Sunday, July 29, 2007

San Francisco June 2007



Dayne and I decided to take advantage of a client event I had going on in San Fran last month to enjoy a quick weekend. We hadn't been since our 1 year wedding anniversary 3 years ago! Traveling with Dayne is always enjoyable but this time it was made more so by an unexpected 2 hour delay getting out of SeaTac airport and Dayne carrying a small cleaned out Tabasco bottle of bitters in his pocket. Viola! Actual good martini's at an airport bar!!
Actually before we found out about the delay we had visited a new wine tasting bar in the airport which served up very good flights with very good food! So next time your in the central concourse I recommend you take a seat at the Vino Volo bar!

We stayed at the Kimpton Palomar in Union Square which was fantastic! Great price, wonderful location and they have a very clubby 5th floor bar. We decided to do a bit of shopping in Union Square the first morning and promptly found not only the Apple store (releasing the iPhone) but sales at all the great shops we love- huge sales!! It's now on the calendar that the weekend before 4th of July is a great time to head to the city by the bay.

After lunch we headed to MOMA for a wonderful exhibit by Matisse and then wondered the Yerba Buena gardens which neither of us had been before.

That evening we headed out to check out Bourbon & Branch a speakeasy style cocktail bar that Dayne had been wanting to try. It's smack in the middle of the Tenderloin District which is sketchy at best but once you arrive it is a fantastic place to have a drink or two! Not really a secret place but there is no address or sign posted and you do need a password to enter.



Dinner that evening was at Gary Danko where we hadn't been before. We couldn't get reservations so we waited for seats at the bar where we were served their full menu. I really liked that you could create your own 3, 4 or 5 course menu or go with their tasting menu!

They started us off with an amuse of asparagus soup with escargot that was absolutely stunning! I then had seared Foie Gras with Caramelized Red Onions and Cherries (of course!) while Dayne had Risotto with Lobster, Rock Shrimp, Zucchini, English Peas and Meyer Lemon. Next up was Pancetta Wrapped Frog Legs with Sunchoke Garlic Puree, Potato and Lentils for me.



Seared Sea Scallops with Sweet Pea Puree, Shimeji Mushrooms, Chorizo and Fava Beans for Dayne. Mains were lamb and duck in our true usual form but at this point there had been many glasses of wine (they paired for us) and the previous cocktails so I can't tell you the preparations!


and you will notice the photos in the set are getting blurrier and blurrier! oh well- that is what vacations are for! No dessert but cheese and mignardes rounded out a very enjoyable evening. I would absolutely dine here again and can see why it's remained such a popular restaurant as the food and service were top notch.

I can't explain why we felt the need to stop in at Cantina, a relatively new bar, but we did...lasted 1/2 a drink and finally called it a night!

After doing a bit of work the next morning we headed to the Ferry Plaza Market for our favorite lunch of oysters on the halfshell and a Cowgirl Creamery grilled cheese sandwich at Hog Island Oyster Co.. this time we also tried their oysters casino which rocked!


After lunch a bit of shopping for olive oil, ACME bread and chocolates rounded out our day (and carry on's for the flight home!)

More photos from our weekend in San Francisco here!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Newport, Rhode Island June 2007



The drive from Andover to Newport isn't all that pretty but once we got to Newport we were rewarded with a gorgeous sea side town spotted with mansions everywhere! Our hotel, CastleHill Inn was one of these old mansions turned into a B&B with additional separate lodgings both at their beach and also on their yard. We had reserved a Harbor House which was gorgeously decorated and had a semi private balcony off the back with our own Adirondack chairs and views of Narragansett Bay.


We spent the first afternoon just walking around the old part of town. It's exactly how I pictured a New England seaside town! We loved driving the famous Ocean Drive back to the inn, passing amazing privately owned mansions that seemed quite out of place! Once back at the Inn we joined both hotel guests and people from town on the huge sprawling lawn for cocktails. It was sooooo relaxing to just sit and take in the amazing views of sailboats and watch the sunset. The hotel even has an outdoor fire pit which they keep going in case you want s'mores!



We had a very nice if a bit overpriced dinner at the hotel that night as they are known for their 3 and 5 course menus.

The next day was our perfect Newport day! First we went and toured the famous Breakers Mansion build for Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1893. This was their summer cottage- all 70 rooms of it with not one guest room!! Breakers has all it's original furnishings still inside also which is quite interesting.



After our tour and a quick lunch back in town we boarded the Adirondack II sailboat for a couple hour sail in the bay. It was fantastic!!! The wind was perfect and we got to see more mansions from the water including the one that Jackie Onasis grew up in. There were only about 12 people onboard the 80 foot schooner! And did I mention the wine or beer for $1 each?



The rest of the day was spent walking around town more and checking out the White Horse Tavern- the oldest bar in America. That night we had a perfect dinner at Scales & Shells- steamed lobsters and a bottle of champagne!



Our last day in Newport we toured another mansion- Marble House another of the Vanderbilt cottages- this one designed by Richard Morris Hunt, inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles. There are so many mansions to tour! But even more impressive are there are many others that are private on Bellevue Ave. We also took a brief walk on part of the Cliff Walk which allows you to walk between the ocean and the "cottages" for a backyard view!

Lunch on the way out of town was at Flo's Clam Shack for a variety of deep fried goodies!



See all the photos of New England here!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Andover


At my 10-year high-school reunion, back in '97, Grosse Pointe Blank had just come out. Understandably, I think, I thought "Professional Killer" whenever some vaguely-remembered classmate asked me what I'd been doing since high school. For the 20-year -- wow it hurts to write that, since I was 17 when I graduated and thought I knew just about everything there was to know at the time -- there was no such shared cultural meme to either dull or distract from the inevitable smalltalk sessions.

Still, I wanted to go, and also knew that I had to drag Wendy with me; she wasn't necessarily enthusiastic, but almost always had a good attitude about the whole thing. [ She'd gone to the 15-year, and we weren't even married then; I couldn't let her get out of this one.]

Besides, Andover (or more properly, Phillips Academy) was worth visiting again regardless of who showed up or how the 2 days of the reunion were spent. It's a beautiful campus, matched or exceeded by few high schools or even colleges anywhere else in the country. And it gave us the excuse of hitting Boston first and taking a few days in Newport afterwards.

We lucked out in terms of weather, most of the time. We splurged a bit and rented a Mustang convertible in Boston, then drove north to campus on Friday afternoon. That evening was a large gathering of all the classes (each 5-year-increment was there ('02, '97, '92, '87, '82, '77, '72, etc., back to a few surviving alums from the early part of the 1900s). We were grouped by class for a fairly-bad meal, the split off for individual class gatherings/drinks later. Strangely -- or maybe not -- the people I most-enjoy seeing at these things are those who I usually knew only in passing while actually in school, but with whom I've found I get along a great deal in the intervening years. Still, the inevitable hours of small talk took their toll, and we didn't end up staying especially late.
We woke up Saturday to gray skies and a persistent rain. Since most of the Saturday activities consisted of outdoor gatherings, including a picnic and a class picture, we suddenly had a lot of time to kill. That did give us ample time to attend a presentation at the Addison, our campus art gallery (which also happens to be in the top tier of American-art galleries anywhere). They were having a William Wegman exhibit (Funny/Strange), which was primarily unique because it focused on his work that wasn't Weimeraners, but more interesting to both of us was the tour that the curator gave of the painting-storage facilities below ground level. It was just amazing what they have stashed away, and neither Wendy nor I had ever seen how museums kept their off-display work.

Not much else to tell. We had another class dinner and drink get-together Saturday evening, managed to miss breakfast the next day, and headed down the fortunately-more-dry road towards Newport, Rhode Island.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Boston.........

In June we headed back east for Dayne's 20th year high school reunion- yikes!!! Luckily Dayne went to Phillips Academy which is not your typical school, this makes it more enjoyable! And we also have to fly into Boston to get to Andover.


We spent a night in Boston at the Westin Boston Waterfront as they were having a special which involved tickets to the Institute of Contemporary Arts and free breakfast. We had a very nice dinner at No. 9 Park where we decided to have the Chef's Tasting Menu and wine pairings. The restaurant is quite pretty and obviously very popular as I had made our reservations 1 month in advance and the entire restaurant and bar were packed all evening. After dinner eGullet member Nishla had recommended we check out Eastern Standard for cocktails. We had a fabulous time here! Bartenders Tom & Jackson mixed perfect drinks and the atmosphere was very fun and casual- highly recommended now by us!


We visited the ICA the next morning where my favorite pieces where this "Hanging Fire" by Cornelia Parker
and Space House by Misaki Kawai! So fun!! There was also a very interesting photography exhibit by Philip-Lorca diCorcia.
And of course what is a trip to Boston without shopping on Newbury Street and a Lobster Roll for lunch!
As you can probably guess we didn't take the camera out in Boston- not sure why but sometimes that happens! More of New England coming up....................

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

London Baby!


We decided to stop in London on our way home from Italy for a few nights- it had been much too long since either of us had been and we had never been there together. Our main interests were shopping, dining and cocktails!

The first evening in town we were quite excited to go to the London Eye or The Wheel as the locals call it. We had purchased tickets in advance for the Champagne Flight which allowed us to not wait in line, check it closer to the "flight" time and of course have a couple of glasses of champagne while viewing the lights come up in London. The Wheel was incredibly impressive and although there were more than a few clouds it was still an amazing view of the city.

After our flight we changed for cocktails and dinner. Our friend and world known bartender extrodanaire Murray
had suggested we check out a few bars owned by an aquaintence of his, Nidel, so off we went for pre dinner drinks at Dusk in South London. Very nice, a bit of a scene but the bartenders were really doing a great job. Then on to the main event of the night- Dinner at Petrus, a Gordon Ramsay Restaurant.

We arrived and were led into a gorgeous room- very clubby feeling but also warm and comfortable. And our maitre'd was Jeanne Phillipe of Ramsay's tv show which was funny!

They started us off with some simple but perfect amuse bouche and glasses of champagne- I love the high end restaurants and how they wheel over the champagne cart to you to choose your bubbly by- none of that wines by the list menu!

With dinner we had a very young but still very nice 95 Magdelaine. We tried to order different things so we could have multiple tastes! Our menu:

-partridge roasted with onion fondue, alsace bacon and partridge jus

-terrine of confit foie gras, sauternes jelly, smoked duck apple and shallot salad

-rump of veal

-24 hour roasted suckling pig

after we had some beautiful cheeses and a few dessert wines and then multiple desserts. We were so stuffed they sent the mignardes home with us! They also gave us a very nice tour of the kitchen and Chef Marcus Wareing signed our menu.

Our last afternoon in London was spent shopping at some of our favorite shops, those that we don't have in Seattle and strolling around. We checked out Nidel's other cocktail lounge Montgomery Place in Notting Hill that evening- it is very charming with beautiful (but spendy!!) cocktails. We took this picture for Murray which shows a book he sent to Nidel proudly displayed in the bar's trophy case.
You can see the rest of the photos from our yummy dinner here!