Spring Break 2017 (aka Being Stalked by Adam Sandler)

The high school senior got to choose where we went for spring break this year, and after some discussion, she decided on Honolulu, so off we went.  (Twist our arms!)
There was the lovely view from our hotel room:

view from the Halekulani

There were the usual fabulously beautiful sunsets,

sunset on Waikiki

and delicious meals (at The Pig and the Lady, Town, and Chef Mavro, among others).

pho french dip from the Pig & the Lady (I’m the Lady)

We even caught part of the Prince Kuhio parade, complete with two men blowing on conch shells (Prince Kuhio was a strong advocate of Hawaiian independence and supporter of native Hawaiians):

Prince Kuhio parade

But this visit is best defined in the family chronicles as the time when Adam Sandler stalked us.

He and his family were staying at our hotel, and we could not spend a day without seeing him at least twice and often several more times.  When the kids were out surfing, there he’d be, on the beach playing with his kids,

we’re being stalked!

he and his family would be at breakfast when we came down or at the pool when we went in or hanging in the lobby as went by or in the streets of Waikiki as we were walking around.  As Jim said, we’ve stayed at the Halekulani with people we know, and we didn’t see them as often as we saw Adam Sandler on this trip.
We opted not to ask him for a photo, because Marcus felt very strongly that he should be off limits since he was with his family.  Our son is a really easygoing person, so when he feels that strongly about something, we generally accommodate him (and, in this case, we were in full agreement).
I will also say this:  I am not, in general, a fan of Adam Sandler’s movies—they have a rather puerile sense of humor, which is not my thing.  But I think much more highly of him after this trip (I am sure he is breathing an immense sigh of relief about this).  He was an absolutely terrific dad—when he was with his kids, he was *present*.  Not on the phone, not hanging with his buddies, but all in with his kids, devoting his full attention to them.  He was also really gracious and accommodating to his fans, always willing to take photos with them, even if his family was around.  All in all, he was a charming, down-to-earth, regular guy.

Besides being stalked by Adam Sandler, we had an enjoyable and relaxing week taking long walks around Diamondhead (Jim & May), taking surfing lessons (the kids),

after surfing lessons

shopping (all of us), spending time in the water (also all of us),

in the pool at the Halekulani

Waikiki beach

and eating (most definitely all of us).

at the farmer’s market at KCC

None of us wanted to come home, although my attempts to persuade Marcus to transfer to Punahou in order to stay in Hawaii were in vain.  All in all, it was a lovely and mellow spring break!

Inn at Little Washington weekend (aka I want to come back in my next life as one of my kids)

As you may have noticed from my blog posts, the Inn at Little Washington is a favorite restaurant of ours, with a combination of stunning food and warm hospitality.  (We always feel treated like family when we go.). This past weekend will be remembered in the family chronicles as the Inn at Little Washington weekend.
Jade wanted to hold a “thank you” party for her friends.  This all started in 7th grade during bar/bat mitzvah year.  She asked for a bat mitzvah party, and we pointed out that since we aren’t Jewish, that would be a tad difficult.  Jim eventually told her that we would throw her the equivalent of a bat mitzvah if she was accepted into Stanford (she didn’t have to go, but she had to be accepted).  Dinner at the Inn at Little Washington with her friends was what she wanted.
We booked both kitchen tables on Saturday night for the late seating and had a limo bus ready to go.  Everyone arrived early (our biggest fear, since punctuality is not her friends’ strong point, as fond as I am of them) and off they went.


All eleven friends elected to spend the night at our house, given the lateness of their return.  (Note:  12 teenagers in one house is not for the OCD amongst you.). Most importantly, everyone (especially Jade) had a fabulous time.  For some reason, no one was particularly hungry at breakfast the next morning.  Can’t imagine why.
Sunday was Marcus’s turn.  For his birthday, we gave him a dinner for 6 at the Inn.  So, Sunday afternoon, he and 5 of his friends piled into a different limo bus (one that was much more limo than bus) and went off to the Inn for dinner.


The three of us decided that we needed a dinner at the Inn as well but made sure we would be seated out of sight lines from the table of 9th graders.  In addition to the always skillful and imaginative food, we were pleasantly surprised to have new dishes to sample—all of which were delectable.
The new dishes included:
Carmelized Catalan Foie Gras Custard, which quite possibly is the best foie gras we’ve ever had:

carmelized catalan foie gras custard

Chilled Maine Lobster with Vichyssoise Puree and American Osetra Caviar

chilled lobster with caviar

Japanese Wagyu Beef Two Ways:  Seventy-Two Hour Braised Short Rib and Ribeye Sashimi with Potato “Noodles” in Fragrant Broth (possibly the best dish of the night, which is saying something!)

wagyu beef two ways

Raviolis of Ginger Scented Sweet Potatoes and Apples with Brown Butter, Sage, and Toasted Pecans

sweet potato and apple ravioli

Chocolate Mint Bomb

mint ice cream in a chocolate bomb

There isn’t a lot more to be said, other than the fact that the Inn could not have been nicer about having 12 high school seniors descend upon them one night and then 6 high school freshmen descend upon them the following night.  Their hospitality and graciousness created two evenings that will not be soon forgotten!

Hawaii (without the kids)

For our annual “ditch the kids” vacation, Jim and I went back to one of our usual haunts—Honolulu.  (My parents were kind enough to come and stay with the kids.)  It was a beautifully relaxing and restful vacation where we took long walks around Diamondhead and ate our way through the city.  Some highlights include:

Seeing a junior high/high school friend that I haven’t seen in over 30 years (he did the math of exactly how many years it has been, but I am officially not acknowledging the actual number);

Visiting the Punchbowl, officially known as the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, which is a terrific place to appreciate the sacrifice that members of our military have made throughout the years and which also has an amazing view of Honolulu.

view from the Punchbowl

Paying a visit to the Bishop Museum, where Jim decided that stuffed tiger sharks were perfectly acceptable.

Bishop Museum

And eating some amazing meals from old favorites (Chef Mavro, the Pig and the Lady, and Town) and new discoveries (Yauatcha).  (More on Chef Mavro and Yauatcha later.)

pho french dip from The Pig and the Lady

There are few places that can rival Hawaii for beauty.  I can never decide which is more beautiful—the days


or the early mornings


or the dawns.


Or we can just keep going back to try and decide…

Deer Valley 2017 (aka Flight from DC)

Washington, DC area locals know that every four years in January, it is best to leave town, no matter who has been elected president.  Downtown DC is shut down for security reasons, traffic is even more horrible than usual, and the kids get a day off of school.  We fled town for Deer Valley at the invitation of some friends.
Locals in Deer Valley tend to flee to other destinations because this is the first weekend of Sundance.  But if you can find a place to stay (and thanks to our friends, we did), the slopes are empty.  In addition, Friday saw an additional 4-6 inches of snow, and the conditions were perfect for skiing.  (I say this as if I have knowledge and expertise, but I am merely parroting those who do.)  Our friends are expert skiers, but they were gracious enough to keep the kids company and ski at their more rudimentary level.
Neither Jim nor I ski so we spent the days grocery shopping and cooking meals and walking through Park City.  Marcus had spotted the actor who plays Turk on “Luke Cage” at the Salt Lake City airport baggage claim while Jim and I caught part of the Women’s March in Park City and spotted the actress, Olivia Wilde, on the streets right after the march ended.  Park City is a cute town with interesting art galleries, jewelry stores and bookstores.  Many of the art galleries had been converted into theaters for Sundance, but there were still enough to make for interesting window shopping.  And thanks to Sundance, the people-watching was especially fascinating.
And just to put things in perspective, when we mentioned to the Park City locals that we were fleeing DC because of the inauguration, the typical reaction we received was, “Oh, right, that’s this weekend.”  Proving yet again that the center of power is economic and not political.
Thanks to our wonderful friends, the weekend was perfect and filled with the 3 Fs—friendship, fun, and food.

Inn at Little Washington December 2016

Another one of our annual traditions is to go to the Inn at Little Washington after Christmas and spend the night.  While Jim and I usually do it with just the two of us, this year, we took the kids.  (I know—I want to come back in my next life as one of our kids, too.)
The Inn was kind enough to sit us at the kitchen table, which made the entire experience even more memorable.  Unlike many kitchens, especially in New York, the kitchen at the Inn is quiet and serene, at least on the surface.  The stress and tension are definitely there, as it is in every high-end restaurant kitchen, but yelling and profanities are not acceptable behavior.
We started off with a family favorite—truffle popcorn.  As much as I love every dish at the Inn, there are times when I think that the truffle popcorn is all I need to keep me happy.  It truly elevates popcorn so that you’ll never be happy with the movie theatre version again.

truffle popcorn

Next up, was the amuse-bouche.  We were treated to the chip-and-dip served on an (inedible) stone.

In addition, there was a bite of pork belly served with a hoisin sauce.

pork belly

And, finally, there was a brioche with a quail egg and quince jam.  Everything was quite delectable.

brioche

Next up was an oxtail consommé with a miniature grilled cheese sandwich studded with black truffles.  The oxtail consommé used to be part of a regular dish on the menu, and it was one of my favorite dishes on the menu.  This taste brought back a lot of lovely food memories.  Virtually any savory dish can be improved upon with the addition of black truffles, and the grilled cheese sandwich was no exception.  Heavenly.

oxtail consomme & grilled cheese

Another Inn favorite that is no longer on the menu is the fire and ice—seared tuna served on a bed of cabbage “noodles” topped with cucumber sorbet.  We took advantage of its availability that night.

fire and ice

Our son had the carpaccio of lamb loin with caesar salad ice cream.  It’s a favorite of his.

lamb carpaccio

The mousse of foie gras with sauternes gelee and red plum preserve is another family favorite and is often ordered when we are at the Inn.

foie gras mousse

Another past menu item that made a brief return was the roasted pheasant with cabbage

roasted pheasant

Jim took advantage of white truffle season and ordered the spaetzle “risotto” with a poached farm egg and white truffles.

white truffles galore!

Our daughter had the pan roasted lobster with tomato butter, spinach, and garlic custard (among other things):

lobster

The pan-seared diver scallop with artichoke puree, capers, and tomato tartare was excellent,

scallop

And the Inn always does a fabulous job with its version of roasted duck topped with foie gras and served with pickled cranberries (which were amazing!):

roast duck

Here is the delicious pork jowl with braised red cabbage and walnut ravioli:

pork jowl with walnut ravioli

The most amazing dish they served us in an evening of amazing dishes was a black truffle, which they had roasted in the ashes of the fireplace in the kitchen.  It had been wrapped in foil and was warm and sat in its own lovely truffle juice.  It was then sliced and served over a simply dressed salad with the juices poured over it.  Those truffles were one of the most wonderful things I have ever put in my mouth.

roasted black truffles!

Desserts included the painter’s palette of sorbets,

the chocolate mint fantasy,

a chocolate hazelnut mousse tart,

and a honeycrisp apple tart.

While the food is definitely delicious and artistic and memorable, the service is even more exceptional.  The staff always looks happy to see us (they are excellent actors all!), and we are treated like valued guests.  We already are looking forward to our next trip there!

A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre

We have an annual holiday tradition of going to see “A Christmas Carol” (this predates our time in Washington, DC and kids, for that matter).  The bonus of seeing it in DC is that the play is performed at Ford’s Theatre, leading to the kids’ worst nightmare—a cultural event AND an educational event rolled into one.
The tradition has morphed into one where we go with the same family every year and enjoy dinner beforehand.  (We were trying to remember how long we’ve been doing this together, and it has been at least 10 years.)
This year’s dinner was at Zaytinya, a Mediterranean tapas restaurant.  The food and service were excellent.
There was a new Scrooge this year in the play, for the first time in many years.  This resulted in some apprehension amongst those in the family that dislike change (not to mention names, but the Y chromosome ones).  The actor who played Scrooge is Craig Wallace, and he was excellent—totally scary as the pre-repentant Scrooge and completely believable as he morphed into the repentant Scrooge.  The rest of the cast, many of whom have been in this production for years, was also excellent.  And Tiny Tim was terrific—he enunciated his lines clearly and was adorable.
We have enjoyed every single performance of “A Christmas Carol” over the years, and many of the lines from the play have made it into the family lexicon.  But, more importantly than the quality of the production, the play serves as a reminder of what we all should aspire to be.  (Just to be clear, the aspiration should be to become the repentant Scrooge.)  🙂
And so, as the holiday season draws to a close, we echo Tiny Tim’s words, “God bless us, every one!”

The Art of the Qur’an Exhibit (Freer Sackler Museum)

For those of you looking for something to do over the holiday break in the Washington, DC area, I highly recommend The Art of Qur’an exhibit currently being shown at the Freer Sackler Museum. There are over 70 Qur’ans on display, most of them beautifully illuminated. Many are over a thousand years old. (The oldest one is from the 8th century.)

Most of the Qur’ans on display have never been seen outside Turkey as they were the property of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire. To learn more about the exhibit, go to http://www.asia.si.edu/exhibitions/current/art-of-the-quran/default.php.

The exhibition is on display through February 20, 2017.

Best Buddies Miami 2016

We were in Miami this past weekend attending the Best Buddies gala.  Best Buddies is a non-profit that helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities with friendships, jobs, and leadership development.  The annual gala in Miami is always a fun event to attend—both in terms of helping a very worthy cause and because Miami has some of the best people watching ever.
This year’s theme was rock-and-roll.  There were Michael Jackson and Prince impersonators who were quite talented.  There was also Guns ’n’ Roses impersonators, which we had to ask about as neither of us were ever Guns ’n’ Roses fans.

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Bohemian rhapsody

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Santana’s surf & turf

Elton's piano

Elton’s piano

There were several celebrities attending, but the one I got a photo with is Nolan Gould, who plays Luke in “Modern Family.”  He is a super nice kid, very personable and low-key.

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Kesha was the entertainment, and while her voice leaves something to be desired, she puts on a fun show.  She also was quite lovely to talk to.  I especially like her since she admired my necklace (which is a piece of meteorite).
The weather was perfect—around 80 degrees and breezy.  We spent some of the weekend going to the Wolfsonian, a museum specializing in propaganda materials (seems somehow very apt right now) and walking through one of the outdoor malls.

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We also had a tremendous meal at Bazaar, one of Jose Andres’s restaurants, but more about that in a later blog post.

Disneyworld and an 18th Birthday

In the category of “How to Make Me Feel Really Old” falls the 18th birthday of our daughter (I assume our son’s 18th birthday will fall into the category of “How to Make Me Feel Really Really Old.”)
Our daughter elected to celebrate this momentous occasion of being able to sign legally binding contracts by spending it in Disneyworld.  Fortunately, her birthday coincided with a school 3 day weekend, which made it perfect.
We managed to spend time in all 4 parks, although Magic Kingdom received the brunt of our attention.  It makes me feel all warm and gushy inside to know that this now 18 year old young woman still loves Disney and still loves the Magic Kingdom.  (She may still turn out to be a serial killer, but at least she’ll be a serial killer who loves Disney.)
We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, so we woke up each morning to the sight of giraffes, zebras, and other wildlife right outside our balcony.
High points of the trip include:
— being at Magic Kingdom when the park opened at 7:00 am

early morning at the Magic Kingdom

early morning at the Magic Kingdom

— getting a how-to-be-a-warrior lesson from Mulan in the China pavilion at Epcot

— being entertained by Dara Vamp at The Brown Derby

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— seeing the parks decorated for Christmas

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Happy 18th birthday, sweetie!!

Halloween 2016

We have a Halloween family tradition of over 10 years of inviting ourselves over to a friend’s house who has considerably more trick-or-treaters than we do (given that have zero).  The kids decided (very reluctantly) that they were too old to go trick-or-treating by themselves and contented themselves with giving large amounts of candy to the kids who came by.  But, of course, costumes are a must.

Jim’s office offers prizes to the best costume and does a Halloween lunch in full costume every year.

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And we are a family consisting of a Loki, Willy Wonka, Steven Universe, and Nerds.

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Hope your Halloween was as much fun as ours!