Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Na’s Thai Café – Chanhassen, MN

I had a hankerin’ for Thai food today and I checked out the nearby Thai restaurants. There was a place a short distance away (actually, I had no idea how far away it was since I’ve never been to Chanhassen), and I figured I’d race out of work at lunch and see how it was. It had some good reviews online and also had won an award for best Thai food from Citipages or some other local award-giver. I read they had a good lunch buffet. Even though I generally don’t like buffets, especially Chinese food buffets, I decided to give it a shot since I had never been to a Thai food buffet.

I got there in less than 10 minutes and found it pretty easily. It’s in a strip mall, which as we all know is a good thing in Minnesota (steer away from strip mall cuisine in Illinois, if given the choice). Walked into a pretty nice and clean restaurant with maybe two other tables occupied. I told the waitress I’d be eating the buffet. I stepped over to the buffet and was shocked at how small it was (twss).

Really, it seemed to only have a couple of things on it and half of it was devoted to condiments and sauces. On top of all that, about half of the dishes were vegetarian (at least today they were). I grumbled about it, but I certainly didn’t seem to have a problem filling my plate. And so you know, I’m done complaining at this point about the food.

I got a cream cheese puff and a fried egg roll (just one half of an egg roll though – I’m not a pig). I also got white rice, cashew chicken curry, Pad Bai pork, Pad Mee vegetable noodles, and sprinkled some crushed peanuts on top with some pepper flakes. The food was delicious. The cream cheese puff is hard to rise above the rest, but it did seem better to me than most. The egg roll was also good. Tiny hint of cinnamon just to let you know it was there and not enough to shove it down your throat. This is how I would like them cooked from now on (I’ll be sure to request them cooked like Na’s the next time I go to a Thai restaurant – ha ha ha).

The Cashew Chicken Curry was the best dish. Really spicy (the website reviews warn you to be careful when ordering off the menu and what spice level you should request), and flavorful. Big pea pods and cashew nuts were mixed in with this. The Pad Bai pork was really good as well, although it had these weird tiny trees in it. Never seen these before. If parsley grew with a trunk, that’s what it would look like, but darker and with some purple. It didn’t taste like much, but it was still weird to see a tiny tree on your fork.

I looked at some other people’s plates who had ordered off the menu and saw they delivered your bowl of white rice to your table on a plate with a clear glass bowl on top, like some sort of sexy Barbarella space theme. Interesting. Also, I really regretted not ordering Spring Rolls when I saw another girl’s order arrive. It looked amazing. Then, these old ladies sitting at the table next to me kept talking about underwear and it kind of disgusted me – it wasn’t just their own underwear they were talking about. And also, there seemed to be a lot of Peter Cetera playing on the radio – always makes me think of my sister and my friend Callous-un (no, not together – ewww).

To top the meal off, I had a really tasty and sweet fortune cookie. I like the sweet ones better than the lemon-y ones, but I’ll eat them both. And in keeping with the tradition of getting hilariously ghey messages inside my fortune cookies, I got this one: “Investigate new possibilities with friends. Now is the time!”

I’ll be going here again, fo sho.

Top 5 things about Na’s Thai Café
1. Cashew Chicken Curry
2. Cream Cheese Puff
3. Pad Bai Pork
4. Egg Roll
5. It’s close to work

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd and I love Thai food and she never got to eat here
2. Should have gotten the Spring Rolls
3. Weird old-lady conversation involving their (and other people’s) underwear made me want to wash my ears out with bleach
4. Tiny buffet (in square footage only)(and I got over it)
5. It’s not on my way home if I wanted to grab dinner


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Santorini (Happy Hour) – Eden Prairie, MN

Since 2009 is the year of the happy hour, I threw one together for some work people. We had low attendance, but since the guest of honor (or horror – can’t remember) EnyaFace! couldn’t make it, a lot of people cancelled. Not to be deterred, I got to Santorini before everyone else and started the festivities alone. I found a nice table on the patio since people said they wanted to sit outside (in the billion degree heat). (I’ve reviewed Santorini before for lunch, but not happy hour.)

Santorini is a pretty swanky place for a happy hour, but they have a really excellent happy hour menu and drink specials (which I didn’t know before I got there, since their online happy hour menu is non-functional). They didn’t really have a girly drink menu, so I just ordered from the extensive list in my head. Something simple – vodka pineapple. I was surprised when the drink came out in a plastic cup like they just took the sippy lid off. Weird, and surprisingly down-scale. This might be my kind of place, after all.

I started by ordering a couple of appetizers for myself (still sitting alone… sigh). I got some Santorini Sliders and these Hoissin Ginger Ribs. And while I was waiting for my food to come out (still alone…) a couple of work people showed up to make me look less like an alcoholic loner with no social skills sitting at a large table by himself. They ordered a couple of drinks and some food as well.

My food came out and looked delicious! (I forgot and ate the fries and a rib before I took the photo and I’m not THAT good at photoshopping food back into photos – sorry)

The hoissin ginger ribs were not as awesome as I had expected, nor was there as much meat as I had hoped. Maybe I’m spoiled by the Rib Quest that I’m on in the Twin Cities. The ribs weren’t bad by any stretch, and in fact were pretty good. But not amazing like Lee and Dee’s or anything. The sauce was a bit weird, but it grew on me quickly. And heck they were really cheap, so I’m not going to complain at all. The santorini sliders were EXCELLENT though. They came with little potato wedges which were seasoned really well and crispy. And the sliders were basically gyro meat and grilled peppers (and some onions which I picked off) between two pieces of pita. The flavor was top-notch, especially when dipped in the cucumber sauce that came on the side. Get these things.

Not sure how many drinks transpired during this time, but the strawberry lemonade (with vodka) was really awesome. (Thanks, Claudia.) Since I was still hungry, I ordered another appetizer form the happy hour menu – prime rib and cheddar croissants. I didn’t get a photo of this one, but they were really cute mini-croissants with prime rib and melted cheddar (kind of like the name describes huh?). I was going to get the Tony Sliders, but someone steered me away from them, thankfully.

And then there was the issue of paying the bill after everything was winding down. I’m still not sure how this got arranged, but one person got stuck paying the entire tip for our party on her credit card. The waitress tried t explain it, but it still sounds like she got screwed and I’m going to make sure she gets a free drink or three next happy hour.

Only 6 of us showed up for happy hour, but it was a good time had by all (mostly those of us who were able to capitalize on the happy hour pricing). We’ll catch you next time, EnyaFace!

Top 5 things about Santorini for happy hour
1. Santorini Sliders
2. Strawberry Lemonade (with vodka)
3. Prime Rib and Cheddar Croissants
4. They can trash it up for happy hour (plastic sippy cups)
5. Really close to work so I can get maximum use of happy hour hours

Bottom 5 things
1. Happy hour without Gerd just isn’t as happy, even with awesome people
2. Paying the check was a fiasco (is fiasco a greek word? Sounds like it.)
3. The service isn’t the fastest at Santorini, so settle in and get comfortable (or order multiple drinks so you don’t go dry…)
4. Tony sliders (according to “someone”)
5. It was like sitting on the surface of the sun on that patio since it was like a hundred degrees yesterday


Sunday, June 21, 2009

La Cucaracha – St. Paul, MN

Some of you know how strongly I feel about the Twin Cities and their weak attempt at Mexican food. So I’ve just decided to adjust the regular Mexican food scale with a sort of “Minnesota weighting.” This way, the people that live here will be able to think they’re getting good Mexican food. But the rest of you people will know the real truth.

I got a call from KingDavid about going to dinner in St. Paul for his father’s day meal. His folks were in town and they were going to La Cucaracha in St. Paul. Thankfully, I don’t have any sort of stigma against going to places named after insects, so I told him I was game. Plus, I know going to St. Paul for any reason just angers Trash and M. Giant, so I was definitely in. On top of all this, they mentioned margaritas and I’m a sucker for a good margarita. (Heck, I don't even care if it's a good margarita, for that matter...)

The place was full of people when I got there, which is usually a good sign, but since a lot of people in the Twin Cities have had their olfactory lobes removed including their taste buds, I wasn’t going to be duped right off the bad without sampling their food. I found KingDavid’s awesome family and set about looking at the menu.

First off, I was looking at a huge drink menu while I was talking, so I kept wondering where the food part was. I never got to it on this menu, but there were a lot of maragaritas, house specials, and tequilas to choose from. Based on what KingDavid was already drinking, I went with the Bullfighter margarita (sauza commemorative, cointreau, and grand marnier). It seemed the tastiest. And I was not disappointed. This is one of the better margaritas I’ve had in a restaurant. Really sweet and tasty, and tall. I ate a handful of chips to start my Mexican food metabolism and scoured the really appetizing food menu.

I ordered the Pork Guisado Burrito. It’s a burrito with hot green pork, covered in tomatillo sauce and Chihuahua cheese and onions. Stop. You had me at hot green pork. I wasn’t even sure what it meant, but I was pretty sure I’d like it. When the dish came out, it looked pretty darn good.

And it was. It was really a lot spicier than any other burrito I’ve had at a Mexican restaurant. I love my food spicy, so I usually have to add things to it to make it spicy, but not so with this burrito. It was fine the way it was. Not sure what made it so spicy, but it was quite tasty. And of course, with it so spicy, I had to order a second margarita – this time, the Cliff Diver (made with sauza gold). The first one – the Bullfighter – was better than the Cliff Diver, but neither were bad.

I would give this place a Minnesota Mexican Food Rating of 8 out of 10, putting it in the waaay upper eschelon of Mexican food places in the Twin Cities. Maybe even a 8.5 or 9 after a couple margaritas. I really liked it a lot. I’ll definitely be back here. Plus I had a great time with KingDavid’s family as always. Additionally, I had the added bonus of KingDavid’s wife QueenRachael feeding me an awesome “That’s What She Said” line as we were leaving the restaurant. You can find it here.

Top 5 things about La Cucaracha
1. Hot green pork – really spicy
2. Bullfighter margarita
3. Chips and salsa were nice and spicy
4. They have 1919 rootbeer on tap (it was painful not to order one – next time for sure though)
5. I love KingDavid’s family

Bottom 5 things
1. I hate finding good Mexican restaurants without being able to share them with Gerd. They were her favorite
2. Service was a tad slow (QueenRachael would have wanted me to mention it)
3. Talking about KingDavid running from the police on multiple occasions while his parents listened on in astonished interest… uncomfortable…
4. I don’t think I can make it to happy hour by 6pm during the week – I’m gonna try though… EnyaFace, you’re getting the phone call when I do!
5. I’m really mad that I didn’t see that the huevos rancheros are “served with grilled taters” according to the menu – seriously, I love taters of all kinds!


Bulldog – Minneapolis, MN

I got a call from TheDoctor to go out for some drinks in the Uptown area. They were headed to the Bulldog and I remember having a great meal there once back in the day. This time was no different (except it was at dinner time and there were quite a few more drunk people). The Bulldog has an awesome menu full of all kinds of hot dogs, hamburgers, and sandwiches, and they all look fantastic.

After I changed my mind about 12 times, I decided on the Tater Tot Hot Dish. Everyone else at the table ordered Cajun tater tots, so I asked if I could have my taters Cajun-ized. I was soooo glad I did. My food came out and looked delicious.

So delicious in fact that a number of people sampled it for me while I was talking. But truly, this thing was delicious. It was basically a kind of beef stew with green beans and covered with a layer of Cajun tater tots. Brilliant concept these Minnesotans have. One of the guys at the table called it a tater tot stew, which is a pretty apt description. The tots were seasoned, but not insanely spicy, and cooked to the perfect crispiness. I believe this was the right choice for dinner, especially coupled with a tequila sunrise, which I got mocked heavily for.

Then Smallz found some angry Japanese minnow fisherman drink and convinced the bartender to make it for us by handing over his iPhone with the recipe on it. It had like 8 different liquors in it, so it was pretty potent, and a tad girl-y if I do say so myself. I might look up the recipe and make a pitcher for the my fridge as well. Don’t worry, I drank a bunch of water and stood around watching the battle between Smalls and TheDoctor on Golden Tee. That will sober anyone up.

Just go here and eat this thing. You won’t regret it. I’m now trying to figure out when I can get back there next.

Top 5 things about the Bulldog
1. Tater Tot Hot Dish with Cajun seasoning
2. Tequila sunrise – you can’t miss with that drink
3. Watching golden tee smack-talking
4. You can hear yourself talk here because the jukebox is turned down low
5. Sat by the door so got to watch the really eclectic crowd parade through

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd loved all things tater tot and she never got to try this amazing food
2. I’m really upset that I didn’t know about this years ago
3. Got mocked for my tequila sunrise
4. Couldn’t hear the juke box that my friends stuffed full of money so they could be in control
5. I’m going to be hard pressed to try something else on the menu next time I go here


Friday, June 19, 2009

DC Trip – June 17, 2009

For years now, I’ve known that Popeyes Chicken serves breakfast at some of its locations in DC, and I haven’t been out there in few years to capitalize on it (get it? Capitol-ize? Ha ha ha). Since I knew I was headed out to that area, AND since I own stock in Popeyes (yes, I’m serious), I felt compelled to discover the wonders of pre-lunch Popeyes. I plotted out the two closest location to the hotel and determined today would be the day I’d get up and track down this mystical biscuit-based deep-fried and buttery breakfast!

I woke up far earlier than I thought possible, given that I was out until after 2 the previous evening. Not drinking last night helped a ton – who would have known?! I sent FireRetarded a text saying I would be ready to go if he wanted to join me after I showered. I never heard anything, so I went out on my own… into a cold drizzle. By the time I had walked the 0.8 miles to Popeyes, I was soaked. And when I discovered the doors locked, that didn’t thrill me either. Luckily, I knew the other one was only a mile away.

I got a text from CorpseKitten asking about breakfast, assuring her I was already on the hunt and she was on her own. I hailed a cab and gave him the address to the nearest OTHER Popeyes. He promptly headed off and dropped me off in the HOOD. Ever noticed how most Popeyes aren’t in the best neighborhoods? Ever notice how DC has lots of the not-best-neighborhoods? Fantastic combination. Especially when I discovered the building where Popeyes used to be was gutted for remodeling. I sent CorpseKitten a nasty message about giving up and throwing a lot of money (and safety) away for not getting a single thing deep fried nor buttery. I had to walk multiple blocks to find a place where a cab felt safe enough to drive around looking for riders. I headed home quite dejected and much poorer.

Babo had woken and showered, so we got packed for our trip home laughing about my misfortune. CorpseKitten said to go get breakfast without her since she wasn’t feeling great that morning, so we headed back out into the drizzle. We went to Lincoln’s Waffle Shop across from the Ford Theater. Kind of a run-down mom and pop (though mom and pop happened to be Asian) shop where there was a constant flow of homeless people buying smokes and lottery tickets at the register. Babo just ordered coffee and I ended up getting one of the worst breakfasts I’ve ever had.

How can you cook the flavor out of bacon?!! It seems to defy the laws of physics, nature, and culinary science. The best part of the meal was the plastic bottle of milk I drank with it. At the end of my meal, Babo (my surly Asian friend) stated plainly, “This is why Asians shouldn’t make breakfast.” Thankfully, I had finished drinking my milk or it would have been all over the counter.

We headed back to the hotel to pick up CorpseKitten and head to the airport. Fortunately, the metro station was across the street from our hotel, so it worked out really well. Except for the fact that you can’t use the same metro ticket for multiple people even if there’s a bunch of money left on it. Brilliant, DC. So we bought more tickets (since I couldn’t find the ones Callous-un mailed to me before we left)(I found them at the airport later). We made it in plenty of time and split up to go to our various airline terminals.

I was asleep before the plane was in the air and didn’t wake up until we landed. Then I got a text from CorpseKitten saying she had made it to Milwaukee vomit-free! Hooray for small miracles. I left the airport and drove straight to my first summer class of my MBA career. Wow, that was a reality check…

Top 5 things about the last day of vacation
1. No airplane delays
2. Not terrible traffic going to class from the airport
3. CorpseKitten didn’t throw up on the metro even though she was facing backwards
4. CorpseKitten defiantly sitting in the “special seating” areas reserved for preggos, the elderly, and the physically challenged
5. I stayed awake through class and even understood about 60% of what the professor taught

Bottom 5 things
1. Didn’t get Popeyes for breakfast and still spent a boatload
2. Makes me wish I was independently wealthy so I could travel with Babo and CorpseKitten all the time
3. Lincoln Waffle Shop
4. I was going to class after flying from DC
5. I was missing kickball by going to class

Thursday, June 18, 2009

DC Trip – June 16

We all slept late and thought we’d hit up the Lincoln memorial in the morning since we had plans to go to lunch with my cousin. I had run out of t-shirts (seriously a fashion freak out for me) and when CorpseKitten called from H&M, I told her to grab me a t-shirt. She came back with a Black Sabbath t-shirt. Wow, I’ve never actually owned one before. I’m sure as soon as my mother hears about this, I’ll be grounded, and I haven’t lived at home in 15 years. Ha ha ha.

There are no busses or trains that go near the memorial, so we asked the concierge the fastest way to the memorial. CorpseKitten’s feet were showing the wear from last night’s hiking adventures, so we needed to find the route with the least walking. And I was a big pained from my previous evening, which didn’t help thing either. The concierge said we should take a cab. We went out front and grabbed one for the three of us. We got there in under 10 minutes.

The Lincoln memorial is pretty slick if you haven’t seen it. I had been messing up all my historical facts (intentionally… usually) this far, so I kept it up. Apparently there was a guy near me that was offended that I called the inscription on the inside of Lincoln’s Memorial the Magna Carte. I thought it was hilarious though.

My cousin called and said she was on her way. We picked a location to stand and she said she’d pick us up. Somehow, everything worked out really well because when she drove up to us, the traffic light near us had been red and everyone was stopping. We stepped out into traffic and hopped right in her car. Perfect timing.

We went to the Peking Gourmet Inn, which is one of the places in DC where famous celebrities including the first family eat. We got a whole peking duck (their specialty), garlic sprouts with shrimp, green beans, with fried dumplings. They brought the duck to our table and the chef started slicing really thin slices of duck off onto plates. The duck was really great. I’ve had duck a lot of ways, but not peking duck. And now I’m sure I’m ruined for peking duck any other place. The garlic sprouts were also something I’ve never had before. Really crunchy and mild garlic taste.

We (meaning me) forgot CorpseKitten had a tour of the NPR headquarters, so we had to race to get over to her tour. She was only 15 minutes late, but she caught up with the rest of the pack. Babo and I went back to the hotel to lounge around in front of the TV. I cashed out and when CorpseKitten got back from her tour and wanted to see the National Portrait Galllery, I decided just to keep sleeping. I was still feeling a little sensitive from the previous night’s festivities.

CorpseKitten and Babo saw the National Portrait Gallery and brought back some fun photos, which I don’t have yet, but it looked pretty impressive. After my four hour nap, I still wasn’t feeling great, but I needed to be up and moving, so we went to some of the conference vendor-sponsored parties. With groups of librarians, it’s a fine line between awkward, and weird, and hilarious, and tonight was no different. I didn’t drink anything, which made it slightly less tolerable than usual, but we did score some free food. I also kept the drinks flowing for all our new friends!

We crashed a couple of those parties and mocked people dancing, and ended up heading back to our hotel bar. Only to find out that it closed at midnight during the week. (Every day on our vacation was the weekend for us, why not everyone else?) So we headed off to Clyde’s for a night cap. I bought a couple drinks for people (and by *I*, I mean I said I would and someone else got the tab – wurd). So I came home in good shape for sleeping, and for Popeyes the next morning. Yeah, that’s right. I said Popeyes.

Top 5 things about day 4
1. Peking duck was awesome
2. First four-hour nap I’ve taken in 10 years
3. I’m hilarious at historical monument sites, really!
4. I’m a great drink-gatherer when not drinking
5. Lincoln Monument is pretty cool, as is the Vietnam War Memorial and the Korean War Memorial

Bottom 5 things
1. Really was not feeling good the entire day. Ha ha ha
2. Stayed out way too late for not having a single drink
3. Now, I’m a stereotypical long-haired guy wearing a Black Sabbath t-shirt
4. Awkward librarian dancing
5. Hotel bars closing at midnight…. Booooooo!

DC Trip – June 15, 2009

We started the day with getting me registered for the conference. Oh yeah, I keep forgetting I'm supposed to be doing conference stuff. I got my badge and such and took a couple of photos since CorpseKitten wanted to pose with Joe Biden and President Obama's stand-up cardboard cutouts. I'll photoshop them down later so they look more real. Why isn't anyone posing with Hillary in the background. Weird.

Then we picked up Babo and took a walk to the National Archives. The line was too long and it was out in the sun, so we decided to go to Plan B and head to the National Gallery. We checked out the west wing first which is the older stuff. I’ve been here before, but it’s still cool to see some of those pieces again. And so you know, for having so many Rodin pieces, there sure was a lack of Godzilla and Mothra portraits. We walked through the underground passage to the East wing where the modern pieces are at. We chanted our own irreverent version of U.S.A. is #1 (for having underground passages for those who hate the sun like we do) while staying nice and cool. We saw a couple things in the East Building, but were starting to get worn out on the paintings.

We walked past the Smithsonian main building castle and then to the Sackler to see Japanese demon scrolls. There’s an ancient Japanese myth about an ogre-demon who gets tricked and killed. The story is told by numerous people and recorded in various scrolls on display. It’s really slick. In the entrance to the Sackler, there's a cool mirror wall where it distorts your image. Here is giant CorpseKitten.

Then to the Freer gallery. The Freer is filled with Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Indian art pieces and also a lot of Whistler pieces. There was also a room taken out of a building in London and reassembled in the Freer – it’s called the Peacock room. The room was specifically designed to house like 100 blue and white vases, bowls, and plates in a latticework of asian-inspired shelves. Kind of cool, but not as cool as the Sackler. But it did have an underground passage (cue more U.S.A. chanting).

We walked to the Washington Monument took a photo or two

and then to the white house. Saw the presidential helicopter land and then take off again (not sure if the president was in it on either trip. They block off the sidewalk in front of the white house when that happens,
but then they opened the gates so we could take photos.

We had a late lunch/early dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill, directly across the street from the Treasury building.We started with two appetizers. Colombian Empenadas and Beef Carnitas. Both of these were really fantastic. We were glad we couldn’t decide and got both.

Then I got a thai fried chicken salad. This was a good salad. Not fantastic, but still really good. Great sesame-soy peanut based dressing on it though.

We walked back to the hotel to change and catch bus to the Embassy of Zambia for an awards ceremony and free drinks. Babo wasn’t feeling well, so he camped out in front of the tv to nap and watch the US soccer team get their asses handed to them by Italy. There was a huge line waiting for busses to the embassy. Apparently the conference expected between 50 and 100, not 500-600. So we made it on bus number 7 and arrived as they were shutting down drink stations. CorpseKitten ran through the embassy to the back yard where the drinks were and commandeered a variety of beverages for us. We met some new friends and got to hang with FireRetarded and DeltaForceCommander some more.

FireRetarded and I were disappointed with the lack of zebras and giraffes at the embassy, so we took a photo which I will soon photoshop a giraffe into. (give me a couple days, geeesh)

FireRetarded decided we should walk to the next party – a dessert reception at the Decatur House – rather than take the bus with everyone else. He convinced us it was a mere three blocks. We walked from the embassy down embassy row and took photos with us on various embassy grounds so we could say we visited those countries.

In Mexico!
In Latvia!
DeltaForceCommander went to Burkina Faso!
CorpseKitten went to the Ivory Coast before we saw the huge Do Not Enter sign!

Our new friends played along nicely, though we did end up stopping like 10 times along the way. After we had walked about 15 blocks, taken a “circulator” bus another mile and then finished the trek by walking 4 more blocks, we arrived. We were all sweating profusely and were sore.

It was really late by the time we got there, so we grabbed a table in the back and grabbed a couple glasses of wine. FireRetarded also snuck a couple plates of desserts for our group. We took a quick tour of the Decatur House and then hopped on a bus to go back to the convention center before going to the final party of the night at the Spy Museum.

The bus stopped at one point and let a handful of people off the bus at a random stop that was close to another party at the Spy Museum. I ran for the door but the rest of my group got stopped by the driver. So I walked with another group of people I knew and started eating and drinking without them. I had some snacks including rice crispy treats with frootloops in them and some fruit and a couple glasses of wine. Eventually, CorpseKitten showed up with FireRetarded, DeltaForceCommander and our new friends. They were giving away hate to those who danced on the dancefloor, so I was the only without a hat (thankfully).

People started bailing on us, so a group of us went upstairs to laugh at the librarians dancing to the live band. Hilarious. The few of us that were left ended up going to a random bar that one of the people knew. I think it was on U avenue. I honestly have no idea at all. Might have been called mervin’s or something, but I have no idea truly. The night ended there after much falling down and drinking of water.

Top 5 things about Day 3
1. Got to visit like 10 different countries
2. Free drinks the whole day
3. Old Ebbitt Pub
4. Sackler’s demon-myth (or is it?) scrolls
5. You can seriously put anything into rice crispy treats and it’s good. That’s it – I’m making spam crispy treats!

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd would have punched FireRetarded in the spleen, directly through his eye, for making her walk that far and she LOVED FireRetarded
2. Significant lack of zebras and giraffes at the Zambian Embassy
3. Bus fiasco getting to the Embassy
4. Babysitting drunk people sometimes isn’t fun (sometimes it’s hilarious though!!!)
5. Watching drunk librarians dance is really really really painful, even when inebriated…

DC Trip – June 14, 2009

Since we rolled into bed about 3 am, we didn’t quite make the 9 am pickup time I assured my cousin we would. I sent her a rushed e-mail and told her 10 would be much more doable. She pretended not to be utterly annoyed, but cheerfully picked us up and drove Babo and I to Mount Vernon. CorpseKitten is a big shot at this conference, so she had things to do, so we told her we’d meet up with her later. We did see her in the lobby of the hotel on our way out to my cousin’s car. This is her doing sort of a downs syndrome Marilyn Monroe thing.

Mount Vernon is pretty cool, even if you know nothing about history (I would be one of those people). It was my goal to completely mix up any historical fact and mix it into the history of Mount Vernon. For example, referring to the house as Monticello and asking period impersonators questions about getting shot in the Ford Theater and Paul Revere's ride only amuse the people I’m with. Whatever, I only need two people to laugh at my humor for me to think I’m brilliant. Also the mansion at Mount Vernon is not referred to as Graceland.

The mansion is very cool, as is the fancy outhouse with removable crap-drawers,

dung repository, which we took a couple photos in front of.

And the other stuff we saw like the old tomb, new tomb,
slave tomb, wharf, farm, and gardens.

Went to Bilbo Bagins Green Dragon Pub in Alexandria. It’s a really cool pub on the main floor and a really nice open light happy restaurant on the upper floor. They had a really good menu and it was difficult to decide. It was difficult to not get bacon as well, but as CorpseKitten says, Duck is the bacon of the poultry family. I had a Smoked Duck Salad with arugula, goat cheese, smoked duck, and hoissin vinnegrate dressing. It was amazing. One of the best salads ever. Really. I’m not just saying that.

Walked around Alexandria and checked out the Torpedo Factory. It’s a repurposed factory that used to make torpedos abut has been turned into an art space for 75+ artists to work and display pieces. It’s a fantastic space for it as well – clean and well laid out and great for displays. We also did some window shopping and such. Went into a couple of fun places, but mostly just people watched and checked out the small city. Alexandria is a really neat town.

We drove back to the Hotel Monaco and asked the front desk for our companion goldfish. Apparently their website says they offer companion goldfish and we wanted to make sure we got our money’s worth for this swanky hotel. They told us they would deliver it. CorpseKitten came down and said she needed to eat, but since we ate a late lunch, we weren’t all that hungry. But hey, when has that stopped me?

We walked down the street to Zola – an upscale American restaurant. Kind of shi-shi. The chef appetizer is a chicken sausage covered with a pomegranate compote and a stick of something green. It was excellent but difficult to eat. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. The compote was a little weird for my taste and the sweetness was actually too much for me.

I ordered a “Zola” – the house special cocktail. Cointreau, Van Gogh vodka, and crushed limes, garnished with dried white cranberries. It was amazing and sweet and light. I wasn’t going to take a photo, but I had to, just so I didn’t forget it – EVER.

When I finished the Zola, I went with a nice Malbec from Argentina – delicious. I ordered Lamb Sliders for all of us. Three tiny lamb burgers with romaine and pepper slaw and goat cheese aioli.

The burgers were quite good. Possibly award-winning. I should have just ordered like 3 plates of sliders for my meal, but I’m glad I didn’t. I did however order home-made semolina noodles with three meats bolognese. It came with shredded pork, lamb, and beef underneath semolina noodles and some cream sauce was thrown in. One of the best meat dishes I’ve ever eaten. Amazingly top-notch. I had a smile on my face after the first bite.

I did also steal a couple bites of Lisa’s lobster mac and cheese. It was pretty darn good, though not as good as the truffle oil mac and cheese at Seven in Minneapolis.

Babo came back to do actual work work and I came back to type up yesterday and today’s events. I got most of the way through when FireRetarded called and wanted to go out for drinks. I kindly obliged him as I didn’t want to be rude. Ha ha ha

We went to the Green Turtle and had a few drinks. Here's what I had:

We tried to plan our next couple of days, but we were sketchy on a few details of which organization had parties (aka open bar) where and what times. We talked about my previous life in various bands and disc golf. And we talked about hanging out at the Embassy of Zambia the following night . Who knows how it’s going to turn out tomorrow. All I know is that FireRetarded wants to have dinner with Babo and I in Chinatown. Wurd.

Top 5 things about Day 2
1. Three meat bolognese
2. Smoked Duck Salad
3. Mount Vernon historical mad libs
4. Lab Sliders
5. I spent $15 on Mount Vernon and everything else I ate and drank tonight got paid for!!! Hoooooraay!!!!

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd would have loved Zola
2. Still haven’t gotten our companion fish yet (it’s 2am) and I’m lonely
3. It is at least 200 degrees with 143% humidity here in DC and it’s only June
4. We found out our phone in our room does not work. Seriously. No front desk, no internet support, no nuthin’,
5. Babo went back to do work work and didn’t hang with DeltaForceCommander and FireRetarded and I

DC Trip – June 12-13, 2009

I originally booked the trip out to DC for a conference which I have, in the past, found great value in. When my work informed me they wouldn’t be assisting with the funding nor allowing me to take educational leave (but I was still encouraged to go), I canceled my conference registration and began looking at this as a fun vacation. Sure I would be meeting my friends out there who WOULD be going to the conference, but at that point, vacation is vacation. I would still be sharing a room with Babo from Portland, Oregon, and CorpseKitten from Kalamazoo would be crashing in the same hotel. DeltaForceCommander and FireRetarded from Minneapolis would be out there and we would find time for a drink or 13.

For some reason, there’s always a catch when I travel. If the hotel part goes smoothly, then the plane ride sucks. If the plane ride is fine, then my cab bursts into flames, etc. This trip was no different. Everything went well up until the hotel – no problems with the Minneapolis airport, no problems with the Reagan airport in DC; got on the hotel shuttle which was free without problem; got checked in and they knew who I was and spelled my name right. But when I went to go to my room, I waited behind 300+ jr. high girls who were part of a soccer tournament. When I say I waited behind them, I mean I was at the end of the line to get on the elevator… for about 45 minutes. Their organizer was directing the girls into the elevators in groups of 8-ish and wouldn’t let anyone jump in line not part of their group. So three elevators were clearly not enough. Stairs you ask? With 4 levels of parking before you get to the first floor, and with me being on the 9th floor, I decided to be patient and wait. And also watch people go ballistic when they would walk up, and the organizer would send them to the back of the line to wait. What a d-bag.

Anyway, I slept fine and woke up the next morning on time. Watched a cool tv show on mars landers (which none of you care about). My cousin, whom I haven’t seen in far too long came to pick me up. It was super nice to see her again after 6 or 7 years. We went back to her newly remodeled house and met her dogs Fiona and Heather. After the in-depth tour of her place, the rest of the family showed up - my other cousin whom I hadn’t seen in 6-7 years, her husband and son, and my aunt and uncle.

They had decided to take me to a Japanese restaurant for lunch - Maneki Neko. My aunt is Japanese (as in from Japan), and my cousins are decidedly more Asian than I am. And my father and his family have a nasty habit of being the world’s pickiest eaters. Thankfully, I never got that gene and am willing to eat lots of things, as long as they don’t contain seafood. Lunch was fantastic and it was funny watching my aunt eavesdrop on any conversations she hears in Japanese. My uncle accuses her of setting up dates with the chef at the restaurant because his Japanese is a little rusty and the chef and my aunt get along splendidly. I went with the Chicken Teryaki Donburi? Which is teriyaki chicken on top of a bowl of rice. It was really quite good. I’m guessing even my father could have eaten it .

From there, the aunt and uncle and one cousin and I headed to the national park (after driving past hugely expensive houses) to see the Great Falls area of rapids where the Potomac rolls into the DC area. The water was flowing really quickly thanks to a lot of rain they’ve had, and there were tons of people at the park. Really, a beautiful park which reminded me of the trip CorpseKitten and Babo took out to the Oregon Coast.

We saw what we needed to see and decided to go to the Air museum. I’m kind of a closet plane fanatic (not a serious one, but I do know some things and enjoy looking – twss). This is one of the coolest aviation museums I’ve been in. It’s in a giant hangar and they have waaay more planes, jets, engines, and shuttles than you would think would fit. They have the things hanging from the ceiling and on pedestals and bolted to walls. All kinds of extraneous missiles and satellites and flight simulators and prototype planes are in this place. Highlights for me included seeing an Air France Concorde (which I will rub into my father since they’re one of his favorites),
an SR-71A Blackbird (one of my favorites),

the Enterprise Space Shuttle (which I took a bunch of photos for M.Edium,

and an R2-D2 mailbox autographed by the U.S. Postmaster General and George Lucas (which I will rub into Coach’s face)(spite photos rule).

My cousin is a huge fan of Wegman’s, a grocery store out on the East Coast. Since I have some ties to the grocery industry, I was more than happy to come along and watch her shop at the number one grocery store chain the country. It’s pretty darn swanky and they’ve got everything. It’s actually really nice to shop at and she told me it’s kind of a treat for her to shop there on weekends when the traffic isn’t too terrible for her to drive to. Hilarious detour from the normal vacation action.

For dinner, my family wanted to take me to the place where Obama gets burgers from. You might have read about it. It’s called Five Guys. They have a very limited menu, but they have some of my favorite things – I ended up with a large bacon cheese burger and also a bacon cheese dog. The rest of the family ordered fries and told me I could share theirs since I was clogging my arteries anyway. The burger was actually one of the better chain burgers I’ve had. Lots of meat and lots of cheese and a couple strips of bacon. The cheesedog was split lengthwise and fried crispy and then covered with american cheese and a couple strips of bacon. The fries were good as well, but not being a fry-guy, it didn’t change my life or anything. There were crap tons of them though. Seriously, a full bag of fries, for what was supposed to be two orders. Fantastic meal.

While I was enjoying my dinner, CorpseKitten called to say she had arrived and hadn’t eaten, so if I could bring her something, it would be most appreciated. I didn’t get the message until much later, so she decided to order room service instead. I feel like a huge schmuck now.

My cousin drove me back downtown as I had received a message from Babo saying he had arrived at the airport. He had just gotten in minutes before me, so he had already checked in at the Hotel Monaco for us. The lady told me what room and I went and tracked him down in our room. And sure enough, there was only one queen-sized bed. We tried to get a roll away, but the room was simply too small to fit a roll away.

When we went upstairs to CorpseKitten’s room, we were not surprised to find that she had a room twice the size of ours. She’s like that – used to being catered to and treated like a princess (and she’ll kick my ass when she reads this). I sent my cousin an email and txt letting her know what Babo and I would want to do tomorrow since she offered to chauffeur us, and also left what time we thought we might be ready. I needed to charge my phone since it was dying, so I brought my charger up to CorpseKitten’s room to charge while we were talking. When we left for drinks later, I left it in her room to pick up later.

We hit the road in search of some food for Babo, since CorpseKitten and I had already eaten. We walked the blocks around our hotel and saw some chains we didn’t want o eat at. We also saw some Guardian Angels on patrol. I thought those guys went away in the 80’s, but I guess not. Hilarious black leather vest over white logo’d t-shirts with their snappy berets. Hilarious.

We found a place called Oya. It was the trendiest club Babo had ever been in, which is kind of funny, since he’s 71% more trendy than CorpseKitten and I. At the entrance it had huge chain links suspended from the ceiling forming a large metal wall. It also had slutty girls and girly drinks. Babo ordered some tempura shrimp and we started in on the girly drinks. The food was really good (we all borrowed some from Babo) and the drinks were pretty tasty with the exception of one. All were girly drinks though. We got a call from DeltaForceCommander and FireRetarded called to let us know they would be unavailable this evening because they had a long day. Lame.

We left Oya and headed back to the hotel bar. We sat and drank another round and laughed about random trips we had taken in the past. We also totally trash-talked Trash about ditching us this trip. Way to ruin christmas. We ended up shutting the bar down at like 2 am and headed back to our respective rooms. Babo and I in our really really cozy room and CorpseKitten to her spacious estate on the top floor of the Hotel Monaco. CorpseKitten called to ask if I needed my phone charger, and I assured her I did. So I went to pick it up from her room. I walked across the hotel, rode the elevator up three floors with two handsome gentlemen and walked across the remainder of the hotel to CorpseKitten’s room dressed in my complementary leopard skin robe. As you can see, classy. Especially with white socks.

Top 5 things about Day 1
1. Seeing Babo and CorpseKitten. I hate being separated from these people for long periods. I love them dearly
2. Seeing family I haven’t seen in 5-7 years where they have the home court advantage
3. Five Guys bacon cheese burger
4. Japanese restaurant
5. Girly drinks into the wee hours followed by leopard skin robe recon mission

Bottom 5 things
1. This was supposed to be a trip with Gerd and she should be here right now with me
2. Didn’t get to meet DeltaForceCommander and FireRetarded for drinks
3. Single queen-sized bed for two seemingly straight handsome gentlemen
4. Stupid elevator incident with the jr. high girls soccer army
5. Did I mention the single queen-sized bed?