Thursday, May 1, 2014

First comes love, then comes marriage...

...then comes the baby in the baby carriage. Except when it doesn't. When you're thirty-seven going on thirty-eight and your biological clock starts ticking...loudly. And there are no decent auditions for the role of "your husband and the father of your children" anywhere in sight. So, you start thinking...and researching...and planning...and attempting. And then, you see the sight that your heart has been quietly whispering to God and the universe:

And maybe it doesn't last the first time...or the second... But, as they say, the third time's the charm. Before you know it, you are 12 weeks and 1 day pregnant and you just don't know if you can wait one week and two days more to be able to shout it from the rooftop - when you are safely in the second trimester. So, maybe I will post this in a moment of weakness tonight. Or maybe I will hold out for the official beginning of my second trimester on May 7th. I guess you'll know which won out when you're reading this. :)

So, there's just one more thing to do. Introduce you to my little Sprouty, who will be making his/her entrance to the world some time around November 9, 2014:

Monday, June 24, 2013

My not-so-elobrate book review: The Gravedigger's Daughter

The Gravedigger's DaughterThe Gravedigger's Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After 582 pages, one would hope to have more to say about a book than "meh". I suppose I'm proud to have stuck it out, but to what end? Bragging rights?

I struggled with Oates' voice throughout the book - it was rather choppy and disjunct. And whereas I hoped to find Rebecca to be the amazing heroine the book cover purported her to be, I found myself unable to connect with, and root for, her. And the male characters? Yikes! (Much of the middle of the book I found myself thinking, "thank God I'm single!!")

View all my reviews

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Restaurant Review: Aria

To celebrate the occasion of our mutual fall birthdays, my sister, brother-in-law and I make it a point to go out for a nice, celebratory meal during my week-long Christmas visit. This year, as with last year, we chose to go to Aria in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood. The change for this year, however, is that my brother-in-law Greg secured the private table in the basement wine cellar.

Our visit began with cocktails in the swanky, dimly-lit, crimson-hued lounge while our table was being prepared. Greg chose the Daisy which featured Barsol Pisco, Grand Marnier, soda, lime juice and cranberry syrup. Dani was in the mood for bubbles so she opted for the Berry Splash which was composed of Scharffenberger Brut, blueberry vodka and lemon puree. Lastly, I decided to go with my "spirit of the moment": whiskey. I had the Honey 'n Spice which was concocted with Jack Daniels, Jack Daniels Honey, apple cider, fresh lemon juice, ginger liqueur and ginger ale. Happiness abounded...and no, I did not share.

Once we finished our cocktails, we followed our hostess down the narrow staircase to our wine cellar dining room. The room was crisp and cool (after all, it is a working wine cellar) and lit by only one light bulb and a multitude of candles. The booth/table purportedly seats four people, but I have a hard time imagining a party larger than our three fitting comfortably. Upon looking at the menu, the three of us immediately decided that the tasting menu was the way to go, although we opted to add a couple additional "musts" from Aria's regular menu. Following is the play-by-play:

  • Course 1 - Creamless Celery Root Soup [black truffles | parmesan]
Creamless? Really?? This soup was so incredibly flavorful and rich that you would swear there was some sort of dairy goodness within, but no. Smooth, luscious, wonderful.
  • Course 2 - Ruby Red and Golden Beets [Sweetgrass Dairy goat cheese | oranges | spiced walnuts | lemon]
The citrus added a wonderful brightness to the sweet beets and creamy goat cheese. The spiced walnuts added great texture.
  • Course 3 - Warm Lobster Cocktail [butter poached lobster | broccoli | black truffle potatoes]
We decided to add this dish to our tasting menu experience as it is one of Aria's greatest hits. It was so good. Enormous chunks of butter poached lobster, sitting in a sea of black truffle mashed potatoes and a broccoli puree. It was divine and rich.
  • Course 4 - Pan Seared New Bedford Jumbo Sea Scallop [white corn and bacon risotto]
This was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The sear on the scallop was so intense and richly brown that it added an amazing crunch to the perfectly cook mollusk. Atop the risotto was a slice of bacon practically paper thin - like a bacon chip. The bacon within the risotto was reminiscent of a dense, chopped pancetta and paired perfectly with the sweet white corn.
  • Course 5 - Goat Cheese and Potato Ravioli [chanterelles | shiitakes | sage brown butter | parmesan]
Two lovely little pillows of pasta, encasing a filling of potato and goat cheese, sat in a rich sage brown butter. Shiitake and chanterelle mushrooms surrounded the raviolis and on top were a few shavings of parmesan salty goodness.
  • Course 6 - Seared Foie Gras [Fuji apple | arugula | shallot]
This dish was the second dish we decided to add from the regular dinner menu. I had eaten foie gras before but never had my very own serving of this delicacy. The sear on the foie gras was miraculous. A little sweet, crunchy outside gave way to a luscious, buttery inside.
  • Course 7 - Slow Braised Shoulder of Colorado Lamb [salsify, celery & parsley roots | whipped potatoes | natural jus]
By this point in the meal, we were starting to hit the proverbial, gastronomic wall. But we persevered and found this dish to be absolutely delicious. We foolishly picked up our knives in order to dig in and found the lamb to be tender enough to just cut into and it shredded like a slow-braised meat should. The jus and potato made for a perfect bite, unfortunately, instead of Aria sticking to the "tasting menu" size for this course, it was more of an entree size and at this point in the meal, it was just too much.
  • Course 8 - Valrhona Chocolate Cream Pie [chocolate sauce | soft cream]
Our final bites of the evening came in the form of a tiny chocolate cream pie, no bigger than 3 stacked Oreos with an amazing cloud of cream on top.
The meal was wonderful and the ambiance really added to the experience. Regrettably, I was unable to take any decent pictures in our wine cellar dining space due to lack of lighting. But trust me, it was a very unique room (just be sure to bring a wrap or jacket). As far as the food is concerned, I certainly couldn't believe that Aria offered a 6-course tasting menu for only $56. Something like that is practically unheard of - especially with products of such high quality. I anticipate future return trips. :-)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Laughter...The Fuel for Life

On May 17th, I lost a dear friend. Three children in Portland, Oregon lost a father and their mother lost a husband. In Petaluma, California, a younger brother lost an older brother and parents lost a son. Beyond that, people around the country lost a friend and the source of amazing amounts of laughter.

When my phone rang before work on the morning of Tuesday, May 17th, I saw that it was another dear friend from my Sonoma County days: Elizabeth Clary. With arms full of musical paraphernalia for the morning's music concert, I was unable to answer the phone. However, the moment I listened to the voice mail, I knew something was amiss...and for some strange reason, I knew it had to do with Heather and Corey. When I finally connected with Elizabeth, I heard her say the most horrific words: "Actually, Corey passed away last night." I don't know that I have ever been in such shock. By the time I hung up the phone, my entire body was shaking and I felt so disoriented. Suddenly, I realized that my generation is not immortal. For days, I felt disillusioned and found myself weeping at the drop of a hat.

But then, life went on. I continued to think about Corey every day, but in going to Portland to help Heather organize her affairs and give her assistance with the boys, it felt like Corey had just stepped out and would be back anytime. I was confused by the fact that I wasn't as emotional as I thought I would be. Perhaps it was because I was in helping mode, or that I was trying to keep it together so Heather could fall apart if she needed. But I think that more than anything, I felt detached from the passing of Corey because that location wasn't meaningful in my relationship with him.

But then, on June 26th, those of us who were part of Corey's life in Sonoma County, California, had the opportunity to memorialize Corey's life and legacy and suddenly, everything felt real.

" come the Bach Choir is here singing some of our favorites up in the choir loft, but Corey isn't with them?"

"How come people are telling funny stories about Corey and he's not here laughing with them?"

"How come our choir director was talking about Corey's dedication to his music, but he's not here to receive the accolades?"

Finally, the emotional scab had been picked and the sore of grief was open to the elements again. Anger and sadness overtook denial. Questioning how someone so full of life could be taken away from his family and friends reared its ugly head again...and there were no answers. Suddenly, my soul started to understand that this was real and that Corey wasn't coming back.

What I will take from Corey's memorial is his outlook on life and personal motto: "Laughter...the fuel for life." I will take with me countless memories and will try to remember to poke fun and laugh at myself more often. Corey was a pro at that...and because of that, he will be remembered by many through laughter.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Restaurant Review: Town Hall, San Francisco, CA

A recently culinary tour of San Francisco with a couple girlfriends found us dining at Town Hall for a Wednesday night dinner. One of our party had been here before, not long after its 2003 opening, and had remembered it as being something special.

We began the evening with the standard basket of bread (nice and crusty) while we shared a bottle of 2007 Copain 'Tous Ensemble' Viognier.

Then our appetizer appeared: crispy squash blossoms, four cheese filling, basil pesto and tomato vinaigrette. It was perfectly crispy and the cheese nice and gooey. It was a beautiful medley of tastes and textures!

Soon after, we received our soup and salad. The soup of the day was a delectable vichyssoise (a cold, creamy, potato-leek soup) that was topped with a light sprinkling of chopped chives. The texture was silky smooth and the soup itself was exquisitely seasoned. The salad we chose to share was the Chopped Vegetable Salad with English peas, artichokes, Brentwood corn, parmesan and sherry vinaigrette. Again, this dish was perfectly seasoned and the vegetables provided just the right amount of crunch.

When it came time for the entrees, we ordered the halibut, short ribs and gnocchi. The Roasted Alaskan Halibut was served over a serving of corn pudding along with porcini mushrooms, fava beans and bay shrimp salsa verde. The flavors were wonderful and the sear on the halibut was a beautiful caramel color with the slightest hint of a crunch. The Creekstone Beef Short Ribs were served with an array of potato gnocchi, artichokes, carrots, spring garlic and red wine jus. It was very flavorful and tender - just as short ribs should be! Finally, the House-made Potato Gnocchi. It was mixed with Brentwood corn, morels, English peas and shaved Umbria truffles. The marbled appearance of the truffles was beautiful and the flavor of the dish was rich without being overpowering (in other words, no heavy sauce).

Now, although we all had enjoyed our dinner immensely up until this point, the creme de la creme really came at dessert time. Although several dishes caught our eye, one in particular seemed to call to us: the Sticky Toffee Cake. The cake was presented before us and our eyes about popped out of their sockets. It was a beautiful, spongy caramel colored cake swimming in a sea of thick, delicious caramel, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a sprinkling of chopped nuts. It was completely decadent and it was the one thing we found ourselves talking about for the rest of the evening and the next day!

I would highly recommend this restaurant to others, my only gripes being that it was a pretty noisy room and although our server was quite knowledgeable, after taking our orders, we didn't see much of him...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

You like me. You really like me!

So, I just had the surprise of my life when I checked my e-mail. I received an e-mail from ("Real reviews, real people") that I had received a compliment. I went to my page and someone had said "Congrats on ROTD for Ella Dining Room and Bar." I was confused. I know what ROTC is...what the hell is ROTD??? Before I knew it, there was another compliment referencing the same thing!

Turns out, the review I had written about Ella Dining Room and Bar a week and a half ago was voted by all Sacramento users as today's Review of the Day (ROTD...duh). So today, and today only, if you go to the following website: Yelp! Sacramento you will see yours truly! For someone that has always had a secret desire to be a writer, this is a total rush!!

I just had to share... :-D