Inn at Little Washington birthday dinner

It was our son’s 15th (!) birthday a couple of weeks ago and, in addition to feeling really old, we celebrated with a dinner at the Inn at Little Washington (at his request).

As usual, dinner was fabulous from the moment we stepped into the restaurant until we were wheeled out of the restaurant in a food coma.

Appetizers included the mélange of the Inn garden’s heirloom tomatoes with marinated fairy tale eggplant and local sheep milk’s feta

img_3481

to a tin of sin (American osetra caviar with peekytoe crab and cucumber rillettes)

img_3482

to a quartet of Rappahanock oyster slurpees (with sorbets of cucumber, cocktail sauce, horseradish, and wasabi)

img_3483

Additional courses consisted of a carpaccio of herb-crusted Elysian Fields baby lamb loin with Caesar salad ice cream

img_3485

to a crispy napoleon of chilled main lobster with osetra caviar

img_3487

to a pan-seared Maine diver scallop with Jerusalem artichoke purée, capers and tomato relish

img_3490

to grilled pepper-crusted black kingfish with shallot confiture and red wine reduction

img_3488

to crispy maple-glazed pork jowl with braised red cabbage and walnut ravioli

img_3492

to fontina-filled tortelloni on a sweet corn sauté with local shiitake mushrooms and patty pan squash purée

img_3489

to a chanterelle mushroom “meatloaf” with celery root purée and angry red sauce

img_3491

to a chop of organic milk fed pork with grilled peaches and potato purée

img_3493

Dessert included a miniature chocolate birthday cake

img_3494

to the Inn’s signature dessert of seven deadly sins (clearly gluttony is the one practiced most frequently here!)

img_3496

to a peach tart served with almond ice cream

img_3497

It was an incredible meal and a perfect birthday celebration!

with Chef Patrick O'Connell

with Chef Patrick O’Connell

Sense and Sensibility (Folger Shakespeare Library)

Our daughter and I attended the Folger Shakespeare Library production of “Sense and Sensibility” last night. (Jim is, to put it in an understated way, not a devotee of Jane Austen, describing her works as nothing but “yakety yak”). Needless to say, he was not invited to come to the play.

Adaptations of Jane Austen’s works can generally be lumped into two categories: period melodramas that take every word written by this brilliant author as proclamations from the deity versus lighthearted comedies (a la the movie “Clueless”) that recognize the works for what they are—satiric commentary on societal foibles.

This production of “Sense and Sensibility” definitely falls into the latter category. The set is creatively imagined, with the furniture mounted on wheels so that the actors move quickly and ingeniously to new positions to mark a different setting. Several of the actors play dual roles, marked by the wearing or absence of glasses or a ruff (the highlight is the actor who plays Edward Ferrars also playing his drunken younger brother). And the aisles of the theatre are also considered fair game in this staging.

The production is lighthearted, well acted, and does not take itself too seriously. It is high energy rather than languorous, impetuous rather than deliberate. We loved it (despite all the yakety yakking).

“Sense and Sensibility” is playing at the Folger through October 30 (http://www.folger.edu/events/sense-and-sensibility).

Restaurant review: Chef Mavro (Honolulu)

Chef Mavro is one of our favorite restaurants in Honolulu. While some of our other favorites have gifted chefs who serve excellent food, Chef Mavro has both those requirements, and the dishes are always beautifully presented. We try and go twice on every trip and alternate between the 6 course menu and the 4 course menu.
This is the four course menu, where the serving portions are a bit larger than the 6 course menu, and it is every bit as delicious.

We started with the amuse-bouche: white bean mousse with duck confit rillettes. We could have cheerfully made a meal out of the rillettes.

IMG_3467

amuse-bouche

All of us opted out of the squid course and substituted it with black truffle risotto. Black truffles. Risotto. In the hand of a master. Need I say more?

IMG_3468

black truffle risotto

The next course was onaga in fisherman’s bouillabaisse marseilles-style, with rouille & croutons. The “crouton,” served with a spicy garlic aioli, was completely scrumptions.

onaga bouillabaisse style

onaga bouillabaisse style

The meat course was herb crusted niman rack of lamb, served with tomato, zucchini, eggplant & bell pepper à la monégasque.

lamb

lamb

It was accompanied by a side dish of extra virgin olive oil caper mashed potato. I don’t particularly like mashed potato (it’s a texture thing), but this was scrumptious.

mashed potatoes

mashed potatoes

The palate cleanser was a watermelon-champagne gelée.

IMG_3472

And, finally, the dessert course. A peach flambé, with peach, lemon chiboust brulée & sablé, and a blueberry compote accompanied by crème fraiche with a pernod accent and fennel pollen. It was a perfect finish to a lovely dinner!

peach flambe

peach flambe

Book review: A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell, #1)A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed the author’s Julia Gray mystery series, so I was looking forward to the beginning of another series by her. But I was torn about this novel when I finished it. There are very few things in life that I am ambivalent about, but this book is one of them.
The narrator (heroine) really starts off the book as highly dislikable–Vernoica Speedwell is arrogant and smug and a know-it-all. It is a testament to the author’s skill that she slowly grows on you and, by the end of the book, is almost likable.
The hero of the book is likable enough in his irascible way but since the book is narrated in the first person, it’s difficult to get any sense of him outside of the narrator’s perspective.
The historical background is well-researched and well-integrated into the book. You get a sense of atmosphere and context without feeling like you’re reading a history tome. It’s well done. And the mystery is almost a side interest, as you become familiar with the characters and the secondary characters (who are mostly great fun).
There is no doubt that the second half of the book is better than the first half, but in a new series, that is understandable.
I think highly enough of the author and of the second half of the book that I will read the second book in the series when it comes out. But I still can’t decide what I think of this first installment!

View all my reviews

Movie review: Jason Bourne

I love the Bourne series of movies. I love its anti-government, conspiracy theory nature. I even love “The Bourne Legacy,” which most people don’t. I adore Jeremy Renner, and the character growth of the female lead in that movie isn’t something you see in a lot of in action movies (see also “The Terminator” and “The Peacemaker”).

However, I may have to make an exception for the latest installment in the series. Oh, sure, there are still the highly thrilling fight scenes and the fast-paced action sequences. And there are actually plot twists, kind of (miracle of miracles). In addition, the acting of the secondary characters is solid if not extraordinary. But (and this is a big BUT), I don’t go see Bourne movies for angst. (If I wanted to see angst, I’d go see some chick movie. Not my thing.) And there was way too much angst in this movie. Jason Bourne is either a killer or he’s not. The government is either covering up some illicit program or it’s not. But to angst about either of these things is a waste of good celluloid.

The family opinion was split. Jim doesn’t like action movies to begin with (he only goes to indulge me) and was appalled at the collateral damage in this one. The daughter thinks Matt Damon is hot and loves angst so liked the movie very much. This was the son’s first Bourne movie, and he did not care at all for the herky jerky filming style.

Next time someone proposes another installment of the Bourne series, I recommend returning to the government conspiracy theory plots (and to come up with an original one). In the meantime, I’ll go back to being on Team Cap and wait for the next Avengers movie.

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation: Hawaii

We just returned from 10 days in paradise (aka Hawaii and, more specifically, Honolulu).  Among other things, the kids took surfing lessons, we saw rainbows,

FullSizeRender

we built sand castles,

IMG_3459

we visited the Punchbowl (officially known as the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific),

IMG_3474

and we went on a Segway tour of Diamondhead with Marcus’s best friend and his family.

Segway tour

Segway tour

near Diamondhead

near Diamondhead

We also ate lovely meals (at Chef Mavro (more about that later), Town, Alan Wong’s, and The Pig and the Lady amongst others), and we had shave ice (at Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha).
Oh, and the daughter worked on her college application essays.
Despite that unimportant detail, we had many days of relaxation and family time.  There is something special about Hawaii for us.  I’m not sure if it’s the beautiful scenery

sunset on Waikiki

sunset on Waikiki

Waikiki

Waikiki

or the friendliness of the people or something else, but we just feel at home there.  (Maybe it’s because having hapa kids there is no big deal—we get taken for locals all the time.)  All of our trips to Hawaii have been wonderful, but this one was amazing!

Book review: Dreaming Spies by Laurie King

Dreaming Spies (Mary Russell, #13)Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoy this mystery series and its unique and interesting take on Sherlock Holmes. Unfortunately, the past few books have been the weakest of the lot, so I was delighted that #13 in the series proved to be such a delightful read.
The book takes place in 1920s Oxford with a flashback to 1920s Japan. I’ve been to Japan several times and am reasonably familiar with Japanese culture, and the author did an excellent job describing pre-Westernized Japan as perceived through the eyes of the British. Her descriptions were quite accurate and perceptive and made for an enjoyable read (especially when you don’t have to throw the book figuratively against the wall and yell, “That’s simply not how it works.”).
In addition, the plot was extremely clever and well done. While I accurately picked out the major villain, there were several unexpected (at least to me) plot twists. I loved coming to the end of the book and having to do a re-read to pick up on all the clues that I missed the first time. That’s my favorite kind of mystery.
As always in these books, the characters are well drawn, and Mary Russell’s narrative is full of personality and character.
If you haven’t read this series yet, run, do not walk, to your nearest bookstore or library, and start reading. (It’s best to read it in order.) And if you’ve stopped reading the series, I highly recommend picking it up again. “Dreaming Spies” is a highly worthy addition!

View all my reviews

Book review: What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris

What Angels Fear (Sebastian St. Cyr, #1)What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is the first in a Regency mystery series featuring Sebastian St. Cyr, an aristocrat with an interesting set of skills learned in fighting for the British against Napoleon. Don’t let the Regency time period deceive you, however. This is not a Georgette Heyer-type mystery–lighthearted and mischievous (and I love Heyer Regency novels). This is a gritty Regency mystery, with dark descriptions of London’s underclass, the role of women in all levels of society, and a sadistic and unbalanced murderer. Sebastian St. Cyr is simultaneously troubled and appealing (but mostly appealing). And while there are definitely black-hearted villains in this book, there are no unflawed heroes or heroines.
Oh, and what angels fear is falling in love with mortals.
If you combined Georgette Heyer with Bernard Cornwell, you would end up with “What Angels Fear.”
I look forward to continuing the series!

View all my reviews

Book review: Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Alexander HamiltonAlexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is the inspiration for the Broadway musical (and cultural) smash “Hamilton” (and, in fact, the author receives royalties from the musical). I have mixed feelings about this biography and mixed feelings about the subject. Alexander Hamilton was clearly a brilliant man, excellent administrator, and masterful as the first Secretary of the Treasury. He was also vain, overly sensitive, and an irresponsible husband and father. The author has done some excellent research on the less well-known aspects of Hamilton’s life, specifically, the circumstances of his birth and upbringing on St. Croix. But he also falls into the biographer’s pitfall: falling in love with his subject. The portrayal of Hamilton’s affair with Maria Reynolds is enough to make a reader cringe (Maria Reynolds must have been in love with Alexander–never mind the minor detail that she and her husband blackmailed him over it). And the portrayals of Hamilton’s political enemies–Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and, of course, Aaron Burr–are far from objective.
That being said, this is a solid biography of a complex, complicated, and insecure man who was instrumental in the formation of the United States. In addition, one of the most endearing characteristics of the author is the credit he gives and his portrayal of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton as a partner in Hamilton’s accomplishments and someone who ensures that his legacy lives on after Hamilton’s death.
In illuminating a relatively unknown Founding Father, the author does an excellent job of bringing Hamilton to life and showcasing his considerable accomplishments. Alexander Hamilton is the quintessential American story–a poor immigrant succeeding based on his abilities and work ethic. It is a story well worth learning.

View all my reviews

Water Gun Fight (aka Enjoying the Summer)

Our rising 9th grader (or, more accurately, our 14 year old son) decided that what was needed to make the summer more fun was a water gun fight with a bunch of friends.  He cleared the date and time with us, issued invitations to his friends (by text, of course), and on the appointed day, another eight 14 year old boys and girls showed up all ready to do battle.  (Most appropriate for a Quaker school, we thought.)

Weaponry and ammunition were provided:

DSC_1200

I can’t guarantee that a good time was had by all, but I can guarantee that EVERYONEwas sopping wet by the time the battle was over.

DSC_1180

DSC_1131DSC_1155

As our son described it, “Best day ever!”