Friday, November 30, 2007

D-Day Plus 2 – Into Terra Incognita

Everything that I had on my initial birthday bash list from last April has been done. Everything from this point is Wife’s idea. We are leaving the hotel and walking to Chinatown for something that goes from 10 to 1 and includes lunch – a cooking class or demo? We’ll find out.

D-Day – The First Dinner – Qunice

This was the least surprise of the trip because the whole idea of going to San Francisco came out of our experience here last time for Wife’s birthday in April. So many times when I’ve had a great meal experience and I go back to the restaurant the second experience never seems to match that first one. That was not what happened this time. (I write the rest of this knowing I am going to be getting both barrels from dear old Dad). Chef Michael Tusk has an incredible knack for fulfilling on what many other restaurants only talk about – using the highest quality local ingredients and preparing the food simply with them.

When he says your appetizer is quail with chestnuts and radiccio, you can be sure there is the smallest amount of the latter just to add flavor points to the quail. Same with crab with meyer lemon and avocado – just touches of the other ingredients to accent the crab.

For a pasta course I had taglionline with chantarelles and black trumpet mushrooms. Some dishes, pasta especially, can become weighty as you eat them. This was a dish that came out piping hot and as it cooled got more and more flavorful. Wife had the agnolotti dal plin (that I had last time), tiny meat filled pastas. This dish, compared to last time, didn’t seem to quite have the explosive meatiness of flavor I remembered; but then again last time it came as a complete surprise.

For our main courses, Wife had roasted port and I had lamb. Here, as much as anywhere, the focus on a premium ingredient stood out. The dishes where basically roasted meat with simple deglazing type sauces (the lamb did have some cranberry beans) – but what meat. Both were outstanding.

I love the fact that Quince has an extensive choice of half bottles of wine so we can have different wines with our courses. We started the meal with a 2004 Puilly Fuisse, Tête de Cru from Domaine Ferret and when on to a 2003 Chateau Puy Bardens Première Côtes de Bordeaux.

For dessert, Wife had chocolate pot de crème. I think it must have been really good because she never offered me any and she excused her using her finger to lick out the bowl by saying this was common in higher class restaurants. I went with cheese as they had a number of my favorites; Comte, a Swiss like cheese from Franche Compte region, Mimolette, a dark red hard cheese from Flanders (a favorite of Tim de Buffalo), Mount Tam, a Camambert type cheese from Colorado.

It was 10:15 when we were done. We intended to have an after dinner drink in the fabulous lobby (National Heritage Register Building) of the Fairmont but we were both bushed after the long day and all the food and wine so we just crashed.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

D-Day – The First Evening

We got down to Fisherman’s Wharf and decided it was way too touristy to have lunch there. So we grabbed a crab sandwich to tie us over which we split then caught the ferry to Sausalito. As much as I dislike the ocean (up and down – side to side – retch, retch – up and down, etc., etc.) I love smoother bodies of water. We had a nice seat up front in the ferry that had very few people on it. Getting to Sausalito, we had a light lunch of some local Point Reyes Oysters, clam chowder (for Wife) and split an order of fish and chips with couple of glasses of sauvignon blanc.

Then we roamed town looking at art galleries. There was one that had some stuff we really liked and was even close to our price range. Then I grabbed a coffee and a Madeline (a French cookie) and was eating it while Wife was taking pictures across the Bay toward San Francisco. The combination of the Madelines and the art gallery put me into a Proust moment where I was thinking about my Mother. This gets a bit complicated but Proust wrote around 500 pages about his memories of growing up after biting into a tea dipped Madeline that served as the key to the flood of memories. For me it was the combination of art (since I had no interest in it until my Mom became a docent at an art museum and started taking me around) and the Madeline (since I had no interest in French until my Mom got me involved with a study in France program).

Dinner tonight is presumably (since Wife is very tight lipped about what will happen next) the first of a number of gastronomic events. We are going once again to Quince. I can’t wait.


Thursday, November 29, 2007
D-Day plus One Hour and Twenty Minutes
Off we go into the wild blue yonder. Flying high into the sky. Etc., etc., etc.
What does dear Wife have in store for me? I have not a clue. She says it’s all about me (year!). But She did bring her camera (hmmmmmm). The mystery will begin to unfold in just a few hours.
D-Day plus Four Hours and Twenty Minutes

Some of the trip begins to unfold.

We are staying at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. It is a venerable place on Nob Hill. Wife has gone out of her way to wheel and deal with the reception people to get us a room in the ‘new’ tower with a fabulous view – just for me. We are scheduled to go to Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch (we’ll see what she has dug up for us) and then take the ferry to Sausalito to browse around and look at art.

I now know that we are only staying one night at this hotel so I’m not sure where we go from here.

Dinner reservations are set. I have a strong suspicion what that will be. I also now we have some activity tomorrow from 10 to 1 that requires us leaving our luggage at the hotel before we go to our next location.

Stay tuned for more.

D-Day minus 25 Minutes and Counting

Yes it is freakin' early

Flight seems it will be on time (yeah!)

Conversation level between Wife and de-I - Minimal, the walking sleep

We have at least 7 other flights in the adjacent gates that actually are leaving earlier than us.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

D-Day minus 32 Hours and Counting

Busy day in the LA area with the usual number of networking meetings plus a meeting with a prospect that we are giving a proposal to.

By some oddity, Wife's flight decisions for our trip on Thursday call for us to be taking a 6 AM flight out. If I had made such a reservation, I would be up for in front of a Wife led tribunal for war crimes. As it is when I inquired to Wife about the decision, she merely said it was my fault.

Monday, November 26, 2007

D-Day minus 3 Days and Counting

My 60th birthday approaches and my wonderful companion, love and friend, Wife, has planned a mystery trip for me. All I know is that we are leaving on Thursday morning for San Francisco and that we come back on Monday. Imagine any trip I would go on and give up all control of the details to someone else. Of course knowing my nefarious brood, all of my brood plus most of my friends already know the details. But I have been the picture of patience and confidence and have religiously let go of any thought of trying to figure out what we will be doing.

In the meantime I am jaunting off to Ontario, CA for two quick days of work.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving Pictoral Extravaganza - The Aftermath

After the great repast, on Friday Gaius Derf and I went hiking on the La Luz trail, his favorite. The fact that it was 33 degrees and snowing was no deterrent. After being thawed out from my bout with hypothermia, we enjoyed the second repast on the leftovers. As cooking a big meal is always somewhat stressful, I really enjoy this second meal more than the first. This time we tried a Sangeovese from Sonoma and a Pinot Noir from Oregon as our wines. On Saturday we went to Santa Fe and walked the art galleries before stopping for a light meal of tapas at a local restaurant.

"Come to dinner ", he said.
"You'll be the guest of honor". he said.
"Everyone will love you", he said
"Damn Hannibal Lechter", I say

"It's only a short way to the top now de-I; just up there in the that whiteout there."

"Ha, just kidding."
"See how much better it looks going down now."

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Pictoral Extravaganza - Part 2

So we headed down the final denouement of the Thanksgiving repast. All the side elements had been prepared. I happy to say that among the side dishes not a single green vegetable was to be found. I had actually bought a package of frozen peas (in memory of my family's traditional menu) but forgot to make them...twice...I forgot again the next night. Nobody cared.

Side Dishes sans Greens

The turkey as mentioned previously was a great experiment. After the brining it was cooked at a very high heat (450 degrees) and you were supposed to put it breast side down to begin with and then flip over half way through. The problem was it cooked in about 2/3rds the time I had estimated so the top didn't get quite as brown as I would have liked.

"You'll love the tanning bed he says -- tanning bed my ass!"

Then it was on to consumption of mass quantities. One of the great things about Thanksgiving is you start eating in mid-afternoon which allows one to keep pacing and consuming the day through.

One Hour In
"98 bottles of wine on the wall, 98 bottles of wine..."

Several Hours Later
"35 bottles of wine on the wall, 35 bottles of wine..."

So we went to the end of our meal finishing up with a very nice armagnac later in the evening -- except of course those who had duties in the Imperial Court

Come down to the Court Gaius Derf.
All is forgiven Gaius Derf.
Raggin' fraggin' Emperor @$*#!."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Pictoral Extravaganza - Part 1

Hit a dry hole in your constant exploration of interesting topics to write about in your blog? Or even uninteresting topics to write about in your blog? That's why the creator made holidays. Because even if you just have one person visiting you, a holiday is an excuse for excess and a magnet for disaster -- always good ingredients for writing.

We here at de-I Central in Imperial Albuquerque have had the great, great fortune to be have our good friends, the disgraced Procounsel, Gaius Derf and the always engaging super plotter, Agent W joining us for the weekend. As Gaius Derf is currently banished to Salt Lake City, it took some plotting by Agent W to make this happen and Imperial dispensation so Gaius Derf didn't have to worry about being thrown into the Colosseum with the beasts.

I have taken this occasion to try a completely revamped Thanksgiving menu featuring new recipes for most of what we are serving.

Of course Mrs. de-I started of by baking up a storm including these wonderful whole wheat loaves.

My turkey this year is a brined version based on apple flavoring of all things (cider and actual apples).

Turkey in Brining Container

After an overnight brining, the turkey needed to be drained and dried

"Boy everyone seems to be having such a good time. I sure is nice to be out of the cold brine path"

Then one lays the butter slathered bird on a bed of aromatic vegetables, basil and white wine.

"Golly, I think this guy is a bit kinky rubbing me all over with butter"

Of course, one needs to make stock from scratch for the gravy

We're making a yam dish with Thai flavorings and a dressing with Southern and Italian influences (bread, corn bread, Italian sausage, pancetta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese)

Ginger, garlic, chiles for the yams

Agent W making bread crumbs for the dressing

Finished Yams and Dressing

More on the extravaganza in the next post.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Back on Terra Firma

Or at least Terra Homa. I'm back in NM though my body clock is not quite that sure after having been in Atlanta, Albuquerque, Los Angles, Albuquerque, Connecticut and Albuquerque over a 14 day period.

Work is going bonkers. I've had to install one of those number machines from the deli counter just to keep track of it all :)

Friends Agent W and Gaius Derf are coming down from Salt Lake City for Thanksgiving. Sobriety is being sent to North Dakota for the holiday to get it out of the way. I'm researching a bunch of different recipes for the holiday. This will not be the traditional family Thanksgiving. Hoping it all turns out OK.

Details on O-I's new guide dog. Name is Unique (really) but I think he will call her (yes her) Nikki. Nikki is 2.5 years old, supposed to be sweet so that will go well with O-I who is sometimes known as SOB - Sweet Old Bill. Only 60 pounds so a bit of runt. O-I will start is training with her after Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

News from O-I

I'm in Connecticut for my quarterly visit with my Dad, O-I. O-I lost his guide dog, Uzef aka WonderDog during the summer so all of we children have been out to see him this fall to see how he's doing which I will say is pretty good. A lot of people have asked whether he will be getting a new dog which was a big question mark because of his age (four score and four as of Nov 19). I actually have a gag order imposed on me by O-I but since he avoids blogs as a form of devil worship (akin to Starbucks, balsamic vinegar, and fruit flavors on everything) I am going to leak that there may be a significant announcement on this subject in the near future.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Help -I'm Being Channeled by an Alien

Those with a deep de-I family history will probably suspect that I am talking about my youngest daughter -- but then we'd be talking about the channelee not the channeler. No I'm afraid that this source of intrusion into my psyche comes from an entirely different direction; so insidious that it's almost too frightening to contemplate.

I was becoming slightly aware of this in recent months but a comment to the blog from AinA about my use of the term, "sweet", brought it all into terrifying clarity. I should have seen this when the moment I would get off the plane in Chicago, I would suddenly start making rather blatant comments about any attractive person in a skirt; something I do nowhere else. I should have recognized it when three weeks ago in Chicago, we were making a left turn on to Hooker and were stuck behind a car whose driver had decision paralysis and blurted out series of obscenities about them before my partner who was driving could even open his mouth.

God help me if I suddenly have a desire to join a fantasy football league.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Yo from LA

Back in LA for a bit of business development with our new CRM (client relationship manager) guy Michael H. A bit more airline fun getting here. I was supposed to go to Salinas on Sunday and then on to LA, but got a phone call just after I went through security in ABQ telling me the meeting had been canceled. Thank goodness I didn't waste my time and money on flight for nothing. So I had to spend an hour getting myself unchecked into the flight and changing reservations. But I got another day at home.

Then on Monday it was on to LA again. I was taking a flight through Denver leaving at 1:15 in the afternoon because I was told the 5:09 direct flight was sold out. Get to the airport and find the flight is going to be 15 minutes late. Then 25 minutes late. Then an hour late. It's clear I'm missing my connection. I go to the check in counter. They tell me the next flight out of Denver they can get me on will get me into LA at 9 PM but they could get me on the 5:09 direct flight that gets in at 6:41. What! That flight was sold out! Guess not. Not only that but I got my preferred exit row isle seat with no one next to me. Sweet.

For those sad souls like me who want to know more about the judging of the Next Iron Chef, go to Andrew Knowlton's blog on Bon Appetit, the Monday post.

Home Wednesday night then on to Connecticut on Thursday morning for the quarterly visit to o-I

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Winner

of the Next Iron Chef contest was Michael Symon. Well deserved if you ask me. You could see it during the judging and poor Chef Besch heard it coming too. All it takes is couple of dishes that don't emphasize the theme ingredient. I was particularly impressed that The Food Network played the coverage rather straight with a lot of seemingly non-edited commentary by the judges.
I must becoming influenced by Lakeview Coffee because since I couldn't see the beginning, I waited until later in the evening to watch the whole thing uninterrupted.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Color in the Desert

The high desert of New Mexico and especially in our neck of the woods is not noted for color. We don't have the swath of deciduous trees turning in to reds, browns, yellows, golds. On my hike this weekend I went on the Embudo Trail close to the house and when I came the view over the mountain valley I was his with this view of a couple of collections of intensely gold trees in a sea of brown and green. I'm not sure if these pictures will convey just how much the colors popped.

In addition, I also saw a new bird, the Hairy Woodpecker. And I made a tasty chicken stew with olives and orange rind that wife and I shared with an excellent Oregon Pinot Noir. A nice interlude before hitting the road trail again.

Friday, November 9, 2007

And The Winner Is...

Mrs. de-I and I went out today looking for counter top colors for the kitchen part of the remodel. We visited a client of mine who's in the business. As is usual in these things (at least for us) the choices are overwhelming. Below is a picture of the varieties of colors that one could choose from.

Wife picked out a whole bunch of colors samples to bring back. Much to our amazement one color just popped for us...called adobe of all things. Not only did we both instantly like it (more of this bizarre concurrence of taste on the part of Wife and I) but it got the GGSA (Gay Guy Seal of Approval) as our friend who had helped so much with Mrs de-I's living room makeover happened to stop by and seconded our choice. One can only hope the rest of this project continues to move along at this pace.

Adobe Front and Center

The Secret to a Long Marriage Revealed

How does one manage to stay married for decades and decades and still maintain the sweetness and emotion that first brought you together in the first place?

Why Westphalian Pumpernickel of course - just look at the picture on the package.

Please note the importance of 'whole kernels'

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Note from Atlanta

I'm writing a quick note prior to my meetings starting today in Atlanta. We're in the midsts of another successful business succession project (this one has been going on for almost 5 years -- and yes they do usually take that kind of time). It was down to 33 degrees this morning and I was not packed for it. I always get caught somewhere during the fall with the temperature plunging and my not having the clothes.

If you didn't see Sunday's Next Iron Chef competition, it was awesome and is rerun on both Thursday night and Saturday night. The finale is this Sunday and its down to Besch and Symon in Kitchen Stadium. If you are male, you might want to see the rerun just to see the most sensual dress I've ever seen worn by a judge in a chef's competition.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Flooring and Lighting and Window Treatments, Oh My!

Wife and I are whizing through a host of selections we need to make in order for our contractor to put together semi-final plans and a preliminary quote which is needed to get the financing. This involves such decisions as:

  • Floor coverings
  • Lighting
  • Heating and cooling
  • Cabinetry
  • Electrical
  • Communications (TV, phone and computer)
Amazingly we are pretty much on the same page. This has been true over the last year or so. It's very strange when after many years of successful discord, you suddenly find yourself totally on the same page as your spouse!

Friday, November 2, 2007

TNIC - Update

Knowing that I was going to be able to spend Thursday evening with food and cooking crazy daughter MotherRocker and that the re-run of the fourth episode of The Next Iron Chef competition was to run that evening, I skipped the Sunday showing to watch with her. It was quite thrilling as two of the four remaining chefs were on the knife’s edge. Ultimately Aaron Sanchez was the one to go. Chef Michael Symons has now won the last two competitions hands down. It seems that it will come down to him and John Besh. Cosentino is going to have to really go to another level compared to his last couple of performances to stay in the game. This weeks adventure is in Paris. Wish I could be there.

Because of a very productive ride home from Chicago, I am taking tomorrow off and going on a long hike. After feeling the chill descending on Chicago, it was really good to get home to the bright sunshine of Albuquerque.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Joy of Sleep

On Tuesday afternoon, we gave the first Chicago presentation of my business succession workshop "Will Your Business Pay for Your Retirement" (c). Since Ricardo and Lakeview have their own "unique" style of business networking this was done at our offices with wine and cheese...during the presentation! All I can say was I was glad the group was relatively sedate and attentive.

Actually we had a great prospect their brought by Ricardo. Afterwards we went to Timo for drinks where I spent an hour and half with the prospect doing heavy duty selling...with drinks. This was followed by dinner (with drinks) and more heavy duty networking with a resource. By the time we got back to Ricardo's I was wired. I went to sleep but was up three hours later and could not fall back to sleep. Naturally it took a while to get going on yesterday morning.

In spite of that I had good energy through the day. Fortunately, we had no business during the evening. We ate light (thank you Jodie) at Ricardo's and I was in bed by 9:30. I was out for the whole night.

It was great.

(this post is brought to you from an incredibly small (two tables) and packed Starbucks located at Wells and Adams in downtown Chicago - yeah wi-fi)