Woke up this morning feeling like I'd been run over by a truck. Went to work anyways, picking up coffee on the way. Got there, realized I'd left my computer at home. So now I'm back at home, planning to catch up on my work email, run some errands, then do some more work. But first, I figured I'd write an LJ entry to cover Thu-Sun... I'm sure Xta will have pictures eventually, which I'll link to whenever she posts them...
coraline and nacht_musik were out from Camberville last week, and the only night we could meet up with them was Thursday. They're foodie types, and we were planning to sleep at the Choir Loft anyhow (so we could get up at 4am and drive to the Oakland Airport), so we planned to meet up for dinner with them, and iridium, at Chez Panisse upstairs cafe for dinner. I'd lived for three years just down the hill, and had never gone. We have determined that its reputation is well-deserved, and that considering the quality, it's actually a pretty good value. We engaged in Communist Dining -- four appetizers, four entrees, four desserts, passed around the table. (There was a brief counterrevolutionary effort by nacht_musik to preserve property rights over his dessert, but it was ended through a compromise -- we got a double portion of that particular dessert. *g*) I snagged a menu on the way out so I could copy over the stuff we got...
- Cannard Farm chicories with persimmons and roasted sweet red peppers (dressing tasted slightly citrusy, maybe?)
- rocket and celery root with crème fraîche and mustard
- pizzetta with roasted potatoes and rosemary (no tomato sauce, just a bit of olive oil, which pleased Xta)
- baked Sonoma goat cheese with garden lettuces (with a light vinaigrette)
- Hand-cut pasta with grass-fed beef ragù (the chunks of beef were perfectly tender, and very flavorful -- my pick for the best of the entrees)
- Porcini mushrooms and radicchio roasted in wood oven, served with green garlic toast (I'm a fan of roasted/grilled radicchio -- Thirsty Bear does it with bleu cheese and a syrupy aged-balsamic dressing that stands up to the chicory bitterness -- so it was a shame they insisted on mixing it up with mushrooms *sigh*)
- Local ling cod and Nantucket Bay scallops with spinach, fennel, and zinfandel butter (I'm not a huge fish fan, but this was really good)
- Hoffman Farm chicken al mattone with little turnips, shoestring potatoes, and olive salsa (very tasty, especially the turnips, though I wish there'd been a bit more olives and a bit less potatoes)
- Sierra Beauty apple and cranberry crisp with cardamom ice cream (which we got two of, and it was a good thing, because it was the best of the desserts -- the ice cream was perfect, with a light sweetness that didn't overpower the perfume of the spice)
- Bittersweet chocolate cream puffs with Grand Marnier cream
- Tangerine sherbet with candied orange peel (and little sugar-crisp cookies -- kinda like Pepperidge Farm Bordeaux cookies, except without all the preservatives and other nasty stuff)
- Vin santo ice cream with autumn fruit compote (I think mostly apple and pear?)
- 2005 Bricco Quaglia Moscato d'Asti (excellent, light sparkle, fruity, sweet without being saccharine)
- 1997 Carobbia Vin Santo (better in ice cream than as a wine; kinda strong, and too minerally for my taste)
- 2003 Château Grand Piquey Sauternes (excellent; almost Tokaji-like in terms of its texture and complexity)
Even with all that, there were at least two appetizers and two entrees I was sorry to miss -- bagna cauda with autumn vegetables; cauliflower salad with salt-cod, chervil, capers, and Meyer lemon; lamb sausages with butternut squash puree; and pizza with tomato sauce, eggplant, and mint.
We left the restaurant around 10:30, and stood at the curb chatting for a bit. Every time we see those folks, I wish we had more time. We almost always crash at their place when we visit the Boston area, but we end up so busy visiting other people around town that I end up feeling like we barely had time to talk with them...
We got to the Choir Loft around 11pm, and chatted a bit with cyan_blue and deedeebythebay before going to bed. Got up at 4am and made our way to the airport. On the flight out, they showed a couple decent movies -- Pirates 2, and something I'd never even heard of, Neverwas. Good cast, decent performances, and a fairly engaging story, kind of along the lines of The Fisher King (untangling the basis in reality of somebody's delusions). (On the way back, we got The Da Vinci Code and Little Miss Sunshine, both of which sucked.)
We arrived at Dulles early Friday afternoon, and originally thought we might be able to beat the DC rush-hour traffic, but as it turned out, accidents on the inner loop had already turned it into a parking lot at 3pm; it took over an hour to cover the ~14 miles from 267 to 29. We still got up to Columbia earlier than planned, so we walked around Columbia Mall, and got coffee at Bun Penny (which was selling gourmet coffee in that mall long before anyone had ever heard of Starbucks). We met up with a bunch of my family members at Clyde's, which is surprsingly good for a pub-restaurant. (I'd never tried it, since I always used to go to the place next door, if I had dinner along the Lake Kittamaqundi waterfront.) I got to compliment my cousin's engagement ring, though her fiancee (a lawyer from Cameroon) couldn't make it because he was working. After dinner, we crashed at my uncle's place. Saturday morning, over coffee, we gift-traded some tangerines from Xta's yard from a box of Harry & David truffles and a couple of Royal Riviera pears (the former made it back to California, but the latter got eaten well before then *g*).
We then drove down to Alexandria, and found the hotel we thought we were supposed to be going to. It turned out that two months ago, the Holiday Inn on King Street turned into something else, and we were actually supposed to be at a Holiday Inn a few blocks north. After that bit of confusion, we managed to go get checked in, relax for an hour or so, then change clothes and go down to the lobby to meet up with various other Warnerites to catch a shuttlebus over to the former Governor's house.
It turns out he's in a rather unpretentious house (I think the rear part actually shares a wall with the neighbors -- so, sort of a townhouse, though in the front area there were small gardens on each side). Well-furnished, sporting a small climate-controlled wine closet (which I saw because the coat-rack was downstairs next to the door into it), and with a nice view of the river and a small yard/garden; but still, not palatial, and not even completely freestanding. There were some nice hors d'oeuvres, and some very nice wine (I wish I'd caught the label on the Riesling) brought up from the cellar, for a crowd of ~65 people from all over the country -- folks who'd been gearing up to support a Warner presidential primary run. Eddie Ratliff, the founder of Draft Mark Warner, introduced the Governor. He thanked us for our support of him, and of our shared values, and talked about his choice not to run for president. There was a bit of a chuckle for, "People ask me, Mark, didn't you know last year that you had those daughters?" He discussed how grueling his schedule was just going out and doing fundraising and publicity for candidates around the country -- Forward Together PAC apparently raised more money than any other candidate or committee, except for Hillary, who was mostly raising money for herself. It was very different, he said, knowing academically that a presidential campaign would mean not seeing his family much during his daughters' last few years of high school, versus actually spending a year out campaigning, and realizing that it was only going to get worse. He also talked about issues he's looking at to focus on for the next year or two. The main ones were healthcare (on which he already has considerable expertise, having founded a nonprofit to work on the issue in VA, and provided universal care for children as gov), public service (renewing our commitment to programs like the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, getting them up from a few tens of thousands of people to hundreds of thousands or a million), and global warming (which led to a few shouts of "Gore/Warner '08").
After he was done talking, he circulated, and spent 5-10 minutes with each little cluster of people. I talked with him briefly about one issue he hadn't mentioned -- stem cells. He takes the issue personally for the same reason I do; one of his daughters, like my younger brother, has Type I Diabetes. Of course, the debate over stem cells ties in with the science vs ignorance, progress vs stagnation, future vs past battles, which were always a major theme for Warner. I also chatted with various other activists. Aside from speculation on the presidential race (who'd be the best candidate, and whether they might pick Warner as VP -- he'd actually joked about how all of the candidates, declared and undeclared, are his new best friends, always coming by for lunch when they're in DC), and on whether Warner might run again for Governor in '09, or against John Warner, who had announced a day or two earlier that he'll seek another Senate term. John will be tough to beat in '08, but if anyone could, it'd be Mark; although he lost in '96, that was before his gubernatorial record and the general blue trend in VA. And, at the most basic level, John Warner's highest-ever approval ratings have been in the low 60s; Mark has registered in the mid 70s. It would, at the least, be a very interesting campaign, and even if all Mark did was get his name on the ballot (not bothering to go out and campaign), the GOP would suddenly have to devote resources to defend the seat which they'd otherwise spend defending weaker incumbents and fighting the presidential race. (Also, having Warner as the Senate candidate in VA might help us actually capture the VA electoral votes, same as having Warner on the presidential ballot would. Barring an upset in a similar-sized blue state -- WA, MN, WI, or MI -- losing VA would be a near-fatal blow to any GOP presidential candidate.) After the party, about a third of the attendees went back to the hotel, to hang out in the restaurant/bar there.
Xta and I went up to bed relatively early, around 9pm, so we could get up early again to go up to Ellicott City, and have brunch at Tersiguel's with Dan Metz, who's still living in the house he grew up in (he bought it from his parents), across the street from where I grew up. Tersiguel's is now on its second generation; my parents used to go to Fernand Tersiguel's "Chez Fernand" in Baltimore, before he opened in Ellicott City, got burned down in the Leidig's Bakery Fire in the mid-'80s, and rebuilt at the current location. Fernand's son Michel has now become executive chef. Tersiguel's was always the best restaurant in EC, and gives the best places in Baltimore a run for their money. I have to say though, that while the brunch was very good, the stuff we got wasn't as spectacular as the dinners I've had there... We had pecan pancakes with bananas and maple syrup, and a crispy buckwheat crepe stuffed with spinach, crabmeat, and champagne cream sauce. Dan got some sort of pan roasted fish, served over potatoes and poached eggs, which he said was excellent (and may've been more interesting than our crepe). We got to chat about life. Dan's been involved in some lobbying down in Congress, to fix a problem with the Medicare Part D law. He works for a company that trades in small lots of pharmaceuticals for immediate delivery (so that hospitals can get small stocks to tide them over when their larger orders aren't going to come in soon enough to provide for the patients), and apparently something in how the Medicare rules were written actually makes his business illegal. They got a court injunction against the rules, but are still working on a permanent patch. (Minor note -- it didn't actually matter, given what we ordered, but I've realized that in a discussion of the menu, I was confusing lardons with cardoons.)
<ETA> My mom wrote me an email including a correction to my faulty memory of the late '70s and early '80s:
The original Chez Fernand was in Ellicott City. Fernand had worked for a French restaurant called Papillon, further up the hill towards St. Johns Lane -- it closed about a year after we moved there in April l974. He left them and opened his restaurant right around the time Alex was born. We used to put both of you in bed early, get a sitter, and go have dinner. We'd stay until closing, and then Fernand would come and sit with us over an aperitif. Makes me quite nostalgic to think about it. The fire happened around 1980, or shortly thereafter. Leydig's was making gingerbread houses for the Christmas season, and left the heaters on over the weekend to help them dry -- they caught fire, and a whole block went up in flames almost instantly. There were no firewalls between those old colonial buildings, and few, if any, sprinkler systems. The fire department had a terrible time -- it was impossible to get hoses in behind them because of the river. The next day, I drove down there, and the scene was shocking -- it looked as though a bomb had hit the town. Fortunately, Fernand had insurance. Rebuilding in Ellicott City would have meant waiting for months -- there were a lot of hassles over how to make the new buildings look as "old" and authentic as possible, but also incorporate fire safety features. So he decided to buy the downtown building, next to the shot tower. The food was as good as ever, but the restauant never had the ambience of Ellicott City -- it was larger and more impersonal. We were really happy when he decided to come back out to E.C. -- and the new restaurant is the best one ever--the current building has more charm than the earlier one did. Fernand's wife, Odette, was the head chef for a long time -- I remember when Michel went to culinary school, and progressed through various restaurants in France and California. It was always their aim for him to come back and take over the kitchen eventually -- I'm glad he's done it. Did you see Fernand while you were there? I'd sure love to go back--it's been a long time since I've been there. He had a terrific maitre'd, too -- Charlie, who had been with him from the beginning--maybe still is, for all I know. He's a tall, gangly guy, who is an artist when he's not at the restaurant -- makes huge, abstract sculptures as installations for commercial and government buildings/plazas. There were other longtimers, too -- Fernand inspired loyalty.
Charlie was definitely still therwhen I was in E.C. last time, I guess in late '03? I went in for dinner, and a day or two later treated Dan and his sister (who at the time looked like she was in remission, though things ultimately didn't work out) to dinner and drinks. Also, I guess I had misspelled Leydig's. It was a real shame that they ultimately left; the spot they had became Fisher's, which just wasn't as good. (Leydig's had orange-glazed donuts with orange frosting. Best donuts ever. Though it strikes me that they might've been even better with a dark-chocolate frosting...) </ETA>
After brunch, when I went to change out of the nice shirt I'd worn to the nice restaurant, I realized that I'd left my suit at the hotel. Which was mildly inconvenient, but not too terrible. Xta and I had been planning to go to some Metro station where we could park, and ride into downtown DC, and with the Braddock Road station a few blocks from the hotel, it was really only about 20 min extra driving to go back there instead of going somewhere in Rockville or Bethesda, as we'd originally planned. After recovering the suit we went and spent a few hours walking the Mall, all the way from the Capitol to Linclon Memorial. The reflecting pools at both ends were iced over, and we saw kids entertaining themselves by grabbing large chunks from the edge and hurling them out to shatter in the middle. I suppose that's one way to kill time...
We got home around 1am last night. I still need to get my keys back from tenacious_snail, who took care of the cats over the weekend; I'll have to call her and see if she wants to let me buy her some dinner tonight. The cats have been exceedingly affectionate this morning; Tsuki keeps hopping up in my lap to insist that I should be petting her, not typing. I need to restock the wet food, pick up my sunglasses (which I was called about this morning), and, uh, actually do some work... I think I may have a couple shirts to pick up from the cleaners, as well, so I could drop off my suit to be cleaned and pressed to get the wrinkles out from travelling in a suitcase...