So it’s 2013…

Turns out (shocking, I know) I took a lot of photos during 2012…perhaps too many.  Some made it up here, but at least 80% did not.  I found a neat little app (memovy) that will time-lapse photos from your phone and add a little music to it as well.

(also, I mistakenly titled it 2013…when it should really say 2012…but I can’t change it now…so deal)

Here’s a quick recap of 2012…

We traveled to…

  • Monterey, CA
  • Colorado
  • Utah
  • Portland
  • South Africa
  • San Francisco
  • Mammoth
  • Jackson, WY
  • Yellowstone
  • Arizona
  • Idaho
  • Sonoma
  • DC
  • Santa Barbara
  • Princeton, NJ
  • Georgia
  • Lander, WY
  • and probably a few other places I’ve forgotten.

We…

  • Attended two college graduations
  • Threw a joint 60th birthday party
  • Celebrated from afar another 60th birthday
  • Went wine tasting (three times)
  • Went on at least 2 fishing trips
  • Quit a job
  • Then got a job with NOLS (bucket list)
  • Cooked a lot of good food
  • Completed a Triathlon
  • Lost 10 pounds
  • Had papers published
  • Breathed new life into our 12-year-old Subaru (According to our checkbook, it should last another 12 years now)
  • Reconnected with a friend from high school
  • Reconnected with at least 5 friends from college
  • Watched our nieces and nephew grow up (way too fast)
  • Visited family
  • Had family visit us
  • Drove MANY miles
  • Worked hard
  • Threw a Christmas party
  • Had friends visit us
  • and I’m sure there is more…

Here’s to an even better 2013 filled with more adventures, road trips, friends and family!

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Sunday in Salt Lake

After two days in San Fran, I flew to Salt Lake and Woody headed home to Pasadena to take care of Cleo.

The two days in SLC have been filled with swimming, cooking, a Christmas party, catching up, delicious food, wonderful snowstorms, fun times with nieces, plenty of wine, some more cooking, playing games and making Christmas cookies.

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Serendipity in Wine Country {aka: Sonapanoma with wynne, woody & will}

We stole away to Sonoma for a weekend as somebody had to initiate Wynne (a couple of years late) into formal wine tasting!

We convened in Oakland and headed northeast towards Sonoma and Napa…then there was Berkeley traffic.  A phone call later…we were headed back into Berkeley to a waiting table at Chez Panisse.  {serendipitous}

It was a pilgrimage of sorts…and apparently meant to happen.  Each night there is a set menu…almost like enjoying an amazing dinner at a friend’s house without them eating with you.  It did not disappoint.

The next morning, we strolled around Sonoma before most of the shops opened and settled on breakfast at Sunflower Caffé, drawn in by the breakfast sandwiches and the parmesan waffle with house made mostarda.  I intend to recreate this sandwich soon – it was that good!

I love me some cheese.  I have a soft spot for jack cheese and an even softer spot for Vella Dry Jack.  I had no idea they had been around for so long…since 1931!  We walked over, sampled some cheeses, picked some up for a picnic later and then crept around the side to peek through the screen door at the actual cheese being made.  And we were caught, but instead of being run off…we were invited in for a quick look at the whole process by one of their very proud cheese-makers!  SO COOL!  {serendipitous}

Since we had breakfast and cheese, it seemed only appropriate to then get our wine on a bit and we headed to Ravenswood and MacRostie.  If we have learned one thing from our previous wine tasting trips…it’s that you should always ask the winery staff where they would go if they had the afternoon off.  Often they’ll direct you to places that are up and coming or off the beaten path.

We asked at MacRostie and were given a list of places to hit, including a lunch spot not to be missed – The Fremont Diner.  I would drive 50 miles out of my way to stop there.  It was that good.

We sampled the reuben, grilled cheese, a chicken slider, brisket and the pecan pie!  The grilled cheese may have been the most surprising with fresh goat cheese, asparagus sandwiched in between 2 slices of charred bread!

The weather cooperated fully and later that afternoon we stopped by a champagne house, Cline Cellars and squeezed in an olive oil tasting at The Olive Press.  The most surprising oils were the citrus olive oils – they press the raw citrus at the same time as the olives and so the flavor seemed much crisper and cleaner than some that add an essential oil concentrate to regular pressed olive oil.  We decided we might have to order some rather than attempting to pack it home in our luggage.  We finished out the early evening with some calamari and beer at Hopmonk Tavern

Woody joined us the next morning and we headed to Duckhorn, a favorite on a previous trip and the location is stunning.

Other stops included Freemark Abbey, Heitz Cellars, and Elyse, and Alpha Omega.

2003

2012 (surprisingly similar)

We opted for dinner on the early side…(mostly out of desperation and empty stomachs) at Mustards Grill.  Everything was quite good.  Standouts were the fresh tamales, asparagus appetizer and steak frites served with watercress sauce.  I’ve got plans to recreate that soon as well.  Day 2 Ah-Mazing!

Perfect weather greeted us again the next day and we began at Mumm and took the full tour to see the exact process that makes wine into sparkling wine…including spotting some little itty bitty grape babies just waiting for the sun to plump them up and grow into grown-up grapes!

Next – Frog’s Leap.  This was one of my favorites…mostly for the ambience.  Adirondack chairs nestled in gravel underneath a pergola, lawn games to play and some really good wine.

We also stopped by this place, and made another stop here before heading back into the town of Sonoma to another one of my favorites.

Hawkes was all about the Cabernet Sauvignon and for good reason…they seemed to know what they were doing.

For our last evening, we had a late dinner reservation at El Dorado Kitchen…all plates were cleaned…and I’ve assigned myself the task of recreating a raisin caper puree that was part of a seared scallop dish.

Last day, we stopped at a few places for some last tastes and then the trip mandated that we stop once more at The Fremont Diner.  Woody enjoyed the Spicy Fried Chicken that was so spicy, “it would set a cheatin’ man straight!”  I had the burger, and it may have had the best burger crust e-vah…they have a serious flat top working in the back.

Certainly a memorable trip and one that makes me want to start planning our next venture up that way.

Dive Bar + Pasadena = Impossible…I think not!

What comes to mind when you think of Pasadena…?  Caltech, “little old lady from Pasadena” – Beach Boys, palm trees, Rose Bowl, JPL?  All of these are correct.  Bars and more specifically dive bars…nope.  That is not what popped into your head, is it?

Moving here from Boston, with little idea of where I was moving to (I was a little surprised there were tall mountains right next door) – I thought…’at least it is sort of a college town.’  Wrong again.  Caltech does not have ‘college students’ in the typical definition of the term.  There are few crazy parties, no frats or sororities, in fact, most of the time you don’t even see students around campus.  This is partially due to the top-heavy type of institution that Caltech is – 800 or so undergraduates, maybe double that number in post-doc’s and half again as many faculty and researchers.  Undergrads tend to be a little (or a lot) socially awkward, video-game focused and therefore inside a lot, hygienically-challenged, have high-intellects and are frequently barefoot – I can’t explain this last one.

Still, one would think there must be some standard place grad students go to grab a beer…right?  Nope!  My research has shown the following:  this place serves Long Island Iced Teas that are very strong and somewhere in the $2.00 range – but the food is borderline sketchy…or this place is a hip, hidden small bar with quality upscale eats, a magnolia tree in the middle of the bar and drinks that can be upwards of $13.00.  Pasadena lacks a standby, good but reasonably-priced bar for the sake of being a bar without pretensions of being anything other than a bar.  A bar, nothing fancy, a place to hang out, a place where you don’t feel like you have to check your checking account balance before you go in.  And then we found it.

Tucked away in an alley with no signage on the street or parking, lies a bar by the name T. Boyle’s Tavern.  Open space, dark without feeling dangerous, pretzels are free, 20 + beers on tap – PBR to Rogue Dead Guy, and a limited, small menu.  I can hardly even call it a menu.  To me…it is more of an emergency menu…as in…I’ve been having such a great time here, how many pitchers have we had…?…whoooeeee! – I should probably eat something…thank goodness they have_________ (fill in the blank).  Options include and are limited to:

  • Sausage Sandwich
  • Pulled-Pork Sandwich
  • Pickled Eggs
  • Nachos
  • Hebrew National Hot Dog

The essentials are there – meats and breads.  And pickled eggs (not sure about who drinks…and then says…”ya know what I’m craving…a pickled egg!”  This is no gastro-pub.  Nachos are like cheap nachos…squeezable/pourable shelf-stable cheese glop.  There is no garnish to the plates, no piece of green lettuce…in fact, I doubt they keep any produce on hand.  This in fact makes T. Boyles all that much better.  It is what it is.

I should also mention they have the most fantastic bar game ever.  Shuffle board with cornmeal.  I’m sure there is an official name for this…all I know…is I’m good at it.  It involves, sliding a round disk pm a board coated with a dusting of loose cornmeal from end to end trying to land your puck in the scoring area and knocking out your competitors pucks into the alley.  A little like curling without ice and on a small table.

I should also mention that my first experience with T. Boyle’s was around 4 pm on a Saturday afternoon and as I approached the bar…heard quite a crowd inside.  This place must really be popular to be so crowded mid-afternoon…no, no, it was just 2 sweaty local rugby teams.  Many things that I observed that afternoon/evening should not be written about in such a public forum…there might just be some youngsters out there whose innocence  is still in tact.  But if you’ve spent any time around college rugby teams…you’re probably well aware of their shenanigans, and we certainly observed some hazing of the rookies, and many, many shenanigans.

We’re happy to have found such a place and are not afraid to order the pork sandwich.  Cheers!