Saturday, October 16, 2010

On the road again: Bouchercon, San Francisco, day 4

If you know me at all well, you know that I am not a morning person. I don't like being awake before the hour hits double digits, and I relish every chance I get to sleep late. It should come as some surprise, therefore, that I set a wake-up call for eight, and mere minutes later was heading into the Ferry Building Farmers Market. What could lead me to such an act?


More specifically, the Acapella goat cheese from Andante Dairy. We encountered this cheese Wednesday night at Coi, where it soloed as the meal's cheese course. I would normally have popped into my mouth in one bite the entire tiny wedge they served, but when they told us it was from Andante, I instead took a sliver of the piece. That was a good choice. Acapella is, hands-down and by far, the best goat cheese I have ever tasted. Period. When we learned that it might be on sale by Andante at the farmer's market, but that they brought relatively little to market and closed as soon as that was gone, I knew Saturday would be an early rising day for me.

Of course, once there, I had to learn what cheeses traveled well--Acapella does not, alas--and then had to buy them all so that I could treat those at home to them. (Cheese tasting at my house Friday night!)

As I write this, my tummy is happily digesting half a small circle of Acapella and some fine, fresh-baked bread from the stall next to Andante. Each taste was as good as the first.

Andante is something of a celebrity dairy, if there can be such a thing, and its cheesemaker, Soyoung Scanlon, a bit of a food celebrity herself. She offers her cheese to few restaurants, Coi and The French Laundry among them, but if you ever get a chance to taste one of them, take the opportunity. I'm very glad I did.

Today's Bouchercon highlight was the interview with Lee Child, the author of the insanely popular Jack Reacher series. Child makes everything he does look effortless, but after producing over a dozen consecutive bestsellers (his first book among them), he clearly possesses great skill. Each time I listen to him talk, I learn something new; if you get a chance to attend an event where he is speaking, check it out.

Friday, October 15, 2010

On the road again: Bouchercon, San Francisco, day 3

One of the more interesting Bouchercon items today was an interview of bestselling writer David Baldacci. I've heard more than a few self-styled "literary" writers dismiss Baldacci and other top-selling thriller writers as hacks aiming books at the lowest common denominator. I haven't read his work, so I can't comment on it, but I can say that in the interview he came across as nice, intelligent, very focused on his work, and utterly unwilling to do anything simply to please the market. He repeated several times a statement I've often made: you should write books for yourself. As so frequently happens at such programming items, I left convinced to give one of his books a go.

Another excellent panel featured Declan Hughes and John Connolly discussing ten must-read crime novels. They actually covered ten must-read writers, and then added a few more in a rush at the end. Though I'd read most of the books and writers, a couple were on the list of people I keep meaning to read, and so perhaps now I will promote them.

Lunch was again at the Ferry Building, this time a Cowgirl Creamery grilled cheese sandwich of the day.

Mid-afternoon brought my one programming item, a thirty-minute session on children in war. The person in the room ahead of me ran more than ten minutes long, so I had a very short panel, but about eight folks showed up, and all of them seemed genuinely interested in the topic. So, though it was a very small group, it wasn't as soul- and ego-crushing as some of my solo con efforts.

Dinner was an absolutely excellent Persian meal at Zare at Flytrap. We sampled a range of appetizers and desserts, and every single dish was very good or better. The lamb sausages were superb. If you live here or are visiting, this place belongs on your restaurant short list.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

On the road again: Bouchercon, San Francisco, day 2

After a humane number of hours of sleep, I got up and dove into work. When I was caught up, I headed to the con and watched a relatively poorly executed liars' panel. I've done a few of these now, and to do them right you need extreme questions that permit entertaining lies and a group of funny panelists. The panelists did a reasonable job on this one, but the questions were too serious to permit the kind of humor that makes a large audience stay late.

Lunch was at the Ferry Building, where 4505 Meats produced a wonderfully tasty steak sandwich. Topping it, however, was a small bowl from Scream Sorbet; the Indian peach was very good, but the vanilla with macadamia nuts was superb.

After more work, I caught a panel on writers working in both film and novels. One writer, whose name I did not catch because I arrived a few minutes late, told the best story I've heard yet about Hollywood's attitude to a novelist wanting control of a script. After he complained for some time to an executive producer, the producer finally told him the following:

You don't understand the process. You owned a car. You sold me the car. Now, you want to drive the car. You may wave at the car as it goes by, but you may not drive it.
My view on this subject remains as it always has been: should someone buy the movie rights to one of my books, I will hope for a very large check that I will deposit as quickly as possible.

I promised yesterday that I would cover last night's dinner today, and so I shall. We ate at Coi, which the owners named using an archaic French term that means "tranquil." You have only one option at Coi: the eleven-course tasting menu. All the plates were interesting and demonstrated both technical skill and an intelligent approach to creating dishes. The server said that "cerebral" best described the food, and that's a reasonable summary.

The taste, however, was nowhere near as consistent. It ranged from difficult dishes I did not greatly enjoy, such as the oysters, to controversial, such as the young turnip-brown butter soup with pickled watermelon radish and purslane, to the absolutely delicious, such as the mushroom and beef courses. Both dessert courses were lovely, so the meal ended on a high note. The small dining room echoed the restaurant's name and conveyed a calming sense of tranquility. All things considered, I'd definitely go back to Coi, and I recommend it for adventurous diners.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

On the road again: Bouchercon, San Francisco, day 1

This trip mixes PT work with Bouchercon, the big mystery convention that I attend each year if I can reasonably make it. Today started badly with me in the shower in the early sixes after about an hour and a half of sleep. I don't need a ton of sleep, but that's not enough even for me. The trip fortunately went uneventfully, but there was no plane bandwidth for me, so by the time I was in my hotel room I was woefully behind on email and other work obligations. Hours of frenzied work brought me back to even, and then a very good but quite late (9:00 start) dinner put a nice ending on the day. I'll go into more detail about the meal tomorrow, but right now a bit more work stands between me and sleep, so I'm going to finish the demanding tasks and dive under some covers.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Now you can listen to the SF in SF talks

Thanks to Fred, I learned today that the Agony Column Podcast for my SF in SF appearance with Amelia Beamer is now available online here. I listened only to the first minute, but it appears to capture at least my whole reading. I hope you enjoy it.

I'd write more, but in not much more than three hours I have to get up to shower and head to a plane, so I'm signing off early tonight.

To let you end with something less dark than my reading, here is a small section of LA Story, a favorite movie of mine, that includes its magical fog monologue, a bit of silliness, and then the truly wonderful end bit. Magic.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Possibly the most awesome Q&A this year

io9 already covered it, but I loved it so much that I have to point to it here: Check out this coverage of Guillermo del Toro's Q&A session in Portland, Oregon on September 29. I'm pissed that I managed to be there and didn't even know this was happening!

I love almost everything he has to say. Two great samples:

The rule is to work only with people you admire or you love. Or both.

Adapting material is like marrying a widow. You have to be very respectful of the late husband's memory, but at some point you've gotta fuck.
Definitely check it out, and if you're a stone del Toro fan, also watch the videos a fan uploaded to YouTube.

By the way, if you have any questions you want me to answer, email me via the site's Contact page, and odds are good that I will. (Just don't ask me the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow without having first decided whether it's an African or European bird; that, I will not tolerate.)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Martin, my brother, and John Lennon

Today is my brother's birthday. He lives in Florida, so I never get to celebrate it with him. I didn't get to talk with him, which also sucks, but I hope I do tomorrow. He is a good man. If he walked by you and saw you were having trouble, he would stop and help. I love him, something I don't say enough to my family members, and I'm proud to have him as my brother.

Yesterday was John Lennon's birthday. If you haven't already done so, go watch the "Imagine" video. Is it hokey? Sure. It's also strong and true and right, and we should all always be imagining and working toward peace.

Thinking of Martin and John Lennon, I know that Martin would always stand by me, and so, though I've put it in the blog before, I have to close with this Lennon cover of this classic song, which I love.


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