Two nights out and running and lounging between

Friday Jill wanted to go to a happy hour for work at Ned Devine’s and get a burger, and I voted for Fuddruckers for the burger having eaten at Ned Devine’s. Jill tried the buffalo and something was off, the texture wasn’t quite right (I’d had better before), but my ostrich burger was good. We met up with her coworkers and had some beers (always good to have #9 on draft).

Saturday we paid for our sins (I’d had a cheesesteak on Friday too) by running in the Wolf Trap’s Run for the Arts 5K. We didn’t run the whole way, but I think we did pretty well. Jill picked us some Einstein’s Bagels for breakfast, then I made the most of the day by sitting in front of the TV. It was raining and I had an overfull DVR, so I watched a lot of it.

I caught up to most of my TV, really enjoying the new Monty Python documentary (Part 5 covering Life of Brian had some really revealing stuff) and Stephen Fry in America (bit odd they never explained his broken arm). I made a new chili recipe for dinner along the way, came out pretty well.

Today I took Illa for a run/walk (not feeling as sore as Jill yet) and made a new egg recipe for breakfast, then hopped on the computer for the afternoon. For dinner we met my parents at the Four Sisters for Vietnamese. They were pretty busy (as you might expect after getting a spot in Tom Sietsema’s Dining Guide, but we had reservations and were seated right away.

Jill started with the Shrimp Wonton Soup, enjoyed it as I did my roasted quail, then she had chicken, beef and seafood stirfried with crispy noodles while I had the caramelized short ribs cooked in a clay pot – good, but a little too salty for my taste. We went back to Mom’s for tasty homemade carrot cake for dessert, I chatted when I wasn’t working on updating Mom’s PC. We called it a night shortly after 9 as both Mom and Jill have to be up early tomorrow.

Boston: Food, Friends, and Amanda F’in Palmer

Jill’s anniversary gift to me was a weekend in Boston, that we scheduled as soon as we could before the weather turned cold. Fail on that, methinks. We dropped the dog off at Club Pet Saturday morning, then parked at Dulles and got through security fairly quickly (although having Lady Gaga’s little sister behind us wondering why she had to take her high heels and designer belt off was interesting). The flight to Boston was easy, and we took the T over to Government Center. We were both pretty hungry, so we headed over to Neptune Oyster as I’d read they had the best lobster roll in the city. And it was pretty awesome, swimming in butter and washed down with a Harpoon Octoberfest. Jill went a little healthier with the Neptune Crab Louis salad, but she liked it, especially the almond vinaigrette.

After lunch we checked into the Millennium Bostonian Hotel, then wandered around Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market across the street for a bit, Jill got some coffee and I picked up the new Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ CD at Newbury Comics. We were happy that although the forecast had called for cold and rainy like DC, we got the cold but no rain and some sun. We relaxed in the hotel lobby for a while, then headed down to Cambridge on the T to meet up with Chis and Jess.

The earliest dinner reservations I could get were for 9, so we went to the Cambridge Brewing Company first. We shared appetizers, the Mediterranean Plate and the Local Cheese Plate, and everyone but Chris got samples of beer. He went straight for the O.P.P. (Olde Pumpkin Porter), which I tried as well and is an outstanding mix of a pumpkin ale and a porter. I am so down with it. Their regular pumpkin ale was good as well, but the other standout was the YouEnjoyMyStout, a rich Russian stout.

By the time we finished everything it was time to go, so we walked the couple blocks up to Hungry Mother. Why did we go to Boston to have Virginian cuisine? Because it was excellent. Jill, Jess and I had the “bartender’s choice” to drink – mine was a mixture of rye whiskey and cherry bitters that was smoky and complex. Jill hadn’t filled up at lunch like I had and had a ham and biscuit appetizer and some parsnip soup, then the gnocchi for an entree. I went with the roasted chicken served with grits and gravy – the chicken was perfectly cooked, juicy all the way through. The pecan pie sounded good but I was getting full. When our waitress informed us they were sold out of the pie, I asked for the accompanying bourbon ice cream and got it, a perfect capper to a lovely meal. We parted ways for the evening after we got back on the T.

Sunday morning the rain finally found us again. We braved our way through it and took the T over to Chinatown for the traditional dim sum breakfast, now at Hei La Moon. We got all four Cannons (including two very well behaved little girls), plus my sister Sharon, who’s lived there for a month and had the exciting news she’s buying a condo in JP. The dim sum was all excellent, and all too soon we said our goodbyes to the Cannons. Sharon was able to join us for the rest of the morning, and our failure at finding a nearby yarn shop was closed on Sundays was overcome by our success at the Eddie Bauer outlet store: a new travel umbrella for me, a wind resistant umbrella for Sharon, and a new winter jacket for Jill.

We headed back to the hotel, Jill and Sharon picked up some coffee at Red Barn Coffee Roasters across the street while I tried to figure out where to go next that was hampered by only getting about three minutes of internet access. But Jill wanted to hit Newbury Street for shopping, so we figured out which end to start with and headed over. Sharon and Jill both got some purchases, having the most success at Chemistry. Sharon took off as she had a plans later, and we kept going until we got tired of walking in the rain and the umbrella dance every time we went inside a shop. We returned to the hotel and I got a little more internet access before it stopped again, and not even fifteen minutes on the phone with tech support helped. Still I managed to make dinner plans in spite of that.

The easy solution for that was my first choice for dinner, Craigie On Main. I’d seen their Sunday evening Chef’s Whim Surprise Menu and was intrigued, but our plans later precluded that, and they hadn’t had reservations available earlier. However I knew from checking reviews out online that if we got there when they opened we could get seats at the bar, so that’s what we did. And I was pleasantly surprised to find out that we could get the full menu there as well. Jill started with the Potage of Long Island Cheese Pumpkin, a hearty and delicious soup. I went with the bar tasting menu, which started with “quatre foie” – a meat loaf slice made with the livers of four different animals. Different, but not bad. For our main courses, I had the Organic Chicken Two Ways and Jill had the Organic Pork Three Ways. The breast from mine and the rib from hers were just superb.

And the food wasn’t even the best part of the meal. Since we were seated at the bar, we both took advantage of the Craigie Cocktail Whim, a “tasting” of four different kinds of mini cocktails made in front of us. And it was quite a presentation, crushing ice and herbs by hand. I think I need to call out each cocktail individually:

  1. Old Monk rum, pineapple syrup, lime juice and sparkling wine – the balance was tipped just slightly to the sour side by the lime, this is a flavor pairing I’ll be playing with
  2. rye whiskey, house made grenadine and grapefruit juice – refreshing
  3. rye whiskey, house made maraschino cherry juice and a cherry with Aperol – very nice complex but slightly sweet drink
  4. Colleen Bawn: egg, Chartreuse, rye whiskey, Benedictine, nutmeg plus a squirt of mint that was flamed – we were laughing as the bartender made this, since she started with egg which Jill doesn’t like, then added Benedictine which she doesn’t like either. But it’s a delicious dessert cocktail, on par with the Crema Catalana we enjoy.

Also the chef’s choice dessert for me was some homemade pumpkin ice cream between shortbread cookies, very nice and a perfect pair with the Colleen Bawn. We were sad to leave, especially since the rain now had snow mixed into it. As we walked back to the T, I told Jill one good thing about the weather being bad was I couldn’t forget my umbrella anywhere. Guess what I forgot at the subway station not ten minutes later…

We got to Brookline and walked over to the Old Lincoln School, where the “adventure theatre” production Sleep No More was being held. We entered into a pitch dark room, and eventually candles lit the way down twisty passages and eventually a bar. A “Zero proof” night as they weren’t able to get a license that night, we were given a card (Queen of Hearts) and waited for our card to be called (I did have a pineapple and lime juice cocktail). When it was, we assembled in a hallway outside the bar and were given masks to wear (identifying us as onlookers), then set loose through the four levels of the school as Macbeth was acted out in real time in sets that were apparently based on Hitchcock’s “Rebecca”.

We didn’t see all the pivotal scenes, but it was interesting what we did see: Duncan’s corpse being discovered, Lady Macbeth washing up and some kind of confrontation between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. The trouble was the scenes drew large crowds and sometimes it was hard to see what was going on, especially as most sets were fairly dark. I liked wandering the sets and the spooky effects – I thought the ability of a row of evergreens and a fan was marvelously effective in evoking woods in winter. For a more informed review, see the Globe. We’d also dressed up in periodesque clothing, but unfortunately I never got a shot of Jill without her coat (too bad, the new dress is a real stunner).


But the show wasn’t the only reason we were there. I’d been looking for weeks to find some kind of concert that evening, but nothing I really wanted to do came up. Dar Williams was playing shows near Boston, but a) no car and b) we’ve got tix to see her in two weeks already. So when Amanda Palmer tweeted about a secret surprise show Sunday, I was ready. Apparently after the show is over, folks gather in the (normally alcoholic) bar and the “Annie Darcy Band” plays (the lead singer is also a cast member). They still played (and got in some nice standards like “All Of Me” and “Night And Day”), but soon they had Amanda join them, then she took over. She tackled standards like “My Funny Valentine” and “Makin’ Whoopee”, before breaking out the Dresden Dolls’ “My Alcoholic Friends” and accepting my request for “I Google You” (cowritten with beau Neil Gaiman). It was fun (especially from the second table back), but we’d walked a lot that day and were fading fast, left during the second time through “Summertime”.


Thankfully the rain and snow had stopped by the time we left. I’d been willing to take a taxi back, but that plan was foiled – the area was too residential and we didn’t see any. But we soon caught a train back, and not having to transfer was nice. The trip back seemed ok, got up early and got to the airport with plenty of time to tame the ginormous security line and grab breakfast (bagel for her, egg sandwich for me). But once we were on the plane, Jill realized she couldn’t remember repacking her keys. Kinda important since she drove and I’d misplaced my second set of car keys with her extra several months back. She called the hotel before we took off, and when we landed found they were indeed in the room, we had them mail the keys back. In the meantime we were carless, so we got a taxi home. We undertook a quick search for the missing keys, and Jill was able to find them, forestalling the need for some complicated car coordination. I dropped her at the airport and drove to work, it still was a really great weekend.

Numbness and Vultures

I spent both the start and the end of the day yesterday being numbed, but for different reasons. In the morning I had a visit with my dentist where he replaced three fillings (he showed me pictures of how the fillings were separating from their teeth – ew). I didn’t think it would be that bad, and the top two on both sides were fine. But the bottom left one was a little too sensitive, he had to give me three doses of novocaine until he could do it, so the lower half of my face was out of it until well into the afternoon.

I had tickets to see Them Crooked Vultures for the third time that night. I’d already gotten rid of my second one (Jill was working a 12 hour shift), but still wanted to go, even though the cold and rainy conditions tried to change my mind. I headed down to the 9:30 Club – a little later than I planned, so I missed a couple songs. But I’ve spent the last couple of days blasting one of the Austin shows in my car and I know the songs pretty well by this point. So I wasn’t trying to puzzle them out, and I could just let the show wash over, numbing the rest of me.

This show was my favorite of the three, combination of the smallest venue of any plus the performance. I’ve seen four supergroups that formed this year (these guys, Tinted Windows, Chickenfoot and The Dead Weather), and these guys turn in by far the best performance. I think Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones may be one of the most ferocious rhythm sections ever, they leave nothing back. Pick the album up next month and see ’em if they tour again, it’s quite a show.

Concert bookends

Friday night I went out to see Dan Navarro at Jammin’ Java with the Jewells (it was an early show and Jill was working late). I haven’t been the hugest fan of Lowen & Navarro (although we did see their final show), but some enticement was offered: Michael Clem & Eddie Hartness of efo would be his rhythm section for the gig. So knowing the Jewells were saving me a seat, I was able to leave work at the last minute (got to work late) and still get a good seat. And the show was good too, David Glaser added some nice guitar and Robbie came up for a duet on “I Don’t Believe In Yesterday”, though I was surprised that Mike didn’t sing (or banter, for that matter).

Saturday I got to sleep in and spend all day at home. I took Illa for a run/walk (two weeks until the next 5K) then had Jill’s Worst Breakfast Ever, also known as lamb and eggs (she won’t eat either). In the afternoon I burned 10 audio CDs of live shows I’d downloaded, then tucked into newspapers and TV (plus I watched Stargate again to refresh my memory before watching the new show. I’d marinated chicken in a new tandoori recipe, then roasted it in the oven while I cooked spinach and chickpeas, best homemade tandoori yet.

Sunday we tried to catch up on some more TV, I enjoyed last week’s Dollhouse, then I watched the awful Redskins game. Then we headed over to the Birchmere to get a line number and walked a block to Po Siam, a Thai restaurant we’d decided on. The chive dumplings were just too heavy (fried), but Jill’s steamed ones were pretty good. My Pad Prik Kra Prao with duck was excellent, and Jill enjoyed her Panang with chicken. We went back to the Birchmere and got seats, discovered we were still hungry (just can’t do only two meals in a day) and split a taco salad. Soon Po’ Girl was opening the show, and I was glad we hadn’t skipped them. The CD I got was ok, but they’re a really good live band, with eclectic instruments – for the first song, they had drums, an accordion, a clarinet, and a banjo (later on they used a washtub bass).

Soon we were treated to a classic Girlyman show, Nate was on fire, especially when he learned his zipper was down for the first half of the show (you had to be there). The new CD is really great (even if it didn’t have our names in there), and I really enjoyed the new songs live, especially “Storms Were Mine”, “Easy Bake Ovens” and “True Enough” (with a 495 shoutout). Ordinarily on a Sunday night that would have been it, but Jill was off today and Angie Aparo was playing at Iota (she really likes his voice). So we went by, scored a spot halfway down the block and headed in. He was just finishing up his first set, and we stayed through the end. Too bad we missed “Hush”, but we got “Broken” and a nice “Cry”, then headed home. I’m dragging today (early dentist’s visit didn’t help), but it was still worth it.

San Antonio and Austin coda

Monday morning we got a late start, planned on catching a bus, missed that, tried the shuttle, then got a taxi that went the long way (but admitted it and charged us less) on our way to rent a car. But the drive to San Antonio was fine, just had to change our reservation at Boudro’s twice. But it all worked out ok, and it was a better time to meet up with our friend Kat. Lunch was tasty, I had the Texas Tapas (including some smoked duck chili) and a lobster empanada while Jill had the duck and sausage gumbo and the grilled salmon salad. We had a good time catching up, but soon it was time to go, Kat went back to work, and we strolled down the River Walk, taking a cross street over to the Alamo.


We toured inside and the disturbingly gory dioramas in the gift shop, then headed to the mall across the street and back on the River Walk. We left when we were near the garage we’d parked in. We started driving back, wanting to avoid rush hour. We stopped at Half Price Books where I sold a couple of books I’d finished and picked up some new ones (Jill made out ok as well). We stopped on South Congress Street so she could get a frozen yogurt and I could get a smoothie from Amy’s Ice Creams, then a little shopping (she bought a dress at Goodie Two Shoes).

River Walk

When we got back to the hotel the sun was still out and Jill hadn’t been to the pool, so we headed down there for a bit. After we returned to the room and cleaned up, we headed to the Iron Works BBQ to get some takeout for dinner. We both wanted the sampler plate (slices of beef brisket, smoked sausage, and one beef rib), so that’s what we got, along with splitting a salad. We got back to the room and watched Castle while we enjoyed the best barbecue of the trip, tender meat and a tangy sauce. Clearly we agree with the opinion of the current and previous president.

43 & 44

Tuesday morning we were up somewhat early, had to gas up and return the car and make it back to the hotel, check out and catch the shuttle to the airport. Of course we did all that only to find our flight had been delayed by 30 minutes. Having some time to kill, we had an early lunch in the food court. I had a hot dog from Earl Campbell’s Sports Bar, very tasty. Other than the delay, our flight went off without a hitch, although that meant we picked up Illa later into rush hour, but we were soon home safe and sound, ready to do it all over again.

Austin Part 2

Saturday we were up pretty early, but not planning to go to ACL until later, and not in a mood to do much as it was raining, so we hung around the room. In the early afternoon we went to Annie’s for lunch. We both had the tomato and brie soup to start, then Jill had the chicken schnitzel and I had the Italiano (served hot from the pizza oven), both hit the spot. Then we walked down to the shuttle to ACL and rode over. The rain had stopped while we ate lunch, but started again as we entered the festival. I made a beeline to Grizzly Bear, as I’d enjoyed some of their tunes, but it didn’t translate as well live, so I went over to catch the rest of The Airborne Toxic Event, much better live experience. Jill had gone shopping and we met up to see Flogging Molly next. Of course it started raining harder, but we sat down in our little cushions and used the umbrella to cover our legs. We didn’t get too wet that way, but were ready to leave by the end. We caught a little of Bon Iver, but the rain was getting heavier and we left the fest.

We walked down Barton Springs as the rain intensified, ending up at Uncle Billy’s. I’d read they just won a gold medal for their Hell In Keller beer, so we thought we’d give it a try. Unfortunately they were out, but it was all good because that gave us an excuse to try their sampler platter of beers – the wit and smoky porter (using the BBQ smoker to smoke the grains) were really tasty. Plus we watched LSU finish beating up Georgia. When we left the rain had stopped, but that was the only good news (that, and seeing the best smart car paint job ever).

Private Lee

Private Lee, I presume?

We’d decided to get a really healthy dinner and walked to a place that served vegan food, but their gate was locked – they apparently decided to close for the ACL weekend. So we headed back to Barton Springs and found the Kebabalicious stand. I had the beef & lamb kebab while Jill had the chicken, both perfect. We headed back to the festival, where of course it started to rain again.

It didn’t matter, I just wanted to go see The Decemberists. And I was glad I did, I really like their new rock opera CD and I was hoping to hear a lot of it since they’ve playing the entire thing on their tour. I was shocked that they had the balls to play the whole thing – and psyched, it was quite a show, the highlight of my day (and have no doubt I was singing along to “The Wanting Comes in Waves”). After that the Dave Matthews Band started out a little too predictable (I totally called “Don’t Drink the Water” as opener), and a few too many new songs, but it was pretty good towards the end – too bad we were leaving about then, took a cab directly back to the hotel.

Sunday I wanted to try one of the brunches, and settled on Lamberts Downtown Barbecue. I ate way too much, but it was wonderful: Eggs Benedict, French Toast with strawberry butter, and some of their brisket and ribs (good, but not great). We did a bit of shopping and headed back to the hotel for a while.

In the afternoon, we headed to the festival. We were ready for a second day of rain, but it never came. Instead we were greeted by fields of mud. We squished our way over to see Brett Dennen, he was great and summoned the sun (too bad it was too late to help matters), then bought some food and went to see some of the Arctic Monkeys. They weren’t bad, but we were already growing weary of the scene, so we carried out my cunning plan of bringing food and iced tea/lemonade over to some park benches where we could eat in peace and no mud. Other than what we brought with us – it was then I noticed one of the straps on my right sandal had snapped (but enough remained to retain structural integrity).

Brett Dennen

After relaxing for over an hour, we headed back in to see Ben Harper for a bit, then headed to the other end to see the second half of The Dead Weather (featuring Jack White). We were in perfect position to finally see Michael Franti & Spearhead put on a very entertaining show, then turn around again and see Pearl Jam blow the roof off the place, even though we left about an hour in (we could hear it for a while down the road to the buses).

Franti after sunset

We weren’t ready to call it a night, as we were hungry and thirsty. Next stop was another Ginger Man (after we visited one in NYC this year). They were a little low on food, so we had the The Beer Companion (assorted cheeses, Genoa salami, fresh olives, seasonal fruit and Carr’s water crackers) along side our Octoberfest brews, then we stopped by the La Casa del Fuego taco truck for some tacos to bring back to the hotel (Jill liked her chicken one, I wasn’t too impressed with my pork).

Austin Part 1

Wednesday we took Illa to the kennel, then got a cab to Dulles. Glad I checked in online, because United offers a discount on checked bags that way. The flight to Austin was decent, and on time. I’d booked rooms at the Holiday Inn on the lake, and while it’s a bit out of town, there’s a shuttle usually available, and we got it from the airport along with two flight crews (including the one from the plane we were just on). We checked in and relaxed a bit, then had to chose where to go for dinner.

We ended up at La Condesa, a Mexican fusion place downtown, mostly because I’d read they won a cocktail competition. They weren’t serving dinner, so we sat at the bar where I had that watermelon martini and Jill had a mango margarita, both very good.

After we were seated, Jill ordered the tortilla soup, a guacamole with a layer of chipotle & toasted almonds on top, and the fish tacos, while I got the Costillas de Puerco – spicy guava-glazed pork ribs. I liked Jill’s guacamole, but my ribs were unbelievably good – I preferred that sauce to most barbecue sauces. After dinner we decided to walk back along the lake. That was ok, but it seems to have aggravated the foot injury I got a couple weeks back, so I’ve tried to limit the walking since.

Thursday we went over to the 1886 Café & Bakery for breakfast. Jill had the banana pecan bread and a breakfast burrito while I had the 3 egg omelet, both nicely filling and Jill really liked the coffee. After that we headed over to the Whole Foods flagship store where we bought breakfast and beers as well as lunch. We caught a bus back to the hotel right outside.

Jill wanted to go yarn and window shopping down South Congress Street, but I wasn’t up to walking around, so she headed out after eating her salad. I ate mine a bit later after some surfing (free Wi-Fi in the room can’t be beat), then headed down to the pool overlooking the lake and read for a while.

Jill went to REI to pick us up some camp chairs, but my plan of getting some cheap ones we could leave behind was spiked by prices starting at $50. We decided to just get some of the padded fold up chairs that could fit in our luggage – those weren’t cheap either, but at least we can reuse them.

We went out to dinner at Stubb’s where I couldn’t resist trying the smoky jalapeno wings and a pulled pork sandwich and Jill got a two meat platter with the brisket and the ribs, both scrumptious. After dinner we headed around back to the concert venue, a sloped lawn leading down to a stage. It was the first show of Them Crooked Vultures US tour, and I had a feeling that we wouldn’t be anywhere near that close the next night at ACL (I was right). Dave Grohl was a monster on the drums, just hair and hands, while John Paul Jones laid down some heavy bass. One song seemed like “Trampled Underfoot”, just slowed down and spacier. It was great, but we got tired of standing and left with about 3 songs left to go (calculating from the setlist).

Friday we had breakfast in the room, then headed to Austin City Limits – not the festival, but the soon to move TV studio. We were there for a discussion on the history and evolution of the show, which included Alejandro Escovedo as well as Emily Robison and Martie Maguire of the Dixie Chicks. We took a seat in the second row in front of the stage and marveled at how small the room actually is, then got a really entertaining conversation (I’ll post a link when it’s up).

Dixie Chicks

Afterwards we went across the street to TerraBurger, home of organic burgers. We both got one (half off on Friday’s!), Jill got avocados and bacon on hers while I got bacon and jalapenos on mine, and both of us had side salad and Zevia Cola. Burgers were juicy and delicious, but we were soon on our way to Republic Square. It took a while to get our wristbands and board the buses, but soon afterwards we were walking into the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Phoenix went on just as we arrived and we were enjoying them, but I dragged Jill off after a couple songs as I really wanted to see Coheed and Cambria at the other end. We sat down and I enjoyed their prog heavy set. I wasn’t planning on seeing any of Bassnectar, but he pulled me in with a tease of Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days” before switching songs. Jill wanted to get good seats for The Greencards, so we headed over there. I went to get a smoothie and caught some of Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3 (with R.E.M.’s Peter Buck on guitar) before heading back.

The Greencards were most excellent, though everyone stood down front so I left Jill there and retreated to the side so I could sit. We headed to the next stage over to see Andrew Bird and saw the end of Thievery Corporation. Andrew Bird was ok, but I decided I’d rather see the majority of Them Crooked Vultures’ set. We were far away, but it was still good. We’d planned on seeing some of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and some of the Kings of Leon before leaving, but were getting tired and just stayed for 3-4 Yeah Yeah Yeahs songs before catching the shuttle back (apparently we missed Eddie Vedder joining Kings of Leon on their closing number – oh well).


Since we didn’t have dinner at the festival, that meant we could get something hot and fresh. We’d already decided we wanted to hit up Opal Divine’s Freehouse as it was the last night of half off on 30 types of Texas beer on draft. I had a couple of “anniversary” beers (appropriate since this is our big celebration) and the Newport Chicken Breast Club while Jill had an Austin Amber and the Turkey Reuben. Everything hit the spot, I was a little reluctant to leave.