Leaving the Bakery in Excellent Hands

Picking up from the end of the last blog post, Bethany started showing up to the bakery nearly every day. We had already decided that teaching her how to make the sourdough bread in such a short period of time wasn’t going to work, so we planned that I’d make enough bread dough for the first two days I was gone, and the bakery would be sourdough-less for the weekend. However, Bethany was a quick study on making challah and bagels, both of which Alis was also becoming proficient with.

Bethany and Alis roll out babka dough.

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Visas and Weddings and Pastrami and More

After ninety days in Guatemala, you don’t have to leave the country. You have the option to renew your tourist stamp with a 90-day extension. After that, however, you must leave the CA-4 (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua) for what is generally understood to be 72 hours but doesn’t seem to be written down anywhere. Regardless of the limit, I took the opportunity and fortuitous timing of my 180-day clock to return to Los Angeles for an extended trip. Between the wedding of good friends Beth and Mark, the arrival of Rosh Hashanah, and the September slowdown in the bakery, it made sense to close up shop for two weeks, relax a bit, and enjoy the opportunity to recharge.

Originally, however, I had hoped to start this trip in Chicago to visit my sister and brother-in-law. However, it turned out that Maggie’s work schedule was going to have her in Atlanta during that week, and so I booked a trip just to LA. But as (bad) luck would have it, with Hurricane Irma pounding the Florida and Georgia area, Maggie’s weeklong conference was canceled a few days before my trip to LA. Instead, she was asked to go to a business meeting in Orange County, arriving on the same day that I would! We quickly made a plan to see each other, with me driving down to her hotel. While she wasn’t going to have much time to spend during the 20 hours on the ground, I pledged to make the most of it.

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The City Where It Happens

After being very diligent and productive, I’ve fallen quite a bit behind on the blog again. My last post was from my final scouting trip, to Guatemala, and now I’m writing this post from Guatemala – where I have finally moved! There’s about six weeks missing before I can tell you about the new life I’m starting here. I’ll get to it promptly!

As I believe I mentioned in an earlier post, I shoehorned the Guatemala trip in between a variety of January commitments and a long-scheduled trip to Chicago. My sister was able to get Hamilton tickets for me last fall, and so this excursion to the Windy City had been planned for months and months. I originally tried to squeeze in one additional trip between my return from Guatemala (on a Monday) and my flight to Chicago (on a Friday night) by heading to Austin, Texas, for a final scouting trip. However, once I made the final decision on Guatemala, I decided I needed the rest – as well as time in LA to get things rolling.

Waffled hash browns at Bar Siena.

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Scouting La Antigua

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 Tartines, and the delicious mascarpone with berries dessert.

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.

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Back in Portland

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.

Some of the popcorn ready for sampling and buying at Popcornlandia.

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Scouting San Diego

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.

Turkey chili for our Soup and Salad Night.

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Bits and Bobs of Autumn

As I finish catching up on the blog, and tying up all the loose ends from 2016, I saved this post for last. Not just because it was a bit of a catch-all collection of things, but also because spring training is just a few weeks away. And with it comes the dawn of a new season, the promise of that elusive world championship, and hopefully a six-month long diversion from things that are much more sobering.

So…into the rewind machine! It was late September, it was a Friday afternoon, and I happened to be scrolling through Facebook when I saw that my longtime friend Gary posted that he had extra seats – excellent seats – to that night’s Dodgers game. I reached out immediately, found that he still indeed had the seats, and started locating people to go with me. I’m not much of a spur-of-the-moment guy, but it happened to be the right place at the right time. And then Gary told me that it was the night they were honoring Vin Scully, and there was no doubt that I would be taking advantage of this.

A very special night at Dodger Stadium.

A very special night at Dodger Stadium.

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