Saturday, November 29, 2008

Some New Finds

Foodie Stuff

Traveling lately I found a couple of gems to share.

• San Diego

In addition to Point Loma Seafood I am happy to add a few other places for your consideration whilst enjoying San Diego.

First is the San Diego edition of the Oceanaire chain of seafood restaurants.  Located in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter it prepares a fresh sheet of specialty seafood every night.

I have now enjoyed dinners in the Oceanaire's in both Denver and San Diego. I have to say both were great.  The waiter in San Diego was a bit regal, but the food was once again first rate.

In Denver they had Dinah Washington on the muzak and my favorite fish: sablefish (sometimes called butterfish or black cod), so it might be my favorite of the two so far.  I will digress and wax rhapsodic about sablefish. This fish is the perfect replacement for chilean sea bass (which I'd beg you to avoid as it is now a fishery in serious risk of collapse).  In San Diego I had a nice true cod in miso.

One word of advice. Be aware that any one order of salad, any side dish, or desert comfortably feeds THREE hungry folks!  If you avoid a bottle of wine and their overpriced cocktails and divide your appetizer, sides, and desert by three, this place is actually pretty reasonable.

My other find in San Diego is Da Kines Plate Lunch shop in the historic Decatur Building at Liberty Station (which is comfortably near Point Loma and the airport).

Da Kine's has other San Diego locations (some of which get real spotty reviews locally) but I have been to this location four times now and the Kalbi rib plate lunch is darned good. This is an order, sit down, and wait for your food kind of place. It is perfect for take-out.

Another find is Cafe 222 for breakfast. It is walking distance from the convention center and has wonderful waffles and pancakes. It is one of the few places in California where you can get Joe's Special (the mega frittata made famous at Original Joes in SF). The lines for breakfast are a bit frustrating, but that is what happens to a good restaurant in any big city when everybody finds out it is good!

The last of my fav's in San Diego is the Island Prime restaurant. This restaurant is run by the same company that runs the beautiful Prado restaurant in Balboa Park. Island Prime and its casual sidekick "C" Level are walking distance from the airport and because of it's shelter Island location has the best view of San Diego's waterfront of any SD restaurant. I've only had lunches here, but everything was hearty, fresh and well thought out. A truly wonderful appetizer to share (don't tell the cardiologists) is their deep fried artichoke hearts. Don't be confused the Open Table internet reservation site that always says the restaurant is not available for lunch, it is, just go.

• Richmond Virginia
Richmond is not usually on my "places I want to go to eat" list, but I have found a few spots I think are real finds, and frankly I saw some others that I am eager to try on my next visit to the Commonwealth of Virginia's Capital City. After years of being away I found that the Zeus Gallery Cafe in the beautiful "Fan" district still has bright and knowledgeable people delivering creative and tasty fare. The prices have certainly climbed into the stratos over the years, but its comfy and funky hole-in-the-wall location offers an out of the way place to take a client or relax with good friends.

Another good place to eat in Richmond is simply called "Comfort". It is located downtown on Broad Street which is slowly becoming home to quite a few new hip places to eat.

Comfort lives up to its name. While immaculately clean, it has a wholesome "worn" feel. The meals are built around good old comfort food staples like macaroni and cheese and meatloaf. My desert was called banana pudding. It was actually a creme brulee with banana slices over a wonderful custard that was (thankfully) a little less rich than what is usually found in a typical creme brulee. The maitre' d and our server were both efficient yet seemed completely devoid of any hint of personality or warmth. Thankfully the food made up for it. If you get a chance after dinner walk a block behind the restaurant and take a look at the old dairy building complete with 3 story milk bottles built into all four corners of the building!

I also had a chance to go back to The Tobacco Company. This is the old Richmond standby where locals take their out of town friends visiting for the first time. It is perfectly located just as the capital district slides on into Shockoe Bottom. The place is huge, is scattered through many floors, and has character for days. It has to be the last restaurant in America where cigar girls still walk around selling cigarettes and cigars. The food was good, but the menu needs some serious updating.

As the economy crumbles, restaurants tend to suffer first. Go out to eat.

Roadboys Travels © 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Park City Images

The Aspens at Empire Pass

Rail To Trail Bike Trail

Main Street Bus Hub

From Sundance to Olympic Dreams

Park City, Utah

OK, Lets just admit it, Park City is perfect.  

It has world class skiing in Winter and perfect dry, not-too-hot weather in summer. It is also a breeze to get to via a beautiful all weather freeway from the Salt Lake Airport. 

While I have enjoyed family winter breaks to ski in winter, I must admit I enjoy it most as a break from hot old Phoenix in the summer.

I really like renting mountain bikes and riding the abandoned railway corridor. Although the altitude can sure sneak up on you (my poor daughter found that out the hard way). Another option is to carry the bike up the mountain on a chair lift and then ride it down a cat track.  

In the fall, just before the snow descends, the aspen trees lining the mountains around the city just twinkle.

For the skier there is something for everyone.  From the family oriented ski hills: The Canyons and Park City Mountain Resort, to the elegant snowboard free "skis only" runs at Deer Valley Resort where ticket sales are monitored to assure that there will never be any lift lines. Deer Valley valets take you your skis from car to mountain and will inform you if the condition of your favorite ski attire is inappropriate to the resort.

At the complete other end of the spectrum is Park City itself. This is a town where the Town Lift allows you to ski to and from the very foot of Main Street. In fact when the town lift starts each day the power in businesses on Main Street flickers. School children in Park City go straight from school to the lift. 

When you mention its role in the 2002 Olympics to a resident they turn very wistful. It was a life affirming and unforgettable event that they obviously took great pride in hosting.

As one would imagine, there are world class lodgings in each of the various ski venues and lots of condos for rent (as long as you don't try to come over a the Christmas/New Year holiday or during the Sundance Film Festival).

Park City started life as a mining town so Brigham Young advised his followers to avoid it. This has given Park City a different character from the rest of the state. It is still a work in progress. From the ski-in multi-million dollar estates emerging at Empire Pass at Deer Valley to the mixed use hotel, condo, retail, entertainment developments near Kimball Junction. So far development has not gotten as tacky the way many Colorado ski areas have gone. So I have high hopes that it will remain livable and beautiful.

As for favorites. For a hotel, the best is the Stein Erickson Lodge. Its huge comfortable rooms offer views, fireplaces and big soaking tubs. While the lodge is starting to show the signs of its age, the staff here is first rate. Its rates are as breathtaking as its altitude in winter and it is a complete bargain in the off season.  Its layout makes it feel intimate. 

The Hotel Park City is also first rate. It lacks the mountain hugging location of Stein Erickson but has direct access to golf in summer. 

The incredible new kid on the block will soon be the amazing new Saint Regis presently under construction in Deer Valley. This hotel will actually be two large european style chalet style hotels connected by an elaborate funicular railway.  

For families their are two very nice ski-in Marriott timeshare / hotel properties in Park City itself. I have stayed in both and appreciate their abundant features, but I find the rooms in both suffer from really poor sound isolation. The lock-out feature for the timeshare function means you get to hear EVERY noise created in the adjoining unit.  The full service Marriott hotel itself is pretty tired. 

At The Canyons the Miners Club is the by far best place to stay. It has its own lift and offers huge, ranch elegance, condo units. The Grand Summit Hotel is a big timeshare resort and is way overrated and way overpriced. The Sundial Lodge is a bit more modest, but actually much more family friendly.

Restaurants change with the seasons.  Most all of the restaurants on Main Street will empty your wallet and leave you feeling ripped off.  They are trendy, over priced and marginal. The exception is the Wasatch Brewery that serves fairly priced, hearty food and great beer. Yes they do sell Polygamy Porter..........

I really like the Windy Ridge Cafe. Don't let its industrial park locale put you off. The Mexican food at El Chubasco is first rate. It is in a strip mall not far from Windy Ridge. The best restaurant in Park City is probably the Middle Eastern fare at Reefs Kitchen. A small family run cafe where everything on the menu is an adventure that tastes wonderful.  Frankly, when we get to the end of our rope in Another option is to just graze the Whole Foods Market deli in Kimball Junction. 

When I win the lotto I will buy a house here.

Roadboys Travels © 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008

DC Images

FDR Memorial

Einstein Memorial

Lincoln Memorial


Vietnam Memorial

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Where the Zip Codes Start

This week we watched an amazing ritual. After what felt like a decade of campaigning, Americans turned out in record numbers and cast their votes. In some places they waited many hours. It was a moment that should fill us all with national pride. Whether it was our preferred candidate that won or lost, we all made our voices heard. Now, in the most powerful country in the world, we will soon witness another completely peaceful transfer of power. This is the true miracle of democracy.

The elegant simplicity of democracy in action reminded me of our national treasure and capital; Washington DC.

This is the city we love to hate. We casually discuss how this city "corrupts" and "ruins" the otherwise good people we send there. Of course blaming a city for the sins of its residents is perfectly ludicrous. Quite the opposite, when one spends any time in Washington they typically come to realize the essential core of democracy.  The fact those in the world that despise us cannot grasp: we are American's, we may differ on opinions, but when adversity strikes, we are one.

This is the one city in America that everyone must come to at least once. They must come and spend enough time to fully absorb it. And they must bring their children.

Actually I find myself inspired and filled with pride on each trip to DC. I don't see how anyone can walk through any wing of the Smithsonian or the National Archives and not be moved. 

It is hard to define a perfect trip to Washington DC, so I'll just describe the places I find special. 

• A City of Memorials
The City was laid out initially by Pierre l'Enfant. He is the one to blame for all those diagonal streets. If you despise them, take heart he was fired and never paid for his work. He is, however, also the one to thank for a city whose very fabric is designed so well for memorials.

To me the most emotional acre of DC real estate is the Vietnam Memorial. Three decades after its construction, Maya Lin's controversial tribute to our fallen soldiers is recognized as a modern masterpiece. Yet, when initially selected, her plan was widely criticized by veterans groups and politicians alike. No one really anticipated how strong its interactive nature and ability to strike raw nerves would really be. Anyone that walks from one end to the other will walk among family members rubbing the name of a loved one and witness the daily offerings of toys and momentos left to commemorate lives surrendered too soon.

Nearby is the Lincoln Memorial. The site where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his world changing "I have a dream" speech. The very act of climbing its steep steps makes us realize that perfecting democracy is hard work. While at the top, and while under Mr. Lincoln's gaze, take the time to read the text of the gettysburg address. The pure elegance of this speech (which Lincoln felt was "not very good") is soul stirring.

Also in the vicinity are the new memorials devoted to the Korean War and FDR. The Korean War memorial is stunning, especially after a fresh snow, when it looks like there truly are cold and weary soldiers moving among us. FDR's memorial is probably one of the best of all. It has the power to teach and takes us through a series of carefully crafted outdoor rooms.  These vignettes describe American life during the great depression and our greatest world conflict. The memorial is carefully linked together by a flowing stream that culminates in a larger than life sculpture of FDR himself in his draped wheelchair with his loyal dog Fala at his feet.

Like America itself our capital is always a work in progress. As you proceed down The Mall take a careful look at the Washington Monument and notice the difference in stone where the monument was stopped when funds to build it ran out.  When restarted a quarter century later, the stone to finish it had to come from a different quarry. It initially looked the same and then after weathering changed to a slightly different color.

Don't miss the classically inspired new World War Two memorial and the Jefferson Memorial at the nearby Tidal Basin. If you are lucky enough to visit during the spring this is where the cherry blossoms will be found.

Across the Potomac above the Pentagon is the striking and sparkling new "Missing Man" Air Force memorial.

Tucked in the trees the Marine Core Iwo Jima war memorial is sacred land to any Marine. Every Tuesday in summer this is the site of the "Sunset Parade" a nightly performance of the Marine Band and Silent Drill. This is the official band of the President. It was once led by John Philip Sousa and has performed since August 21, 1880. On other days in summer check the performance schedule (other nights of the week the band performs at the historic Marine Barracks). The Marine Band and the amazing "Silent Drill" are witness to the pursuit of perfection.

While many other memorials abound, the only other ones I'll mention here are the Albert Einstein Sculpture at the National Academy of Sciences (across Constitution Avenue from The Mall) and the National Police Officers Memorial located just outside the National Building Museum at Judiciary Square. It too is simple, yet soul stirring. 

In Washington we are constantly reminded how many hero's have leaned into their fears in service to the rest of us.

• The Museums
Our national museum's in DC are peerless. I remember on my first trip to Washington I planned to spend "a whole day" at the Smithsonian. Of course I entered the History Museum in the morning and had to be shooshed out at closing time. It had so many things Id never thought I'd see. From its buzzing display of roadside southwest neon signs to the first ladies gowns (the day I was there was actually the day Betty Ford delivered her gown). This museum is truly wonderful and recently reopened after a two year refurbishment!

Years later my family experienced the same thing at the Natural History wing. They joined up with their Uncle Jerry and all went in and wound up staying till it closed. Of course Air and Space is the favorite of most people. But I actually find it kind of tired.

My simple point is that the Smithsonian takes days.

Another special place for me is the National Building Museum. This grand building was constructed as the HQ for the National Pension Fund and took five years to build (completing in 1887) and features one of the largest spaces in Washington DC and (because of its cavernous interior) plays a role in every presidential innaugeration.

The most intense museum in DC is the Holocaust Museum. It delivers raw emotional power. Carefully designed so that kids (or short people) cannot see the most horrible images, the rest of us come out tearful, drained, and changed. A must see.

The most fun museum is probably The Spy Museum. I have lots of friends raving about that one, although I have not personally had the chance to go there yet.

• Pure History
The White House Tour is probably the number one ticket in the District. With a little preplanning, you can frequently request VIP tickets from your local elected official. SImilarly this is available for the Capital.

The FBI offers tours of its headquarters, but alas the world famous crime lab is no longer on the tour as it is now located in its new digs at the campus of the FBI National Academy in Quantico. I know all that as the new lab was one of my firm's projects!

The National Cathedral is amazing.  Look to see if you can find the bust of Darth Vader (I'm not making this up), that was the last icon chiseled into the cathedral.   

Fords Theater, site of Lincoln's assassination is an amazing place. Opened in 1861 it suffered a fire and was rebuilt and re-opened in 1863. When John Wilkes Booth murdered President Lincoln the public demanded that the (then only two year old) theater be closed.  It remained closed almost 100 years. In 1968 it was reopened for plays and as a museum. So, aside for about 4 years, the theater has actually served its original purpose for only the past four decades. It is now once again undergoing restoration and will reopen in the winter of 2009. After reopening I'd sure put this one on my list to see. 

While the idea of visiting a graveyard while on vacation may be foriegn to some, Arlington Cemetary is the exception. Right in the middle of the cemetary is the Custis Lee Mansion. Originally built by George Washington's adopted grandson George Washington Parke Custis. After his death, his daughter Mary Anna then lived in the house with her husband Robert E. Lee. When the Civil war erupted Mary Anna left the house. Union troops were then garrisoned on the site and Brigadier Montgomery C. Meigs, frustrated and distressed, decided to render the house and its property uninhabitable should the Lee's ever return. So he decided to "plant the fruit of war in Ms. Lee's rose garden".

The Capital is a must stop in DC. Tours are continuous and if the legislature is in session you can peek into the viewing galleries. Look at the wonderful state sculptures and go check out the famous whispering spot. 

Washington's home at Mount Vernon is a wonderful day trip from DC.

• For Kids
The National Zoo is free, fun, and has panda's!

• Food
With lobbyists seemingly everywhere it makes sense that excellent restaurants abound seemingly everywhere in DC.  My favorite is the Old Ebbitt Grille.  Steps away from the White House, they serve the best crabcakes in DC period.  

• Hotels
The Mayflower Park and The Willard are traditional favorites. There are also lots of hotels near National Airport in the hideous "blade runner" hotel/office ghetto called Crystal City. To me this cold disorienting place is truly the scariest place in the DC region. 

I very much like the new Hilton in Alexandria and it is right on the Metro.
• Getting Around
Park the car somewhere else and ride Metro. It is safe, clean, and efficient. It serves all of DC except (strangely) Georgetown. The only place you will need a cab is the National Cathedral. The only place you will need a car is Mount Vernon.

You can fly into any of three airports, National, Dulles, or Baltimore. I personally love the convenience of National Airport with its in terminal Metro stop.  Dulles is the least convenient, but is home to the most international connections.  Baltimore is actually a long way from DC but has a direct Amtrak and commuter train connection to DC's gorgeous Union Station where you can then catch the Metro. I usually avoid Baltimore when I plan to rent a car as their new consolidated car rental facility seems like it is 5 miles from the airport.

Come see where democracy gets re-tooled every day. Visit DC. Come jaded, leave proud.

Roadboys Travels © 2008