Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Sadly, I have no photos from dinner, but it is still worth writing about at McFoster's Natural Kind Cafe.
I found the spot using Yelp on my iPhone, a nifty application that allows you to search for businesses — I use it mainly for restaurants — in a certain area. The gold mine is the list of reviews and comments from Yelp users. It's saved me from many a night of Pizza Hut.
McFoster's is the kind of place that doesn't use any refined sugar and offers a 10 percent discount if you bring in your own carryout containers. It has a sprawling patio and a comfy vibe inside. On a chilly, drizzling night, it felt like entering a friend's home.
I ordered the Fresh Scallops Sautee: "Carmelized scallops tossed into a nest of fried onions and tofu saffron sauce that is made to order. (These scallops are especially flavorful because unlike most restaurants, our scallops are not treated with trisodiumpolyphosphates.) Served with whole grain organic basmatic rice and sauteed veggies."
I love a good menu description, nevermind the misplaced modifier.
And who knew I had been ingesting trisodiumpolyphosphates?!?
Well, not tonight. The tofu saffron sauce — which I would never have realized was tofu-y— was lip-smacking divine. The veggies were seasoned perfectly. I ate them all up. The scallops did taste very good, but they were astonishly chewy. Tough, even.
Still, it was a filling, delicious meal that made me a happy traveler. I wish I could go back sometime soon and try their Groovy Guacamole Dip or Happy Hummus. Seriously!
I love mountains, especially majestic creatures like the Rockies, but at 10 p.m., they are not my friends.
This was the worst stretch of my 15,000+ drive. No streetlights. Few other cars, most of which 65 mph past me into the night. Faint white lines. Looming shadows that, I assume, were the mountains. Up and down.
I drove on, trying to stay on the road as best I could, hoping that the truck blaring down on me could see better than I could.
My reward was well-worth it, though. A day in Denver with my aunt and uncle — and a day game at beautiful Coors Field.
This park rivals Camden Yards. The mountain views are nothing to scoff at, and the entire stadium is charming and tidy. Not a lot of gimmicks, just quality, beautiful baseball.
OK, here's one gimmick. Check out the sign. And yes, it is what you think it is.
Our seats were fabulous. Clearly, I need to go to more games with my uncle!
We sat in the first row on the club level, just to the right of home plate. I suddenly realized what I had been missing, staring at the back of the left fielders. Hmm.
The club level was plush, with Nordstrom-quality bathrooms, air-conditioned vendor areas and comfy chairs. I was intrigued by this dessert — chocolate-covered cantaloupe kabobs??
The bullpen was in a mini Christmas tree farm.
And when there's a homerun, the fountains spurt up. We saw quite a few of those as the Rockies took down the Padres, 7-5!
My trek from San Francisco to Chicago had a deadline, May 1, which sped up my trip. I had about a week, which is plenty of time, but also no time at all.
My cousin, after hearing about my longing for adventure along the way, recommended a couple of detours: Lake Tahoe and Arches National Park. I had heard of Lake Tahoe in that vague way you hear about Vail or the Hamptons, but I didn't really know what to expect. And I had never heard of Arches. But trusting the right people is a secret key to the world.
I took I-80 into Utah, with plans to stay in Price, just before Arches and Moab.
Well. I didn't make it to Price. It was dark in the desert when I drove through Salt Lake, with only a dim knowledge of a vast body of water to the left of me. (One of numerous moments when I kicked myself for not rising with the sun and getting the full day to see the West.)
I stopped at a gas station to fill up, and I asked the attendant about Highway 6, the road down to Price. Was it well-lit? Was it easy to drive at night?
Her eyes grew a bit bigger, and she told me it was a thin road with drop-offs. "I wouldn't risk it," she said.
OK, then. I booked a hotel in Provo, just south of Salt Lake City, and set out the next day.
Good call! The road was not one to be navigating in the dark of night. And in the light of day, the scenery was unreal. I'm so glad I didn't miss it.
Here's the highway on the drive in — right through a canyon, red cliffs to the side. Stunning.
The park is very car-friendly. It's like your own amusement park ride. Just relax in the air-conditioned comfort of your car and gawk out the window, or stop in any one of many parking lots and stroll a half-mile, mile or many miles. Choose your own adventure.
In the distance, 360 degrees, are views that illuminate the call of the West. Mountains one direction. Desert valleys another. Gorgeous rock formations. It's a wonderful park.
The well-named Balanced Rock ...
Monday, April 27, 2009
OK, so it's hard to see here. But if you click on the photo and get the larger version, you might be able to make out a rainbow straight in front.
At one point, there was a wall of dark clouds in front of me, and I could see a rainbow to the left, touching the ground, and a rainbow to the right, touching the ground. I basically drove under the rainbow, under the dark clouds, and out to sunshine on the other side.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
This road trip has had its share of sharp turns and unexpected detours.
Unexpected — or last-minute — detours:
- Memphis blues dance exchange
- A long, happy visit in Austin
- A comforting stay in Mount Herman
- Gorgeous Redwoods
- Santa Cruz and the fun sea lions
Whoops. I meant to hit ...
- Grand Canyon
- Vancouver, B.C.
- Anaheim Angels
Yosemite was on the list briefly, when I realized I could drive through it from San Francisco to Denver. But then, when Google maps gave me a bright-red warning, I checked the highway routes. And the road through the park is closed for the season. (I think the season reopens in May.)
My cousin David had a terrific idea — dipping from I-80 to Lake Tahoe and checking out the scenery there.
Lake Tahoe, for those other East Coasters who were as uncertain as me, is split by California and Nevada in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. You take a two-lane road down into a valley, with entrances to giant lodges and ski resorts every half-mile or so. I tried to imagine the traffic and noise in the summer months. I was glad it was a Sunday evening in April.
And the lake is nothing short of stunning.
No one was in the lake or on the lake. It was still, crystal blue, calmly shimmering.
Mountains border the lake, like lace on a doily, and a row of clouds had been piped out above the mountains. The shoreline was all smooth rocks, big pebbles waiting for bare feet to scramble over them.
It looked like a painting to me. As if I was staring at a giant projection screen of a beautiful movie set.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
I usually answer something like, "Well, see you, of course!"
But they want specifics.
So I elaborate: I'm happy just being in their company, catching up, but if we're talking activities, I pick:
— lindy hop and/or blues dance
— live music
— good food, farmer's markets, wineries, breweries, etc.
— hikes, kayaks, boat rides, etc.
— baseball games
— whatever I can't do at home in Norfolk (umm, within reason)
Sometimes, those requests are difficult, like asking your wonderful friends who have a 6-month old baby if you can catch live music one night. Oops. I had forgotten that bars aren't very baby friendly.
Mims, though, found one! In Portland, Airplay Cafe caters to all ages, from babies on up. It sells, for example, Drop Dead Red beer, on draft, and fruit loops, in little baggies. The grilled cheese comes with carrot sticks. You get the idea.
We checked it out one night when Misty Mammas were scheduled to play — at 7 p.m. The cover charge was $10 for a family or $5 for one.
These four talented women specialize in "home-style" bluegrass. They sang old-timey tunes, originals, plus a few silly songs. The music was lively, infectious, fun, inclusive. Everything true bluegrass should be. Kids and parents danced about, including a very spirited version of the chicken dance. The acoustics were marvelous, too.
They also handed out Halloween-snack-sized M&M's with "thanks" from them printed on the bag.
Oh, and apple pie as a party favor.
Yes, they had brought carryout containers of pie, slice by slice, for the audience. As a thank you.
These Moms had thrown a party or two for kids before, I think.
701 E Burnside
tram ride, Giants game all coming soon)
Today, sunshine in Oakland, where the Athletics take on Tampa. The
stadium is pretty empty, and a nice woman gave me a free ticket! So
far, so good... And first batter: BJ Upton!!
Friday, April 24, 2009
When you reach the border of California, you must hand over any fruits and veggies. Something about the risk of introducing infections or bugs or whatnot.
I think that state should install billboards 20 miles, 10 miles, 2 miles out — with rest stops — that say:
"Beware! Your mango is in danger! It will be seized in 13 miles!"
"Devour your apple slices or risk their kidnapping shortly!"
"Your mandarin oranges have 3 miles to live!"
And the thing is, I even knew it was coming and had forgotten. When my sister and I drove cross-country in 2001, we crossed that inspection area. We were puzzled about it then, and somehow, in all the many day-to-day events in the eight intervening years, I had forgotten about the inspection station.
So, of course, I had a mango. Perfectly ripe. Waiting to be in my tummy. And several mandarin oranges. All confiscated.
Welcome to California!
Yup, when I rolled to a Northwest gas station and hopped out to fill up, I was halted by a service attendant, who waved me back into the driver's seat. That's when I knew I was in Oregon.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
A scrumptious breakfast sets the day off right. Twice, I met my friend Carrie for brunch (Doesn't that sound even fancier? It's just breakfast for sleepy heads and night owls.) at Byways, a cute cafe right around the corner from Powell's, the best bookstore on the planet.
Byways Cafe is bread-box small, with a counter, a row of little tables, and a row of booths. OK, maybe slightly bigger than a bread box. Souvenir state plates (you know, the ones with the state flower Dogwood or the state bird Cardinal) line the walls, along with vintage-looking license plates. In a shelf sit souvenir trinkets, like bells, thimbles, and shot glasses. I felt like I was back in my grandmother's house.
And then I ordered tea — and was served in a strawberry-print cup!
The desserts (ponder: If they are your breakfast, are they not dessert?) looked divine, like pumpkin coffeecake. Pumpkin coffeecake! Can you imagine?
One Visit No. 1, we split the french toast. Only, this was another level. Check out the menu description:
Amaretto French Toast $8.95Four slices of amaretto - infused brioche served lightly dusted with powdered sugar, honey pecan butter and pure maple syrup. (Please allow a minimum 15 minutes per order)
Yes, it really did take at least 15 minutes. These slices were huge, resembling four paperback books from Powell's that stacked and slide. We each had two, plus a side of fruit. The tinge of amaretto was melt-in-your-mouth wonderful.
On Visit No. 2, before we day-tripped to Seattle, I got my protein fix with a fried egg, bacon and cheese sandwich with a side of fruit. And it wasn't cold, tough fruit, like supermarket plastic food, but nice and sweet. Happy days ...
Friday, April 17, 2009
I am smitten with Portland. OK, I'm not alone. This Northwest city has more than its fair share of fanatics. But for such good reasons — the pretty scenery, the bike-friendly streets, the seemingly infinite cafes, the artsy scene, the consciousness that feels infused into everything.
Even the neighborhoods — and I don't mean the trendy ones, just ordinary neighborhoods that go on for miles — are positively charming.
They have sidewalks. (Gasp!) And flowers. The houses are all sizes, shapes and colors. It feels homey.
Here are a few snapshots from a walk around a Northwest neighborhood. It is spring, and all the trees are blossoming. I took photos of a few houses to show what a wide palette the neighborhood has. Every color in the rainbow — plum, brick red, pale pink, orange — has a house to call home in Portland.
I spotted this van another day, in a different part of town. It made me smile. To me, it shouts Portland with glee and spirit.
We added them to a whole wheat pizza dough from Trader Joe's — you can buy a plastic bag of gooey pre-made dough for about $1. Such a steal. We added in red onions, cremini mushrooms, tomato sauce, fresh basil and a sprinkling of mozzarella.
This is the pre-bake photo, but I wish I had taken a pic after the mushrooms became soft and scintillating and baked, and the cheese melted. It was delicious.