Saturday, February 4, 2012

On the road again: Portland, day 5

Another of those days that travel ate, today began too early and ended too late. Still, I can’t really complain. I slept a reasonable amount, was lucky enough to land first class upgrades for both legs, and encountered no issues at any of the three airports through which I passed. All in all, a successful travel experience.

If you travel enough, you sometimes come to believe you’ve seen every type of problem your plane can have, but you’re never right. Today’s first plane had a stripped valve that stopped it from being able to deliver potable water to any of the spigots. As good fortune would have it, this particular failure does not force you to get on a new plane. Instead, you simply have to live without coffee or tea (no water to the brewing area), and you can’t wash your hands after using the bathroom. They addressed the latter by filling the restroom sinks with wet-wipe packets, a sight that for no good reason I found amusing.

In another bit of good news, it turns out that the bandwidth at PDX, at least on a Saturday morning, was five times faster than what my hotel offered, so working while waiting was a snap. I need to figure out how to persuade the hotel’s owners to invest in high-quality Internet connectivity.

Dinner at DFW, by the way, was the incredibly tasty and vaguely healthy combination of a pretzel dog and a Red Mango parfait. I do love me some Red Mango.

I’m home now, bag and all, and still on the other coast’s time. I DVR’d the UFC PPV, so I’m heading downstairs to catch the fights, and then to sleep. I’m happy to be home for a few weeks.

Friday, February 3, 2012

On the road again: Portland, day 4

In an afternoon break, we headed over to the Ruby Jewel scoops shop for some locally made and entirely delicious ice cream. I first encountered these folks because of their wonderful ice cream cookies, which I still strongly recommend. Their ice cream, which comes in many more flavors, is every bit as good as you'd expect. Check 'em out.

Dinner was at one of the best restaurants in Portland, Chef Gabriel Rucker's second establishment, Little Bird. I can't recommend this place highly enough. Combining Rucker's daring creations with a classic French bistro atmosphere, Little Bird is the kind of restaurant where you will always find new and amazing takes on classics, such as my duck leg and pork belly cassoulet. I got to spend a few minutes chatting with co-owner Andy Fortgang and learned a bit more about the background of the place. As I've said many times, if you live in or visit this area and are not eating at Rucker's places, you're making a mistake.

Tomorrow, I wake up early (for a Saturday), pack, and head home.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

On the road again: Portland, day 3

I love this hotel, but I hate its bandwidth. I rarely bother to write or contact the manager of any establishment with my concerns, but I believe I'll make an exception in this case. Slow bandwidth means more time to do all online tasks, which in turn means less sleep. Bandwidth thus matters greatly to me.

Aside from that drawback, however, it is a lovely place.

Lunch today was at one of Portland's many food trucks. I love the food truck scene, and wandering among them to choose a lunch is a great treat. I opted today for a Hawaiian barbecue, which was tasty and spicy and entirely delicious.

Dinner was at the sublime Castagna, where Chef Justin Woodward merges local ingredients with serious modernist cuisine skills to create compositions that are lovely to see and wonderful to taste. I recommend this place highly--but save up first so you can do the tasting menu. It's worth the price.

Now, I'm outta here. A very late book beckons me yet again today.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

On the road again: Portland, day 2

Lunch today was at one of those Mongolian grill places in which you put a bunch of stuff in a bowl, ladle on some sauces and spices, and hand it to someone to grill on a huge round metal grill. I don't eat at these often, but I always have fun when I do, just because I like mixing a bunch of stuff and grilling it--or, in this case, watching someone else grill it. The result is always tasty, though never as cleverly delicious as I have tried to make it.

Dinner, on the other hand, was both clever and absolutely delicious, as I expected it to be because we ate at Le Pigeon. As long-time readers know, Chef/Owner Gabriel Rucker's original restaurant is one of my favorite places in the world. Small, funky, and dedicated to pursuing its own vision, Le Pigeon is one of the many culinary beacons that light the Portland night. I relax the moment I walk into it.

I normally don't post meal photos on these trips because the crappy hotel bandwidth makes the cost too high, but I decided to pay that cost tonight and show you a few things.

The main menu gives you a sense of the variety and sensibility of Le Pigeon.

Click on any image for a larger version.

For my starter, I chose the foie on ramen.

It was an odd combination, of course; this is Le Pigeon. The slab of perfectly cooked foie gras sat atop a cake of ramen noodles that was topped with a seaweed salad and surrounded by a light broth with a very delicate taste of fish. I know, I know: it doesn't sound good. It was.

My main was the rich and tasty beef two ways.

The celery root puree provided a light, delicious starch counterpart to the strong, rich flavor of the short rib meat and the equally tasty but lighter steak slices. It was a great take on the classic steak-and-potatoes main.

The dessert options also reflected the Le Pigeon spirit.

I've already eaten all of the classic desserts, but even if I hadn't, I would have been drawn to the banana cream pie. I didn't expect it to look or taste anything like any BCP I've had before, and indeed it didn't.

Nonetheless, it was delicious, a light and sweet variation on the classic dessert that I love so much.

What a fine meal. Le Pigeon never disappoints. If you live here or ever visit here, eat there.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On the road again: Seattle, day 3 and Portland, day 1

When you see a small shop named Haute Dog Girl in a little strip mall, what do you do?

Head right for it, of course!

That's what I did for lunch today in beautiful downtown Kirkland, Washingon. Once inside, I found a perky young woman who pointed me to this menu:

Click on any image to see a larger version.

The young woman looked remarkably like the woman on the menu, so much so that I wondered if I might be in the presence of the Haute Dog Girl herself. Some things are best left mysterious, however, so I did not ask her.

Instead, in the interest of science, I ordered two of the odder dogs.

The Seattle Style Dog.

Yes, that's cream cheese, and, yes, those are grilled onions.

The Pastrami Reuben Dog.

All beef hot dog meets classic sandwich; what's not to like?

Somewhat to my surprise, both hot dog concoctions were quite tasty.

If you're in the area and are a fan of the noble tube steak, you should definitely visit this little place.

Now, I'm nestled into my favorite Portland hotel and quite happy to be here. Tomorrow morning starts insanely early, however, so to work and then sleep I go.

Come on, we've all had days like


Okay, maybe not.

Another good reason not to drink.

Monday, January 30, 2012

On the road again: Seattle, day 2

Work filled most of today's hours, and I can't talk about that, so this one's going to be short.

Lunch was a surprise: very good Thai food at a mall restaurant, Thai Ginger in Redmond. I tasted a few dishes, and each was quite tasty. I'd definitely eat there again.

After lunch, I was lucky enough to catch a few minutes of blue sky--cloudy, yes, but blue. When the sun shines here, I find the whole Seattle area to be one of the prettiest places I visit.

One of the best things about working in the tech industry in general and my job in particular is the opportunity to talk and work with smart people who are passionate about what they do. Today's meetings, like most of those I have on these road trips, were all interesting and informative. I love the way the tech world is constantly evolving; nothing goes stale.

Tomorrow, more interesting meetings, and then an evening drive to Portland, one of my favorite cities.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

On the road again: Seattle, day 1

I'm never going to be a big fan of a day that requires me to wake up before nine a.m., but so it goes; that's what I had to do today.

Most of the long day went to travel, with an extended layover in O'Hare. Lunch there was quite good, courtesy of Rick Bayless' Tortas Frontera, which served quite good (though in my opinion too salty) and very fresh dishes. I enjoyed a Cubano and tasted some guacamole they were making as I watched. Very nice.

The rest of the day went to travel, work, and a late dinner in the hotel restaurant. Ah, the glamorous life of the business traveler!

Today is the birthday of my late stepfather, Edmund D. Livingston. He passed away many years ago while on the family beach house vacation. He served in the Marines in WWII. While in the Corps he went ashore at Okinawa, was injured severely twice, spent time as one of the first of the occupation troops in Japan, and came away from the experience profoundly changed, as all are. He loved my mother fiercely, loved my brother and sister as if they were his own, raised them, and took care of them. He had a ready smile and a bad joke always at hand. He waved to strangers as he drove by. At his memorial, many people appeared whom my mom had never met, and it turned out that in his personal time he was out quietly doing charity work, bringing food to some, driving others, all without telling anyone. He was never my father, but I would have been proud had he been. I underestimated him when I met him, but as I grew older, I realized how foolish I had been.

I miss you, Eddie. Always will.


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