Saturday, February 26, 2011

SFO to JFK: Home Bound

After 5 days in California, Christine and I are home with a lot of fantastic memories. We took Virgin America from SFO to JFK, and Christine was amazed that they had individual touch screen monitors on the back of every seat. Of course, one could use these little personal media portals to access such humdrum entertainment options as watching television programs or movies on demand... but we opted to use its map feature, which tracked our plane's progress as it made its way across the United States, while providing up-to-the-minute flight details such as altitude, temperature, speed, and distance remaining. We also used the touch screen to order snacks: an "adult drink" for me, a Ghiradelli hot chocolate for Christine, and chocolate chip cookies for us to share.

As we sipped our drinks and munched on our cookies, we began brainstorming plans for our next adventure... Alaska anyone?

Friday, February 25, 2011

San Diego Day 2

The day started with a trip to the Reins stables to visit my mom's passion - horses. Reins is a therapeutic riding program, and my mom's second home. My mom had polio at the age of 5 and spent a year in the hospital. They said she'd never walk again, but she proved them wrong. Not only can she walk - but she is an incredible rider - training for the paralympics.

After a visit to the stables, Christine and I ventured on a 9 mile "hike". Fallbrook is known for beautiful trails, but we chose probably the only non-scenic walk in CA. It started out hopeful enough ... but then twisted and turned past freeways, an abandoned drive in movie theater and swamp-like marshes. Oh least it ended at the ocean.

Start of 9 Mile Hike
Hopeful our walk will be somewhat scenic

Middle of 9 Mile Hike
Trail is dubbed "The Denny's of Hiking Trails" by Christine

End of 9 Mile Hike
Pacific Ocean

By the time we got to the end of the trail, we were too tired to do anything more than snap a picture of the beach. We then proceeded directly to "Pappy's Bait and Tackle Shop" for ice cream.

One thing that kept our spirits up on the trail was the thought of pie. Not just any pie, but the best pie I've ever had in the world - which was waiting for us at home.

So after we had pie and ice cream, we showered and changed for dinner with my sister in Claremont (now THAT's a vacation). My sister's in medical school, and this was the first time I got to see her new place and meet Lil - the cutest, littlest dog in the world:

My Sister's Dog Lil

After a tour of my sister's digs, we went to a gastropub, The Back Abbey , for dinner. It was delicious; the pommes frites were particularly tasty - twice fried in duck fat.

It was a short visit, but I miss my little sister very much, and it was great to see a little slice of her "new life" as a medical student. I'm very proud of her.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

San Diego Day 1.5

After three days of serious sight-seeing in San Francisco, Christine and I decided that we'd relax our first night in San Diego with a movie - so we grabbed some snacks and an electric blanket, and plopped in a VHS tape (yup - they still exist) of my favorite movie of all time: Now Voyager (Bette Davis).

On a side note, Now Voyager is also my mother's favorite movie...we argue over who picked it as their "favorite" first. If you haven't seen it - you're missing out on a true Hollywood classic.

THE untold want, by life and land ne'er granted,
Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find.

- Walt Whitman

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

San Diego Day 1

Ahhhhh ... My mom's house has everything a girl could ever want:

Sunshine and a pool ...

My dogs: Christine with "The Gretch" (above) and Bently (below) ...

Charley and his shinanigans ...

...but best of all, it has my beautiful and amazing mom -

serving up her homemade lasagna with love and a smile ;)

-Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

San Diego Bound

Di dropped us off at SFO around 6:40 am ... but that didn't stop us from getting in one last SF treat: a loaf of sourdough for breakfast.

Next stop San Diego!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

San Francisco Day 3

On Monday, we enjoyed another sunny day (despite the Weather Channel's gloomy predictions), and visited the epicenter of the 60's Hippie movement: Haight-Ashbury.

The day started with breakfast at Crepes on Cole with Diana's friend Rich. Then we walked down to the Haight for some shopping and a trip to Amoeba Music, which is a music-lover's paradise in one big building.

After several hours of strolling amongst the nostalgic tell-tale signs of an era of free- love and flower-power, we drove out to Ocean Beach to watch the sunset over the Pacific.

Next, Diana and I saw her niece's basketball game (she's in 3rd grade) while Christine packed. Afterward, we picked up some Pete's Coffee and Sees Candy

before heading over to The Clay Oven (Indian food) for dinner.

On a side note: Christine's chocolate and coffee gift purchases turned out to be very pricey indeed since they pushed her luggage over the weight limit - which cost her a whooping $50! Well worth it I say ;)

-Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, February 21, 2011

San Francisco Day 2

We lucked out with the weather on our second day, and started our adventure at the Ferry Building in the Embarcadero. The Ferry Building is a little like Chelsea Market ... full of venders selling organic produce and handmade crafts. It is also home to perhaps the unhappiest barista in the world - this guy:

at Blue Bottle Coffee - made legendary for their individually "dripped" cups of delicious joe. It's ironic that the customers who waited over 20 min for their pricey to-go cups of caffeine were less annoyed by the whole process than he was- but perhaps that added to the mystic of it all. Christine anyway was all smiles with her mocha:

Then we bought some Scharffenberger chocolate and took in a glorious view of the Bay Bridge before heading over to Pier 39.

Now Pier 39 is indeed a tourist trap - complete with knock off pocketbook stores and "I Love SF" t-shirts - but I used to live three blocks from it, and would fall asleep every night to the barking lullabye of sea lions.

For as long as anyone can remember, hundreds of these wild creatures took up residence on the pier's floating docks, but earlier this year they just all left.

Their sudden and mysterious dissapearance was really upsetting to SF natives and tourists alike - with full page articles in The Chronical speculating why they would just up and leave ... I was so happy to see at least a few returned.

Next it we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito for lunch.

After lunch, we came back into SF and headed to the Marina for some shopping and a sweet sampling of Kara's Cupcakes (SF's equivalent of NYC's Magnolia Bakery).

We tried lemon, coconut, and walnut banana - each better than the next.

After a quick stop at UN Plaza to see City Hall:

We went back to Diana's place to freshen up and change into cute dresses for dinner at Ana Mandara ... an upscale and insanely good Vietnamese restaurant.

On the way home we drove down Lombard- the crookedest street in the world - for a breathtaking view of the city at night.

It was a perfect day with my two best friends in a city I love and miss.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, February 20, 2011

San Francisco Day 1

Christine and I left JFK around 7:20 am and arrived at SFO at 11:00 am (love that 3 hour time warp). First order of business: take Christine to an "In and Out Burger" joint.

Then it was off to North Beach for a visit with Diana's friend at his place of business: SF Fire Dept.

After a quick tour of the firehouse, we headed over to Cafe Greco for coffee and the best chocolate banana pudding I've ever had - right out of the oven.

Then we walked down the road to the mecca of independent bookstores: City Lights Books.

We finished up our day at Una Pizza Napoletana- owned by Anthony, an old biking buddy of Christine's husband. Anthony was a pretty big deal in the East Village NYC before moving his operation out west - and I can say from experience that his pizza is delicious on both coasts.

All in all - a good first day.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, February 17, 2011

San Francisco Bound

In two days, I will be on a plane back to San Francisco, where I lived and worked for over 9 years. My ears are infected and I have the worse flu, but I don't care. I've flown more sick than this before. (I know, I know... save the horror stories of congested eardrums bursting mid-flight... if the cancer didn't kill me, this flight certainly won't.) I've tried everything I know in order to get better - even the unthinkable of taking two days off from work. So far, nothing has helped.

I need this trip. I haven't been back to SF since I moved to Jersey, and I miss my sister, my mom, and my friend Diana. One of the things that I am most looking forward to is sharing a glimpse of my past with my amazing friend Christine, who has never been to SF before. I'll be providing daily blogposts via my iphone app with some of our adventures... but for now, I'm going to take a forced nap in an effort to feel better before our early departure Sat. morning.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What to Get "The Guy Who Has Everything" for Valentine's Day: a Gorilla

For Valentine's Day, I wanted to get Gary something that really showed my admiration and respect for his commitment to ecological and global responsibility and sustainability. I remembered hearing about how endangered mountain gorillas were (only about 786 left in the wild), and that several organizations had programs where you could "adopt" a gorilla in support of their conservation efforts. After doing some research, I decided to adopt a mountain gorilla in Gary's name through the World Wildlife Foundation. It's a great charity, and turned out to be a pretty unique Valentine's Day gift. To visit WWF's gorilla adoption program page click HERE.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Q: What's Good for a Sore Throat? A: Bent Spoon

My pre-Valentine's Day masterpiece from The Bent Spoon: chocolate port ice cream on the bottom and chocolate-covered-strawberry sorbet on top.

To celebrate Valentine's Day, Gary and I were supposed to go to Avenue last night - a beautiful French restaurant in Long Branch with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the ocean. Unfortunately, I've been plagued by flu-like symptoms for the last few days: sore throat, runny nose, aches, sneezing, ear infection ... the works. Gary was such a good sport though; he just canceled our reservations and instead took me -sniffles and all- for a steaming bowl of noodle soup at Rai Rai Ramen followed by ice cream at The Bent Spoon in Princeton.

TripAdvisor ranked The Bent Spoon #2 out of 68 restaurants in Princeton, and it's probably one of the few ice cream places in the world that has a line out the door in the middle of winter (with only three indoor tables). If waiting in a long line to eat ice cream outside in the freezing cold seems like a ridiculous notion - it's obvious that you have never eaten at The Bent Spoon before. Publication after publication (NY Times, NJ Best, Time Out NY, NY Post) have touted the glories of The Bent Spoon's crazy delicious treats, and I too have been known to blabber on incessantly about their legendary flavors to anyone who will listen.

Above is a picture of The Bent Spoon menu from Serious NY Eats. The flavors change all the time depending on what they can get locally, so you never know what flavors will show up on those little brown paper bags. The owners (a husband and wife team) estimate that they have about 380 flavors in their rotation - every single one using only organic, locally grown ingredients like "honey culled from Jersey bees or chocolate laced with mint grown by student farmers at a nearby Riverside Elementary School" (NY Times). Probably two of my all time favorite flavors are blueberry mascarpone (only in summer) and Guinness - Baileys cream (only around St. Patrick's Day), but the chocolate-covered-strawberry sorbet that I had yesterday is definitely in my top 10.

The sweetest thing about the afternoon, however, wasn't the velvety perfection in that little black plastic cup... it was the fact that I was with Gary, and thanks to my doctors I hopefully will get to spend many more Valentine's Days with the love of my life.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

New Medical Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of NETs

The North American NeuroEndocrine Tumor Society (NANETS) has issued a comprehensive set of guidelines to assist medical professionals with the diagnosis and treatment of neuroendocrine tumors. The guidelines are organized into eight manuscripts, each one addressing key aspects of NET diagnosis and treatment by organ site. I focused on the manuscript pertaining to NETs of the appendix, and I was genuinely impressed by its clear synthesis of competing and complementary evidence-based research on this rare disease. The guidelines are not only an important resource for medical professionals, but also a way for carcinoid patients to feel more empowered about their own treatment options.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Fried Chicken, The Dismemberment Plan, and Cereal Milk: East Village NYC

The Gozicks are crazy into music, just like Gary, so when they heard that The Dismemberment Plan (indie rock band) was getting back together for a tour, we immediately planned a trip to the city for dinner and a show in the East Village. (Caution: the following blog post contains graphic descriptions of obscenely unhealthy food...viewer discretion is advised.)

The Redhead for dinner.

The Redhead 349 East 13th St NYC
(above picture from: Serious NY Eats )

The Redhead is a tiny Southern style bistro, but luckily we got there early and were seated right away. After peeling off our millions of winter layers, we got right down to business and started studying the menu - a task which the guys took very seriously....

We decided to start with with bacon peanut brittles (because, as the menu notes, "everything's better with bacon") and house made soft pretzels with Kentucky beer cheese - both of which were flawless.

Then we tried three different entrees...

Chris had the redhead burger with homemade chips, which he said was fantastic and perfectly cooked. A nice touch to his dish was the spicy mustard, which came on the side with the traditional mayo and ketchup condiments.

I had the low country shrimp with anson mills antebellum grits and andouille sausage. I hate to say it, but my meal was sub-par. The grits were overloaded with raw onion and celery, and otherwise lacked flavor and texture.

Christine and Gary both had buttermilk fried chicken, which came with a corn muffin and spinach & pear salad. (Note that the misplaced pickle on Gary's plate is from Chris's meal.) This is the dish that the restaurant is known for, and Christine immediately declared it was the best fried chicken she has ever eaten.

We all shared a beautifully dense dark chocolate tart with Mexican cinnamon ice cream for dessert. (Sadly, there is no picture of this dessert because we were too busy eating it!)

NEXT STOP: The Dismemberment Plan at Webster Hall.

The Dismemberment Plan broke up in 2003, and was a popular indie rock band in the 90s - even opening for Pearl Jam and co-headlining with Death Cab for Cutie. Other than a brief charity concert, this is the first time in eight years they have played together... so it was an eagerly anticipated and sold out show.

Can you find Gary in the crowd? Christine, Chris and I stayed up in the balcony - away from the frenzied fans.

We knew it would be an early show (over by 10:15) so we had already scoped out our LAST STOP: Momofuku Milk Bar for a post-concert snack.

Momofuku Milk Bar is amazing. Gary and I both had their "Cereal Milk", which has four ingredients: milk, corn flakes, brown sugar and salt. It is supposed to taste like the milk that's left over after eating a bowl of super sweet sugared cereal. It was perfect.

Cereal Milk

I also had a cornflake-marshmallow-chocolate chip cookie; Gary had a compost cookie (pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, butterscotch, chocolate chips); Christine had soft serve ice cream with cornflake crunch topping; and Chris had a slice of cinnamon bun pie with cheesecake filling and brown butter.

The shining star of this epic sugar overload, however, was the birthday cake truffles with rainbow cake crumble, sprinkles, and vanilla frosting.

Birthday Cake Truffles

The magic of these truffles is that it takes a moment after you eat them to get that ultimate "hit" of birthday cake flavor. Each order comes with three truffles, and despite their pure genius, we were so full that Gary and I had to split one, and Chris and Christine split another - leaving one truffle.

Since (in the lyrical words of Three Dog Night) one is the "loneliest number you'll ever do"- we offered our last truffle to the three outgoing and friendly gals standing across the wooden bar from us. Turns out, thanks to Christine's keen desire for cupcakes, we recognized one of them as the owner of Sweet Revenge - one of our all time favorite Greenwich Village spots, and the only "cupcake, wine and beer bar" in the city. Christine finally said something to the owner along the lines of "your cupcakes are better" and the owner blushed and thanked her. (For Christine, Sweet Revenge is a holy place of worship.) Personally, I think both Momofuku and Sweet Revenge deserve a place in the hallowed halls of Dessert Legends.

What a fantastically delicious fun-filled night!