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Posts from the ‘Foodie’ Category

Saturday Farmer’s Market and Alcatraz Island

This morning Kelly and I took my mom and Ed into San Francisco wherein the plan was to visit the Saturday farmer’s market at the iconic Ferry Building which overlooks the bay.  As an added bonus, Kelly made arrangements for us to spend part of our time touring the market alongside a private guide through the local non-profit Edible Excursions.

Kelly and I have participated in the tour once before and had a great time.  This being the case, we were optimistic the experience would once again be a positive one.  We arrived to the market just in time for the 9:30am start and quickly found ourselves sampling all sorts of goodies from various local merchants, most local to the NorCal region.

At each stop, we heard how each of the merchants arrived to their current role as an artisan and details about their preferred methods of cultivating farm-to-table ecosystems.

Farmer Al of Frog Hollow Farms talking about his fruit trees

Farmer Al of Frog Hollow Farms talking about his fruit trees

Some of the cheese goodness at Cowgirl Creamery

Some of the cheese goodness at Cowgirl Creamery

Our pickled zucchini and tomato sauce from Happy Girl Kitchen

Our pickled zucchini and tomato sauce from Happy Girl Kitchen

The private tour lasts about two hours, spread across roughly a dozen stops.  Today’s experience with Edible Excursion was another positive one, and I highly recommend the organization.

Mom and Ed at the Ferry Building

Mom and Ed at the Ferry Building

Once the tour was complete, Kelly and I bought our weekly stash of fruits and vegetables before a rendezvous with mom and Ed – our next stop being Alcatraz Island.

The obligatory "I was at Alcatraz" picture

The obligatory “I was at Alcatraz”picture

The start of the audio tour

The start of the audio tour

Like most people, I’ve heard plenty about the infamous prison many refer to as “the Rock”, but I’d never visited what is today, a National Park operated by the National Park Service.  Additionally, I didn’t know much about the history of the island.  To that end, the tour was pretty effective at providing visitors – and there were lots of them today paying $28 per ticket – a close-up look at the site of the first lighthouse, West Coast military fort, an infamous federal penitentiary, and details of the 18 month occupation by American Indians.

Grafitti of the 18 month American Indian occupancy (1969-70)

Graffiti remains from the 18 month American Indian occupancy (1969-70)

Given the age of the buildings, most are in poor condition and in need of significant repair.  I suppose the NPS must walk a fine line maintaining the mystical look of the island properties, yet ensuring this cash-cow revenue generating park maintains a safe operating state.

Also, I was pleasantly surprised to see a natural side to the island – complete with gardens, tide pools, bird colonies, and of course … bay views beyond compare.

The crumbling exterior wall of the main administration building

The crumbling exterior wall of the main administration building

The island's original lighthouse

The island’s original lighthouse

San Francisco bay

San Francisco bay

I’ll be honest, I was expecting the tour to be mostly a tourist trap.  We’ve all seen Alcatraz movies and other Discovery Channel-like documentaries, but it was nice to see things with my own eyes.  Overall, I was quite pleased with everything and would suggest that the tour is worth the money … once.

Authentically German

This week I’ve been spending a lot of time with one team in particular.   Tonight, 12 of us went to dinner at Rheinische Republik, which I was told, is a real (ie – commoner) German restaurant … the type any visitor must make time for during a visit Hamburg.

Places like this are not only about the food – I took away much more than that tonight.  The celebration, endlessly flowing beer, and old world charm, all combined to create a great atmosphere.

Of course it was a given that I would have the Schnitzel, my only real decision being what variety.  The menu is strictly German language and as a joke, I was not offered guidance with menu translation.  Purposely, my colleagues left me on my own to order,  laughing jovially at my futile efforts to decipher and navigate the menu.

Veal Schnitzel

Veal Schnitzel

As it turns out, I ordered veal and it was quite good.  Not as good as my meal last night, but I definitely appreciate and understand the rationale underlying their suggestion for dining here.  I had a wonderful evening, but drank way too much Kölsch.

As I type this post, it’s nearly 11:30pm local time and I am a bit buzzed at the moment.  Hopefully, my boss and company CEO will not notice my ‘comfortably numb’ state when I dial into a conference call a few minutes from now.

Reluctant Compromise

Much like a sommelier enjoys a fine glass of wine, I very much enjoy a nice coffee.  To be specific, I find there is little I savor more than a well-pulled extraction of espresso.  I love it actually.

What I believe to be connoisseur-like affection for coffee, many of my friends and family tell me is simple snobbery.

Whatever.

My incessant whining for decent coffee reached climax a few years ago.  So much so, that my beloved wife bought me a fabulous home set-up as a birthday gift.  I’m still not sure if she was looking to further my addiction, or simple wanted me to stop complaining.  No matter, the gift was perfect.

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My previous espresso set-up

Like any devoted barista, I learned to appreciate the variables involved in pulling a quality shot:

  • freshly roasted espresso beans
  • good water and specific control to brew temperature
  • meticulous attention to the grind
  • mastering a manual tamp of the port-filter

Over time, I got good at this process.  Really good.  In fact, I’ll be so bold as to say my shots were better than the pulls you’d find at most coffee houses.

Yes, there is no denying I was a full-fledged snob.

You’ll appreciate then, my concern moving into the Airstream.  The lack of counter-space posing a huge dilemma for me — attempt to justify keeping the espresso machinery despite our very limited counter-space, or acquiesce to the cruel reality of surrendering my beloved equipment to the storage locker.

I caved.  Doing so was painful, but necessary.

Consequently, over the past few months I’ve been drinking mostly coffee, brewed via a press pot.  While this simple brew method is stellar, I continue to find myself yearning for a morning espresso … a long-standing, two-sip ritual.

Yesterday, in what can only be described as an impulse purchase, I bought myself a Nespresso Pixi, something many of my fellow tiny house peers describe as being a ‘must have’ espresso maker.  Skeptical, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve looked at these machines, only to walk away – the connoisseur snob in me unconvinced such a tiny, super-automatic device would meet my expectations.

Wandering throughout a Williams-Sonoma in search of a chocolate bar, I unexpectedly found myself with the opportunity to sample what so many others describe as great coffee.  Obviously, I had no choice but to accept the offer and take the sample.

With a bit of egg on my face, I must confess that the shot was pretty good.  Not great, but certainly exceeding my expectations, and absolutely better than the swill most chain coffee shops will recklessly refer to as espresso.

It seems I’ve found a good compromise given the circumstances.  The Pixie consumes very little of our precious counter-space and provides a decent pull.  Most certainly, I’d prefer my previous set-up, but I simply don’t have the space required.

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Nespresso offers a huge variety of coffee selections and I’ll need to sample many before I land upon any preference.  I’m a single origin guy, and as most of the options are — gasp — blends (how blasphemous), I suspect I’ll quickly find something fit for purpose.

And so it is, I will go forth doing my best to make the most of my new Pixie.

9 Years

Yesterday Kelly and I surpassed the nine year mark in our marriage.

It’s hard to believe we’ve been married this long as our wedding remains vivid in my memory.  That event was such a good day and these subsequent years have been even better.

I’m a better person now versus 9 years ago; Kelly deserves the credit.

While we’ve never been ‘big’ on celebrating our anniversary, we did decide to splurge on dinner at the nearby Ritz Carlton.  True to form for us, we kept the meal simple – Burgers and Beers.  Simple and understated.

A simple anniversary dinner

Generally I don’t eat dessert, but Kelly declared that I would be doing so last night.  Good for me, because the profiterole was absolutely delicious.

Dessert before

Dessert after