Does the Christmas card automatically pushed out have any value??

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

I have come to realize once again that the modern world has distracted me from myself.

For this reason, when it came time to prepare for Christmas day, I let my wife stay in bed so that I could partake in the ritual of hunting the Christmas ham and gathering the holiday side dishes.

My plan was simple, I would be up before sunrise, go to the gym and then about 6am make my way to the Honeybaked store armed only with my wits, the confirmation number my wife provided and my credit card.   This would be glorious!

Then I overslept a little.

I woke up about 5:40 and feeling the aftereffects of too many consecutive days at the gym.  I moved down the hallway, much the way my 85-year old father does, a little hunched over, shuffling and moaning all the way.  Physical aches and pains be damned, after a session of foam rolling (and checking Facebook, read the morning blog posts) it was time to get the whole hunter/gather thing going.

I resisted the urge to plug the Honeybaked store address into my GPS.  True hunter/gatherers of old did’t use GPS systems to track their prey.  They use the sun and the stars and their knowledge of the lay of the lands.   So I did what my ancestors did, I put my coffee in a travel mug, memorized the address and used Google Maps to develop a plan to get to the hunting grounds.

I was uncomfortable driving someplace new without computer guidance; that probably means it was good for me. I became aware of exactly how dependent I’ve become on satellite-assisted navigation for even simple trips.  At one point, I felt like a modern day Prufrock asking myself, “do I dare to take this exit?”  As I came off the freeway, I saw a street sign with the block number at the bottom. I remember those things!  Back in the old days, they helped guide us to our final destination.  Thank goodness for the ancient wisdom that provided us with these markers.

About a quarter-mile up the road, was the Honeybaked store in a little front pad of a shopping center.  They had opened earlier than advertised and there was no line as I drove in around back to park.   There was a small line by the time I made it back to the front of the store.  I stood in the freezing cold (61°F) California winter morning watching the sunrise with the other hunter/gatherers feeling somewhat like I was in nice version of a scene from the soup nazi episode of Seinfeld.

Inside the Honeybaked Store
Inside the Honeybaked Store – Turkey and Ham for YOU!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;

One of the successful hunters leaving the store was offering up her coupons.   All of the hunter/gatherers apparently had these coupons already in hand.  Reluctantly and shamefully, I admitted that I was not as well prepared as EVERYONE else and accepted the coupons which entitled me to $12 off if I added a side of turkey and three sides.  This was a hunter/gathers dream, not to be passed up for my foolish pride.

The line processed quickly and before I knew it, with the swipe of my credit card, I had exchanged my confirmation number for pints of apple cranberry sauce, creamed spinach, ambrosia as well as huge side of smoked turkey and a 7lb. ham.

Outside the Honeybaked Store
Outside the Honeybaked Store

As I left the Honeybaked store hunting/gathering grounds I was surprised by the number of late sleepers were lining up the block.  Their fate was to get the less desired hams and turkeys for my early rising brothers and sisters had laid waste to the preferred bounty.   I felt sorry for their children that they had to be born to such laggards.  Those poor children would never know exactly why this Christmas didn’t shine as bright as it should have.

As I secured the bounty on top of in the back of my car, I took a taste of the smoked turkey.  It was seasoned in sugar and was just a delight.  During the drive home, I thought about how easy this all is.  It’s easy to get from point A to point B.  It’s easy to get a meal prepared and table-ready.  Heck, it was car-ready.

It’s easy now to find store locations and get directions and so on and so on.  Does the struggle add to the accomplishment and meaning of putting dinner on the table and the other accomplishments of life? I know we used to waste lots of time and energy looking for places, but did that struggle make us a bit smarter, wiser and more appreciative? If one day Christmas dinner magically appeared on the table without us having to work for it, would we value it?

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

Does the Christmas card automatically pushed out have any value??

Cashew Chicken Pizza: Only at Mission Pizza & Pub in Fremont, CA

In the little city of Fremont, California, just north of San Jose, in an unassuming little strip mall near the 660 Freeway, sits the amazing little pizza and brew place, Mission Pizza & Pub. One could drive by this place for years and never stop in. That would be tragic.

Kyle's Cashew Chicken (My Favorite)
Kyle’s Cashew Chicken (My Favorite)

The restaurant differentiates itself with creative and flavor-filled pizzas. Pictured above is my personal favorite, the cashew chicken pizza also featuring feta cheese and lots of garlic.  This is a pizza that is made to savor small bite by small bite.

Amit's Mission Masala (Spicy)
Amit’s Mission Masala (Spicy)

Our veggie pizza selection at my last visit was delicious. Someone realized that the onions and possibly some of the other veggies were added after the pizza was cooked, injecting another dimension to the flavor.  This particular pizza was spicy; luckily, Mission Pizza has a wide selection of good craft beers on tap to go with their unique pizzas.

Vince's Salmon & Pesto
Vince’s Salmon & Pesto

The thing that I enjoy the most about Mission Pizza is that it is the perfect place to get to know people.  It has been my experience that when people walk into the restaurant they “get” the place and they just relax. The pizzas take a while to cook which leaves ample opportunity to soak in the ambiance.

The menu is usually the first topic of discussion as people read about the salmon and Pesto pizza or the peanut sauce and shrimp pizza and their brains are stimulated trying to imagine what the pizzas would taste like.   Then the beer selections make for a nice next topic of discussion.   Then things just start to flow.  I’ve been there with several groups and it’s always a memorable experience.

The staff are friendly and helpful and for the most part, they stay behind the bar and invisible to the customer’s experience.  By that I mean the staff don’t hover, there is no sense of rush and there are no interruptions, which is refreshing.

Mission Pizza & Pub on Urbanspoon

Cashew Chicken Pizza: Only at Mission Pizza & Pub in Fremont, CA

Salmon Saturday: Salmon & Asparagus on Orzo

Salmon Saturday: Because there are so many great ways to make Salmon and someone has to start writing them down.

This Salmon Saturday is brought to you by Calzone’s Italian Restaurant on the North Beach in San Francisco.  While having a visit with my cousins in San Francisco, they thought dinner at Calzone’s might be nice.  I was looking for Italian food the night before running the San Francisco Marathon.   The menu had pretty broad appeal, but as always, I looked for the salmon dishes first.

When I saw the salmon and asparagus on the pasta menu, had in my mind’s eye that it would be served with angel hair pasta.   Mixing the dish with orzo was a very pleasant surprise.

salmon & asparagus green onions & lemon parsley butter

This find was the highlight of my salmon-seeking month.  The dish was light and filled with flavor.  There was just enough hint of olive oil for flavor without it being greasy.      The parmesan cheese the waiter added touched up of flavor nicely.  The serving size was just right, unless one is carbo-loading for a marathon the next day.

Avocado and crab pizza

My cousin tried the dungeness crab avocado, onions & fontina. He was willing to part with and half a slice and when I sampled it, I understood why. The mixture of the crab taste with the avocado had an amazing flavor that was strong but no overpowering.
My lovely wife tried the margherita pizza, made with san marzano tomatoes, panna, garlic fresh basil & fresh mozzarella.   Again, very tasty and an excellent choice.

Calzone’s is a nice place to go sit and enjoy a meal.  It’s cozy, the service is good and the prices reasonable.

The tables lining the street which gave it a nice European flare, but let’s be completely clear on one point: DO NOT TAKE YOUR FRIENDS VISITING FROM ITALY TO THIS RESTAURANT AND EXPECT THEM TO THINK IT’S JUST LIKE HOME.  They will like the food, and it’s an very good American interpretation of Italian food.

I wouldn’t drive across San Francisco to eat here, but I would certainly go again if I were around the North Beach.

Calzone's Pizza Cucina on Urbanspoon

Salmon Saturday: Salmon & Asparagus on Orzo

Restaurant Review: The Whoa Nellie Deli

This post is intended for the hungry traveller in California on US 395 somewhere within an hour of Yosemite or the visitor on the Tioga pass on the upper (eastern) part of Yosemite.

Lee Vining, the town that is flanked by Mono Lake and Yosemite hosts 4 restaurants.   Skip them all and find the Whoa Nellie Deli.  This place is referred to by the locals as the Mobile Restaurant, because it is located inside a Mobile station right at the intersection of US 395 and Highway 120.

The Mobile Restaurant set against Mono Lake.

I heard a surprising number of recommendations for this place as I suffered through the below average restaurants in the June Lake and Lee Vining area.  The Mobile Restaurant has your standard deli menu along with an interesting the menu presented below that includes lobster taquitos, mango salsa fish tacos, St. Louis Style baby back ribs and a BBQ chicken pizza with cilantro pesto.

The Salmon Salad

I had tried salmon in a few different restaurants in the area and was repeatedly disappointed.   Recognizing that eastern California is not where one goes for fresh salmon, I found the salmon well prepared and served over a nice bed of greens with mango.   The combination of flavors worked.  Laura, likewise enjoyed the flavor of the wild buffalo meatloaf.

Another road warrior sitting at the table next to enjoyed the Ahi Salad.  I polled three Sheriffs standing in the parking lot, they confirmed that this place was the best place to eat in the area.   Two of the lawmen recommended the Kansas City Steak Caesar salad by name.   The third officer reported the fish tacos as his favorite item on the menu.

Looks good, but tastes much better

The real surprise at the Whoa Nellie Deli are the desserts.   In the display case the cakes looked like typical pre-fab chain-prepared desserts.  In truth, they were freshly made, light and deceptively good.  The Child had the chocolate cake and was only willing to share a few bites and hoarded the ganache.  Laura and I shared the carrot cake.   Both exceeded all expectations as they were rich without being heavy.

Even if you are in Mammoth, make the 20 mile drive.  It’s worth it.

FYI – You can also fill up your car there.

Safe travels

Whoa Nellie Deli
22 Vista Point Road
Lee Vining, CA 93541

Where US 395 and Highway 120 intersect

GPS Coordinates: N 37º 56.827   W 119º 06.794

The Menu

Whoa Nellie Deli on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review: The Whoa Nellie Deli

Cafe Käfer’s – Terminal 1 Frankfurt Airport (FRA)

This quick post is written for that hungry traveler connecting through Terminal 1 of Frankfurt Airport (FRA) wondering, “Where should I eat?”.  Consider going directly to Käfer’s tucked in the corner between the B and C gates.  The restaurant came to me through a recommendation by airport security (the best place to find out where to eat in any airport).Käfer’s has two restaurants, one is a more formal the other is a sit down Parisian style bistro.  I ate at the latter and recommend the experience.At about 8am it was a peaceful place to sit,  read and eat a well-presented meal.  The decor is French, the menu is European, the service was quite good.  The prices were standard for an airport and very reasonable to the experience.

The Old English Breakfast I ordered was presented as you see below.  The quality of the food was mostly unremarkable and airport standard.  Again, this place is about the experience.

What has me writing about this experience 15 months later is the desert menu.    The item below was one of many that caught my eye and yes, after I finished my breakfast, I had them bring me one out.  It tasted even better than it looked.

Safe Journey and bon appetit

Cafe Käfer’s – Terminal 1 Frankfurt Airport (FRA)

Cafe Dolcinos

If you find yourself in the historic Gastown section of Vancouver British Columia, visit Cafe Dolcino at 12 Powell Street.

The food here redfines fresh and freshly made.  After we ordered, the owner went back and prepared each of our orders.  We heard the eggs sizzle in the pan.  We heard the owner cut and slice the vegtables. It took longer than one would normally expect for breakfast sandwich, but it was well worth it.  We would not believe the amount of flavor that came out of these small sandwiches.

Fresh egg fried on a bagel with sliced tomato and cucumber. I can’t describe how fresh this tasted.

This small hole in the wall didn’t initially seem  remarkable.   We were underwhelmed by the selection on the menu and normally would have moved on to someplace else, fortunately there weren’t many places open for breakfast in Gastown at 9am.  We were very glad that we stayed.

Caffe Dolcino on Urbanspoon

Cafe Dolcinos