The Morning of My Departure for Bangkok

Daylight Saving Time has ended – yeah, an extra hour this morning before departing to the airport.  Holly and I are sitting around her living room watching New York 1 for local news, drinking coffee, and I’m thinking about walking down to the corner bagel shop for one last taste of New York.  Thai Airways webite is showing an on-time departure (hours and hours before departure) for my flight.

 

Saturday night it was a pleasure hanging out with Keith and Aaron for about ninety minutes.  Keith had his “Boyfriend-aholic” t-shirt on, which seems appropriate.  Had a good conversation with Aaron about a little puppy that has been following him around!

 

I walked down Seventh Avenue to Blue Hill and thankfully allowed myself enough extra time because I overshot the restaurant by six blocks.  It is in that section known as Greenwhich Village – the point where the grid of streets ends – that I got confused.  Holly was just starting on a glass of Pinot Noir at the bar when I arrived, spot-on at 9:00.  We had a fantastic dinner, that only could have been improved with the presence of Tawn and you, of course!

 

Holly and I chose the tasting menu, paired with a wine tasting menu.  It was fantastic:

 

Amuse bouche

  • Celeraic soup
  • Butternut squash sorbet

First plates

  • Grilled wild striped bass with salsify puree and tomota-pepper vinaigrette
  • Wine: Lieb Family Cellars Rose, North Fork Long Island (New York) 2004
  • Chatham Cod with razor clamgs, lobster, crab and sucrine lettuces
  • Wine: Channing Daughter’s Vino Bianco, South Fork Long Island (New York) 2004

Main plate

  • Loin of Vermont baby lamp with wild mushrooms, chestnuts, banana squash, Stone Barns brussel sprout leaves
  • Wine: Joseph Phelps Le Mistral, Monterey County (California) 2002

Desserts

  • Buttermilk Panna Cotta with plum marmalade and plum sorbet
  • Cheesecake with bitter chocolate sauce
  • Wine: “MR” Mountain Wine, Malaga (Spain) 2004

Last taste

  • Miniature chocolate muffin top

 

The celeraic soup, served in a tall, thin shot glass, was very tasty and quite hot.  It had a infused foam on top that was really a nice textural contrast to the rich soup.  The butternut squash sorbet, served on a demitasse spoon, was richly flavored and subtly sweet.  Very interesting and buttery but the flavors are better as a soup.

The bass and the rose wine were the best pairing.  The bass had a seared crust with a tomato-pepper vinaigrette that absolutely melted in your mouth.  The rose, which was enjoable on its own, just jmped to life following the bass and the flavors continued to evolve for the next several moments.

The cod was very lightly cooked, tender and flaky.  The broth was a high point full of great crustacean flavors that I sopped up with one of the fresh soft breadsticks.

The lamb, an unusual choice to serve a generous portion of loin, was lightly breaded on one side, tremendously tender and flavorful, and also a bit too salty.  The banana squash slice was delectable and wild mushrooms and chestnuts captured the season beautifully.

Of the desserts, we suggested to the server afterwards that the order should have been reversed.  The cheescake was served in individual small preserve jars and had a small dallop of bitter chocolate on top.  The cake increased in richness the deeper you dug and the chocolate had an interesting counter-note of saltiness.  It was very enjoyable, but had been completely overshadowed by the amazing buttermile panna cotta.  Like a fresh yogurt, the tangy creamy base had a layer of plum marmalade that was bursting with ripe fruitiness.  A wedge of plum sorbet added a coolness to the whole thing.

It was an absolutely fantastic meal and I can’t wait to return to Blue Hill again.

Last Day in the US Spent in NYC

Saturday in New York City.  Upper East Side, Lexington and 84th.  Holly’s lived in this charming corner apartment on the third floor for 14 years. Needless to say, the rent is a steal, and it is a charming neighborhood. 

Last night we walked a few blocks down to Tiramisu, a local Italian restaurant.  It was about nine o’clock and the restaurant was crowded as we arrived.  Fortunately, the maitre d’ was someone that Holly had known several years ago so we were seated quickly.  In fact, they must have been good friends, because he came back and refilled our glasses of wine and was very attentive.

The food was good – it is a neighborhood type of restaurant – satisfying but not too fancy.  I had the daily risotto special, which featured asparagus, arugula, and large fresh shrimp.  Interestingly, it was served in a hollowed-out grapefruit perched atop additional risotto.  Tasty.

The tiramisu itself was fantastic, a good size brick that Holly and I shared.

Hard to believe, or maybe not so hard, that the time has come for my move.  After several years of possibility, sixteen months of planning, and three months of actual organization and execution, the day has arrived.  The first twenty-two plus years were stationary; the next dozen have been downright nomadic. 

This morning I met my protoge and now boss, Kim Fordham, for brunch at Danal – a fantastic, eclectic brunch place that looks like your English great-grandmother’s back patio.  It was very nice.  While waiting for Kim and her friend Pat, I sat on a bench in the front window and played with the resident cat, a fat white and black long-hair.  She was quite fond of me and I spent the remainder of the afternoon removing white cat fur from my black wool jacket.

During the afternoon I browsed at Strand Books, one of the largest used bookstores in the world.  I picked up Ruling Your World: Ancient Strategies for Modern Life by Sakyong Mipham.  While the book doesn’t have anything “new” to say – common sense, really – it is interesting to read how the basic messages of not being so centered on “me” are packaged.

This evening, I’ll meet up with Aaron Wong and Keith Chan for drink at G Lounge – a bar in Chelsea.  Then Holly and I will have a late dinner (9:00) at Blue Hill.  One of my favorite restaurants in New York, this cozy spot with acclaimed chefs Dan Barber and Juan Cuevas features – their words – “Seasonal American food featuring the produce of the Hudson Valley.” 

Bonus: Last night I took my thirteen months’ collection of coins to the grocery store.  After CoinStar’s 8.9% service charge, I still had $108.36.  Enough to pay for my cab from LaGuardia and then to JFK airport.  Ha.

Second Bonus: Here’s a photo I snapped at my bon voyage party thrown by my sister, Jennifer, last week.  My niece, Emily, my father, and Jennifer’s dog Zoe were in a three way tug of war in which Emily ended up the loser!

Many thanks to Jenn and Kevin for hosting the party.  It was a lot of fun to spend time with all our family members as well as dear friends.

Bags Are Packed and I’m Heading to the Airport

While they didn’t contain everything I wanted to bring, my bags were finally packed.  A last load of laundry was in the dryer and I unloaded the dishwasher.  Ken arrived this morning at about 6:25 and started loading the three larger suitcases into his truck as I brushed my teeth, packed the toothpaste in the trolley bag, and did the last thing on my checklist (courtesy of my father): turn the thermostat down to 55 degrees.

Checking in at the airport, I learned that United has instituted a rather reasonable policy: they now charge $25 for bags that are between 50 and 70 pounds.  Over 70 pounds either has to go as freight or has a higher surcharge – I’m not sure which is the case.  All three of my bags were between 54 and 58 pounds, despite my best efforts to mix the dense items like compact discs and coffee with lighter items like clothes and bed sheets.

Thankfully, I get a stop in New York before I depart on Sunday morning.  Many thanks to Holly Stern for letting me stay on her hide-a-bed with her cat.  Her lovely Upper East Side apartment will be packed with my suitcases for two nights.

Here’s a picture of Holly and her adopted-eight-weeks-ago Lab/Hound mix, Ally.

Thinking Ahead to Christmas Travels

My last Saturday in Kansas City.  After rushing around the United States and Canada on business, I’m glad to be back home for my last week.  Lots to do, though.  My parents are in town for the weekend, as my sister is throwing a Bon Voyage party for me this evening.  On the menu: tri-tip roasts prepared two ways (Santa Maria rub and Teriyaki marinade) along with a slew of side dishes prepared by other people.

Christmas Trip – This week I finalised the itinerary that Tawn and I will take for our trip back to Kansas City over Christmas.  As I wrote previously, this was a tough trip to book for several reasons:

First, Tawn only has five vacation days left this calendar year and since Christmas is not a recognized holiday in Thailand, we couldn’t count on any additional days off.  Second, we wanted to hit both Kansas City and San Francisco, as Bruce and Howie were quite adamant when I last saw them that they expect to see us for New Year’s.

Finally, prices were just out of control.  I found a trip on Singapore that would get us to San Francisco and then we would have to book SF to Kansas City separately.  The price was about $2800 total but we arrived on Christmas Day.  To book United the whole way would run us $3600 but we would arrive on Christmas Eve instead.  When I spoke with my sister, she indicated that arriving on Christmas Day wasn’t very workable (at least, that’s how I interpreted her message – maybe inaccurately), so I put up a mental roadblock that the Singapore option wasn’t workable.

It is interesting how putting up mental roadblocks really doesn’t allow you to make good decisions.  Tawn and were discussing the pricier alternative and were at the point of deciding that we would skip the entire trip because $3600 was just too much more than we were willing to pay.  Following that conversation, I stopped by my grandparents’ house and was telling them about the tough decision we faced.

My grandmother, always a woman of great sense and clarity of thought, pointed out that my aunt wasn’t even going to arrive until the day after Christmas and so we would not have the entire Tebow family together until afterwards anyhow.  That was enough to jolt the mental log jam loose, and as I drove back home I realized that if we arrived on Christmas Day, then we arrived on Christmas Day.  That isn’t a good enough reason to spend a ton of extra money.

So that evening I sat down at the computer and made a fresh start of it.  Sure enough, with the mental river flowing unobstructed, I saw options that had previously not been visible to me.  In the end, here’s what we arrived at and booked:

December 24th

    • Leave Bangkok 7:45 am and arrive Singapore 11:10 am
    • (6 hour layover in Singapore – Otto and Han, will you be in town?)
    • Leave Singapore at 5:00 pm, stop in Hong Kong for 1 hour, arrive in SFO 5:55 pm on the same day.
  • (Overnight in San Francisco, staying at the SF Airport Marriott – anyone in town on Christmas Eve and want to have dinner?  Maybe Watergate is open?)

December 25th

  • Leave SFO at 7:15 am, connect in Denver, and arrive Kansas City at 3:00 pm

December 30th

  • Leave Kansas City at 7:10 am, connect in Denver, and arrive SFO at 12:10 pm

January 2nd

    • Leave SFO at 12:05 am (five minutes after January 1st ends)
    • Connect through HKG and SIN
  • Arrive in Bangkok at 2:30 pm on January 3rd.

All this for only US$2,100 plus about 20,000 Mileage Plus miles and one domestic free ticket (for a volunteer denied boarding earlier this spring).  Very good.

Packing – Good news.  Most of what I want to move to BKK on this trip will fit into the suitcases.  I did most of the packing last night.  However, I’m thinking that since the Christmas trip is a go, I might pull out some of the heavier items (I don’t really need all my DVDs right now, do I?) and save them for December.

This will allow some extra room for lighter items like sheets and towels.  Tawn has asked me to buy some here as the quality is better than in Thailand.  Plus, there’s no need to have suitcases that are 50+ pounds apiece.  Better to lighten them up a little bit so they’re easier to handle in New York. 

Mental Challenges Before Moving

After three weeks (a bit more, actually) out of the office, I show up at 8:00 am to astounded looks from colleagues.  “Oh, you haven’t left for Thailand?” is the greeting of choice.

It is hard to get a lot of work done as I’m feeling swamped by things to-do.  About 2:00 pm I head home and work from there the rest of the day, finally hitting my productive peak after dinner.  Between jet lag and being preoccupied, I’m losing my mind.

My process for organizing around the house is this: make piles in the lviing room of things that I’d like to move to Bangkok.

Pile 1: Must be moved on this trip

Pile 2: Would be nice to move on this trip but could wait until December

Pile 3: Definitely wait until December

Pile 4: Wait until some unspecified date in the future to move it

I’m sure my parents will be overjoyed when they arrive later in the week to discover piles of things greeting them.  Well, it is a method to the madness.

Reflections After a Toronto Visit

Wow – back home in Kansas City this evening after three weeks on the road.  Two in BKK, one in Atlanta and Toronto.  I’ve been quite busy and have had minimal personal email access so haven’t had the time to update the blog.

Toronto is always a favorite place to visit because I think the food scene is vibrant.  Lots of good eats for a good value.  The city is widely recognized as the most diverse city in North America with more than 80 languages spoken by its residents.  The diversity influences the cuisine and I made sure to get dim sum and jok (congee – rice porridge) while there.

 

The best eat in terms of food was the Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar.  This “small plates” restaurant is overseen by the hottest chef in Toronto.  No reservations are accepted and it is one of “the” places to eat.  Nonetheless, it has a reputation for great food.  We headed down there on Saturday night, fully realizing that the wait would be long.  There is a lounge so we figured we could drink and nibble our way through the wait.

Sure enough – “ninety minutes to two hours” greeted us at the hostess stand.  Not disuaded one bit we entertained ourselves with a bottle of the 200 Alizan Tempranilla from Spain and an order of Yukon Gold Potato Fries (amazing!), olives and spices pecans.  We noticed that tables and seats at the bar regularly opened up and were left empty for long periods of time – unusual if the wait was really 90+minutes.

Thirty-five minutes later the hostess came over and told us that she had space available for us at “the chef’s table” (pictured above) – a secondary open kitchen area where some of the dishes are prepared that is surrounded by a high bar with seats.  So our 90 minutes evaporated and we were soon seated and enjoying what could best be described as a “leisurely” pace of service.

While the place was busy, the friendly server seemed rushed.  But it was never a problem, allowing us plenty of time to watch the action in the kitchen.  The small dishes we tried included Braised Beef Cheeks with Soft Polenta; Sautéed Duck Livers with Apples and Sherry Sauce; Rabbit and Duck Rillettes with Prune Compôte, and an Entrecôte of Beef with Sweet Potato Pavé. 

With dinner we had an Edmeades Zinfandel from Mendocino, California.  An old favorite, hard to find sometimes, and a brilliant wine.

The beef cheeks were the best of the lot, tender and flavorful.  The duck livers were nice but veiny.  The rillettes – essentially a paté of duck and rabbit – were tasty and nicely complemented by the prunes, but we were getting full.  The roast of beef had been finished on the grill when we arrived and we watched it resting in all its glory, so had to try it.  It was excellently flavored, just a touch too rare (and I love my meat red, so I do mean “rare”), and the sweet potatoes were a nice addition. 

For dessert, despite an absence of space ini our bellies, we tries the Marscapone and Sugar Pear Shortcake.  This was a flop, because the pear was completely raw and the spoon and fork were inadequate for slicing it.  In fact, it nearly slid out of the bowl more than once. 

We accompanied dessert with a serving of the 2004 Bonny Doon “Viogner Doux”, an amber dessert wine that smells of nothing so much as candied apricots.  It was nice in and of itself and would have done better on its own without the over-crunch pear.

So it was a fun time.

But now it is time to get back to reality in KC.  I have bags to pack, magazine subscriptions to modify, and much to do in the ten days or so I have left.