Thursday, December 30, 2010

ORD Pub Crawl

Despite being as perfect of a winter day as possible, Chicago is reliably and massively delayed and we are having issues getting back to la. Thanks to my OCD nature, i arrived at the Syracuse airport five hours early in order to try and get on the earlier flight. I was able to standby on the earlier flight, which, despite being four hours delayed, has managed to get me to Chicago for my connecting flight to LA. We still have a three hour layover, but making wise use of the time by hitting up a few of the craft brew bars in the airport. We started at berghofs for the eponymous berghof lager and now are at the goose island pub. K is trying the goose island honked ale and I'm having the matilda Belgian ale. Despite spending at least 14 hours traveling, I will be very thankful if I get back to la.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Go Orange!

Last night, we headed to the Dome for the Syracuse men's basketball game against Providence.  We had great seats in a booth with plenty of free beer and nachos, so I was happy.  The game was a lot of fun; Syracuse led pretty much the whole way, but there were some close moments.  They are ranked 5th in the nation, I think they'll do well this year!

Final score: 81 - 74 Syracuse

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Man v. Food: Heid's of Liverpool

After an afternoon at the Carousel Mall, we stopped at Heid's for a mid-afternoon snack. Heid's was featured on a recent episode of Man v. Food and I've been meaning to check it out ever since. On the left is the Coney dog, made with veal, pork and egg whites, and on the right is the traditional Frank made with pork and beef. Both were excellent with real meaty taste and smoky char, but I preferred the juiciness and lightness of the Coney. We didn't run into Jim Boeheim at Heid's but we will see him tonight at the Syracuse basketball game.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Room and Board Annual Clearance Sale

Edit: See 1/4/2011 update here
December 26 is my favorite and least favorite shopping day of the year.  The deals are amazing, but the occasional accompanying frustration can be maddening.  Last Christmas, I was up almost all night for the online launch of Room and Board's annual clearance sale, as I had been waiting all year for my coveted Reese sectional to go on sale.  Unfortunately, the website crashed and I was unable to place my order all night.  I had to wait until the phone lines opened at 10am est, in order to talk to a customer service representative.  Despite their terrible online snafus, they have excellent customer service and I was able to order the Reese sectional I wanted entirely at the sale price, even though one piece had to be custom made.  This year, I actually forgot about the sale launching at midnight.  I've been kicking myself all day, especially since I was up at midnight anyway, because they actually put the iconic Philippe Starck Louis Ghost Chair by Kartell on sale.  These chairs are classics and never go on sale;  I've been wanting a pair of these chairs forever as end chairs for our dining room table.  We have a Room & Board Portica zebrawood dining room table with fairly straightforward black leather chairs.  We need two more chairs, and our leather ones are discontinued anyways, so I thought the Philippe Starck Louis Ghost Chair would be a fun way to liven up and inject a little bit of humor into the dining room.  Of course, by the time I remembered the sale today, the chairs were long sold out.  They still had the Victoria Ghost Chairs (now sold out), but I prefer more of the arm chair and more substantive look of the Louis Ghost Chairs.  I called up my mom and begged her to head over to the Culver City Room & Board location to look for the chairs.  She's had some experience at going to the annual Room & Board sales for me, including last year when I couldn't get the Reese sectional due to the website crashing.  She arrived at Room & Board 5 minutes before the store opened, greeted with a long line.  As soon as the doors opened, she went to search for the Louis Ghost Chair.  After a few minutes of no luck, she finally got the attention of a sales rep and was directed to the lone Louis Ghost Chair in the entire showroom.  At the sales representatives suggestion, she sat right down on the chair to claim the chair, not moving until she was able to purchase it.  It was quite fortunate, as several people approached her asking her if she was going to purchase the chair.  Because it was a floor sample, she got an additional $50 off the online sale price, score! Unfortunately, it's only one chair and I still need to track down another one, but I don't want to pay full price... I may only have one chair for a long time...

Room & Board needs to definitely improve their website.  I heard it crashed again this year at midnight, which is just unacceptable for a retailer of their size and stature, particularly since it happens every year.  I was so frustrated last year, staying up all night after Christmas, dealing with their website.  There just should be no reason that their website should have glitches.  There's nothing more frustrating than finding an amazing deal and getting your hopes up, only to have technical issues get in the way.  In fact, the website is still a little glitchy now; if you search for Louis Ghost Chair, it still shows as available.  Only after you enter in your address information does it finally say that it's out of stock.  Too bad, it's a great company otherwise.
Hard-earned Reese sofa (from R&B website)
Portica Dining Room Table (from R&B website).  I think the Louis Ghost chairs will be a fun touch at the ends. Or just look weird.

Sleigh Ride Time

It's cold

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

Christmas time is always so special at the W house here in upstate New York.  We had our delicious traditional Christmas Eve dinner with live Maine lobsters, crab cakes, bacon wrapped scallops and New England clam chowder.  We had plenty of wine that paired well with our seafood feast thanks to the T family: Riondo prosecco, Coopers Creek and Provenance Sauvignon Blanc and the trustyworthy Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier.  It is so wonderful to be able to cook, eat and hangout with family over the holidays.  I got lots of great gifts, including a Lululemon gift card, my favorite supersoft Nike drifit running pullover, a really interesting Magic Johnson / Larry Bird book that I finished already, a Bed Bath and Beyond gift card, plenty of Lanvin x H&M (gift to myself), a laptop cushion from Brookstone, ski equipment and a gift card to Mammoth.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

YogaWorks Main Street and Lululemon

Thanks to Lululemon (toxic shopping bags notwithstanding), I have been working out for free these last two months of the year.  November was all about the Equinox Challenge and this month, we've been using the passes given to us as part of the "Gift of Yoga" to try new studios in the area.  Earlier in the month, we tried Maha Yoga and today, I tried Vinnie Marino's class at YogaWorks on Main Street in Santa Monica.   Vinnie is one of the most influential yoga teachers in LA and class this morning was absolutely packed; I haven't seen such a tightly packed yoga class since my earlier days with Power Yoga.  The Main Street studio is a bit shoddy; the studio looks like an old school auditorium repurposed for yoga; it even has a little stage.  The class was good and hard; it's amazing how quickly one regresses working out only sporadically, following a month of basically working out everyday (with the Equinox challenge).  I haven't done much this month besides one run, the Maha yoga class and a little skiing; I blame this incessant rain and all the holiday prep.  It was a tough class; I had to take breaks here and there and found myself getting a bit bored and distracted at times.  I'm not a fan of lots of traditional series A and series B; I just find it a bit dull and repetitious.  He also did a lot of holding certain poses, like warrior 2 for a very long time.  My shoulder joints are sore!  Next up this week: YogaLoft in Manhattan Beach.

Sidenote: check out the Lululemon stock; closed at $73.51 today, its 52 week high.  Lululemon reported another amazing quarter last week which rocketed the stock.  Obviously, we sold way too early, but these prices are quite insane, at 28x EBITDA and 55x P/E.  Sigh...I remember when the stock was in the low 30's a little over three months ago.
6 month stock chart from yahoo

Monday, December 20, 2010

New Wine Store Find: LA Wine Company

I went to LA Wine Company after taking the dogs to the vet today since it was right nearby in Marina Del Rey / Palms area. I picked up two cases of wine and champagne for our big New Years Eve bash.  The prices at LA Wine Co are great; cheaper than Wine House, my usual go-to, and even Bevmo and Costco.  I picked out all my wine online and they had it ready for me when I stopped by the store.  It's located in a warehouse / industrial area and is no frills and doesn't have as big of a selection as Wine House, but has a decent selection at great prices.

LA Wine Co
4935 McConnell Ave, Unit 8
Los Angeles, CA 90066
(310) 306-WINE

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Schatz Bakkery: Chili Cheeze Bread

Anyone who has driven from LA to Mammoth knows Erick Schatz Bakkery, with locations in both Bishop and downtown Mammoth.  We've never stopped there on our way to Mammoth before, since we are always in a hurry to hit the slopes, but we stopped by on our drive home Friday.  The inside of the bakery is warm and kitschy, with all sorts of tempting freshly baked bread, pastries and confections.

We bought a loaf of their award winning sourdough bread and chili cheeze bread.  I love the chili cheeze bread, soft pillowy bread with layers of melted jack cheese and wonderfully spicy kick from jalapenos and ortega chilis.  The crust is nice and crunchy with some slightly charred cheese and chilis. It's best very lightly toasted in the toaster oven.  I'm eating the entire loaf myself.  The sourdough loaf is good too; made for a great rainy day lunch of kraft grilled cheese sourdough sandwiches dipped in Trader Joes organic roasted tomato and red pepper soup.

Erick Schatz Bakkery
763 North Main Street
Bishop, CA 
(866) 323-5854

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Weekday Impromptu Mammoth Trip

That's me

We took off to Mammoth for two days of skiing last week on a whim.  It was great; there was tons of snow, almost no crowds (in two days, we shared a chairlift with other people at most five times), and we got a cheap rate at the Westin Monache, which is our favorite place to stay for a one night trip.  We left at 5:15am Thursday, got to Mammoth by 9:45 and were on the slopes shortly thereafter.  Day 1 was a beautiful bluebird ski day; we went all over the mountain and got our ski legs back.  It was snowing on Day 2, but fortunately wasn't too cold, so we had another great day, totally different, in the fresh powder.  The Westin is so convenient; just across the street from the gondola with overnight ski storage and lockers so that you don't have to lug heavy gear around.  We were able to check in early, and although we weren't able to get late checkout, we still were able to change and shower in the Westin gym before our ride back home.  Looking forward to a great ski season, it's going to be great snow this year!
Whitebark Restaurant at the Westin has decent apres ski specials
Macaroni and cheese with taleggio and truffle oil
Kobe beef cheddar sliders

It's a comfortable and interesting 300 mile drive from LA to Mammoth; well-paved, mostly flat highways and not too much traffic.  The only slowdowns are the various small towns that you pass through, like Mojave, Independence, Lone Pine, Bishop, where the speed limit drops to 25 mph.  We usually make the drive in about 4.5 hours.

Population: 574

Bishop is the last small town before reaching Mammoth, about half hour away.

Getting close


Top of Mammoth where the gondola drops off
I love weekday skiing, snow is great and no crowds!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Calbi BBQ Truck - Pretty Bad

I was on my way to Nijiya Market to pick up some groceries when I saw the Calbi BBQ truck parked across the street on Sawtelle.  I decided to give it a shot since it was 2pm and I hadn't had lunch yet; I was totally famished.  I ordered the beef taco and the pork taco for 1.99 each.  I thought both were pretty bad; my biggest complaint was the quality of the meat.  Pretty much taco place I've tried, from Tacos Por Favor to Kogi BBQ, has had significantly better quality of meat; this truly tasted like thinly shaved end scraps of not very high quality meat to begin with.  The meat also had no real flavor; tasted like boiled or microwaved meat doused with some sauce.  It truly made me appreciate Kogi, where you can tell that the meat has been carefully marinated, and grilled / cooked in a way to add even more flavor.  Calbi added cheese on the taco, which Kogi does not do.  Normally I love cheese, but this was again low quality, dry flavorless institutional quality shredded cheese which really added nothing to the taco.  It was really a disappointment and I certainly won't be returning.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter Roasts

It may be 80 degrees out there, but it's still winter to me.  Next to hearty stews, I really like simple roasted dishes for dinner in the winter.  Roasting allows the natural flavors of the seasonal fresh farmer's market vegetables and meats to really shine, plus I like using the oven to heat up our usually chilly house.  Our go-to roasted medley of farmer's market vegetables include parsnips (a new favorite), fingerling potatoes, and brussell sprouts.  I season it very simply with salt, pepper, herbes de provence, olive oil and roast at 375 degrees (in a convection oven, 400 degrees in a regular oven) for about 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are tender.  This particular medley is my favorite as the vegetables need about the same cooking time, and there's a nice combination of flavors and textures.  Try to arrange the veggies in one layer, or else they will steam and get a bit mushy if they are piled upon one another.  We get fresh chicken legs from a guy in downtown LA.  We marinate it simply for a few hours or overnight in some garlic salt and rice wine, and occasionally some lemon and orange slices.  We roast it at 375 degrees (in a convection oven) for about 45 minutes until done, with the last 5 minutes under the broiler so that the skin gets nice and crispy.  When the chicken is done, we spread on yuzu paste for some spicy citrusy goodness and then tent it for 5-10 minutes.  In this case, we roasted the chicken on the rack above the vegetables so that the chicken drippings would drip onto the roasting vegetables for some extra flavor, but it's not necessary.

It's interesting how not being a member of a gym can be so de-motivating.  Ever since the Equinox challenge ended two weeks ago, I have only gone to one yoga class and went running outside once (albeit a solid 4 mile run).  I've been really tired and even caught a cold for the first time in a long time; I blame the lack of exercise.  I need to get going before the holidays really kick into full gear.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Orecchiette with Collard Greens and Tomatoes

For some reason, we seem to eat more pasta during the winter.  I think I generally crave carbs as the weather gets cold; it's straight up comfort food served alongside some nice warm tomato soup.  I bought some collard greens at the farmer's market two weeks ago and while they've lasted longer than regular greens, I needed to use them up before they went yellow.  This week, I came across the excellent Molto Mario basic pasta episode where he made orecchiette with broccoli rabe, and decided to substitute collard greens for broccoli rabe and otherwise followed his recipe exactly.  Babbo and Lupa's orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe tops my list of all-time favorite dishes, and this was a similar version, just without the sausage  and the addition of a little tomato sauce.  It was really quick to prep and make (~20 mins) good and relatively healthy, although just a touch bland.  I do like the hearty texture of the collard greens and as long as you are generous with the freshly grated parmigiano reggiano, it's hard hard to go wrong.  Add some hot italian sausage and it's in a whole other league.


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