Macchiato

Went to Blue Bottle for a macchiato just now. It was twice as expensive, took five times as long, and tasted about half as good as pretty much any of the macchiatos I had in Italy.

This experience was not unlike my first pour-over of my favorite Tesora beans when I got home last week. I’ll readjust to San Francisco’s expensive not-as-good-as-in-Italy-but-still-some-of-the-best-in-North-America coffee soon.

Alameda Crimson Tide

I was going to say another year, another Vegas, but I didn’t go to Vegas last year because of Horrible Stomach Bug.

Because I did get to go to Vegas this year, I wasn’t too annoyed when I started feeling sick with Icky Cold shortly after landing. Icky Cold is Icky, but at least I was in Vegas!

Meal 1: Bachi Burger

Touched down, got rental car, drove to Bachi Burger. Bone marrow jelly, foie gras, and wagyu, GIT IN MAH BELLAY!

Meal 2: Naked Fish

A few hours later, my coworker messaged me on while we were in the car looking for a place to eat, and gave us a great recommendation for dinner: Naked Fish. Jalapeño yellowtail sashimi and miso grilled sea bass, YES.

Game 1: Phoenix Mid-Ice Crisis

Played our first game at 10:20 on Thursday night. It felt like a great matchup. We got a couple goals off mayhem in front of the other team’s net and came away with a victory. Final score: 2-0.

Meal 3: Ichiza

Ichiza, a Las Vegas tournament staple. We came here after our game, so I guess technically we came on Friday. “What did you eat there?” people would ask later in the weekend. “EVERYTHING.”

Meal 4: Monta Ramen

After taking photos at April’s Friday late morning game, we headed over to Monta Ramen for pork belly rice and gyoza and, of course, ramen. Then we walked across the parking lot for Snowflake. Cookie butter snow, AGL AGL AGL…

Game 2: Los Angeles Bad Kitty

Ooh, this was a close game. I totally don’t remember what happened now because I’m writing this 5 days late, but it was a 1 goal game the entire time.

I do remember making a bad pass, chasing down the skater who picked the puck off, accidentally tripping her, saying sorry as she fell, stopping to see if she was okay, realizing I had to go touch the puck to stop the play, skating over to touch the puck, and skating back to ask if she was okay. Because I’m not one of those meanie face D’s.

Final score: 3-2.

Meal 5: Other Mama

Another post-game tasty meal, this time at Other Mama. There was raw fish and raw beef and more raw fish and maybe even some cooked stuff. Great food and great company, partially subsidized by some guy who rear ended one of our cars earlier in the day. Thanks guy!

Game 3: Juneau Narwhals

The Alaskans! We played with a few of them in Vacaville this year, and it was good to see them again. We did better than we expected; this team looked amazing when we watched them Thursday night. Not sure what happened. Vegas, probably.

Final score: 5-1.

Meal 6: Flock & Fowl

Chinese fusion? I had some crazy tasty flavored jook that was made with… chicken fat? Or just really really good broth. Their chicken was amazing too, which is something you never hear me say. And it wasn’t fried. WAO.

Game 4: Vail Vixen

We didn’t need to win this game to make the championship, and the team we played hadn’t won a game yet. So even though we lost, I didn’t mind. I was happy for the other team, because they played well, and it’s nice to go out on a good game. I’m sure some other documentation worthy stuff happened, but I don’t remember, which I also don’t mind, because if I could pick only one thing to remember, it’s that I came away from the game happy.

Final score: 2-3.

Wedding!!!

Lucinda and I did a costume change at the rink and zipped on over to Commonwealth for an Alaskans who now live in North Carolina wedding. Wedding! It was sweet and cute and fun and a Very Nice Celebration. I marveled at how hockey made that night possible, in so many ways. And yes, I cried.

Championship: Phoenix Mid-Ice Crisis

It’s interesting how two games between the same two teams can have such different outcomes. They played a little better, we played a little worse. I think? In any case, the other team played a great game and came away with the championship: a mini Stanley Cup! They earned it; they played a great tournament, rebounding from their game 1 loss to win every subsequent game.

Final score: 0-4.

Here’s my team after the final buzzer. This pretty much sums us up:

For Arthur. Thanks April for capturing the moment.

Meal 7: Gangnam Asian BBQ Dining

Squeezed one last meal in before heading back to the airport. It was a fun, tasty weekend. :)

Offally Tasty

Went to Cockscomb last night to experience their Wood Oven Roasted Pig’s Head. It was everything I had imagined and more.

We also got to experience an unexpected treat: Pork Skin Spaghetti. It was nothing I had ever imagined and more amazing than even the Pig’s Head.

At dinner I was reminded of the pasta tasting menu Aaron and I had at Flour + Water a few weeks ago. Not because there was any pasta, but because the thing I enjoy about both restaurants is their creativity in the medium they specialize in: Flour + Water for pasta and Chris Cosentino for offal meats.

This, oddly, leads me down a train of thought completely unrelated to food. In a conversation with our company trainer Friday, we talked about how she was conducting a StrengthsFinder session for one of our teams. I asked if the goal was to help people utilize their strengths for the team, or to identify areas where individuals could improve. This was an unsurprising question from me, as I’m always working to get better at things I’m bad at. But her answer was quite the opposite: Sometimes it’s better to spend your energy getting really good at the things you’re naturally good at, instead of on things that don’t come easily to you.

My taste buds agree.

Chicago

Last week…

Viv: I’ll be out Monday Tuesday next week.
Coworker: Where are you going?
Viv: Chicago.
Coworker: I heard there was a really good restaurant there… Alinea?
Viv: That’s why I’m going. :)

After years of talking about going to Chicago but not wanting to go if we weren’t also going to go to Alinea, I finally got over the reservation hurdle to make it happen, which involved stalking their reservation site for weeks until the dates we wanted became available.

Alinea tickets purchased. Airfare and hotel were a cinch after that.

Saturday: Arrive. Eat Donuts.

Touched down at O’Hare around 9 PM. To the L! As we rode toward downtown Aaron pointed out that we were on the Blue Line. “Like the pizza.” The Chicago deep dish pizza we get in California. Ohh…

“I’m hungry,” I said as we continued toward downtown. Pulled out my phone and Yelped us some donuts. Specifically, I Yelped us some Ice Cream Donut Sandwiches from Firecakes.

Sunday SUNDAY Sunday!

Started off the day with a visit to Intelligentsia Coffee. Their latte ain’t no Blue Bottle.

From there, we headed for the river, where Aaron had scheduled us a Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise. It wasn’t exactly a cruise, but it was a fantastically informative boat tour. Our docent Lindy clearly loves what she does.

Starting the trip with an architecture tour was a great idea. I appreciated the buildings around me that much more the rest of the trip.

So many spires, though. Not a fan of spires.

After we got off the boat we headed for Maggie Daley Park. Public climbing walls and a winter ice skating track. What a beautiful public recreation space.

Next, across the pedestrian bridge to Millennium Park. Lots of neat-o sculptures. And, of course…

The Bean. Check.

Bean Strut

Hungry! We hopped on the Red Line for some Chicago Dogs at Murphy’s Red Hots. (Yum!) We were joined by a ton of Cubs fans on the train. Turns out there was a game that afternoon, and we were lunching just a short walk away…

Wrigley Field. Check. I even got to meet the mascot!

Me & Clark

After that, a visit to the top of the John Hancock Center. 100 stories! Lots of rooftop pools across the city. I wonder if they turn them into skating rinks in the winter.

Back down to street level. Hungry! Pulled out my phone again and Yelped us another tasty donut shop: Do-Rite Donuts! The location we went to served a highly rated fried chicken sandwich as well, and was willing to serve it to us with a donut bun. Unfortunately, we had to save our stomachs for The Main Event later that evening.

Between donuts and our hotel, a slow stroll around the Tribune Tower, something of a mini tour around the world.

Antarctica. I touched it.

Piece of Antarctica

Alinea

Spiffied up a bit at the hotel, then headed out again for an evening at Alinea, the restaurant that’s “not a restaurant”.

It’s weird to see that on their website, but it’s true. Alinea was more experience than restaurant.

They have thought through every detail from the moment you open the door to the moment you exit. They’re not just about food. They’re about the surroundings, the interactions, piquing your curiosity, delivering surprises. It’s pricey and formal, yet friendly and relaxing.

And the food. They can somehow distill entire dishes’ worth of flavor into bite sized morsels. We ate a strawberry that tasted like a tomato and a tomato that tasted like a strawberry. There was food we couldn’t recognize as such alongside entirely natural, whole items. Who knew you could eat a barnacle?

Was it worth the cost? Was it worth the trip? Absolutely.

Hey, remember that time I sang TACOCAT at a Michelin 3 star restaurant?

Al’s #1 Italian Beef

Even though there is an Al’s Beef in San Jose, we made the effort to visit the original location. Italian beef, sweet and hot peppers, dipped.

I’ve never had cow flesh melt in my mouth like that before. I may never be able to eat an Italian beef from anywhere else ever again.

MSI, a.k.a. Nerd Paradise

Aaron had come across something mentioning MSI the day before. Turns out it’s the Museum of Science and Industry. We paid it a visit, and holy moly, I may never be able to visit a science museum anywhere else ever again.

Just kidding. But MSI is serious Nerd Paradise. A++++++++++!!!!! WOULD GO AGAIN!!!

MSI

That is a real 727 mounted inside the museum.

Divvy

As it turns out, there’s a trail that runs along Lake Michigan from MSI back to the downtown area. It was a beautiful afternoon so we rode Divvys back. Bikeshare FTW!

Vivvy on a Divvy

We rode that trail all the way to Buckingham Fountain. Is big!

Had our requisite deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s for dinner. Too much cheese, not enough sauce. They were like the North Beach Pizza of Chicago. That, and their greeter seemed to hate interacting with people. Meh.

I needed a walk after all that cheese, so we hoofed it back for the night view from the top of the John Hancock. Totally different experience, and totally worth going twice to compare.

Shot from a Building

It blows my mind that this is a picture from a building, not a plane.

Moar Donuts

As we got off the Green Line for lunch at Blackbird Tuesday, I spotted a mini billboard for DAM GOOD DONUTS. As I am on a donut kick these days, I immediately headed over there. This led us to the Chicago French Market, a large indoor palace of noms.

Blackbird was pretty good. Aaron said afterward that they have a Michelin star. Accidental star collection, we fancy!

After lunch, we visited Chinatown, because I’ve seen every other big city Chinatown and I wanted to compare. Chicago’s is small and boring.

Library Detour

We still had a couple hours left, and decided to check out the view from the Sears (now Willis) Tower. Got off the L and WHOA WHAT IS THIS GIANT BUILDING? The Chicago Public Library. My inner nerd couldn’t resist. And boy was I glad we went inside. What a beautiful building inside and out, with so many resources for the public.

I insisted on visiting every floor. Totally worth it when we reached the top.

Totally more randomly awesome than visiting another tower.

After that, it was off to the airport. I reflected on our jam packed three days on the Blue Line ride back to O’Hare. There were a few things that jumped out at me during my stay there.

No Guns

Saw a bunch of these all over store entrances:

The first one I saw made me wonder if Chicago was a place where people randomly burst into stores and shoot things up. But why would a little sticker prevent them from doing that? Looked it up after I got home. Turns out it has to do with concealed carry legislation. If you don’t want licensed concealed carry folks coming into your establishment with their firearms, you can legally tell them not to do so with one of these stickers. Looks terrible, bad idea, weirds out tourists, there’s got to be a better way.

Flag

Before this trip, I never even realized that cities had flags. Chicago has a really cool one. I’m particularly fond of the skyline version:

Getting Around

The L gets it done! Aside from MSI and Al’s #1 Italian Beef, we were able access everything we needed by L.

Melting Pot

I can’t quite put my finger on this, or really find a good way to describe it, but I felt like in Chicago it didn’t matter what race you were. People went to work, went about their days, did their thing. No one really stood out one way or another. It’s interesting to me that it doesn’t feel that way in the SF Bay Area. Compared to Chicago, it feels like there is a huge divide in class and culture by race here. Why is that? I don’t like it.

Back to Chicago. I like the place! Would eat, I mean, visit, again!

Bostoney Things

Had lunch today at Wahlburgers. Marky Mark wasn’t there. I want my money back.

My sister mentioned Free Brady in our family chat this evening, which caused my parents to go off on yet another anti-Deflategate tirade. They were my Facebook Boston feed come to life. No one outside of Boston seems to care, but everyone* from Boston seems to think the rest of the nation is out to get them.

Later in the evening, Dad tried to convince me that Tom Brady was a nice guy, and that instead of disliking him I should be more neutral. Except that I never said anything about disliking him. I’m indifferent, I told him, which is as neutral as I can be. I don’t think he believed me.

Sportsball team fanning**, I don’t get it. (Wait, but Mom isn’t even a fan!)

* It’s not fair to my Boston peeps who don’t care about this for me to use that word without some sort of qualifier, so here’s your qualifier.

** Yes, I do sportsball fan, but not for teams. (Unless you’re talking about always rooting against USC, which I do but can’t explain.) I choose specific athletes to fan about based on their skill and character, regardless of team.

Cheese 101

Last last Friday, I attended a Cheese 101 class at The Cheese School.

Upon entering the classroom, we were each presented with a cheese wheel.

No, not this.

Or this.

This:

Cheese 101 Plate

We ate our way clockwise from 12 o’clock, going from mild to sharp/pungent, with instruction and discussion along the way. Each cheese was evaluated on five points: rind, texture, milk type, age, flavor/aroma.

I took copious notes. Here’s a summary:

Don’t eat your cheese straight out of the fridge. Let it sit for an hour or two before serving.

Plastic wrap does nothing to keep your cheese fresh. Use Tupperware.

Add bacteria to make cheese. Add bacteria to make rind, but not always, as you can go with no special rind treatment, or wax. Finally, you can add cheese mites. Yum!

Washed rind” doesn’t mean they’re cleaning it off, it means they’re adding salt and bacteria and booze.

Sheep’s milk is full of fat and protein. Sheep’s milk cheese, heck yeah!

That gooey stuff between your soft cheese and its rind is the cream line. On some cheeses it’s my favorite part. We should call it the dream line.

Those crunchy crystals in sharp cheeses are tyrosine deposits.

For harder cheeses, we gave the cheese a sniff, broke it apart, and sniffed again before tasting. I’m pretty sure that exercise was to keep me from inhaling my entire cheese plate in one go.

The food purist in me finally got over my need to separate everything and learned to enjoy pairing (some) cheese with fruit.

I was initially horrified by the blue cheese on my plate. It was so blue it had pockets of fuzz. But when I tasted it, it was surprisingly palatable. I ate the whole thing. That was the most blue cheese I’ve ever consumed in one sitting.

The Cheese School also offers cheese making classes. Totally gonna take one.

Had this conversation with friends later that weekend:

Friend: What do you call a “cheese sommelier”?
Me: A cheesemonger.

They were incredulous.

Work Kitchen

One:

Walk into work kitchen. Coworker is making an Nespresso. Once complete, she pours the shot into a cup of Nutella ice cream she just bought from the nitrogen ice cream place down the street.

Two:

Walk into work kitchen. Coworker declares, “It’s time for ice cream!” and hands me a Reese’s Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cup Bar.

Three:

Walk into work kitchen. I do this a lot. Even when there is no ice cream.

Bulletproof Coffee

After reading about this Bulletproof Coffee thing over and over again for week and weeks… and weeks, I finally got off my butt to make it. Picked up some fresh Bella Donovan beans from Blue Bottle, fancy grass-fed German butter, and organic virgin coconut oil. (Why do they call it oil if it’s not at room temperature?)

I wanted something with some oomph, so I opted for a 2 minute inverted Aeropress brew. I also didn’t want cold coffee after the butter and blending, so I heated the water to 205°F.

As I brewed the coffee I looked at the fat in the blender cup. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be consuming that on its own, in one shot.

Bulletproof?

When the 2 minutes were up I pressed and blended. It came out looking like a latte.

I took a sip. Not bad. It had a hint of coconut to it. Creamy, not unlike my usual coffee with heavy whipping cream. My lips were pleased; every sip felt like a fresh coat of lip balm.

But the real test would be how it made me feel. Would it Supercharge My Body and Upgrade My Brain? I waited.

I had expected not to feel hungry for a bit, but I wanted food after about half an hour. What about those 228 fat calories I just consumed?!

One hour later, I was straight up ravenous. I ate to stave off a hunger headache.

That was a lot of work for not a lot of benefit. Tomorrow I’ll go back to my beloved heavy whipping cream.

Still curious? Don’t want to stockpile fancy fat? Come over and I’ll make you a cup.

Lazy Bear Haikus

Aaron and I had dinner at Lazy Bear tonight. Our menu came in the form of a little notebook with a pencil, so I documented each course in haiku.

Everything we ate was announced and described in detail. I listened intently and used a lot of what they said in my haikus.

Snacks
Whipped Scrambled Eggs: Bacon, Maple, Hot Sauce
Shigoku Oyster: Grapefruit Kosho
King Salmon: Pickled Green Strawberry
Foie Gras: Kumquat, Fennel, Brown Butter Brioche
Artichoke Dip: Aged Cheddar, Artichoke Chips

trawler caught salmon
delightfully fresh oyster
I loved the seafood?!!

Grilled Seaweed Foccacia
Cultured Butter

two year old butter
“really fucking delicious”
ocean in my bread

Sweet Pea Custard
Cured Steelhead Roe, Pea Shell-Mint Sauce, Spring Onion

peas and shoots and leaves
spring has sprung. flowers! eat them!
a great time to chef

Ham & Onion Broth
Egg Yolk, Apple, Scallion

egg yolk fudge with ham
fat all over everything.
apple. trotter. slurp.

Halibut
Lettuces, Asparagus, Lemon Purée, Brown Butter Hollandaise, Nasturium

Alaskan daily!
lovingly decorated
with flower tweezers

They have an open kitchen right next to the common seating dining area, and they encourage you to go up to see what they’re doing as well as ask questions. When I walked up for a peek I saw a guy adding petals to our dishes with tweezers.

Rabbit
Snails, Stinging Nettles, Green Garlic

basil farm for snails
stinging nettle comeuppance
meta bunny brats

Guess what? If you feed snails a basil diet, they will taste like basil. You are what you eat!

Meta bunny: Rabbit meat wrapped in rabbit belly.
Bunny brats: Mini rabbit bratwurst.

Lamb
Date, Mustards, Farro, Blood Orange, Olive, Garum

best lamb of your life
pick up the bone and caveman
fat fat fatty fat

I think the only word in this haiku that was not derived from the official description is caveman.

Rhubarb
Chamomile, Pink Peppercorn, Tarragon

rhubarb done five ways
intermezzo by Maya
tangy fizzy treat

Maya is their pastry chef, and she introduced this dish.

Oats
Lavender, Honey, Almond

caramelized honey
and a dusting of pollen
thank you local bees!

Treats

What the heck?
It’s a spicy gelée. Who
imagined this thing???

Fin

after you eat here
you’ll know how it feels to be
a Lazy Bear

Scrawled at the end of the meal on the inside of the back cover of my menu notebook.