Category Archives: Travel

Food Popular Restaurants Travel

{Tokyo} Sukiyabashi Jiro

My trip to Tokyo would be best described as Sandi Dreams of Jiro Dreaming of Sushi. As the 2nd most difficult restaurant in the world to get into, going to Sukiyabashi Jiro may be the biggest accomplishment of my life. And I had to have a lot of help to get there.

We started thinking about a trip to Tokyo in July. My husband used to live there and my friend Sandra is living there now as an expat (whenever anyone tells me that they’re an expat all I hear is “living like a Kardashian”).  For someone who loves food, fashion and bathrooms as much as I do, Tokyo is pretty much Mecca.


Getting a reservation at Jiro’s, especially as a foreigner, was no small feat. From

With three Michelin stars, an acclaimed documentary on the chef, and limited space, it’s no mystery that it’s tough to get in. What makes it nearly impossible to pull off, though, is that no one on staff speaks English, and that they tend to not welcome foreigners without a Japanese host. “If they detect an accent, it’s likely that they’ll tell you nothing is available,” says A Life Worth Eating’s Adam Goldberg, who had trouble getting in for quite some time but has since managed to dine there on multiple occasions.

For this we elicited help from Sandra’s friend Meg, whom I’ve never met but who, as far as I’m concerned, must be a mythical creature with superhuman powers to have gotten us a reservation. Attempt #1 was in September, where Meg was told that she could not make a November reservation until October 1.

On October 1, Sandra ventured over to Meg’s to commence the reservation-making. She dialed. And dialed. And dialed….and on the 100th try, got through:


Meg, a native Japanese speaker, made the reservation for us, under San-do-ra. San-do-ra was to bring a deposit of 20,000 yen at least a week before our reservation.

On November 14th, San-do-ra (not a native Japanese speaker) styled her hair like mine and did a reconnaissance trip, appearing at Jiro’s to bring the deposit. San-do-ra’s Japanese had clearly degraded between the time she made the reservation and the time she brought the deposit, but she had cash so it was okay. Even though she had her son with her as well as Flat Stanley.

On the morning of Monday, November 19th, we practiced asking if it was okay to take pictures, and then did photo drills (since the sushi should be eaten immediately after it’s made) where we pretended that a bunch of cheese was the sushi and I had to take photos and eat in rapid succession. I was also instructed to say, “Konichiwa, San-do-ra des” (“Hello, I am Sandra”) after which, as a non-Japanese speaker, I would be able to say nothing else and it would be clear to the staff that San-do-ra had a serious language-debilitating condition.


We arrived early to the Ginza district and we did a practice run to the restaurant, followed by some brief shopping and a return about 10 minutes in advance of our reservation. We approached the door tentatively and were waved in by one of the apprentices, and after announcing my “San-do-ra des”, we were the first ones seated of the 10 seats in the restaurant.

Behind the counter were Jiro, his son Yoshikazu and an apprentice. I’d heard that Chef Ono is stern and the atmosphere is intimidating, but I didn’t get that feeling at all. It felt respectful, and focused. I didn’t mind the quiet so much.

We were presented with the day’s menu, which was listed in Japanese as well as English, and asked if everything looked okay:

  • Sole fish (Karei)
  • Squid (Sumi-ika)
  • Yellowtail (Inada
  • Tuna (Akami)
  • Semi-Fatty tuna (Chu-toro)
  • Fatty Tuny (Oo-toro)
  • Gizzard Shad (Kohada)
  • Abalone (Mushi-awabi)
  • Jack Mackerel (Aji)
  • Clam Shell (Hamaguri)
  • Needle fish (Sayori)
  • Prawn (Kurumaebi)
  • Ark Shell (Akagai)
  • Bonito (Katsuo)
  • Squilla (Shako)
  • Sea Urchin (Uni)
  • Baby Scallops (Kobashira)
  • Salmon Roe (Ikura)
  • Sea Eel (Anago)
  • Egg (Tamago)

I hid my camera (actually, San-do-ra’s camera) under the counter until my husband asked in Japanese if it was okay to take photos. They said that it was fine — sushi photos only — and actually provided a little orange mat for my camera to live on. I noticed as the meal progressed that others were taking photos too so I felt slightly less weenie-ish about it.

Yoshikazu cut the fish and Chef Ono assembled and shaped the sushi, brushing it lightly with soy sauce just before serving. First up was the sole. It was presented, as were all the other pieces, with a side of ginger, which I never used. The first thing I noticed was the delicious vinegared rice, which had a firm and decisively lively texture where you could feel each of the individual grains. The wasabi was, as was the case in each of the pieces, assembled into the sushi itself. Delicious.

I wasn’t a very experienced squid sushi eater, so have limited basis on which to compare this one. What surprised me about the squid was that the initial contact was crunchy – followed on by a chewy, cushiony texture.

Next up was a tender yellowtail:

And then the tuna. The lean tuna was the most beautiful piece of sushi I had ever seen. It had a breathtaking hue and it glistened as it awaited consumption. It didn’t disappoint – it was unexpectedly tender and a smooth, warm flavor, and it’s amazing that anything with low fat content could taste like that. The semi-fatty tuna was soft and smooth as well. The fatty tuna was like butter. That’s a very good thing.

The gizzard shad had quite a fishy flavor, reminiscent of sardines:


A tender jack mackerel:

After this one Jiro gave us lean tuna again — at which point his son and the rest of the staff starting yelling, “ah ah ah ah!!!” — he had given us another guest’s tuna! He laughed and apologized and gave the tuna to the rightful eaters, we all had a little laugh amongst ourselves. The mood was a bit more relaxed after that.

And this gorgeous clam:

In the film, Jiro says that he makes smaller portions for women, since sushi is meant to be eaten in a single bite. I didn’t observe this to be the case with me, but perhaps they perceived me to be large-mouthed. In any case, when I saw this one, I was little worried about how I was going to consume it in a single bite.

I was right. As soon as I put it in my mouth, I realized that there was no room for the manipulation involved in chewing. So I started to breathe deeply in the completely silent restaurant, telling myself do not gag, do not gag, whatever you do do not gag…and eventually my saliva must have broken it down a bit because I was able to chew. All this to say that I have little memory of how this particular one tasted since I was mostly focused on not being horribly offensive. I do recall that it was firm and that the sauce complemented it nicely.

Needlefish, which reminded me of squid in flavor:

Yoshikazu prepared the prawn and placed it in front of me. I gawked at it, six inches in length, and was trying to think of a way to eat it in a single bite without asphyxiation, until Yoshikazu started pointing at my camera and saying, “Photo! Photo!”

“Oh!” I said (very articulate) and laughed and snapped a picture. To my relief he took the prawn back after the photo and cut it into manageable halves. It was lovely, soft and lobster-like.

Ark shell had a snappy texture and flavor of a clam (since it is a clam):

The bonito to me was the star of the show. It had an unbelievably delicate texture, with smoky and scallion notes, balanced by a sauce that just made it all incredible. More bonito! I wanted to shout. More more more! But I just ate it and nodded as much like a Japanese person as I could.

The squilla, or mantis shrimp, surprised me. It was gritty and dry in texture — not at all what I expected. Hard for me to judge the quality of this one since it was my first time consuming squilla, but it was not my favorite.

The uni, or sea urchin, however, was divine. It completely melted in my mouth…like ice cream.

The baby scallops looked delicious. And they were. Again, this one was quite big: as you can see it’s taller than the other pieces, wrapped in some seaweed and topped with the scallops. I decided this was going to be a two-biter.

After bite #1, it totally fell apart. I tried to eat the fallen parts surreptitiously when Yoshikazu said, “One bite! One bite!” (Mental note: get mouth enlargement procedure before next visit.)

The salmon roe was divine: smooth, delicate and perfect:

By the time the sea eel came around I was pretty much drunk on food and started taking blurry pictures. It had a nice light sweetness to it from the sauce.

Last piece was the egg (tamago), which was perfectly evenly cooked all the way through, with a touch of sweetness like a very light, airy cake:

After the tomago we moved to a table away from the counter to have dessert, which was a sweet, incredibly juicy musk melon:

This is what someone looks like after eating all of that:

 Here’s me with Jiro:

Photo credit: @KatyPerry

Just kidding. That’s Jiro with Katy Perry. I don’t think he’d ever let me get that close.

We went to pay and chatted with Yoshikazu about the release of the movie (they had posters and flyers by the door). Apparently Japan is the last place the film is being released. He was friendly and we had enough Japanese and English between all of us to have a pleasant exchange.

Then we exited and disappeared into the Ginza night.


Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Thank you to San-do-ra and Meg without whom this would never have happened!

Food Restaurants Travel

{Berkeley, CA} Summer Kitchen + Bake Shop

I’ve just spent a week up the in San Francisco Bay area and am experiencing major withdrawal symptoms. Of all the places I’ve ever been, I feel most at home in San Francisco, which is weird because I’ve never actually lived there. But I love the pulse of the city. I love the mindset. The proximity to Napa. And how the people love food! Cheerfully queuing for blocks at a time to experience the latest culinary delight! The way their eyes light up when we talk about eating! I guess the way to my heart really is through my stomach.

We were up north visiting my brother and sister-in-law, who are expecting their first child next month. So, it was going to be my last chance to invade their space for a while. They live in Oakland, in a cute little part conveniently situated near the BART, so the kids and I went into the city quite a bit — and I even got to have a night on the town with some friends sans kids at a Michelen-star restaurant (I’ll save that for another post).

I was planning on going into the city at night, so during the day I took the kids on a 1.3 mile walking excursion into Berkeley.

Estimated wpm (whines per minute): 48.7.

Pilgrimage destination: Summer Kitchen + Bake Shop. Here’s an excerpt from their website:

Summer Kitchens were used for preserving the bounty of the farm before the days of air conditioning. This was where the harvest was transformed into delicious meals and preserves were made to last the winter. These small buildings found behind large farm houses were the center of communal cooking and gathering.

Our Summer Kitchen, in the heart of Berkeley, is a modern interpretation of this classic idea. We strive to be our community’s summer kitchen-a place filled with ingredients from local farms, delicious meals cooked fresh daily, and local food craft created by us and artisans we admire. 

You can see their full menu here.

The restaurant is cozy, cheerful and packed with people of all ages. The girls and I ordered a pizza, half Black Mission Fig, La Quercia Prosciutto, Caramelized Onion, Gorgonzola and Wild Arugula (for me), and half Tomato, Mozzarrella and Fresh Basil (for them…ok, maybe me too). We bellied up to the counter to wait. The crazy look in her eyes is because she’s ravenous. I just started reading The Passage and am pretty sure this is how vampires look when they’re about to go for the jugular.

 Meanwhile, our pizza was being birthed before our very eyes.

These are the deft and capable hands of Paul, one of the owners of Summer Kitchen. Except that at the time I didn’t know him as Paul, only as the guy who I probably creeped out a bit by taking so many pictures.

Here’s a picture of Paul where he’s trying to figure out whether it’s time to call the cops on me. To his right, our pizza baking in the oven.

Wouldn’t this oven look so nice in my house?

I imagine that little elves are back there stoking the flames to optimize the flavor.

And then, our pizza was done.

Isn’t she beautiful? I just had to stare for a bit and take in the aroma (and more pictures).

Let me tell you how good this was.

The sweetness of the figs and caramelized onion were perfectly balanced by the sharpness of the gorgonzola and the saltiness of the proscuitto. The arugula gave a nice peppery tone to the symphony of flavors. And the crust! So thin, so crispy, so aromatic…all the things you’d want to be if you were a girl in Southern California. It was spectacular. The kids devoured their pieces, and my younger one said, “I think this is the best restaurant in San Francisco.” (Which might be true if only it were actually in San Francisco.)

I only got a bite of the Margherita half, and it was lovely.

I would have wept if I hadn’t acted strangely enough already.

We stuffed our faces. We gushed about the pizza. Paul, no longer afraid, came over to chat with us. We revealed that we were from the land of Legoland, and unaccustomed to such culinary delights. He revealed that he and his son once did a day trip to Legoland. As a side note, Legoland has pretty good food for a theme park.

We finished our food and got ready to head out. As a kind parting gift, Paul gave the girls a big chocolate chip cookie which brought them great joy and made the walk home far happier than the trek in.

So if you find yourself in the East Bay, do check out Summer Kitchen. I hear their fried chicken sandwich is to die for too.

Summer Kitchen + Bake Shop

2944 College Ave.

Berkeley, CA 94705

Food Restaurants Travel

{Paris} Creperie Suzette

Beware, I’m going to gush in the this post. Recently I highlighted a good, solid creperie which I’d recommend if you were in the vicinity of the Centre Pompidou and wanted to get a decent bite to eat. But today, I want to share about a creperie that you should try to go to even if you have to join a flying circus to get there. These are the best galettes I’ve ever had in Paris, and they just might be the best in the universe.

Creperie Suzette is nestled in the lovely neighborhood of Le Marais. What makes it exceptionally wonderful is that there are gorgeous shops and galleries all around, ranging from boutiques where the owners sew the little linen baby outfits to well-known luxury brands. I was able to make a quick pit stop into Yi’Ness (4 Rue de Birague, 750004 Paris), a boutique with funky, affordable clothes where I was able to triumphantly procure two cute little summer dresses in the face of excessive whining from my offspring. Place des Vosges is also nearby, if you’re in the mood for some low-key sunbathing and people-watching in Paris’s oldest public square.

The creperie is cozy — there’s outdoor seating, a tight row of seating on the ground level, and then another room of tables  on the second floor. There is only one restroom though, for men and women, so you can see a line of dancing children forming outside its door.

The service is friendly, really friendly for Paris, and everything on the menu is affordably priced between 5 and 11 euros.

I ordered a galette Pastourelle, which was a buckweat crepe over lettuce stuffed with salmon, cream and lemon and topped with a basil pesto:

Presentation is a key part of any good meal and Creperie Suzette nailed it. My husband got the Carnavalet: eggs, cheese and bacon:

The kids, in a surprising turn of events, ordered a Salade Suzette, which was a beautifully arranged with tomatoes laid out like flower petals along the edge:

There was only silence as we ate, each savoring the complex textures and delicate flavosr of our meals. Except the kids, who were loudly saying, “Mmmmm” the same way they do when they get cake pops. And that’s saying something.

Creperie Suzette
24 rue des Franc-Bourgeois
75004 Paris

Food Restaurants Travel

{Paris} Creperie Beaubourg

Summers in Paris are so lovely from the seat of a creperie. I love how the chairs at the cafes in town are turned unabashedly outward, for better people watching. How the vibe that says to enjoy all the richness in food and life, but to do it in chic measure.

Paris for my husband is about bread: one of his chores growing up was to do the daily bread run for the family, during which he would rabidly consume an entire baguette on his way home. Paris for me is a visual feast of architecture, arts, fashion and of course, food. And when it comes to food, few things make a meal as satisfying as a simple, perfect crepe.

We arrived early in the evening, and, wanting to stretch our legs after the journey through the Chunnel, headed out to the vicinity of the Centre Pompidou in the 4th arrondisement. It was 95 degrees and humid with all of Paris seeming to want to be on the metro at the same time as we did. It was like we were a bunch of sardines who decided to douse ourselves in fly paper glue and get canned together in a sauna.

Out of the metro, we headed straight for the fountain behind the Centre Pompidou.

 Just beyond the fountains is the Creperie Beaubourg.

The creperie has outdoor seating, with a view showcasing a juxtaposition of old and new:

We were thirsty so asked for a pitcher of water; we were treated to a peppery concoction which was surprising yet pleasant (I think it was water, flavored with white pepper. It was unusual enough for me to wonder whether it was an accident, but I’ll assume for now that it’s a signature offering there). I ordered a galette called a Quimper, which is a thin buckwheat pancake stuffed with ham, mushrooms and cheese, and topped with a fried egg.

The pancake was crispy on the outside with nice big crannies, and soft on the inside as it nestled the ham, mushroom and cheese into a cozy little packet. Simple, but good.

Dessert was a chocolate crepe with molton chocolate and cocoa powder, and a Crepe Suzette topped with sugar, lemon and a generous helping of butter:

Both were very good, solid executions of classic crepes.

A meal for four plus the two desserts cost us 46 euros, which was quite reasonable. Average menu items hover between the 4 and 9 euro range.

Is this the best creperie in town? I wouldn’t say so; I’ll be writing a review soon of one that just may be. But if you’re looking for a very good, no-frills, kid-friendly and affordable place to eat near a tourist trap, this is an excellent option. The presentation is basic, and the service is efficient. It does the job it’s meant to do.

Afterwards, we headed back in the heat toward the flat.

Isn’t Paris beautiful? Luckily you can’t see the whining in the picture.

Creperie Beaubourg
2 rue Brisemiche
75004 Paris

Food Travel

Baker & Olive

San Diego is known for its natural beauty, and perhaps even for its artificial beauties, but a foodie haven? Not so much. Having lived collectively in Chicago, New York, Boston, London, Paris and Tokyo before moving here, my husband and I had to adjust to living in a place where people seemed too busy working out to be concerned with food. Which saddened me, because Food, you complete me.

I want to start brewing my own vinegar. That will make for two pets in my home: a 5-year-old sourdough starter named Pete (which is also what my daughter calls the holes in her jeans), and a vinegar mother that will heretofore be known as Wilma. Fermented pets are the best ones.

You can imagine my excitement when Baker & Olive appeared in my neighborhood. You can be excited too, because you can order online.

This is a place where they allow you to drink olive oil and balsamic vinegars out of a cup.

It’s like the land of milk and honey without the milk (but a good selection of raw honey). See those silver things? They’re like kegs of olive oil and vinegar, and when you walk in the staff dispenses these deliciously viscous liquids for straight from the tap. They’ve got beautiful gift sets as well which are a nice way to try a variety of flavors.

Why yes, I do drink gravy, why do you ask?

Back to the vinegars: a nice variety vinegars, both balsamics and lighter ones. I was focused during my visit on the balsamics; you can see some of the varieties here. Their website says that “the density and complexity of our balsamic vinegars are a testament to the fact that they are made in Modena, Italy from high quality grape must, cooked down over an open wood fire and aged in oak barrels without the addition of much else, unlike so many “balsamic-like” products on the market.” Whatever they did, this vinegar is smooth, rich and complex. I bought a bottle of the violet-infused vinegar, which has a lovely fragrant bouquet; I tasted a strawberry balsamic which would be divine over a panna cotta topped with berries.

The violet balsamic, while lovely in concert with olive oil with bread as a convenient carrier, was a bit too floral for my standard vinaigrette — and I make vinaigrettes just about daily, so I need to head back to get a good basic balsamic.

I’m a vinegar novice though, so would love to hear if anyone else has experience making vinegars, or if you have recommendations on particularly good ones.

Excuse me while I have a glass of the violet now.

Lifestyle Popular Travel

Peacock Break

I’ve been trying really hard to improve my food photography. Today, I took a picture that was so bad that I had to delete it right away so that my eyes wouldn’t bleed. The good news is that I’ve been having better luck with peacocks. More so than peas.

Almost like a tasty stew, right? And this one I would wear to the Oscars:

It’s spring break season around the nation and my cousin and his family are visiting from New Jersey. I think his daughter has a future in product placement judging by the way she’s advertising that orange.

When I’m with peacocks, which you’ll be surprised to know is not that often, I’m most struck by how blue their bodies are. They are so blue.

I wasn’t kidding when I said blue. Well, except for this guy:

He was not blue at all. But the others were very blue indeed. So blue that we had to do two days of peacocks. The first day, my younger daughter was home with the flu.

Poor little pipsqueak couldn’t see the peacocks even though she was kind of dressed like them. Her older sister, who claims to be able to talk to animals, befriended one in particular. I like how the fencing looks in this picture. In real life bird poop is kind of gross, but in pictures? Rustic.

My mom and dad were with us too, and I got to be in a picture that my cousin took. My daughter was mad that she had to be away from her peacock friend for ten seconds.

I like this peacock who runs the general store in this outlaw town:

On Day 2, my youngest was feeling well enough to look for some peacocks of her own. First she befriended a female.

Eventually, she held court with a bunch of them.

Don’t trucks look better with peacocks around them?

I’ll close for now with this. I’m not really sure what it is, but it seems like a good way to head into the weekend. I’ll want to get back to the food soon…do you have any favorite photography tips to share with me?

Books Travel

Happy New Year!

I’m sure this is the subject line of everyone’s blog post around the world today, but I never claimed to be original. I have a good feeling about 2012, despite the fact that in the last remaining hours of 2011 we ran over a dead skunk (I say “we” because I am being gracious and not pointing out who the actual driver was, (my husband)) with our car, with the result that our car needs to be parked outside for the next month, or that I somehow managed to skirt mortality during our ski trip (you can comfortably conclude that I’m not the world’s best skier — at this writing I rank at approximately 7,000,000,001st worldwide, and yes, that would be behind some newborn babies) but received a large, painful rug burn from an actual rug by slipping down the stairs in the rental house. My hair’s a little messed up today but aside from that, it seems to be a pretty good start to the year.

I could do a list of New Year’s resolutions but they’re not ready yet so I’m just going to show some pictures. Below, the view from our rental house in Big Bear Lake, CA. It was so hot up there that I skied in short sleeves and was still too hot. It was actually not that much fun, skiing in the heat, but then again, I also find walking slightly more pleasurable than skiing.

Big Bear Lake

This is what the same scene looks like at sunset:

Big Bear Sunset

Like Mindy Kaling says in her book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), “There is no sunrise so beuatiful that it is worth waking me up to see it.” I know this because this past year I’ve had a job where I get up before the sunrise, so I see a lot of sunrises, and the sunset is just as good if not better, and you’ll feel a lot more normal all day if you see a sunset. Also, you’re probably going to hear me talk about Mindy a lot like she’s a friend of mine because I just read her book and I kind of want to be her.

I would share other pictures too but despite being on a ski trip, all my photos are of kids in the hot tub or people eating fatty foods.

Happy 2012! It’s also my dad’s birthday, so happy birthday Dad! Now to get dressed.


Rancho Valencia

A couple of months ago, I had the Best.  Day. Ever.  Me and four of my friends spent the day at Rancho Valencia , in Rancho Santa Fe (California).  Despite the picture on the spa website, rest assured that there is no requirement to stand in an outside shower half-naked.  To the right is another picture of the resort, right outside the relaxation room.  I didn’t take that picture.  In fact, woman in the picture isn’t even one of the friends I was with that day.  The woman in the picture is my friend Alice, who went to Rancho Valencia on a totally different day, and who has no idea that I’ve nabbed her Facebook photo for my own selfish purposes.

From what I hear all the Auberge resorts are to die for, and the service is spectactular.  Rancho Valencia in particular has a seasonal “quench”, which is a service that varies by season that’s 60 minutes long and costs $100.  It’s great value when you consider that you have access to the resort grounds, which includes a huge, gorgeous relaxation room with a big fireplace and silk tea bags, yoga classes, pool and hot tub, and cabanas for lunching poolside.  Even though the place was only minutes from where we live, we felt that we had escaped to a serene paradise where our sanity could once again be restored.

Next on my wish list?  Solage Calistoga, which is affiliated with Auberge.  I am pretty sure from looking at the website that I should be living there.


High School Reunion

If you’re ever on the fence about going to your 20-year high school reunion, I have some advice for you: go. I wish I had. My high school reunion is taking place this weekend. I had planned to go all along but was defeated along the way by my brother’s wedding being the next weekend, not wanting to take too much time off work given the aforementioned event requiring some time off work, and the logistics of managing a cross-country trek with or without kids and a husband traveling on business. So I resort to obsessively checking Facebook today, waiting eagerly for updates and reports from classmates, who politely say that they wish I were there, and who are having a great time. I think there’s got to be some benefit to escaping once in a while to the past, imagining that you’re young again, and reclaiming your pre-child-rearing identity. I don’t remember too much about that identity except that I had longer hair and didn’t have to worry about sucking in my gut on a regular basis. In any case, I’m wishing I were there.

Here’s the report from my friend Richie:
Well, under normal circumstances I would ask you to kill me if you ever saw me in the lobby bar of a suburban DC hotel all alone at 12:30 a.m. eating chicken tenders BUT I am having the greatest time!
I met up with Yoonah at the hotel and we went to the Happy Hour at a bar in Rosslyn. I immediately felt like I was back in TJ (anxious), but everyone is so great. Hung out with Kristen Knipling for a while, but also had conversations with people who never spoke to me in school! So much fun… I wish you were here. Everyone looks exactly the same except a little rounder.
Tomorrow, TJ day and the dinner/dance. Will report in the evening.

Photo above is from the 10-year reunion. Although I enjoyed it (of particular note is that Richie attended that one in drag), 10 years isn’t such a long time. Most people hadn’t had kids yet, and people looked generally the same, if only a bit worse for wear from steady beer consumption. After 20 years, stuff happens. People’s lives take drastically different courses, and I think at this age for the most part you are who you are — for the most part more mature, humbled by life, and able to look back and high school and laugh (and looking back at the hair in the pictures people are posting from high school, there’s a lot to laugh at). I’ve been enjoying the pre-reunion postings online (“Michael Kirkland wants to make sure all his classmates at the TJHSS&T; reunion know that he invented Post-It Notes”; “Lorelei Brown Experiencing huge life changes all at once. Feeling trepidacious about HS Reunion – I’m fat and don’t think I’m going to lose 30 pounds by 8 o’clock.”; “Mike Benton is going to my 20-year HS reunion tomorrow dressed as my day job. Secret Agent Astronaut Millionaire Cowboy.”). And when do people officially start looking old? 50? I’ll be cutting it close for the next reunion.


My Many Travels

We have a lot to catch up on. By “a lot” I mean approximately the ten pounds I’ve put on in the past week. The other day I took off my jeans and I literally had welts along the waistline and the thighs because they were so tight.

It started out early next week (and by early, I mean 4 AM, which is when I got up to catch my flight) when I made the trek from San Diego to Hartford, CT. There is no direct flight between the two points, so much of that day was spent stuffing airport food and snacks into my mouth in between and after flights. Our corporate partner put us up at the Saybrook Point Inn in Old Saybrook, CT, which was surprisingly nice. Old Saybrook is a cute little New England town, where as far as I could tell people never left. The Inn was lovely — the photos that you see in the Photo Gallery link on their website is actually very representative of the facilities. The rooms were huge, and best of all, the bathrooms were spacious and incredibly well-lit (and as someone who is prone to such strange afflictions as the occasional zit on the eyelid, I can attest that the lighting was adequate for the alchemy required to cosmetically remedy my maladies). The photo above was the view taken from my room. I should have had a really good nights’ sleep but there was this nautical mirror in the room which gave it a sort of shipwrecked/haunted feeling, which resulted in paranormal paranoia and thus insomnia on my part in what should otherwise have been an incredibly romantic environment. In short, the inn is great for couples, not so good for the paranoid.

I took this picture at the restaurant at the hotel, Terra Mar. The food was surprisingly good; I had pretty low expectations of a small-town operation, but then again, I do come from a town with not much to brag about in terms of restaurants. I started off with the Maine Lobster Bisque, which was delightful, and followed up with the Stonington CT Seared Sea Scallops, which were a bit overdone but otherwise good. Breakfast was hearty and satisfied me well into lunchtime (which was fortunate since the salad we ordered in, from a local lunch place, was basically rabbit food with no dressing).

That evening, we proceeded on to New York, where we stayed at the Westin Times Square, whose rooms are not nearly as nice as depicted on their website. I suppose they look roughly like the photos, but the pics have clearly been photoshopped to appear a lot more upscale than they actually are. The common terminology amongst the group when describing the restroom was “prison bathroom”. It wasn’t terrible by any means, but compared to the Old Saybrook Inn it was tired and certainly a few steps down.

We headed over to Valbella in the Meat-Packing District for dinner, where an acquaintance arranged for us to get a room in a private wine cellar. There was a vault-like door, which, once closed, made the room completely silent, and I felt like we were a bunch of teenagers at prom in a restaurant at which we were much too young to patronize. The waiter there confirmed my sentiments. I don’t recall too much detail on the gastronomic joys of the dinner (being surrounded by hundreds of bottles of wine might have had something to do with that), but I did discover that 1) the President / COO of our partner company loves beets as much as I do, and 2) I pretty much could not fit another bite into my body due to clothing constraints. The food was good, but I’m not sure it was commensurate with the price, and all that was blunted by the haughty attitude of the waiter on staff.

The next day, after a sleepless night and waking at 3 AM PST for a day of meetings, we went around town and met with other business people. Without going into too much more detail, let me just recommend Quality Florist if you ever need a florist in New York (they do a great job, and really care about their customers), and Schweitzer Linen if you’re in the market for luxurious sheets. There was then a trip to the airport, and then 7 hours spent at JFK while our flight was perpetually delayed and I was ready to slit my wrists with a plastic knife. I swear the plane we took back was made of Legos and had half the space of any normal plane.

I was home then for a day, and then headed out on a spa getaway weekend with a friend of mine from business school. We went to Palm Springs and stayed at the Westin Mission Hills , which was a nice-enough-looking resort but could have been better on service. We were first booked into a room with a King bed, which was annoying since 1) we had specifically requested a room with two double beds, and 2) as two working moms looking for a break, we were really looking forward to hogging up an entire bed and sleeping spread out into a star shape. We were eventually moved into such a room, only to discover that we had a room with a leaky sink. The resort was pretty dead — probably reflective of the economy. The restaurant at the resort was ok — nothing that blew me away.

We ate one evening at Thai Smile, which, despite the alarming lack of Thai people, was actually pretty good. We also watched the latest Bond flick, Quantum of Solace, which eliminated any doubts I might have had that being a secret agent is a very family-unfriendly job. After a week back at work, I’m ready for another vacation. Sadly, there are none on the horizon. Ah well, there’s always wine.