Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My Six Week Mission -- week two

Two weeks ago, it was time for me to renew my contract for pilates sessions. Instead of opting for the one month, eight session package as I had been doing, I signed up for the twelve session package. To coincide with the start of my current set of sessions, I decided to start a six week mission to lose ten pounds. While losing ten pounds would make a noticeable difference on a shortie such as myself, ten pounds is a mere drop in the bucket in relation to the forty pounds I am aiming to lose. Losing forty pounds would put me into the 'normal' range for acceptable BMI. It would still be the higher end of normal, but it would be a vast improvement. I think I'd be content at my goal weight. When I think of losing forty pounds however, it seems insurmountable -- that's a huge number! But breaking that number up into smaller amounts seems possible and is keeping me motivated.

For this first ten-pound phase, I've been working on embracing the principles of
Intuitive Eating. To put it plainly, I like food too damn much to stick to any traditional diet plans that tell you exactly what to eat and that banish certain foods entirely. I like keeping my dining options open. Also, the second someone says I "shouldn't" or "can't" eat something, is the same second I want to binge on the item. With Intuitive Eating, however, making peace with food and rejecting the good vs. bad mentality is a key component to success. I must admit, since starting this approach to eating I haven't had nearly the amount of cravings I usually have for things like sweets, chips or fast food. And when I do eat those types of things, I eat far less of it than I used to.

Diet is only part of the weight loss equation; exercise is key as well. I'm having a tougher time in this area. Currently, I skate for one hour a week and take a hour-long pilates class twice a week. My intention the past two weeks had been to add at least two cardio sessions. I failed miserably with respect to that. I kept up with skating and pilates, but didn't go anywhere near the treadmill or elliptical.

Overall, however, the mission has not been a failure. Wednesdays are my weigh-in day and as of this morning I am five pounds down from my starting weight. Knowing that I am halfway to my immediate goal has psyched me up.

My focus for the next two weeks: getting back on track with the C25K program.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

It's a WeeMee!

Credit goes to Weezermonkey and Tater for starting this craze. It really couldn't have come at a better time. You may or may not have noticed that I had taken my actual picture down in my profile. FogCityDweller, being the great friend that she is, reminded me that it wasn't such a great idea to have my photo posted in light of what I do for a living, especially since I occasionally post about "The Agency".

Friday, May 23, 2008

His Super Sweet Sixteen

Sixteen years ago today, when I was a mere 16 years old, my nephew J was born. Happy Birthday J! It's hard to believe how quickly time has passed and much he has grown. The picture at the left was taken at my wedding last year; he has to be at least a couple inches taller by now. Yay for J breaking the curse of shortness in our family!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Why 'Gossip Girl' Rocks

What other show could use the same, simple line in two episodes aired consecutively and have its use be even more awesome the second time around? The line: "I'm Chuck Bass." I can't wait until season two.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday in the FiDi

When I was in eighth grade, my class took a trip to Wells Fargo Bank and the Pacific Stock Exchange as part of our Junior Achievement program. Staying true to the nerd I was, I had a pretty strong interest in business, particularly the stock market at the time. It was the late 80s after all. Greed was good. After stepping foot inside of the stock exchange, it became a dream of mine to someday work there, wearing a goofy jacket and yelling “Buy! Sell!” on a daily basis. Little did I know that eleven years later, I would actually be working for the Pacific Exchange, Stock & Options (PCX). I wasn’t a broker, like I had imagined, but I was a surveillance analyst in the regulation department. I intended to work there just while waiting for my bar exam results, but even after passing the bar I decided to remain on as an analyst. I loved working at the PCX … at least for the majority of the time I was there. It was only at the very end of my time there that I was less than happy. Most of my unhappiness stemmed from an uncertain future at the PCX. The combined forces of 9/11, the implosion of the dot-com industry and the inevitable shift to purely electronic trading left the exchange on very unsteady ground. And when CEOs continue to get huge bonuses while their employees are denied raises or laid off, it does not contribute to a pleasant working environment.

One of the things I loved about working there was the location. The office is located in the Financial District. A ten minute walk in either direction and I could be at Union Square, Chinatown, North Beach or the Embarcadero. There are tons of cafes, restaurants, bars and shops nearby. There is also an endless supply of
interesting people to watch. Don’t get me wrong, I did my fair share of bitching and moaning about BART delays, bike messengers acting as deadly weapons, weirdo perverts on the street and the flood of Marina-ites in the FiDi. Deep down though, I really loved the hustle and bustle of it all. I really am a city girl at heart.

What I loved most about my time at the PCX, however, were the people I met. My boss, Karen, was fantastic and everything one could want in a boss. I met some of my dearest friends while working there. Whenever I feel blue at my current job, I always think that the experience at PCX spoiled me. That if the people I met there were here instead, things would be much brighter.

Last Friday, I met up with two of my PCX cohorts, D and M. Technically, the PCX is now the NYSE, but that’s a boring story. Let’s return to the fun. I met them both at our usual spot: the parking meter in front of the building. It is entirely appropriate that the office is located on Bush and Sansome Streets, as bs’ing on that street corner was part of our daily ritual. Our fourth partner in crime (or regulation), R, wasn’t able to make it, which was a slight bummer. But I was still ecstatic to see D and M; I hadn’t seen any of them at all since my wedding over a year ago. I've always believed that your closest friends are those people you can pick up a conversation with right away, no matter how long you've been apart. D and M are definitely those types of friends. M received a well-deserved and overdue promotion last year and was too buried in work as a result to join us for lunch. So after a mini-catchup session with M (who is looking super fierce these days), D and I headed off to Bistro Burger for burgers, brie, mushrooms and frings. Over lunch we gabbed about anything and everything, including D’s upcoming wedding. I’m so excited for her! We also spent a fair amount of time reminiscing about some of the more colorful characters from our past such as our drinky ex-VP, the “little beady eyed guy”, some pervy security guy in a Kangol hat, my IT stalker and a certain rotisserie chicken loving broker.

After lunch D took me over to the trading floor. I was shocked when I walked onto the floor; it seemed to be a shell of the place it had once been. Back in 2000, on my first day on the job, the trading floor had been full of people, loud voices and flashing screens everywhere. Now there are only 2-3 companies still using the trading floor. There were maybe a couple dozen people milling about. As the closing bell rang, we met up with another one of the old timers from back in my day and chatted with him for a bit. We even saw the rotisserie chicken loving broker! I did my best to skulk past him; I was responsible for him being slapped with a rather large fine several years ago. I don't think he likes me very much. Then D took me back to her office where I hung out at her desk for a while, just as I often used to do. M, unfortunately, was still tied up with his gnarly project, but managed to get away long enough for one more lengthy chat down at the parking meter. Before we knew it, it was time for all of us to part. After hugs from M, along with a promise of drinks next time I’m in town, I walked with D over to the BART station. More hugs and promises to get together again soon ensued. Then D went down the escalator as I was left to ponder, “What if I had stayed at the PCX?”

From the BART station I walked over to the Ferry Building at the Embarcadero. The marketplace hadn’t been opened yet when I worked in the FiDi and I was itching to see what it is like. It’s filled with many yummy shops that sell many yummy things. It will take me several return trips to try out all the yumminess it has to offer. On this visit I tried gingerbread cupcakes and hazelnut parisian macarons at
Miette and smores bites and fleur de sel caramels at Recchiuti. Raves for all. Raves for everything that Friday afternoon actually.

Only in the IE

San Francisco tends to have a lot of crazies and craziness associated with it. The phrase "only in SF" is pretty common one to hear after seeing some of the weirdness that happens.

This morning, however, I had an "only in the Inland Empire" moment. As a point of reference the last "only in the IE" moment I had involved CHP using their patrol vehicles to corral a large group of rogue sheep onto the shoulder of the I-15. Seriously. I couldn't make something like that up.

This morning's moment involved:
1. A Euro-trash looking dude pumping gas into his newly leased car, shirtless with his stunner shades on. At 8:20 a.m.

2. This was immediately followed up by my having to wait for a huge-ass tractor to lumber through the intersection before I could be on my way.

So in sum: city with noveau-riche wannabes + tractors on the road = the IE.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Oh Happy Day!

I'm still trying to get back into the swing of things at work & home post-vacation and have two more SF related posts to write, but at least there is bliss on the foodie front.

Anthony Bourdain has three books coming out!
Descriptions of each

And Gordon Ramsay's LA restaurant will be opening in a matter of weeks!
Menu and reservation info.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Dear Co-irker(s)

(1) Dear co-irker who hugely abused our office's liberal approach to standard office hours thereby causing management to crack down on all attorneys in our building,

Fuck you.

The rest of us

(2) Dear co-irker who is incapable of following simple instructions left for you regarding cases of mine you appeared on during my absence,


The person who left instructions for a reason

I need to learn to stop checking work e-mail while I'm out of the office.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Chicken or Steak? I'll take both.

One of the things I love most about San Francisco are all the dining options available. My palate was apparently spoiled by living in SF so long; I never even realized I am what would be considered a foodie until I moved to chain restaurant hell in the Inland Empire. I'd probably eat out every day in SF if I could on my trips, but my mom takes delight in making me all of the Indian curries I love, but cannot replicate as well in my own kitchen. On this visit I got to hit up two iconic SF restaurants and made a visit to an old favorite as well.

First up was dinner at
Zuni Cafe. Despite passing by it more than a hundred times, I had never gone inside. My dining partner was Valerie. Our mission? To have the legendary roast chicken for two. My first impression of Zuni after walking in was how much bigger it actually is compared to how it looks from the street. It has two levels with hidden nooks and crannies. Zuni Cafe apparently needs all the space it can get, as the restaurant was full on a Wednesday night. Although we hadn't pinky-sworn on it, we followed through on our promise to each other to order the chicken. Since it takes an hour to prepare "the bird" as our waitress referred to it, we started off with fried calamari. The batter was light, crunchy and well seasoned. Our bird lived up to its hype -- crispy skin, juicy interior and accompanied with a fantastic bread salad. Since we did an entree meant for two, we also ordered a dessert designed for two: pistachio ice cream in freshly made mini waffle cones. So freaking good. Not so good was the couple at the table next to us. Within a few minutes of sitting down I could hear the wife say to her husband in a sharp voice, "It's our 19th wedding anniversary; I didn't think we'd be sitting here arguing about getting the cheapest bottle of of wine." Ouch. Things pretty much went downhill from there, with both of them sniping at each other about different things. By the time Val and I left, I couldn't wait to call Eddie and tell him how much I love him.

Friday afternoon I visited one of my old haunts in the FiDi with one of my former co-workers.
Bistro Burger was just as good as I remembered. I think they have expanded their menu since I moved, but I went with an old, familiar favorite. The Paris Burger is topped with brie and sauteed mushrooms. With a side of Frings, I was one happy girl.

Friday night I took my parents to
Harris' steakhouse to jointly celebrate my dad's 74th birthday and Mother's Day. The maitre'd was slightly too stiff and formal when we arrived, which was a little offputting. Fortunately our server was a dream and more than made up for it. My mom and I started off with crab cakes in a beurre blanc sauce, while my dad tackled the gulf prawn cocktail. My family tend to eat family style even when items aren't served in such a fashion, so we all swapped our plates around. The shrimp cocktail was okay; I would have preferred a bit more bite to the cocktail sauce. The crab cakes were totally delish. More crab, less cakey filler and perfectly sauced. For entrees we all had some version of a filet mignon, even my very Catholic mom who we talked out of ordering the salmon. I didn't try my parents' steaks because they prefer it much more cooked than I do, but they seemed pleased. I had the Filet Mignon Rossini, which came with grilled foie gras and a black truffle/cabernet sauce. YUM. For dessert my dad managed to snag one of the last slices of a Meyer lemon tart, while I opted for Harris' take on strawberry shortcake (strawberries and whipped cream on a white chocolate macadamia but scone). Again, YUM.

Stiff maitre'd aside, there was only one thing that really detracted from the entire experience which had nothing to do with the restaurant staff at all. One of the reasons I chose Harris' for dinner with my parents is because it is a upscale place with a generally older clientele. In other words, it's not known for being very loud. Some of the younger clientele however, seem to have never learned about the value of using one's indoor voice. There were two tables in particular on our side of the restaurant that were loud and obnoxious. Some things just aren't appropriate in certain places. Shrieking that startles patrons on the far opposite side of a large, full room is one of them. So is throwing around the f-bomb in conversation at the top of one's lungs. I'm beginning to think that general etiquette should be a required course in either high school or college.

I Left my Heart in San Francisco

Tony Bennet was really on to something with his lyrics.

I'm a rare native of SF aka "the city". I say that natives are rare, because it seems like most people in the city are transplants from elsewhere, even if it was elsewhere within the Bay Area. Not only was I born in SF, but I lived within its city limits for 26 out of my 32 years. I still consider SF as "home" in my heart. Fortunately, Eddie knows about, understands and accepts my love for the city. So he doesn't have any problem with me coming up to SF to visit as often as I'd like. My parents still live up here and most of my closest friends are up here as well. As a result, I hate making whirlwind trips to SF because I need much more time than 2 or 3 days to spend time with the family, visit with friends and enjoy the various things the city has to offer.

This past week was the first time since Thanksgiving that I was able to come up to SF for an extended visit. The impetus was my dad's cataract surgery, which happened to coincide with the same week as his birthday, as well as Mother's Day. It's been a really wonderful week. The early part was taken up with visits to the doctor and running errands for my parents, but once those things were out of the way I was able to spend some time with friends and explore the city.

Five days down, two more to go, but I feel like I could easily spend another week up here. San Francisco really does hold a piece of my heart.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Central Coast Winery Wrapup

That last entry ended up being much longer than I expected. So if you'd like to know the nitty-gritty about where I went, what I bought and anything else of note related to just the wineries, then here you go. Generally, most bottles I bought were under $40.

Santa Ynez area
Where: Sanford
What: '06 La Rinconada Vineyard Chardonnay
Other: The brand new tasting room is open; gets large crowds on weekends but the weekdays are quiet.

Where: Lafond
What: '05 Syrah/Grenache
Other: Several different types of large format wine were available, which is unusual to find.

Where: Alma Rosa
What: '06 Santa Barbara County Pinot Gris & '06 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir
Other: Organically grown grapes and an eco-conscious approach to business. All wines are screwcaps.

Where: Tastes of the Valleys
What: '05 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir, "Isabelle" & '06 Breggo Cellars Pinot Noir
Other: The staff in the tasting room is wonderful and the wine list is extensive.

Paso Robles area
Where: Justin
What: '06 The Orphan red wine blend
Other: Beautiful grounds and a large tasting room. The "Isosceles" wine, which is biggest seller, is not on the tasting menu however.

Where: Tablas Creek
What: '05 Mourvedre
Other: French-style wines made in CA. In addition to the Mourvedre, the Esprit de Beaucastle wines were also fantastic. Free bottled water available. Tasting fee waived with a purchase.

Where: Opolo
What: '05 Viognier & '05 Tempranillo
Other: Fun, friendly laid back atmosphere and staff. They also served the best snacks. No tasting fee.

Where: Clautiere
What: '04 Port
Other: Reported to be the most fun winery and looks like it could be, but the staff sucked.

Where: Tobin James Cellars
What: '05 Syrah "Rock-n-Roll" & Sparkling "Dream Weaver" wine
Other: Lively atmosphere. If you ask, you can get tastes of wines that are not on the tasting menu. No tasting fee.

PB & Wine

No, it's not a new sandwich. The title actually refers to the last week's girls' getaway weekend. The girls involved: Valerie, Claire and myself. The destination: Pismo Beach. The agenda: wine, food, hanging out at the beach and more wine.

The trip started on a Thursday. Pismo Beach was selected because it is more or less in the middle between where we all live. Despite being the one to have a slightly shorter drive, I was the last to arrive thanks to the many slow drivers along the 101. I understand that the stretch of highway between Oxnard and Santa Barbara is beautiful and should be enjoyed, however, it is just plain wrong to drop below 50 mph in the fast lane when there is no traffic ahead. Grrr. Eventually I pulled into the Cottage Inn, located right along the beach. We had planned to stay at a different hotel that was more inland, but thanks to Valerie's great investigative skills we found out that the Cottage Inn had lowered its rates during our planned stay. So bye-bye view of asphalt and buildings, hello view of the beach. Valerie also did a great job of dissipating my road rage with the fantastic belated birthday gift she had made for me. You can read all about it here. Thanks Val! I've always hoped that someday I'd get one of your handmade creations. :-) Thursday night was fairly low-key. We made the short drive up to San Luis Obispo to check out their renowned downtown farmer's market. I've never seen such stunning fruits and vegetables before. It totally unleashed my inner cook and made me wish our hotel room had a stove. I would have made dinner for all three of us. Instead, we grabbed some bbq and sat down in the plaza to listen to one of the bands playing that night. Then it was back to the hotel, after some fresh strawberry shortcake of course.

We spent Friday in the Santa Ynez valley. We started off at Sanford, which is perhaps one of the best known wineries in the region. Since we arrived there at noon on a weekday, we were the only ones in the tasting room initially. It was an odd feeling since I am accustomed to wineries being much more crowded and lively. The pace did pick up eventually and we each did pick up a bottle of wine, but there wasn't anything too remarkable about our visit there. From there we continued along Santa Rosa Road to the Lafond winery. Again, it was not a very remarkable visit. The wines we sampled were okay, but there were one or two we poured out into the slosh bucket. I ended up purchasing a bottle of Syrah-Grenache, which I opened up just a few days ago. Fortunately, it was better than I remembered. Much better. :-)

After Lafond we headed to our last stop on Santa Rosa Road, the Alma Rosa winery. This winery was one of the two that had intrigued me the most as we were planning the trip. The owners of Alma Rosa are Mr. and Mrs. Sanford, of the Sanford winery previously mentioned. Despite being a commercial success and an almost iconic winery following the release of the movie "Sideways", the Sanfords walked away from their namesake winery due to philosophical business differences with other partners. Alma Rosa was founded shortly thereafter. The winery was the first to have certified organic vineyards in the region and has a commitment to sustainable agriculture & eco-friendly packaging. The end result are some really fantastic wines. The atmosphere in the tasting room was very laid back. If you happen to be there sometime and have a pourer with spiky blond hair, be sure to ask him where he gets his hair done.

By this time, we were definitely in need of lunch. We headed a few miles east to the Danish town of Solvang. After lunch at one of the traditional restaurants, Val and I headed to a local tasting room while Claire set off exploring. We ended up spending most of the rest of the afternoon at Tastes of the Valleys. I must admit, before we went in I was worried that it would be a cheesy place based on its label as a "Sideways" wine bar. I still really wanted to go however, because it was the only location in the area to try two particular wines I was interested in: Au Bon Climat and Qupe. I was pleasantly surprised however, to find a tasting room that was warm and subdued with barely any "Sideways" merchandise to be found. Tastes of the Valleys has an extensive menu of tasting flights. Most of its offerings are also available by individual tastings or glasses. We decided to go with two tastings each and lingered over our glasses. Lingering was definitely encouraged as our original pourer, Eric, sat down with us for a fun, lengthy chat after he finished his shift. We ended up tasting another wine or two thanks to Eric. We also exchanged a few words with the manager, Dorothy, and Eric's counterpart, Phil. After almost two hours we left to meet up with Claire, do some browsing and have a yummy Danish cookie. We were somewhat surprised to find out that most shops in Solvang closes by 6pm, so with another 90 minutes to go until our dinner reservation we all headed back to Tastes of the Valleys. In the span of just 45 minutes, the place had filled up and we snagged the last few seats at the bar. This time, Phil was our pourer. Not only did he keep us entertained, but he also found a wine for non-wine drinking Claire! Then it was off to dinner at the Hitching Post II.

Staurday morning we set off in the opposite direction and headed north to wineries in Paso Robles. We started off with the farthest of the Far Out Wineries, Justin. I think this one reminded me of Napa the most because of its beautiful grounds as well as the inn and bistro onsite. The two large friendly dogs lounging about were a welcome addition too. The tasting room was large and felt like a comfortable old study. We didn't stay too long because we had a lunch reservation that we were trying to make, but our time there was enjoyable. Next we were off to the Tablas Creek winery. This was the other winery that I had been most curious about, as mentions of Tablas Creek seemed to pop up everywhere in anything food or wine related I read over the past several months. What makes this winery unique is that they produce many of its wines in the French style, with clones brought over from France. Our pourer was very knowledgeable and took the time to explain the unfamiliar grapes and the process, but was never condescending or snooty. I walked out with wine, Claire walked out with a shirt. See, even non-drinkers can have fun wine tasting too! We intended to head to one other winery in the Far Out family before lunch, but really needed to get to the restaurant in Templeton before they closed. So off we went to McPhee's Grill. We started with an appetizer of sweet potato fries with basil that was awesome. I think the awesomeness of the sweet potato fries overshadowed my kobe burger, which was just okay even though the Adrian Grenier lookalike at Tablas Creek said that the burger was "the best one ever."

After lunch we backtracked to the Opolo winery. I'm so glad we did; it ended up being one of our favorite places. The tasting room was very casual and kickback. All of the pourers seemed nice, but our pourer, Anne, was especially friendly and engaging. As everyone was indoors tasting, Opolo's chef was manning the grill outdoors and bringing in tasty Yugoslavian sausages to snack on. I should have skipped the burger at lunch and just chowed down on the sausages at Opolo; they were so good. The wines were great too. I had a hard time deciding which ones to buy. Val had an even harder time and ended up becoming a member of their wine club on the spot. Anne closed out our tasting by offering us some of the Late Harvest Zinfandel accompanied by dark chocolate truffles that were to die for. Again, I'm SO GLAD we went back to check it out.

Unfortunately, the next winery we went to turned out to be a total bust. Clautiere Vineyards had received great reviews claiming that it was a fun, zany place to go. I think their website describes it as "Edward Scissorhands meets Moulin Rouge." Yes, the decor was interesting, utilizing many colors and patterns that we didn't see at any other winery. Yes, there was a collection of crazy wigs for patrons to wear. All those things, however, were cancelled out by the bitchiness of the winery staff. It was not fun at all to be served by someone who obviously either didn't want us there or didn't want to be there herself. I had planned to leave there without buying anything because I was already regretting the $5 I handed over; I didn't want to further support a business whose public face is so bitchy, but the port was great and I usually hate port.

Thankfully, the next and final stop on our trip was the polar opposite of Clautiere. When we walked into the Tobin James it felt like we were walking into a raging party. The tasting room had three large pouring areas that were almost entirely filled. The pourers did a great job of multitasking amongst all the customers while still being friendly. While Val and I were content with several of the wines, our pourer happily took on the challenge of finding something Claire would like and succeeded in her mission. This winery also had a large friendly dog roaming around searching for treats. Maybe it's because I was missing my own dog, but I absolutely loved seeing all these winery dogs.

After getting back into Pismo Beach that evening, we walked down to the edge of our hotel's property to watch the sun set. We had dinner at Two Blocks off the Beach, which has excellent bruschetta. Sunday morning we walked into town to have breakfast at Old West Cinnamon Rolls, which seems to be a local institution based on the line out the door we faced when we got there. The cinnamon rolls lived up to the hype and thank goodness we walked the 1.5 mile trip; it made eating every single bite of the roll absolutely guilt free. Sadly, after breakfast it was time to part ways. I was also heading up to the bay area to visit my parents, but was driving separately from Val and Claire. Even though I knew I'd probably see one or both of them again while I would be in SF, it wouldn't be the same as a trip away. I don't see my BFFs anywhere close to often enough. But looking back, we had a fabulous weekend of good food, good wine and good friends; what more could a girl ask for?

For pictures, check out FogCityDweller's blog.

I've Been a Bad Blogger

It's hard to believe that it has been more than a month since I last posted -- bad blogger! April was somewhat of a ho-hum month, so that had a great deal to do with it. In addition, we are in the process of getting a new home computer. Hopefully that purchase will be made shortly (i.e. Eddie and I will get off our lazy bums next weekend and head to Best Buy) and I will finally start blogging on a regular basis.