February, 2005. March, 2007. August, 2009. August, 2010. March, 2011. April, 2014.
Those are just some of the fourteen trips I’ve taken to Guatemala, starting back in 2005. In fact, the only months I’ve never visited have been January and June. It was a place I fell in love with immediately, and the more I visited, the longer my trips got and the less I wanted to leave. As this blog detailed, I deferred pastry school from September, 2014 to January, 2015, so that I could spend ten weeks in Guatemala after leaving Chicago and before heading to San Francisco for pastry school. (That journey starts here, if you’re interested: October 2014 | November 2014)
2009 – My first visit to the French restaurant Tartines, and the delicious mascarpone with berries dessert. I literally licked the plate after this photo was taken.
A few years before I left Chicago, as I became more interested in the world of food, I found out about Restaurant Week. It was held every February, I believe and – despite its misleading name – it featured 10-14 days of restaurants putting together special fixed-price deals and/or menus for lunch and dinner. Not everyone participated, and not every place was a great deal, but when it was, it represented a great way to experience a new restaurant, or try a place that might normally be out of my price range.
Upon arriving in the Bay Area, I discovered that San Francisco had a similar promotion and, now in LA, have discovered their version: DineLA. Fortunately for me, the local Eater website put together the best (12) lunch and dinner (17) deals amongst the 100+ restaurants participating, based on their admittedly subjective breakdown of the menus and food being offered. It presented a well-timed opportunity for me to try out places on my to-do list before I leave town. Plus I’m a sucker for a good deal. Final perk: through an American Express promotion, I’d get an instant $5 credit on my statement every time I charged a DineLA meal to my card. With all that in play, I booked myself some tables…
The crew at Pizzeria Mozza, hard at work.
My first cousin Greg, who is just a few months younger, hit the same milestone birthday that I did this past fall. Instead of celebrating then, he tabled it for a long weekend in Portland instead. He and his wife Tiffani love Portland, so using Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend for a trip made for an extra-long weekend in a favorite place. With their daughter, T, and Greg’s mom – my Aunt Helene – in tow, we gathered at LAX early that Friday morning for a return to a city that I, too, have fallen in love with.
Unfortunately, Portland had just experienced the worst snowstorm in thirty years and temperatures in the 20’s were lingering. In addition, we found upon arrival, Portland doesn’t believe in salting the streets for environmental reasons. That meant the roads were icy and slow, and many sidewalks were slick and patchy with ice. So, those factors combined for slower and sometimes shorter journeys outside, but didn’t diminish the fun at all.
Some of the popcorn ready for sampling and buying at Popcornlandia.
After returning from the Bay Area, the scale gave me quite a wake-up call. Two years, to the day, after I arrived in San Francisco for pastry school, I was up twenty-five pounds. Part of this could be attributed to a particularly gluttonous and unrestrained holiday season (which I don’t have to explain at all if you’ve read any of the posts that recently preceded this one). And part of it was related to life as a pastry chef. Nevertheless, I was determined to start the year off right with some healthy eating and a bit more balance in my diet.
The first Friday night of 2017, instead of going out and having a big (unhealthy) meal, Kasey, Ailene and I decided to stay in and have a soup-and-salad-and-game night at my apartment. Our friend Charlie joined us later on, and it was a delicious and relaxing evening spent with friends.
Turkey chili for our Soup and Salad Night.