Chronicles of the Mole Family, Chapter 7

As I may have mentioned previously, our house renovation is being done by Le and Sons.  Mr. Le has been our contractor/handyman since we moved into our house in 1996.  He has finished our basement and renovated our kitchen as well as done many fixit jobs over the years (since Jim Jim and I are SO handy…not!).  Our arrangement with Mr. Le with respect to the house renovation is that we have left the design and finishing of the renovation completely in his hands.  We blessed the architectural plans, and we have asked him to make sure that there is lots of light and lots of storage, but, other than that, the specific design items, the color schemes, the fixtures, etc. are all his decisions.  Some of our friends are envious of this arrangement.  Others are completely appalled that we do this, and our response is that we have neither the time nor the inclination to make those decisions.  (I would rather have my head shaved than look at 30 shades of off-white tile to decide which shade would be best for the bathroom.)  Mr. Le has excellent taste and why would we second-guess that?

One of the (many) advantages of this approach is that when we walk through the house, we occasionally are pleasantly surprised.  This happened the other week when we walked through the master bedroom and noticed that framing for a coffered ceiling had been done.  Did we know that the master bedroom was going to have a coffered ceiling?  Of course not!  Do we like coffered ceilings?  Yes, we do, and it’ll be a nice touch.  I had not realized before now how much work it is to do the framing of a coffered ceiling, which is surprisingly intricate.  Here’s a photo of what it looks like right now:

coffered ceiling

The other big development in the renovation is that the exterior of the additions is being bricked.  And the picture window in the new 2-story entryway has been installed and is square.  I had no idea that picture windows could be square, but you can see by these photos that they certainly can be.

new brick

more new brick

You can also see that the new brick is not a match for the weathered brick of the original house.  The plan is to paint the brick since it proved impossible to find brick to match the original.  It should brighten up the exterior of the house considerably.

The renovation continues to be on schedule (knock on wood).  It passed a major structural inspection, but, obviously, there is still the plumbing and electrical inspections to pass when the time comes.  We continue to be impressed at how rapidly the house is taking shape (it’s only been 2 ½ months since they’ve started), and we look forward to ending our Mole Family existence in another few months!

The Gastronaut’s Menu at the Inn at Little Washington

We introduced some good friends to one of our favorite restaurants, the Inn at Little Washington on Saturday night.  The Inn is located in Washington, Virginia, about an hour and 15 minutes from our house.  It was a beautiful afternoon to drive out to the Inn (sunny and in the 50s), and we were warmly welcomed by the staff when we arrived.  After some deliberation, we opted for the tasting menu (called The Gastronaut’s Menu) with its accompanying paired wines.

We started off with some pre-meal goodies–parmesan tulles and black truffle dusted popcorn (a personal favorite!).  We also were served some delicious amuse bouches—the world’s smallest baked potato, a Valrhona chocolate sandwich filled with foie gras, and a bloody mary gelée.  The introductory courses ended with a shot of white bean soup and a puffed cheese pastry.

amuse boucheswhite bean soup

Next came a quartet of Rappahannock River “Barcat” Oyster Slurpees.  From left to right, they came accompanied with a small scoop of tomato sorbet, cucumber sorbet, cocktail sauce sorbet, and wasabi sorbet.  The wine served with this course was a Veuve Fourny et Fils, Brut Rosé, Vertus, 1er Cru Champagne.

oyster slurpees

The next course (and one of our favorites) was a Pan Seared Gulf Shrimp with House Made Sweet Chorizo and Shishito Peppers on Charred Onions.  The paired wine for this course was a 2009 Quinta de Sant’Ana, Fernão Pires, Mafra from Lisboa, Portugal.

grilled shrimp

Another favorite was the Miniature Filet of Cod Sauté with Lemon Vodka Sauce and Lilliputian Shrimp Dumplings, which was served with a 2007 Verget, Les Clous, Meursault from Burgundy, France.

cod with dumplings

Then came the Maine Day Boat Scallop Sautéed with Tomato Gnocchi, Capers, Brown Butter, and Lemon accompanied by a glass of 2006 Marc Sorrel, Les Rocoules, Hermitage Blanc from the Rhône Valley in France.  I am generally not a fan of white wine, but this wine had a lot of tannin in it and was very rich and dense—much more like a red wine than a typical white, which is probably why it was my favorite white wine of the evening.


A surprisingly good Roast Pheasant on Savoy Cabbage Braised in Champagne with Truffle Jus followed.  I am not a huge fan of game birds, but this dish minimized the gamey flavor of the pheasant and the savoy cabbage was a nice accompaniment.  It was served with a 2001 Hermanos Pecina, Vendimia Seleccionada Reserva from Rioja, Spain.  This wine was very much like a pinot noir—a red wine but lighter in texture and flavor than something like a cabernet sauvignon.  (Note the firefly on the serving dish–a fun and whimsical touch!)

roast pheasant

The top rated dish of the evening was next:  Blackened Wagyu Rib Eye with Bone Marrow Custard and Red Wine Risotto.  The beef had been blackened with pepper and espresso and was tender, marbled, and divine.  Accompanying the dish was a 2005 Ladera, Howell Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley—a big bold red wine with lots of flavor.

wagyu ribeye

The pre-dessert (or, as the Inn calls it, the palate cleanser) was a Pineapple-Lemongrass Sorbet with Pink Peppercorn Granita.

pineapple sorbet

And the final dish of the night was a Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding and Almond Ice Cream Perfumed with Black Truffle accompanied by a glass of 1994 Blandy’s, Island Bottled Malmsey from Madeira, Portugal.  The Madeira was toffee and caramel colored, and it was amazing that a color like that could come solely from grapes.  It was also rich and sweet and a perfect dessert wine.  (The bread pudding wasn’t bad either.)  🙂

chocolate bread pudding

We eat at the Inn more often than we sometimes are willing to admit in public and have had many wonderful meals there over the years.  This meal stood out even amongst all the other meals.  It definitely deserves an A+.

Chronicles of the Mole Family, Chapter 6

Woodpeckers!  I actually couldn’t tell you the difference between a woodpecker and a red-crowned crane (or any other bird), but spring is almost here, which means the birds are returning, and one of the unintended consequences about our construction is that when you leave gaping holes in parts of your house, birds can fly in.  In this case, I am reliably informed (by the 10 year old who actually does know something about birds) that the bird that flew into our house the other day was a woodpecker.  (Actually, I was told it was a pileated woodpecker, whatever that means.)  It had flown out by the time I got home, so, unfortunately, there are no photos of bird-in-house.  Overall, that is probably a good thing.

Interior framing continues, but there’s not much interesting to see yet beyond what I’ve already posted.  I am including a photo of our entryway, which is now two stories, complete with picture window.

new foyer

And here is a photo of the expanded section of the kitchen.  The large windows will make the kitchen so much lighter than before, although I’m not quite sure why we need a larger kitchen.  Then, again, I would never question the expertise of the foodie/chef husband on this matter, especially if it means an increase in the number of delectable meals produced in the new, gargantuan kitchen.  🙂

new kitchen


Restaurant Eve Tasting Menu

We had dinner with some good friends at Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Virginia on Saturday night.  We chose to do the chef’s choice 9 course tasting menu.  Here are the 9+ dishes (there were some additions to the official 9 courses along the way):

We started with the sashimi of steelhead trout with caramelized shallot relish and truffle vinaigrette seen here:

sashimi of steelhead trout

This was followed by what the restaurant calls OOO, which stands for Osetra caviar, oysters, and onions in a puff pastry.


Next was poached Maine lobster with spring garlic cream, cumin-grapefruit relish and crisp shiitakes:

maine lobster

This was followed by pan roasted Dover sole with red pepper aioli and pearl onions.

dover sole

Then we had pan fried veal sweetbreads with creamed spinach, Jerusalem artichokes and crisp Parmesan (I know that sweetbreads are supposed to be all sorts of yummy, but I just cannot eat them.  It’s kind of like rabbit–I just can’t wrap my brain around the fact that I would be eating Thumper.)  Those at the table who did eat them said they were quite good.

veal sweetbreads

The meat course was antelope on a pine nut polenta cake:


The cheese course was blue cheese, which was enjoyed only by Jim.  The restaurant very graciously and kindly swapped out the rest of our barely touched blue cheese courses for a goat cheese course, which was enjoyed…only by Jim.

blue cheese

We had two pre-dessert courses–an ice cream sandwich made with gingersnaps and pumpkin ice cream and a smoked cinnamon yogurt with blood orange gelee, pepper cracklings, and mint ice cream.

ice cream sandwichgelee









The final course was a chocolate root beer float, consisting of a roll of chocolate cake, milk chocolate ice cream, vanilla mousse and root beer coulis:

chocolate root beer float

My personal favorites were the sashimi of steelhead trout and the gingersnap ice cream sandwich.  Overall, we gave Restaurant Eve a B+.  The food was excellent and the service was superb.  There was just nothing that was knock your socks off impressive, although everything was delicious.

US-Japan Leadership Program Executive Committee Meeting

After attending the Epilepsy Pipeline conference for a day, I flew to Honolulu to attend the annual US-Japan Leadership Program Executive Committee meeting.  Honolulu was, as it always seems to be, beautiful–80 degrees and sunny.  The meeting was an extremely productive meeting.  We have some marvelous Fellows-in-the-making for this year.  And the energy at the meeting was a wonderful thing because it meant that people were passionate about the program and want it to succeed.

And, in the end, is there any significant downside when the meeting is in Hawaii?  (Other than missing the Super Bowl when flying back on Sunday, that is.)  Here is a shot of Diamondhead at sunrise to illustrate.

Diamondhead at sunrise

Epilepsy Pipeline Conference

I attended the 2012 Epilepsy Pipeline Conference in San Francisco held February 2-4 and sponsored by the Epilepsy Therapy Project.  It’s a conference attended by venture capitalists, epileptologists and other medical professionals, and business people, all of whom are interested in new developments and research in the world of epilepsy.  There were presentations about the latest drugs and devices in the pipeline.  (Although who knows if the FDA will approve any of them, but that’s a topic of discussion for another time.)  For the first time, we also held a “Shark Tank”-type competition where six different folks pitched their ideas to the audience and a panel of experts for a $50,000 grant.  Each person had 3 minutes to make their pitch and then another 7 minutes of questions from the panel and the audience.  Each panelist voted for their favorite applicant, and the audience texted in their votes, and the audience winner was awarded 2 votes.  The grant was awarded to Charles Anderson for a seizure detector iPhone app.  All of the presentations were terrific, but I think those who voted for Charles Anderson felt that the $50,000 grant would have the most impact on the development of his invention.  (Plus, the app will be very cool!)

It was also really lovely to see some folks that I haven’t seen in a while.  Amongst others, my best friend from high school (we’ve been friends since 4th grade) was also there, as she is an epileptologist in Denver at the Children’s Hospital there.  We made sure we grabbed a meal in Chinatown, at Henry’s Hunan Restaurant and had dinner together as well, as we caught up on what was going on in each other’s lives.

Then, it was off to Hawaii for another conference, but that’s a subject of another blog post.