72 Hours in Brooklyn

IMG_8051
Near Madison Square Garden, walking between subway stations!

SMS and I had an extended weekend in NYC!  It was fantastic!  We arrived into EWR very late on Friday and took a ride share over to Brooklyn.  We stayed at an Aloft that was on the edge of the DUMBO district.  The hotel had a few mixed reviews, mainly regarding the paper thin walls (true) and the too-tiny size (not really true but this is very subjective).  Importantly, it was clean, on the inexpensive side, and a place to sleep.  Since we usually travel to do things rather than hang out at the hotel, I would recommend the Aloft.  The only reason I wouldn’t stay again is that I would likely want to explore a different neighborhood rather than repeat an experience.

It wasn’t the most über-cool part of Brooklyn, but enough that there was an awesome food hall nearby.  We ate at the DeKalb Market Hall three times during the trip.  We had thin Spanish-style churros (awesome), arepas (really disappointing), pierogis (delicious), and coffee (necessary).  The building also has an Alamo Drafthouse and Flying Tiger so it’s definitely worth checking out.

IMG_8065

We were in town to celebrate my college friend’s birthday.  I still owe her for the amazing time she showed me on my 21st birthday (heavy sarcasm).  In all seriousness, I wanted to be there for my amazing friend for her landmark birthday so SMS and I made it happen!  Saturday was the main day so after sleeping in (we stayed on West Coast time the whole trip) and eating at DeKalb, we headed over to Citi Field for a private tour!

IMG_8074

Overall, Google Maps is a lifesaver for figuring out how to take public transport in a new city but there are definitely some gaps in the system.  We found a big one on our way to the tour since we took the subway to the LIRR with the plan to go two stops to Mets-Willets Park.  We were cheerfully oblivious that this would not work since the train does not stop there on game days.  Fortunately, a very nice conductor saw our tickets and told us this before we reached Woodside, so we hopped off and took a Lyft.  So, not the most efficient and we didn’t have time for a pre-tour drink at Mikkeller, but at least we weren’t late for the tour itself.

The tour was awesome!  We went to the press room, different box seat levels, the rotunda, the club house, the dugout, and the field.  I think the highlight for me is knowing that beer cooler #1, the Grand Central Station of all the non-craft beer to different vendors around the stadium, is directly opposite the Clubhouse.  It was nice to meet some of Karen’s friends before the group grew for a delicious Thai dinner at SriPraPhai.

IMG_8079
Best Bobblehead Collection- more were on the side!

Dinner was delicious.  SMS and I shared a green curry and pad see-ew.  After that, we headed back to Brooklyn with Laddie, Dave, Hillary, and Jason.  Laddie, Hillary, SMS, and I grabbed an after-dinner drink at Svendale Brewing Co. Tasting Room, which was a really cute place with a nice bartender.  All the beers were served in wine glasses, which angers one of Karen’s friends on principle but fortunately, he wasn’t there.

On Sunday, SMS and I slept in again and then headed to DeKalb.   We headed to the NY Transit Museum, which was pretty interesting.  It’s not a must-do but it is cool to learn more about the vast, iconic subway system and what went into making it and the maintenance and upgrades over the years.

IMG_8083
The most Brooklyn thing that every Brooklyn’d.

Then, we went to the Other Half brewing company where we had a few taster beers with Karen and, a little later on, Stephen.  The beers were delicious and it was fun to try a lot of different small pours.  Then, we went to Laddie and Dave’s house for the Super Bowl with a brief stop in the most ridiculous, gourmet grocer on the way, Court St Grocer.  It’s less ridiculous if you just accept it as a slightly mis-named fancy sandwich shop.

Laddie had an ad in the Super Bowl line-up, which was fun to see.  The game was an exciting, fast-paced one with a comeback ending.  And that’s about the depth of my analysis and caring.

IMG_8086
What nightmares are made of…

Monday was our dedicated tourist day.  I had listened to Abbi Jacobson’s A Piece of Work podcast and I really wanted to go to MoMA.  There were a few Jackson Pollack’s that were really cool and “Number 1A, 1948” was interesting to look at in juxtaposition with Jack Whitten’s “Atopolis: For Edouard Glissant.”  I also liked The Planes of Color gallery.    We also enjoyed Haegue Yang’s Handles installation and took a few pictures there.

The highlight, though, was a trip across the river to PS1.  This is prime evidence that SMS is a saint because once I realized the James Turrell Meeting was located there and that it wasn’t in the middle of Long Island (I don’t know why I thought this), I wanted to go so badly.  And SMS gamely agreed to two art museums in a day!

PS1 was so cool! It’s located in an old public elementary school and is such a throwback, evocative building that the setting itself is one of the best elements about the visit. It reminds me of St. James Catholic School in Red Bank, NJ.

We saw Meeting (yay!) and a few other pieces.  SMS thought the coolest thing was the old coal furnace in the basement.  It was huge and very elaborate!  We grabbed a coffee in the little cafe and then headed to Williamsburg for pulled noodles at Xi’an’s Famous Foods, which were delicious!

IMG_8115
In North Williamsburg, walking towards the water.
IMG_8120
Skyline at Dusk.  The ferry pictures were a bit blurry.

We walked around Williamsburg, including McCarren Park.  Then we headed to the water and took the East River Ferry from North Williamsburg down to Dumbo, which was a gorgeous thing to do at sunset.  We walked through Dumbo and settled on Colonie for drinks and a light dinner.  I loved that bar and, since we came upon it rather than researching it, were lucky that we found the perfect fit for what we were looking for!

After dinner, we headed to the hotel and watched two episodes of Cheer.  It’s a good series and it let us stay up so we were still on West Coast time.  One more episode to go!  Will they win?!?!  I think the answer is yes but I’m waiting to watch with SMS!

IMG_8133
Bluestone Lane.  Can you tell why I picked the place?

Our last day, we went to Bluestone Lane for breakfast after testing the wheels on my MUJI roll-aboard.  Still holding strong!  Strong recommend- both the cafe and the suitcase!

IMG_8136
9/11 Memorial

Then, we went to the 9/11 memorial since SMS had never been.  It is so amazingly powerful.  It doesn’t even feel like history since I can so vividly remember the day and it still has such wide ramifications on our current time.

IMG_8134

Afterwards, we went to Eataly and grabbed a coffee while discussing a super cool company, Cesta Collective with the two founders.  It was really exciting to talk about a promising, mission-based business that these two women believe in so strongly.

IMG_8135
One World Trade Center and the Occulus

Then, it was time to go.  We took the PATH train from WTC to Newark-Penn Station.  Then, we took the 62 bus, which was really easy and came every 10 minutes.  Even an Uber wouldn’t have been that much faster and it was nice to use public transportation.  Basically, getting to EWR is a bit of hassle no matter which way we would go but hey, the flights are the cheapest!

We had cheesesteaks before our flights because we like to choose the healthy option.  Then, it was back to the West Coast for an abbreviated work week.

IMG_8118
Hold out your hand for a special surprise! Seriously, is this sign for real?

Highlights: August 2019 (Part 1: Road Trip Edition)

SMS and I are YouTube stars.  Yes, really!  Ok, no, not so much.  But we do have our own channel with 11 subscribers and a few hundred views.  We’re going to go viral any….second…

But, yes, I’m going to be a little bit lazy and start off with the YouTube channel first since it covers our entire cross-country trip from Norfolk, VA to San Diego, CA.  We had a really nice time although, surprise, surprise, it was a lot of driving.  (This blog: come for the pictures, stay for the insights.)

But I do have pictures!  Yes,  I’ll go into a few highlights and lessons not really covered in the Vlog since our main focus there was the logistics of driving an EV cross-country.

IMG_6313
Birds go first!

Lesson 1: There is always more stuff than I think!  Argh, yes, I envisioned a completely clear back seat so that the car was less of a target for break-ins.  But, yet again after many moves, the “small amount” I left behind blossomed and filled the trunk and back seat.  While this may have been a predictable outcome, it was still annoying.

Our starting point was Virginia Beach.  We actually touched the ocean before leaving, although by the time we got to San Diego, we were over it and didn’t make it to the coastline proper.

IMG_6326
Breakfast with Dad at Three Ships coffee in Virginia Beach.  I love that place and their country ham biscuits are delicious!

After breakfast with Dad and dropping him off at the airport (you can’t ride with us!), we went to the hospital for my final checkout.  There, I had my first Bates blowout of my career.  What’s that, you ask?

IMG_6350
Bates Blowout

A Bates Blowout is when your overpriced, cheaply made Bates uniform shoes completely fall apart on you in very short order.  I never really believed people before it happened to me, but it’s real.  In the span of walking 30 feet down a hallway, my shoes completely fell apart, shedding chunks of black rubber along the hallway.  It reminded me of a line from a Will Farrell movie: “I’m not angry, I’m impressed!”

So, we finally hit the road where I promptly sliced the tip of my finger open.  See vlog for evidence.  So yes, the road trip was off to a rough start and SMS is a saint.  The end.

IMG_6377

Kidding!  Our first stop was Charleston where we stayed for two nights.  It kind of squished the rest of the trip but this was the city we wanted to explore a little more.

IMG_6387

Charleston was very pretty.  I was somewhat tempted to go on some sort of tour, but after a crazy month, I just wanted to relax and walk around.

We ate a few delicious places, some planned, some not.  167 Raw is a delicious temple to awesome seafood.  It has a pretty relaxed vibe and it was fun to learn a little bit more about oysters from the really nice bartender.

IMG_6417

We stayed at the Grand Bohemian hotel, which offered overnight charging.  The hotel was pretty awesome with a lot of contemporary art works on display and a cool gallery on the first floor.  We met up with my cousins at the Eleve rooftop bar, which had a really nice outdoor space.   I felt very cool because my cousin’s girlfriend said she had been wanting to go there for a long-time so I felt in the know, even though I had no idea what was cool!

The next night, we went to Chez Nous, which has a really good reputation with a very small menu and cool interior.  Honestly, we didn’t love it but it was fine.

Afterwards, we went to Edmund’s Oast because I had lasting FOMO from when I was in Charleston for a bachelorette party and I didn’t have the PB&J beer because I was worried what it might do to my stomach at the beginning of a night of dancing and drinking.  Ha!  Don’t tell me I don’t have good judgement!  Well, maybe it’s not perfect judgement because I still wanted to drink it and it was, at best, so-so in my opinion.  Win some, lose some!  The outside courtyard was a total winner though and it was nice to relax outside.

IMG_6441

Then, we were off!  We met up with our Yokosuka friends while charging in Atlanta.  Emily is out of the military and studying to be a CRNA while her husband continues to work as a civilian as well.

Another awesome meal stop was in Birmingham where we stopped at Saw’s BBQ.  We both ordered the Pork ‘nGreens, which I rhapsodize about on the YouTube episode.  SMS ordered it the last time we were in Birmingham and this time, I didn’t make the same mistake of not getting a plate for myself.  It’s a dish with a delicious nest of grits with collard greens, pulled pork, and fried onions on top.  This does not sound amazing but I promise you, it is completely insane.

IMG_6466

We pulled into Memphis late that evening and the next morning, we had brunch with more Yokosuka friends!  I am so happy to have seen my friends, whom I basically just messaged out of the blue to see if we could meet for a meal.  I didn’t invite ourselves over to Brooke and Aaron’s but because of the kids and visiting parents, it was easier for them to meet at their place.

After brunch, we hit the road.  Aaron lent us a Route 66 book that we used during our trip.  They also recommended going to Bass Pro shop inside a former basket ball arena, a 535,000-square-foot pyramid!  We took the slow elevator to the top and had a pretty incredible view of Memphis.

IMG_6495

IMG_6497

On our way West, one of the Tesla Superchargers was in the town of Shamrock, TX.  There’s an old restaurant (no longer in service) and U Drop Inn, a highlight featured in the Route 66 guidebook!  The building is featured in the animated movie Cars.  It’s very cute.

It’s also staffed by the most aggressively nice volunteers I ever met.  We were strong-armed into a photoshoot, posing in the restaurant and sticking a pin in the town we’re from.  The map, aided by the fact that every visitor is forced at nicepoint to place a pin, is pretty impressive in showing the worldwide appeal of Shamrock, TX.

IMG_6554

SMS drove the car up to the pump and pretended to fill the Tesla.  We’re hi-wa-wi-ous!!!

At another Texas BBQ stop, we came upon a DeLorean time machine.

IMG_6563

IMG_6605

Another highlight featured in our YouTube episode: The Continental Divide.  You will see SMS pour out water from a bottle.  Where will it go?!?!

IMG_6614

The Grand Canyon State…*sigh*…someday I will see the Grand Canyon.

IMG_6620

The Petrified Forest vista.  I wish we could explore the park more but our charge was low, which meant our AC wouldn’t work in Park mode.  This was problematic since there were four feathered friends in the car that would have roasted.

IMG_6644
Thank you for caring!!!
IMG_6722
Random food shot- looks delicious!

Highlights: July 2019 (Part 2)

IMG_6163

Aaaand…we’re back!  Second half of July!  On Saturday, I decided to treat ourselves by booking tickets to Hamilton!  I have wanted to see the show for a really long time.  I was excited to take SMS to a show since it isn’t something we have really done together before.  Actually, we had seen Wicked and that was pretty awesome but that was six years ago!

In the spirit of a decadent night out, we went to Rich Table in San Francisco for an early dinner. Jyotsna raved about the place and she was right- it was exceptional!  The menu changes often but there are a few regulars.  We ordered two: the dried porcini doughnuts, raclette and the sardine potato chip with horseradish.  The former was sublime and the latter was interesting but not worth ordering again.  As I type this, I’m getting a case of serious deja vu…wait!  I wrote about this in June!  But we went in July!  Oh, the perils and trials of writing too late.  But this was definitely Rich Table.  June was State Bird Provisions, now that I think about it.  I am writing this correction here because who knows if I’ll get to it in the actual post.  I can’t even blog on time!  Anyway, between the two restaurants, I would go to Rich Table any day but both are gustatory treats!

IMG_6170-rotated.jpg

Hamilton was awesome.  Wow, such an original opinion and so cutting-edge!  I had listened to the soundtrack prior to the show, but the experience was elevated by the incredible staging.  My favorite aspect was the rotating stage that was particularly effective during a slightly dream-like, time-and-perspective shifting scene during the song “Satisfied.”  I also liked seeing King George III on the sides of different scenes with his snarky expressions and body language even when his songs weren’t featured.

IMG_6191
Guess who Ishann loves the best?  Ok, ok, it’s probably his parents but it’s hard to tell when SMS is around!

The next day, we met up with Jyotsna and Akshay for our long-planned Pt. Reyes picnic and outing.  We went to Tomales Bay Oyster Co for several dozen oysters.  Unfortunately, they no longer have picnic facilities there so we went to Pt. Reyes Station and ate in the small garden/picnic area of Cowgirl Creamery.  There, we supplemented our picnic with cheese, bread, and a few other delicious things like…wine!

After our picnic, we decided to go to Heidrun Meadery, a favorite of A&J.  We had gotten a late-ish start so we didn’t have it in us to head out to the lighthouse, although it is a great place.  It just adds a fair bit of car time to take the backroads to the farthest parts of Point Reyes National Seashore.

IMG_6243
Sitting on the kid’s chair outside the “secret door” to the picnic area underneath the tree canopy.  Pro tip: don’t cut to the right because there is a branch that will try to impale itself into your head.  Trust me.  It doesn’t tickle.
IMG_6253
Ishaan takes half the tree home to plant as a sapling.  Don’t worry- this sapling harvest was supervised and approved by a meadery worker!

After an awesome house-hunting leave (and I did find an apartment on Craigslist for Coronado!), I went back to work.  I really worked until the very end, seeing clinic and even operating on my very last day (31 July) because a patient really wanted me to do her tracheostomy.  She said I “didn’t bullshit her” when talking about medical care so chalk that up to good bedside manner (I think!).

Before that last day, however, I spent the last weekend of July in Belmar, NJ where I got together with my college friends whom I’ve kept in touch with for the last 18 years and known for the last 21!  Ooo, I just noticed those years are very college-age lengths of time.  I drove from Norfolk to NJ via Philadelphia to pick up Gisele and her sons.  My brain was a little fried from PA traffic and the stress of being late, but once we arrived in NJ, things were pret-ty perfect!  The six of us hung out all weekend long and were fairly mellow.  I had the best time and feel so lucky to know these wonderful women.  We were missing one of our “group,” who’s on the West Coast and recently-ish had a baby but six out of seven isn’t bad.  Keeping in touch doesn’t seem to be anyone’s strong suit in the group but we write and get together just enough that I feel we are still in each other’s lives.  Four of the seven live in the NYC area so they’re in more frequent contact (lucky!) but there’s still room for the three of us who aren’t local!

IMG_0653
Argh, I hate being on the end for photos!  But I’m glad we got an adult group shot!

Finally, after a month of highlight upon highlight, it was time to leave Norfolk.  SMS flew in on the 31st in preparation for leaving 1 Aug.  Our trip will be featured in next month’s highlights but a teaser photo is below.

IMG_6311
Time to keep the birds alive in the Summer heat of the Southern Interstate cross-country route!  The little birds did not do their fair share of driving, spoiler alert!

Jamestown, with and without an “E”

IMG_3482

SMS and I spent the Thanksgiving weekend in the Tidewater area of Virginia.  Since we were in such a historic part of the country, we decided to check out the former site of Jamestown, the first permenent English colony in the U.S.  SMS had been there when he was in junior high and remembered the glass blowing demonstration.  I had never been and really didn’t know that much about it which led to the following encounter-

Upon following Google Maps to Jamestown, we pulled into a large parking lot for a museum.  We walked inside, used the bathrooms, and then I went up to the ticket counter.  I was pretty sure we weren’t at the Jamestown site but I wanted to know where to go and since it was already 3 p.m, I wanted to make sure we didn’t go to the wrong place.

Me: “Excuse me, but is this where I buy tickets to Jamestown?”

Ticket lady: “[Loud Audible Sigh]  It’s been a long weekend.  Jamestown DOESN’T EXIST!!! IT HASN’T BEEN HERE SINCE 1624!!!!”

Me (slightly taken aback): “Um, I’m sorry.  But I thought there was a historic site to see?”

Ticket lady: “Look, this is Jamestowne with an ‘e.’  We’re a living history museum.  The archeologic site of Jamestown (which doesn’t exist) is down the road.”

Me: “So, do I need to buy a ticket here?”

Ticket Lady: “No.”

IMG_3520
Can’t rain on my ranger parade!

Sheesh.  What a weirdo!  While I was talking to her, she had pulled out a laminated placard showing the difference between Jamestowne with an ‘e’ and Jamestown.  Jamestown is run by the National Park Service, which is great since SMS and I have an annual pass.  That meant we could get in for free, which was perfect since we didn’t have a lot of time.

IMG_3514

First, we went to the glassblowing shop which had on-going demonstrations and was really warm from the incredibly hot oven in the center.  This was delightful since it was so cold!  We drove down to the Jamestown site proper, showed our pass, and walked to the artifact museum.  Then, we walked around the fort which hadn’t even been excavated when SMS last visited.  After looking at the fort that didn’t exist, we walked around the Newtown area, which we slightly regretted since it was so cold.  But, hey, we were there so we had to see the sights!

IMG_3523

We hopped in the car and had dinner at La Tienda, a Spanish tapas restaurant.  It was delicious!  I wished we had bigger appetites and/or a larger group because there were several dishes I wanted to try.  But, while we were there, the berenjenas con miel and judiones fritos were particular highlights!

IMG_3492

Other events from Thanksgiving weekend: I made a delicious but homely looking sweet potato pie.  It suffered in comparison next to my friend’s Cheesecake Factory worthy dessert.  Ah well.

Also, at a local restaurant, SMS had a fruit salad, Southern style: iceberg lettuce, canned fruit in syrup, and shredded cheddar cheese.  We were both slightly confused.  The restaurant is called The Grey Goose.  The doorstop goose out front was missing its head.  Apparently, this has been an ongoing saga where the head keeps getting knocked off despite trying to glue it back on.  The owner has now given up, per a shamelessly eavesdropped conversation on my part.

 

Day trip to Outer Banks, NC

SMS and I decided to take a day trip to the Outer Banks earlier this month.  It was the Saturday after Labor Day so even though we were charged peak tolls, it seemed that we were into the “shoulder season” with far fewer tourists.  We had an amazing time!

We drove along the 158E and once we crossed the bridge to the Outer Banks, we took a right to head down towards Kill Devil Hill and Kitty Hawk.  Our first stop was for lunch at Pigman’s BBQ for some East Carolina-style pulled pork and ribs.  I really like the tangy, vinegar-based sauce.  We were pretty hungry and the food hit the spot!  We ate outside in the shade.  The restaurant also does picnics-to-go, which would be a nice way to have a gourmet beach feast.

IMG_2799
SMS as a plane. Next to him is the launch rail. In the background are the flight distance markers.

After Pigman, we headed to the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kill Devil Hill.  Kill Devil Hill was the dune (now grass-covered hill) that they used to launch their gliders.  Slightly north of the hill is the site of the first four flights.  There is a launch rail that was used to help guide the plane to take-off that is still present.  Four boulders are placed marking the landing site of each of the first flights, which got progressively longer.  I didn’t realize how short the first flight was!  We walked along the path to the 4th flight boulder, which was the longest distance by far.  It was really neat.  In addition, there’s a cool juxtaposition of a modern airstrip right next to the monument so right next to the historic field is a modern airport with Cesnas flying in.

IMG_2796

We decided to head South and try to find a beach.  I saw a marker for Coquina Beach at the Wright Memorial so we headed there.  What a find!  It’s down Highway 12 about 20 minutes from Kitty Hawk.  It’s part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore so it’s completely undeveloped.  But at Coquina Beach, there is a large parking lot with plenty of spots when we were there.  Best of all, there’s a spotlessly clean bathroom, changing room and outdoor shower area which makes it SO much nicer when it comes time to leave.  Rather than sitting in damp suits with sticky sand, we were able to wash off and change.  I really liked it and can definitely see myself going back.

IMG_2804

After a few hours at the beach, we got back in the car and headed home.  We stopped at the Weeping Radish, a microbrewery in Grandy opened by an immigrant from Bavaria in the 1980s.  They follow the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot Purity Law of 1516 and both the beer and food are German-inspired.  The beer, all from the microbrewery, was really good.  I was surprised because sometimes super-small places can be uneven in quality but every beer was pretty great, although there were some I favored over others just based on personal taste.   Unfortunately, we weren’t hungry due to the size of our lunch but I bet the food there is pretty awesome. We watch the last set of the Serena-Naomi US Open, which was pretty intense.

IMG_2806
Feeding a goat!

Also, I got to feed a goat!  There were two goats outside and I went over to admire their cuteness.  A woman leaving the brewery told us that they liked branches from the tree and that I should feed them one.  So, I took a little twig and fed one of the goats.  Super cute!

Then it was time to head back.  It was a great day with lots of cool stops- a perfect day trip!  For future Outer Banks trips, I would like to go back to Coquina Beach, check out Duck, and travel to Ocracoke for an overnight (or several) based on my cousins’ recommendations.

Central Coast California- Party and Wine Tasting

The weekend after an East Coast family trip, SMS and I made our way from Silicon Valley to the Central Coast.  First stop?  Great-Uncle Al’s 90th birthday party in Arroyo Grande!

Before we went to the party, we stopped at our favorite taco place in nearby Pismo Beach, Papi’s Grill.  We ordered a few tacos and they were delicious.  The potato taco is always a hit and a few of the meat ones were also very tasty.  Then we checked into the SeaCrest OceanFront Hotel and went to the beach for a bit.

Uncle Al is SMS’ grandfather’s younger brother.  The brothers are both very active and live life to the fullest.  Although there was no formal toast, Uncle Al got up at one point to tell us “terrible news:” “I just went to DMV and they renewed my license…for five more years!”  It was very funny.  Although as I type it, it sounds worrisome- I promise, it was light-hearted!

It was fun to see family members, including SMS’ aunt and uncle whom we don’t see as often.  We had tri-tip for dinner, which was pretty delicious.  Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and watched the sunset.  It was a pretty great day.

IMG_2538
World Cup viewing

The next day, SMS and I went to a local bar to watch the World Cup final.  I am an unabashed follower of sports when it comes to championship games.  The road to the championship?  Not so much but when it’s time for the finals, I’m usually there.  It was a good game and both teams played with gusto. I was rooting for Croatia as the underdog but France winning was also ok.

After the game, we checked out of the hotel and headed for Paso Robles.  We had decided to take a couple days off and go wine-tasting with SMS’ parents.  Since we were early for check-in, we headed out to do what we do best- drink wine!  Our first stop was at Eos winery, where Rip had a complimentary tasting due to reciprocity from another wine club he belongs to.  Our pourer was really nice but the wines were…ok.  We enjoyed talking to her and she gave us a tip that was AWESOME (more later) so it wasn’t a bust but we definitely didn’t buy any of the wines.

IMG_2539
Heart Hill, Niner Winery

Rip wanted to try Niner winery so off we went for a tasting and possibly lunch.  There, by total chance, we ran into his sister and brother-in-law.  We enjoyed a tasting and decided to eat lunch at the on-site restaurant.  It was really good and the outdoor seating even better.  It was a really nice lunch setting and it was very enjoyable.

IMG_2543
Lunch table at Niner

IMG_2544

Although we had gotten the message that our hotel rooms were ready, we decided to keep going with wine tastings (yay!).  Since Justin is an old favorite and a little out of the way from the places we were planning on for the next day, we headed there.  We split wine tastings there and I bought a few bottles.  We ambitiously thought we’d drink them while we ate S’mores later at the Hotel Cheval but that ended up not happening.  So SMS and I still have them.  Darn.

We headed back to town to check in and then go to dinner.  We went to Thomas Hill Organics, which has excellent food and a beautiful indoor/outdoor covered patio.  Afterwards, we went to Hotel Cheval’s famed evening S’mores which ended up driving me crazy.  Let me say, SMS thinks I shouldn’t write about this because it does make me look slightly insane.  He is probably right but I press on, regardless.

So, first, you cannot make your own S’more.  There is a s’more concierge/waiter who takes your S’more order and then makes them for you.   He is taking orders from many people who would like s’mores and yet, he can only make two at a time.  Not the best system in the world but this is not the part where I lost my mind.  What was driving me crazy was his insane level of inefficiency and resulting level of stress.  It’s like the scene in August: Osage County when Abigail Breslin’s character states she doesn’t eat meat because she’s ingesting an animal’s fear.  Well, I was eating a person’s stress while eating a s’more, which is antithetical to the s’more experience.  Also, why could he not move his s’more ingredient wagon next to the fireplace where he was actually making the s’mores rather than running back and forth.  Wwhhhhhhyyyy?!?!? Argh, just let me make my own s’more!  Except I couldn’t.  And the whole experience made me weirdly grouchy because I am crazy.  The end.

So, if you’re still with me rather than reporting my fragile mental status to concerned authorities, we had another day of wine tasting the next day!  After a delicious breakfast, which featured a buffet and, thankfully, not a breakfast s’more waiter, we headed out to Villa San Juliette, which had been recommended the previous day at Eos.

IMG_2548
Villa San Juliette
IMG_2550
Happy couple at Villa San Juliette

It was amazing!  The wines were really good- I ended up becoming a member!  Also, the tasting was $10 and a lot of wines were served.  SMS ordered a pizza because his hunger levels were reaching imminent crisis levels and it looked delicious.  We spoke to the chef for a bit and he really knew his stuff.  I sort of wanted to eat there because everything he described sounded amazing, but we had already made plans for Daou which is another great experience.  But before I move on to Daou, if you are in Paso Robles, I give Villa San Juliette my highest recommendation!

IMG_2552
Daou lunch crowd!
IMG_2553
Daou vineyards

Rip has been a member of Daou for a long time and loves their wines.  It also sits on top of the largest hill around for miles so the view is spectacular.  There is an outside sitting area that is covered so, although it is quite hot, it’s comfortable in the shade as there’s often a gentle breeze as well.  We had a great tasting there and lunch.

IMG_2554

Our lunch was rather late so we decided to head back into town for happy hour rather than try and squeeze in another winery.  We got some so-so ice cream but later, went out for a really nice dinner at La Cosecha.  I ordered the seafood stew that was delicious but I wasn’t quite hungry enough for.  Still, I ate all the good stuff and tried not to waste any food!  Afterwards, SMS and I headed to an outdoor spa at River Oaks Hot Spring & Spa.  He made the reservation and it was really a good idea!  Afterwards, we still had room for a s’more so we hung out by the fire again.  This time, I was more chill.  Not uncoincidentally, there was a different s’more guy.

The next day, it was time to go.  We ate breakfast and then packed up the car.  It was a great mini-vacation and a fun way to celebrate family.

4th of July and West Orange, NJ

SMS and I visited family over the extended 4th of July weekend.  For the 4th itself, we went to the Shook family annual party.  It was a little more mellow this year compared to others (no swinging fireballs!), but it was a lot of fun.  The company was great and we had an awesome view of multiple firework shows.  I also got to run around the beach with my nephew Luca, which was a lot of fun.  He’s a spirited kid!  He also moves quite fast so no pictures from me although Mark caught him in action.

unnamed
Super cute!

That weekend, we headed up to New Jersey to see my grandfather and Dusty.  It was a quick trip since we arrived on Saturday and left Sunday.  We went out to a local restaurant since SMS and I hadn’t thought to bring nice clothes for a dinner at Navesink.  Doh!  Never fear, the local restaurant was really good and it was nice to hang out with Grandpa, Dusty, and my aunt Maria.

IMG_2503
Edison’s West Orange Factory

The next day, we went to the Thomas Edison National Historic Part in West Orange, NJ.  It’s at the site of his larger, industrial sized laboratory and factory.  We saw his chemical lab, production line, office with his huge roll-top desk, and the Black Maria.  The Black Maria is a tarpaper-covered video making studio on a lazy Susan to maximize light.  I’ve linked to a PBS short that talks about the Black Maria.  The current studio is actually a replica since the original burned down.  It was really neat to see someone’s idea constructed, from paper concept to large physical structure.  The scope of industrial engineering is something I’m in awe of- it’s hard for me to think on that scale.  But it is absolutely amazing to behold.

We stopped for lunch at MishMish cafe where we both ordered the Israeli brunch, which consisted of two fried eggs, halloumi, labne, sour pickles, tomatoes, cucumber, and pita.  I asked for sliced veggies instead, which also paired nicely.  It was really delicious.

IMG_2508
Is it wrong to think of my TESLA at Edison’s house?  The battery charger!

Afterwards, we quickly stopped at the Glenmont Estate, labelled “Glenmont Garage” on Google.  It’s the estate Edison gave to his second wife (he was a widower) as a wedding gift.  Niiiiiiccceeeee!  We didn’t have a lot of time but we peaked into an open window in the garage.  There, I saw Edison’s DC electric car charger- from  1904!  He charged neighbor’s cars and Alma Edison actually drove a 1914 Detroit Electric Model 47.  We walked behind the house and saw the gravesite of Thomas and Alma Edison before leaving for the airport.  Hmmm, typing that seems a little morbid pre-flight, but we didn’t have time to go inside!

IMG_2512
Back of the house

Busy (NYC) Weekend

IMG_2401

On Friday, I got a few hours of sleep and then woke up to start the journey home.  I grabbed my takeaway breakfast from the fridge and walked to the station.  The journey home was pretty uneventful although connecting through Brussels was a little nerve-wracking since there was a HUGE line for non-EU citizens leaving the Schengen zone.  I also had to run back to the United counter to get a sticker saying I had been through security.  This seemed ridiculous because of course I went through security, there was no other way to be at the gate.  Anyway, it was a pretty tight connection because of all that but I made it and got home, just in time for Chief’s Dinner.

After a nice dinner with colleagues and some funny roast skits (on video), I went home and slept pretty soundly.  The next morning, I got up to…take a plane to NYC.  I know.  Totally crazy but a friend of mine was having a baby shower hosted by friends with an amazing apartment.  So, off I went!

I landed in Newark and took the train into Penn Station.  I had made an appointment at the Apple Store near World Trade Center so after a delicious lunch at Sliced.  It was delicious and pretty healthy, too.  I had an open-faced toast and the counterman was really nice.

Then I walked down to the World Trade Center area.  I walked through the memorial, which was pretty somber.  It is clear that in the NYC area, 9/11 is an event that affects people daily.  I feel that elsewhere in the US, while people treat the date with solemnity, the direct impact is felt less often by the overall population on a day-to-day basis.

IMG_2403
The Oculus mohawk
IMG_2407
Inside Oculus

Next, I walked into Oculus, a futuristic-looking multi-use space that is impressive on the outside and the interior even more so.  I walked through Eatly and then went to the Apple store where they took my laptop away to send it in.  Although the girl tried to insinuate that I must have done something by showing my photos of a few spots of micro-rust from water damage, it ultimately turned out that the logic board had failed.  I didn’t have to pay anymore than the (expensive) base rate and my computer was returned with memory intact (my last backup had been a month ago!).

After that, it was time to party!  Michael and Scott organized a great party with awesome drinks and delicious food.  We went up to their deck and socialized while admiring the spectacular views.

IMG_2419
The star of the party! (On the left.  Sheesh.  I’m not that self-centered!)
IMG_2422
Brooklyn Bridge from M and S’s apartment
IMG_2426
It’s all fun and games until there are unintended consequences.  Fortunately, none here!

Then the party headed downstairs where we ate and drank some more.  We played pin-the-sperm-on-the-uterus after getting fairly liquored up (varied from person to person), which was a lot of fun.  One of the (gay) guys was right on target (cheater) and very proud of himself.  Most everyone else did rather poorly but there were no hurt feelings or broken household items.

The party was still going but I had to leave to meet up with my AirBnB host.  I know I wasn’t thrilled about my Gothenburg experience but NYC is expensive!  I met up and it was a cool loft, although several units had eviction/condemned notices up for overcrowding violations.  So, a little shady but my stay was fine.

Then I met up with Hillary and Karen for Ethiopian food.  It was so fun to hang out with them and after dinner, we headed over to Hillary’s to hang out and drink some wine.  They were a little mad at me for staying at an AirBnB but both of them were so busy with family and job obligations that I didn’t want to stress them out.  But they said if I ever came again, no AirBnB!  Stay with one of them!

The next day, Karen and I met up for brunch.  Afterwards, I walked for a bit and then met two of my aunts for a second brunch.  One of my aunts and I had planned to go to the Met but my grandfather really hoped to see me.  Well, the Met can wait!  Also, it was Father’s Day so it was nice to spend the day with family.  We had a really nice dinner at Navesink.  I took an Uber to Newark.  There was very little traffic and I made my flight without a hitch.

IMG_2643
Aunties!!

It was a wonderful weekend.

Family Weekend Road Trip

IMG_1325
Scary but delicious in Santa Barbara!

After a busy start to the month, SMS and I decided to continue the trend by taking a road trip to Newport Beach to visit his grandfathers and show off SMS’ new car.  It turned into even more of a family affair because we were also able to visit our newest nephew who is, of course, super cute!!!

On Saturday, we headed to a coffee shop that SMS wanted to show me: Companion Bakeshop in Santa Cruz.  He had been there as a pre-mountain biking meeting spot and thought it was delicious.  It was!  We ordered coffee, toast, a pastry, a baguette and a strawberry pie, which had rave reviews on Yelp.  [Aside: Yes, I use Yelp.  It’s actually pretty helpful.  I don’t get too in the weeds but glancing at the reviews helps get a feel for the place.  It’s even useful for overseas travel.]

IMG_1304
LOOK HOW CUTE HE IS!!!!!!!!
IMG_1306
Ok, at first I thought this picture was cute but now I am transfixed by the sight of my giant hand!

Then we went to Monterey to visit my newest nephew.  Ghah!  He is so cute!  I was glad we could visit because there was definitely a lot going on for my brother’s family.  It was a quick visit but I got to hold a teeny-weeny baby and pose for some pictures.

IMG_1310
It is a little rude of Matteo to pose as if I am letting his head fall off.

Then we were off to Newport Beach.  The drive was quick and painless.  We stopped in Paso Robles at the cutest lunch spot owned by a few really friendly locals.  It’s called Galley Bite and the staff, including the cook/owner, were really nice!  I highly recommend it- delicious food without getting caught up in a fancier downtown “Wine Country” place.  In fact, I stopped typing for a bit so I could write a quick TripAdvisor recommendation- small businesses need support!

Then we arrive in Newport.  We hung out with SMS’ parents and his grandfather that night.  We had a delicious dinner.  It had been awhile since we had seen them so it was a really nice time.  The next morning, we shared breakfast before SMS’ parents took off.  Then we headed over to visit SMS’ other grandfather.  We took pictures with the car and just really had a nice time with family.

IMG_1324
A Neptune Feast!

On Sunday, we headed back and stopped in the Santa Barbara Funk Zone.  It is super cool and although we were thinking of eating at Lark, we passed a food tent with Poseidon incarnate inside.  He was selling oysters, lobster rolls, and uni.  Yes, yes, and yes!  The tent was outside a little winery so we had some wine tasters to go along with our lunch.  It was an excellent stop.

IMG_1326
Near Handle Bar Coffee

We walked to Handle Bar Coffee shop and ordered a nitro coffee (me) and decaf espresso (SMS).  We also inhaled an adffogato.  Seriously, it’s like we hadn’t eaten all day.  After that interlude of pig-a-liciousness, we got back into the car and drove back to Mountain View.  Google maps sent us on a backroad adventure near Gilroy, which was really beautiful in the twilight.  Even though it was a lot of driving, it was an awesome weekend!

Sonoma Saturday

IMG_3469
SMS and I on the rooftop of Singlethread

What an amazing birthday weekend!  SMS and I had an epic few days in Sonoma.  We had so much fun together and I’m definitely sad it’s over.  But rather than drown in my pinot-tinged tears, let me tell you about our trip!

IMG_3418
Wisteria at Preston

We started on Saturday morning with an ambitiously scheduled 11 a.m. tour at Preston Farm and Winery.  Yes, well, that didn’t happen.  We stopped in Oakland for breakfast and even though we passed on the wait at the delicious looking Sequoia Diner, our drive there was a bit more of a detour than I realized.  We went to the World Ground Coffeeshop, which was pretty cool.

I called Preston Farm and they told us not to worry, that they’d even refund the tour charge once we got there!  Lucky us!  Preston is in the Dry Creek appellation of Sonoma. I picked it after researching several Sonoma wineries.  I liked the fact that there was a produce farm in addition to the winery.  In addition, they grow Mourvèdre grapes, which I really like in red blends.  They’re actually releasing a 100% Mourvèdre in a week so I might buy it off their website!

It’s not terribly difficult to get to although the last half mile is on a packed dirt road.  The gardens are beautiful and it is an idyllic place to sit.  There is a bocce ball court which, if I were to make a Mean Girls t-shirt for Preston, it would say, “On weekdays, we play bocce” since there were several (!) signs saying bocce was not to be played on weekends.

SMS and I each had a tasting.  We tried two whites and four reds.  We thought they were fine, but not mind-blowing.  We bought the white blend “Madam Preston” since it was our favorite of the flight and the tasting fee was waived with a bottle purchase.   Free wine!

The wine pourers were all really nice.  We got several biking recs and a few other tasting room suggestions.  One of the women enthusiastically endorsed our planned Monday tour at Medlock-Ames so we were excited about that!

IMG_6677
View at Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Preserve

After Preston, we went to Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Preserve.  We parked on a residential street near the trailhead and went on a two mile walk/hike.  There were really pretty views of the valley and it was a nice way to spend some time on a gorgeous day!

IMG_3431
Rockpile, the tasting room next to Rockpile, the construction site

After our hike, we went into Healdsburg.  We stayed at America’s Best Value Inn, which was fine.  It was clean and inexpensive, which was our goal for that night’s stay!  We walked into town, which I thought would be easy.  It was not.  There’s a construction zone for a roundabout that the locals, if you bring it up, will immediately start to vent about how long it’s taking and how ridiculous the whole thing is.  What was funny though is that there is a tasting room right on the developing roundabout called Rockville, which is very appropriate.  I think the name precedes the construction site though.

We went to the Idlewild tasting room, which was recommended to us at Preston.  The winery focuses on Piedmont, Italy wines.  The flight, which we shared, featured 5 single varietals, 2 white/3 red.  We also tried the Rosé, made from 47% Nebbiolo, 28% Barbera, and 25% Dolcetto.  Most rosés are made from Pinot Noir grapes so this was an interesting variation.  I got a full glass, which was definitely a great choice.  We talked with the pourer Scott for awhile!  He was very interesting and quite knowledgeable about the wine/restaurant scene. He is a somewhat recent transplant, having arrived from NYC about three years ago.

IMG_3424
Flowers at Shed

While the wines were good (especially paired with an incredible cheese plate- Piedmont Sola and a buffalo Camembert), we decided not to buy any bottles.  I think we were too lazy to carry them!  We headed over to Shed, where we had a reservation.  I had wanted to eat there since our last visit so I was really happy to go.

IMG_3430
Cheese, Salumi, Pickles- Shed

At Shed, we split three plates, which was a lot of food (as pointed out by SMS before we ordered).  I ordered the cheese/salumi plate and the ricotta-nettles dumplings.  Both were very good.  SMS ordered the savory toast, which was excellent.  The toast was pretty heavy since there was a lot of butter soaking the bread, topped by pesto and other toppings.  I never thought I would say there was too much better on toast but this one was slightly toeing the line.

After a great dinner, we headed back to the hotel.  It was time for bed in anticipation of Sonoma Sunday!