Paris!! (September 2018)

We were in Paris for a week to celebrate the Inn at Little Washington’s 40th anniversary (and its 3rd Michelin star). The weather was lovely—sunny and crisp. In total, we ate at 5 restaurants (if you count the Inn) with a total of 12 Michelin stars (yes, we are gluttonous pigs). But it was a glorious gluttony!
We went with two friends of ours from Wichita and stayed at the Shangri-la Paris. The Shangri-la is situated in the 17th arrondissement, looking over the Eiffel Tower, and the building is the former estate of Napoleon’s great-nephew, Roland Bonaparte.

view from our terrace

The Inn had arranged for a couple of additional events for us to attend. The first was a private tour of the Dior archives, which consists of both clothing and documents. It was fascinating to see how the archivists conserved vintage clothing and preserved various documents from the Dior shows and from the designer himself.
In addition, Jamie McCourt, the US ambassador to France, hosted a reception at her residence for the Inn. The ambassadorial residence is a building that was formerly owned by a New Orleans-born woman, the Baroness de Pontalba. (Talleyrand also once lived at that same location). After the death of the Baroness, one of the Rothschilds purchased the estate. The family fled to Switzerland when the Germans invaded. This proved to be a wise decision as the residence then became a club for Goering’s officers during the German occupation.
The residence and the grounds are beautiful, and there is even a Calder located on the grounds (it’s on loan).

The US ambassador’s residence

the Calder!

But the crowning event celebrating the Inn took place at Vaux-le-Vicomte, the former residence of Louis XIV’s finance minister. It is said that Louis XIV modeled Versailles after Vaux-le-Vicomte (with Versailles being a bigger and better model, of course—that’s what happens when you’re an absolute monarch). Vaux-le-Vicomte is a drop dead fairy tale-like gorgeous chateau, complete with moat in front (no sharks) and an 18th century French formal garden in the back.

the gardens at Vaux-le-Vicomte

There were guardsmen, jugglers, musicians, and flamethrowers, all dressed in 17th century period clothing. Patrick O’Connell, the chef and owner of the Inn, was also dressed in period costume.

with Chef Patrick O’Connell

The food was excellent (of course!) and at the end of the evening, there were the most amazing fireworks in the garden, set to music. It was the most elaborate fireworks show I have ever seen.

menu from the 40th anniversary dinner

dining in the Grand Salon

In between all of these events, we played conventional tourists (the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame) as well as unconventional tourists (Musée de Marmottan, Musée de L’Orangerie—both filled with Monet paintings, Musée d’Orsay, and Sainte Chapelle).
We also ate at Shang Palace, Taillevent, Guy Savoy, and L’Arpège. They were all their usual impressive places, but the place that stood out this time was L’Arpège. The chef is a genius with vegetables, which all come from his 10 hectare garden in Normandy.
Speaking personally, I am replete with paté and foie gras and red wine. It was a magnificent trip.

Disneyworld September 2018

To celebrate someone’s 17th(!) birthday, we jaunted off to Disneyworld for the weekend. The weather was hot and humid (welcome to Orlando in September!), but the weekend was glorious. We tried to do this last year, but Hurricane Isabel decided to make an appearance, and we had to reschedule our trip.
Making the trip in early September meant that our daughter could come with us as well before she left for her sophomore year in college. She was beyond excited, as it was 15 months since she last was at a Disney theme park.
I was always certain that when the kids turned into teenagers, they would turn their noses up at spending time at a Disney park. I am delighted that it is still one of their favorite places (Hawaii being a close second). We have so much fun riding the rides, but our enjoyment in Disneyworld is more than that. It is one of the places where we are a family and family-focused. The kids have grown up there, we have celebrated birthdays and other special occasions there, and everyone has pushed their fear boundaries there. (Although the daughter still will not ride Rock-n-Roller Coaster.)
Disneyworld is where we celebrate the present, reminisce about the past, and create memories for the future. We have delighted in Walt Disney’s optimism, reveled in his belief that humans are capable of endless innovation and creativity, and criticized the parks/Disney where we thought it was merited. It is a place where we are forever children, looking with wide-eyed wonder on the future. It is, truly, the happiest place on earth.

I LOVE the Little Green Men!

To infinity and beyond!

the new Toy Story Land

Alien Swirling Saucers in Toy Story Land

birthday dinner

a birthday cupcake

true birthday wishes 😉

What I Did On My Summer Vacation (2018 version)

Dear Teacher—

What we did on our summer vacation:

  • Our 16 year old son went to rural China for 6 weeks and came back with better Chinese, 2 beautifully handmade (by him) silver bracelets, new friends, and a newfound maturity.

new friends!

shiny metal, fire, hammer, and sharp tools–what’s not to like?

  • Our former exchange student spent part of the summer with us while she worked for a renewable energy company in Bethesda. We loved having her with us.
  • Our 19 year old daughter came back for the summer and worked at a decision analytics software company. Even more importantly, she *drove* to work (celebratory drum roll). (Oh, and by the way, she loved being an only child!)
  • Jim and I attended the US-Japan Leadership alumni weekend in Seattle, caught up with some old friends and made new ones (despite the fact that the new delegates and fellows all look like they are 12 years old).

USJLP 2018

  • The 16 year old son spent 5 days at home before embarking on an east coast college tour.
  • Our family vacation consisted of a week in Honolulu with some friends renting a house and an additional few days in Honolulu with just the 4 of us. Zip lining, surfing, shopping, and eating were the focus of our visit. We left right before Hurricane Lane arrived (fortunately, Oahu emerged relatively unscathed, unlike Maui and the Big Island).

at Ty Gurney Surf Shop

zip lining at the North Shore

sunrise over Koko Head

Hurricane Lane is coming!

  • The son and I visited my parents and saw a couple of west coast universities.

a visit to the zoo or a college campus? (is there a difference?)

  • The family attended a ribbon cutting ceremony for an elementary school in Chehalis, Washington named after Jim. The James W. Lintott Elementary School opened on Tuesday for K-2 students.

tee hee!

  • School started.

And that’s what we did during our summer vacation.

Your friend,
May

USJLP 2018

Jim and I attended the Fellows (alumni) weekend for the US-Japan Leadership Program (www.usjlp.org) this past week. The event was held in Seattle. It’s always a wonderful time to get to know the new delegates and catch up with what the Fellows are doing with their lives.
I will say, however, that I was put in my proper place by a couple of Fellows, both of whose first words to me (after not seeing me for a year) were, “Is Marcus here?” Yes, I’m calling you out, Dan Tani and Marc Walwyn! (To be honest, it was a lovely compliment to our 16 year old, who has managed to endear himself to all of the younger children who attend.) 🙂
Seattle was beautiful and sunny (I know, Seattle friends, you would like to think it is that way year-round). It was also the week of Seafair, with the Blue Angels performing. We did get to see them practice on Saturday, and they are a marvel of flying beauty, as always. We were told that the Blue Angel pilots trim their controls all the way back so that they are pressing the equivalent of a forty pound force when they fly in order to fly with control and precision. The pilots certainly have little margin for error. They are always impressive! (And a great recruiting tool for the Navy.)  Here is a brief video of it:

We also received confirmation that we are old. We have been involved in the program for almost 20 years, and when the Fellows look like mere children, you know you are old.
But, in the end, the most important aspect of the USJLP weekend was creating and renewing the bonds of friendship. We were, as we always are, thrilled to be part of such a fantastic program!

USJLP 2018

A Weekend in New York City

For his birthday, I gave Jim tickets to see “Springsteen on Broadway.” Since the 19 year old daughter is with us for the summer and she did not want to see a show about “old people music,” we bought her a ticket to see “Hamilton.”
New York for us is a city where we eat/shop/see shows. This particular weekend was no exception. We took the train up on Friday. It was a beautiful day with not a cloud in the sky.

view from our hotel room in The Palace Hotel

We opted to eat dinner at the bar in The Modern (located in MoMA). The dining room in The Modern is rather formal and requires reservations, but the bar is much less so and is a great place to eat a casual but delicious dinner (think nouvelle American cuisine small plates). A slight digression: we love small plates because the format allows us to try numerous dishes—we realize this dining philosophy is not for everyone and that some people are more possessive about their food than others. 🙂
Saturday consisted of window shopping (and some non-window shopping) down Madison Avenue and lunch at Union Square Cafe. The advantage of Madison Avenue is that you can duck into various air conditioned stores to escape from the heat. Since the 1% that would normally be shopping on Madison Avenue are all in the Hamptons for the weekend, we had the stores pretty much all to ourselves. It was delightful.
Lunch at Union Square Cafe is like having lunch at a neighborhood bodega that has really good food. The staff is friendly and competent, and the dishes are accessible and delicious. After lunch, we continued our drunken sailor spending before heading back to the hotel to get ready for our shows.
Times Square in the summer consists of more teeming masses of humanity than I like, but it is great people watching as long as you don’t get run over (by either pedestrians or cars). “Springsteen on Broadway” is a surprisingly intimate show by the man who regularly sells out baseball stadiums to this day. The monologue is personal, and the songs fit the mood and setting quite well. It was an amazing show! (Question: why does a man who can regularly sell out on tour and is worth a gazillion dollars feel the need to do a Broadway show 5 nights a week? Inquiring minds want to know.)

getting ready to see Bruce!

moonlight over Manhattan

Meanwhile, the daughter was equally thrilled with her evening’s entertainment. While the current version of “Hamilton” does not perhaps have the same personality without the original Broadway cast, the show stands just fine on its own with the current performers.
We spent Sunday at the Met (also an air conditioned space), spending most of our time in the temporary exhibits. The “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” exhibit is perhaps the most controversial, ranging from artifacts lent by the Vatican to couture designers’ take on Catholicism for their costumes. Most of the costumes were relatively inoffensive, but there were certainly several that were arguably blasphemous. It was a very interesting and visually stunning exhibit.
The Chinese landscape paintings exhibit was excellent in its breadth and quality of the paintings. It did entertain me to read between the lines of some of the descriptions as forgeries have been gradually uncovered (my favorite phrase demonstrating this is the phrase: “done in the style of…”). As Jim says, any museum with a comprehensive collection of antique Chinese paintings has a forgery problem.
There were also some excellent works in the “History Refused to Die: Highlights from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation Gift” exhibit. And the daughter, especially, enjoyed the contemporary art exhibit. (There’s a beautiful Jackson Pollock painting in the Met collection that is worthy of a visit even if you don’t like anything else in contemporary art.)
It was a tremendously fun weekend. The only cloud was that the boy wasn’t there to enjoy the weekend with us. (This was not seen as a cloud but a silver lining in his sister’s eyes, however.) We do have proof of life from him as of Monday, and he is having a really fun time in China, so all is good.

A “Picnic” by Kinship (DC)

Kinship is one of our favorite restaurants in Washington, DC, so when an invitation arrived stating that there was going to be a dinner at the farm of one of its suppliers, we didn’t hesitate! Neither did our 19 year old daughter (who is home for the summer—yay!) and two of her friends.
Eric Ziebold and Célia Laurent are the couple who own and run Kinship to perfection. Eric is an extraordinarily gifted chef, and Célia is the operational brains behind the business.
The dinner was held at Martin’s Farm in The Plains, Virginia, about an hour and a half west of DC. The dinner arrangements hit a slight snag when a thunderstorm passed through The Plains that afternoon, making it impossible to start cooking or setting up on time. The storm also soaked the ground, and there’s nothing quite like the experience of that lovely red Virginia clay soil turning into lovely red Virginia mud. (The choice of appropriate footwear was directly proportional to the enjoyment of the evening.)
It was also a good experience for the 3 young women, who had probably never been on a working farm before. (Certainly, the one belonging to us had not.)

note appropriate footwear

All of these delays were easily solved by wine and sangria, of course. And once the cooking stations were operational, the dinner was as lovely as one might expect.
There were two appetizer stations set up, serving a Path Valley Farm Hen Egg with Grits and L’Abeille Garden Anise Hyssop and a Small Mouth Bass with Summer Solstice Succotash and Rouille. The grits were delicious, and the bass melted in your mouth. (I suspect the bass were still swimming happily in the pond earlier that day.)
Dinner consisted of Avocado Toast with Chorizo and Lamb Leg Terrine as appetizers with Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Warm Green Tomato Salad and Tahini and Red Wine Marinated Tri-tip and Grilled Ribeye with Kinship Steak Butter as entrées. Side dishes consisted of L’Abeille Garden La Ratte Potato Salad with Beef Bacon and Rosemary, Savoy Cabbage Coleslaw, and L’Abeille Garden Chicken Spice Grilled Asparagus. Even this potato salad-hater liked the potato salad (but, then, with enough bacon, all things are possible). And the asparagus was delicious. The coleslaw lovers in the family declared the coleslaw excellent, but I decided that I needed to save my hard-earned optional calories for dessert.
The two dessert stations served Brown Sugar Shortcake with Vanilla Cream with either L’Abeille Garden Verbena Strawberries or Orange-Scented Blueberries and S’mores Cake with Chocolate Crémeux, Toasted Meringue, and Soft Cinnamon Cake. The chocolate lovers in the group declared the s’mores cake to be excellent. The shortcake was all shortcake should be—more cake than biscuit—rich and with no bitterness. It was fabulous.

a selfie by old people…

The dinner could not have been set in a more scenic location. The surroundings were beautiful—a timely reminder of how gorgeous the Virginia countryside can be. All in all, a tranquil and delicious way to wind up a summer weekend.

gorgeous day!

The Inn at Little Washington’s 40th birthday at Mount Vernon

The Inn at Little Washington is celebrating its 40th birthday in grand style this year. Mount Vernon (George Washington’s home for those of you who never learned/have forgotten your U.S. history) was the site of its most recent celebration. And what better place to celebrate one’s birthday than at the home of the man who laid out Washington, Virginia as a surveyor? (Before he went on to some other career highlights.)

Dress was “garden chic,” which caused no small amount of consternation for our group. Stilettos or no stilettos? Long or short dress? Hat or no hat? Tie or no tie? (General consensus: no, short, no, no.)

The reception was held in Martha Washington’s garden with a troupe of colonial dancers, a generous caviar station, and a gaggle(?) of U.S. marshals (Supreme Court Justice Alito was one of the attendees).

My favorite part of the event was, naturally, the mime.

The dinner was held in a giant tent on the grounds by the Potomac, just outside the house.

We started off with a Barboursville Brut Rosé Cuvée 1814.

The appetizer was Mousse of Duck Liver with Port Gelée and Rhubarb Jam in a Hen’s Egg accompanied by a 2013 Linden Vineyards Petit Manseng, Late Harvest from Virginia.

Mousse of Duck Liver

The second course was Maine Lobster in a Raft of Crisp Potatoes Afloat on a Minted Pea Purée served with a 2015 Matrot Meursault, Blagny, Premier Cru from Burgundy.

Maine Lobster

And the final (non-dessert) course was Poulet à la Crème à la Lafayette. The accompanying wine was a 2014 RdV Vineyards Rendezvous from Virginia.

chicken a la lafayette

We concluded with a dessert “groaning board” consisting of miniature desserts, including lemon possets, cherry pies, blueberry pies, pecan pies, and lemon meringue pies (with additional desserts that I’ve forgotten since recovering from my food coma).

the after-dessert goodies

Fireworks were also provided at the conclusion of dinner (because, of course).

For more beautiful photos than I can provide, you can go see The Washingtonian’s coverage of the event: Inn’s 40th celebration. (In full disclosure, you can see part of our group in the tent photo.)

Disneyworld (Take 56)

It was officially the 16 year old’s 56th visit to the happiest place on earth. (He’s catching up with his sister who has been there 57 times.) We also dragged along our former exchange student, Yinan, who is staying with us for a couple of months while she does an internship this summer. (Little did she know what price she had to pay.)
There were a couple of highlights on this trip (and one major lowlight, which is that the 19 year old daughter wasn’t with us). It’s times like these when we’re accustomed to going places together as a family that I miss her the most.

Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom

one of our favorite rides!

March of the First Order at Hollywood Studios

Nonetheless, it was a fun trip. The newest ride—Flight of Passage—based on the “Avatar” movie in Animal Kingdom remains a highlight. I thought the ride couldn’t possibly live up to my memory of it from October, but it does and then some. It’s a difficult ride to describe—it’s as if Soarin’ and Star Tours had a baby who emerged as a prodigy. Even if you haven’t seen the “Avatar” movie or aren’t a fan, the ride is still mind blowing in its visual impact and ride experience.
Another highlight of the trip was the “giraffic jam” we experienced. We were on the Safari ride at Animal Kingdom when two adolescent giraffes proceeded to bicker (the human term for their behavior) in the middle of the road by swinging their heads at each other, using them as battering rams. It held up the ride for about 20 minutes and was hilarious for each and every minute, especially if you’ve ever had teenage children in the house.
I’ve included a 4 minute video of it, courtesy of the 16 year old son. Bribes of lettuce and orders to move were tried to no avail. One of the park rangers finally convinced the giraffes to move off the road by nudging his truck slowly and carefully closer to them. (The safari ride trucks have to keep their distance.) Knowing the giraffes, I have no doubts that once we were safely by, they would be back at it. Teenagers!

the giraffic jam

We were also guinea pigs for test runs of the “Minnie van.” Get it? The vehicle is painted in Minnie Mouse polka dots and bows and supplied with Minnie Mouse water bottles. Playlists of all four parks and each Disney hotel are available for your listening pleasure. It was traveling in (Disney) style!

the Minnie van!

complete with Minnie water

It was a wonderful opportunity to relax and enjoy the wonders of Disney before the end of school pressure cooker begins. The Disney magic definitely worked itself on us!

NoMad Hotel and NoMad Restaurant

We were fortunate enough to win a charity auction item for a bespoke dinner at the New York City restaurant, NoMad, and decided to stay at the NoMad hotel. This is not our usual haunt when we visit New York City—the Upper East Side is more the style to which we’d like to become accustomed, but we thought it would be fun to branch out a bit.
We loved the NoMad hotel! It’s a bit hipster for old fuddy-duddies like us (you can tell that it is a hipster hotel by the plethora of man-buns and because the hotel lighting is so dim that I felt like pulling out my phone and using the flashlight function to get around the lobby). That being said, we got upgraded to a lovely room that was bigger than most New York flats, complete with a small kitchenette, 1 1/2 baths, 2 super comfortable couches (the boy promptly designated one of them as his bed) AND a rooftop terrace. Since it was 70 degrees and sunny that day, it was a lovely afternoon to sit up there (and read books about the history of Hong Kong to help the aforementioned boy with his history paper, but I digress).
The dinner at NoMad was superb! Jim commented that the decor in the dining room was a cross between the Inn at Little Washington and the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyworld, which is a perfect description. Whatever one might think about the decor (and we liked it), the restaurant—opened by chefs who were previously at Eleven Madison Park—outdid themselves in preparing dinner for us.
The aperitif was what the restaurant called a “Walter Gibson,” made with London dry gin, chenin blanc, chamber blanc & dry vermouth, green apple eau de vie, bee’s wax, and pickled vegetables. The staff member poured out the drink from a big pitcher into the glasses, at which point the boy said, “I can’t drink this–I am only 16!” The staff then whisked away the drink and brought non-alcoholic drink pairings for each course for him.
The first actual course was the fruits de mer (aka “le grand plateau”). This was served with a Nomad selection of extra Brut champagne.

fruits de mer

Next up were two vegetable courses—a fennel variation with rhubarb and burrata and a snow pea chiffonade with pancetta, pecorino, and mint. The accompanying wine was a 2015 Domaine des Comtes Lafon, Clos de la Barre, Meursault from Burgundy.

fennel with rhubarb and burrata

snow pea chiffonade


The amazing entree (and what the restaurant is famous for) is the roast chicken with foie gras, black truffles, and brioche with a white and green asparagus.

pre-chicken chicken (aka eggs) with hollandaise sauce

pre-carved chicken

chicken breast with asparagus

dark meat chicken and chicken wings

Accompanying the chicken dishes were morels roasted with sunny side up egg, faro and spring greens. To die for. Even not including the wine pairing of a 2011 Domaine Harmand Geoffroy, Gevrey-Chambertin Vielles Vignes from Burgundy.

morels

Dessert was another restaurant favorite, milk and honey shortbread, brittle, and ice cream. The dessert wine was a 2013 Royal Tokaji Company Gold Label Tokaji 6 Puttonyos Aszu from Hungary.

milk & honey

We decided when discussing the dinner afterwards that it definitely makes it into our Top 10 meals, and we will most certainly be back!

Spring Break 2018: Honolulu, where else?

If it seems like we go to Honolulu quite a bit, it may be because we have. However, this was our first trip there as a family in 2018. (Note how I carefully defined the parameters just now.) We were fortunate that the kids shared a spring break this year, and they decided to opt for Hawaii as the spring break destination.
This trip was probably the most mellow family trip to Hawaii that we’ve ever had. The kids had surfing lessons every day, and we did visit Shangri-la, the residence of Doris Duke that she decorated throughout with Islamic art. (Jim and I must keep up our reputation as killjoy parents and do something educational on every trip.). But other than that, it was a pretty zen vacation. We shopped a little, we pampered ourselves at the spa some, and we ate a lot (temporarily adopting the Samoan saying “Eat til you’re dizzy.”). And, of course, we enjoyed the warmth and the sunshine and the ocean.
The best part, of course, are the memories of yet another fun family vacation, knowing that each year brings fewer opportunities for us to all be together. To paraphrase Rick from the movie Casablanca, “We’ll always have Hawaii.” (And Disneyworld.).

returning from a visit to Leonard’s Malasadas

orchids from the farmer’s market

Shangri-la (Doris Duke’s residence)

the view from Shangri-la

at the Halekulani

Waikiki

Waikiki at sunset