Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dim Sum House

News & Observer restaurant critic Greg Cox gave this local place four stars in a recent review, and I do love me some dim sum, so recently we ate dinner there. After trying all the dim sum on offer, I have to conclude that either Cox has never eaten at a good dim sum joint or his experience was radically different from ours.

The food wasn't terrible, mind you. A few dishes, notably the barbecue pork dim sum and the pork dumplings, were actually quite tasty.

Nothing, however, was excellent, and most of the dishes were decidedly average. I enjoyed my food, but no more so than I would have enjoyed the offerings at any of a dozen other Chinese restaurants in town.

We were also unpleasantly surprised to learn that many of the dim sum on the menu were not available--at seven on a Saturday night. They had crossed out parts of the menu, and the entire dessert section had gone walkabout.

Our server was doing her best, but she was working most of the fairly busy house, and she simply could not manage more than mediocre service.

My recommendation is simple: Don't let its name mislead you into believing you will be able to enjoy cart after cart of wonderful steaming dim sum. You won't. You'll have a better meal at any PF Chang's in America.

I won't go back until someone other than Greg Cox tells me they have a great dinner there.

Friday, May 20, 2011

On the road again: Portland, day 5

So much for that hope.

When I went to bed late last night, we were on our scheduled American Airlines flights with bandwidth on the planes and a first-class upgrade on the first leg. Yee-haw!

When I reached the airport, I learned that thunderstorms in the midwest had led American to cancel our flights and book us on new flights that wouldn't get us home until Saturday.

No, that would not work.

After much waiting and forced pleasantries, we were able to get them to rebook us on Delta flights arriving four hours later tonight--but arriving today. Of course, we gave up first-class seats and instead had middle seats far apart, but at least we had seats. Mine was a gem, sandwiching me between two guys each of whom had shoulders at least as wide as mine. The plane offered bandwidth, so I worked, but we were so cramped that I had to brace the edge of the laptop on my legs and type looking down into the "V" shape it made. Not fun.

When we reached Atlanta, our gate was occupied, so we didn't get off the plane until it was time for our other flight to board. Much speed-walking and train riding later, we reached our gate to find that our flight was running late.

Still, I made it home, and only about five hours later than I'd planned.

Ah, the joys of business travel.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

On the road again: Portland, day 4

My big daytime treat today was a stop at a grocery store to pick up and consume a delicious Ruby Jewel ice cream sandwich. At one level, I'm sad that these amazing combinations of cookies and ice creams aren't available in my area. At another, though, I'm glad, because I fear I would all too often give in to their temptation.

Dinner took us to Andina, which is the first Peruvian restaurant I've visited. I've heard many good things about it, so I was quite curious to see if the food lived up to the praise.

It did. We sampled several small plates and one entree; all were very good. The dishes mixed traditional Peruvian recipes with local ingredients and modern techniques. One striking example was a traditional pot-pie deconstructed so that the meat, egg, greens, and pastry were all separate items on the plate, with pork cheeks rather than the original "whatever was on hand" as the meat. It was lovely. I will definitely go back there, and I recommend it.

Tomorrow morning, I have to get up well before the crack of dawn to head to the airport and begin the long trek home. Here's hoping for uneventful flights!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On the road again: Portland, day 3

Much work today, none of which I can discuss. As usual.

Dinner took us to Gabriel Rucker's newer restaurant, Little Bird, for my second visit there. I made my meal from appetizers and sides, and every dish I sampled was excellent. Though I still prefer Le Pigeon to Little Bird, I do love them both, and walking into either one makes me smile and feel a little better. If you live in this area or visit it, you owe it to yourself to check out both of them.

The weather here has been mercurial, one minute sunny, the next gray, but the temperature has stayed beautifully brisk. In two months, as I sweat in the North Carolina summer heat, I will be wishing for this climate.

Now, though, it's my time to grab a very few hours of sleep before resuming work.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On the road again: Portland, day 2

Client meetings are confidential, and they were my mission today, so I can't talk at all about work (as usual).

The oddest moment of the day came courtesy of the hotel. Have you ever wondered what the true price of intimacy was? Well, this hotel can help, because right in each room it sells the...

(As always, click on a photo for a larger image of it.)

Yes, the Intimacy Kit. Should you wonder just how the hotel defines intimacy, simply flip over the tin.

The lack of symmetry bothers me a bit--two condoms, two towelettes, but only one tube of lube--but I have to assume the intimacy makers know what they're doing and have made sure it was a capacious lube tube.

I'm also a little disturbed that a wine opener costs more than an intimacy kit, but perhaps that says more about the hotel's target demographics than about the true value of either wine or intimacy.

Tonight's dinner took us to Pok Pok, a Thai place whose chef, Andy Ricker, just won the James Beard award for Best Chef Northwest. Almost all of the dishes were new to me, so I stuck to mild spicing (one Thai chili per dish) and house specialities. I quite liked my boar collar and chicken dishes, but both were definitely spicy enough that I was thankful for the abundant supply of tasty stick rice. The food didn't knock my socks off the way the meal at Le Pigeon did last night, but it was very good, and I will go back at some point.

Monday, May 16, 2011

On the road again: Portland, day 1

Saturday night, I went to bed at 5:30 a.m., which is a fine time and doesn't bother me at all. This morning, I had to get up at 5:30, and that sucked. Having only two and a half hours of restless sleep didn't help, but man, I hate early morning flights.

RDU airport provided an exercise in self-control to the hundreds and hundreds of people winding in snakelike queues through the TSA system. Our RDU terminal recently added a new airline and a lot of gates, but it didn't look like the security folks had planned accordingly. Everyone stayed nice despite the pressure, and the lines plodded steadily forward, so it could have been worse. That said, I was not in the best of humors by the time I reached the end of the process.

No upgrades were to be mine today, but at least I had been able to book exit-row seats, so I had leg room, if no space for my shoulders. The first flight provided bandwidth, which was nice; the second, alas, did not.

The three-hour layover in DFW let me catch up on email at the Admirals' Club and grab a salad and a delicious Red Mango parfait for lunch. I am definitely a fan of that place.

The second flight was long but uneventful and even arrived early.

The usual travel transit milestones followed, and then much work.

At the recent Beard awards, chef Gabriel Rucker garnered the Rising Star award. That's not, though, why we ate dinner at Le Pigeon. We dined there because it's one of my favorite restaurants in the world. Period. I've been going there for years. If I lived in Portland, I'd probably eat there a couple of times a month, maybe more. I love its vibe, the fierce dedication of everyone on the line, the clear passion for doing the work--and, of course, the brilliant food.

Rucker wasn't on the line tonight, but John (whose last name I am embarrassed to admit I do not know) and his team were in superb form. I tried the cold foie with fried oyster on top, and it worked amazingly well. My main was a pork chop on a bed of smashed peas mixed with house-made creme-fraiche and several seasonings, and it was magnificent. I would happily eat a bowl of those peas any time. Between the two, in a slow spell John made us a surprise: a vegetarian version (so all of us could share it) of the gnocchi dish with asparagus and light sauces. It captured spring perfectly.

If you have any reason to be in Portland, you simply must eat at Le Pigeon.

I've now been up 22 hours on well under three hours of sleep, and some work remains, so I'm going to get to it and hope to crash soon. I very much hope for a less demanding day tomorrow.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


I know what you're thinking: why on Earth did I go to a movie with a less than 20% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes? For starters,

* Maggie Q doing her sexy fight thing
* Vampires living in a post-apocalypse desert
* Messed-up priests clinging to useless rituals from an earlier world
* Paul Bettany reprising his role as a deadly pale religious dude
* Maggie Q

If only I had known that Maggie Q was on screen for only about half an hour.

Priest is another of those movies that marches through its formulaic plot with all the silly determination and originality of Dennis Kucinich making another run at the presidency--but with none of his humor. There was never a second when you didn't know what would happen next.

I'm willing to live with that weakness, however, if a film's style or dialog or characters make up for the plot's shortcomings. The trailer for Priest gave me hope that at least its appearance might do just that, and at times it did. I was happiest when it was mixing a Planet of the Apes empty city vibe with Sergio Leone dusty desert shots. That bad guy Karl Urban dressed just like Clint Eastwood in a Leone film was another plus.

Unfortunately, we didn't get enough of those moments. The dialog was simply one cliche after another, and the characterization was dull.

Now here's the messed-up part: Despite all of that, I had a pleasant enough time. Good guys on silly motorcycles in a dusty future killed eyeless vampires. Maggie Q looked as hot as she does. Karl Urban chomped the scenery.

I can't honestly recommend you head to your local megaplex for Priest, but if you're a stone SF fan and have some free time, you've probably done worse. I sure have.


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