May 31, 2010

Alice and Shawn's Wedding

Alice & Shawn (photo courtesy of Teresa Fong) I'm at that age where everyone is starting to get married. My high school friends started a long time ago, and a good number of them have kids now. But my childhood friends have taken a little longer, maybe because they're either busy getting really educated or enjoying the fun of single life. Well, this summer, that has officially changed. In June, Ben (my boyfriend when I was 3 years old!) is getting married, and the weekend before Memorial Day, Alice and Shawn tied the knot.

I've known Alice since I was seven or so. That's about twenty years. It's crazy to think of lengths of friendships in terms of lengths of relationships - at my age, a five year relationship seems long. And though we might not have a lot in common and I've spent the last ten of those years away from Louisiana, I've kept in better touch with her than anyone else from Baton Rouge. We've shared a lot of history, listened to each other's good stories and bad stories, many of them about boyfriends... shared a love of Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, and Vienna Teng. And after years of being a long-distance observer/confidante in her journey, it was really special to see her road of singlehood end at a beautiful ceremony in a city I called my home for a decade and a half. 

Mall of Louisiana

I really don't get back to Baton Rouge as often as I want to. The city has changed a lot and many of the people I knew have gone off to other places. Alice took me to the Mall of Louisiana to see how much it's expanded. There's now a Sephora in Baton Rouge! Still no Nordstrom, though. On one hand, it's great that Baton Rouge is becoming more of a "real city," but I think it comes at the expense of its character. The photo I snapped of the outside shopping area looked as sterile as a computer-modeled image. New residential developments mimic the identical townhouse hell that I hate seeing here in the Issaquah Highlands (and many other places). But one thing Baton Rouge has in its favor is a lot of  land, which means they don't need to knock down the old places as much. So I got to make my traditional trip to Mike Anderson's, still the same, to eat one of my favorite meals of stuffed crab, stuffed potato, and hush puppies.

Next year is my 10 year high school reunion (OLD!!!) so it looks like I'll finally make a trip back to Louisiana that isn't for a wedding. :) Until then, I'll be dreaming of crawfish.

Congratulations to Alice and Shawn!

My mom's meal - Crawfish 7 ways @ Mike Anderson'sPlane view somewhere near Baton Rouge

May 5, 2010

Part-time Pescetarian

After spending a refreshing weekend at a yoga retreat (that I still need to blog about), I realized that one of the things that contributed to that good feeling was what we were eating. Local, organic, vegetarian, healthy cuisine, a lot of it using dairy and gluten substitutes so people with dietary restrictions would have options. Maybe in an ideal world I'd be eating like that all the time, but through some experimentation I've figured out that any diet I impose on myself has to not only have good justification but the potential for sustainability in order for it to succeed.

I don't think I can be a vegetarian. Don't even get me started on being a vegan. It's mainly because I don't have good personal reasons for not eating meat. I only have good reasons for eating less meat. And because I'm not ethically or religiously opposed to eating meat, I end up facing one thing that makes me start eating meat again: at some point, I end up in a situation where there is a lack of acceptable choices for me to eat.

See, I really like eating. I'm willing to forego a giant portion of deep fried stuff in order to keep my arteries unclogged. But I'm not going to order something that I 1) don't like, 2) don't think is a good option, or 3) shouldn't eat just for the sake of not having meat. No vegetarian pho. No $22 corn risotto at a seafood restaurant. No large fries at McDonald's. And inevitably I will end up in those situations.

So as a reasonable personal compromise, without sacrificing the spirit of this "diet," I have decided to become a pescetarian, with the caveat that I can have up to two meals each week that contain meat, if I really need to.

This seems to be working out so far.

1) I love seafood. Long term, giving up seafood is much harder for me than giving up meat. But I don't consume that much seafood anyway (it's expensive and generally less convenient), so keeping it around as an option isn't hurting anything.

2) Seafood provides me with a good option at nice restaurants that doesn't make me feel like I'm missing out on anything. So I have salmon instead of chicken. That's actually a better option for me.

3) I do not abuse my meat meals. I'm on my third week of this, and I think I'm really only using one meat meal per week.

4) Having such a low limit for meat makes me be really picky about what I'll choose for my meat. I won't eat Burger King or Lean Cuisine, but instead, I'll have a bowl of pho.

5) Even with the seafood allowance, I eat mostly vegetarian anyway. I have been cooking a lot more and fixing myself yummy salads.

6) I do not feel the need to end this diet. With one exception - I have some meat in my freezer that I'd rather eat than let go to waste, so I might have to give myself a week off or something.

Flank steak (one of my meat meals) My yummy soba noodles!

I have made for myself:

1. Lots of salads
2. Sunomono salad with shrimp
3. Cold soba noodles (broth from scratch! I made my own dashi) with fried tofu, shitake mushrooms, green onions, and peanuts
4. Shrimp fried rice
5. Vegetable frittata
6. Vegetarian red beans & rice
7. Chana masala

I'm definitely feeling healthier in general and that I have a bit more energy. I haven't been as good with the exercise, so it's hard to measure the effects on my weight, but I don't care so much about that. So yay, fishies! Let's see if I can maintain this for a longer period of time.

April 13, 2010

Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Easter Edition

I bought my tickets for the 2010 season of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival last year, but I didn't really have a plan for who I was going with. The date was getting closer, and I decided to ask my mom if she was interested in flying out to join me. She had a little time before taking a bus with the twins and their classmates to their robotics competition, so she said yes and rushed to book her flight. It ended up being a really fun trip that perhaps we'll repeat again!

Portland Japanese GardensPortland Japanese Gardens

The funny way that weather works, Mom left 80 degree, sunny weather in Indiana and flew to the Pacific Northwest, which welcomed her with 40 degree weather with rain and wind. (Thankfully the hail stopped before she landed) I took the day off Friday and we drove to Portland, where we attempted to raise our spirits by looking for flowers in the Portland Japanese Gardens. Now, the Japanese would never let their flowers get out of control, but there were still some nice ones to look at, and the design of the gardens was nice. We also stopped by the nearby Rose Garden, but those hadn't bloomed yet. Walked around the Portland waterfront for awhile, made a long stop at Powell's, where we both walked out with books (how can you not?), and then headed to Eugene to spend the night there.

 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - picture from the OSF sitePride & Prejudice - picture from the OSF site 

Mom in AshlandI'd already picked out the plays before I knew my mom was coming, so they weren't the best fit in the world, but I think she enjoyed them for the most part. Our first one was "Pride & Prejudice," a very appropriate choice, though it's always going to be hard for me to appreciate any adaptation more than the BBC miniseries. That evening, we had Tennessee Williams's "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," over 3 hours with two intermissions, starting at 8pm! Fortunately, it was a wonderful play with some amazing actors playing the leads. A lot of powerful, raw emotion, and all done very believably. That is one messed up family, though. The last play of the weekend was called "Well," a more non-traditional play dealing with issues like sickness/wellness and racial integration. There was a lot of jumping between scenes from the main character's past, a play within a play, etc., which kept things entertaining, but it was also a little hard to understand what the point was.

Sunday, the weather cleared up a bit, so we enjoyed nice countryside views between Ashland and Portland, where my mom caught a flight back to the Midwest. But not before we stopped for oysters! I found an oyster bar serving some Cajun food, so we enjoyed oysters on the half shell, shrimp etouffee, and an oyster po-boy. There was no shortage of good food on this trip... we found a nice restaurant in Ashland for a pre-show dinner as well.

amuse bouche from the Winchester Inn & Restaurantoysters from EaT: an Oyster Bar

I'm really liking my trips down for the festival, and the plays haven't been disappointing so far. By purchasing so far in advance, I'm able to get the cheap $20 seats, so it works out to be a good value. Next trip is planned for August... who's joining me? :)

March 22, 2010

Signs of Spring

Since I haven't left the country since India last June and don't currently have any plans to do so in the near future (particularly since my passport is expired), I have unconsciously been filling my travel need by having adventures near home. This time, I decided Friday night that I needed to take advantage of the non-rainy weather on Saturday by going hiking. Instead of fighting the Seattle crowds at Tiger Mountain or Mount Si, I opted instead to greet the smaller Bellingham crowd at Larrabee State Park.

View of Samish Bay Long way down

The drive up was about an hour and a half, which is a pretty long drive for such a short hike. But as soon as I passed Everett, the views got really pretty. I started off early, so I was looking at pastel layers of mountains beautifully reflected in a large, manmade water or sewage collection pool. :) Then 15 miles on Chuckanut Drive yielded green farm pastures (full of cows and swans?!) with snowy Mount Baker overhead, followed by views of Samish Bay. I also discovered that Taylor Shellfish is on that street, so next time I'll have to bring ice and bring back oysters.

Flower starting to bloom View of Fragrance Lake through trees

As I was driving up, there weren't any cars behind me, so I was starting to worry if I misjudged the popularity of the park and would be hiking alone. But no, I guess the Bellingham folks come a different way, and there were plenty of people there by the time I arrived. I wanted to start at a particular trailhead, and I managed to snag the second-to-last parking spot, and the last one was occupied a few minutes later. And that was at 9am!

The hike was on the easy side, but for the most part it was just switchbacks climbing upwards. My winter legs were complaining immediately. Fortunately, it wasn't long at all, and I quickly reached the 1 mile mark where there was a turn off to a viewpoint of Samish Bay. There, I met the woman who parked after I did, and we chatted a bit about hiking and grumbled about how bad the elderly trail runners make us feel. She was a massage therapist from Bellingham, and we discovered that we attended the same Steely Dan concert last year. She turned back from there to continue her day, and I took a few pictures and saw a bald eagle fly by before continuing my climb towards Fragrance Lake.

Fragrance Lake Samish Bay

As soon as the switchbacks stopped, I was disappointed to see a road with cars parked. There's nothing like walking up 1000 feet to see that it was possible to drive up. Ah well. I walked the loop around the small lake, at first only getting glimpses of the water through the trees. There were lots of benches to sit and relax, and the lake was really pretty with nice reflections of the trees. It would have been more peaceful if two dogs on the other side of the lake weren't trying to kill each other. There was also some trail running event taking place that day, and I can only assume that the finish line was near the lake, because I could hear a lot of howling. The walk down was quick, and even with the chat time at the viewpoint and relaxing at the lake, I was back at my car around noon.

The Burlington Outlets were just an exit south of Chuckanut Drive, so I had to make a stop there to hit the only lululemon outlet in the state. Since those outlets were smaller and further from Seattle than others, it wasn't that crowded, which made me happy.

Daffodil field White follies 

As a final stop before heading back to Seattle, I drove a few more miles south to Mount Vernon to check out the flower fields. I knew the tulips wouldn't be in bloom yet, but I wanted to see some daffodils before the Tulip Festival crowds came around in April. It wasn't disappointing! There were a few spots of red in a few of the tulip fields, but the daffodils were in full bloom. I even found one field with ice follies (white and yellow daffodils).

Bird feeder at my place Sushi

Got back around 3pm and caught a few little birds eating at the bird feeders in front of my condo. Took a short nap before heading into Seattle to the First Hill neighborhood, a place where I almost never go. I had yummy sushi at Sushi Kanpai and then listened to beautiful choral music at St. James Cathedral. The cathedral was really cool - I can't believe I've been in Seattle this long without seeing it.

St. James Cathedral St. James Cathedral - Interior

And that's my day!

February 20, 2010

Exploring Upper Queen Anne


We don't get a lot of sunny, clear days in Seattle during the winter. And usually when we get them, it's during the week. So when the weatherman predicted a weekend of good weather, I knew I had to get outside and do something. My original plan was to head down to Pike Place Market and walk around, but I've done that so much. Instead, I decided to look for a place with a view.

It didn't take me long to decide on Upper Queen Anne. I can see the hill from my condo, and I'm in Lower Queen Anne all the time for shows, but for some reason I very rarely make it to the top. So I took a bus, aiming for Kerry Park, a place well known for its good views of downtown Seattle. Being unfamiliar with the area, I got my bus stops mixed up and rode too far, so I ended up walking through Kinnear Park, which gave a nice view of the Olympics and the Sound.

kinnear3 kinnear4

There were a bunch of these trees with bright pink flowers that were really pretty.

View from Kinnear Park kinnear5

Views are great from Upper Queen Anne. The architecture is really nice, too... not just the super modern condos that you see elsewhere.


house1 View from Kerry Park

Walking from Kinnear to Kerry, I walked up through some really pretty upscale neighborhoods. Lots of BMWs, Lexuses, Mercedes... and a small house on sale for $929,000! The noon light wasn't the best for facing east, so I snapped a quick photo and walked up Queen Anne Avenue in search of food.

 television tower church

Walking up the hill, there was quite a bit to look at. Lots of pretty, old houses, a picturesque church, and one of those gigantic television towers that is easily visible from my condo (about 10 miles away). I also passed a bunch of restaurants that I know about but have never eaten at... Betty, How to Cook a Wolf, and Emmer & Rye. (Particularly interesting to see Emmer & Rye - the chef, Seth Caswell was the chef for the Outstanding in the Field dinner I attended last year. His restaurant opening was delayed by a LOT, but it looks like they are finally open now!) I need to get to this neighborhood for dinner more often! I also passed some cute shops, but my growling, hill-weary stomach was telling me that I  needed to find lunch first.

I was in the mood for sushi, and I knew of Ototo Sushi up there, but it appeared to be closed for lunch. Across the street, however, was Chinoise Cafe. When it comes to Asian food, I'm wary of any restaurant that tries to serve multiple cuisines, whether it's East-West fusion or "get all your -ese foods here." This placed served Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, kimchi fried rice, and yam fries. Right. Well, in the end, I didn't have anything to complain about. They had outdoor seating, so I got to enjoy my sunshine, and I did appreciate being able to eat salad rolls and sushi rolls at the same place.

food1 food2

Shrimp salad roll, spicy scallop roll, and negihama roll.

After lunch, I did a little shopping, admiring pretty $16 boxes of notecards at gift shops, then decided that I needed to sit down indoors for a little while. Queen Anne is home to one of those great tea places that the Eastside can't seem to hang onto. Teacup Cafe, a non-frilly cafe that focuses on serving tea as much as it does on selling it.

tea1 tea2

The tea came on a cute tray with milk and sugar. The cafe also had a fireplace. It seems like the charred sticker on it renders the text unnecessary.

Finally, the sun had moved enough to where I decided it was time to head back to Kerry Park. It was crowded, as expected, but the view was nice, with Mount Rainier peeking out in the background. There was some sort of puzzle hunt going on in Seattle, and one of the stops was here. The participants had to get makeup put on their face, put on a veil, and get their photograph taken at the viewpoint. I think all of them were guys, and the people doing the makeup were particularly mean/untalented.


View from Kerry Park, both with and without the crowds.

  line to piroshky

After that, it was time to take a bus back downtown with just enough time to grab a piroshky at Pike Place Market before things started shutting down. Since everyone and their dog was out running around, the line was really long, but it's worth it. Sadly, they were out of my favorite, the potato, onion, and cheese, but beef and cheese is a reasonable substitute. Add one last stop at the Perennial Tea Room, and that's a pretty good Seattle day.


January 19, 2010

Adventures in India, Part Three

It was sad to leave Orchard Hut, almost like saying goodbye to distant relatives after finally meeting them for the first time. From there, we took a car to Pathankot, where we got on a train heading to Amritsar. Since it was a relatively short train ride, we got the authentic Indian experience by riding sleeper class. Sound nice? No AC, and I believe it's the cheapest reserved seats available on the train. Finally, to give us the full authentic Indian experience, the train came to a halt for long enough to indicate that it wasn't going anywhere for awhile. People jumped on another train passing by, but we had too much luggage to move quickly, so we stood next to the train to get some air (everyone else out there was male!). Finally, we found out what the deal was: "engine broke, they are bringing another one." Awesome.

But we made it to Amritsar in time to get to the Golden Temple to see the nightly ceremony (Palki Sahib) where they bring their Holy Book from its day spot to its night spot. It was great to get the opportunity to see the Golden Temple both in the day and at night because the atmosphere was very different. The gold against the blackness of night was very majestic, but in the daytime, everything looked more peaceful (except the crowd of people trying to get inside the temple). There were people all over, bathing in the water, sleeping next to the water, eating from the free cafeteria, and chanting. For such a famous temple, it was impressive that it really felt like a holy place, not a tourist attraction.

Amritsar also marked the end of reasonable temperatures for me on this trip, going from the pleasant 70s of Chamba to a blazing 100 degrees. We also visited a modern Hindu temple in Amritsar (very different!) and Jallianwala Bagh, the site of a British massacre that is now a memorial. Finally, we made a trip to the India-Pakistan border to watch the very odd daily border closing ceremony. People packed into the stands on both sides of the border, and as they were waiting for things to begin, they played music on the Indian side and a bunch of women went down and started a dance party. Then announcers began the pep rally portion, shouting "Hindustan!" (echoed by the opposite side's "Pakistan!") followed by lines I really did not understand (though I did understand the "Allah!" shouts from the Pakistan side). Then soldiers did some funny marching, lowered the flags, and closed the border. For two countries that are supposed to not get along, they sure had to coordinate well to do this ceremony. As we followed the crowd out, I had two guys following me asking to take my picture, not an uncommon thing for foreigners in India to experience, but the fact that they were following me made me feel like a celebrity. :)

Then it was time to hop on an overnight train back to Delhi (AC this time, thank goodness!). I sadly said goodbye to my tour group after doing some shopping, and hopped on a train to Agra. The next morning I got up early enough to get to the Taj Mahal at opening time, 5am, and was rewarded by getting to experience it before all the crowds flooded in. It was really beautiful, and it's hard to get a real sense of how big it is from just looking at pictures. Agra has a number of amazing tourist sites, but otherwise it's an unpleasant place to be. Hot and polluted (I think we were at 110 degrees, but it felt hotter), full of people trying to sell you stuff or get you on their rickshaw. The heat was really killing me, so I saw the Agra Fort and then had to get back to my hotel ("No, Mr. Rickshaw Driver, I do NOT want to go to a bazaar!"). I'd already checked out, but they let me sleep in a room for a few hours for $5.

Took a train back to Delhi (it was late and then silently showed up at a different platform - I was the only person from my berth to actually make it to the right place right away), then flew out the next morning to Chennai. But that's for part 4!

pic6 pic7

January 7, 2010

Adventures in India, Part Two

pic4 pic5

So continuing with my Indian adventure story... the part about the tour description that made me hesitate the most about booking it was the mention of a two day trek that was strenuous and required participants to be in great physical condition. I'm not in bad shape, but I don't consider myself to be in great physical condition, either. My tour guide didn't make it any better by harassing me and constantly asking if I wanted to change my mind about doing the trek (there was an option to ride a car to the next destination, which two people did choose).

In the end, it wasn't as bad as I expected, and the scenery along the way was gorgeous. I did get off to a bad start by falling on my butt twice because we were going downhill on a dusty trail covered with pine needles. And the climb up was really steep. I had to make the group stop a few times to catch my breath, but even with those delays, the tour guide said it was the fastest he'd ever made it up there with a group. It was a lot of fun walking through the small villages because all of the kids would get excited and follow us around, yelling, "Hi!" and asking to get their photo taken. We also picked up dogs as we walked that would follow us for the entire day and then disappear. Temporary pets!

The second day of trekking was a lot easier, and then we arrived in Chamba, where a vehicle dropped us off as close as it could get to Orchard Hut, where we spent the next few days. The idea was to get the real village experience, so the closest road was about 30 minutes downhill. I really enjoyed the stay and the Indian hospitality we experienced there from the family. The food stood out as some of the best food I ate in India, homecooked local recipes that were very different from other Indian food I'd eaten before.

Tired... looks like there will be a part three to this entry :)

January 4, 2010

Adventures in India, Part One

Nina in a Saree

This is a long overdue entry, since this trip happened in May last year, but better late than never!

My friend Yamini decided on a wedding date in June of 2009, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to attend her wedding and visit India. I was going to have a travel partner, but those plans fell through, and I found myself with a plane ticket for three weeks in India. It ended up being an oddly pieced together trip, but in the end I had a lot of fun and got to experience amazing things.

After buying tickets, I was looking at possible itineraries to explore. The state of Himachal Pradesh began to look really appealing, mainly because it was one of the few places in India at the time where the temperatures weren't blazing hot. Intrepid had a tour from Delhi into HP and Amritsar whose dates happened to work perfectly with my dates. The tour started the morning after I arrived in Delhi, and it ended with enough time for me to do a day in Agra before heading to Chennai for the wedding. So much to my mom's relief, I booked the tour, drastically shortening my alone time in India.

I think the rumors that India is really unsafe for single female travelers is mostly false. It was definitely easier to be with a tour guide for my first experience, but I would have been okay on my own, though probably harassed more. Any time I was off on my own, some guy would inevitably approach me and ask to be my friend, then follow me around for as long as I would let him. Very strange experience for me, but I did make the first guy take me to get a SIM card for my phone and to an ATM. :)

Spice Markets in DelhiShimla sunset

The tour (called "Mountains and Mystics") really showed a lot of different sides of India. We started off with some time in crazy Delhi, taking cycle rickshaws through Old Delhi and exploring the markets in 110 degree temperatures. The morning before the tour started, I'd taken a rickshaw to Humayun's Tomb, but there were definitely a lot more Delhi attractions that I didn't make it to. I was thankful we didn't stay that long because I wanted to get out of the heat. The next morning, we took an early train to Kalka, where were transferred onto the historic toy train that wound its way up, through tunnels and over pretty bridges, to the hill station of Shimla. I'd looked into the logistics of doing this trip on my own before booking the tour, and by then, there were only wait list positions open (and they were pretty high numbers) since those hot months are high season for Shimla. I was curious how we got tickets for the train. Turns out, we didn't have confirmed reservations, either, and our tour guide kept bribing the train guy, first to let us get on the train and a few times afterwards so he would let us stay on. Ah, India. :)Monks in McLeod Ganj

Shimla was quite a contrast from Delhi, the temperature drop reflecting a corresponding drop in insanity. This was where the Indians went on vacation to escape the heat. We met quite a few families who were on holiday, including one whose daughter had just gotten married. We admired her saree, and she told us that if she wasn't on her honeymoon, she'd be dressed like we were! The highlights of Shimla were the bazaars, full of little shops, the Viceroyal Lodge (which now houses a center for higher studies), and the Jakhu Temple, which was full of mean, evil monkeys. We saw one steal the glasses off a guy's head and another one eat a vendor's samosas. They rent sticks at the bottom of the hill you have to walk up, and I had to use mine to fend off an attacking monkey! He was holding someone's broken glasses, and I wanted to take a picture. However, he misinterpreted this as a trade gesture, so he dropped the glasses. I didn't think my camera was a fair swap, so I didn't give it to him, and he got mad. All of the Indians who were watching us fight found it very amusing, though.

After Shimla, we took a private vehicle with an insane driver to Dharamsala. See, it's one thing to pass a car on a 2-lane road. Then there's passing a car on a winding 2-lane road where there's not much between the outer lane and the death cliff. Then there's doing all of the above without slowing or looking for oncoming traffic. Or seeing the oncoming traffic and creating a third lane.

We spent three days in Dharamsala/McLeod Ganj, which we all agreed was a bit excessive. The highlights were the Tibetan things, like the Dalai Lama's residence (we got to see monks debating) and the Norblingka Institute, where we got to see Tibetan arts and crafts. But the rest of it was very touristy, geared towards hippie Westerners. The setting was very beautiful, though, and the idea was to relax for a few days before heading on our trek.

Okay, that's enough for one day. Part 2 to follow!

January 2, 2010

Outstanding in the Field

Outstanding in the FieldSet between the soil and the sky, Outstanding in the Field's long, linen-draped table beckons adventurous diners to celebrate food at the source. Bringing together local farmers and food artisans, chefs and winemakers, we explore the connection between the earth and the food on your plate. Join us as we feast on the gifts of the land.

Pete & Brook mentioned this event in 2008, and I was intrigued. But back when reservations opened up for the dinners that year, I guess the economy hadn't taken away everyone's money just yet, and the Seattle dinner was sold out pretty quickly. They raved about the event afterwards, though, so when the 2009 reservations opened (on the first day of Spring!) I was right there.

Now, it does sounds like a great event. The pictures are beautiful, they get great chefs, and the food sounds delicious, but... $180 plus tax for 5 courses? That makes the Herb Farm seem like a bargain (a story for another entry). Actually, $180 was on the cheaper side for the dinners on the site... there were three Seattle-area dinners for 2009, and one of them was over $200! We got our reservations anyway (yes, they charge the whole thing right away), and as I started reading reviews of the event on Chowhound I started to feel a bit of buyer's remorse.

It was a short day at work on July 15, 2009, since the event started at 4pm and was all the way out in Carnation. We were greeted with two wines and trays of appetizers, and things immediately looked up. In my opinion, the highlight of local ingredients in the Pacific Northwest is seafood, and our appetizer trio included seared tuna loin, scallop ceviche, and mussel skewers. Yum!

Once everyone arrived, Jim Denevan, the founder of Outstanding in the Field, talked briefly and then handed it over to Andrew Stout, the owner of the farm. He gave us a tour of the farm, including some time to check out all the different herbs in the garden and a view of a lot of different tractors. Finally, we crossed a little bridge over to the dining area, where Outstanding in the Field's signature long table was stretched out next to a row of raspberry plants. We walked to the end of the table and sat down, which ended up being a good decision because we ended up right next to Andrew Stout and Kevin Cedergreen, the winery owner.

The food was delicious, featuring the grain emmer (the chef is opening up a restaurant called Emmer & Rye), heritage Wooly Pigs pork belly, and king salmon. And it was a beautiful view, being out there in the middle of a farm as the sun slowly set. As the dessert course was being prepared, they handed out small containers for us to pick raspberries to take with us, which I thought was really generous... then as we left, they had a little produce stand set up, where we could fill paper bags with as much as we wanted to take.

Ultimately, it's hard to put a price tag on how much that experience is worth because it's pretty uncomparable to anything in the normal restaurant world. We got an awesome meal of local ingredients with a ton of good wine (7 glasses - he added a Riesling that wasn't on the menu) in a beautiful, unique setting. If you've got the money, I definitely recommend checking out whether or not OitF has a dinner near you next year. Though I will say (in a somewhat biased way) -- it might be hard to beat the local ingredients that we have here. :)

Full Circle Farm
Chef: Seth Caswell
Wine: Cedergreen Cellars

seared tuna loin, currants
smoked grapeseed oil, crackers
BC scallop ceviche, citrus, cucumber cups
marinated Taylor Shellfish mussel skewers
2008 Voila Rose
2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
* * *
roasted Full Circle Farm beets, herb salad,
blueberries, basil-mint vinaigrette
2007 Sauvignon Blanc
* * *
wild mushrooms, Oxbow Farm cauliflower,
emmer, baby greens, hazelnut vinaigrette
2008 Chenin Blanc
* * *
Wooly Pigs pork belly, cabbage, zucchini,
spicy mustard
2004 Thuja
* * *
king salmon, Full Circle Farm carrots,
fennel, escarole, spring onions,
Golden Glen herb butter
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon
* * *
Bluebird Grain Farm emmer biscuits,
apricots, raspberries, fresh cream

More pictures, including pictures of the courses

December 30, 2009

Christmas in California

Instead of having me do the fun redeye-to-East-Coast-then-back-to-Indianapolis Christmas series of flights, the family decided this year to leave the snowy depths of the Midwest and fly out to California for some non-freezing weather. Despite winter storms forecast for both Indianapolis and Minneapolis, they managed to make it through both airports without delays. My flight, on the other hand, that went through San Francisco, was delayed by almost an hour. Go figure.

A long time ago, we took a road trip to San Antonio around Christmas time. Then along came dinner time, either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, I don't remember. We searched the city for food. McDonald's - closed. Even 24-hour Denny's - closed. Finally we found a pizza place or something that was open, but everyone else was there, too, so there was an additional two hour wait. I'm certain that Daniel and I did not react favorably to this experience, and my mom was so traumatized that to this day, despite the fact that things seem to be open more often now than 10 years ago, she always ensures that we have guaranteed meal plans when traveling on a holiday.

This year's guarantee was Universal Studios. There was a deal for getting two days for the price of one, so we made a quick visit of a few hours on the 24th after we arrived, then another half day on the 25th. I've been to that Universal Studios before, so most of the rides weren't new to me. The live shows were more interesting, and the best was probably the studio tour that took us to a bunch of movie sets, including Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives.

You can usually count on eating at a Chinese restaurant for Christmas (something that we were unable to find in San Antonio), and we had a great big dinner with my great aunt at a Chinese seafood restaurant. Lobster, clams, honey walnut shrimp, Peking duck, etc. Nom nom nom! Unfortunately, her children and their families were all spending this holiday season with their in-laws, so we didn't get to see them. But there's talk of organizing a big Tang reunion...

The next day, we went to the Getty Villa, which my mom thought would just be a quick stop to look at a house. But after doing a short orientation tour, we spent a lot more time browsing through all of the galleries of Greek and Roman antiquities. The Getty Villa was modeled after an ancient Roman villa, so the design of the building was very interesting to see, perhaps more interesting than a lot of the stuff inside. (After awhile, all of the vases begin to look very similar...) I was dropped off in the City of Industry to attend Ke's wedding, and the rest of the family ran off to the Griffith Observatory.

We spent our last few days in the San Diego area, taking advantage of their city card to pay one price for lots of attractions, including LegoLand, the San Diego Zoo, biking around La Jolla, and a whale watching tour. I had to leave a day before everyone else because I'm still hoarding vacation time, so they got an extra day in San Diego.

And that's it for this time! Next trip: Twins' graduation trip?