber points out, “no one ever got hurt by waiting a week or two to install a new OS.” But where’s the fun in that?)

A parting shot

My group at work has a tradition of going offsite once a month for lunch; we take turns picking a place, and the host has the awesome responsibility of dividing the check.

Today’s lunch was a little different, though.

Lunch at Zeni

It was sort of a retirement lunch for B; he was originally going to retire at the end of this month when his wife retired, but decided to postpone it until the end of October, and then to work a couple of days a week, mostly from home, as a contractor. But we had lunch today anyway, at Zeni Ethiopian Restaurant. This was my second experience with Ethiopian food, and was much more enjoyable than my first, many years ago; I’m still not a big fan of injera, but it’s really just a carrier anyway, and the rest of the food was quite tasty (I especially liked the chicken and lamb).

Today wasn’t really the day I would have chosen for a food experiment, though; Yom Kippur starts in a couple of hours, and I want to be properly fueled as preparation. So we’re off to one of our usual haunts, Su’s Mongolian Barbecue — and today, I’ll probably have seconds for a change.

Shana Tova!

Preserving vital information

One of the many ways I use this blog is as a dumping ground for information I might need again later. Sometimes, it’s helpful to other people; other times, it’s just for me.

So I was shocked to discover that I hadn’t blogged about the most important datum I acquired on my trip to Scotland back in July/August 2005: the name of the brand of sherbet lemons I’d been hunting for a decade.

The subject came up in conversation today with a friend who’s about to leave for two weeks in Scotland; since he lives in Massachusetts, it’s not really convenient for him to bring me a couple of pounds of candy, but it would be impossible without the name. I checked my blog, and couldn’t find it. Eventually, I dug it out of my Lotus Notes mail, but that was by sheer happenstance.

So I shall blog it here. I strongly recommend Tilley’s Sherbet Lemons, as found in Woolworth’s in Glasgow.


Ah, Ralph’s!

I’m attending an internal IBM conference this week at IBM Research in Yorktown. While I don’t expect anything as personally interesting as the Ben Zander talk at TLE, I did get a chance to satisfy an urge on my way from JFK to the hotel.

Most people coming to a conference in Westchester County choose to fly into White Plains or LaGuardia, because of the shorter drive. I usually choose Kennedy, and there are two reasons. One, of course, is that I can get a nonstop, and that saves me time and removes one source of problems. But the other is that I can stop in Valley Stream and visit Ralph’s Italian Ices.

It’s not far out of the way, though there’s often a long line (tonight, it was 15 minutes long, and it wasn’t even a hot night). But it’s worth it — we just don’t have anything like it at home. I just wish I’d known about Ralph’s the entire time we were visiting Diane’s family in Valley Stream; we only discovered them about five years ago — that’s twenty-five years of visits wasted. At least in one sense.

And I have the return flight on Thursday afternoon, and then another trip next week…but I still won’t make a dent in the flavor list.

Pie redux

I got a nice comment on my Chocolate Peppermint Pecan Pie recipe (well timed, since I was just starting to make it for dinner tomorrow), asking for other cooking ideas.

I wish I could respond with some, but this is really the only recipe I’ve ever created (and even then, it was just a variation on the well-known pecan pie recipe on the Karo Syrup bottle). I did make hamburgers with cumin once — but that was widely considered a mistake, not to be repeated.

So I guess the idea is to be willing to experiment — to start from a known base and make small changes. Sometimes they’ll work; sometimes, you get cumin hamburgers.

Drive, he said!

We finished our Tucson stay with yet another trip to The Good Egg (one more visit and we get free meals!); then we picked up Diane’s Dad and SO and took them part-way to her son’s house. When we last saw them, they were sitting in the Wendy’s at the Outlets at Casa Grande, waiting to be picked up (this was, of course, according to plan, though it’s still somewhat disquieting to abandon family in the middle of the desert).

From there, we took our chances with Phoenix traffic (although the Jam Factor was Green according to XM Traffic, we sure hit some slow going), but it only took us an hour or so to get through the city. And at 1:30, we were once more seated in Silly Al’s Pizza in Quartzsite for another late lunch. The place was even smokier than last time, but still worth it.

I’m not sure that stopping for gas at the Flying J at Arizona Exit 1 was worthwhile, though — sure, we saved 40 or 50 cents a gallon compared to California prices, but we only needed 5.5 gallons, and there was a line at the pumps.

The rest of today’s driving was uneventful, though we did hit some slow traffic just after CA-60 branched off — slow enough that I tried out the “Detour” function on our Prius nav system. It told us to take the adjoining road, which was what I planned to do anyway.

We’re overnighting at the Dynasty Suites in Redlands, which is a fairly standard 3-diamond motel. The most interesting thing is that they play classical music in the parking lot — I’m almost afraid to ask why.

There are a ton of franchise restaurants near the hotel (Long John Silver’s, Arby’s, Taco Bell, and El Pollo Loco are all within a two-minute walk), but we hoped to do better. So I turned to the oracle — Google Maps. And it delivered Eastern Classic Thai Restaurant, which was a great find. Jeff ordered Thai Green Curry and ate all of it, so I can’t comment on it, but Diane and I traded our dishes. She ordered Mint Leaves Chicken (with sliced chicken rather than the default ground chicken), which was very tasty; I had “Crying Tiger”, which is grilled beef with a hot sauce on the side — delicious. The restaurant was almost empty, which is a shame given the quality (and reasonable price) — I would go back happily if I were ever in Redlands again.

No sightseeing or geocaching today — driving was the priority of the day. It’ll be the priority tomorrow, too. 400 miles if we take the Grapevine.

Arizona (and other) Eats

We started the morning by sleeping late, following with the complementary breakfast at the Embassy Suites in Palm Desert, which was exactly what I expected it to be, and which was priced right, especially on an award stay.

Then it was time to hit the road for Tucson. We avoided stopping for lunch in Blythe, because it was far too early, but when we reached Quartzsite, Arizona, 20 body minutes but 80 clock minutes later, we decided it was time (especially given the lack of options farther up the road). We drove around a bit and ended up at Silly Al’s Pizza (the name was irresistable, though the building didn’t inspire confidence), where we enjoyed something unique in our experience: a cashew and mushroom pizza. It was pretty good, too, though the mushrooms were lost to the other flavors. My only complaint was that we were no longer in California, and so there were a lot of people smoking in the bar and other part of the restaurant — but I guess that’s what happens when you leave California. Recommended.

I would have liked to spend a little time looking around in Quartzsite — it looked like there was a permanent flea market in progress alongside the main road, with booths selling meteorites, books, and more, but we were on a mission. So we got back onto I-10, where we were delighted that the traffic was light, even through Phoenix, and we reached Tucson about 5:30 (Mountain Time), just 3-and-a-half hours after leaving Quartzsite. I suspect doing the math would result in a number that the Arizona Highway Patrol would officially disapprove, but we were being passed much more often than we were doing the passing. We drove to the Hilton, our home base for the next few days, and checked in. Diane helped Jeff with his lines for Tartuffe while I picked up dinner from New Delhi Palace. As soon as I arrived, one sniff told me that I’d made a mistake by ordering take-out — we should have eaten there, instead, to get the food at its freshest. But I was committed, so I brought it back to the hotel, where we all enjoyed a very pleasant meal (they were quite helpful and gave me dishes and utensils, since, of course, we didn’t have any!). Again, recommended.

And then we visited Diane’s dad and his SO, which was, of course, the main purpose of the trip.

Radio Hanukkah continued to be enjoyable, by the way; we especially liked the Debbie Friedman Hour…errr, Miriam’s Tent. The lighting of the National Menorah was, umm, interesting — I hadn’t expected it to be an all-Chabad operation. And, as we drove back to the hotel tonight, we enjoyed The 2000 Year-Old Man, which I don’t think Jeff had ever heard before in its pure form (though he’d seen the Simpsons version).

A much better Palm Desert dining experience

Last year, we stayed at the Palm Desert Embassy Suites on our way back home from Tucson. We’re here again, this time on our way to Tucson (let no one claim that we’re in a rut!), but fortunately, we did much better for dinner this time than last.

We dined at No-Da-Te, chosen by the scientific method of taking the first Asian restaurant we saw while walking down El Paseo. The salad, miso soup, and sashimi were excellent; the chicken teriyaki was only OK. I’d go back, but only for the fish.

Earlier today, we’d eaten at the Mountain Crossing Restaurant in Tehachapi; it was a fairly typical coffee shop — the people were very friendly, the food was OK (if a bit greasy). We were in Tehachapi because we decided to avoid the Grapevine — instead, we got off I-5 at SR 58 and took it all the way to SR 14, which brought us down to SR 138, which eventually met I-15, then I-215, and finally I-10. The way we went was 10 miles longer than the obvious route over the Grapevine, but most of it was also more relaxing. And, thanks to the miracle of XM, we had things to listen to the whole way, mostly Radio Hanukkah (I especially enjoyed the “Lights of Broadway” this morning), even though we were on the wrong side of the mountains for LA stations much of the time.

Wine with Dinner

Every so often, I look at the wines featured on the endcaps at Lunardi’s. Most of them, of course, are Chardonnay, and therefore of no interest to us, but sometimes they have something which meets two important criteria:

  • It looks interesting
  • It’s being sold at a substantial discount to claimed retail

On Sunday, I found a couple of wines which met those criteria, though we’ve only drunk one so far — the 2002 Clos LaChance Central Coast Syrah. They wanted $8.99 for it, instead of a retail of $16.99 (or the winery’s suggested $18). It’s well worth the $8.99, so we bought a couple of more bottles, and might pick up more if they’re still in stock when we next visit.

Tinhorn Creek Pinot Noir

It’s been a long time since I’ve written up a wine, but tonight’s was worth remembering. It’s Tinhorn Creek 2003 Pinot Noir, which I picked up at the Calgary Airport last week. I’d had the 2004 at dinner at the Fairmont in Banff Springs, and really enjoyed it; the 2003 is just as good. And for $17 versus $48 at the Fairmont (both in Canadian dollars), it’s quite the value!

I suspect that it’ll be difficult to get this wine here in the US; I guess we’ll have to take a trip to the Okanagan Valley again….


I’m writing this entry from the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, site of CSCW 2006, the annual ACM-sponsored conference on Computer-Supported Collaborative Work. My trip here yesterday was interesting and complicated (of the 13 hours I spent en route, only 2.5 hours was in the air — I waited almost that long in the Calgary Airport for my colleagues from New York to arrive); we had hoped to drive up in daylight, but that was not the case. But even the small bits of the mountains I could see in the moonlight were spectacular.

This morning dawned too early, and I spent almost the entire day in a workshop on Trust in the Online Environment. But the view out every window here is wonderful — sadly, my camera can’t do it justice, but here’s a small sample. This is what I can see from the hotel room:

The workshop itself was very interesting, and I am hopeful that something useful (and publishable) will result.

After the workshop, we adjourned to one of the many restaurants here in the hotel, Castello, which appeared to have reasonable prices. Somehow, my bill ran to an unreasonable number, but I enjoyed myself nonetheless. We had a Canadian wine, Tinhorn Creek 2004 Pinot Noir, which was pleasant enough that we ordered an additional bottle (there were six of us sharing it, so that’s not unreasonable), and which I would gladly have again, though preferably without the 200% hotel markup.

Tomorrow, I hope to do a little geocaching; I also need to work on my report on what I did this year at work. *sigh*

And then the conference begins for me again on Monday.

Work is the curse of the blogging class

I barely got out of my chair today at work; I was nearly heads-down designing and coding enhancements for an upcoming project.  I didn’t even check my e-mail from noon till 5, which is almost unheard of.

But now I’m home, and the laptop is safely hidden away in my briefcase, at least until Sunday.  Good thing I have other computers.

Jeff’s at a party in Morgan Hill, and since he doesn’t drive yet, we had to schlep him.  So Diane and I took advantage of that to go to Rosy’s at the Beach, where she had Pepper-encrusted Salmon and I had Salmon Tacos.  We both enjoyed our meals; I’d go back cheerfully (in fact, we will be going back in a week and a half for my 30th service anniversary lunch, though that meal will probably be without beer or wine).

A bright, shiny new Worldcon

The con started today with a somewhat unusual opening ceremony — the first episode of Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, in tribute to the late Frankie Thomas, followed by the usual silliness. Jeff missed it, since he and his friend were at Disneyland, where I think he might have had enough Disney for this trip. I say might have, rather than had, because at a party this evening, he showed interest when he heard that some other teens were going to Disney tomorrow — but only some interest.

We deviated from our Downtown Disney meal plan; breakfast was at Captain Kidd’s again; lunch was at California Pizza Place, which is a small pizza restaurant in a strip mall of small restaurants at the corner of Katella and Harbor, and was everything one would expect of a restaurant at that location (cheap, non-toxic, and fast); dinner was at the Grand China Restaurant on Chapman, which was an OK but not at all distinguished Chinese restaurant a mile or so away from here. The con restaurant guide is long on listings but short on judgements, so we’re on our own.

We spent a while in the huckster room/exhibit area after lunch, meeting friends, visiting the bid tables, and wandering. At one point, I found myself explaining the change in the Worldcon bid leadtime from two years to three and then back to two — if I’m not careful, I may find myself at the Business Meeting one of these days. But that wasn’t a danger today; instead, we went to “James T. Kirk: Threat or Menace”, which was enjoyable but deviated from the topic (and a good thing it did).
Here’s tonight’s party report:

Google party: lots of schwag, but the shiny Google pins were gone before we got there. They’d clearly raided the local Trader Joe’s, going for the dark chocolate as well as other goodies. They claimed to be interviewing, but everyone was welcome — and all attendees get free searches on Google.

Hollister in 2008: This was the bid party to hit, if for no other reason than my name on the wall of fame. Lots of Casa de Fruta goodies, not enough space for all the people.

KC in 2009: If you were hungry, this was the place — smoked meat and KC BBQ sauces, plus other goodies (Trader Joe’s struck again, too).

Denver in 2008: A nice selection of Colorado beers (after a very enjoyable High Tea during the afternoon), plenty of other goodies (including a chocolate fountain and ice cream floats), and the right date for Worldcon 2008. Recommended.

Chicago in 2008: Hot dogs, hotel info, and a letter from Da Mayor.

Columbus in 2008: Sam Adams, a sheet cake, good conversation, and a letter from the mayor.

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I remember when it was shiny and new

LA Con IV starts Wednesday ; we drove down today so that we could play a little bit at Disneyland…err, the Anaheim Resort Area. The drive down was uneventful and quick — well, until we got to Magic Mountain; then the signs said “big traffic jam I5 at Lankershim”, so we switched to 101, where traffic bogged down until we rejoined I5 south of downtown. I don’t know if we actually saved any time or not, but I felt as though I were taking control of the situation, so I guess it was a good thing to do.

At any rate, we arrived at the Anaheim Hilton about 4:30, which was pretty good time for us (as usual, we stopped at Harris Ranch for lunch, which always takes a while) and got checked in. We’d stayed here before in 1984 for LA Con II — that was very soon after the hotel had opened, and they weren’t quite ready for a large convention; I remember, with no fondness, opening our room only to find that there were other people already in residence! That wasn’t a problem this time — both rooms were just fine.

But we are already waiting for elevators…and this is days before the con actually opens. I’d better go find the stairs!

After checking in, we went to Disney Universe; Jeff and his friend have three-day tickets, so they went into the Magic Kingdom. Diane and I decided one day of the parks would be enough, so we wandered to Downtown Disney for dinner (we’d also hoped to cache, but all of the caches here are multi-caches, and I hadn’t downloaded all the coordinates). We had a pleasant dinner at Catal Uva Bar and Cafe; they offered 25% off on bottles, including half-bottles, so we split a half of La Creme Pinot Noir, which was quite tasty, as was the food (though I probably should have gotten something more substantial than a compressed salad).

Then we wandered a bit and returned; the boys just came back from their exciting evening, and now Jeff wants to steal the computer so he can blog. I am a bad influence….

Comfort food

Today started early; Diane had an MRI at 7:45 (results: negative), so we got up early, which worked out well for me, since I had a telecon starting at 6am. Well, it would have worked out a lot better if I’d slept last night, but I made the mistake of fiddling with a project until nearly 11, and my mind was trying to finish the job all night.

So I wasn’t at my brightest this morning, and sitting on the phone for two-and-a-half hours, then rushing to work and getting back on for another two hours didn’t improve my mood any. (I keep reminding myself that I could be in Somers — but even that wasn’t enough to cheer me up today!)

We divided into smaller teams at 11:15 Eastern; instead of dialing my workgroup immediately, I decided to take a break and have an early lunch. Nothing at the cafeteria remotely appealed; instead, I drove to Mojo Burger for a tasty, if not terribly healthy, meal. I did eschew the free upgrade to a shake, though.

Getting out into the fresh air helped; food helped more. By the time I returned to the office, I was ready to get back on the phone for the next three hours of calls. Then I even managed to write a little code before calling it a night.

The laptop is still zipped up in the briefcase, by the way, and I can’t connect to work on this machine. Ahhh….

More, please…

While Diane and I like having wine with dinner, we’re not big drinkers; if it weren’t for Vacu Vin, we’d wind up dumping a lot of oxidized wine down the drain.

There are exceptions, though, and one of them is the Kim Crawford 2005 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc we opened yesterday, to accompany take-out from Gallo’s (a Shroom Bird, if you must know). I kept pouring refills, and the bottle nearly vanished before I stopped — good thing we didn’t have to go anywhere last night, and that Diane was feeling less dizzy! Definitely a winner!

Dinner at Restaurant James Randall

One of Jeff’s friends has just returned from a summer in Israel, Belgium, and France, and he invited Jeff over for what I thought was going to be the afternoon, but turned into an overnight. So Diane and I were on our own for dinner after going to services this evening.

We decided to try a new restaurant in Los Gatos, Restaurant James Randall. It’s in a small space where a croissant restaurant used to be; it’s definitely a step up in sophistication and in price.

As it happens, we chose the same main dishes as the reviewer in Metro; Diane had the halibut, which she enjoyed, and I had the duck. I don’t often have duck, so I don’t really have my tastebuds calibrated to give a good comparison, but this was tasty and not greasy — I liked it, though I’d probably go with something else on a return visit. The wines were good (I wish I’d written down what we got), and we got away with a two-figure bill — but we did skip dessert in favor of gelato at Dolce Spazio on the way back to the car.

Some of the diners were clearly regulars; I don’t think we’re likely to reach that point, but I’d definitely be willing to go back.

Maybe the tartar sauce would have been a good idea

I decided to make something different for dinner tonight, and looked to Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals 2 for a recipe, and chose her “Grilled Halibut Sandwiches with zesty tartar sauce”. But I decided not to make them as sandwiches. And none of us particularly like tartar sauce, so I omitted that, too. And we’re not big asparagus fans, so I didn’t make the asparagus pasta salad, either.

In other words, I made grilled halibut with seasoning and lemon butter, accompanied with rice and salad.

It wasn’t a hit. Jeff didn’t eat most of the fish (and it was $19/pound!!), and neither Diane nor I thought it was particularly worth repeating. The fish itself was pretty bland, except for the surface, which was probably over-seasoned a bit. The lemon butter helped, but lemon butter does not a meal make.

Oh, well…at least we have plenty of chocolate in the house for later.

Into every trip, a little rain must fall

I was hoping the rain last night had met our quota for this trip, but that was not to be. This morning was very wet — though I can’t really complain, since none of us found puddles or got splashed. We went back to Open City for breakfast, then took the Metro back to touristland. We got Capitol tour tickets for mid-afternoon, then went back to the Botanic Garden to dry off and look around — the Botanic Garden was probably the tourism find of the trip for us.

We decided to go to Ollie’s Trolley for lunch (Metro daypasses are a mixed blessing, I guess). The Ollieburgers weren’t as good as either Diane or I remembered them as having been when we had them at Lums in Florida, but they were OK — and the line was short. Unfortunately, the restaurant lost its water supply while we were eating, so we had to go across the street to Barnes and Noble to find working bathrooms.

Then we returned to Capitol Hill and visited the Supreme Court. There had been long lines there earlier in the morning because the Justices were hearing oral arguments, but there wasn’t an afternoon session, so we didn’t have to wait. We looked around and stayed for a courtroom lecture at 1:30 — while we were waiting in line, we saw some friends from Shir Hadash, much to everyone’s surprise. The lecture was interesting; I do wish we’d been able to sit closer to the front so we could have seen the friezes on all four sides of the courtroom.

The rain stopped while we were in the Supreme Court, which made it far more pleasant to walk over to the Capitol for our tour. We hadn’t made arrangements in advance for a staff-led tour or gallery passes, so we just did the “regular” tour; it was good, though it was difficult to hear the guide at times. Next time, I’ll plan farther ahead (it’s not as though we didn’t know we were coming to Washington months ago!).

Jeff wanted to go back to Air and Space; Diane and I didn’t. So we dropped him off and wandered over to the Hirshhorn to be bewildered by some of the art (at least I was). I like some modern art. But there’s a lot where I wonder why I’m not included in the joke, because it can’t be real — and the Hirshhorn had more than its share of that type. Canvasses in shades of white just don’t do it for me, I’m afraid.

We had less than an hour before the museum closed, which was actually enough for me; then we rejoined Jeff and did two geocaches on our way back to the Metro. We got off at Dupont Circle again, and this time ended up at Thaiphoon, which we enjoyed. Jeff went for the fully-spiced version of Drunken Noodles and seemed to like it (and, of course, he couldn’t cut the spice with a beer!).

After dinner, we stopped at a cache around the corner from the restaurant, then stopped at Larry’s Ice Cream (good, but the portions were pretty small for the price, though probably adequate for the tenth day of a vacation). Before returning to the Metro and our hotel, we found one last cache for the evening.

Tomorrow, we only have a few hours in DC before we have to head for the airport. I had originally thought about taking Jeff to see Georgetown University, but their tour schedule doesn’t quite fit our flight plans, so we’ll do something else instead. There’s at least one cache at the National Zoo….

I’m not wild about Harry’s

It’s been a long day of tourism, geocaching, and eating.

We started the day in good form, having breakfast at Open City (since their website is only one image, check out their parent’s site instead). We were lucky enough to get a table immediately — the line kept building, and by the time we passed them again on our way to the Metro, there were many many people waiting.

After breakfast, we went back to the hotel to pick up our gear (camera, Palm, and GPS receiver) so we’d be ready for anything. Jeff had plotted out our route; we grabbed day passes and set out for our first stop, the Supreme Court. Since it was Sunday, it wasn’t open — but the outside was impressive. From there, we made a quick detour to the Library of Congress to pick up our first cache of the day; luckily, it was on the outside, since the Library was closed, too.

Then we walked over to the Capitol, which was, of course, closed — and unlike the other two buildings, we couldn’t just walk up the stairs any more. Technically speaking, I guess that meant we didn’t quite get to the virtual cache there, but the owner acknowledged the problems in the cache entry, so we logged it anyway.

Our third cache was at a place we wouldn’t have otherwise visited — and it was well-hidden by greenery, too.

By this time, we were starting to get hungry; we didn’t want to brave the crowds at the eateries at the Smithsonian, and we’d found what looked like a good place to eat during our wanderings yesterday: Ollie’s Trolley. Both Diane and I have fond memories of the Ollieburger from Lums, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity — so, after a brief stop to pick up one more cache (and find restrooms), we took the Metro to Metro Center and walked down to the Trolley.

It was closed. There was only one open restaurant visible, also part of the Hotel Harrington: Harry’s Pub. It didn’t look impressive, but we were hungry, so we decided to give it a try. Not a good decision. I ordered a chicken sandwich without mayo — when it came, not only was it slathered with mayo, but they’d given me an extra container of mayo on the side. Jeff ordered spaghetti without meatballs — he got four. Diane’s order came out OK, but her Diet Coke was flat. And when the bill came, they’d charged $13.75 for the spaghetti, which was supposed to cost $9.75 (still outrageous). After I pointed out that problem and the waitress recomputed the bill, the final total was $10 less than the first time around (but this time, I’d checked the math and it was correct). I decided to pay with cash so they couldn’t screw around with my credit card after I left. I still want to hit Ollie’s Trolley tomorrow, but it’ll be with misgivings.

After lunch, we walked over to Ford’s Theater for yet another cache. This one was slightly tricky, requiring some effort to find the right answers. We also toured The House Where Lincoln Died before returning to the Mall.

Diane wanted to visit the Cezanne exhibit at the National Gallery of Art, but when we emerged from the Metro, I discovered we were mere feet from one more cache, so we logged it (with a detour to Starbucks to get the taste of Harry’s out of our mouths). Then we toured the Cezanne exhibit (no lines!) and a bit more of the Gallery before giving Jeff his chance at Air and Space. We stayed there till they closed the place, then walked to the National Archives and toured the exhibits downstairs before paying our respects to the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights — that kept us busy until the Archives closed at 7.

We finished the evening with dinner at Levante’s, which was quite tasty (I had lamb pide, Diane had spinach pie, and Jeff had chicken skewers) — between the entrees and the delicious bread, we were too full for dessert (and they didn’t have anything very chocolaty on the menu anyway). The rain, which was originally predicted for 3pm, started while we were eating, so we dashed back to the Metro instead of walking back to the hotel.

Tomorrow should be another busy day; Jeff wants to go into the Capitol and Washington Monument. I wonder how the lines will be on Easter Monday?

Dig we must!

That was Con Ed’s motto when I was young, at least according to Mad Magazine (and if you can’t trust Mad Magazine, who can you trust?). And that was how we spent today — digging through Diane’s Dad’s papers and other things. Jeff spent most of the evening on shredder duty (he filled up two bags full, but there’s lots more to do tomorrow), while Diane and I sorted stuff and decided what to eliminate and where to send what survived.

We also enjoyed talking to the people who are renting the house — and they were most gracious hosts, feeding us lunch and dinner (and I’m sure that they would have given us breakfast if we hadn’t breakfast at the Rockville Diner before coming over; we’re going to try somewhere else tomorrow. While the food at the diner was OK, they burned the coffee, which is inexcusable), as well as helping us with the work (and also having gotten rid of a lot of stuff over the past few months, saving only things which looked possibly valuable or interesting).

In exchange, we got them interested in The Next Food Network Star, which we tuned into as a result of reading a story in the Murky Nooz, and which hooked us quickly. Next week’s episode is a double and leads directly to the voting — it should be interesting.

But that’s next week; tomorrow, we have more digging to do, as well as packing and shipping (Diane’s Dad thought he got rid of all of this stuff when he moved, but we’ve got a boxful for him!). I hope we can finish up tomorrow so that we aren’t stressed out Tuesday before our next flight; fortunately, Diane’s brother is going to be here in the next month or so and he can deal with what we can’t (we’re leaving all of the electronics for him to pick through, for example).

We were disappointed in one aspect of the evening, though — Ralph’s was closed by the time we got there. Fortunately, the International Delight Cafe was just across the street (in fact, we’d parked in front of it). They serve food, but at 10:30pm, everyone in the joint was looking for dessert — including us. And with 80 flavors of gelato or sorbetto, the only problem was choosing. Jeff, of course, went for chocolate, while Diane and I were slightly more adventurous (she had Koko Moka Fudge; I had that with Bavarian Mint). The ice cream was good, if a little on the gummy side; I’d go back cheerfully (though I’ll probably hit Ralph’s again tomorrow — it’s easy to find ice cream at home, but Italian ices are only available here as far as I can tell).

MIT does something tasty

As a Rensselaer graduate, I really hate to point at an event at MIT, but in the spirit of Purim, I’ll make an exception for the 3rd annual Face Off on Latkes Versus Hamantaschen (info courtesy of Diane Reese).

I’m not sure which I prefer, though I must admit I really enjoyed the hamentaschen we had during our most recent Shir Hadash book group meeting (and they were baked by 3rd graders).

On the other hand, I know the holiday food I don’t enjoy, and it’s just around the corner: matzo. Definitely the bread of affliction….