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.
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.
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.
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.
Ever since my sister Maggie, her now-husband Ben and I drove from San Francisco to LA in one day during July of 2015, I had been thinking about taking a similar but slower road trip. While we had fun, and stopped in a bunch of places, everything felt very rushed. It would have been nice to explore more, not to mention a round trip instead of a one-way journey. Well, now in possession of a car and some free time, I figured heading up to the Bay Area to ring in 2017 wouldn’t be a bad idea in the slightest.
The germ of the idea started when my San Francisco friend Mimi was in town for Thanksgiving and we were just chatting about future plans. As I talked to some friends about it, it seemed I wasn’t the only one who thought it would be a good idea. Kasey was going to head up to SF separately, to see her family, and would drive back down with me. Ailene would be up there to get ready for her move to the Bay Area, and would also drive back down with us. So it was turning into a great adventure.
Kitschy but cute touches in the touristy Danish village of Solvang.
One week after my scouting trip to Portland, Oregon, I embarked on a second scouting trip. This time, I ventured to the desert. Phoenix hadn’t been on my radar much at all when I’d been pondering places to move and open a bakery, but when a recent article I’d come across listed it as one of the cheapest big-to-medium cities in the US to rent an apartment, I thought it was worth a look. After all, money that doesn’t go to my rent can go straight into the business.
It had a few things going for it: cheap rent; close to LA; growing food scene; doesn’t snow; and some friends and family. However, after having such an amazing time in Portland, I was prepared for a letdown in Arizona. After all, Phoenix isn’t the small, walkable city that Portland is. This was evident the moment I headed out in my rental car (again, something not needed in Portland) and drove to meet my cousin Nancy.
Some of the many combinations available at Fractured Prune Doughnuts.