Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Mustang GT 5.0 and the Raid boat arrive.

Kathy and I have closed and sold the Richmond House. It was an insane time. We hired movers to move us. They took the furniture, but left tons of stuff behind. Hunter took some of it. Trey came over, high graded what was left and stuffed it in the Mustang.

It is very hard to move cars and boats. You can move a car. You can move a car fairly reasonably. You can move a boat, though it is harder than a car. But it is hard to move both a car and a boat with one moving company; we could not find one that would.

We were ten days from closing and still did not have a solution and I was at the weakest point in my life since I collapsed in my crib at 18 months with polio. My plan B was just put them in storage till we could figure out a solution.

Enter the SANS AV team. They prayed for us, they, Will, in particular, brainstormed for us. Going to skip the details, but the plan was get a hitch for the Mustang and tow the boat. Several people volunteered to do the drive, because right then I physically could not do it.

Long story short, Will from the AV team, got the nod. We got him a train ticket from Washington to Richmond, he took a cab to the house and with help from Trey and Hunter, got the boat loaded up and took off.

I will pass on the details, suffice to say Will made it over the rockies in the face of a massive snowstorm with a trailer. He is also a professional trucker, meaning he has a lot of experience pulling trailers of every sort.

What a glorious day when he pulled up about noon on Christmas eve. He ended up missing his original flight, but Kathy had already calculated he could not make it and called United and set him up for a flight on Christmas day.

While he was here I tried to show hospitality. Cooking for the SANS AV team is a bit challenging, imagine trying to cook jerk chicken for someone from Jamaica, or in Will's case meals for someone who is from New Orleans, I understand they have a couple decent restaurants there *grin*. But I did my best.

Now, we have to take all this work on the Virginia side apart here in Washington. The first step was to get the ropes off the boat trailer and empty it. The knots had been through the storm and they were hard to untie. Fortunately I still have my marlinspike and that made short work of the problem. I got the sails,  mast, oars and sliding seats out of the boat and stacked them under the trailer. I started to unload the Mustang, Trey did an incredible job of packing the boat. I decided to finish on Christmas day. First, we made breakfast, then we dropped Will off at SEATAC airport. Then we headed back home, and took on the Mustang.

We aren't totally finished. There was some glass damage. We swept and shop vacuumed to remove the glass from the car. Tomorrow, I will call the local Ford dealer and see if they can help. If not, I suppose we can find a specialty glass shop of some sort.

The bottom line is I am deeply grateful that my teammates made the impossible or at least the very difficult to happen. I am really looking forward to warmer weather and being able to play with this craft on the lake. There are still problems to overcome, how to store the boat in the summer season, do I moor it or shore storage.  However, last summer every time I saw a convertible drive on a gorgeous Pacific Northwest day, I felt a twinge, I wanted to drive my pony car. Starting to look like I will get a chance.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Working to duplicate the Russia House Wild Elk Sausage served with Mostarda Cherries

We enjoy this appetizer and decided to make a version for supper.

I don't have an easy source, for Mostarda Cherries, so had to substitute Oregon Fruit Products Montmorency Tart Cherries packed in water. I poured them, water and all into a sauce pan. This is a sweet and sour dish, added some lemon juice for the sour and tablespoon of homemade cherry jam for the sweet. Finally added about 1/2" of a butter stick, put the pan on my smallest burner on low for three hours to reduce the liquid to a thick sauce like Russia House's. It came out really well. The cherry dish is a foil to the salty smoky Elk Sausage.

Don't really like sausage unless I make it, that way I know what is in it. There is a specialty butcher shop six miles away that sells Elk. I chose the New York Strip cut. Cut one steak up thin and put it in my Traeger smoker on a medium temperature for 45 minutes. Don't have a meat grinder, used my BlendTech and yes, Elk will blend.  It was really hard to get all of the Elk out of the blender, but at that price per pound, I did my best. Elk is a VERY lean cut of beef, added olive oil, some salt and some "No Salt" and then the herbs; Kathy grows fresh herbs, took a pair of scissors to collect some herbs of the field, chopped the herbs up finely and mixed them all up, (glad I did this yesterday, it is snowing and that can make low lying herbs hard to find).  Put a small amount in a non-stick skillet and cooked it up for a taste test. The smokey flavor came through fine, but it was too dry and not salty or spicy enough. The winter weather has killed my fresh basil, had to use dried. Added more olive oil. For salt I used Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning,  (essentially salt and hot pepper). Took another small bit, cooked it up and tried it with a miniscule amount of the cherry dish on the side. Wow this is working. Formed patties, heated my skillet on my biggest burner, full on. Seared one side and flipped to sear the other side to seal in flavor. Removed and put on the smallest burner on low for three minutes, (the smoking process partly cooks the meat and I did not want to overcook). Set them aside, at show time, I will only bring them to warm.

Russia House makes the third part of the appetizer Kubotcha Squash cut up like micro fries. They seemed bland to me. Decided to substitute a rice pilaf, red rice, black rice, table spoon of red lentils, herbs, as the rice was almost done added some mixed nuts chopped fine and some crasins, ( sweetened cranberries). Tasted it, it was OK, not spectacular. Decided to create a sauce to put on top. Opened a can of chicken broth, started it on high to reduce it just a bit. Tossed in some crushed dried black morel mushrooms, some more chopped fresh herbs, and a dash of "No Salt", (the chicken broth has plenty of sodium). Thickened with a gluten free roux. With the sauce, the pilaf is quite tasty.

With the second Elk steak, I decided to put it on the Trager smoker and pan sear. Topped it with Truffle Mayonnaise. This super easy to make. I use Kraft Mayo with Olive Oil. Then mix in a small amount of truffle oil to taste. I learned about this from Smash Burger and it is a really nice topping for various meats.

Washington IAD to Seattle SEA - CDI

In a real surprise, the Washington Hilton and Towers arranged to have us transported to Dulles, we had planned to take a taxi.

We arrived at Dulles early. Kathy got PRE *again*, I did not *again*. Made it to the United Club lounge to see if one of my students had turned in his paper; nope he punted.

We had not had lunch. We found a restaurant called Moe's Bar and Grill. It was terrible, both the food and the service, though the Shrimp Cocktail was not bad.

Made our way to the gate, it was at the very end of the D Gates. We boarded and for my last trip as a SANS instructor, we were blessed with business class. United 326 was just a bit late, but they offered a pre-takeoff drink; I do not usually touch alcohol on a plane in case something happens, but was feeling a bit festive, so I had a Vodka Tonic, boy that is a blast from the past. The inflight meal was chicken with Marinara Sauce, I ended up polishing the whole plate off as I did not eat much of my food at Moe's. The service was excellent and the seat belt sign due to turbulence only came on once. Starline was prompt at picking us up.

We arrived home in Seattle, fired up all the gas fireplaces since we had left the thermometer at 65 degrees. It is funny, I feel just a bit wistful about retiring as a SANS instructor, but am thankful that I will not be flying 100k miles in 2014. When I crossed 1M miles, I became a United Premier Exec for life, (whatever that means). We have a bit over 300k miles on Alaska as well, when we do travel we should be able to avoid the seat in the back across from the bathroom.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Last night in DC - Russia House

When Kathy and I stay at the Washington Hilton and Towers, we try to visit the Russia House at least once. I suppose it is a bit pricey, but we have learned if we get there early, we receive excellent service and usually have the downstairs dining room to ourselves. Arrived at 5:25 PM and scored once again.

They have a huge vodka list from multiple countries; we do not usually drink vodka, but when in Russia House ..... Plus if you only have one, there is no chance of getting inebriated. The glasses are about 2.5" tall and the diameter is about the size of a quarter. Kathy chose  a Square One Cucumber flavored and really enjoyed it. I chose the Van Gogh Pomegranate and also enjoyed it. The only flavored vodka I had ever had before was Mount Rainier Cherry.

We split an appetizer, the Cherry Elk Sausage. The name does not mean the sausage tastes like cherries, rather there are Mostarda Cherries  and there is a pile of Kubotcha Squash "pasta". Kathy does not usually eat sausage, but she likes this dish.

Kathy's main was Shaslik, Pork Marinated in beer, (I think), and Rice Pilaf, with Spiced Honey; it is pretty tasty. I had the Kobe Duo, a generous portion, served with Spinach.

They asked us if we were celebrating anything, (30th anniversary was just a bit ago, Kathy shared that), after the meal they brought us a warm dark chocolate cake with molten chocolate in the middle with a pink and blue birthday style candle. Nice touch, but I was stuffed and Kathy can't do gluten. I ate a couple bites to be sociable.

Price of meal before gratuity was 103.00.

All in all it was a very pleasant experience. Not sure if we will be back, I hope to still do some work from home stuff for SANS, but retired as a SANS Instructor this week. 16 years being constantly on the road has taken its toll.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Smashburger Dupont Circle, 1739 Connecticut (SANS CDI)

Had 45 minutes between grading sets of graduate students and knew the night was going to go till 9:30 PM and do not like to eat supper that late. Raced out of the Hilton. The restaurant is recently opened, but no signs of chaos.

Ordered the Truffle Mushroom burger to go, it was about 7 minutes because they cook to order and raced back up the hill. Did not have enough time to finish it, but my room has a fridge.

The truffle mayo is fantastic. You can order several versions on the Internet, I think that I will. Hopefully I can find a healthy one that is largely olive oil based.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Bad Haircut - Haircuttery Dupont Circle

Great. Three days before my retirement party, I walked down from the Hilton to get a trim and ended up with the worst haircut of my entire life. Part of the danger of travel, you do not have a regular stylist. Sigh.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Old Glory All American BBQ Georgetown DC.

We had a very light breakfast today, Kathy had a hard boiled egg and I had 8 chunks of watermelon. There were some errands we had to run, but we were able to get everything we needed at the Rite Aid that is a block or two from the hotel. Kathy even splurged on a spray Argan Oil & Shea Butter bottle that you are supposed to spray on your hair.

We brought our treasures back to the hotel and I said let's go to Georgetown. I do not have to work today till 4:30 PM. We both have fond memories of that part of the city (and no, I will not write those stories down). There we so many cool restaurants for lunch, but we settled on Old Glory. Even though Kathy does not eat much meat, we are both suckers for BBQ. Is this the best BBQ I have ever had? No, but it is in the top ten and that says a lot; the now closed hole in the wall on Ride Out Road Huntsville Alabama and the now closed Ollie's in Birmingham remain my top one and two, (BTW, you can still buy Ollie's Sauce online, if you like a vinegar based BBQ sauce, you would be wise to treat yourself to this):

Kathy had the Salmon Lollipops with Mango Salsa and the Collard Greens. I had the Cuban, (I think this is the best Cuban I have ever enjoyed, the extra pickles were a wonderful touch). All of the food was top notch, very well thought out flavors. The sauces on the table are a real blast, Service was excellent as well; 3139 M Street NW, (202)337-3406. We scored a table by the window so we could watch the people going by. Kathy and I sometimes play a game where we pick a passer by and make up their life story. If you find yourself in Georgetown, and you like BBQ, Old Glory is worth checking out. One note, they do not have a wine list. Apparently their specialty is bourbon. I guess I have had a glass of bourbon at some point, but never got the hang of it, but they seemed happy to just serve us water.

Seattle to IAD to Washington Hilton

Starline picked us up on time and the snow was not a big problem. Kathy got PRE, I did not, but sailed through TSA security anyway. United 1548 was on time, service was good, not much turbulence. The Hilton sent a car and the driver was there when we arrived at baggage claim.

It was fairly late when we arrived, the only hotel restaurant that was open was Mccellan's Sports bar. The service was great, Kathy had some form of Chop Salad and I had the Pastrami Sandwich, probably closing in on my salt budget for the week, need to be careful; the good news is I have lost 44 pounds in 8 months, so this should be less of an issue if I can stay on course.