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January 27, 2009

Lynn @ 29

I interrupt my series of introspective posts to bring you this update on my beautiful wife:

January 25, 2009

Lee @ 30, Part 2 – Food and Drink

Lynn often says that I’m a bit snobby about my food. Conversely, I often say that Lynn isn’t nearly discriminating enough in her taste, though as she’ll be quick to assert, she has become much more critical of the food put in front of her in recent years. In any case, snobby or not, I enjoy food, and I enjoy drink. As I turn the corner on age 30, am I getting what I want out of this aspect of my life?

Eating Out

To see where we stand with respect to where we’ve been eating out, I took my credit card records for calendar-year 2008 and extracted transactions over $60 that involved dining out. Some of these are only over $60 because we were reimbursed by other people, but this still leaves me with about 20 entries to examine. This isn’t a tremendous amount, but that’s on purpose: we don’t go out to eat that often, and it’s more important to me that when we do go out, that the experience and the food be worth the money. So where did we go in 2008? Selectively and in no particular order:

  • Eastern Standard. We went to Eastern Standard over the summer to celebrate Barrett having completed the Bar Exam. We waited longer than we should have had to for our outdoors table, and while the hanger steak was good, it was not memorable. I’d go back, but only if someone else led the way.
  • Orinoco. We’d been talking about going to Orinoco for ages, and with Jordi’s encouragement Wing, Jen, Lynn, and I finally ate there near the end of the summer, before the Liao-Yung’s departed to the wrong coast. (Opposite of right=east coast, get it? Also semantically accurate.) It was very good, but again didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I’d go back, though, as I seem to remember thinking that I ordered poorly.
  • El Oriental de Cuba. We ordered from here to feed the gang during April’s poker game. I had some beef something, and it was awful. Dry, tasteless, thoroughly unenjoyable. Disappointing to say the least.
  • Picco. Dodzie and Vanessa love this place, so I was glad to get a chance to try it. I had the macaroni & cheese, and it was great. Not too expensive, either. Atmosphere was energetic as well. I’m keen to go back and try the pizza.
  • Kaya. We’ve been going to Kaya for years, and I was glad to have the chance to take my cousin, Michael, there this past spring. We almost always get the same things: kalbi and bulgolgi on the BBQ, bibimbop in the stone pot, and an occasional order of sushi. It’s not quite the same as going with Eugene and watching as he manages to fluently order twice the amount of food he intended, but it does a good job of filling my craving for Korean barbecue nevertheless.
  • Upstairs on the Square. We took my in-laws to brunch at Upstairs on the Square in early March. The steak and eggs was enjoyable, as was the a capella performance by the Kroks. A bit too expensive for me to recommend for a return brunch visit, especially when compared with…
  • The Blue Room. OK, this was just recently for Lynn’s birthday, so not actually in 2008. But the $23 buffet was outstanding. Highlights were the avocado quesadillas, buttermilk pancakes, cauliflower soup, pear tart, and cheesecake. I ate enough for four or five days, and while I don’t intend to spend $23 for brunch often, I’d go back here in a heartbeat.
  • L’Osteria. We’ve now been to L’Osteria twice, and it’s safe to say that it’s one of our favorite North End restaurants. The food is fresh, simple, and delicious. Exactly what I’m looking for when I head to the North End. I’ll be happy to go back to L’Osteria at least once a year going forward.
  • Mizuna. Sabow and I treated ourselves to a joint 30th birthday dinner at Mizuna in Denver. It was very, very good. The appetizers in particular were tremendous: I had the chestnut cannelloni with braised rabbit, house-made ricotta, and wild mushrooms, and Sabow had the macaroni & cheese with poached Maine lobster. The entrees were great too, though not quite as memorable. For one of the most expensive meals of my year, I was pleased with the experience.
  • Blue Ginger. To celebrate their mutual PhDs, we headed out with Dodzie and Vanessa to Wellesley in September to enjoy Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger. The food was out of this world. It’s been my extremely limited experience that much high-end food is simple, but Blue Ginger’s dishes were anything but. They were elaborate compositions of meat, vegetables, salads, and sauces, and yet every flavor worked on its own and in conjunction with the rest of the dish. It’s not in our budget to go to Blue Ginger often, but I’ll be thrilled when the next appropriate occasion rolls around.

All in all, I’m pleased with the restaurants I’ve been eating at. I really think that peer-review Web sites like yelp have revolutionized the reliability of eating out. I can now go to new restaurants with a very high expectation that I’ll be having a great meal, and I’m rarely disappointed. We still have a huge list of Boston-area restaurants that we’d love to try, but we’re definitely not hurting for quality eateries.

Eating In

I wish I cooked more. I work at home a lot of the time, but somehow this seems to result in me cooking meals less often rather than more often. I imagine it’s because I find it difficult to draw a line between work time and food time, which means that I continue working as Lynn arrives home from work and begins to plan and cook our dinners. The end result is that Lynn’s been making way more of our dinners than I do, to my disappointment. She tends to take care of most of our weekday meals (which, while simple, are almost always fantastically good), and then maybe once a week we’ll jointly prepare a more involved dish. We continue to rely on Cook’s Illustrated for most of our recipes, with a few highly-reviewed Epicurious dishes thrown in for good measure. We still love our turkey burgers, black bean burgers, potato wedges, chicken and rice, buttermilk biscuits, sautéed asparagus with garlic slivers, and Spanish rice, but I do have some goals that would make me happier with our overall eating.

  1. Cook new recipes more often.
  2. Plan for and cook more meals that can be frozen and used over time.
  3. Cook more meals involving our crock pot. (We hardly ever use it at all, which is a real shame.)

One of the best recent developments in our kitchen is our pair of aprons (or, as I think Lynn secretly thinks of hers, our pair of “wearable paper towels”) and our thermapen meat thermometer. I love that little thing to death.


I’ve been drinking more and more single-malt scotches recently, and enjoying them more and more. My year was full of plenty of Talisker, Lagavulin, and, more recently, Laphroaig, and while the budget hasn’t allowed for as healthy a stock of at-home scotch as I’d like, I’m currently enjoying a delicious 15-year Bowmore, courtesy of my cousin, Dan. I think that people sometimes think I’m joking when I tell them this, but scotch for me has been almost entirely an acquired taste that I forced upon myself. It’s been my personal answer to a warm, comforting drink that can be enjoyed after a good meal or a long day. It helped that I discovered the joy of peaty single malts a few years back in Edinburgh, and I haven’t looked back since.

It’s also good to have friends that share the passion. This means that Sean, Dodzie, and I were able to enjoy “the Macallan Experience” together a few months back, and that Sabow and I spent some quality time at Pint’s Pub in Denver, home of the largest selection of single-malt whiskys outside of Edinburgh.

I still wish I knew more about wine. I know more than I did, but I still don’t know very much. I’ve been enjoying malbecs quite a bit recently, for what that’s worth. Not much change recently in my beer taste. I still enjoy a pretty wide range of brews, with wheat beers (hefeweisens, Belgian whites, …) being the most notable exception.

Non-alcoholically speaking, I drink a lot less lemonade than I used to. I drink mostly water, though I’d like to drink more orange juice.

All in all, the 20-year-old Lee wouldn’t recognize the food and drink habits of the 30-year-old Lee, and that’s entirely for the better. I’ll go to just about any type of restaurant and find a wide selection of appealing options to consider, and I’m comfortable with the quantity, breadth, and quality of what I’m drinking. Good times.

January 24, 2009

Denver in December

Early in December, Lee Sabow and I converged on Denver. The stated purpose of the trip was to finally get a chance to go to Mile High Stadium to see the Broncos at home, but we also spent a good deal of time walking around Denver, eating an excellent dinner, drinking a lot of scotch, seeing a light parade, and eating Mexican food. The weather was beautiful, the company grand, and our parents were kind enough to arrange for chocolate cake and champagne in the hotel room.

But the highlight was, as we expected, the game. On Sunday morning we walked from our hotel over to the stadium, arriving a few hours before game time. We took in the scene in the parking lot, bathing in the sea of blue and (predominantly) orange that was so foreign to those of us used to a sea of Giants, Jets, Seahawks, or Pats gear. We took in the team’s “official” tailgate—the Broncos Barn—where we downed a few beers (Bud rather than Coors, surprisingly), watched the early games on a score of televisions, listened to some live music, feasted on BBQ chicken, failed to win a raffle, and saw a few Broncos cheerleaders perform up close.

We headed into the stadium about an hour before game time. Starting from the south stands, we took our time walking around the lower level of Mile High, watching the Broncos warming up. Eventually we headed up to our seats and settled in for the game. Of course, it wasn’t long before a FG and a Cutler interception put the (heavily favored) Broncos down 10-0 to the hated Chiefs, and we figured we were in for a devastating yet somehow expected disappointment.

With time winding down in the first quarter, seventh-string rookie running back Peyton Hillis capped off an 80-yard drive by rumbling around the left end for 18 yards and a touchdown, and the Broncos were back in the game. Of course, it was only a few minutes later that Hillis would injure himself, and we’d be forced to endure the pain of watching ex-cell-phone-salesman Tatum Bell carry the rock for the home team the rest of the way. The Chiefs answered back with a TD and the Broncos were down 10 once more, until a second 80-yard drive was capped with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Cutler to Brandon Marshall. So halftime rolled around with the good guys down 3, but not out.

The third quarter saw one made field goal and one missed field goal (argh!) from the Broncos, and nothing else. So we entered the fourth quarter all square, with the Broncos deep in their own territory. Five minutes and a 28-yard Tatum Bell run (no joke!) later, another Cutler to Marshall pass put the Broncos up 24-17, but much of the 4th quarter remained. That’s when the Chiefs started their back-breaking drive, grinding out one first down after another as they marched down the field. A first-down sack was followed by a 19-yard completion, and the Chiefs continued to eat at the clock as they found themselves with first and goal from the Broncos’ 10-yard line.

The first down pass was off the mark in the end zone. Good pass coverage led to Thigpen scrambling up the middle and picking up 5 yards on second down. Third down saw another incomplete pass, and the drive came down to 4th and goal from the 5. With less than 5 minutes left and down a touchdown, the Chiefs went for it on fourth down. Thigpen dropped back to pass but failed to find any open receivers. As the Broncos line closed on him, he stepped up and decided to run for it. It looked like he’d be tackled for no gain, but he squirmed his way out of the tackle and took off for the end zone. But Dre Bly closed quickly and tackled Thigpen, just inches short of the goal line. The Broncos took over on downs on their own 1-yard line. Exhale.

After two rushes up the middle netted no yards, we figured we weren’t out of the woods yet. But on 3rd and 10 from the 1, Cutler hit Brandon Marshall for a 19-yard gain, a first down, and some breathing room. Two plays later, a Cutler-to-Scheff completion yielded another Broncos first down, and the game was iced. After the two minute warning, the Broncos knelt down three plays in a row and the celebration was on.

Good times. Enjoy a selection of pictures from the game and our weekend in Denver.

January 10, 2009

Jayson Stark & RBI Baseball

(This post is primarily for Ben. Though Dodzie, Rohit, and Eugene might enjoy it too.)

Jayson Stark wrote up his Hall of Fame ballot. The ballot—particularly the “Many Timers” part of it—reads like a who’s who of RBI baseball. Take a look.

January 3, 2009

Lee @ 30, Part 1 – Overview & Contentment

Knowing how I can’t seem to write anything short, and I can’t seem to write anything frequently, and I can’t seem to write anything complete, I’ll just come right out and say that this is the first of what may or may not end up being a protracted series of looks at where I stand in my life as I begin my fourth decade and as the calendar flips over to 2009. I quenched my thirst for political diatribes last year, so let’s keep this concrete. I’ll try to reflect on my past and future with respect to some of the main elements in my life:

  • Food & Drink
  • Photography
  • Games
  • Tech
  • Travel
  • Work
  • Friends & Family

But no holding me to any of this.

For now, an overview: I’ve long told people that contentment is one of my highest goals for life. While there are many things in my life that do bring me contentment right now, overall I feel far from content. I am—at various times—restless, excited, nervous, sad, happy, anticipatory, and regretful, but I find that I am rarely content. I’m not sure how quickly I can realistically change this, but I suppose we will see.

Happy New Year’s to everyone. (…to all 20 of you that read this, plus to my future self who is both my most reliable audience and my harshest critic.)